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Name in lights

 Hi everyone,

You will have noticed the blog being quiet for the last week or so. It has been so for two reasons; firstly, i didnt want the great work of my guest bloggers to vanish into the Blogger abyss, and second, because i have been working hard on DJ 4.0.

DJ 4.0 is currently in 'Beta' mode, meaning it is open for testing but is not live, however you can join up, begin discussions and play around with some new features right now if you wish. I have been advertising it occasionally on twitter, but most current members are ones who i have found by word of mouth. Take a look and let me know what you think. I aim to launch the new site properly once i have been able to transfer over blog posts from this blog. Click here to visit DJ4.0.

Anyway, i wanted to share this brief moment of fame with you. Jon Ashworth MP has been kindly fighting my corner after having troubles during my period of sickness over the summer, and asked the following question in The Commons last week. Here is a screenshot of the online Hansard entry;

(Source)
Hope you are all well, and i look forward to you all joining me at DJ 4.0 in the coming weeks.

Guest #8: My view on the London 'riots', by The Law Map

Visit The Law Map
A section of the media, in particular The Guardian and The Independent had caught a section of the Conservatives gloating. Were the riots an inevitable offspring of David Cameron’s 'broken society'? The morning after rioting had subsided Cameron stood sullen in the presence of gathering microphones and cameras, his skin still glinting of the Tuscan sun.

Politics is a waiting game. The nature of democratic politics lies in the art of making the impossible possible. The possibility of achieving the impossible is the ultimate lure for the egotist entering this arena. Yet, this impossibility could only be possible under the right conditions and with a degree of persuasion. The cynic would call it coercion. Dictatorships reek of the bitter pungency of forced imposition. The cynic would add that there is no need for even the subliminal coercion through propaganda when at the height of one’s political power, whether for a dictator or Blair.
I am not a cynic but a student of the human condition.

There is no room for doubt in conservatism. Arguably, the London rioters have vindicated Mr Cameron’s assessment of the nature of man. Man meanders through a constant flux of aggression and self-interest. This lawlessness or ‘state of nature’ is nothing to be frowned upon yet it necessitates control. The early modern answer to this state of nature with the state still at its infancy, gesticulating through dictatorial monarchs, required the likes of Thomas Hobbes to argue for an absolute sovereign. To realise the potential of possible freedom within human society there needed to be a limit to the extent of that very freedom. Hobbes thought of it not as constriction but as ‘self-interested cooperation’ that could be achieved through a ‘social contract’ between the state and its citizens.

But Hobbes’ assessment of human nature is uncannily pessimistic. Perhaps, this pessimism could be attributed to the chaotic years of the English Civil War with the King and Parliament wrestling for absolute power. The notion of popular power propelling the state into the modern phenomenon that it is today was centuries away. Yet, the carcass that we have inherited today from those early notions of the political state contains the basic tenets of Hobbes’ social contract. The citizen as a member of civil society remains free to act in a way that is not forbidden by law. The sovereign state protects its citizens by limiting freedom when it comes to the forbidden. In three hundred years of Political Philosophy, protection and freedom have fallen in love, consummated, wedded, argued, separated and finally divorced. That is the state we are in.

David Cameron is of course not a direct philosophical descendant of Hobbes. Modern Conservatism has its roots in 18th century Whig politician and philosopher Edmund Burke’s idea that property is essential to human life. This singular conviction instils a necessary desire in people to be ruled and controlled. Burke anticipated that social changes brought about by the possession of property as the natural order of events should be taking place as the human race progressed. The division of property naturally leads to a convenient but altogether natural class system. This forms a social agreement and the setting of persons into different classes is the mutual benefit of all subjects.

What was a mere anticipation for Burke had led to a different reality centuries later. Burke understood conflict but seemed to have had little interest in the possibility of class conflict. Not all men are aggressive but some are so because of a ‘moral decline’ rather than any basic sense of inequality in society.

August had been a chance to shine for former and incumbent prime ministers. Tony Blair, an unlikely defendant of the chaviosa had been countering Cameron by stating that the riots should not be blamed on 'moral decline'.

What is this state that we are in? It would appear that our politicians are omniscient as well as possessing all the other qualities that hoist them into high offices of state. If politics is a waiting game laws are usually passed to reflect what had gone on before. After all, what is the point of burdening the statute books if there is no social need for a piece of legislation? The very nature of democracy is such that popular power can only come from populist laws, which more often than not, end up being short term containment and appeasement rather than dealing with the real symptoms of the disease.

Cameron's assessment of the broken society would at once seem different from what Blair had countered. Yet the moral stance is identical. Blair had affirmed his centre ground political stance once again; the 'left's reasoning for the riot is apparently concentrating on social depravity whereas the right is falling on the age old argument over a lack of personal responsibility'. Has Blair identified the real reasons for rioting? There is a 'group of alienated, disaffected youth who are outside the social mainstream and who live in a culture at odds with any canons of proper behaviour.' The former prime minister consoles us in stating 'that sort of improper behaviour is not endemic to British society but is common in the majority of developed western nations'.
Realpolitik always ignored what politics should really be about,

The casual commentator, whether left leaning or right-wing might not question the veracity of Blair's assessment. I believe that David Cameron had identified the very same yet much of his real concern had been lost somewhere in between the machinery of press briefings and news conferences.

So if we have identified the perpetrators and highlighted the reasons for riots, surely, this is time to learn our lessons from the rioters and not take advantage of a situation to hand out instant justice. Instant justice smacks of instant rioting.

The right had been calling for more visible police presence for years. Yet the cuts in police budget, in real terms, would undermine that very demand. The Conservative led coalition seem to have concluded that increased police presence in our streets would be preventing future riots. The same argument had been used when CCTV cameras first reared their ugly grey heads, beady eyed, watching our each movement in town centres across the land. The effect of increased police presence certainly reassure many residents, however, such presence often shift the crime scene to where there are no cameras or uniformed police standing guard. More importantly, CCTV cameras do not prevent crime and even their usefulness as an investigative tool could have been questioned until the rioters were caught on camera.

Democracy, when based on popular power can stifle the fringes. Popular voice resonate through the mirrored walls of Versailles and the echoes drown out the squealing insects caught up in the cobwebs around the thin joints between those polished mirrors. Yet it is the fringes that colourfully define the state we are in and remind us of the necessary truths however unpleasant those truth might be.

So what of the angry alienated youth and his morally declined rioting ways? Instant justice had been demanded by a hysterical right-wing. Magistrates had processed criminal cases one after another like a supermarket checkout. It is that very term processed I find so distressing. The purpose of the justice system is not to process criminals but to provide an impartial platform for defendants to argue their case in light of clear evidence linking them to a crime. Public opinion has no place in the execution of justice although, it does unfortunately play a major part in its conception. This is the primary model of social contract based on popular democracy that had upheld the modern political state since Bastille.

Almost two decades ago the Rodney King riots in the US had a racial origin. The London riots might have started out as a protest by the Afro-Caribbean community around Tottenham against the police treatment of young black men, however, the criminal looting carried no echoes of civil rights movements from the past. The disturbance followed a trend all too known to the basest instinct in human nature, opportunistic greed. The civilised and environmentally conscious world we live in has no time for historical references. Julius Caesar, the Roman conqueror turned dictator called Rome the mob. Rome had always been the mob. In each mob there is the potential for senility. Public gatherings are the first to be banned by dictators in times of political unrest because the mob could turn violent at any moment. The equivalent in Britain would be the fees protest gatherings in the winter of 2010 as well as G20 protests. In both instances we witnessed how little provocation is required for events to turn nasty. Only the supremely charismatic leader, the likes of Mahatma Ghandi in colonial India or Nelson Mandela is South Africa could exercise a minor degree of control upon such mobs. The rest are doomed.

Is it moral depravity or criminal intent that drives the modern man? Neither. Not all of us are men. We could not be men ignoring the abject social conditions that we live through.

Visit @TheLawMap on twitter
Images from The Guardian Website

Note From Ollie: Thanks to TheLawMap for taking the time to write this fantastic article on the 2011 'Riots', i've really enjoyed reading it. I also need to apologise for it being late...i had intended to publish it yesterday afternoon but slept all day because i was on nights. Anyway, i chose TheLawMap to be a guest blogger for a few reasons, mainly because every Sunday i am impressed by the 'Sunday Law Review'. This review is a really well researched article on law issues from the previous week. It is easy to read, and covers a huge range of law topics. I really admire the commitment, and the result is impressive. Well done mate, keep up the great work, and thanks again for being one of my guest bloggers!

Guest #7: ASB in 2012, by Bonnie

(Source)
"Public perceptions vs. working realities"

Over the many years I have worked in the area of Anti Social Behaviour (ASB), I find that every so often a few cases hit the headlines that are particularly poignant.  For example, the Baby P and Fiona Pilkington cases.

Not only are these cases shocking because of the tragic deaths of the victims but because their deaths are in part, due to failings by agencies that should have been protecting them.  These cases are so atrocious that they call for changes to be made to ensure that the situation doesn’t happen again.

It’s clear for the wider public to see that the case of Stephen Lawrence, for example, has had a hugely significant impact on the way the Law and the Police manage Hate Crime.  The changes made following the death of Baby P and Fiona Pilkington however, are less visible.

Due to my working in the field of Anti Social Behaviour I can’t comment on Baby P, but I feel I am able to confidently write about the Pilkington Case.

In October 2007, Fiona Pilkington got herself and her daughter in her car and set it alight. It was the result of a prolonged period of targeted anti social behaviour (ASB) that she felt she could no longer cope with.  In 2009 an inquest took place to ascertain how Fiona Pilkington had been failed by the various agencies that she had continually reported the problems to.

It transpired that her family had endured 10 years of abuse at their home. They had repeatedly been targeted by groups of up to 16 youngsters, with stones, eggs and flour thrown at the house. Her son and disabled daughter also received more sinister incidents of abuse.

During the 10 year period, Pilkington complained to Leicestershire Police 33 times regarding the harassment.  The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published its investigation findings in its report in May 2011

One of the most significant findings the IPCC report listed was that:
“Incidents were too often dealt with by police officers in isolation and with an unstructured approach”
In the past this was common practice and it’s clear that it is both frustrating for victims and unproductive in addressing the perpetrators.

The report also focused on three other very significant failings.  It stated that:

The family was never identified as victims of ‘Hate Crime’, despite the fact that Pilkington’s daughter had learning disabilities.

The authorities failed to identify the area, where the ASB was taking place, as a ‘Hotspot’ location; consequently the area did not receive a proactive response.

The family was never identified as repeat and vulnerable victims in their own right. That is, much of the ASB was specifically targeted at the Pilkington family, but it was not distinguished from the general ASB in the vicinity of their home.

Working in the world of ASB it’s clear to me that the mistakes made in the Pilkington case were not the fault of that specific Police Force or Local Authority, but the way ASB was dealt with at the time. Now that the inquest has been completed and the IPCC report has been published - the question is: has anything changed?

In my opinion, since the Pilkington Enquiry, a great deal of work has been done looking at how resources can be used more effectively to identify and support repeat and /or vulnerable victims of ASB.

Recently, 8 Police Forces took part in a Home Office Field Trial’ to improve certain aspects of ASB management.  Having been part of this trial, I can honestly say that the changes I have seen have been considerable.

The way I (and the team around me) work, has changed completely and our processes are highly ‘Victim Led’. Working this way has enabled us to significantly reduce the number of ASB victims in the area, along with the number of calls ASB victims are making. More importantly however, I feel our resources are finally prioritised to meet the needs of those suffering the most.

Fiona Pilkington should never have been in a position where she felt that suicide was the best option. At least this tragic incident has not been ignored or marginalized – real change has happened as a direct response, which just may prevent it happening again.

Written by Bonnie (@ASBO_Girl)


Note From Ollie: Thanks Bonnie, for being my 7th guest blogger. Anti-Social Behaviour was once looked upon as a mild annoyance, and the effect that it had on some was never really understood. The Pilkington case, and others, have shown us that ASB is often much more than just an annoyance...it can take over the lives of the victim, and isolate them significantly. The way ASB is dealt with has changed dramatically, and a lot of work has gone into providing support via a multi-agency approach. I think we are now successfully tackling ASB effectively and supporting the victims well. It is something we can all be proud of. I chose Bonnie to be a guest blogger because she is part of the new system of tacking ASB, and the more we share good practice the better. Thanks Bonnie, this is a really balanced view of the past, and the future!

Guest #6: Less of the anti: police and social media, by Julie

The first thing I realised when I joined this Force was that police LOVE telling stories.

Every meeting kicks off with news of the sad discoveries, ridiculous mishaps and colleagues stepping in to go beyond the call of duty.  Canteens, station corridors and car parks are a buzz of story-swapping, information exchange and chance discoveries off the back of a quick comment.  It’s a fluid, fluent dialogue which doesn’t overstep what’s safe or permissible and, if you come in from outside the organisation, it’s fascinating.

It’s not surprising when so few people have direct contact with police that the same members of our communities crop up again and again and that they develop relationships of sorts with our custody officers, neighbourhood teams and call handlers, that they often know each other by name and have ‘come up through the ranks’ together on either side of the thin blue line.

When you understand the complex, interlinked conversations which happen across police forces every day and with our public, it makes perfect sense that officers and local teams are taking to Twitter and Facebook like ducks to water.  Although the first step for most forces is a corporate account on Twitter - a useful way of getting information out to a lot of people FAST - the real benefits, for us at least, come from the conversations and chat between officers, teams and communities.

Don’t get me wrong - there’s been much wrestling and soul searching as our Force’s command team weighs up the risks and benefits of this form of engagement but the enormous appetite from the public to talk directly to us has clinched the deal.  With hundreds of queries, mentions of intel, pleas for help, complaints and jokes coming in to us every day, social media have become a significant part of how we communicate.  As an officer said the other day with a shrug, “We couldn’t stop even if we wanted to.  We have no exit strategy.”

As well as conversations between officers, staff and the public, the individual accounts held by members of our Force mean an open window into their working and personal lives.  Dip into Twitter at any point during 24 hours and you’ll see admin assistants, chief inspectors, PCSOs and the Deputy Chief Constable wading into (mostly) good natured rivalry between districts as well as discussion about politics and philosophy, local events, music, recipes and running tips.  There’s plenty of heated debate too about changes to policing and what it means for us - none of this was ever mandated from the top but a command team strongly supportive of social media means a degree of frankness and transparency that no corporate communications will be able to achieve.

Inevitably there will be times when something goes wrong - when an officer’s opinions overstep the mark and cause offence - but as ACC Gordon Scobie points out, if he trusts an officer with a baton, why wouldn’t he trust them with a Twitter account?  The letting go of the command and control culture, in communications at least, is one of the most exciting things to happen in policing for a very long time.

@julierainey is employed by Sussex Police but tweets in a personal capacity.  For more information about our social media users, have a look at  http://www.sussex.police.uk/contact-us/twitter/ or  http://www.sussex.police.uk/about-us/sussex-police-people/


Note From Ollie: Thank you Julie, for being my 6th guest blogger. I first came across Julie when i spent a day in the summer of 2011 in awe of Sussex Police's Social Media Day. Since then, i have realised that Sussex Police really have a forward thinking view on social media, and i cant help but get really excited when i find some new feature on their website. It may sound a bit silly to say how excited i am about it, but traditionally police and social media dont mix. The modern view is that the police, and public, hugely benefit from social media...but there are still a lot of entrenched attitudes towards it, and there is a lot of suspicion still surrounding it. Each forward step is a triumph for modern police thinking. So i hugely admire what Julie, and her team, have achieved...it is a great honour to have her as a guest blogger.

The next episode for Diet Justice

Morning everyone!

We have hit the mid-point for DJ's birthday blogging extravaganza, and i could not have wished for better writers, better articles, and better feedback from our readers. The biggest compliment for a blogger is to have readers who are willing to put the time and effort into writing their own articles for me. So i thank both the guest bloggers, and the readers who have given such great feedback. I hope you all enjoy the next 4 guest bloggers.

The Future of DJ, click here to visit
The current incarnation of Diet Justice is hosted by Google's blogspot, and it has served us all very well over the past 12 months. However i think you would agree that it has become tired and is in need of a redesign. I also think there is room for us to unite the 'DJ Family' in a more community based blog (please dont cringe :p). I have played around with lots of different blog and community platforms over the past few months, and i have finally found one that i feel will offer us all a much more cosy blogging experience.

I don't intend to launch the new site for some time, but have chosen to share it with you now in the hope that a few of you will be willing to cast your eye over it and help me create something that we can all enjoy. I want the new DJ to be much more reflective of the people who have made it a success, the readers. You will have heard me refer to the 'DJ Family' a lot since i started blogging, and this new blog will be our new home.

When you look at the new site you will see that it currently consists of 4 parts. The Blog will continue as it always has, but there are 3 other features that i think we can have a lot of fun with.
  • The Blog...as always the DJ Family surrounds the blog, and i don't intend to change that. What will be new is the ability for certain members to submit their own articles without having to send it through to me first. I don't intend for it to become a free-for-all, but it will allow guest bloggers to format their own articles, and therefore make them much more personal to them.
  • The Members...This is something very new to DJ, and i take a tentative approach to it. I really want to build on the community we have already created, but i realise that going from 'reader' to 'member' is a big step. For the new 'community' features to be a success i need your help, and the first thing you can do to kick start this is to register as a member. In return, i promise to give you the chance to share your own blogs or websites, and share your opinions and thoughts if you wish to, and meet like minded people. I can't compete with twitter, but i have no doubt that the DJ family can build something equally as unique and enjoyable.
  • The Forum...A few times a week i will identify a current affairs topic that i think appeal to you guys, and provide a platform for us to discuss it. There will also be opportunities to become 'forum owners'. You pick a topic, i create a sub forum for it, and we see how much interest we can generate in it. 
  • The Links...If you have a blog, a website, or want to share a site you find interesting, you will be able to submit it to the links section. I have already transferred over the 'Blog Roll' from this version of DJ, along with a selection of links that i visit regularly.
Like i said, i don't plan on launching the new site yet. My aim here is to have the new DJ created by the DJ Family...you tell me what you think, and i will make it happen.