2010 articles

New Aspergers course kicks off in Highbridge
2:04pm Monday 26th April 2010
By David Hemming

BURNHAM and Highbridge are at the forefront of a campaign to raise awareness of autism and Asperger Syndrome.

A new course has kicked off at the BAY Centre in Cassis Close, Burnham, teaching local PCSOs, learning support assistants and parents how to spot the conditions and deal with them.

The programme, run by Switch, is the first of its kind in the South-West and attracted 25 applicants despite only being funded for ten places.

Trainer Allison Ward said: “It's going really well and we wanted to launch it this week to tie in with national autism awareness week.

“More and more adults and young people are being diagnosed with the conditions, and there are a lot of individuals in the Burnham and Highbridge area who have Asperger Syndrome and autism.

“I think people are becoming more aware of it now; it is a condition that conjures up all sorts of thoughts, but courses like this can only help.”

The BBC ran a series of programmes last week focusing on the lives of people who suffer from the conditions, and how they cope.

County councillor for Burnham and Highbridge, John Woodman, said it was fantastic for the two towns to be at the forefront of raising awareness on a local level.

select for full story Bike workshop is a hit
26 April 2010
MORE than 70 children at a Pill primary school took their bikes and scooters to class to take part in a workshop run by the police.

All youngsters in years one and two at Crockerne Primary School had their bikes looked over by PCSOs to see what needed doing to make them safer.

Tips included adding lights and new brake pads.

Children were also taught how to keep safe on their bikes and were tested on their riding through a simple course.

On March 30, the bike theme lasted throughout the day as children moved around classrooms to take part in other activities.

This included creating prints with painted tyres and shoe treads and making a bag for the class teddy bear to take on a bike.

After their work with years one and two, the three PCSOs also spoke to children in reception about their roles in the community.

select for full story Chief Constable of Gloucestershire answers your questions
The new Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, Tony Melville, guest edited The Citizen on April 7.

Mr Melville, who took on Gloucestershire's top policing job 12 weeks ago, spent the day with The Citizen to find out how the media works - and to hear the views of Citizen, Echo and TiG readers.

A. I am a great supporter of the Special Constabulary and have been ever since I benefited from them working alongside me supporting the regular force when I was a beat officer. They have all the powers of a Constable, are well trained and equipped and in my experience very professional. A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of attending one of our Special Constabulary parades at Headquarters. The enthusiasm and commitment of everyone there was infectious. As we develop our plans to reorganise the way we are delivering policing the Special Constabulary are involved and will continue to form an important role in keeping people safe from harm and inspiring the highest levels of confidence in the local police. I don’t have a set number in mind yet but anyone who wants to join us please get in touch and we would welcome the chance to talk it through with you.

Q. Why do you feel PCSOs are regarded with derision by most serving police officers?

A. I often read comments like this about the relationship between Police Officers and PCSOs but in my experience when I go and look for it somehow it always seems to be in another part of the country! I believe PCSOs are appreciated by the communities they work in and by the Police Officers that work with them in our local neighbourhoods. Every PCSO I have met and worked with in the last three months has been very knowledgeable about the local area, working on local priorities and visible in the local area. Policing Gloucestershire has to be a team effort and we are all on the same team, police staff, police community support officers and sworn officers both specials and regulars.

Q. I would like to ask Mr Melville for his views (and his stance) on the blatant disregard for the laws of the road shown by so many police officers, which laws the general public are expected to abide by. We live in a city where driving with a total disregard for either the law or the safety of others is rife - whether it is driving through red lights, parking on double yellow lines, driving the wrong way down one way streets, or any other of an endless list of traffic transgressions that cause danger to other road users.

Firstly, why is this so prevalent in Gloucester as opposed to other towns and cities (by my own observations) and what do you intend to do to improve the situation?

Secondly, do you not think that a better example set by members of the constabulary would lead to a decrease in such habits on the part of citizens?

For example, the habit of parking on double yellow lines outside retailers to facilitate buying food for consumption by themselves while on duty or parking illegally/causing obstructions on the public highway in the course of their duty when it is often possible to park legally and safely - merely requiring a slight effort on the part of the officer.

It is unfortunate that so many officers choose to disregard the law themselves for their own benefit as this undoubtedly sends the wrong message to the public.

Is it your intention to address this issue and how do you intend to do so?

A. You raise a good point and on my first evening as Chief Constableselect for full story I was out on foot patrol and had to make sure a police car which was parked unnecessarily on double yellow lines was moved! There are of course many occasions when we need to park police vehicles in certain places or drive in a particular way to respond to emergencies, support victims and catch offenders. I know that is not what you are referring to and I agree that the examples you use do nothing to build confidence in us the local police. Building confidence is very important to me and we have already been using examples like the ones you give to help everyone understand the impact this has on members of the public. Now I expect and trust people to make the right decisions and go about their duties in a way which inspires confidence in us.

From The Times       March 15, 2010
Full marks to Four Marks for taking a stand The police alone cannot keep the peace, but dare we risk unleashing our inner baseball-swinging vigilante? select for full story Neighbourhood Watches are getting beefier. Four Marks village in Hampshire — as reported today — has citizens in luminous uniform jackets carrying alarms, black notebooks and mobile phones to deter teenage troublemakers. Hampshire police back them, and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has circulated other forces.

COLUMNIST: Libby Purves    
The villagers are reportedly happy, and as a side-effect some say that they feel more benign towards the hoodies now that they are confronting them rather than cowering behind the front door to the sound of smashing bottles. But ACPO and others express wariness. It is not just self-protective fear of policing on the cheap, but warnings of “unintended consequences” — vigilantism and carte blanche given to “far-right groups” to form private armies.

You can see their point. One person’s merry night out is another’s antisocial menace. I am sketching notes for this very article on a late-night train, and there are several fellow passengers who are lucky that I have no power to issue fines, lifetime travel bans and draconian injunctions against shrieking “F***!” or giggling at any frequency higher than 1,000Hz. Plus, obviously, confiscation of alcohol, loud headphones and any trainer placed on a seat.

I like to think that I would restrict myself to an affable PC Dixon “move along, then” (though I did once confiscate a crisp-bag from a runty glue-sniffer) but at times we all have an inner Singaporean cop. And it must be regretfully admitted that there are citizens of this fine country who want nothing more than a quasi-virtuous excuse to vent their private emotional difficulties by swinging a baseball bat at their fellow man.

That is why we hesitate to name sex offenders, and spend a fortune giving Robert Thompson, Jon Venables and Maxine Carr false identities. In civilised countries the State must hold a monopoly of forcible justice because, from the Ku Klux Klan to the INLA, history is full of lynchings, “punishment” beatings and illegitimate hatred dressed up as citizen-justice.

However, not all justice is violent, and there is a balance to be struck. We should talk about it calmly, and public authorities should not work on the insulting assumption that we are all, given a chance, that swivel-eyed person with the baseball bat. Nor, whenever they do ask for help in the form of information, should libertarian commentators sneer at a “culture of snitches”.

There is some evidence that when you do empower citizens to keep an eye on one another, they do not immediately spread malicious lies, arm themselves with spiked clubs and pick on people with funny hairdos. They do no harm and feel safer. Initially, any patrol or individual will get a lot of lip — as do police community support officers with their ludicrously limited powers — but the more there are, and the more respect real police give them, the less it will be worth insulting them.

So good luck to Four Marks. One detective inspector who backed the scheme hit the nail on the head — patronisingly — when he said the community was “disempowered” by fear of crime and had an “over-reliance on us as a force”. Can’t blame them, though, can you? They read about people who really are disempowered and whose police force is not to be over-relied on. Ask the neighbours of the late tormented Fiona Pilkington and others like her. Besides, unilateral self-empowerment can land you in a cell. Ask Nicholas Tyers, of Hull, who nabbed a boy breaking his chip-shop window and had “six months of hell” before the court dismissed his prosecution for kidnap. Or Sal Miah, a curry-house restaurateur in Sussex who spent five hours in a police cell and had his DNA taken and was given a caution. He had grabbed a pair of teenagers who broke into his beer cellar , and fended off others outside.

“I could not believe it,” he said plaintively. “I stopped a crime from happening and delivered the suspects to the police, but they didn’t seem interested in my storeroom and the beer these boys had tried to steal. They just listened to them complaining that I attacked them.” The police say piously that he should have “observed from a safe distance” while dialling 999, because otherwise things could “escalate into violence”. Again, they have a point: Gurmail Singh was beaten to death defending his sweet shop last month.

Well, I wasn’t there at the curry-house ruck and don’t know how crazy Mr Miah went. But there are enough tales of this sort to deter us from doing anything except turn away, or glumly phone a minimally interested police desk. And that feels unhealthy. Nobody knows any more whether it is safe to attempt a citizen’s arrest. The definition of “reasonable force” rarely comes down on the side of the arrester and even a harsh word spoken in heat can make you fall foul of hate-crime laws. The police hate citizen intervention, partly because it can provoke a more serious crime as the villain fights back, and partly because they say we’re just not trained.

select for full story In the can-do culture of the United States, they formed the Guardian Angels. They are identifiable in red berets, unarmed but adept in martial arts, with their own screening and training schemes. At first they were widely condemned by the authorities, but Mayor Koch reversed his judgment and successive New York mayors backed them. But they never caught on here: possibly because their very existence feels like an admission that the police can’t keep the peace.

But if they can’t — and if senior policemen are going to patronise our “over-reliance” — we need to consider a degree of rebalancing, and more benefit of the doubt for individuals who verbally or physically defend the peace. Public authority can’t have it both ways: either you insist on the police keeping things calm, or you share the burden.

The irony is that in other matters, the State is ever keener to devolve powers of interference to companies and minor arms of its own. We have private prisons, including one for under-18s; commercial entities enforce congestion charges. The DVLA still sells personal address details of drivers for £2.50 a head to parking companies — some with criminal records — which then set ludicrous fines at will.

Meanwhile, a freedom of information request has revealed, thousands of town hall workers have been given powers of search and entry to private homes without a warrant, looking for everything from illegal hypnotists to prohibited pot-plants (though obviously, if you have an aggressive boyfriend, they won’t get to the back bedroom where the beaten child is lying).

Some of these powers and restraints are necessary, some not. But it is all about balance. What are our core rights and duties? We no longer know and that’s the problem. There is a philosophical and cultural statement to be made. It would be good to see it in a manifesto.

The Times      March 15, 2010
Judge Baroness Butler-Sloss rejects raising age of criminal responsibility
select for full story

Judge Baroness Butler-Sloss >    
The judge who gave James Bulger’s killers lifelong anonymity believes that children involved in horrific crimes are not born evil and can be rehabilitated.

Responding to comments by Maggie Atkinson, the new Children’s Commissioner, that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10 to 12, Baroness Butler-Sloss, the retired President of the Family Division of the High Court, said that such a move would be “unworkable”. She said that the public would never accept ten-year-old murderers escaping punishment.

Dr Atkinson said in an interview with The Times that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson should not have been prosecuted in an adult court. She argued that children under 12 should not be prosecuted for any crime and that even the most hardened of youngsters could still be frightened.

Lady Butler-Sloss told The Times that some children committed terrible crimes because of a lack of love while growing up. She said: “I do not believe children are evil. I believe that they may be born with personality disorders or have such a terrible upbringing and complete lack of love and care that they turn to appalling crime. I believe young people can be turned.”

She said that it was time to discuss the issue of managing children who had committed crimes rather than locking them up. “It is something we need to look at. I think the Children’s Commissioner is right to raise the issue.”

Raising the age of criminal responsibility has already been ruled out by the Ministry of Justice and Dr Atkinson’s remarks have been strongly criticised by James Bulger’s mother, Denise Fergus, who called for her to be sacked for “twisted and insensitive” comments.

Lady Butler-Sloss said that she was not criticising Dr Atkinson’s views and had sympathy with them but she did not think that the public would accept them. “I would like to see a much more effective approach towards dealing with the 10 and 11-year-old serious offenders without putting them necessarily into secure accommodation.”

Lady Butler-Sloss said that ten-year-olds were treated like 50-year-olds “and I am concerned about that”, but she added: “I do not believe the public will at the moment stand for murderers of 10 years old being treated as if they are children and not having to face punishment. The way I would like to go forward is to keep it as it is for the moment, because of public opinion, but to make it much more difficult to send such children to prison.”

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12 March 2010 By Bruce Smith
PCSO borrows bike to nab young yob
IT was a case of "on your bike" if you don't mind when resourceful Police Community Support Officer Paul Tunnard chased a vandal who deliberately damaged a patrol vehicle. For Paul was determined the yob who smashed the window of the police video van in Seacroft, Leeds, should not escape justice and borrowed a bike to catch the culprit. select for full story The police vehicle was attacked on Tuesday while officers were at the Tesco store in Seacroft, Leeds, taking a statement from a witness in an unconnected incident.

PCSO Paul Tunnard >    
Suddenly one of the windows on the van was shattered and a suspect was seen running off.

PCSO Tunnard was with a colleage nearby chatting to a group of young people when they were alerted to the attack on the police van.

They had a quick look around and rapidly spotted a suspect escaping.

PCSO Tunnard commandeered a bike from one of the young people he had been talking to and set-off in pursuit.

He then grabbed the 17-year-old and arrested him on suspicion of causing damage to a motor vehicle.

Insp Ed Chesters, who leads the Killingbeck and Seacroft Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "This was a great arrest in terms of the foresight and dedication shown by the officer to utilise the bike in order to keep track of the suspect and ensure he was arrested.

"We are working hard in the areas of Seacroft that surround Tesco as we tackle the issues that local people have raised with us

PCSO and Members of Public Disarm Man with Knife
Friday, 5 March, 2010       West Yorkshire Police news release

A police community support officer from the City Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) and two members of the public bravely disarmed a man carrying a large knife in Leeds city centre yesterday.

PCSO Nick Hammill was on routine patrols at around 11am yesterday in the Leeds Bus Station and New York Street area of the city when they were approached by a woman concerned about the behaviour of a man who was behaving strangely and aggressively towards members of the public.

Nick approached the man and had hold of one of his arms while attempting to detain him, when the man pulled a large kitchen knife from the waistband of his trousers with his other arm and held it above his head.

Two 28-year-old men who were passing by and witnessed this then ran to Nick's assistance, with one grabbing the man's arm and the other taking the knife from him.

He was arrested by police officers and PCSOs who immediately attended the incident, and has since been charged with possession of an offensive weapon and affray. He has been bailed but is undergoing mental health assessments.

The two members of the public suffered minor hand injuries as a result of grabbing the knife from the man's hands.

Superintendent Paul Money of the City and Holbeck Division said: "This was display of immense bravery by both Nick and the members of the public who offered urgent assistance to diffuse a situation which could have had much more serious consequences, and all involved are to be commended for their efforts.

"Incidents of this nature are very rare in Leeds city centre, but the fact that PCSOs were out on patrol when this happened and dealt with it immediately really demonstrates their true value."

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  2010 articles