A former Cambridgeshire school caretaker, accused of carrying out a nationwide letter-bombing campaign, was today found guilty as charged at Oxford Crown Court.
Miles Cooper, 27, of Cherry Hinton near Cambridge, had denied eight counts of causing bodily injury by means of an explosive substance and two counts of using an explosive substance with intent to disable. Cooper was also charged with making explosives, with an alternative charge of possessing an explosive substance. The jury convicted him unanimously on all counts including making explosives.
During the trial, Cooper did not deny that he had made letter bombs and sent them to various addresses around the country. However he denied any intention to cause injury or harm, saying that his actions were a protest against excessive governmental surveillance and control in Britain.
If you put glass and nails in your letter bombs, don’t be surprised when someone accuses you of intent to injure your correspondents.
Owing to the state’s desire to see no-one particular punished for the death of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, shot by firearms officers in Brixton tube station supposedly on suspicion of being a suicide bomber, but conversely thinking that something ought to be done in court about it, the state is prosecuting the office of the Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis for an offence contrary to section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
Which leads to articles like this:
On Monday an intriguing trial opens at the Old Bailey that will give a new meaning to the phrase “health and safety police”. The office of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner will be in the dock, accused of failing to protect the health and safety of Jean-Charles de Menezes and, by extension, the public. That may seem to be something of an understatement: a police officer shot poor Mr de Menezes eight times. Given that he was not a terrorist, he may not seem to have posed much danger to the public. But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to bring this case last year, when it ruled out bringing charges of murder or manslaughter against officers who genuinely believed that he was a suicide bomber. It will ask whether the police failed to do enough to protect the health and safety of the public by letting Mr de Menezes board a bus and then aTube train, rather than apprehending him earlier.
Whatever the outcome of this trial, holding it sets a precedent that is ringing alarm bells all over Whitehall. The Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 was designed to make employers take more seriously the safety of their employees. Thousands of lives have been saved by making companies think more carefully about hazards. But the Act was primarily designed to stop builders falling off unsafe ladders and factory workers corroding their lungs. It was not designed to deal with fast-moving police operations.
At any one time in these isles, there are about 50 counter-terrorism operations monitoring people who are thought to be dangerous. The police and the intelligence services make difficult judgments about how long to leave it before stepping in: balancing the chance of finding more evidence, and/or bigger fish, against the need to avert catastrophe. It is not clear how adding health and safety criteria to this mix would advance the cause of national security.
You may disagree with the decision by the CPS not to prosecute for manslaughter. You may think it distinctly rum that not a single officer has been sacked for involvement in the shooting. You may think that Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, should have paid a higher price: Mr de Menezes’s family certainly think so. But this trial will not change any of that. None of the officers will even appear. The worst the court can do, if it so chooses, will be to fine the Metropolitan Police. So we could see Scotland Yard handing money that it received from the Treasury back to the Treasury. Oh, and taxpayers footing the bill for legal fees.
While I sympathise with this view, there is one point that I believe it misses.
Without this trial, there will be no holding to account in any visible fashion of the people and organisations involved in this tragedy.
Swings and roundabouts.
I forgot to post a link to the judgement on the application of a judicial review “for determination by the court [as to] whether the Director’s decision not to prosecute any individual police officer for murder or gross negligence manslaughter was lawful”.
The article is entitled, “Pursuing terrorists is bad for your health”. Of course, de Menezes wasn’t a terrorist – it seems from the prosecutor’s opening that the police weren’t even sure whether or not he was a suspect.
A multi-billion pound government organisation to prevent criminals re-offending and to protect the public is to be scrapped three years after it started. It is part of a shake-up at the Ministry of Justice aimed at preventing the new department gaining a reputation as a failure. The proposals are in a “classified” document seen by The Times containing recommendations from an organisational review.
Under the proposed new structure the National Offender Management Service (Noms) ceases to exist. Since 2004, the service has spent £2.6 billion. In the past two years it spent more than £5 million on consultants. One Whitehall source [i.e. someone at the Times] said: “God knows where all the money has gone.”
Last month it emerged that there was a £33 million cash shortfall on a Noms computer system after £155 million had been spent and that ministers had halted work pending an emergency review. The system was to underpin the strategy of managing offenders from conviction through prison sentence to supervision by the probation service on their release.
It would have brought together more than 200 disparate databases to allow staff to share records. The project was a radical attempt to reduce stubbornly high reoffending rates.
Which is ironic, because he recently talked about reviewing the laws on self-defence.
The law itself isn’t that complicated.
In London, David Mery was stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act, because police claimed to find his behaviour suspicious, including the fact that he “went into [Southwark tube] station without looking at the police officers at the entrance or by the gates”.
In Bournemouth, Michael Burbridge was stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act “because he had been looking at a police officer”.
Clearly we need some guidelines – or even legislation – to define when and where we can look at police officers, and when and where we must not look at police officers, and under what conditions, and for how long, and so on.