Online and under cover: The award-winning NightJack blog is a gritty and addictive insider's view of modern-day policing

Its anonymous author talks to Mark Hughes

If the police arrive to lock you up, say nothing...All you are doing by trying to explain is digging yourself further in." Words of advice from a solicitor, perhaps, or even a hardened criminal who knows how to work the system? Far from it – this is one of the many musings of Jack Night, a serving police officer whose anonymous blog detailing the daily working life of a detective has won him plaudits and prizes.

The online diary, "NightJack - An English Detective", was started just 18 months ago and details the author's frustrations with his force and attempts at the reform of policing which, he says, has turned officers from "approachable neighbourhood figures into neon-clad stormtroopers."

Its honesty and insight meant it quickly became staple reading for 1,500 people who visited the site every time he posted. Earlier this month his undercover work was rewarded when he won the Orwell Prize - one of the most prestigious awards in political writing.

But, despite the praise, the author has remained anonymous, preferring to be known by his online moniker, Jack Night. His hidden identity meant that he was unable to attend the awards ceremony for the Orwell Prize. Instead he sat at home, eating sausages and chips, washed down with a glass of champagne "that had been in the fridge since before Christmas, waiting for an excuse to be opened".

Jack Night's identity is known to The Independent but we have agreed not to reveal anything apart from the fact that he is a detective constable, aged in his mid-40s. His force area and his real name remain a secret.

The diary started in February 2008 when, after reading other police blogs, he decided to start his own. NightJack - the police slang for a detective who works the night shift - was born. "I wanted to write about where I think police reform has taken us in the 20 years that I have been in the force," says its creator, "because I don't think the changes are always good."

In the blog he has been able to give forthright views on a number of policing and political subjects without fear of reprisal from his paymasters. Police Community Support Officers, he says, are: "deployed into inevitable confrontations that they [are] neither equipped or minded to deal with." Teenage yobs, he writes: "Just want to get high, shag your 14-year-old daughter until she is pregnant, and nick your stuff." And lax jail sentences, mean it is: "Entirely possible to live a career of criminal life without facing any serious consequences."

He also treats readers to anecdotes from cases he is working on, such as the rapist he caught after the man left evidence on his mobile phone: "Now me, if I had a video of me molesting a 14-year-old on my phone, If I had used a well-positioned door mirror to video my grinning self on the job...I would delete it. Thank you Bilal you stupid arrogant child rapist." Of a typical arrest with a colleague, he writes: "Lee takes his watch and wallet as trophies. Stamps on Mike's head more for the sake of completeness than anything, I mean, that's just what you do, you stamp the head when they are down. Everyone does that. It's soft not to."

Such honest observations meant that the blog's popularity quickly grew from 20 or 30 readers to more than 3,500 a day.

"The most exciting bit for me was when bloggers I read and respected started linking to my site," Jack Night explains. "When Iain Dale (the Tory blogger) put a link for my blog on his site I was amazed; here was someone I read all the time, acknowledging he liked my stuff. It was like starting a pub band and having Oasis come in and say 'That's not a bad sound you've got there lads'."

Police officers are not normally known for their writing skills as their notepads, so often filled with impenetrable acronyms and undecipherable phrases, can testify. But Jack Night suffers from no such problems with his prose.

In making their award, the judges of the Orwell Prize said: "The insight into the everyday life of the police that Jack Night's wonderful blog offered was - everybody felt - something which only a blog could deliver, and he delivered it brilliantly. It took you to the heart of what a policeman has to do - by the first blogpost you were hooked."

If the stories were addictive reading, Jack Night admits he thoroughly enjoyed the writing process: "I used to do a bit of creative writing when I was younger and did a bit of poetry and songwriting at university, but writing the blog came really naturally. I would start with a fully formed idea and it would just flow."

Despite the obvious pleasure he takes in writing, he managed to keep his blog unknown to his colleagues since its earliest days.

"No one in my force knows that I do the blog, although I think a couple suspect something. A few friends outside of the police know and so do my family. Thankfully I've never had the moment where someone I work with has mentioned it, but it did happen with a friend I go to the gym with. He was talking about the blog and being very complimentary. He asked if I had read it and I felt I had to tell him that, actually, I wrote it. Mind you I don't know how I'd have felt if he'd have slagged it off.

"When [I won the award], I got a bit worried that I was putting my head above the parapet, so to speak, and that I'd be found out. I didn't go to the ceremony, I sent a former colleague of mine on my behalf. He works in a different force and I thought enough time had passed between us working together that no-one would be able to make the link."

The win came with a £3,000 cash prize, but that was immediately donated to the Police Dependants' Trust, a charity which provides financial support for the relatives of police officers killed or injured in the line of duty.

"There was no way I, as an anonymous blogger, could keep the money," he says, "Besides, I blog for pleasure, not profit."His email inbox is now bulging with congratulations. "But the most touching was from the British Library who asked if they could add my blog to the national archive. Of course I said yes. Maybe in a few years people will look back and laugh at the fact my writing is in there, but I don't care."

As expected, publishers are hovering around the blog's explosive contents, and one book deal was already on the table before the prize, but the author has rejected them all. Yet he does plan to write a novel, in his real name, and says he will reject the temptation to use the blog to help launch a writing career.

"That would involve telling people who I am and I don't want to do that. I love my job. I get to investigate some of the most serious crime in my area. I would never want to give it up. To reveal my identity would put my employer between a rock and a hard place. It could possibly be career-ending and I wouldn't want that."

And the subject of his forthcoming book? "The police," he laughs. "If you read my blogs you'll realise that after 20 years in this business I don't know about much else."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick