PC Brennan, the victims' champion or a rent-a-mouth?

Jason Bennetto,William Fisk
Saturday 18 October 2003 00:00 BST

It has been another busy week for the "police officers' champion", Norman Brennan.

In the past seven days the founder of the national organisations Protect the Protectors and the Victims of Crime Trust has been quoted in the national press on subjects as diverse as the release of Winston Silcott, the government clampdown on yob culture, plans to make prisons less scary and inmates working for the Citizens' Advice Bureau.

Mr Brennan appears to be tireless, and incredibly successful, in promoting his two organisations. In the past year he has been quoted on 291 occasions in national newspapers, including this newspaper, not to mention his numerous appearances on radio and television. His tally on the BBC news website for the past year is 19 and he has even appeared on Breakfast with Frost.

But who is Norman Brennan and who does he represent?

It may surprise some to learn that the 43-year-old is a police constable for British Transport Police (BTP) based at Paddington in west London.

The organisation Protect the Protectors, which was set up about 10 years ago by PC Brennan to provide an alternative voice for rank-and-file officers has just one member - its founder. The Victims of Crime Trust is a slightly bigger set up with a secretary and operational director, as well as PC Brennan. Both groups are based in the same office above a branch of Barclays bank in Twickenham, west London.

Opinions about PC Brennan and his work seem to be divided within the police service. Some believe he is a tireless and selfless campaigner, while others see him as an unelected, unrepresentative, hardline reactionary. Either way the media love him.

Part of his success in getting publicity and his name in the paper is his accessibility. If you need a reaction to Ulrika Johnson's rape allegations, a child abuse scandal, arming police officers, David Blunkett's plans for the criminal justice system, Lord Woolf's sentencing policy, drug abuse, or rap culture, then PC Brennan is (and has been) your man.

Many suspect that the unmarried beat bobby with 24 years' experience, represents a certain type of anti-liberal, right-wing view that a significant number of officers privately hold but fear to articulate.

The Police Federation, the association that represents 135,000 officers, does not share that view and wrote 18 months ago to news organisations saying PC Brennan does not represent anyone's views but his own. One federation member said: "He causes a huge amount of irritation. He gives outrageous soundbites and simplistic solutions to complex issues. I don't think he represents the views of many officers."

The government-backed organisation Victim Support is also known to be deeply angered at the trust's regular criticism of its work. Others, however, believe he is genuine. They point towards his campaign for stab-proof vests and batons for beat officers, as well as his support for dozens of families of murder victims, including the father of Damilola Taylor, the 10-year-old boy stabbed to death in London. He has also organised trips for police officers to pay their respects to the dead in New York on the anniversary of the 11 September terror attack.

Neither of his organisations receive funding from the Government and they rely on donations. BTP say they are happy for him to continue his mission providing it does not interfere with his work and he makes it clear he does not speak on their behalf. They have not always been so sympathetic and when he left his work without permission three years ago to help a victim he was representing get to court he was demoted from detective to a beat officer.

Clive Elliott, the operations director of the trust, said of PC Brennan: "He has become an unofficial Robin Hood to many police officers. Many come up to him and shake his hand. They say he tells it how it really is on the street. He represents frontline boys and girls."

Unfortunately PC Brennan was unavailable to speak to The Independent yesterday, preferring to keep details of his life's work for a documentary.


27 July 2003: The Mail on Sunday

Granting of asylum to a murderous asylum-seeker: "It just goes to show Britain is a soft touch when it come to immigration matters."

16 March 2003: Sunday Mirror

Arming the police: "We must arm them before more are killed."

9 March 2003: The People

New gym to be built at Broadmoor jail: "This sounds like five-star treatment."

19 January 2003: The Mail on Sunday

"Burglars should be named and shamed. They are a scourge on society."

23 December 2002: The Sun

Christmas dinner in Sutton Prison: "They'll be eating better than I will. British justice is a joke."

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