A Sinister Bullying Organisation

Well, the headline may grab your attention. For once, I am not going to slate Virgin Media, nor any of my other usual topics.

Driving to work today one of the main stories I heard on Radio Five Live was regarding the police and the cuts they, like most public sector organisations, are having to make. They are having to find 20% cost reductions over the next four years. My employer is having to find 25% and other organisations more. These cuts were announced several months ago.

Police face big cuts challenge, Denis O’Connor says

Police officers The government says front-line police can be protected

Some of the 43 police forces in England and Wales face a “big challenge” to make cuts without taking officers from the front line, the chief inspector of constabulary has warned.

Sir Denis O’Connor said two-thirds of officers were part of the front line – defined as those directly protecting the public and enforcing the law.

Ministers say savings can and must be made while protecting the front line.

Police are losing a fifth of their central funding over four years.

The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) sets out for the first time a definition of what constitutes front-line policing, amid a growing political debate about how chief constables should make cuts.

In the report, the HMIC says the front line comprises those who are “in everyday contact with the public and who directly intervene to keep people safe and enforce the law”.

Sir Denis said that two-thirds of officers in England and Wales were in such roles, but not all were visible. The HMIC estimates that 61% of police officers and community support officers work in visible front-line positions and that 12% of them are available at any given time.

Sir Denis said the front line was “not just what you notice, but what you also rely on”.

“Even if you imagine that the back office and middle office are ripe for reform… there are quite a lot of functions in the back and middle office that you cannot see as being redundant… and so [cutting] looks like a very big challenge to us,” he said.

“The cuts across England and Wales do not cut in the same way by force. For some it’s a much bigger challenge. It remains difficult for the front line to remain in its current form for a number of forces.”

Sir Denis said middle and back office roles were not “disposable assets that you can chuck away” and losing some of these posts has consequences for front-line officers.

Visible police officers available for duty, by force

  • Most: Merseyside with 16.8%
  • Least: Devon and Cornwall with 8.8%
  • Average among 43 forces: 12%

But he added there were still parts of policing operations that could be made more efficient and that there was a wide variation in visible and available police officers among the 43 forces.

Greater Manchester chief constable Peter Fahy, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on the workforce, said: “Each force describes what their officers do in different ways and this explains some of the variation in the percentage of those available on the front line.

“Simplistic judgements about the value of the work our officers and staff do are not helpful.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The government is putting chief constables in an impossible position.

“Today’s HMIC report shows that 95% of police officers are either on the front line or working in important ‘middle office’ jobs in things like intelligence, planning major operations, burglary and drugs offences, or preparing cases for court.

“Cutting over 12,000 police officers and 15,000 police staff is inevitably hitting the front line. The home secretary needs to change course. She is cutting too far, too fast and it is local communities that will pay the price.”

Policing minister Nick Herbert said the report showed a third of human resources were not on the front line, meaning there was room for significant savings in back and middle offices.

“Front-line services can also be improved by more efficient use of resources. The report also reveals that some forces have twice the visibility and availability of policing as others, again showing that the issue is how resources are used,” he said.

He added the government would continue to support forces by scrapping bureaucracy and driving more efficient procurement

It seems that the police are not content to  look at efficiency savings, they are spending time and money spinning the story in the media.

Firstly, let me start by saying this story refers to a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). They are an “independent” body to the police. They are however very closely alligned to the police service. The Inspectors and chief inspector are mainly current police officers seconded to HMIC or ex police officers. “Independent” maybe in legal terms, but closely linked to the police still. Its a bit like calling a Manchester United fan independent of Manchester United and claiming anything he writes about the club is independent and unbiased.

However, on Radio Five Live, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has been wading into the “debate” as well. So what you say? Well, who and what are ACPO? The name suggests they are an Association of Chief Police Officers. Perhaps like some form of trade or professional body to represent its members? Would it surprise you to learn that ACPO is a limited company? To quote from Wikipedia:

“ACPO is not a staff association. It acts for the police service, not its members. The separate Chief Police Officers Staff Association acts for chief officers.”

 

“It also issues police certificates, for a fee, needed to obtain immigration visas for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA

Hmm, so you are having to pay a private company to get a visa to emigrate. Now you may ask

a) why those fees are not going to the government?

b) why a private company has access to state records for commercial gain?

c) Why is my personal data allowed to sell my personal data/ records?

“Freedom of Information

ACPO has been criticised as being unaccountable to Parliament or the public by virtue of its limited company status. In October 2009 Sir Hugh Orde stated that ACPO would be “more than happy” to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. On 30 March 2010, the Ministry of Justice announced that ACPO would be included under the FOI Act from October 2011. In its response, the organisation stated that “Although organisations cannot voluntarily comply with the Act, a large proportion of ACPO’s work is public already or available under FOI through any police force”. In January 2011 its website still said it: “is unable to do is to respond to requests for information under the Act. The organisation is too small and there are too few members of staff to be able to conduct the necessary research and to compile the responses.””

“Commercial activities

The February 2009 Mail on Sunday investigation also highlighted other activities of the ACPO including selling information from the Police National Computer for £70 despite it costing them only 60p to access it, marketing “police approval” logos to firms selling anti-theft devices and operating a separate private firm offering training to speed camera operators”

Reassured? Nope, neither am I? It seems that ACPO are creaming off fees that should in my view be going into policing, not into a private company.

There are however, some moves afoot to change things

“Undercover activities

As a result of The Guardian articles with regards the activities and accusations of PC Mark Kennedy of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit within the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit, and the collapse of the subsequent trial of six activists, a number of initiatives and changes were announced:[25][26]

  • Acknowledging that “something had gone very wrong” in the Kennedy case to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Home Office minister Nick Herbert stated that ACPO would lose control of three teams involved in tackling domestic extremism. Herbert announced that the units would be transferred to the Metropolitan Police, with acting commissioner Tim Godwin confirming that this would occur at the earliest possible timescale.
  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary announced that Bernard Hogan-Howe would lead an investigation into ACPO, to assess whether undercover operations had been “authorised in accordance with law” and “proportionate”.
  • The Association of Police Authorities said it was withdrawing its £850,000 annual grant from ACPO”

So, are you starting to get a flavour of an organisation that rather than being for and of the people is actually all about its own self interest?

Now, back to the cuts. The police claim that 83% of officers are “frontline” staff.  That is a very interesting definition of “frontline staff. In Bedfordshire in 2009/2010, 307 out of the forces 1265 officers did not make an arrest. That is around 24% of police officers in the force. Now if you consider that some of those officers who have made arrests will be part of investigative teams, eg money laundering etc.- these are not what most people would call frontline. Makes you think about who are frontline officers doesn’t it?

Again from Wikipedia:

As of March 2010 police numbers in England and Wales were:

So, for every 2 police officers, there is more than 1 non police officer employed. Put another way 1 in 3 people employed by the police are not police officers or PCSOs. Now, I appreciate as I’m sure you do that all organisations need some administration staff, but 1/3 of your total staff?

What about police pay and benefits. I am aware from personal knowledge that some police officers when using their own vehicles e.g. to travel to course etc. are able to claim in excess of 60p per mile. The Inland Revenue rate is 45p. Most civil service roles allow 40p per mile. Not all police forces allow as much as 60p+, but what are any offering this much?

Are you starting to see ways the police can cut their costs/ raise more revenue without cutting front line services?

So, why are ACPO trotting out the lines about cutting front line officers? Could it be to preserve their own lucrative private company rather than out of concern for policing and the public?

I intend to return to this subject in the future.

This blog posting should not be construed as an attack on rank and file police officers who by and large do a good job in difficult circumstances, made worse by the inept bosses who seem to be running a side-line private company creaming off funds that should perhaps belong to the police force instead of ACPO.

Ground hopping: Spennymoor Town FC v Tow Law Town FC

Saturday brought a visit to Spennymoor’s Brewery Field ground. Those who know me will be surprised to learn it is about 27 years since I saw a home league game involving Spennymoor. I used to go to watch Spennymoor every week when I was at school.

I have been to see Spennymoor at home in several cup games or friendlies, but not league games.

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Approaching the Ground

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The Arch @ The Turnstiles

CHANGES

Since the days when I was at school, the main stand at Spennymoor has been demolished (following the Bradford fire in 1985). The large covered terrace down one side – fondly known as the “Tin Shack” – has been demolished and is now replaced by the new main stand.

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Front & Rear Views of New Main Stand

The old main stand site is now open space.

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Looking Where The Old Main Stand Used to Be

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The Old Front Wall of The Main Stand – Gateway was where home team entered the pitch

The old bottom end of the ground now has a covered terrace.

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The Covered End – tea room in background

The Supporters Club hut and the wooden refreshment kiosk are long since demolished.

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a) The Durham Road Terrace

b) Derelict Land Where Supporters Club used to be

c) The Old Teesdale Crescent Turnstiles

The game was a chance for Spennymoor to gain a 3rd win of the season over Tow Law, having beaten them away in the league and a cup tie. Spennymoor are a club seemingly on the up at present having been reformed back in 2005 as Spennymoor Town after the old club, Spennymoor United went bankrupt and were expelled from the then Unibond League (now EvoStik League). The bankruptcy cause chaos and resulted in court cases involving several clubs and the League.

BBC Report

BBC Report 2

The beauty of non league football is there is non of the cost or restrictive stewarding associated with the Premiership or Football League. Admission is £6, and the programme is £1.20. This means there is change from a tenner to get a pint as well in the bar. Try that at a Premier League game.

Once in the ground, there is no segregation. Indeed there is no ability to segregate the fans it seems. In the Skill Training Northern League, there is no need for segregation, stewarding or police. Fans stand shoulder to shoulder and banter is exchanged in good humour.

The catering facilities are good. Chips, pies, hot dogs, burgers and great big cups of tea. All at decent prices. You  try getting a portion of chips and a cup of tea for under £2.00 at a Premiership game. In fact try getting a cup of lukewarm liquid that may or may not be tea for under £2 at such a game and you will be doing well.

The fans are an interesting section of society, from the train spotter types to the chaps who have stood watching the game in the same spot every game for the last 40 years. The crowd was probably below the average as the game clashed with the Wales v England Euro Qualifier game that was live on TV, also with a 3pm kick off.

The game itself was a rather good example of football at this level. Spennymoor won 3-0, but took 39 minutes to get a goal that counted. On 19 minutes, Spennymoor had the ball in the back of the net. The goal was ruled out for offside. Watch the video below and see if you can spot who the linesman saw in an offside position. Answers please to the linesman care of Specsavers Opticians.

Spot The Offside Player?

The Spennymoor crowd have long been known for their vocal support and today was no example. The crowd behind the goal burst into song on numerous occasions, in particular the chants of “Moo-ers” whenever Spennymoor got a corner.

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The Behind the Goal ( & Behind their team) Faithful – Durham Road End in 1st Half

As I left the ground, I saw board below, showing amongst other things, Albert Hickman lifting the Northern League trophy in I believe 1977. He captained the great Spennymoor side of the late 1970s who got to the FA Trophy semi-finals and reached the 2nd round proper of the FA Cup twice in 3 years.

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The Club honours are as follows:

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In addition to these, Spennymoor Town won the Northern League Championship in 2009-2010 season.

I’m biased, but this is a great little ground. Definitely one of, if not the best, in the Northern League.

A Busy Week?

I’ve not posted for a week – so, it’s an excuse that I could try!

What’s that Michelle? I should try getting off my backside?

Well since my last post, I have been relatively busy. On Friday I drove up to Newcastle after work to spend the weekend with Michelle. I had planned this for a while, but intended to go on the train until work decided I should spend the next two weeks working in the North East. This meant I would need my car up there, so train tickets were cancelled (well re arranged!).

It’s a long time since I drove north on a Friday night. I forgot how long it takes. It was eventually about 23:30 when I finally got to the Tyne Valley and to see Michelle. Bless her, she had dinner waiting for me when I arrived. She is definitely a keeper!

Saturday brought a restful day and lunch in a rather pleasant cafe in the lovely market town of Hexham. The local butcher’s were having a sausage festival and had lots of free samples of their homemade chorizo sausages, Cumberland sausages and chipolatas. Well, it would have been rude not to try them wouldn’t it?

Sunday brought a burst of activity. Josh, Michelle’s youngest son was playing football in the morning, so I was going to watch the game, but decided to cycle their, via the long way round. I rode up from Michelle’s house to the Military road and along Hadrian’s Wall before dropping down to cross the River Tyne @ Corbridge and then heading along the Tyne to Ryton for the football before riding back to Michelle’s. I rode just over 27 miles and climbed over 1700 feet. I have to say I was pleased with myself. I should say that the football was also rather good. Josh saved a penalty and produced a string of saves and professional would have been proud of. Man of the match? Without doubt.

Sunday afternoon brought a drinks soiree for Michelle’s 40th birthday. It was a very nice affair with lots of alcohol for everyone. The kids present seemed to enjoy themselves. I finally got to meet some of Michelle’s friends and work colleagues. At least Michelle won’t remember if I embarrassed myself.

Monday was work and my first visit to Newcastle Crown Court in 11 years. The area has changed massively since I used to practice in the area. I saw and spoke to one or two old familiar faces from my past. That was rather pleasant.

I had just settled in to watching cases in court at Newcastle Crown Court when the lead inspector asked me to go to Durham Crown Court some 20 miles away. So it was time to jump into my car and head down there. Again, Durham brought back memories of the past.

After court, I drove back to Newcastle and checked into the Hilton hotel for the week. The hotel is rather nice. I was supposed to be in a different hotel, but it was fully booked. My luck was definitely in. I had my bike with me and rode down to the quayside, up the other side and down the Scotswood Road to Newburn, then up to Throckley and onto see Michelle in Horsley. This was around 11 miles and 800 feet of climbing. The return journey was easier with only 350 feet of climbing.

I have to pause at this point to comment on how the Scotswood Road has changed since the days of the Blaydon Races song in 1862. Then it had 50 pubs and was a street of terraced houses. Today, it is a dual carriageway and there is not a single pub on it and no houses anywhere near it.

Tuesday was Michelle’s birthday – 40 or 21 years and 228 months as she prefers to think of it. I of course treated Michelle to breakfast in bed (well it was literally in bed when I dropped the tray). I gave her the cards and present I had to dash back to the hotel the previous night to collect.

Workwise on Tuesday, I spent the morning in the Crown Court and the afternoon in the magistrates’ court at Newcastle. Again, lots of catching up with old faces from the past as well as working. It was noticeable how much quieter the courts are than they used to be.

After work, I had to cycle back up to Michelle’s where I was meeting my parents, Michelle’s parents and Josh & Jack and we all went for a meal at the local pub, the Lion & Lamb in Horsley. The food was excellent, the company similarly good. Rather a lot was had to drink and after a bit of searching we found a taxi to take my parents to a hotel for the night. That is another story.

I must just give a quick mention to KB Cycles in Newburn. I lost a bolt from my mudguard on the way home and called in there. They not only found a bolt, but fixed it and refused to take a penny for it. Top service.

Wednesday, brought a change of scenery and a trip to Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court where I watch a trial listed for the morning, but it finished at 18:30 that night! I finally got home at around 1945 only to find my dinner ready for me. Someone looks after me rather too well. I told you Michelle was a keeper.

Thursday brought the delights of Peterlee Magistrates Court. Now Peterlee is not on a list of places you need to visit before you die. It is a dump! The court itself was very nice and the staff were very pleasant. Another day and another familiar face to catch up with.

I have managed 70+ miles this last week, so it’s not too bad. I will get 25 miles in tomorrow as well I hope.

No football though this last week.

Back in the Saddle

Well, its now only 53 days until I take part in the Police Unity Tour bike ride in the USA. The ride is over circa 300 miles in 4 days and is from Florham Park New Jersey to The National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Washington DC. There are 2 days of around 50 miles per day and 2 days of around 100 miles each. So, its not just a little pootle around the park.

I’ve finally got myself motivated to do some cycling and have cycled now 5 successive days since Saturday, albeit the maximum distance per day is only 40 miles. I am intending to try to ride most days between now and when I go to the USA.

I have included below the recent ride data as per my GARMIN EDGE 800 device. Its not particularly impressive is it? The only heartening thing is that I have for the first time in several months managed to ride 5 days in a row, covering 131 miles in those days.

Unfortunately, a thing called “work” is getting in the way of my cycling. I am however hopeful that next week despite being on site inspecting I will be able to take my bike with me and get in 20 miles or so a day. Like I say, I am hopeful.

It is quite surprising how many calories the Garmin reckons I have burned up. It is around 4 – 5 days worth of food for the average man. The average speed for 13th March is inaccurate as I forgot to stop the timer when I was in the cafe. The true average speed is circa 13mph.

Date Time Distance Height Gain Height
Loss
Avg Speed Max Speed Calories
               
Wed, 16 Mar  17:35 01:00:05 12.38 121 157 12.4 24.6 611
Wed, 16 Mar  10:07 01:00:38 13.13 72 174 13 23.5 605
Tue, 15 Mar  18:48 01:04:01 12.52 98 200 11.7 23.2 910
Tue, 15 Mar  9:25 00:59:56 13.07 95 141 13.1 22.8 570
Mon, 14 Mar  17:19 01:00:59 12.5 171 148 12.3 20.6 603
Mon, 14 Mar 7:56 01:01:09 12.64 112 144 12.4 23.7 634
Sun, 13 Mar 7:20 03:48:34 40.12 774 780 10.5 25.4 1,772
Sat, 12 Mar  9:01 00:58:59 15.16 541 787 15.4 29.8 750
Tue, 8 Mar  6:34 00:58:44 12.28 194 157 12.5 23 503
Sun, 6 Mar  8:23 02:33:42 33.3 446 449 13 24.3 1,313
Sat, 5 Mar 9:33 01:09:38 15.54 322 322 13.4 32.8 704
Thu, 24 Feb  17:53 00:55:33 12.19 102 154 13.2 25.3 652
Thu, 24 Feb 8:55 00:59:03 12.68 118 190 12.9 21.4 694
Wed, 23 Feb 17:24 00:58:09 12.13 144 108 12.5 25 716
Wed, 23 Feb 9:41 01:01:52 12.64 92 118 12.3 25.9 744
               
TOTAL 19:31:02 242.28 3,402.00 4,029.00 190.60 371.30 11,781.00
Average 01:18:04 16.15 226.80 268.60 12.71   785.40
               
Max 03:48:34 40.12 774.00 787.00 15.40 32.80 1,772.00
Min 00:55:33 12.13 72.00 108.00 10.50 20.60 503.00

I do have an Audax event planned for 17th April 2011 as a training event. This is a 106km (67? mile) ride in Essex, “The Witham Wander” I have done this twice before and it is a great event and only £4 to enter and free food at the finish. Come along and join in.

WHAT IS AN AUDAX?

What does the word ‘Audax’ mean?
It’s Latin for ‘bold’, and was first used in the context of endurance sports towards the end of the 19th century.

What are AUK events like?
They are NOT races. People ride them more in the spirit of an event like the London Marathon, everyone riding to their own limitations with the primary objective to just ‘get round’. These events suit everyone, clubmen, time-trialists, recreational riders, cycletourists, ‘born again’ cyclists, young and old, male and female. And you’ll see all sorts of machines – bikes, tandems, trikes, recumbents, and occasionally even stranger things …
Size of entry varies greatly but is typically around 100 starters. Small local events may have just a handful of riders while a few popular events attract 200 starters or more.
The routes typically feature a few fast main roads and a lot of quiet, scenic lanes. Many events are quite hilly, some are extremely hilly, and even the flatter ones usually have one or two challenging climbs. Some events are noted for the quality of home-cooked food and tender loving care supplied along the way. But most are not – self-sufficiency is a highly-regarded quality in AUK.
On the same theme, ‘support’ – for example a following car – is very much frowned upon. There are maximum and minimum time limits, which are designed to suit everyone from the fittest of recreational riders, to more occasional riders who have plenty of determination. Each rider carries a ‘brevet card’ which is stamped at intermediate checkpoints and at the finish, and which is later returned to the rider as a certificate of their achievement.
The success rate on these events is very high – probably only about 10% fail to finish

A Good Ride

Well? actually, yes I am. I mean  I am well you dirty minded pervert not what you were thinking.

I’ve actually ridden my bike two successive days this weekend. Since Saturday of last week, I have actually ridden my bike on five occasions. Its a small start, but I need to get the miles in. The stats of the last 9 days are as follows:

Count: 5 Activities

Distance: 116.40 mi

Time: 09:29:39 h:m:s

Elevation Gain: 2,313 ft

Avg Speed: 12.3 mph

Calories: 5,042 C

* The average speed is lower than it should be as today, I managed to let the timer run whilst stooped for around 45 minutes in a cafe.

Yesterday, I managed a massive 15 miles, but I did do a number of laps of the complete circuit at Redbridge Cycle Circuit. It is the most I have ridden there. I would have loved to have done more, but I was also on bike hire duty at Lee Valley Youth Cycling Club which meant I was otherwise occupied. I could not ride at the end of the club as: –

a) there were races on at the circuit; and

b) there was a little matter of an Orient v Oldham match to attend that afternoon.

Today, I went out with Drew and his son Sam. We arranged to meet at McDonald’s in Forest Gate as they are usually late and I’m sick of waiting in the freezing cold for them at our usual meeting place. A cunning idea eh? Well, it would have been if we had not arranged to meet at 0730 (as Drew & Sam had another appointment later on in the morning) and the McDonalds did not open until 0800 – whoops!

Oh, add to it that this time, I was late at the meeting point, but guess what, Drew & Sam were even later still! I spent the time riding round the closed Drive Through Restaurant! It was nice to ride so early up to Central London. There is so much less traffic early on a Sunday morning. It makes it worth getting up early. We rode up to Aldgate, then past the Tower of London, along the Embankment to the Houses of Parliament, and then round St. James Park to Buckingham Palace, up Constitution Hill which is closed to motorised traffic on a Sunday and into Hyde Park. We rode a couple of laps of the park, which was still very quiet at that time. It was interesting to see the most expensive development in London, One Hyde Park which now has the scaffolding removed. The Penthouse there sold for £140 million!!!!!!

It was so early, that Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park was deserted. It is unusual on a Sunday to find no one speaking there. [It is quite amusing to listen to some of the eccentrics who turn up here to preach. The majority are what could unkindly be called fanatics, but some actually make some interesting points.

From Hyde Park, we rode back down Constitution Hill, up the Mall and round Trafalgar Square and into Soho on our way to Bar Italia. you may recall this venue from last weekend’s ride. Its a great place and really friendly. They never bat an eyelid at us taking our bikes in there. After a cup of tea and a chat, it was time to set off home. Drew and Sam were heading up to Leytonstone, so I rode with them there, then headed off home.

The total mileage for today’s ride would have been around 36 miles, but my son Tom had set me a challenge of doing 40 miles as he did that many yesterday. So, I took a few detours on the way home and increased the total mileage to 40 for the day. Thanks for the incentive Tom, and I am impressed you did 40 miles yesterday morning, even if you did stay on the flat circuit.

I even managed to pick up a few items of shopping at my local Aldi store. They are great there, they always let me bring my bike inside the store rather than leave it outside. I like the attitude there. I leave the bike inside the store near the checkouts whilst I do my shopping and have been doing this for years with never a negative comment passed.

So, its 55 miles done this weekend, and I am due to be working in London this week, so hopefully, I will be cycling to work each day. I desperately need to get some miles in as its only 56 days to the start of the Police Unity Tour. That is the 300 mile bike ride over 4 days that I am doing in the USA to raise funds for the memory of those US Law Enforcement Officers killed in the line of duty.

Away from cycling, the weekend was another one of bad planning. Tom only came down on Friday and went back home on Saturday after the Orient game. This left me home alone Saturday night and all day today. At the same time, Michelle was home alone in Newcastle. The telephone lines have taken a hammering. No not the porn chat lines, the line between Michelle and I.

I have to say, that following the recipe ideas I have had from Michelle this weekend, I have no excuse for not cooking tasty, simply healthy food for myself this week. Indeed, I have prepared lots of spicy tuna pasta for my lunches at work this week. I even had a relatively healthy tea of chicken breast, potatoes and vegetable – yes, a plate of vegetables mother. I ate up all my greens, and white things etc. The cooking ideas are great, but it would be better still if she was here to prepare the meals for me, or to share the cooking.

Talking of healthy foods, I weighed  myself a week gone Saturday and was rather disappointed to find the scales did not lie, and I had put on all the weight I lost over the last 4 years. So, I took action and as a result, I have given up cooked breakfasts for lent, even when staying in hotels. It has got off to a good start with me losing 4lbs in weight this past week. Only another XXX lbs to go then. I have to say, I already feel better for the exercise and weight loss over the last 9 days.

How the Other Half Lives

Well reader, yes you- the one person reading this, you will know I’ve been in Kingston upon Hull this week. You may think I’ve been scathing about the place. you may be right, but I’m not alone.

‘Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places to Live in the UK’, listed Hull as the worst place to Live back in 2003

Channel 4 TV placed Hull as the worst place to live in the UK. CHANNEL 4 2005 Ranking

By 2007 Hull was on the up. It was now not the worst place in the Channel 4 TV rankings. It was now 2nd to Middlesbrough. That isn’t really saying much is it?

Hull1Hull2Hull3

So, you can see that I’m not being totally unfair. Well, that’s what I thought until today – more of this in a bit.

Hull was clearly a bustling and very wealthy port in the past. There are some buildings that were clearly impressive in the past, but are now decaying. There are some buildings that are still very impressive. The old docks are huge and give some idea of the history of the place. As the port declined and the fishing industry went to Spain and Iceland, the deprivation and decline set in.

Looking round the town there are lots of people who seemingly have never worked and for whom benefits are a way of life. There are a seemingly high number of fast food shops selling unhealthy fare. Greggs shops are on every street it seems.

However, I must be fair and say that attempts have been made to bring new industry to the town and to regenerate the town. Will they succeed? I do not know this, but regeneration in the town centre is very different from regeneration of the whole town.

Today, I had the (mis)fortune to be sent to Grimsby Magistrates Court (more on the cases to follow). The poverty in Grimsby shocked me. It makes S*nderland, even Pennywell, seem prosperous. The town centre is run down. The biggest shop is Netto or Asda it seems. As an example of how poor Grimsby is, a look at the prices at Wetherspoons Pubs is a good comparison. Burger chips and a pint in Wetherspoons Pubs in Hull is £5.10, a curry meal is £5.59. In Grimsby it is £4.10 and £3.99 respectively. The two places are on opposite banks of the River Humber and are port towns and both have seen better days. Is Grimsby Dead?

It seems that the local drunks when not appearing themselves before the courts drink outside the court and then come into court to watch others in the dock! Its not surprising when the unemployment rate in the region is the 10th highest out of 660 + regions in the UK. Hull is 21st in the list. SOURCE.

It is perhaps a lifestyle that most of us cannot imagine living. To spend your life not working or even wanting to work and living off benefits is perhaps something alien to many of us. Some people do not work legitimately because they are earning money on the black economy or through crime. That is one thing, but to spend life existing on £50 per week or less and not seek to better your position is a sad indictment on those people.

OBSERVATIONS

I have been in Humberside this week to carry out observations on the Crown Prosecution Service advocates in courts. I have spent the majority of my time in Hull Crown Court, but also visited Hull Magistrates Court and Grimsby Magistrates Court.

The cases before the court and the people appearing as witnesses and defendants make for an interesting snap shot of life for some in the UK. One case involved 4 defendants aged 19 – 23 charged with causing grievous bodily harm to another male. The victim was 6’ 4”” tall and an amateur Rugby League prop forward. He says that he was at a friends 21st birthday party and was attacked by the 4 defendants who were waiting for him  as he came out of the party. He claims that this was a completely unprovoked attack. This immediately raises the question as to why would they be waiting for him if it was unprovoked. Clearly the victim was not telling the complete truth.

Oh I forgot to say that the victim refused to make a statement to the police for some 2 1/2 months after the attack.  This despite the victim suffering 2 separate fractures to his jaw and the police attending the hospital on the night of the incident!

You won’t be too surprised to learn the defendants were not convicted of causing grievous bodily harm. One defendant pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. It was then interesting to learn that 2 of the defendants who were brothers had previous convictions for violence which occurred when they were together at a party and also, they were  before the court for other offences. The defendant who pleaded guilty had a caution for 2 assaults on a previous occasion. Violence it seems is a way of life to some.

Today in Grimsby, there was a defendant before the court for breaching an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) which was imposed by the Crown Court in January. He breached the ASBO yesterday (Wed 9th March). The penalty for breach of an ASBO can be 5 years imprisonment. So, you would think that breaching the ASBO would have had the defendant heading back to the Crown Court for a substantial sentence. Now if I tell you that on Friday of last week this same defendant appeared before the Crown Court for 3 breaches of this ASBO and got a community The  decision of the magistrates was to give him another community penalty (probation order) to run concurrent (i.e. at the same time) to his order last week at the Crown Court. Well done magistrates, that will really teach this serial offender. Prison may not rehabilitate him, but the time he is inside will at least give the residents of Grimsby a break from his anti-social behaviour.

There was some interest today for me at Grimsby Magistrates Court. The media in the last couple of days have been reporting about a police investigation into body parts found at Tetney Lock, Lincolnshire, on 3 March. Six men were arrested and the local media this morning were reporting they had been charged with an offence in relation to it. I did not pay much attention, to the story as I was getting ready in my hotel room for work. When I got to court, I learned this case was before the court, so I spent a lot of today listening to the bail applications for the defendants. Details of the case are HERE according to the BBC. However, they seem to suggest the defendants will be at the Crown Court on 19th March which is a Saturday – I think they mean 18th as that was the date the case will be at the Crown Court. Whoops BBC.

Sadly for you, I cannot say more about the case as it is sub-judice, but I am sure if it comes to trial it will make a fascinating case and hit the national media

Cycling?

Yes, I am still a cyclist – honest. As well as going out on my bike on Saturday, Tom and I went out on Sunday with a couple of friends and did around 33 miles. We rode up into Central London and round Hyde Park a couple of times before heading off to Bar Italia in Frith Street for refreshments. I thoroughly recommend this place. it is open 24/7 and has a fascinating mix of people use it from those coming out of the clubs and casinos nearby to police, tourists etc. They even allow me to take my bike in and leave it at the back of the shop. I should have gone in earlier in the week as Mark Cavendish was in there.

Sunday was supposed to be the day we had a nice brisket joint for lunch. The idea was to set it cooking whilst we were out cycling. That was the aim! the problem was that someone forgot to put it in the oven to cook, didn’t they Tom?

Late Sunday afternoon, Tom & I drove up to Kettering and then I headed onto the mecca of deprivation and poverty that is Kingston upon Hull. The king would be trying to remove his name from the place if he could see it now, and if he wasn’t dead.

I have brought my bike to Hull with me, intending to get a few miles in. The only problem being I have forgotten to bring my front lights. I spent some time tonight trying to look round Hull for a bike shop. I even asked two cyclists coming out of work about to commute home. They were worse than useless. I eventually ended up getting a helmet light and a cheap front light from that evil retailer Tesco. I know I know, please forgive me for giving them yet more profit.

Now, I have no excuse for not going out tomorrow on my bike. Oh wait, yes I do, I have been asked to go to see  Burnley play at Hull City with a couple of CPS staff, one of whom is a Burnley fan.

The big talk for me this weekend is around the 20th March. I am supposed to be going to a family get together, and its also a certain lady’s 21st birthday do that day on Tyneside [I did get that right didn’t I Michelle?].

Sadly, its not possible to attend both events. So, which do I chose? A family do at an unlicensed restaurant or a session in a public house? Hmmmmm …..

Whilst I am pondering that question, I can console myself by sitting through more cases at Hull Crown Court and other Humberside courts. The high powered life I lead eh? Tomorrow I am supposed to be watching a 4 defendant trial on a Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent charge. however, I am lead to believe via the court room grapevine that the trial is unlikely to proceed, so it will be a case of scrabbling round to find advocates doing enough to assess them.

The joys of being a legal inspector. You get to mix with lots of unpleasant obnoxious people at close quarters, and then there are the defendants as well.

Leopards Never Change Their Spots (well with one exception?)

Now, I personally have never been too intimate with many leopards. you may have been, but each to his own I say.

So, what am I referring to? Well, if I find out I will tell you.

This weekend, I was at home for a few hours with Tom. Michelle was not coming down, so it was time for some father & son time. We went to the cycling club on Saturday morning, but didn’t realise there were races on. This meant we could not ride on the road circuit, so we set off to ride home. We each chose to ride separate routes home and meet back at home. I got around 15-16 miles in and Tom did a few more.

Saturday afternoon brought a trip to Orient to watch them play Notts County. Tom on his new found health kick was unable to resist the very unhealthy bacon & egg baguette & chips at the cafe ( a leopard not changing his spots!) This slim line chap of course had the jacket potato with tuna, no butter or mayonnaise and a side salad.

The game itself brought the return to Orient of Stuart Nelson, now in goal for Notts County. To call him a goalkeeper is an insult to thousands of goalkeepers who play on a Sunday morning. Nelson is amazing at watching the ball go under him, over him and past him into the net. He was drummed out of Orient after some shocking performances. True to form, he managed to try to trip an Orient player and missed him! He also watched the orient second goal go into the net not bothering to try to stop it going in. A leopard never changes his spots remember!

The game itself was a rather enjoyable affair, indeed it was 42 minutes old before I looked at my watch for the first time. Most of the first half was at the other end of the pitch as Orient were kicking that way and were on top. I never really noticed the referee in the first half. After about 5 minutes of the second half, Orient were attacking our end and the referee came near us. “F*cking Hell, You know who that is?” I was heard to exclaim. Puzzled looks from Tom and those around me. I said its the clown who refereed the Cambridge game a few seasons back and so lost control that each time he whistled the players were asking each other what had happened and why he had whistled. I have seen him since a couple of times and he has been equally awful. He can’t control a game and ends up way out of his depth. A quick scout around for someone with a programme confirmed that it was indeed the referee of my nightmares, Grant Hegley. He is the only referee who I have seen who is worse than my mate Trelford f*cking Mills.

I did have to say that I wondered if Hegley had improved as he had not been too bad so far in the game. However on 54 minutes (less than 4 minutes after i realised who it was), he proved me right that leopards can’t change their spots.

The Orient player I referred to earlier tries to round the keeper, Nelson attempts to trip him. This results in the Orient player stumbling, a penalty?. Well the Orient player managed a shot at goal, which was blocked by a Notts County player sliding back into the goalmouth. The ball hit his arm. Hegley blew for a penalty, but for which foul? He then went to speak to the linesman who had also flagged for a foul. Whilst Hegley was having a discussion with the linesman, the Notts County yob, sorry manager, Paul Ince behaved like the gentleman he claims to be by throwing a cup of tea at the Orient chief scout – all this in front of the 4th official. Paul Ince, a leopard who can’t change his spots

After finishing his chat with the linesman, Hegley walks the width of the pitch to have a chat with Paul Ince before eventually sending him from the dugout. Hegley then walks back to the penalty area and orders the penalty to be taken. Still no indication what the offence was. Hegley did not book or speak to either Notts County player. Now, if its a penalty for handball, it must be deemed to be intentional as its not a foul if accidental. Deliberate handball carries a red card! The attempted trip is at the very least a yellow card, and as Nelson was the last man, it carries a red card. The refereeing from this point degenerated as Hegley had no control. Indeed it was 5 minutes from the time of the penalty award until it could be taken because Hegley lost control of the situation.

The exception? That has to be my mate Stewie, a lifelong football fan and someone who has been the star of TV, newspaper and courtrooms for his exploits after a few bottles of Pear cider, vodka or indeed anything alcoholic. After many many years living with his good lady, he went and married her last Friday. The news announced after the deed was done took many by surprise, some would say him as well. Congratulations Stewie- a leopard changing his spots?

Words

Well this week finds me in Kingston upon Hull for work.

I was booked to stay at the Holiday Inn, Hull Marina. Now I don’t know about you but when I hear about Marinas I think of luxury yachts or motor cruisers like in Monte Carlo.

So when I learned my room overlooked the Marina, I expected a view like Monte Carlo, or even Amble but …

Well I could see the boats moored in the Marina but rather than luxury yachts they were rusting smelly old fishing trawlers not fit for going out to sea.

Welcome to Hull, the ar*ehole of England. The only place to make Liverpool seem classy.

It seems that the main street consists of bookmakers, Greggs pasty shops, cash converters, poundshops & greasy spoon cafes. The people seem to be clad in shell suits & have greasy hair & spotty skin with the females all pregnant, pushing a pram & dragging little Chardonnay & Wayne along behind them.

I’m sure there are nice parts of Hull, apart from the M62 motorway out of Hull.

By the joys of modern technology I am typing this in the Crown Court @ Kingston upon Hull whilst I wait for a case to be called on.

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Leeds, Leeds, Leeds & Leeds. Who the ……..

Since my last post about my life, I have spent the week in West Yorkshire. I have been carrying out advocacy observations on CPS prosecutors, both in-house staff and members of the Bar. It has been an interesting experience. I spent time observing in Leeds Crown & Magistrate’s’ Courts, Dewsbury Magistrates’ Court and Bingley Magistrates’ Court.

What did I learn this week? Well, there are several things I learned.

LESSONS:

1. The quality of the advocate is not dependant on them being solicitor or barristers. I have seen good and bad solicitors, good and bad barristers and good and bad Associate Prosecutors.  Some advocates that I saw both prosecution and defence were particularly bad. I would think very carefully before choosing someone to represent me if I was in court.

2. Despite lots of attempts to change things, trials still crack on the day and it is difficult to change this culture. For an early guilty plea, you can get a reduction of up to 30% on your sentence. This however does not prevent trials cracking for the reasons at point 3.

3. Sentencing is by and large pathetic and punishments are often ridiculously lenient. Why is this? Well partly because those sentencing are under pressure not to sentence people to prison as the prisons are full and partly because the judges (and magistrates) are suckers for a sob story and focus too much on the offender not the offence and the protection of the public.

4. Sod’s Law (Legal inspector’s Version) states that when you have identified a trial you particularly want to see that it will not go ahead.

I saw some examples this week of pathetic sentencing. The courts are under pressure not to send people to prison so lots of suspended sentences are handed out – this is a sentence that you will go to prison for x months, but this is suspended for a set period (up to 2 years) on the proviso that the offender does not commit any offences during that period. However, I saw several examples of people who had committed offences whilst subject to a suspended sentence not having the suspended sentence activated in full or even in part. What is the point in imposing a suspended sentence if you are not going to enforce it? All this does is create contempt for sentencing in the minds of the defendants. It is no wonder the Daily Mail continually talk about defendants getting let off.

I wonder if the way to reduce the prison population in the long term is as follows:

a) convert former army camps etc. into prison accommodation for the short term to increase capacity

b) rather than reduce the numbers sent to prison, we should go the other way, i.e. increase the numbers sent to prison and the length of sentences imposed.

I know this will increase in the short term the prison population, but I think in the long term it could reduce the prison population as people will know that they face lengthy sentences if they were convicted. It would also ensure that people were getting sent to prison, and realise how unpleasant that is, before they become hardened offenders. I think at present people are given so many chances before custody is imposed that they have become hardened offenders before they ever go to prison. By the time they are hardened offenders, it is unlikely they will ever be diverted from a life of crime.

One other thing I was reminded of this week is that the most important people in the judicial process are not the judges or advocates, but the court ushers who call the lists and organise the smooth running of their courts. They are an under sung group, but would be sorely missed if not there.

What does an Inspector do on an evening? Well, its hardly a glamorous life living out of a suitcase. Monday night, I went for a meal with 3 fellow inspectors, but was sat alone in my hotel room by 21:30. Tuesday night, I went alone to Chesterfield v Wycombe. Wednesday night I spent a night in my room alone. I was going to watch the Arsenal v Orient  game on the internet, but fell asleep. Thursday night was a few drinks and a meal followed by more drinks with a number of other Inspectors. Then Friday brought a long drive back to London AFTER a day in court. Its hardly glamorous and on Sunday I will be heading off to do it again in Hull for next week.

The hotels we get to stay in are nice but not the 5 star luxury the media would lead you to believe. In Leeds it was the Leeds City Hilton and in Hull it will be a Holiday Inn.

The only good thing is that I do get to read more books than I normally do. Hopefully next week I will get to take my bike with me to Hull and can get in some short rides each night. Hopefully!