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jean charles gets his day in court - part two - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2007-11-16 23:22
Subject: jean charles gets his day in court - part two
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Location:home
Mood:annoyedannoyed
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I never did tell you how this story ends, did I?
You'll recall that, not long after the 7/7 bombings, and in the aftermath of the failed 21/7 bombings in 2005, the Metropolitan police mistook a Brazilian named Jean Charles de Menezes for a suspected suicide bomber, chased him into Stockwell Tube Station, and basically executed him.
You'll also recall that I was rather scathing about the fact that in the aftermath the Met was only charged under Health and Safety legislation for endangering the public. I thought this was a very English way of sweeping everything under the carpet and that the press would pretty much ignore it. And you'll recall that I was wrong. It was a firestorm.

Well, the health and safety case is over now, and the Met did not win. The fine was not as high as it could have been (figures in the millions had been bandied about, although on reflection you can put that down to media hysteria) and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, dug his little heels in and refused to resign. Unlike the editor of Blue Peter when the programme was found to have faked-up a competition to name a new cat for the programme.

Sir Ian had a bumpy few days. Shortly after the trial finished, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (which is, and does, what it says on the tin) published its own report. Once again, the news was not good for the Met or Sir Ian. Once again, Sir Ian's heels dug trenches in the floor as people tried to drag him from the job.
A few days after that, Sir Ian was hauled before the London Assembly, which is the elected body which allegedly runs London, and a bunch of rent-a-quotes seized their moment on television and asked why Sir Ian wouldn't resign. Those trenches in the floor just got deeper. Sir Ian's flat blank refusal to resign, which had at first been deeply annoying, became almost hypnotic.

There was never any prospect of Sir Ian resigning. He was a political appointee of Tony Blair's (no relation) government. Unless it wants to lose face, the government has to support him in order to present a united front in the War Against Terror, and indeed the Home Secretary wheeled herself out several times to do just that.

The heat seems to have died down for the moment, but - and it might just be me - I can't help but think there is a double standard at work here. On the one hand we have BBC executives and producers, whose employees were found to have elided the truth somewhat, taking responsibility and resigning. And on the other hand we have the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, whose employees executed an innocent man, refusing in what I think are rather heroic terms to lay down his job.

The obvious conclusion is that Sir Ian Blair ought to be running the BBC.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-17 00:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
But there's also some hypocrisy on the part of the public here. They want the police to protect everyone from the threat of those millions of swarthy terrorists, and so are all too eager for the cops to have draconian powers. In such circumstances, any error that comes along (and, as in all human activities, errors will come along sooner or later) is likely to be fatal for someone, or at least cause serious distress.

At that point the public blame the cops rather than accept that at least part of the responsibility is their own.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-17 00:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I kind of agree and kind of don't. We expect our police to hew to a frankly impossible standard of behaviour, and of course mistakes will be made, and considering the times we live in sometimes those mistakes will be grievous. I think we can take that as a given, although it's a prospect which terrifies me.

But the culture of the past few years has taught us that the government expects those in the media who are responsible for mistakes to resign. Sir Ian Blair was responsible for the mistakes in the de Menezes case in the same way as Greg Dyke was responsible for the `mistakes' in the Gilligan case. One resigned, one didn't.

If there is to be a culture of accountablity - something, incidentally, I approve of, so long as it doesn't turn into a witch hunt - it has to be applied equally. Bitch-slapping the media for faking a few competitions and then letting the police off for killing an innocent man won't do. It really won't.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-17 00:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"I think we can take that as a given"

My feeling is that we shouldn't do so -- that we shouldn't accept that it's a necessity to give the cops those weapons and those powers. We're in effect allowing the terrorists to dictate the terms of our freedom, and to limit it to an unacceptable extent.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-17 01:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think we have to take it as a given. No large organisation is infallible. Things will go wrong, but when they do people should be accountable, otherwise the police will be gunning people down in the streets for being `swarthy.'

Whether we like it or not, they have these weapons. We can't do anything about that. What we can do is agitate for conditions where the de Menezes killing and the Gaubert tasering are punished as a way of encouraging better practice.
We're in this situation and there's no use whining about it because the government won't listen to us. We have to make sure things like this don't happen again.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-18 23:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm afraid that a significant percentage of us want no such thing as the police to have Draconian powers. Its just that when you reach the stage of being able to shrug off a million anti-war marchers, and are bolstered by a fantasist press, you can do what you like and nobody objects.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-19 00:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That is, sadly, true enough. In fact, as far as the Mail is concerned, the police don't have enough powers.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-19 00:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"I'm afraid that a significant percentage of us want no such thing as the police to have Draconian powers."

Yes, but we are In The Minority. This is the case even if there are more of us than there are of them. You really have not been paying attention to the politicians and press.

Here in the US it's even worse. It's not at all uncommon for mainstream journalists to describe the 70% or so who want us out of Iraq as the "lunatic fringe".

The lunatic part of that could of course be defended as an expression of opinion, but fringe?
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-18 23:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
No no, the obvious thing is "Blair for Prime minister".



Wait, is this the right thread?



(I found this from your url at Charlie Stross's place)
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-18 23:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
calcinations! Welcome. Pull up a chair. The place got a bit bigger since you were here last.

You know, I was watching a trailer for the Blair documentary on BBC2 tonight and it suddenly struck me that there's nothing preventing Blair (Tony) from becoming leader of the Labour Party again and running for Prime Minister. And if that doesn't send you to bed with nightmares, nothing will.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-19 14:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There's nothing preventing Margaret Thatcher from doing the same sort of thing, is there?

Hutch! Hutch! Come down off that windowledge, Hutch!
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-19 22:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I did rather mean it as politicised policeman running for PM kind of a joke.

I don't remember being here before... *Looks around*
Nope, no idea. But my memory is poor these days.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-19 23:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, I see. I'm so sorry; that `Ian Blair - no relation' gag has been in the media so often that it's dulled my brain.

I think we've interacted before; maybe it was me hounding you to your LJ from Charlie's blog. My memory is also not what it was. Whatever, you're most welcome here.
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