I sometimes think there is a factory somewhere that churns out Stepford-esque public officials, all designed with the same narrow set of parameters, which explains the basic lack of imagination, humanity, attention to detail, personality and comprehension skills. Today I received an absolutely classic piece of corporate-speak drivel from an evidently senior police official. You could be forgiven for thinking this was from a press officer - because in effect, that's all senior officials are now; apologists for the pyramid of ineptitude and indifference that lies beneath them. Take a look at this...
Dear Mr North,
I have been asked to respond to your e mail to the PCC Office dated 19th June 2013. Please accept my apology for the delay in responding due to leave and other operational commitments.
I have reviewed the information that you have provided and I understand that you have reported the matter to Action Fraud. You will be aware that the role of Action Fraud is to work with a range of partners with the aim of making fraud more difficult to commit in the UK. This approach will work to tackle fraud across the spectrum but also works on identifying fraud types and fraud issues that are a notable problem. This will ensure that the fight against fraud in the UK is a coordinated one.
Unfortunately, the Police are unable to investigate every report of fraud individually, but the information provided will build the intelligence picture about fraud. All fraud reports are utilised by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) to inform the wider intelligence picture and identify emerging threats to the country which are then referred for investigation.
In your case, I am aware that there is an ongoing civil matter that was due in Court on 12th July in respect of which you were advised by PC 2803 Williams to await the outcome of that case prior to a final decision by Avon & Somerset Constabulary on your complaint. It may be that your communication to the office of the PCC crossed with that conversation with PC Williams and I anticipate that following the outcome of that hearing you will be in contact with PC Williams should you wish further consideration to be made.
I understand that you are not satisfied by the response that you have received from your report to Action Fraud. I can only reiterate the response that you have previously received from Mrs Mountstevens. I have recently taken responsibility as the force lead for Action Fraud and the issue of feedback to victims of fraud following a report to Action Fraud is something that has been raised with the NFIB and the Action Fraud National Force Liaison Manager. Whilst the response you have received from Action Fraud has been agreed with the victim support service, please be assured that we value your feedback and will seek to utilise that feedback in improving the service provided.
Dr Kirstie Cogram
Financial Investigation & Economic Crime
Serious & Organised Crime Group
Tel: 01275 816641 / 07920 757908
My first thoughts were "is this a wind up?" They know perfectly well by now that this wasn't a civil matter. The part highlighted tells you this automoton has only examined the case in the most cursory sense. The plod did not at any point state that an investigation was dependent on the outcome of the trial. I would have torn strips off them if they had. The CPS even agreed to an adjournment of the trial on the basis that it was our understanding an investigation was in progress. She has essentially re-stated what I already know from the pig-ignorant and lazy response of the the plod. I really don't know why they bother.
The short hand version of this letter is "Dear Mr North, I'm too busy counting paper-clips to look at your case and I don't understand it anyway - but because I'm very important I will cobble together a few key phrases from the public sector bullshit handbook and then tell you to basically fuck off."
That's fine. I didn't expect much. Expecting a public official to do their job is like expecting a cat to bark, but I'd have preferred the honest version just to save time. That said, such casual insolence deserves a somewhat verbose reply - and since so much of this is now pre-written thanks to this blog, it's very little effort on my part to do so.
Dear Dr Cogram,
Thank you for your email. I quite agree that the police cannot investigate every report of fraud individually, however in this instance, I was in possession of hard evidence, yet the police refused to even accept a complaint. The only way I was able to get a crime number was to use the action fraud website and pursue it further from there.
The reason the police neglected their duty in this matter is that there seems to be an internal directive to treat advance fee fraud by bailiffs as a civil matter, in spite of several statements from the government since 2007 that fee fraud is indeed a criminal offence. Though Mrs Mountstevens herself initially maintained it was a civil matter, Advance Fee Fraud has never been a civil matter (as the police maintain) and it is only in light of the recent guidelines from the DCLG that I was able to get any movement at all in the direction of a proper investigation.
So up until the arrival of the Action Fraud website, there was no possible means of reporting bailiff fraud, which means the authorities collectively have little or no telemetry or intelligence on this kind of crime. Even your own website does not list bailiff fraud as a category and one is expected to know the intricacies of fraud law in order to categorise it properly. One can see why the average citizen doesn't bother to report such to the police (and takes such matters into their own hands). The reason you do not acknowledge the seriousness of this fraud epidemic is because you collectively deny its existence - and use your lack of data in relation to it to reinforce this view. If you don't see it, it isn't happening it seems.
You are correct in that there was a court case on 12 July 2013, though it was not a civil case, as you would know had you familiarised yourself with the details before contacting me. The court case was to discern whether my actions were reasonable by way of removing a bailiff's wheel clamp. The magistrates view was that there were means available to me that I neglected to explore before resorting to removing their clamp, thus my actions were not viewed as reasonable - and consequently I am guilty of Criminal Damage. I beg to differ, and will appeal, but that is not relevant to the matter at hand.
The court case itself was not to decide whether or not my allegations of fraud against Rundles Bailiffs were valid or not. In fact the magistrates made no ruling on this at all, because that was not in their remit. You are correct in that the police have awaited the verdict before initiating an investigation. They have used it as an excuse not to investigate - as they have wrongfully read the verdict as a vindication of the bailiffs, when it is entirely immaterial to the allegations of fraud. So yet again the police have not only ducked the issue, they have merely sat on an investigation and allowed the outcome of this trial to prejudice their decision to investigate. When I am finished with the appeal process, regardless of the outcome, I will turn all my attention on a police complaint and will present other victims of Rundles bailiffs in support of it. They are mistaken if they think I will let this drop.
The police have been rude and dismissive from the outset and I would even say lazy at this point. I am a victim of a crime and have been stonewalled by the council and the police - and now your own office. I am astonished by this. There is now a cottage industry of legal services to deal with rogue bailiffs and thousands of anecdotal accounts of bailiff fee fraud on internet forums and yet the whole law enforcement establishment prefers to stick its fingers in its ears and deny the problem exists.
You will be aware that even small councils are issuing anywhere between five and ten thousand liability orders a year for council tax - and if even half of these result in bailiff action, whereby they routinely employ unlawful tactics - in clear breach of the regulations, then we are looking at a national epidemic amounting to several million pounds. One would have thought that this would be of particular interest to you. Pursuing it would not only go a long way to restoring public confidence in the police, but would also be a career making case against a long standing epidemic of fraud that has netted millions for unscrupulous bailiffs. In light of the changes to council tax benefit, this problem is only going to get worse, and still you are content to neglect the issue, and essentially fob me off with the same bland corporate-speak as everyone else. If I'd wanted a scripted answer from a press officer, I'd have called your press officer.
My confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the police has been utterly rocked by this. Had the police taken my complaint seriously in the first instance there would never have been a criminal case brought against me. There is no evidence whatsoever that the bailiffs visited me on the alleged dates and they have no record of the charges they scribbled on the proformas stuffed through my door at later dates. Only I am in possession of these documents. That is why the police do not see any evidence of fraud: - They have refused point blank to even look at it. They have not even been to my house to follow up on the evidence.
What we have here is 'policing by stats'. Prosecuting me is a nice easy hit that takes no great effort to secure a statistical win. The police will take the councils word that the bailiff fees are legitimate and will do no examination of their own, and with the deck stacked by the councils not even investigating complaints and referring complaints directly to the bailiff companies themselves, there is a high probability of an easy conviction. It seems that anything that may prove difficult or time consuming to investigate, that does not necessarily result in an easy statistic to chalk up on the blackboard, is deemed too much effort and not worth the trouble. Rather than serving the justice and serving the public, they can proudly lie to their superiors that another ruffian criminal has been punished for his misdeeds. For a public service that is rapidly losing respect and standing in the community, you would expect they would take more of an interest in protecting the public interest. If this is the shape of policing to come, I will not be in the least bit surprised if we start seeing such incidents turn violent - and you will have played your part in it.
I am am deeply offended, angry and disappointed by the police response in this matter and now I know they've have chosen sides, I will no longer view them as public servants, but lazy, predatory bandits who will opt for convenience over justice. The consequences of that will be theirs because times are coming where the police will need the co-operation and support of people like me. It won't be there. As for you, if your letter is anything to go by, you are as much a part of the problem.I don't for a minute expect it will penetrate the layers of institutional conditioning, nor will it prick her conscience since public officials have no souls anyway. I bet this ghoulish thing doesn't even cast a reflection in the mirror. However, this is essentially the result of getting in touch with the Avon & Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner. The lesson here is that if you don't like the answer from the press officer-in-chief, then they will shunt it through to a different press officer, who will merely add a moderately different flavour of bullshit to it.
Somehow we're expected to pay them £100k a year or more for this drivel. Given that this apologist crap is so standard now, I'm surprised there isn't a subroutine in Microsoft Word that essentially does the same job for the price of a liability order. These people are scum sucking parasites and they are draining the vitality from civil society. Eventually, there will be a price to pay.