I must have been about 14 when I first heard the phrase; small holes sink big ships. I recall it was my great grandmother who said it and instantly I knew that it was a phrase worth remembering.
Sharp in mind
My great grandparents were a funny couple. She was sharp in mind but weak in body, yet he was weak in mind but sharp in body. I would often visit to find that the living room had been repainted, mainly because he had forgotten he had done it two weeks before. And there she would sit covered in paint splashes because she did not have the ability or strength to move prior to his redecorating quest.
My great grandmother was a wealth of information. She would sometimes recall events such as bombing raids or the sending off of young men to the trenches in France during the first world war. Of course, she was full of hindsight of which was rich with facts and considerations. But she was never boring or one to ‘go on’ about things. She often told me about the corruption of the police during the blackouts and the black marketing they did during the war years. I recall how disappointed she looked when I told her that I had considered being a policeman once.
I can’t recall the actual content of the conversation whereby she said about the small holes and big ships. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. But the idea behind the conversation resonated. Even today it helps put things into perspective. Napoleon Bonaparte once remarked that trivial things often decide the outcome of a battle.
Let us look at this idiom a little more closely. A ship is generally a huge floating construction sometimes weighing tonnes and is made of good quality steel. It is designed in such a way that it can travel long distances carrying heavy loads. But in the sea sometimes when there is a small hole or some small damage to the ship, it sinks. The size of the hole in the ship is very small compared to the size of the ship. This is comparable to the characters of people where a small fault in the character causes their downfall.
Over several months I have been following a range of stories whereby an authority has been brought to its knees because of either it’s own arrogance or reaching beyond the limitations of which it is set. For example, I once ensured the sacking of a social worker because of his inability to do his job correctly and within the frame work set out by his governing body. I suppose I would have overlooked his indiscretions. However, my tolerance was stretched when he said “how dare I challenge him when he is a social worker”. Well, of course I discovered the holes in his ability to do his job and he sank to the bottom of his career.
Again, we have seen the head of the Crown Prosecution Service sink beyond the recognition of decenthood when challenged about her views on disclosure failings and wrongful imprisonments. This one person has made a complete mockery of the justice system where everyone had a stake or a vested interest. Now people no longer have the confidence to know that they are protected under the system they took for granted to get things right.
This failure causes problems beyond the sentencing of innocent people. Are we now living in a time whereby any jury member will question the validity put forward by the prosecution and the police and so set a criminal free to reoffend? It’s possible. After all, my trust in the police and the CPS is beyond repairable and I will always question the motives behind a police or CPS investigation.
Rats and a sinking ship
It is interesting to note, however, that these organisations seem to think that if a person resigns then the problem will disappear. It doesn’t. One person takes the rap for many. Alison Saunders (ex head of the CPS) only stood down because her policies had been exposed. Yet it is not just her who has been pulling the levers of the corrupted system. There are many others. Confidence in the criminal justice system was rocked last year after a flurry of cases collapsed when it emerged that vital evidence had not been passed to defence lawyers.
The new head of the CPS; Max Hill QC has pledged to “restore public trust in the Crown Prosecution Service” after being announced as the new Director of Public Prosecutions. Mr Hill will replace Alison Saunders in the senior legal role from November, after months in which the CPS has been heavily criticised for a catalogue of disclosure failings that led to cases collapsing and warnings about miscarriages of justice. Mr Hill has been quoted as saying he was “honoured” to be taking over from Ms Saunders, adding: “This is a challenging time for the CPS, with the rise in … negative publicity about its handling of disclosure in some cases.
The Justice Committee said “insufficient focus and leadership” led to problems going unresolved and that the Department for Public Prosecutions (DPP) “did not sufficiently recognise the extent and seriousness” of failures within the disclosure process. A report published on Friday also concluded the CPS may have underestimated the number of cases stopped because of disclosure errors by 90%.
I have highlighted the list of police failures in previous writings. I have also shared the stories of my great grandmother who expressed her concerns about corrupted police officers over many generations. And yet nothing changes. The whole ship of corruption is re-packaged and allowed to set sail again under am ensign of ‘we have learnt our lessons’ or ‘we are sorry, we won’t do it again’.
Yet the police failed to comply with its disclosure obligations in more than four out of 10 cases. According to a new report by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate which looked at 1,290 files, the police ‘fully complied’ with their obligations in only 57% of cases and there was ‘partial compliance’ in a further 37%.
According to the watchdog, prosecutors’ compliance on initial disclosure was ‘not much better than the police’ with only 58% fully meeting requirements. ’We saw limited evidence of prosecutors identifying police lack of compliance in reviews or other notes on files, or of them feeding that back to the police,’ the inspectorate noted.
Earlier this year CPS commissioned its own review of disclosure following concerns over the Liam Allan case and other collapsed rape trials. That review revealed that issues with disclosure had been identified in 47 of 3,637 cases from a six week period reviewed; but only five had been identified as such through the CPS’s own case management system.
However, only this week (Tuesday, July 24, 2018) the UK police’s watchdog is investigating allegations of “serious corruption and malpractice” within Scotland Yard’s own ranks, the largest police inquiry in 40 years. The probe was launched by the UK’s Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after whistleblowers raised concerns that senior officers in the Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) were interfering with investigations and turning a blind-eye to wrongdoing. Let me clarify at this stage, the DPS was set up to investigate corruption within its own service and is now being investigated for corruption itself??
It now transpires that gross misconduct notices have been served on three officers, while “a number” of other officers are being assessed, according to the IOPC. IOPC director Jonathan Green said claims of racial discrimination within the Met were also being investigated. It is claimed there are officers in the DPS who are said to have interfered with or curtailed investigations, according to Green. “The investigation includes alleged interference in, and curtailment of, investigations by potentially conflicted senior officers, failure to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, systemic removal of the restrictions of officers under investigation and racial discrimination,” he added. “As part of this investigation, three officers have been served with gross misconduct notices and one of those officers is also under criminal investigation.” Green further stated “Assessments on the status of a number of other officers remains ongoing.” According to The Times, three whistleblowers from the Met approached the IOPC to allege members of the DPS were shielding officers from a range of allegations. “The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has referred allegations regarding the conduct of a number of MPS personnel to the IOPC which is conducting an independent investigation.”
Following simple investigation I also understand that one of the most senior police chiefs in the country is also under investigation for malpractice for improperly interfering in an investigation into bullying.
Now, without scare mongering I am positive when I state that this investigation should not stop at the London Boarders. This appears to be a world wide problem. I have received comments from people all over the world expressing their concerns about the corruption on their own doorstep. Yet, time and again very little seems to be done to address these concerns.
The police and the CPS now appear to be retreating into a bunker of secrecy and paranoia where all news must be ‘managed’ and freedom of information is considered a threat. On nearly all police websites I have found outrageous quotes such as; ‘declaring total war on crime’ and to be committed to carrying out its duties with ‘humility’ and ‘transparency’. Yet could anything be further from the truth? With its constant leak inquiries, harassment of whistleblowers and journalists, and scandalous misuse of terror legislation the police are probably more authoritarian and opaque than at any time in modern history.
Kevin McGinty, chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Inspectorate, found that 97% of defence lawyers had encountered disclosure errors in the last 12 months. ‘It doesn’t surprise me,’ he replied. In the past 12 months the Commission has continued to see a steady stream of miscarriages. When asked if he detected a sense of urgency on the part of the CPS and senior police officers in the wake of their report, he replied: ‘I hope so, but history shows they haven’t in the past.’ He pointed out that since their last report in 2008 ‘we have had Attorney General’s guidelines, two reviews by Lord Justice Gross and Court of Appeal cases that have gone horribly wrong where prosecution and police have been severely criticised. And yet we still have this problem.’
In my opinion there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding about the importance of equal and fair justice. Both the prosecutors and police officers should have due regard for information which points away from the defendant as well as information that points towards them. Yet it appears that in every case I have come across both parties seem to opt for the easy option. They fail to note the true facts and consider only one parties views. Is this due to financial restraint or just incompetence?
I am afraid that the ship used by the criminal law authorities has, in my opinion, sunk. It is riddled with corruption, inconsistencies, lack of ability and dishonesty. The police are not fit to investigate fairly and the CPS cannot share information correctly. Yet, time and again the sinking ship is raised from the bottom, given a new paint job that fails to hide the cracks (time and again like my great grandfather in his living room). I am afraid to announce that I have met people, including myself, that spots a police car in my rear view mirror and feel a shiver down my spine knowing that the incompetence behind the wheel is unchallenged and alas it now appears, dishonest.