PLOD IN THE FRAME AGAIN

Some interesting news for your delectation:  Alison Saunders, the beleaguered Director of Public Prosecutions, will not be offered an extension to her five year contract when it expires in October.  I wonder why not.

According to Alison, it was her decision to shoulder arms, and any suggestion that the government has had enough of her questionable competence is flatly contradicted by her, but then, it would be wouldn’t it?

Is it only five years since Ms. Saunders was appointed?  It sees much longer.  In fairness to her, she has done her best with limited intelligence to run an enormous and unwieldy service, and inevitably mistakes were going to be made.  But the difference between a leader and an also ran is the ability to sort out the mess, admit mistakes, put them right and move on.

Before the creation of the Clown Prosecution Service in 1986, Plod used to prosecute their own cases on their own patch, they had their own solicitors, and for the most part, their cases were farmed out to local barristers.  It was all very cosy and incestuous.  If mistakes were made, they were ‘corrected’ in-house, and life went on.  By keeping it local, blunders, and worse still, blatant corruption, were swept under the carpet, and the lads stuck together.  Corroboration, an important and independent part of the prosecutor’s armoury, consisted of one police officer signing his colleague’s pocket book to signify agreement without even reading it, and putting it before the jury as the cast-iron truth, on my babby’s life!

The worst excesses of local prosecutions came with the signed confession, long before the days of tape recorders, when confessions were faithfully recorded in the interviewing officers’ pocket books well after the confession was made, and usually over a mug of tea in the police canteen. The oft repeated maxim that the notes were made whilst matters were still fresh in the memory was all that was required.  It was fertile ground for fabrication and ground that was regularly tilled.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that Plod to a man were corrupt, but as they say, all it takes is one bad apple.  The idea that a national prosecuting service would bring respectability to the task of bringing the guilty to justice slowly took root, and in 1986, during the reign of the Blessed St. Margaret, a former barrister, the Clown Prosecution Service was born, in the hope that there would be uniform national standards applied to address the criticisms of incompetence and  worse still, corruption.  It has been better than before, but not without its problems.

But what has been Ms. Saunders’ undoing has been sex, and her pathetic  and dangerously complacent response to it.  I refer specifically to the recent scandal of sexual complainants lying to Plod and even to the jury when no sexual abuse had taken place.  There are all sorts of excuses and explanations, but its root cause is the direction from on high to Plod to believe without question these false allegations.  In so doing, they are not properly investigated, if at all, and for the most part, these allegations take place in private, with one person’s word against another’s.  This is where independent corroboration, not fabricated, is vital in the pursuit of the truth, and sadly, Ms. Saunders has been found wanting.  Worse still, she won’t admit it.

She was an in-house appointment, which was a mistake.  Word on the street is that the government has acknowledged that the post of Director of Public Prosecutions is not one for intellectual pygmies, so the search for the next director will cast a wide net.  It’s a thankless task, so I cannot see many heavyweight legal luminaries putting their names forward.  And before you ask, no, I have no intention of supping from the poisoned chalice.

There is much work to be done, and little time to restore damaged reputations.  So my strong advice to Ms. Saunders in the remaining 6 months, say and do as little as possible to preserve your publicly funded and very generous pension.

HOSPITAL CASE

My wife is a fan of Holby City, a weekly hospital soap opera on television.  I am not, but to keep the peace, I dip in and out.

The programme has its moments, mainly of high fiasco, with the staff, doctors and consultants in various relationships, with plots and sub plots revolving around their daily lives, their hopes, their dreams and a myriad of emotions in between. All pretty routine fare that is the hallmark of television soap operas.

Of course, in any hospital soap opera, there have to be patients to give it gritty realism, and Holby City is no exception. Quite how these patients survive the ordeal of bickering doctors is one of the morbid fascinations of the programme, but usually, out of adversity come forth triumph, and the programme ends on a happy note. The ‘patient of the week’ survives, is cured, and one and all gather round the bed in self congratulatory mood.

Sadly, in real life it isn’t always like that. I refer to the tragic and deeply disturbing case of Kane Gorney, aged 22 when he died in St. George’s Hospital Tooting in South London. Aged 22, he should have been on the threshold of his life, possibly a life well spent with so many achievements and good memories to look back on in old age, and prematurely ended by monumental medical incompetence.

I do not recall why Kane Gorney was admitted to hospital in the first place, but whatever his ailment, it was not life threatening.  However, whilst there, he became rapidly dehydrated because medical staff failed to prescribe fluid retaining medication. Kane was sufficiently alert to his problem to bring it to the attention of the medical staff, but he was ignored. In desperation, he phoned 999 and the police attended.  They did not see or speak to Kane.  Instead they were reassured by the medical staff that all was well, and they went on their way.

This simply beggars belief! Imagine if the police had received a 999 call from a frightened home owner telling them there was an intruder on the premises and he was armed with a knife.  They turn up and knock at the door, which is answered by the intruder.  The home owner is dead upstairs from multiple stab wounds.  The intruder tells the police it was a false alarm and that everything is fine.  So what should the police do?  Simply walk away on the say so of the intruder, or insist on coming inside to check for themselves?  The answer is self evident to all but the police.  Yet this is exactly what they did when summoned to St. George’s Hospital.

I suppose they would say they are not medically qualified to intervene, yet Kane Gorney was dead within hours of his call, and to the layman, his distress should have been self evident.  And besides, most doctors rely on patient input as a starting point for their diagnosis, so why not ask Kane, and preferably before he dies?

The coroner was scathing in her findings: “Kane was undoubtedly let down by the incompetence of the staff, poor communication and lack of leadership, both medical and nursing.”

The hospital has accepted liability, surprise surprise, and has said it is profoundly sorry. No comfort whatsoever to Kane and his family, and too little, too late.