Dear Ms Bourne
Many thanks for your response to my letter about Sussex Police, and please accept my apologies for not replying sooner. Partly this is down to time constraints, but to be completely honest with you it’s also partly down to the perceived futility of the exercise. I appreciate you taking the time to respond, but I think it’s also fair to say that it was a pretty unspecific, stock response, and unless you have an appetite to properly address the issues then I’m not sure either of us are spending our time wisely.
In my letter I asked a number of very specific questions. To remind myself, I’ve gone through it again and copied them. I asked:
1. “What makes Cuadrilla special? The Big Lemon doesn’t have a team of Police officers on standby to help with anything we need at the drop of a hat; why should Cuadrilla?” (This was in explanation of why Cuadrilla had so much Police support at Balcombe even when there were no crimes being committed, whereas The Big Lemon received little or no support even when crimes were committed)
2. “Why can’t they just phone the Police if they have a problem – same as everyone else – and wait their turn?”
3. “So, it’s not a question of resource. But what is it then? (That’s not a rhetorical question – I really would like to know the answer.)” (This was in relation to Sussex Police having seemingly unlimited resources for Balcombe, but little or none to deal with actual (albeit low-level) crime. The essence of this question is about the role of Sussex Police: is it a crime-reduction agency or is it an arm of Government with the aim of enforcing Government policy, even where it is unpopular?)
4. “It’s clearly not a bus, and there’s clearly a large van easily passing by next to it. Why did she [Inspector Bartlett] write that [it was]?” (This was in relation to Inspector Bartlett’s written evidence that I had blocked the entrance to the road-building site at Combe Haven with a bus, when she must have known full well that it was a taxi, and not blocking anything)
5. “Why hadn’t Sgt Russell told me that in his reply to my email [that I had misidentified him]?” (In response to our email correspondence where he did not deny it was me he’d spoken to, but then in court he produced evidence that he hadn’t been there that day and couldn’t have had the conversation with me)
6. “Either it WAS actually Sgt Russell who I’d spoken with; or Sgt Russell had replied to my email giving me the false impression that it was him, when it was actually PC Barden. Why would he do that?” (As per previous question)
7. “So, we see an evidence bias towards the Police, and we see Police lying in court to get protesters convicted. But why?” (In response to the Judge stating that he would take my ‘good character’ into account, seeing evidence that Inspector Bartlett’s evidence was false, and finding parts of Sgt Russell’s evidence ‘contradictory’, yet accepting the Police evidence and rejecting our evidence on every occasion where the two were in conflict)
8. “Why does it matter to the Police whether a prosecution is successful or not?”
9. “Is there a cultural bias in the Police against protesters?”
10. “Is there pressure on officers to ensure convictions are successful?”
11. “Are there government targets to meet?” On this last question I was very glad to read that your Police & Crime Plan
“has removed targets and the associated performance pressures they bring. There is now an emphasis on strengthening police officer discretion to focus activity around local priorities which differ by district and division. This approach empowers local District Commanders and staff with greater discretion to exercise their professional judgement to ensure that offenders are dealt with effectively, safe in the knowledge that no one outcome is favoured over others.
Strengthening police officer and staff discretion should also help promote a more victim-focussed approach, by removing perverse incentives for forces to record and pro-actively pursue certain crimes on the basis of locally-set detection targets. It will also encourage officers and staff to consider the needs of victims and the importance of engaging them throughout the criminal justice process.”
This partially answers questions 10 and 11 – but are there some targets that you cannot remove? If so, what are they? Are there targets for conviction rates? If so, this would explain why it was so important for Sussex Police to try and get a conviction.
In light of the recent news that “Sussex Police are accused of using mass arrests, draconian bail conditions and section 14 notices under the Public Order Act 1986 to criminalise peaceful protest at the site in Balcombe” and that Sussex Police “tried to cover-up spying operation on fracking protesters”
I am sure you will agree that urgent action is needed to restore public confidence in Sussex Police. Please answer the specific questions I have raised, or pass them to the Chief Constable for him to reply. It is clear that what is needed is some soul-searching and frank communication and I’d be very grateful if that process could start here.
Many thanks and best wishes