Tuesday 27 September 2005

Investigation accuses Newham Council of creating private police force

A major investigation by Newham Council into its own "Community Constabulary", following allegations of unlawful stop and search, institutional racism, and carrying of offensive weapons, has found that it has developed “without scrutiny and taken on a quasi-policing role without the Council having taken formal decisions about its direction and how it should operate" As a result, “the Constabulary has begun to function more like a private police force than a council service”

Mayor Sir Robin Wales in January 2005 described the council’s Community Constabulary as “the backbone of Newham Council’s fight against crime and anti-social behaviour”. Set up in 1998 as a Parks Constabulary, the team of Community Constables are now part of the borough's Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour Division and the role of its staff has been expanded from parks to include breaches of bye-laws on issues like graffiti, abandoned cars and fly-tipping.

However, the investigation report that followed complaints by Mike Law, councillor for Royal Docks ward in Canning Town, and a number of council staff members has revealed a host of highly damaging concerns about the growth of the Community Constabulary. The report reveals:

  • That since a review of the Parks Constabulary in 2002, no decisions about the Community Constabulary have been made by elected councillors but instead have been made by undocumented “instructions” from the Mayor, in breach of the Council’s Constitution.
  • That Newham council has not taken any legal advice, either internally or externally, on the powers of its Constabulary and has allowed Community Constables to wrongly think of themselves as police officers. Some have even (almost certainly illegally) appeared on the street sporting the word “police” on their uniforms. The report notes that the Constabulary “seems to have moved into this ‘policing role’ without considering the Council’s powers, the appropriateness of such a role and a number of other relevant factors. In short, it has drifted into a situation where there is a considerable amount of ambiguity over what the Constabulary is actually doing.”
  • That this worrying drift towards the exercise of legal powers that Community Constables do not posess is reflected in responses to complaints about noise, where officers have been “threatening to seize equipment, given warnings to people and made judgements on noise levels. Constabulary officers have no powers to warn or seize equipment and are not qualified to make judgements on statutory noise nuisance.”
  • That some Community Constables have carried extendable batons against the instructions of management
  • That there is an “extremely serious” lack of confidence by employees in their management and that “a significant number of staff perceive management as being bullying”. This has been coupled with an “almost total absence of management systems and procedures”, a culture of favouritism and allegations of racism.

The report also raises concerns from anecdotal evidence of stop and search operations – including that some police officers have concerns about vehicles being stopped - and also of a stop and search book where the names of those stopped are recorded. Management have denied that a stop and search book ever existed but some staff have indicated that it has “disappeared”.

The Community Constabulary received almost £1.4 million in Neighbourhood Renewal funding but is clearly in disarray. Councillors wouldn't know this from a raher more upbeat summary circulated to them by Chief Executive Dave Burbage on 20 September.

The report is expected to be discussed in October but the full version is unlikely to be made available to the public.

Radical Activist Newham has obtained a copy, however, which can be downloaded in Word format here.

Thursday 22 September 2005

The Misuse of Asbos

Newham Council proudly announced on Tuesday that an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (Asbo) has been imposed on a youth from Custom House for throwing a stone at a bus, smashing its window and shattering the glass over a female passenger, as well as involvement in car crime and threatening people on more than one occasion.

However, these actions are all criminal offences. Specifically, the youth has been prohibited under the order from "throwing or threatening to throw any missile at a person, property or vehicle anywhere in the Greater London area" - but this would be a criminal offence too.

So why weren't criminal charges brought and why wouldn't they be in the future?

Perhaps it is because Asbos are imposed under civil law, with a lower burden of proof. They can be made solely on the basis of hearsay evidence and legal niceties like having a defence counsel are done away with. Civil law standards also apply to breaches of an Asbo once it has been applied, but breaching an Asbo is a criminal offence and would result in a detention and training order for up to 24 months, of which 12 months could be custodial and 12 months in the community.

There is little evidence that Asbos actually work and Home Office figures show that more than 40% have been breached.

For more information on Asbos, see Asbo Concern's

Wednesday 21 September 2005

Volunteers needed for Saturday's 'Peace and Liberty' March

Saturday 24 September, Parliament Square SW1

Stop the War Coalition, the Muslim Association of Britain and CND are calling opponents of the war in Iraq out onto the streets once again for the March for Peace and Liberty on Saturday 24 September.

March against war 15 February 2003The march begins in Parliament Square at 12 noon, ending in Hyde Park.

Activists from
Newham Monitoring Project will be meeting in the north-east corner of Parliament Square at noon, close to the exit from Westminster tube. They will be distributing leaflets for the Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign and collecting signatures for petitions for the 10 former Belmarsh detainees arrested and imprisoned on 11th August, who face deportation to countries where they will face death or torture.

If you can volunteer to help, contact Estelle on 020 8555 8151 or e-mail

Piccadilly Circus on that magnificant day marching in London, 15 February 2003

Olympic Scratch Cards Raise £2m in Two Months - Target Should be Reached by December 2067

The BBC has an item on its website today about the announcement that since July, more than £2 million has been raised through Lottery Scratch Cards towards a £750 million National Lottery target to help fund the 2012 Olympics.

Dianne Thompson, chief executive of lottery operator Camelot, is quoted as saying "sales are well over £1m a week and £2m has already been raised towards the £750m - £2m down and £748m to go".

A million quid a month sounds impressive, until you get out a calculator and work out that at that rate, it will take 62.5 years to raise £750 million.

The only way that the Lottery can possibly reach its target is to raid funds that would usually go towards 'good causes', meaning it will be voluntary groups and community projects that will suffer.

Tuesday 20 September 2005

Public Walk Out in Disgust as Newham Council Refuses Debate on Queens Market

Public Meeting, 20 September, Forest Gate E7

A quick reportback from this evening's public meeting of the Green Street Community Forum, which descended into chaos as almost the entire audience walked out because Newham councillors refused to allow discussion on the future of Queens Market.

The Forum, one of a number of consultation bodies across the borough, agreed earlier in the summer to hold a public meeting on the proposed development of Queens Market in Upton Park. By the time a date had been set, this meeting had been expanded to include other issues covered by the council's Public Realm department but this was accepted by the Forum steering group because the future of the Market is clearly a major issue for both the council and the local community. On 15th September, steering group members were asked what questions they would like to see answered in the public meeting and made it very clear that Queens Market would form an important part of the event.

However, having indicated earlier in the day that she may not attend at all, Cllr June Leitch, who leads on the Queens Market development for Mayor Sir Robin Wales, showed up at the public meeting and flatly refused to answer any questions on the Market, although she was willing to talk about other issues. In doing so, she showed complete contempt for the wishes of the steering group and local people, most of whom therefore decided to walk out in disgust.

One of the main aims of the Green Street Community Forum is to coordinate the local expression of views, particularly on major regeneration projects. However, the Chair of the Forum, Cllr Harvinder Virdee, accepted and defended his fellow councillor's disgraceful behaviour, leaving the overwhelming impression that Newham's Labour councillors are concerned only with protecting their political allies, rather than with encouraging public debate.

Newham Council is now severely rattled by the briiliant campaign run by Friends of Queens Market, which needs the active support of radical activists in the borough. The campaign can be contacted on
020 8418 0927 or by e-mail at friendsofqueensmarket@yahoo.co.uk

Messages of opposition to the destruction of the Market and complaints about the conduct of Cllr Leitch should be directed to mayor@newham.gov.uk

Newham Monitoring Project 25th Anniversary AGM

Tuesday 27 September, 7pm, Stratford E15

The campaigning anti-racist group
Newham Monitoring Project marks its 25th year on Tuesday 27th September with its Annual General Meeting in the hall at St John's Church (on the Broadway in the centre of Stratford outside of the shopping centre - see map below).

The meeting will include speakers from a number of those that NMP has worked with over the last year, including the wife of one of the former Belmarch detainees currently imprisoned and facing deportation to Algeria.

Everyone who supports the valuable work that the Project has carried out since 1980 is most welcome
from 7pm to 9pm.

To confirm attendance, e-mail Raksha at NMP at

Sunday 18 September 2005

Olympic costs "deliberately under-estimated or disguised"

Today's Observer reports that a leaked letter from a senior civil servant to Ken Livingstone pledges £1 billion of government money that ministers had not previously revealed, whilst "London 2012 sources admit privately that some of the costs of staging the world's biggest sporting event were deliberately under-estimated or disguised during the bid process."

Opponents of the Olympic bid warned that the finances of hosting the Games in London were pure fantasy, but few can have expected the lies that were told to have started to unravel so quickly.

Organisers of the NoLondon2012 campaign will shortly launch a new website, London Olympic Watch, that will chronicle what east London campaigners fear will be a re-run of last year's financially disastrous Athens Olympics.

A PDF of the Observer article can be downloaded here

Friday 16 September 2005

Make Property Developers History

Public Meeting, 20 September, Forest Gate E7

Property developers selected by Newham Council to take on the lease of Queens Market in Upton Park were forced to endure a grilling from the steering group of Green Street Community Forum last night.

St Modwens have been given the task of transforming the market from a lively centre of the community into a soulless corporate shopping centre, complete with an superstore for their favoured commercial partners Asda. The problem they and the council face is that local people are not just unhappy about their plans - increasingly, questions are being raised about the very idea of 'regenerating' an area by handing it over to property developers.

Unable to get straight answers from Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales, campaigners presented a petition of 12,000 signatures to Ken Livingstone at City Hall on Wednesday (see photo above)

The chance to interrogate Cllr June Leitch, Sir Robin Wales' representative on the Queens Market development, looks like it will be even more lively than yesterday's discussions. Radical activists in Newham should therefore try and get along to

Green Street Community Forum Public Meeting
Tuesday 20 September, 6.30pm
Katherine Rd Community Centre
254 Katherine Rd, London E7

Friday 9 September 2005

Take Action Against the DSEi Arms Fair

10 - 14 September, Custom House E16

Local protests against the DSEi Arms Fair at the ExCel Centre in Custom House include:

Saturday 10 September
- Musical protest
2-4pm outside ExCel Centre, Custom House DLR station. Organised by East London Against the Arms Fair.

Saturday 10 September
- Beat the Bombers, Party for Peace
Meet 1pm outside Royal Albert DLR station. Phone 07 903 812 190 or see Disarm Trade website

Monday 12 September - Silent Candle Light Procession

6.30pm, Tidal Basin Road, next to ExCel Centre (Royal Victoria DLR station). Organised by local churches in east London.

Tuesday 13 September -
Mass demonstration against DSEi arms fair.
Assemble 12noon, East Ham Central Park and march to the ExCel Centre. Organised by Campaign Against the Arms Trade

Tuesday 13 September - Diaper DSEi Baby Bloc

11am Custom House Station. Protest for parents and children.

Wednesday 14 September - Destroy the Arms Trade Day of Action

Blockade of the ExCeL Centre by road and rail. Mass public action: occupy Custom House station, 11am sharp! See Destroy DSEi website

Random Blowe | Original articles licensed under a Creative Commons License.