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Expert Witness : Criminal

Surrey Police scraps hi-tech intelligence system

Picture of Kevin Hurley for Your Expert Witness storySurrey Police has halted development of an integrated criminal information and intelligence system, known as SIREN (Surrey Integrated Reporting Enterprise Network), which has so far cost in excess of £14m. The decision was made by its newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley (pictured) following an independent review and a report by the Chief Constable that the system no longer represented the most up-to-date solution.

The system had been in development since 2009 when the contract was awarded to an IT company.

In a statement issued on 8 April and udated on 11 April, the PCC's office said: "In November 2012, Chief Constable Lynne Owens reiterated her view to the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley that the on-going programme to replace Surrey's criminal intelligence system may no longer represent the best long-term option for the force and the public.

"The Commissioner requested an independent report and sought further operational advice from the Chief Constable to consider whether Surrey Police should continue with the Siren project, or bring it to an end and instead look to examine the costs and feasibility of switching to the systems now being implemented by a number of other forces in the region.

"The Commissioner has determined that the benefits of collaborative working with other regional forces are potentially so great that Surrey Police should withdraw from the Siren project and immediately begin to work up a fully-costed proposal for an alternative solution.

"The Commissioner believes this is in the best interests of both Surrey Police operationally and the Surrey public from a value for money perspective."

Mr Hurley said: "My decision to withdraw from the Siren project has not been taken lightly, but I believe that this course of action will ultimately be in the best interests of both Surrey Police and the Surrey public. It is right and proper that it will be fully reviewed by the Police and Crime Panel and by Grant Thornton, the Audit Commission's appointed external auditors.

"I hope you can appreciate that a full inquiry into a project of this scale is likely to take some time and that it would not be proper for me to comment further at this stage."

Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm said: "We welcome the decision by the Police and Crime Commissioner.

"In September 2012, Surrey Police advised the Surrey Police Authority of its concern that the programme no longer represented the best long-term option for the force and the public. The Chief Constable re-iterated this position to the PCC on his election in November 2012.

"The management of information is critical in delivering effective policing. Given operational collaboration with other forces in the region, and as the national policing environment has now changed, we must also adapt our plans or risk losing out on the wider benefits."

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 17:11

Criminals’ ‘frozen’ assets to be seized to pay legal costs

On 11 March the Ministry of Justice announced amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill allowing legal aid costs to be seized from the 'frozen' assets of defendants, alongside compensation for victims of those convicted and the proceeds of crime. That will make sure, the MoJ says, that the taxpayer is not left to foot the bill and will put an end to "millionaire criminals refusing to reimburse the taxpayer for the free legal advice they receive".

In a statement, the MoJ said: "Under the current system, wealthy defendants can have their assets 'frozen' – making millionaires eligible for taxpayer funded legal aid that is designed to protect the poorest and most vulnerable.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling declared: "The principles of fairness and equality are fundamental to our justice system. It's high time the legal aid system was made fairer to the taxpayer; putting an end to crime bosses getting a free ride at the taxpayers' expense."

The move was welcomed by organisations representing lawyers.

The Law Society's president, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, said: "The Law Society is delighted that our campaign to see frozen assets of wealthy suspected criminals released to pay defence costs has been successful. We welcome the ministry's amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill to implement this long overdue change."

Her sentiments were echoed by the chairman of the Bar Council, Maura McGowan QC, who commented: "The Bar Council is delighted to hear today's agreement to unfreeze wealthy defendants' assets so that they can be used to meet their legal costs. Since 2010 we have been campaigning for this move to take pressure off a legal aid system, which the government has already squeezed to breaking point.

"We urge the Ministry of Justice to use this opportunity to ensure that those most in need can have effective access to justice."

The announcement followed moves announced the previous week to enforce collection of contributions to legal aid not paid by convicted criminals in defiance of Contribution Orders. The action will include amending Contribution Orders if hidden assets come to light and pursuing criminals for the entirety of the legal aid amount if they fail to provide financial information to assess their liability.

Chris Grayling said at the time: "It is scandalous that each year innocent taxpayers pay more than £20 million towards the defence of criminals who can afford to pay for themselves. This cannot be allowed to continue. Legal aid is not free – it is taxpayers' money."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 April 2013 13:55

Criminology expert appointed to Greenwich professorship

Picture of Prof Darrick Jolliffe for Your Expert Witness storyA specialist on the psychology of crime and the development of criminal behaviour has joined the University of Greenwich as its new Professor of Criminology. Darrick Jolliffe is the author and co-author of numerous articles, book chapters and reports on the two areas of expertise. He is also an expert on evaluating whether 'interventions' can help reduce reoffending. His work has assessed the impact of community justice initiatives, high-intensity training for young offenders and methods of policing violence by organised gangs. He is also a lead independent evaluator of the Social Impact Bond at Peterborough Jail, the first 'payment by results' scheme for reoffending in the world.

Formerly a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Leicester, Professor Jolliffe said: "I am looking forward to being part of the dynamic and enthusiastic team at Greenwich. The university already has a fine reputation for teaching and my ambition is to contribute to the existing upward trend that criminology at Greenwich has for research excellence."

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 February 2013 17:34

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DNA ‘sweep’ of historical offenders leads to apology

Illustration of DNA double-helix for Your Expert Witness storyGreater Manchester Police are reported to have apologised to a gay man who was forced to give a DNA sample for a national database under new powers for investigating 'historical' crimes.

The 50-year-old former soldier said the sample was taken because of a conviction 30 years ago for having consensual sex with another man, despite the fact the law under which he was convicted no longer applies.

The incident is one of a number of instances where police have been accused of demanding DNA from gay people convicted of offences decades ago under legislation which has been abandoned. They are part of Operation Nutmeg, being carried out by forces across the country following the introduction of the Crime and Security Act, which became law last year.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 17:04

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Social media ‘crimes’: guidelines follow leap in arrests

Picture of Keir Starmer for Your Expert Witness storyFigures published by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act show that 653 people were charged in 2012 for alleged offences carried out on social media sites – out of a total of 4,908 offences reported to 29 forces in England, Scotland and Wales. That compares with figures of 46 out of 556 in 2008.

The revelations come in the wake of publication by the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC (pictured) of interim guidelines setting out the approach prosecutors should take in cases involving communications sent via social media. The guidelines are designed to give clear advice to prosecutors and ensure a consistency of approach across the CPS to these types of cases.

Mr Starmer said: "These interim guidelines are intended to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law. They make a clear distinction between communications which amount to credible threats of violence, a targeted campaign of harassment against an individual or which breach court orders on the one hand; and other communications sent by social media, such as those that are grossly offensive, on the other.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 December 2012 15:28

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