In the aftermath of a recent video showing a Lancashire Police officer – blissfully ignorant of the fact he was being filmed by a bystander – threaten to “make something up” to justify a man’s arrest, I wrote a blog commenting on issues of surveillance in society and the increasing importance of mobile phone footage in legal cases.
One of the points I made was that, rather than being fearful of ‘Big Brother’ looking over our shoulder, we should be grateful for all the ‘little brothers and sisters’ out there who, thanks to the now ubiquitous technology of smartphones (placing the equivalent of a small film studio in each person’s pocket!), have captured and shared videos exposing Police misconduct, violence and corruption.
I highlighted several of my own client’s claims in which such video evidence played a crucial part in achieving victory, severely embarrassing the defence put forwards by the Police, contradicting false evidence and, in effect, stripping the Officers involved of the ‘power of the uniform’ behind which they often hide – lazily assuming that what they say goes and that they will always be believed in opposition to ‘Joe Public’.
But the sharing of videos of Police misconduct is important in a much wider sense than just their direct utility in an individual case; the more people who get to see these videos, the more levelling of the age-old imbalance of power between agents of the state and private citizens will occur. Many people, thankfully, have never been on the end of violence from or unlawful use of arrest powers by Police Officers, but much more so now than twenty or thirty years ago those people can have their eyes opened to some of the abuses of Police power which sadly do occur. Rather than just seeing ‘the uniform’ people can learn from videos circulated on publication platforms such as ‘You Tube’ to avoid assumptions that an Officer is likely to be telling the truth just because of his occupation. Sad though they are to watch, they are a salutary and healthy reminder to wider society to treat every case of alleged Police misconduct on its merits and not default to always believing the Officers, as was commonplace in generations gone by.
Videos like the recent one from Lancashire, are clear evidence for all to see of the blatant lies that can be told by Officers attempting to justify an unlawful arrest, or cover up their own wrongdoing, and it is no wonder that one of the first things Officers will do on entering into a confrontation with a person is to attempt to snatch their phone away!
The more people who see videos like this, the more society as a whole gains a realistic impression of the wide variance in integrity and calibre of character between Police officers, and learns to see the three dimensional people behind the one dimensional uniform, and the temptations to abuse which institutional power brings with it. People also become more informed as to their own rights and what they should do if they do end up in an adverse situation with the Police, through no fault of their own. The prevalence and wide circulation of such videos helps to tame Police power and restrain abuses (not least because Officers will be conscious that they might easily end up on ‘candid camera’) and also encourages those who have been wronged to take action in the form of a complaint or civil claim – recognising that they are not alone, that they are more likely to be believed than they may have feared, and showing that justice can be done.
In this respect I would like to give a hearty ‘shout out’ to the best site addressing Police misconduct issues in the UK – the ‘Biggest of the Little Brothers’ in my opinion – Rob Warner’s excellent “Crimebodge” blog and You Tube channel.
Crimebodge’s excellently curated channel presents genuine and compelling videos of Police misconduct, as well as educating people who have been the victims of such misdemeanours as to what they can do about it. Each one of those videos published by Crimebodge is a step towards righting the wrong seen within it, and taken together they make the site a very powerful force for calling the Police to account, highlighting abuse of power and thereby restraining future abuses.
In my opinion, the functioning of the civil justice system in regards access to justice in claims against the Police and other State/ Government bodies and agents, depends just as much on reputable ‘video blogs’ such as Crimebodge as it does on the claims pursued by specialist solicitors such as myself. Whilst lawyers such as myself fight often long- fought, though very worthwhile battles on behalf of individual clients, Crimebodge, through the creation of such a wide audience for the videos which he publishes (each averaging hundreds of thousands of views), plays a crucial role in ensuring that my clients will be given a fair hearing by judges and juries throughout the land, because people able to access this material have greater knowledge about what really goes on the front lines of the ‘Thin Blue line’ and thereby gain a more healthily and fair mindedly sceptical approach to the evidence than prevailed in the ‘bad old days’ of paternalistic Police corruption.