Crimes of which I have been a victim

by Eddie Fewings, Blackpool, Lancashire.

I operated a business called "Mac Tools": a mobile van sales/showroom of professional garage tools and equipment. I started trading in January 1992.

No-one ever broke into the van, which was fully alarmed and secure. Stock carried was worth around 25,000 net plus VAT.

The tool business involved giving credit and there was always a risk in giving credit to the public and business. As a result I suffered the usual bad debt problems associated in this type of business, and I also came across "con men".

Other franchisees and I had to be very careful. My customers always told me of crimes against them. The problems are getting worse and this is the reason for my informing you of the lengths the police go to in not investigating actual crimes.

It is the victims who really know what is going on.

My home in Blackpool was burgled three times around Christmas 1995. As a result, I made signifcant increases in home security. I fitted an alarm, put up railings to protect the rear of the property, and fitted security lights. I bricked up the back gate and sealed the rear windows.

Police logged the crime and a man admitted to my burglary and 500 other offences.

My pressure cleaner was stolen from my parents' home in Ansdell. The crime was logged but it took two days for an inspector to telephone my parents. He apologised for the delay. No statement was taken. The cleaner was never found.

In the Summer of 1996 a con man swindled me out of 2500 worth of goods. I reported this to Police but they said it was a civil matter. No statement was taken and no crime reference number was issued.

I had reported smaller value cons to the police before, but no statements had been taken or log numbers given. Due to the relatively small sums involved I did not pursue these crimes. I was under the false impression that there was nothing the Police could do.

In November 1999 a customer, Alan Rosser, was murdered at his workshop behind the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool. Police interviewed me, although I never signed a statement.

On appeal 3 kidnappers had their sentences upheld and one of the Appeal Judges stated, "There was concern that the police investigation of the scene had been inadequate. There was also grave concern in the prosecution camp as to whether it was possible to secure convictions against any of the defendants for anything."

On 11th November 1999 an offender stole 800 business takings locked in a steel filing cabinet in Blackpool, in broad daylight, ignoring the alarm and all security measures. I purchased a safe.

PC 680 Taylor, who was a real help, logged the crime. He took statements straight away and, as there was a witness, he took statements from him as well. The alleged offender was caught in Glasgow and brought back to Blackpool and given bail. He absconded and re-offended in the South Shore area, ransacking properties.

He was eventually caught and denied the theft, but admitted the break in. The trial date was set for October this year and as I was about to testify, the CPS informed me that the prosecution Barrister had failed to turn up and the trial was postponed.

The defendant then changed his plea to guilty as charged.

The police then telephoned me to say "Come to court tomorrow - the case is still on". I had a letter from the police to say the defendant had pleaded guilty and therefore I said there must be a mistake. However the person on the other end (Criminal Justice Department, Blackpool Police) was adamant that the case was to be heard the next day in court. She said I could complain if I was not happy. They wanted me to attend with twelve hours notice. This was after having the trial postponed because the prosecution barrister did not turn up. I had a business trip the next day. I did not attend and so the offender got away with it. This was a ruse to stop me giving evidence...it worked a treat. We already have trial without jury in this county. I hope it is not nationwide yet.

In February 2000 thieves stole equipment and tools from my garage in Blackpool. The crime was logged and PC Nolan Phillips took photos of the goods, which I had previously used to sell the items, from me. I made no statement.

On the Friday following the theft, a customer came forward with information. He said that the previous night two heroin addict brothers (who had recently served a custodial sentence for, among other things, robbing automotive business premises of tools and equipment) had come round to his house touting, "Mac tools for sale, any offers?" One of the items they offered matched one of the items stolen from me.

I phoned the Police and eventually Sergeant Banks Lyons spoke to me and was unhelpful and rude. She agreed, reluctantly, to visit me at my home the following morning.

She never turned up, and after seeking legal advice , I made a complaint to Acting Inspector Needham about the conduct of Banks Lyons. She denied the charge and I signed off the complaint. I made an effort not to waste the Inspector's time and went to see him straight away when he asked me.

No statement was ever taken about the robbery and the witness was never contacted. The witness told me he was willing to make a statement to the police.

By the time I came to see Inspector Needham, Spring had come.

I went to see RJ Taylor at his office in Blackpool. He allayed my fears partly and, as I was planning on selling my business and moving on I put everything down to experience.

He kept telling me that the alleged robber had denied the charge of theft. RJ Taylor mentioned this more than once.

Then my son became a victim of a heinous crime. Again the Police actions were incorrect.

I have been in touch with the Reform group in St. Anne's. Miss Fallon, of Reform, and Dr Cohen, a friend from the South Shore Action Group, are victims of crime who have been let down by the Police. Another member of Reform lives near me, and his story of Police corrupt practices is appalling.

The common denominator is that the complaints procedure is being abused from the top down. Sir Alistair Graham, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority and Chief Constable of Lancashire, encourages the culture of Police unaccountability. It is time for a new broom to sweep away the present Police complaints culture and replace it with a fair one.

If a Chief Constable has the will to fight crime then, with an open and honest complaints system in force, he can achieve his objective.

There are lies, damned lies and statistics. Anyone can fiddle figures to make the situation seem better than it is. Fiddling complaint statistics is a damned lie.

We have rights in this country and all we want are those rights matched by responsibilities.

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