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WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?

It might just be that this writer has little faith in this particular government [UK government that is] but it is becoming increasingly obvious that the corridors of power are littered with the corpses of failed Ministers and senior civil servants who have been sacrificed to maintain the credibility of one Minister or another. It will be remembered that last year the then Home Secretary had to resign amid a scandalous admission that foreign nationals sentenced to terms of imprisonment for crimes which were once deemed capital offences were being released back into society with full remission on their tariff’s and the Home Office [who are responsible for the resettlement of offenders and overseeing their terms of release] had no idea where they were or what they were doing. Some had not even contacted their Probation Officers since they stepped from the wicket gate of their respective prisons to reassume the anonymity of “Joe citizen” on “Completion” [if that is the correct term]
of their sentence. The then Home Secretary Charles Clarke had sought controversial powers of arrest and detention solely at the behest of a politician who might be the holder of the office of Home Secretary overturning a principle of English Law [Habeas Corpus which has stood sacrosanct in law for more than 300years] that “Anyone arrested MUST be brought before a court within a reasonable time and his detention authorised by a JUDGE” [who is independent in England and owes no allegiance to any politician though a judge is an instrument of "State"] .The proposed deviation from the enshrined human rights of all British citizens put forward by Mr Clarke put in jeopardy a fundamental freedom of all UK citizens that the House of Common's were content to undermine for the political expediency of being able to detain a suspected but unproven terrorist. The House of Lords however were not content to let the Terrorism Bill pass without modification and for that, if nothing else the British citizen is in their debt whether they realise it or not for one politicians “Terrorist” could indeed be another politician campaigning for “Human rights”; A Trade Unionist trying to bring about better working conditions or even an outspoken voice of dissent that is a variance with the ideals of a ruling politician. If the Bill had remained unchanged anyone could have been detained indefinitely and without trial.

This week it was reported that records containing details of twenty seven thousand crimes committed abroad had been “Sitting” on someone’s desk at the Home Office waiting to be added to the police national database. If the timescale of events is commensurate with the ire of the present Home Secretary then he would have the British people believe that it has only happened recently but it seems unlikely that even the most enterprising of the British criminal fraternity could have committed and been found guilty of twenty seven thousand crimes since John Reid took office. Furthermore it is equally unlikely that the “Empire builders” of the civil service would have kept it from any Minister incumbent or new to the office. The Civil service mandarins are required to submit yearly budgets for any work that is expected to be undertaken and it is beyond belief that they would have omitted the funding provision for such a large undertaking. That budget would have been seen and approved by the Minister responsible…John Reid. To maintain that he did not know of the problem is to admit that he did not do the job properly. He has been the Home Secretary since Charles Clarke was sacked in May, which means he has approved at least one Home Office budget.

The Home Office has expanded during the tenure of the present and previous administration and with that expansion has come an increased workload. The twenty seven thousand documents that should have been input to the National Police Database would have been time consuming to disseminate, collate and reconcile before final input could take place. The principal reason given for why it was not done was one of money, the civil service are adamant that funding for the task did not exist yet it must have been included into the budget so what happened to it? The Association of Chief police Officers [ACPO] wrote to the Home office in October 2006 expressing concerns about the update of this same database, the "enquiry" was dealt with by Home Office Minister Tony McNulty who passed it the junior Minister reponsible for updating the Criminal Database[Joan Ryan]Yet John Reid still maintains he had no knowledge of it.One might think that given the political sensitivity of failing to update the database the first person to be told would be the Home Secretary.

Before the story of the twenty seven thousand documents broke there was yet another scandal in the headlines connected to The Home Office, it concerned prisoners serving gaol sentences that could not be accounted for. It transpired that 793 prisoners had escaped, were missing or just walked out of our prisons. Neither, The Home Office or the Prisons could say exactly how many prisoners were missing or how many had been recaptured both maintained that no records were kept of such escapees. Later it was said that 401 of the 793 were back in gaol but neither the Home Secretary nor the Prisons had any idea where the remaining 292 were or what they had been doing since their escape. Just as the furore was settling on the startling admission that the Home Office nor its penal sub department kept no record of escapes it happened again, a prisoner escaped in a high profile bid for freedom from the back of an ambulance carrying a prisoner to hospital for treatment. Naturally the event was well reported in the press as was his recapture soon afterward but it did illustrate a point very well. If the police are aware of an escape they will do something about it……. if they do not know then they can’t. It would seem imperative that the National Criminal Database update is a priority that the Home Office cannot afford to ignore any longer and if, as it is thought that funding for the update is not available then the money must be found to do it. After all if there was, heaven forbid another war we would not say to the enemy “We simply have not got the cash today, can you attack next week”. It is that serious, the police wage a war against crime daily and they need the resources to do it. To withhold it is as negligent now as it has always been.  

That there would be a sacrificial scapegoat found to “Take the rap” for a political master so close to the inner sanctum of 10 Downing Street was not unexpected and the civil service has duly fallen upon its metaphorical sword. However, the present administration when it came to power held certain ideals to be targeted. The changeover from analogue broadcasting to digital, that every home in the country would have a computer and be “On line”, that everyone would have an identity card, that vehicle testing/certification/insurance/taxing/ownership details would all be done on line, that everyone’s details would be held on line including all National Health details that could be accessed by any doctor anywhere in the country, that TV licensing would all be done on line, that there would be a National Police Database to keep track of criminals and their activities together with DNA profiles, that immigration/emigration would hold a similar database exchange so that aliens could be monitored.
Their intent, to Joe citizen was control of a growing population, a population that was rapidly becoming uncontrollable by central government. The government faced with the rising wage bill and the unwieldy nature of the information they needed to access conjured with the mythical “Magic Bullet” of computer technology but failed to realise that where computers are concerned you can only retrieve that which has been input and thereby lies the one fault that the “Whitehall mafia” had overlooked.
Though several different computer systems held all of the information it was all on different systems and each system had its inherent failings. Whilst the idea of transferring everything onto one uniform system that could be accessed by many agencies simultaneously had merit where the merit fell down was that the principal owners had made very little provision for its implementation. There was no way that the records could be transferred to a different system which meant that all of the information held had to be verified, collated, reconciled and input to a new virgin system. It is as true for the National Criminal Database as it is for all of the other systems and it takes a great deal of time to set up.

The senior Civil Servant suspended for failing to comply with the wishes of his political masters maintains that the twenty seven thousand updates to the National Crime Database were not made because funding was not available to carry out the work. It is likely that the ensuing internal investigation by Civil Servants at the Home Office will confirm what has already been said but it is unlikely that the suspended senior Civil Servant will remain in post for political reasons that stretch all the way to the door of number 10 Downing Street.

JP.


Posted: January 16, 2007 



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