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Bonkers Blog March 2017

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20 March - Harassment. The Masseys and the police don’t seem to have any idea what it is

CartoonI found myself laughing out loud last week while reading Allison Pearson’s analysis of Scotland’s First Minister in the Daily Telegraph. “The love child of a Bay City Roller and a donkey, the treacherous Queen of Scots” and Nicola Sturgeon “couldn’t give a tartan duck about betraying 60 million of her fellow citizens”.

She “has an ego the size of an HGV … strutting around like a puffed up pigeon.” To think that I was once told off here in Bexley by a Borough Police Commander for referring to the Council Leader as the Fat Controller!

I can imagine many a Bexley Conservative Councillor also laughing like drains at the verbal attack on the ginger dwarf but I found myself wondering why what Allison Pearson wrote is not harassment and why Bexley police thought that one of my year old blogs probably was.

I mentioned it to Elwyn Bryant and found he had wondered the same about a Telegraph cartoon published a few days earlier.

The reason that Allison Pearson’s words were not harassment and my words were considered to be criminal is simple. Councillor Don Massey told Bexley police what they should be thinking.

For the record this is what I said last May…

HarassmentNothing much has happened since the police harassed the family living next door to Councillor Massey’s rented house in Sidcup. The householder had previously asked the police for advice on a noisy all night party at the Massey’s place. As a result of what the police could hear down the phone, they decided to pay a visit.

With the complainant’s consent the story was reported here and it seems reasonable to assume that the police were asked to get heavy. Who do you think might indulge in such revenge?

Police procedures are clear enough; those accused of harassment must be told exactly what they are accused of so that they have every opportunity to modify their behaviour. The falsely accused neighbour asked Bexley police for a copy of the complaint against them. They were made to fill in a request form three weeks ago and told they’d get a copy of the complaint against them within a couple of days.

They are still waiting and the latest advice is that it will take 40 days to provide a copy of the complaint the Massey’s were said to have made against their long-suffering neighbour.

All is now becoming clear. A properly executed Harassment warning requires the issue of a Form 9993 and a written statement of what the alleged offence is. How else is the accused supposed to know what the problem is?

No such form has been issued. It looks likely that someone reminded the police that their first duty is to protect Bexley Council and suggested the frighteners should be put on an innocent resident. This is how Bexley police has operated in the past although I had hoped they had learned their lesson.

The 40 days is the period allowed for a Subject Access Request to be made under the Data Protection Act. If no Form 9993 was issued Bexley Police will be hard pressed to come up with any reason for putting the screws on the Massey’s neighbour. If they cannot provide evidence that the Massey’s made a formal complaint, albeit a malicious one, and there was nothing more than a word in a receptive ear, it will become clear that Borough Commander Jeff Boothe’s force is still in the business of jumping to Bexley Council’s tune. The case will inevitably go to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

It went on for a few more paragraphs but only to refer back to previous occasions on which Bexley police had danced to Bexley Council’s tune.

Those words provoked Bexley Cabinet Member Don Massey into having his local police station specially opened on a Sunday and three police officers then hot-footed it to my front door threatening arrest.

Fortunately my daughter is a journalist and one of her friends lectures in media law at a university. I was assured that my blog was nothing like harassment and the fact that the blurred image is of the Massey’s daughter was a total non-issue. It was freely available on the Massey’s Facebook page and the advice was that I need not have blurred it.

It took the police more than six months to come to the same conclusion and their excuse was that the rules on harassment evolve almost daily and it therefore made sense to jump straight in with the accusation and engage brains later.

On Christmas Eve I asked Bexley police how it was that they came to the conclusion that my words were borderline criminal and it was appropriate for them to be referred for expert legal opinion. They did not reply so I sent the same question to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner on 31st January 2017. His Assistant Commissioner quickly referred it back to Bexley police for an answer. On 3rd March Bexleyheath police advised me that I would get a response within seven to ten days.

I have no idea what excuse they will offer. My complaint is that it would only be reasonable to take action against me and issue threats if it was possible to argue that republishing information freely available elsewhere amounts to harassment or something close to it. Expert opinion is that it was miles away from crossing the line from which one might conclude that Bexley police has once again corruptly succumbed to political pressure.

Their choice would appear to be to admit that their response to Don Massey’s request was heavy handed and see the immediate end of the matter or argue that my words were close to being harassment and thereby ensure that the complaint is escalated as happened in 2012 - and still on-going.

Note: While writing the above Bexley police have apologised for not responding as quickly as they promised.


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