The now leaked Operation Tiberius report of 2002, describing police corruption (report, 10, 11 January), and the policeman’s confession that he lied in the Mitchell incident of 2012 should come as no surprise. Corruption is endemic in any police force, however hard you try to eradicate it. The essence of policing is control; control means power; and all power tends to corrupt.
The police are often dealing with law-breakers: gangsters, thieves, drug dealers, murderers and fraudsters. This association with the criminal fraternity inevitably brutalises some members of the police force, who often take on the same characteristics as the very people they are trying to bring to heel.
But there is another important element to police corruption. The police commendably want to ensure the criminal gets his just deserts, but despite their genuine belief in a man’s guilt they do not have the requisite evidence. So you make up the evidence; hence a confession obtained by corrupt means. Often more effective is to embellish the truth with a lie, especially if the truth reflects badly on the alleged offender.
Despite his current smirking, Andrew Mitchell has nothing to be proud of. He was a Cabinet minister, yet he admits swearing at the police, at the same time knowingly trying to bicycle from the wrong exit in Downing Street, both pieces of misconduct which conceivably could have involved him in criminal sanctions. So to nail him really properly the police falsely accuse the minister of calling them plebs.
So one lesson is to behave yourself because that keeps you out of trouble; the second and more important lesson is that the police cannot always be trusted.
Our police force plays an essential role in society. You don’t have to like them, and I would be rather surprised if you did. But they do need our respect in order to be effective. This requires the force to be representative of the population at large; to be well trained; to be well paid; to be visible on our streets; and to receive good leadership from their own commanders. None of these criteria seems to be in operation at the present time.
David Ashton, Shipbourne, Kent
So, the “plebgate” policeman lied. If police can act this way to bring down someone as powerful as a Cabinet minister, then just imagine how they sometimes treat ordinary citizens, let alone demonstrators, animal rights and environmental activists, and so on.
Rupert Read, Norwich
The power of a property tycoon
Noting recent statements and the sheer brass neck of landlord Fergus Wilson, I am reminded of Ted Heath’s phrase, “the unacceptable face of capitalism” (“Landlord who wants to put 200 families out on the street”, 11 January).
Militating against David Cameron’s presentation of a genial face of private enterprise is the naked truth of this system where a very rich property tycoon, in pursuit of maximising his considerable wealth, will deprive honest and hard-working citizens of their homes, all with no redress whatsoever.
This is a stark reminder of the power gulf between the haves and the have-nots in our society, which enables Mr Wilson to pry into, judge and change the circumstances of his tenants, without fear of any reciprocal action. His wealth enables him to inflict his prejudices upon decent families, causing them upheaval and anguish. His explanation that it is simple economics underlines the fact that we are not all in this together.
Make no mistake, this is the real face of capitalism.
Howard Pilott, Lewes
Why do we need the people in wigs?
Barristers went on strike over legal aid fees. Can anyone explain why we need legal aid in these days of well-paid, independent judges and randomly selected juries?
If someone is guilty in a criminal case or wrong in a civil case, why should we spend public money trying to help them “prove” they are innocent or right? On the other hand, if they are innocent or right, why can’t they simply tell their own story truthfully in their own words, rather than tell someone with a wig who then at second-hand has to tell the judge and jury or prompt his client with the “right” thing to say?
If there is doubt about the legal technicalities, surely the judge can resolve that to say what actually is the law.
Is the real trouble our point-scoring adversarial system, as also used in Parliament, rather than a pure investigative system to get at the truth?
H Trevor Jones, Guildford
The Government believes that the cost of justice for ordinary citizens, with Legal Aid at £39 a year per head of the population, is too expensive and must be reduced. In comparison, the annual cost per head of the population for the Common Agricultural Policy is £176.
As the first responsibility of any government is the safety of its people, do our current politicians believe that this stops with our police, military and security services? For an ordinary citizen, it is of more immediate importance that they can rely on our elected representatives to ensure that each of us, if having to face a day in court, does so with appropriate legal representation, not depending solely on what an individual defendant or plaintive can, or cannot, afford.
Malcolm MacIintyre-Read, Much Wenlock, Shropshire
‘War on drugs’ is a war on people
John Rentoul is correct that “the war on drugs” is a cliché (8 January). It is also untrue. The drug laws around the world are a war on people. They make criminals of millions of cannabis users who have usually done little harm to themselves and none to anyone else. Cannabis, like alcohol and any other drug, can be harmful, but making it illegal doesn’t stop many people from using it. It just pushes up the price and means there is no quality control.
People who don’t want to break the law are turning to “legal highs”, some of which are proving to be much more damaging than many illegal drugs, and certainly more harmful than cannabis.
Rentoul is incorrect to say that “advocates of legalising cannabis tend not to propose legalising harder drugs”. If anything, many of them would put legalising the most dangerous drugs first, because they cause the most harm. They want drug use taken out of the criminal justice system and dealt with as a medical and social problem. Only then will we begin to get rid of the criminal dealers and be able to help those afflicted by drugs
Many police officers are probably too busy dealing with drunks and breaking up alcohol-induced fights to worry at all about a few people quietly smoking pot. It will be good when the law is as sensible and discriminating as the police.
Hope Humphreys, Creech St Michael, Somerset
Rogues and vagabonds need funerals
What an outrage! A “quirky vicar” takes the funeral of Ronnie Biggs, and dares to say something nice about him: and this is presented as newsworthy, complete with the usual rent-a-quotes from people who should know better (report, 11 January). I have news for them and you: any one of us would have done the same.
In my 45 years as a priest of the Church of England I have done the funerals of any number of rogues and vagabonds, as well as a few for people who were saints. But the important thing is that I don’t believe I have the right to make a distinction between them. If a family comes to me and asks me to do a funeral for them, I consider it my duty as a priest to do it as best I can without making any judgment: that is God’s job, not mine.
Mr Tomlinson is not “reinventing Christianity” as you put it: he is simply doing what thousands of clergy have been doing for many years without the media noticing it.
John Williams, West Wittering, West Sussex
What about the squeezed middle?
I agree that an increase in the minimum wage will help the low-paid and boost the economy (report, 8 January). But what about those of us who earn above the minimum wage but well below the average wage? In order to make both the low-paid and the rich better off, those of us who are neither continue to see our incomes fall in real terms.
Paul Winter, South shields, Tyne & Wear
An old hippie remembers
Isn’t John Walsh (9 January) showing his age a bit, to remember Joni Mitchell telling an audience “You’re behaving like tourists”. We both must have been at the Isle of Wight Festival together in 1970, although with 500,000 people there, I don’t remember us meeting up.
Peter Gibson, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
It’s an honour, Prime Minister
David Cameron’s barber was created an MBE in the honours list. Could he also make Rebekah Brooks’s horse Raisa (the one lent to her by the police) a consul?
Richard Knights, Liverpool