When can a child walk to school by themselves?

Miles pic

This has generated lots of passionate discussion on social media.

This article from Miles police appeared on social media and in the news through the week, causing enormous uproar. It cautions parents against letting their children walk to school by themselves. As a mother and a police officer, I have strong opinions on this, and judging by the commentary on social media, so do many other parents.

Firstly, I want to clarify that yes – this is a current piece of legislation in Queensland. Yes, the exact age of twelve is specified. The law considers that at this age, children are considered responsible. But importantly, this law does not immediately deem children under that age irresponsible. The key phrase in the legislation is “without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child”.

What is ‘reasonable provision’? What defines ‘an unreasonable time’? It’s open to interpretation. But if you can name even one thing that may constitute this provision, then you probably have no need to worry about this law.

Does your child walk with siblings or another child? Do they have safe ways to cross any roads? Have you walked the route with them and addressed possible problems? Have you spoken to them about what they should do if approached by someone? Will someone quickly let you know if your kids fail to turn up? Any of these are reasonable provisions.

Some parents send their five year olds off by themselves to get to school. There are ten year olds sent off to school who detour past the local skate park and never make it to classes. There are seven year olds who wander out in peak hour traffic on their way to school, trusting in the quick reactions of drivers. So these specific laws are dragged out by exasperated police when dealing with repeated situations like this.

When I was a kid, our parents were happy for my brother and I to walk to school as soon as we were old enough to attend. This was the norm. But my parents also made us ride in the boot portion of the family station wagon after we’d been to the beach so we didn’t wreck the upholstery. We live in a different world today. As much as I’d like my kids to have a childhood disappearing all day and returning home once the street lights came on, it’s just not the same. There’s been a shift in awareness.

However, I do want to raise independent and capable children who can make practical decisions. So my children, aged seven and nine, walk part of the way to school by themselves on some mornings. I have made a number of provisions and I have no fear for their safety. This is even though, as a police officer, I know the sort of people lurking around and the sorts of things that happen. By applying due diligence and common sense, I’ve minimised the risk. I accept there is always some small risk, but this is inherent in everything we do. If someone attempted to charge me simply on the basis of the ages of my children, it would be thrown out of court. I don’t believe it’s the intention of the legislation. What age you are happy to let your children do things alone is a question for your family, and not the law – providing the ‘reasonable provisions’ have been met.

I recently discussed this very piece of legislation with the detective in charge of my local Child Protection Investigation Unit. I was on the cusp of leaving my nine year old at home by herself for short periods of time. The same law applies for this as for walking to school alone. He asked whether I had made ‘reasonable provisions’ for my daughter. She knows my phone number. She knows which neighbours she can go to. She is forbidden from going to the door unless it is a short list of specific people. She knows about ‘tricky people’ as well as ‘bad people’. She has been quizzed on what she would do in numerous hypothetical scenarios. She is responsible and sensible. As a parent, I am happy to leave her alone for short periods of time.

The age of twelve is arbitrary and Queensland seems to be the only state which has set this. I personally thought high school would be the age when I would leave my children alone for longer, so they wouldn’t have to go to vacation care when I’m at work. But with high school now including Year 7 in Queensland, many kids will start at the age of eleven. So do they have to return to primary school vacation care programs until they turn twelve? Or do the ‘reasonable provisions’ extend to a full day?

It boils down to what steps you have taken to ensure your child is safe. If the worst case scenario does happen, what could you say about your actions?

I’m not sure what prompted this particular notification in Miles. But I can guarantee there is more to this story than police randomly choosing a child quietly making their way in to school. Although I think this particular notification was probably ill-advised and the interpretation that ‘kids under 12 cannot walk or ride to school alone’ is flawed, the resulting reactions show that it is clearly a topic many parents seek guidance on.

It’s certainly prompted parents to think about their views and why they hold them. And that in itself is a positive thing.

Bikies and the VLAD laws

bikie pic

Not in Queensland. Image credit ABC News

Bikies are bad. It’s that simple.

I’m not talking about guys on motorbikes who like to cruise around with their mates on a Sunday. I’m talking about the outlaw motorcycle gangs. They, too, like to cruise around on their bikes with their mates. But they are also like to deal in drugs and weapons. They are criminals.

In 2013, following a couple of incidents on the Gold Coast where bikies showed their disregard for not just the law, but society, the Queensland Government passed the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD). They are harsh laws, the overwhelming aim of which is to make bikies change their minds or leave the state. The laws included highly controversial measures such as banning bikies from their own clubhouses and also wearing their ‘colours’.

When they were introduced, there was an outcry from the civil libertarians along with the bikies. They were labelled ‘draconian’ and ‘oppressive’ as well as ‘ineffective’ and ‘unlawful’. Appeals were made to the Supreme Court. Right now, the current Labor government who inherited the legislation from the LNP are looking at scrapping the controversial laws.

Whatever people may think of the laws themselves, it is important not to lose sight of the core principle behind them – bikies are bad.

This may not be immediately apparent. Bikies are sons and husband, brothers and fathers. They often lead ‘normal’ lives, running businesses and raising families. If you meet a bikie during the course of your day, you may wonder what the fuss is about.

The first clue comes from their own description of themselves. They call themselves ‘one percenters’, where the other 99% are law abiding. They proudly display ‘1%’ as part of their colours, to show the rules do not apply to them.

The violent crimes committed by bikies are mostly against each other or associates, and they don’t report them to police. Any time you hear on the news that the victim declined to talk to police, you can guess it is bikie-related. Although the violence is reserved for people known to them, they don’t care if anyone else gets in the way. They are comfortable with threats, extortion and blackmail in order to keep their activities under the radar. They are only held accountable for a small fraction of the crimes they commit.

A huge way in which bikies are a menace to society is through their involvement in the drug trade. As a police officer and a parent, I believe drugs such as ice and speed are the biggest scourge of today’s society and anything that can be done to keep drugs off the streets and away from potential new users is imperative to addressing this problem.

The way I see it, the laws may be excessive but they are a means to an end. I don’t want the laws watered down. I want bikies put on notice.

How should children see police?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3064952/Schoolboy-10-arrested-police-mother-called-cops-teach-lesson.html

The  linked Daily Mail article tells the story of this photo

The linked Daily Mail article tells the story of the ‘arrest’ of this ten year old boy.

The linked article is about a mother with an unruly ten year old boy. She managed to organise for the local police to ‘arrest’ him in handcuffs and ‘take him away’.

I feel really strongly about this sort of thing. Although this article is a few weeks old and from the USA, this school of thought – ‘the cops should give kids a boot up the bum’ – exists everywhere.

The ten year old in this article is described as being disrespectful and back-chatting. Not good. But not criminal. He’s not breaking into cars, graffiting trains or smashing windows. However, it was enough for a couple of obliging officers from the local police station to come and ‘arrest’ him. They cuffed him to the rear, marched him out to the police car and locked him in the back for a few minutes.

As a result, the mother claims her son’s behaviour has improved dramatically. Yes, it probably has. By the look of the photos, the officers scared the living daylights out of him. But I’m going to guess, the good behaviour will be short term. Clearly, everyone in this situation cares about this child. But I don’t believe bad behaviour can be cured by a set of handcuffs and two minutes of terror. And the thing that bothers me most is the way this reflects on the role of police. It shows the child that police are scary enforcers who will render you powerless. Whilst this is often true, this is not how police should be seen by pre-adolescent children.

Of course, police should be respected. But there is a huge difference between respect and fear. People often confuse the two because some people can only gain respect through fear. But this is not the mandate of police. We are the keepers of the law, working to keep society civil. We are the good guys.

Parents want their children to have respect for the law, and its upholders, don’t they? So why do parents regularly try to convince kids that police are scary? Why do they tell them that we’re there to lock them up and punish them? Why is it that every time we do a foot patrol through the local shopping centre, invariably at least one parent points us out to their young child and says something along the lines of – “Look, there’s the police. They’ll lock you up if you don’t behave yourself/ stop your tantrum/ do what I say.”

Ever done this? Stop it! Please. You do not want your young children to be scared of us. We are the ones they should run to, not run away from in fear. We will protect them. Please, do not use police as a threat. If you are unhappy with the way your child is behaving, then parent them – don’t contort our powers and turn them into a threat.

When do children generally come into contact with police? When they are lost or offended against or caught in the middle of an adult situation – these are all times when police are involved to assist them. You don’t want them to be scared of the people trying to help them.

When kids reach their teenage years, they can sort out for themselves which side of the law they choose to stand on. They will have a better understanding of their actions and consequences. But before that, cops should always be the good guys.

I have done many talks at pre-schools and kindergartens. Children are fascinated by the accoutrements police carry and there are always questions about weapons. I usually show kids my handcuffs. Then I find a willing underage volunteer. I put the cuffs on their tiny little wrists, then I encourage them to pull their hands straight out of the cuffs. I tell them, “These handcuffs are not for children. They are too big. These are for adults. We don’t handcuff children.”

Please, please, for the sake of your children (may they never need us) – if you see the police, by all means point us out to your children, but say “Look there’s the police’. But then say, “why don’t you give them a wave”. If it’s me, I promise I’ll wave back

 

In defence of protective behaviours

IMG_5120Violence against women (both inside and outside the home) is a disturbing and horrendous crime. The insidious and senseless death of Masa Vukotic has sent social media into a frenzy.

Women should be able to walk by themselves. Women should not be scared to go out at night. A woman is not asking for violence with whatever she might wear. Agree. Agree. Agree. I am, after all a woman too. And the mother of a girl.

I have also read several articles belittling police who have suggested protective behaviours. By this, I mean recommendations such as not wearing headphones when you’re walking alone, exercising in pairs, carrying a set of keys in your hand. They are paltry offerings and can be seen as condescending. Hence the backlash on social media.

The sad truth is, when it comes to policing random murderers, I’m sorry to say that’s all we’ve got. I wish there was something else. Tell me – how do you police psychopaths? You can attempt to recognise them and control them, but what are you going to do when they’re anonymously wandering around the neighbourhood?

But people expect a response from police. Unfortunately, protective behaviours are the limit of what’s in the police arsenal for this type of crime. Someone tell me differently. Please.

Yes, it shouldn’t be this way. Women should have the right to complete freedom. But even if there is a societal shift, if domestic violence is reduced, if women are afforded constant respect – even then there will still be these psychopaths who have something wrong in their brains, who have the capacity to commit these horrible soulless crimes.

The percentage of these people is minute. These murders are all over the news because thankfully, they’re tiny horrible exceptions. But they exist. And if you choose to exercise your right to walk anywhere, at any time, by yourself (I do myself) – then you need to have a Plan B somewhere in the back of your mind. It is the reason myself along with both of my children practice martial arts.

I believe in protective behaviours. For any one. Female or male, young or old. It’s not giving in or surrendering your rights. It’s an insurance policy. The same way you lock your house when you’re out, or put a seatbelt on in a car. It’s the acknowledgement that you can’t predict or control all eventualities. But you can try and protect yourself against them.

I want to share a first hand experience. I have travelled a lot overseas. By myself most of the time. Sometimes I did risky things.

Then one time, I was attacked.

I was on holidays in Africa, and visited the island of Zanzibar. The beach was just beautiful. Having spent a lot of time on buses, I decided to stretch my legs with a jog along the beach. None of my travelling companions wanted to, but why would that stop me? I left my money belt with my friends and off I jogged. There was no one around. I was in a world of my own, absorbed with my own thoughts. I didn’t even see the man move out of the bushes behind me. The first I knew was when he grabbed me from behind, pushing me forward into a headlock.

First was confusion. Was one of my friends having a joke with me? Then I saw bare black feet next to mine and I knew this was real.

I was a cop when this incident happened. I had been taught lateral vascular neck restraints. This is when you restrict the blood flow to the head by applying pressure to the neck, causing the person to faint. Our instructors like to tell us this is considered lethal force. Then they tell us to try it own on one another. So when my attacker had me in a head lock, I’d been in one before and my following thought was – he’s doing it wrong, he won’t make me pass out.

The next thing I did was probably what saved me. I did – anything. I did not freeze. I did not panic. I reacted. I tried to get him off me. I have always said, if the shit hit the fan, my ‘go to’ move would be to kick or strike the groin. I twisted to the side and brought my knee up to his testicles. But with a nightmarish slow-motion type of realisation, there was no strength in my kick and my aim was off. It didn’t collapse him to his knees like I hoped. But it was enough. The simple act of doing something – even something ineffectual – was enough. He let go of me.

I’m assuming he was after money. I had equivalent of about $3 in my pocket. I should have thrown it at him and been done with it. But it didn’t even cross my mind. He had let go of me, I was out of there. I started running. But it wasn’t panic running. I left at jogging pace.

He came after me.

I knew I couldn’t outrun some athletic-looking man. And there was no way I was going to let him jump me from behind again. So when he got closer. I stopped and turned around to face him. I put my fists up, I cocked my front leg ready to kick out and I yelled something at him. I can’t remember what it was, and he mightn’t have spoken English anyway. But it was enough. He was not prepared to fight. He turned and disappeared into the bushes again.

I had a slightly bruised throat and a hell of a story. It did not ruin my holidays. But it took me a long time to shake that sense of being ambushed from behind. Afterwards, all the other possible scenarios went through my mind. What if there were two of them? What if he had a knife? What if it wasn’t money he was after?

Consider the possibilities. Protect yourself.

Pointless Punishments

gavel picIf there’s one thing that irritates police officers across the board, it is manifestly inadequate sentencing of offenders put before the court. I don’t think there’s a copper in the state who hasn’t said ‘what’s the point?’ when someone they worked hard to charge, gets let off with the proverbial ‘slap over the wrist’. The last couple of weeks have seen a few crass examples:

  • A football player charged with four counts of possession of cocaine is fined $2500 by the courts – and no conviction recorded (He paid the fine with spare change he found down the the back of the couch).
  • A police sergeant charged with possessing drugs (ice/steroids) and a pipe was fined $600 and no conviction recorded (You swear to serve and protect, you especially should be held to that standard).
  • An American involved with importing 85kg of cocaine and 192kg of methamphetamine and caught with $154,550 in cash had his charges negotiated and ended up getting just 12 months jail and then a tax-payer funded flight back home when his visa was cancelled. (Explain that one to Chan and Sukumaran).
  • And the one that made me gobsmacked enough to write this blog – a man successfully fled from police who tried to pull him over when they observed him driving erratically. He was not meant to be driving at the time. The law that the court is meant to be upholding states people who evade police, potentially causing a pursuit and potentially putting the lives of any other road user at risk must be charged $5500 and lose their licence for two years. This law is designed to deter people from considering running from police due to the very real dangers to everyone involved in a pursuit. This offender received an absolute discharge – no fine, no loss of licence, NO PUNISHMENT AT ALL. It makes a mockery of the law when people entrusted with enforcing it completely ignore it.

So often, police are just chasing their tails. Especially in smaller communities, it is often the same idiots doing the same things, with no punishment, or punishment that has no effect on them. A $2500 fine for a football player who earns millions? Pointless. Granted, he has had the public embarrassment of having this go through the courts, but that is a side-effect rather than a punishment levelled by the courts.

I don’t think I can truly express my disgust for these types of decisions without using some of the expletives on the tip of my tongue. And these are just the ones that have popped into my field of view in the last couple of weeks, I didn’t go hunting for them. I suggest it happens on a daily basis at a courthouse near you. I’m going to assume magistrates are getting some sort of pressure from further up the chain – the jails are full after all. And I’m not saying everyone who makes an error deserves to go to jail. But there has to be another option.

Whilst I personally do not agree with capital punishment, I am all for a little corporal punishment. A lot can be learnt from a little hardship and suffering. I’d like to see punishments that have an impact on the offender. I’m thinking along the lines of graffiti offenders who have to remove their handiwork – some sort of system is apparently already in place for this. But although I have seen many people convicted of graffiti offences but I am yet to see anybody doing any actual scrubbing.

Actually, I’d like to see more cleaning in general.

How about traffic offenders spending time picking up rubbish on the side of the highway? It would give them a better appreciation for how fast 100km/h actually is and how small the margin for error.

How about drug offenders having to clean out the morgue after the autopsy of a person who died of a drug overdose? There’s a wake-up call.

I’d even settle for a slap over the wrist, as long as it was an actual slap over the actual offender’s wrist, possibly with a rubber thong or similar.

I know, I’m being silly now. But my point is it’s time to think outside of the square. There has to be another way to deter criminals. Because the system we’ve got now? It’s just not working.

Police Remembrance Day

SONY DSC

September 29 is Police Remembrance Day.

Today is National Police Remembrance Day – a day to remember police officers who have died whilst on duty.

It is a day of conflicting emotions for me. Pride – to be part of the organisation whose charter is to put the welfare of others above themselves. A sense of belonging – we are a team, in this together. Sadness – families robbed of a loved one, often so needlessly. Trepidation – whose turn will it be next? Someone I know? Me?

Today in particular, I remember Detective Senior Constable Damian Leeding. His tragic death in 2011 struck a note with me. Maybe because he too was the father of two young children. He was on duty, responding to a triple 0 call for help – an armed hold-up at a tavern. As he ran towards the tavern, he was shot in the face by one of the robbers. This murderer was a career criminal. He had committed armed hold-ups before, using the same shotgun that killed DSC Leeding.

So what was worth enough to take a man’s life? About $16,000. That was the amount of money recovered in nearby bushland, the proceeds of the armed robbery. Presumably to be shared amongst the three persons involved in the robbery. So a bit more than $5000 each. That is the price a criminal put on a police officer’s life. A paltry piddling sum. It might have paid for some rent, some groceries, some booze, some drugs. Not necessarily in that order. Definitely not a life-changing amount of money. But that day, this murderer changed the lives of so many forever. DSC Leeding left behind a wife and two children, both of whom were so young they may have no direct memories of their father. He was just 35 years old.

Police are often maligned. I myself often go out of my way in my private life not to reveal what I do for a living. I will often describe my occupation as ‘public servant’ and try not to elaborate on that. You never know what sort of reaction you will get from people. That said, I think most people have respect for police, or at least the job police do. Most people can look past the undeserved traffic ticket or a rude individual hiding behind the badge and see the bigger picture. Police play an important role in society, working for the greater good, far beyond shutting down noisy parties or giving tickets to jaywalkers.

When the proverbial hits the fan and you are caught in a genuine emergency, nothing will sound quite as sweet as the police sirens drawing closer.

When your back is to the wall and a police officer comes rushing to your defence, blue will suddenly become your favourite colour.

When there is a disaster and everyone is trying to flee and escape, it is police, and usually ambos and firies too, who head towards the trouble.

It takes a certain type of person to do that. Even those officers who have not been called to a serious job are still prepared to do it. They have pledged to take on every challenge. And each day we turn up to work, we make that same commitment to any job the shift might bring – to serve, to protect, to help.

And that’s why Police Remembrance Day is important.

The prank with the lizard

lizard pic

It was lying in wait under a chair – big and green and spiky. Photo credit to http://www.animalpictures123.org

Who doesn’t love a good office prank? It’s almost like a competition, to see who can come up with the most elaborate or cunning idea to trick or amuse their workmates.

Most of them are harmless. We have an internal email system. I doubt there is an officer in the state who has not accidentally left their email open and had a prank email sent out on their behalf. Most popular targets are new officers to the station, who tend to invite every one at the station to their house for a togs-optional pool party or a lingerie party where they will do all the modelling.

One of the most memorable pranks which I have had the dubious pleasure of witnessing involved a very large lizard. The mastermind behind it had put some thought into the prank, elevating it beyond the usual slapstick. At the back of the station were a couple of low wide chairs. Coppers would hang out here for smoko or a chat. There were about five or six of us chatting at shift change one afternoon. I was the first one to spot it – there was an enormous lizard laying under one of the chairs. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was like a komodo dragon. I know, you don’t find these in the Australian countryside, but you get the idea. It was quite clearly dead, evidenced by the fact that it had some of its insides hanging out of its mouth. Someone had placed road-kill under the chair. Ha-dee-ha-ha. I moved backwards as I drew everyone’s attention to it. The woman sitting in the chair jumped, shrieked and ran. Everyone put a safe distance between themselves and the lizard, just because of the sheer size of it. So that in itself was a crude but effective prank. People got a fright, there was a little bit of yelling. But that was just the set-up. The best was yet to come. After we all decided it definitely was dead, we moved back into the area again. One of the blokes decided to do the right thing and get rid of the creature. So he grabbed a broom, which happened to be leaning up against the chair. All of a sudden, the dead lizard sprang to life. Everyone jumped and ran. And the lizard jumped and ran. It chased the guy with the broom. He ran backwards, trying to push back at the lizard with the broom. Lots more shrieking from lots more people this time. The lizard was moving like lightning. Until the broom was dropped. Yes, the wag who had placed the lizard under the chair, had tied a piece of fishing line from the creature to the broom. It was inevitable that someone would grab the handy broom to poke at the lizard. And that’s when the real prank kicked in.

Are pranks workplace harassment or good-natured bonding? Depends on your mood really. And whether you are the target. But I am glad that the scheming genius who came up with the lizard prank was on the right side of the law…

Anyone care to share a prank they have been the target for? Or the mastermind behind?

Is ignorance bliss?

Ferguson

No one wanted to live next door to Dennis Ferguson.

There is nothing quite like going to the shops with your kids and seeing one of the local pedophiles. And then the pedophile gives you a friendly smile and wave because he recognises you from the police station. Maybe your face just looks familiar to him or maybe he remembers your full name and registered number. Either way, how do you react? Aside from grabbing your children by the hand and pulling them closer. Do you ignore him and keep walking? Do you give him the evil eye? Do you point and yell “pedophile!”? Do you walk up to him, maintaining eye contact and tell him in a soft dangerous voice to take a good look at these children because if he ever touches them, you will rip off his testicles and feed them to him? Is it better to know who the evil menaces in your neighbourhood are, or to move through your community in blissful ignorance? Because – regardless of where you live – there are predators in your town. And due to privacy laws, no one can tell you who they are. Is it better to not know and give your children some freedom? Or will the knowledge drive you to become an over-protective helicopter parent?

It’s not just the peds. In my division I also know – who is most likely to sell your son drugs at high school, who will try and talk your teenage daughter into bed, who might try and king-hit your husband in the pub. In every community, there are people like them. Police officers deal with these types on a regular basis and although it may seem to us that the place is crawling with them, there are really not that many. They won’t touch the lives of most regular citizens. The chances of you or your loved ones being offended against by them are low. Your kids are more likely to be involved in a car accident or an act of self-inflicted stupidity. But criminals are out there. Do you want to know?

The case of pedophile Dennis Ferguson made the news on several occasions. Upon being released from jail after doing time for heinous crimes against the most vulnerable, he was the target of several vigilante mobs. Every time he moved somewhere, he was recognised and run out of town. This was eventually resolved by his death. I think part of the problem was the way he looked – once you’d seen him twitching and licking his lips on the news, you couldn’t forget him. He seemed instantly recognisable and completely repulsive. Was it fair though? He’d done his time. He has to live somewhere. Doesn’t he? Just not in my neighbourhood.

Rolf Harris offended for decades with impunity. There are people who don’t believe he is guilty (try googling ‘Rolf Harris innocent’), who believe he is a victim of a malicious witch hunt. These are people whose lives have been touched by the smiling entertainer rather than the calculating predator. How many people knew what he was up to? How many people guessed it but ignored it, not wanting to believe it was true because then it tainted every bright happy thing he had ever done?

I only have questions for you. No answers. I don’t believe there are any definitive solutions, only opinions. So what’s yours? Is ignorance easier?

Lies and details

justiceIs anyone else following the Baden-Clay murder trial? An apparently loving husband and family man murdering his depressed wife? It is unimaginable and yet, here he is on trial, his future in the hands of 12 strangers. I’m just following it through newspapers and TV like everyone else – I have no extra information. But I think it offers some interesting insights into the way police go about constructing a case.

‘The devil is in the detail’ or so the saying goes, and I believe this is true here. Every incident is made up of masses of details. When people start lying, they generally come up with a lie that applies to one particular part or aspect of the story. They rarely conjure up the entire story in their mind, from start to finish. Police are trained to nail a suspect down to little details in all aspects of the incident, then go about trying to verify or disprove their version through these details.

The scratches on Baden-Clay’s cheek are an excellent example of this. They are very obvious – he could never hide them so he had to be able to explain them. He has claimed that he cut himself shaving because his razor was blunt. Possible? Yes. But then you start looking at the detail. Show me your razor? Is it blunt? Is there blood on it? Is there a tissue with your blood on it in the bin? Why did you continue to scrape away at your face with a blunt razor after you had cut yourself the first time? Is there anything else that backs up or supports this story? If the details don’t fit, not only is the lie itself exposed but the suspect’s integrity has been compromised. If he lied about that, what else has he lied about? Why did he choose to lie?

If a story is true, a person will be able to explain each small part, and it will match up with other details without any effort, because that was the way it happened. In the course of a police interview, a liar will often say things that contradict each other, because they have not thought through the whole story. Sometimes they have forgotten what they initially said, sometimes they change details because they think they’ve come up with a better story. This happens only when they are making it up as they go along. The details are not cemented in their mind as they would be in reality. Then in order to try and explain a small lie, they often weave a bigger or more implausible lie. “I can’t remember” is much more plausible than false details. It takes a skilled storyteller with an excellent memory to construct a watertight lie where all of the details line up when checked.

As in the Baden-Clay case – “I went to bed at about 10pm,” he says. But then his phone was shown to have been plugged in at his bedside table at 1.48am. More explaining, more detail, more possibility for lies to be exposed.

The same principles can also be applied to the Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius case in South Africa. This one is murkier – he has admitted to pulling the trigger. It is more of a psychological case than a circumstantial one such as Baden-Clay. But the interview principles remain the same. What happened? Did you have your prosthetic legs on or not? How many times did you fire? What did you see? What did you hear? Details like these may confirm his innocence or guilt.

The Baden-Clay case is also an interesting study in how the judicial system works. Every member of the jury must believe ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ that Baden-Clay is guilty. Otherwise, they must declare him innocent. If one person on the jury thinks just maybe he didn’t do it, then they will let him walk free. That’s how our system works. Is it fair? You never know which way it might go with a jury. That is why the selection of juries is so crucial, with the defence and prosecution both trying to get jury members who will be sympathetic to their client. In South Africa, there are no juries – Pistorius’s fate will be decided by one Judge assisted by two assessors. Is this fair?

Also interesting to see the jury has been offered a third ‘softer’ option. If Baden-Clay is found innocent of murder, the jury can still consider finding him guilty of manslaughter – murder without intent. It is a huge burden for twelve ordinary citizens to convict someone of murder. So how about – he did it, but didn’t mean it?

I follow both cases with interest.

 

Confessing to Police

itsnotyours

Of course I believe you… (used with permission from Whole Truth Project)

Cop: “Is this your jacket?” (Removing drugs from the pocket)

Baddie: “Nah. That’s not mine.”

Cop: “Whose is it then?”

Baddie: “I dunno. Never seen it before.”

Cop: (Looking inside the jacket) “It’s got your name on the tag.”

Baddie: “Oh… ok, you got me.” (Scratches head) “Dunno why Mum does that.”

I love a good confession. There’s nothing quite like tying off every loose end in an investigation when the offender conveniently fills in all the blanks.

I love a confession in every form. There’s the oxygen thieves who confess because they’re not bright enough to come up with a plausible story. Then there’s the remorseful crook who hands himself in at the front counter after an attack of the guilts, or when they know they’re snared anyway. Or the self-righteous crook who tells you every detail of their stealing/fraud/assault because they fully believe they are somehow justified in doing it. Their disbelief and outrage when they get charged is not quite so much fun, but by then unabashed truth has already been laid bare.

Getting some confessions are like pulling teeth – some are wobbly milk teeth that fall out with the slightest pressure; others are wisdom teeth right at the back that you have to prise and tug and wrench before they are ripped out, leaving a painful hole.

But my favourite confessions are the ones that start out as blatant bare-faced lies. The criminal, all wide-eyed and earnest, builds his lies. And over the course of the interview, as the baddie tries to mould his story around each proven fact as it is presented for comment, eventually the rough ends are polished off to reveal the beautiful shining confession. Almost makes you feel like contentedly laying back and smoking a cigarette afterwards.

So, what’s going through the baddie’s mind on the cusp of a confession? “The truth shall set you free,” we like to say. But it will more likely get you locked up. (No, that’s not right – it will be 3 ½ hours community service and a good behaviour bond…) How do they feel though, when they have told the truth and there’s nothing left to hide? They can face the consequences and move on. The slate is clean. Is the punishment of the crime worse than the guilt of trying to hide it? Often – yes. So, I recommend: Cleanse your soul. Confess.

Trust me. I’m a copper.