Plainclothes in our Living Rooms

Writing about the police by Barbara Wootton, Daniel Trilling, Alice Spawls, Adam Reiss, Ronan Bennett, Thomas Jones, Paul Foot, Katrina Forrester, Melanie McFadyean, Matt Foot and Christopher Tayler.

Real Things

Barbara Wootton, 5 April 1984

If it can happen once, the like can happen again, and who knows if or how often it has or will? The Policy Studies Institute may be right in supposing that fabrication of evidence is relatively rare. Nevertheless, it is a rarity that we cannot afford.

Not Much like Consent: Crisis at the Met

Daniel Trilling, 30 March 2023

Corruption is ‘endemic in policing across the world’, the 2021 report into Daniel Morgan’s murder states. It takes root, efforts are made to tackle it, then attention moves elsewhere and it takes root again.

Short Cuts: Beyond Images

Alice Spawls, 1 April 2021

Men are far more likely to be killed than women; trans men and women more likely to face harm. But many women live in fear of the person they share a bed with. Daily life under duress, the bruises that no one sees, this is what ought to trouble us. Will there be plainclothes policemen in our living rooms? What would it mean for individual women to be empowered – socially, financially, legally, physically?                   

Diary: On a Dawn Raid

Adam Reiss, 18 November 2010

Today, the team leader tells me, is a suck-it-and-see day. This means that arrangements and timings are fluid and that plans could change at the drop of a hat. Despite the DI’s insistence that the operation will unfold like the preordained ritual of the Imperial Chinese court, at 0700 hours our search team is already in the process of sucking it and seeing.

Criminal Justice

Ronan Bennett, 24 June 1993

Few commended Lord Lane’s handling of the Birmingham Six case, and no one would say he displayed any obvious sympathy for those before him, or an inclination to believe their allegations of police malpractice. But now Lane, the country’s senior judge, was admitting that a gross wrong had been perpetrated; and he was saying that the policemen responsible should be punished.

Short Cuts: Ian Blair and the IPCC

Thomas Jones, 6 April 2006

The police could reasonably be charged with making decisions based on speculation rather than fact – they speculated that Jean Charles de Menezes was a terrorist, for example, when in fact he was an innocent electrician. Once his innocence had been established, the police tried to justify their actions by claiming that de Menezes had jumped the ticket barrier and was wearing a heavy winter coat, which might have concealed a bomb: in fact he didn’t and he wasn’t – eyewitnesses had mistaken one of the police officers for the suspect.

In 1969, I got a call at Private Eye from a man who said he was John Lennon. I was busy, and snapped away at the caller until I realised he was John Lennon. I met him in a Soho restaurant, the staff visibly swooning. He said he was worried about the growing demand for a return to capital punishment, and wanted to publicise the Hanratty case.

Shag another: In Bed with the Police

Katrina Forrester, 7 November 2013

Bob Lambert led two lives. In one, he was a policeman with a wife and children in suburban Herefordshire. In the other, he was an activist in London involved in multiple long-term sexual relationships. 

Diary: In the Wrong Crowd

Melanie McFadyean, 25 September 2014

Under joint enterprise there is no need to prove that you intended to commit the crime, and you don’t have to be the person who plunged the knife or pulled the trigger. You can be convicted on what’s known as secondary liability on the basis that you must have realised that someone you were with might commit a violent act with that intent, even if you didn’t share it.

The Magic Trousers: Police Racism

Matt Foot, 7 February 2019

In April 2014 I was asked to represent a man called Gurpal Virdi. The last time I had heard that name was ten years earlier at a memorial service for my father, Paul Foot, at the Hackney Empire. There, Virdi had immediately stood out, as a serving police officer addressing a largely Marxist audience.

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