UK police are enduring their worst crisis in years, with senior officers resigning over being intertwined with implicated News Corporation staff. A number of incidents over the years have called the integrity of law enforcers into question.
Ian Tomlinson died in London’s G20 protests in 2009 after being pushed to the ground by PC Simon Harwood. Harwood said he had been prevented from rendering first aid by a baying, bottle-throwing mob. He later admitted that had not happened.
Jean Charles de Menezes was shot by police in a London underground station in 2005. Officers allegedly leaked a report saying he had fled from police. CCTV images later showed this was not true.
Less well-known is Michael Doherty, a man who went to the police for help, only for it to turn into a Kafkaesque web of allegedly false statements and mistreatment.
“It felt like they were targeting me. I obviously have no protection from the law in this country. I think it’s completely outrageous,” he told RT.
Doherty told police he suspected his 13-year-old daughter was being groomed by a sexual predator. Concerned, they referred it to his local station’s sex crime unit. Then came nothing. After two weeks, Doherty phoned the unit’s secretary. That was when the trouble started.
Police came to Doherty’s house at dawn, to arrest him for harassing the police secretary. Shortly after his arrest, he learnt the investigation into his daughter’s grooming had been dropped by police. Records show they had not looked at any of the evidence.
The police secretary has since admitted she has a hazy recollection of the telephone calls she said upset her so much – but only when presented with tapes of the conversations Doherty had wisely recorded. The officers involved in his arrest were found to be at fault and sent on a retraining course. But Doherty believes that is not enough.
“I don’t think that they’re anything different than you or I, and I think this is normal society. If they’ve done something criminal, they need to be held accountable in the same way that anybody else would be – in a court,” he said.
Doherty’s account of lies and harassment by the police is by no means unique, but the phone hacking scandal has brought stories like his into the public eye, revealing bribery and corruption at the heart of the police force.
“It’s amazing that the focus has tended to be on the journalists themselves and not on the allegedly-corrupt police officers, who have been receiving money to provide protected information. It does show that there is an endemic corruption and a failure of accountability as well in the police force,” Annie Machon, a former intelligence officer for MI5, told RT.
Two of the country’s most senior police officers have resigned this week and two more are under investigation after relations between News Corp and the police were revealed to have been far too cozy.
“Senior police officers were wining and dining with members of the Murdoch empire. They were meeting for drinks privately. One even hired them at 1000 pounds a day to work for him. So what does this tell us about the relationships between the police and the News Corp employees? Well it’s very serious, and if this can happen at the top of the police what signal does that give to officers further down the line,” media analyst and author Phil Rees said.
The Home Secretary has announced a review into the workings of the police, to rebuild public trust. That is of little comfort to Michael Doherty, who says he has been traumatized by his experience at the hands of the people he turned to for help.
The phone hacking scandal has many far-reaching implications, from the potential break up of a media empire, to a loss of faith in the British press. But it has also pushed into the spotlight once again a police force that appears only to tell the truth when it is caught out in a lie. Many are now asking how justice can prevail.