Two years ago, Michael was arrested by a policewoman I’ll call the Ferret, on suspicion of having possessed some inappropriate images of young people under 18 on an obsolete secondhand computer - a charge which he has persistently denied, supported by independent evidence that he has not accessed the alleged images nor had the technical means to do so. As the images which offended the police were alleged to be at the least offensive level, the charge carried a sentence of about thirty hours community service.
At the time of his arrest, he was taking a controversial and powerful anti-epileptic drug for an incurable brain disorder and had self-administered a pain-killing injection. The arresting officers assured his wife that a doctor would be on hand, but, despite falling asleep in a cell and experiencing double vision, no medical advice was sought regarding his medication or his condition. At one stage, he recalled the Ferret tapping the table to attract his attention and he wondered if he may have had one of his partial seizures. He also has severe hearing loss but was without his hearing aids. At the end of the interrogation, he was released on bail and told that it would take up to a year for the seized computers to be inspected.
Later, he and his wife were horrified to discover that, without any warning, the Ferret had arranged for one of their sons to be told that his father was on bail and forbidden to have unsupervised access to his children. Yet another son, who has a larger and younger family, was never similarly informed.
Despite requests to the Ferret for a list of items seized from their home, and access to a diary of attacks for a consultant, these were completely ignored and the local politician had to step in twice to obtain them. The list of seized items eventually received was superficial and inaccurate. After two years, he is still denied access to their grandchildren, to unfinished publications, private correspondence, family photos, and financial records. When Michael’s wife enquired about the personal contents of the computer, she was told by the Ferret that, if Michael is found guilty, everything will be destroyed.
In January 2010, Michael was asked by the Ferret to attend a meeting at the local Police Station. The meeting turned out to be a lengthy interrogation under caution in the presence of an ineffective police accredited representative, and, unable to leave the station, he acquired a large parking fine. The four images shown to him were utterly trivial and, although he has used a considerable number of internet images as a basis for illustrating educational and humorous publications, he did not recognise any of them. Having switched off and sealed the interview tape, the Ferret then took him to another room, and continued to interrogate him and take notes. Later, she sent him a private email stating that his elderly widowed sister who lives with her seriously ill daughter and grandchild would be informed of the situation. Though no such action was ever taken, it was an idle but wicked threat which succeeded in causing considerable distress to all concerned. Michael and his wife have been married for nearly fifty years. In a moment of utter despair, they even discussed suicide but were fortunate to receive valuable help from a Victim Support counsellor. Victim Support exists for the victims of criminals and they considered the Ferret’s conduct to be of that nature.
In March 2010, he was asked to attend the local police station to hear the Prosecutor’s decision. There was no decision. Instead, he was interrogated under caution by the Ferret and shown two more inconsequential images which he did not recognise. Despite being in charge of the investigation, the Ferret had no idea where, when or how the various images had been stored. Michael considered the interview as little more than a mutual exchange of ignorance, and got the impression that he was just part of a training exercise. Several weeks later he was told by the station duty officer that he would be prosecuted. The Ferret did not have the courage to tell him herself. In the magistrate’s court, Michael pleaded not guilty and elected for his case to be heard at the Crown Court along with those of murderers and terrorists.
Requests to the Ferret for the return of personal belongings not required in the investigation were completely ignored for several months and, late last year, he was forced to report this behaviour to the Local Police Authority and the items were returned almost immediately. As these included items which Michael and his wife were unaware had been confiscated from their home, the Authority ordered a comprehensive list of seized items to be compiled.
Michael in in his seventies and registered as chronically sick and disabled. He has daily bouts of severe cluster headaches and nausea, and awaits surgery at the National Hospital for Neurosurgery. He also awaits treatment for prostate, skin, jaw, and pelvic cancer. and surgery for cataracts and glaucoma, so he has quite a lot to think about other than unseen and inaccessible trivial images. At the Crown Court preliminary hearing, he had to sit in a guarded cage with an oxygen mask, special earphones, and with only one eye functioning properly. To his amazement, neither the judge nor the barrister (provided at public expense), had a clue what the charge of ‘possession’ meant and probably still don’t. At a later hearing, the judge asked what Michael’s prognosis was, ie how long he had to live. He didn’t tell them, but time is running out and he has reported the Ferrets’s conduct to the police complaints organisation. Why does one get the feeling that it will just be swept under the carpet? It is two years since the Ferret blundered into their lives and Michael is still awaiting trial. One can only hope that a sensible jury would walk out in disgust.
Michael says he has discovered some important things from this experience
1. Always say ‘No Comment’ when under interrogation
2. Do not accept the police accredited representative, get a proper lawyer.
3. Avoid referring to the police as donuts when being questioned.