I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


There has been a huge response to my blog a few days ago which told the shameful story of how my two sons were treated by the local police last Sunday evening. Part of this response has been both surprising and enormously encouraging. Messages of support for the boys have poured in from all quarters. Both local and national politicians have unhesitatingly made commitments to vigorously investigate what was done. As I have been out and about going about my work this week, I have been stopped time and again by a wide variety of people, some who were known to me, others who were complete strangers. Every one of them asked me to pass on their best wishes to the boys: every one of them expressed their absolute disgust at the race driven humiliation that had been inflicted on the lads.

This really heartens me. I won’t say that it is unexpected, because it isn’t. Things have changed in Britain and they have changed for the better. When I first walked into Anfield in 1972, any black player would be subjected to 90 minutes of monkey chanting and derision. Now? I hate to think what would happen to any fan who dared to hop up and down doing a chimp imitation. I wouldn’t be great. A stay in hospital would be likely care of the fans. A lifetime ban would be inevitable care of the club. A day in court would be scheduled care of the police.

What has slightly surprised me has been the spontaneity of the support shown. It has been warm, genuine and unhesitating and I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thanks on behalf of all of us, particularly the lads.

On the other side of the coin, the reaction to my blog has been altogether more predictable. It has been nasty, spiteful and tawdry. When I write one of these blogs, the final act is to left click on the ‘Publish’ button. When I clicked last Monday, I did so with my eyes wide open. It would be nice to think in a country where we have enjoyed the luxury of free speech for hundreds of years, those who we pay to provide the essential services of the State might be grown up enough to accept criticism. Sadly this is seldom the case. Just look at the fate that has befallen all of the whistleblowers inside the NHS and the care system who have stepped forward to reveal the appalling way people are sometimes being treated. In almost every case they soon find themselves unemployed and ‘black balled’. Even when their allegations are fully proved, usually thanks to the better side of the media, they still find it all but impossible to get another job in the field.

Once anyone takes the decision to blow the whistle, they have to accept they will pay a heavy price for doing so. It is a tragic fact and one our country should be ashamed of. As things stand, many of the brave ones who blew the whistle on the shameful practices of the Mid Staffordshire Hospital remain unemployed outcasts whilst several of those who were in charge when all those people died have been promoted.

Sadly there seems to be a widely held feeling that if anyone raises their head above the parapet and publically criticises the police, they will almost certainly find their life will become more complicated. I certainly had few illusions in this regard. I doubt if any one of us who survived the killing cages of Hillsborough’s Leppings Lane End in 1989 will ever find a way to find any confidence that the police will do the right thing.

So what has happened so far since I left-clicked ‘Publish Blog’?

Again I will have to focus on myself and Courtney as there have been charges against Dyonne, though these charges seem to be a very moveable feast in every respect. Let’s just say that he was arrested for one thing and strip searched accordingly. When the search rendered the original reason for his being marched out of a nightclub in handcuffs null and void, he was verbally charged with an entirely different offence and released a few minutes before the 6 hour detention without trial deadline. As it turns out, the two charges that have finally been passed along to the Procurator Fiscal are entirely different again. They are charges that were never mentioned to him at any time during his incarceration.

So be it and enough said.

Yesterday we found out that Dyonne and Courtney had been mentioned in a circular generated by a local organisation called ‘Pubwatch’. It appears that ‘Pubwatch’ is a local partnership between the police and local pubs and clubs. The basic idea is that if an individual misbehaves in one place, then all the other places in the town should know about it. Once the information is electronically shared, then all the pubs and clubs involved in the scheme take a vote, firstly as to whether the person should be banned from all premises, and then secondly on how long the ban should be.

So fair enough I guess.

I tried all day yesterday to get my hands on a hard copy of the document, but thus far I have had no success. It is amazing how secretive people become when there is the whiff of a racial scandal in the air. One member however was good enough to read the statement aloud to me over the phone and I noted it down to the best of my ability. This will be 90% correct.

‘Courtney Frankland was allegedly caught sniffing a white powder in the toilets of a member premises. He was arrested and searched for drugs. No drugs were found. He was not charged. Dyonne Green was also there. He was also arrested and searched. No drugs were found but he is being charged with XXXXXXXX’

This is the statement that was sent to a majority of the pubs and clubs in the town this week. The wording leaves little to the imagination, don’t you think? ‘Allegedly caught’. I guess it is quite hard to be ‘allegedly’ caught sniffing white powder in the cubicle of a public toilet. You are either caught or you are not caught. When this statement is examined in the light of what came next, it seems rather ridiculous. Picture a cubicle in a public toilet. It is hardly an extensive space is it? It is also for the very most obvious reasons an enclosed space which gives the user some privacy. So the only way to witness a person sniffing white powder in a public toilet is either to lift yourself up to peer over the door or to force the door open. Assuming the door is locked, and let’s face it, most people who are intent on sniffing white powder in the cubicle of a public toilet will tend lock the door, then your next course of action is to kick the door in. The sniffer will then have a matter of seconds to get rid of the powder on the top of the toilet, any drugs on their person, any residue on their nose and top lip, and whatever they have been using to do the actual sniffing. No easy task! So people who are caught involved in this activity tend to be ‘actually’ caught rather than ‘allegedly’ caught.

Is this how things played out in Chancers last Sunday evening? Not remotely. Courtney was at no time in a cubicle. He was leaning against a sink and talking on his phone. It was Dyonne who was in a cubicle and he was grabbed and smacked against the wall by three bouncers as he stepped out. This is rather clearly evidenced by the fact that the toilet door was not damaged by being kicked in and nobody showed any interest in securing the cubicle to collect evidence.

So what will someone who doesn’t know Dyonne and Courtney draw from reading the information that was shared around? Well I guess the first thing they will do is check who has put the information forward for public perusal. Constable Adam Potts. OK. A serving policeman. And most of us have a fair degree or respect for our policemen. So if a policeman submits written information stating that an individual has been ‘allegedly caught sniffing white powder in a toilet cubicle’, then it leaves little room for doubt. We have all watched plenty of films where the devious and wicked drug dealer manages to flush away all evidence of his wickedness in the seconds before the police crash through the bathroom door.

The statement then goes on to reveal that Courtney was arrested and searched before being released. However it is hard not to conclude that Constable Adam Potts believes that proper justice was not achieved. For surely if Constable Adam Potts felt that Courtney’s arrest and detention was in fact groundless, then there is no way that he would share the details of the event with most of the pubs and clubs in the town. If I was a landlord and I read that statement, my understanding would certainly be that in the eyes of the police this Courtney lad is as guilty as sin and that he had simply been too quick witted to get caught. Which in turn suggests that he must be a pretty serious and experienced drug user to have managed to dispose of every shred of evidence in the seconds before the bouncers kicked in the door. Do I want him in my club? I don’t think so. So what that he was released without charge? This happens all the time. ‘Allegedly’ caught! Aye right. He was ‘caught’ caught. They just couldn’t prove anything. And that of course is why the good Constable Adam Potts is letting us know all about it.

Having failed to get my hands on the document itself, I decided the next step was to try and discuss the matter with Constable Potts himself. Dyonne and I went along to Loreburne Police Station yesterday evening to see if we could discover if he had actually been charged with anything. The desk officer could not have been more polite and informative. He checked the system and informed Dyonne that two charges had indeed been sent to the Procurator Fiscal for their consideration, though not the charges that Dyonne had been told about whilst he was in custody. He then showed great patience in explaining how things will now progress and how any charge is only really ‘formal’ when the Procurator Fiscal sends out a letter outlining their intention to proceed with a prosecution.

OK. That was fine. It was a first rate example of a policeman interacting with the public he serves with both good manners and commendable clarity.

It was time to find out more about the Pubwatch issue. There was a poster on the wall explaining the reasons why a person might be banned from the local places of entertainment who are involved in the Pubwatch partnership. I didn’t take a proper note, but basically the poster warned that you are at risk of a ban if you are violent, if you are caught using or selling drugs or if you commit acts of vandalism.

The desk sergeant had little working knowledge of the Pubwatch scheme so he asked us to take a seat whilst he summoned Constable Adam Potts himself. After a few minutes we were able to put a face to the name on the statement. Constable Potts was in all respects a thoroughly pleasant young policeman who was friendly and polite at all times. He explained that Pubwatch really isn’t a police thing at all. It is a private partnership of licensed premises.

OK. But if that was the case then why was his name so clearly attached to the statement? A policeman's name.

Well. Yes. That isn’t quite the thing. Apparently it was a member of staff from Chancers who actually wrote the statement and then submitted it electronically to the Pubwatch system. Constable Potts explained that he is in fact no more than a facilitator. He runs an eye over any statement and, so long as he is happy with it, he sends it forth into the public domain. If he is unhappy with what has been written he can stop the information going public. In this particular case, he explained that he had added the word ‘allegedly’.

Oh really?

So the actual statement written by Chancers was ‘Courtney Frankland as caught sniffing a white powder in the toilets of a member’s premises’. As in 'caught' caught. bang to rights caught.

Well, yes. No grey area there then. Nice that the polite young constable is going out of the way to make sure that the staff at Chancers don’t accidentally step over any lines which might put them on the wrong side of the law.

But what about all of the information about the lads being arrested, searched, then released in Courtney’s case and charged in Dyonne case? How on earth would the Chancers staff know about any of that? That must have come from you guys?

Well. Yes it did.

Pubwatch is obviously a very cosy partnership indeed.

I pointed out that the facts of this case were actually rather simple. A night club bouncer had told one story. Courtney had told another story. Both stories were completely different. On the basis of the bouncer’s story, the police attended the scene, handcuffed Courtney, very publically marched him through the club and streets, subjected him to a full strip search and then released him without any charge whatsoever.

Despite this lack of any proof or charge, Constable Potts was still obviously inclined to take the word of the Chancers bouncer. After all, it had been in his power to stop the Chancers statement being made public. I asked him why this was. A bouncer needs to undergo a couple of days of training to get a licence from the Council to man the doors of the town’s pubs and clubs: it costs £100 or so. To become a TA soldier in the British Army involves many weeks of vigorous and intensive training for which the Army is respected the world over. So why does that £100, two day licence count for so much and thousands of pounds of Army training count for so little? Constable Potts said it wasn’t like that. But he didn’t explain why he had decided that Courtney was a wholly inferior person to the bouncer; a person whose word was not to be trusted.

After a few minutes, another officer appeared at the desk and asked Constable Potts to for a quick word. They had a quick word. And then we resumed our discussion on the ins and outs of Pubwatch. The constable pointed out that Courtney could appeal any banning decision should one in fact be issued by the members of the scheme.

This is really British.

You are accused of something, arrested and no evidence is found that the accusation is true and so you are duly released. Fair enough, though it leaves a pretty bad taste when the reason for the original suspicion is obviously the colour of your skin. But then it is apparently perfectly OK for a serving policeman to tell the publicans of your home town that you have been ‘allegedly caught sniffing white powder in a toilet’. And if the publicans decide to take what the officer has said at face value, then you will be banned from every one of their premises for as long a period as they deem fit. Finally at this point you can appeal and try and prove your innocence. They don’t want to hear your side of events before making their decision. They make their decision purely non the words of Constable Adam Potts.

As in guilty until proven innocent.

I put this to Constable Potts. He said it wasn’t like that. I suggested it is a pretty tough outcome for a serving TA soldier who has clearly been arrested and incarcerated for no other reason than having the wrong skin colour. He didn’t like that. It made him jumpy. I don’t suppose I was particularly surprised.

It was clear that there was no more to be said. We stepped out of the police station into a night of gale force wind and driving rain. My car was only fifty yards or so down the street. We got in. I started up and pulled out. As we drove past the station, a Police van pulled out behind us. Half a mile later my rear view mirror was filled with flashing blue lights.

Surprise, surprise.

How odd to be pulled up for what looked like some sort of traffic violation by a police van. In my experience traffic cops go around in cars, not vans. But not to worry. Maybe it is down to the cuts.

I got out and was asked to sit in the back of the van. I did so.

Surprise, surprise.

The driver of the van was none other than the officer who had asked Constable Potts if he could have a quick word. Maybe that quick word was something along the lines of ‘let me know when they leave and we will follow them: see if we can pull them for something.’

Surely not.

It must have all been nothing more than pure co-incidence, Allegedly.

They asked if I knew why I had been pulled over and I told them I had no idea. They pointed out that I have a faulty back window wiper. Indeed I have. I hadn’t noticed or I would have fixed it the day after I posted my first blog.

They were absolutely nice as ninepence and we talked a lot about the weather and how rotten it was. They explained that they could give me a ticket, but on this occasion they were choosing merely to point out that my windscreen wiping equipment was not up to the mark. Which was good of them. Then they ran all the checks to make sure I was not an Al Queda suspect of anything. Finally they smiled warmly and wished me the best for the rest of the night.

And then they allowed me to resume my journey home.

Message delivered and delivered with a smile.

Just so I know who is in charge. We can pick you up whenever you like sunshine. So don’t make a nuisance of yourself. There’s a good chap.

The message has been received loud and clear guys. And it is nice to live in Britain where such messages are delivered with a polite smile. I guess it would be rather different in Tehran, Tver or Tel Aviv.

So what next? Fix the windscreen wiper. Get an MOT done on the old Volvo a month early to make sure there is nothing else. Soon it will become clear that this kind of thing is unlikely to dissuade this particular father from making a nuisance of himself when his sons are subjected to racially motivated humiliation. Maybe they will then have a go at intimidating the lads’ mum. Maybe if they manage to scare the mum, then she will put her foot down and demand the dad shuts his mouth and leaves it be. Well best of luck with that one lads!  We once had a guy pull a knife on us in a taxi on a dusty back road in Gambia. I have never seen a woman less scared in my life. In fact I was scared for the safety of the guy with the knife! Carol isn’t a person who scares easily. She had many years of experience of this kind of stuff in the 70's and 80's. You can maybe imagine the kind of memories all of this is bringing back. 


Will this be the last blog on this issue? I doubt it. Once again I urge anyone reading this to please send it around. The only way this kind of nasty stuff can be stopped is if a light gets shined on it.    

A bright light.

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