OK, with the general election over, and with the back and forth occurring in, or rather under, an article about the hunting ban on TiG, I think it’s finally time to ‘state my case’ on the ‘harassment’ issue.

It starts with a mention of another Labour MP on Parmjit Dhanda’s blog. PD praises him, IIRC, for a blog piece on the McBride scandal. I look up the member’s blog and it’s way more active than PD’s with at least a dozen or so comments after each entry, and usually scores, even three figures. One thing I notice, though, is that this MP seems to ‘treat ’em mean’, to ‘keep ’em keen’. Sometimes the put-downs are pretty junior school, rather than old school, like ‘Have you stopped taking your medication?’

I post a few times, and it seems to be going fine. All my comments are pre-moderated, not just the first one, whereas on this blog and most others, acceptance of that first is usually enough to clear future ones, but that’s fine. Busy MP (busy blogging, anyway), can’t take a chance on some spammer getting through, I guess.

Where it all starts to go pear-shaped is that if I mention my own MP, even tangentally, which is something that is going to happen occasionally, on an MP’s blog, my comment doesn’t appear. About the third or fourth time this happens, I lose my rag. I post another comment, knowing full well that it won’t be accepted for viewing publicly either, asking of these two MPs, ‘Are you just Westminster buddies, or f**k buddies as well?’ It’s a common enough, and admittedly crude jibe, on American message boards, implying a degree of over-familiarity between the persons concerned, but not an actual accusation that they are making the two-backed beast. It’s just what you say when you’re hacked off.

Nevertheless, as anticipated, it doesn’t end up on the blog, but the MP comments about crude language, and another poster thinks he’s the one being addressed. I send another comment for this person’s benefit, assuring him that it’s my comment being referred to, and summarising my words. A week or so later, after the MP gives guest blog spots to his wife, PD, and two Scottish ex-ministers, I make what I think at the time is a wry remark that, so far, he has only given these spots to Scottish ex-ministers and sexual partners. It’s the only comment I regret because it wasn’t said in anger or by way of explanation, but just taking the pee. Neither, though, was it intended to offend. Parmjit Dhanda has practically made a career out of taking offence, but this MP has probably seen more than his fair share of off-colour jokes. Still, that makes three such comments, and because of the way blogs work, each of these comments is sent in an email to to the MP, or his staff, to be moderated. It turns out that those emails were then sent to PD or his staff, who instead of crying ‘Why have you sent us these awful comments??!!’, decide to give the messenger a biscuit and shoot the writer, and to hell with the context.

Which is why, at around the beginning of September, I get a visit from ‘the Babylon’, claiming that because I have sent my MP three emails which caused him to feel, harassed, threatened, whatever, they are issuing me with a ‘harassment warning notice’, and want me to sign it. I tell them that I sent no such emails to my MP and therefore won’t sign it. The PC doing all the talking, Steven Crown, says it isn’t necessary for me to sign it for them to give it to me, and I say fine. While he’s filling it in himself, I decide he can do that without me and put it through the letterbox when he’s done, and I step back, reaching for the door latch. I can’t remember now if he places his foot on the threshold at that point, or had it there already, but I clearly remember asking him, ‘Would you take your foot off my doorstep?’, and his reply, as he writes, that ‘My foot isn’t on your doorstep’. As it clearly still is, and I realise I have my digital camera in my pocket (I’m wearing those trousers of the kind that have a pocket on the side of either leg, just above the knee), I take out that camera and raise it, pressing the ‘on’ button. As it ‘warms’ up, Steven Crown quickly removes his foot and hands me the notice, and departs.

Not really the big deal, this doorstep incident, not as big as the fact that when PD made his complaint to the police, they must have apparently decided not to suggest he try to resolve this some other way before taking the recourse of an official notice, as they normally would (to save themselves paperwork). Nevertheless, the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s form requests that I describe ‘the incident’, so I do so, including the business with the doorstep:

“PC Crown, coming to my front door with an assertion that I had sent three emails to my MP and that consequently he was giving me a harassment warning notice, in spite of the fact that I haven’t emailed my MP, or contacted him in any way, for almost a year (after he made it very clear that he was intent on taking any questioning of his constituency role as personal). I declined to sign the notice, and would have closed the door if PC Crown hadn’t been blocking it with his foot on the threshold. When I asked him to stop blocking the door, he said that he wasn’t doing so, but moved his foot when I took my digital camera out of my pocket”.

After the IPCC send back a form with a summary they seem to have pulled out of their backsides, misrepresenting several aspects of the incident (I don’t have it to hand, but I’m fairly sure it states that I tried to close the door on Steven Crown’s foot), I send two, three, maybe four emails, trying to establish that they are going to investigate the original issue of the notice, and not the lie on the doorstep that they are clearly focusing on. Eventually, I receive an admission from Laura Bailey of the IPCC:

Thank you for your email. In response to your concerns regarding the Independent Police complaint Commission (IPCC), a complaint must meet a certain referral criteria for an independent investigation to be carried out. Examples of the incidents that meet this criteria are:

– Incidents where someone has died or been seriously injured following some form of direct or indirect police contact
– Serious assault by a member of the police service
– Serious sexual assault by a member of the police service
– Serious corruption
– Criminal offences, or any other behaviour that is aggravated by discriminatory behaviour.

The IPCC are completely independent and are only involved in dealing with a complaint when there is cause to review a decision made by the police.

My suggestion that the actions of the police fit the fourth category are ignored, and so, over half a year later, we are where we are. Which is, Dhanda out of office (replaced by someone who may not be much better, but certainly can’t be any worse), and my faith in the Gloucestershire Constabulary still at a pretty low, but realistic ebb. And the IPCC, like any other so-called ‘independent’ commission, bending over backwards to give the people it’s supposed to ‘police’ a clean bill of health. And the warning notice completely failing to stop me criticising Parmjit Dhanda. Good times…

*’dime’, of course.

NB: One thing I neglected to mention. I tried, before contacting the IPCC, to get the police to admit that their accusation was based on unreliable info. I got an email from Steven Crown’s superior, Mike Wilkinson, claiming that the messages might not have been sent by me to Dhanda, but that didn’t matter. The hell it didn’t. If I didn’t send him any messages, for the best part of a year at least and in the least bit abusive before that, I wasn’t ‘harrassing’ him. But the IPCC have a procedure, when they get a complaint, of letting the force in question investigate. Who was in charge of this investigation? You’ve guessed it. And when I appealed against the obvious conclusion, the IPCC’s Neelam Patil decided that, ‘on the balance of probability’, they couldn’t overturn the verdict. A police officer really has to brutally assault someone to get in trouble these days. Not kill them, they are actually more likely to get away with that. Leaving someone alive, but with an injury that can’t be explained away, that’s what will get a police officer charged and convicted.