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U.S. Police Again Exceed Their Authority.

Posted on 24th April 2022

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The incident shown in this YouTube video, from 29th September 2019, is yet another example of American police officers seriously exceeding their authority.

The man arrested, Michael Franchek, and his son, both knew their rights, repeatedly stated those rights to police officers, and complied with all legal requests and orders from the police, but it did them no good. The police officers illegally entered the house without a warrant, tased Mr. Franchek without adequate cause, roughly handcuffed him and arrested him, when no crime had been committed, with no grounds for believing that a crime had been committed.

Some of the footage in the video is from police body-cams, and some was taken by Mr. Franchek's son; one of the officer's body-cams fell off during the incident because of that officer's own violence. At least it is legal to video the police in the U.S., whereas here in Germany it is against the law.

Thankfully, two of the officers have now been fired, and a civil lawsuit is also in progress. Mr. Franchek will, however have to face criminal charges in a trial on 20th May 2022, according to this report on KPCW.

All this just goes to show that one's rights are worth nothing when dealing with the police.

At least in this case, the responsibility delegated to the police seems to fairly closely match the authority that they were delegated - i.e. they were made to answer for their illegal behaviour, unlike in this case.

Why Are US Police Not Responsible?

Posted on 8th April 2022

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This article on the BBC reports of the recent decision by prosecutors in Minneapolis to file no charges against any of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Amir Locke, who was killed during the execution of another of these no-knock warrants (similar to the shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky).

We should all be very worried by this decision. What it means is that police officers are neither responsible nor answerable for their actions, or for any lack of action.

Responsibility and answerability are at the very core of people management. In order to safely and effectively delegate tasks to subordinates, it is essential that the appropriate levels of responsibility and answerability are delegated, along with the actual task, and that matching levels of authority are likewise delegated.

Often, in jobs other than law enforcement, the problem with such delegation is that insufficient authority to do the task is delegated. In the case of police officers, particularly in the USA, it seems that their authority far exceeds the level of responsibility and answerability that comes with that delegation of tasks; the carrying of guns by by those police officers is the most obvious evidence of the scale of the authority that they are given, but there are many other ways in which they have huge authority.

The bottom line is that, in the case of police officers, either the level of responsibility and answerability must be increased to match the level of authority, or the level of authority be decreased to match the level of responsibility and answerability (e.g. by taking away their guns).

At the root of this problem is a failure of management by the people in charge of law enforcement: senior officers and government. If the officers involved in cases like Amir Locke's and Breonna Taylor's are not considered to be responsible for the consequences of their actions, then those in charge must be held accountable, otherwise there the police force is nothing more than a bunch of armed vigilantes.

The current situation cannot be allowed to stand.

This Judge Presides Over Dreadful Injustices.

Posted on 15th October 2021

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I found this story on Pro Publica thoroughly shocking.

The story revolves around Judge Donna Scott Davenport, a judge in Rutherford County, Tennessee.

Judge Davenport created a process to decide whether children should be detained in the local juvenile detention center; she also happens to be the director of that detention center. This decision making process was ruled illegal by a federal judge in 2017, and it was ordered to end, although it seems that it is still being used. In 2014, among cases referred to juvenile court, Rutherford County locked up children in 48% of its cases, whereas the statewide average was 5%!

The shit has recently hit the fan, due to a case where police arrested four black girls at an elementary school in 2016. The officers handcuffed two of the girls, including the youngest, an 8-year-old. The kids were accused of watching some boys fight and not stepping in. They were charged with “criminal responsibility for conduct of another,” which is not an actual crime. All the charges were later dismissed.

Due to the recent investigations, it has emerged that Judge Davenport lied about (or at least seriously exaggerated) her experience "in law enforcement". This is relevant because such judges are elected, not appointed. Another result is that the Middle Tennessee State University has broken all ties with the judge.

I find so many things worrying about this saga. After the publicity, she seems unlikely to be re-elected, but I feel that she should be removed from her position immediately, before she ruins anyone else's life.

South Carolina Legalises Execution By Firing Squad.

Posted on 11th May 2021

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It seems that the USA is intent on moving further away from civilized norms.

This video report on The Young Turks seems to focus a lot of how the reporters at Fox News seem to be celebrating the reintroduction of execution by firing squad, but also thoroughly makes the case against the death penalty.

The case is simple. Innocent people get executed, because of mistakes in the legal system: 185 Innocent people have been executed in the US since the death penalty was reintroduced in the 1970s, which is 1 in every 8.3 people, or 12%! Those 185 people are only the ones that are currently known about. I would argue that even even one innocent person being executed is too many.

Much of the world has already stopped executing convicted criminals, but the US is swimming against the tide. I suppose that is what we should expect from a rogue nation.

More than just a few "bad cops" in Buffalo PD

Posted on 11th June 2020

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This report by the BBC shows just how difficult it will be to reform policing in the USA.

By now most people will have seen the video of the peaceful 75-year-old protester, Martin Gugino, being pushed to the ground by the police in Buffalo (if you haven't seen the video, it is in the BBC report). Mr. Gugino was seriously injured (the video shows a large pool of blood forming on the pavement from a head wound), and was taken to hospital. Once the video came out, the two officers involved were suspended.

The main point of the BBC article is that the 57 remaining officers in the Buffalo tactical unit have resigned from the tactical unit (they haven't resigned from the police force) in support of their suspended colleagues. That is despite the video evidence, which shows that Martin Gugino acted in a peaceful and non-threatening manner, and that the police brutality was totally unjustified.

This is a case where the well known rule applies: if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. In effect, they are trying to blackmail the police department into allowing criminal police brutality. They seem to want to remain members of the police, but the world doesn't need officers like them; they should be fired.

Students fined for stealing supermarket waste!

Posted on 20th November 2019

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I was shocked and outraged by this recent news story on the BBC.

Two students in Olching, near Munich, were caught by police, taking waste food from bins outside of a supermarket. The police made them put the food back, and they were subsequently fined.

At root is the question of what constitutes property. The court insisted that, even though the waste food was destined for disposal, it is still the property of the Edeka supermarket (the same chain as the one we shop at in Haidhausen), and that taking it therefore constitutes theft.

The thing is, Edeka pays for the food to be taken away, so it doesn't just have zero value, it has negative value (i.e. it is a liability). In my opinion, anything that has a value of zero or less cannot be considered property, unless it has some sentimental value, and the students were doing the supermarket a favour by taking it.

There is also a discussion in the news piece of the enormous problem of food waste: about 30% of all food for human consumption is thrown away, and no-one seems to know what to do with it. For an answer, maybe people should look to Britain during the second world war. Imports were few and far between, food was rationed, and people were encouraged to grow vegetable, to keep livestock (chickens and pigs) fed on waste food, and to feed pets on waste food. My grandfather did all of those things during the war, and continued to keep chickens until the day he died.

I understand that many people nowadays live in apartments rather than houses, and thus have no gardens, but our apartment building has room for a chicken coop, and there could aalso be municipal gardens/farms dotted around cities, where people could take their waste food. I, for one, would be more than happy to take a walk to such a site, every couple of days, to recycle food waste.

Police “Did Their Job”?

Posted on 13th November 2018

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This story from the BBC, about a security guard at a bar in the Chicago suburbs being shot by police, is shocking enough.

There was gunfire at the bar, in the early hours of the morning, and the brave Mr. Roberson did more than his job by chasing down the attacker. When the police arrived, Jemel Roberson had the shooter on the ground, kneeling on his back, with his own licensed gun in his hand. Within seconds of the police arriving (i.e. without taking time to ascertain the facts) they had shot and killed the security guard (who, amazingly, happened to be black).

What really shocked me, though, was this statement by witness Adam Harris: "Everybody was screaming out 'security, he was a security guard'", Mr Harris added, "and they still did their job and saw a black man with a gun and basically killed him". So, Mr. Harris, and presumably many more Americans, believe that the job of the police is to shoot black people (or at least those with guns).

Mr. Harris will probably claim that he misspoke, or his words have been misquoted or taken out of context, but I feel that, whether intentionally or not, his words contain truth.

How will we ever stop the killing of black people by the US police, when, deep down, US citizens feel that the job of the police is precisely that?

These Customs Agents Are Thieves!

Posted on 5th June 2018

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This story on the Washington Post is shocking.

Rustem Kazazi, a US citizen, was on his way to his country of birth, Albania, hoping to invest his life savings ($58,000) in a holiday home. He took the money with him in cash, because of concerns about high levels of crime in Albania. According to the Washington Post: "On Oct. 24, Kazazi arrived at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport [Ohio]to begin the first leg of his journey, which would take him to Newark to connect with an international flight. He carried the cash in three counted and labeled bundles in his carry-on bag, he said, along with receipts from recent bank withdrawals and documentation pertaining to his family's property in Tirana, the Albanian capital". He intended to file papers about the cash he was taking out of the USA, in Newark (the airport from which he was to leave the USA), in full compliance with the law.

In short, Mr. Kazazi did nothing wrong (apart from not being very good in English, when questioned by the customs agents questioned him): “They asked me some questions, which I could not understand as they spoke too quickly... I asked them for an interpreter and asked to call my family, but they denied my request”. Nevertheless, his cash was confiscated through a "process known as civil asset forfeiture, a law enforcement technique that allows authorities to take cash and property from people who are never convicted or even charged with a crime". In 2017, federal authorities seized assets worth more than $2 billion through such seizures.

The initial receipt that the customs agents gave Mr. Kazazi at the airport did no specify the value of the cash they confiscated. More than a month later, another receipt arrived, but the sum it listed was $770 less than the sum taken. Since the cash was all in $100 bills, it is impossible for the total to be $57,330.

So now, understandably Mr. Kazazi is suing to get his money back.

I think that I would probably take a different approach. This seems to be a clear and simple case of theft. The money was taken without any legal justification, as proven by the absence of any charges against Mr. Kazazi, and the amount on the receipt does not match the sum confiscated. I make that two separate counts of theft. Criminal charges should be brought.

In the primary case of the confiscation, the agents were either acting unofficially, or they were acting under the authority of the federal government. I therefore believe that the agents should be charged individually, and the federal government should also be charged. Regarding the issue of the mismatching amounts, the agents seem to be acting privately, and should be charged as such.

This kind of abuse of the law needs to be stamped out, hard.

UK Home Office Goes Deportation-Crazy!

Posted on 26th August 2017

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It seems that the UK Home Office has gone deportation-crazy in the last few months, as described in this piece from the Financial Times.

It first came to my attention with the story about Eva Johanna Holmberg, a Finn who specialises in early modern British history, studying at Queen Mary College, University of London, who posted details of her deportation warning last week. The warning stated that a decision had been taken to remove her from the UK in accordance with section 10 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. It turns out that the Home Office sent out about 100 such letters "in error", including to Dr. Leonardo Fasano (whose case is described in this BBC news article), who moved to the UK two years ago from Taranto, Italy, and last week received a letter from the Home Office informing him he had one month to leave.

Then, this morning, I read (here, on the BBC) about Irene Clennell, who has finally been allowed to return to the UK to be reunited with her husband of 27 years, after being deported in February this year. She was deported despite her long-term marriage to a British citizen, having lived in the UK for 30 years, being the main carer for her sick husband, and the two children and one grandchild she has living in the UK.

It seems that most of these cases are just due to clerical error. Irene Clennell's case, however, is a different matter. The Home Office has a bizarre rule that visa applications (at least for her type of visa) must be applied for from outside of the country (the UK is not alone in this - I experienced the same bureaucratic nonsense in Indonesia). That means that if you enter the UK on a visitor's visa, and then decide to stay (for example because you married a Brit), you have to leave, apply for a visa, and re-enter once you have your visa; this is something that not all people can afford. It is high-time that this rule was relaxed, by defining some standard exemptions.

I hope that someone sues the Home Office for the stress that they have caused to these victims of their callousness and carelessness.

US Cop Shoots Dogs!

Posted on 6th August 2017

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This video report from the BBC, from a few weeks ago, in which a Minneapolis police officer shoots two dogs, raises many concerns about policing in the USA.

The sound of the body-cam was bizarrely not working (or has been censored) until after the shots were fired, which makes it impossible to substantiate the officer's claims that the dogs growled at him; it would not be surprising for dogs to protect their territory by at least growling, but the videos (both the officer's body-cam and the dog-owner's security CCTV) clearly show the dogs wagging their tails.

The officer then tells his partner, over the radio, that he has "dispatched" (which means "killed") both of the dogs. When his colleague then says that at least one dog is still alive, he says "I know. I know." To become a US citizen, one needs to pass a test of one's English; apparently the same is not true to become a Minneapolis police officer.

To finish off this odd series of events, the offending officer then exits the back yard where the shooting occurred by climbing over the fence, as if he was hoping that his presence would not have been noticed.

Later, in more conventional policing, the office knocks (or rings) at the front door, to be greeted by the dogs' distraught owner (who complains of having blood all over the house) and tells her that he "loves dogs". If he loves dogs, how is it that he can't tell the difference between an aggressive and a friendly/curious beast.

All this happened because the woman entered the wrong security code on her house alarm. At least, both the dogs survived, but maybe the next time they see a police officer, they will attack first and ask questions later; the responsibility for any such attack will rest at least partly on this trigger-happy officer.

At least it is good to have evidence that the US police are not prejudiced: they don't just shoot unarmed black teenagers; they also shoot dogs, black and white!

Maybe, just maybe, there is a connection between this incident and the misunderstanding highlighted in this post.

What Is Wrong With Pakistan?

Posted on 1st August 2017

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This report on the BBC really highlights what is wrong in Pakistan.

A 12-year-old girl was raped, and "a jirga [village council] [...] ordered the rape of a 16-year-old girl [a member of the original rapist's family] as punishment". The police have, at least, now registered a complaint against 25 people for this outrageous act.

This kind of failure of the rule of law is endemic in Pakistan. There are attacks and murders on the street for supposed acts of blasphemy, there are lawless areas in the north ruled by the Taliban or by local tribal leaders. There was the murder of 141 people, 132 of them children, at an army-run school in Peshawar, in 2014. There are constant accusations of official Pakistani support of terrorism in Kashmir.

A very good friend of mine worked for 6 months in Pakistan, and tells me that it is a wonderful place, and the people are very friendly, but the fact remains that it is a dangerous place to be, both for locals and visitors; this danger is limiting the amount of foreign investment, and the amount of international trade, and impacting the lives of Pakistani citizens. The economy will never really climb out of the hole it is in, until this problem is fixed.

How Can This Be Legal?

Posted on 31st July 2017

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I am completely gob-smacked by the situation these three drivers (Julian Wilson, David Bentley and Adrian Harrold. as reported by the BBC) are in.

It seems that the trio were taking part in the Cannon Run, a road rally across several European countries, and were arrested on the 4th June for "minor motoring offences". They are still in custody, and have so far not been charged. At least one of the cars has been confiscated.

How is it even legal for them to still be in custody without charge, whatever the offences they are suspected of, after 8 weeks? In most western countries, police have a limit on how long they can hold someone without charge: 48 hours is a typical limit, except in the case of terrorism offences, where they may usually be held longer (but even so, not usually for 8 weeks). In most civilised places, even murderers are treated better!

I have always thought that Switzerland was a country with a well developed law enforcement system, and where people's rights were well protected. It seems, however, that this is not really the case. In the UK, a lawyer would have long since secured the release of the suspects. Since the UK Foreign Office is providing assistance to the three drivers, I must assume that they do have a lawyer, meaning that the problem must lie with the suspects' right under Swiss Law.

Unlock The iPhones

Posted on 5th May 2017

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I totally agree with the Florida judge in the case reported here, by the BBC.

"Reality TV star Hencha Voigt and former boyfriend, Wesley Victor, are accused of threatening to release explicit images of social media star Julieanna Goddard unless she paid a ransom."

Their iPhones are suspected not only to contain the material used for the blackmail, but were used in the commission of that blackmail (to send the blackmailing messages). As such they are material evidence in the case.

The accused have pleaded the 5th Amendment (the right to refuse to incriminate themselves), but the judge is having none of it, and has ordered them to divulge their passwords. "For me, this is like turning over a key to a safety deposit box," he said on Wednesday. Good for him!

If he had let the 5th Amendment defence stand, it would have weakened the rights of law enforcement to seize evidence of all kinds: safes, bank account statements, documents, etc. which would have put law enforcement on a slippery slope.

Just to be clear, cases like this are not the same as US customs and immigration demanding to search phones and laptops when people are entering the USA. Searches at borders are not based on any evidence nor related to any law enforcement cases, and are therefore totally unjust.

Victims Have No Rights!

Posted on 5th May 2017

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There is really rather a lot in this BBC news report that is shocking, worrying or just downright confusing.

It turns out that surprisingly large numbers of people are arrested in the USA every year under material witness warrants, because the police want them to give evidence against someone, and are concerned that they may not turn up at court to do so, if not forced. In just one parish, Orleans Parish, there were at least 30 cases last year in which material witness warrants were issued; this is according to a local non-profit justice watchdog, Court Watch NOLA, because the District Attorneys (prosecutors) office does not keep records of these warrants.

We are not talking about just one night in jail, as typically people held under these warrants are held for days. This seems excessive.

In the aftermath of 9/11 material witness warrants were used as a way to detain suspects without "probable cause": at least 70 men were held as material witnesses in the aftermath of the attacks while the Justice Department looked for evidence; a third of them were in prison for more than two months, some for more than six months, and one witness detainee spent more than a year in prison.

What makes this situation even more scary is that people detained under material witness warrants do not have the usual "Miranda" rights: e.g. the right to a phone call, a lawyer (or a public defender) and the right to a prompt appearance before a judge.

In the example case with which the news story leads, Marc Mitchell was arrested without being given a reason or charge on which he was being arrested. This is something that I thought people had a legal right to be told, but maybe I am wrong. If they don't have such a right, then they should have.

Another thing that concerns me is the embarrassment that the police cause to the people whom they arrest under these warrants, partly because they do not even seem to know why they are arresting these people. Marc Mitchell could easily have lost his job, after being taken away in handcuffs in front of his colleagues and customers. I hope that he has the sense to sue for the damage to his reputation.

The icing on the cake is that these material witnesses are then usually incarcerated in the same jails as the people against whom they are to give evidence, putting them and their families in danger of retaliation and blackmail.

What really surprises me is that it seems that, under US law, witnesses have no legal right to refuse to testify if it puts their life in danger. The USA has the 5th Amendment to The Constitution, giving witnesses and defendants the right to refuse to incriminate themselves, but no right to refuse to ensure their safety. I strongly feel that this is a right that is needed, and that probably an additional constitutional amendment is urgently called for.

Suspended Sentences For Rapists!

Posted on 28th October 2016

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I was really incensed by this story from the BBC. Almost every paragraph of the report contains something that is outrageous and unacceptable.

Three juveniles (aged 14, 16, and 17) were given suspended sentences by a court in Hamburg, Germany, for the rape of a 14 year-old girl. The 21 year-old who also took part in the rape was given a mere 4 years jail sentence. The victim was left lying on the ground in sub-zero temperatures, and was hypothermic when found; she was rushed to intensive care, and is lucky to still be alive.

The issues that I have with this case include:

  • Why weren't the perpetrators charged with attempted murder, given that their intention seemed to be for her to die?
  • The judge's reason for giving such light sentences was that the rapists had shown remorse. It is notoriously difficult to tell if professed remorse is genuine, and it should really be backed up by a psychologist's report, but there is no mention of any such report, and I suspect there was none; bear in mind that many German courts have no jury, and decisions about guilt and sentencing are often made by just the judge (or a panel of three judges). Even so, the crime was far too serious and violent for suspended sentences to be appropriate, even for truly remorseful offenders.
  • There is no mention of charges or punishment for the rapists' accomplice: the girl who filmed the rape. She also deserves at least some punishment.

The case has rightly sparked public outrage in Germany, and a petition is being raised, and has collected almost 90,000 signatures in the space of a week. The prosecution has also appealed the sentences.

There is mention of the recent (July 2016) change in the rape law on Germany. Before the latest amendment, rape was only deemed to have occurred if the victim had physically defended themselves, meaning that rapes of unconscious (due to alcohol, drugs or other reasons) or seriously physically disabled people were not prosecuted. Thank goodness that the law is now more in line with internationally recognised standards.

There is also a passing reference to a case earlier this year in the USA, where Brock Turner, a 20 year-old student, received a four month sentence for assaulting an unconscious woman. Brock Turner's father stated that his son should not be jailed for "20 minutes of action". What a bizarre argument. How long it took has no relationship to the seriousness of the crime. It is, for example, possible to murder someone in a mere 2 seconds, and to steal someone's life-savings in a few minutes.

Videos Of Police Breaking The Law

Posted on 3rd October 2015

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I tried very hard to be shocked when reading this BBC report; it didn't work; this is, after all Brazil where such violations are common, if not exactly normal.

Thank goodness that a member of the public had the presence of mind to video the police planting a gun in the dead teenager’s hand. Without such hard evidence, the authorities would have been able to use the "your word against mine" defence.

It did remind me that, here in Germany, it is against the law to knowingly video police in the execution of their duties. Given the way German law is enforced, any citizen presenting such a video as evidence of police malpractice would probably be charged (as well as the offending officers). The existence of this law in Germany embodies a huge assumption: that the main priority can be on protecting the rights, privacy and security of the police, because "we know that they would never break the law", so the rights, privacy and security of the public do not need the added protection of videoing of the police. Whilst this is probably close to true now, can we assume that it will always be true? As a member of the public, I think I would feel safer knowing that videos of police are legal, and can be used for my protection.

Law Enforcement Differences Between Britain And The USA

Posted on 23rd August 2015

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This BBC report gives me some hope: it shows that Britain has not yet become completely like the USA.

The report describes am incident in Clapham South (a suburb of South London) in which a man was shot by police. The key differences that struck me are:

  • The initial police visit was by unarmed officers, and when a problem was identified which might require armed officers, they had to be sent for (pretty much all police are armed in America);
  • There is no suggestion (at least so far) that inappropriate force was used by the police (every case of police shooting a suspect in the USA seems to result in accusations of police violence);
  • There is no mention, nor even a clue, of the person's ethnicity (in the USA you usually know).

My only concern is, how are we supposed to know if the police used inappropriate levels of force of we don't know whether the suspect was black or not?

Police Nonsense About Animal Cruelty

Posted on 8th May 2016

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Do the police in Britain really think that people are so stupid? This story in the Independent reports that the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) believes that “a government agency would be better equipped to take on the role” of prosecuting animal cruelty cases. Currently the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) prosecutes 80% of all animal cruelty cases.

Well here’s my take on the situation. The police are perfectly able to prosecute animal cruelty cases, so why don’t they do so more often. The public are bound to assume that the reason is that the police don’t care enough about animal cruelty. The police might rightly argue that they have other priorities, so why prevent the RSPCA from doing it.

What I suggest is that the RSPCA be allowed to continue doing an excellent job protecting animals, a subject dear to the hearts of most Brits, and the police work on convincing us that they can do the job just as well (or even better). When the police prosecutions are above 50% of all animal cruelty cases, then we can revisit the matter. In the meantime, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”!