On The Beat with Inspector Jim Tyner
Many people think that when the police turn up and arrest someone, that’s an end to it. Actually, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it isn’t the end. It isn’t even the beginning of the end. It is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Tom is one of our uniformed investigators. He’s a police officer, but he isn’t part of our emergency response teams and you won’t usually see him on patrol. Tom’s work is vital but is hidden behind the scenes.
One Sunday morning, not too long ago, Tom was on his way to work at Spalding Police Station. In his mind he was planning his day. Tom had 14 investigations on his workload and some of them needed witness statements.
Sunday was a good day to visit witnesses at home and get those statements. Today was a good day: Tom had been off late for the past three days, but today he was working 8am to 4pm and his favourite TV programme was on the TV that night. He would never admit it to his colleagues, but he loved ‘Sherlock’.
All Tom’s plans changed when he arrived at work. Four men had been arrested for fighting during the night and Tom had been allocated to investigate.
First Tom phoned the custody suite at Boston. All four men were at various stages of the ‘morning after’ effects of being drunk. Two of the men were Lithuanian and two were Polish, so Tom arranged for interpreters to meet him at Boston and arranged for solicitors for those that wanted them.
Next Tom reviewed the handover report and started to put together the jigsaw of what had happened: the men had been arrested at 3am for fighting in Westlode St.
Each one had been arrested by a different police officer. He had witness statements from the police officers and there was also some CCTV evidence.
There was a list of members of the public who had witnessed the fighting, but hadn’t yet given statements. Tom checked his watch: it was 8:30am. If the witnesses had been up and about at 3am, they would still be in bed, so it was too early to take statements from them.
Tom travelled across to Boston. The arrested men were a sorry sight: they were a mixture of morning-after alcohol breath, stale sweat and belligerence. One of the men was decidedly sheepish and fragile while another had been banging on his cell door all night, keeping everyone awake.
At 10am Tom started interviewing each of the men in turn. This was a painstakingly slow process with questions and responses relayed through interpreters.
The last interview finally finished at 2.30pm. Rather inevitably, each of the men admitted that they had been fighting but blamed the others for starting it.
Next Tom returned to Spalding and visited the witnesses. It took a couple of hours to write their statements. Once these were complete he reviewed the evidence with the custody sergeant.
Although the men had obviously been fighting, none of the evidence showed how the fight had started. They were all claiming self-defence, but actually none of them had taken the first steps in their defence, which was to walk away.
There were no clear victims and no clear aggressors. There was also no evidence that the fighting was due to racism: it seemed to be a case of drunken young men doing what drunken young men do up and down the country and now suffering the consequences.
At 7pm all four were charged with affray and Tom was able to finish the paperwork. He was late off again but at least he’d still be home in time for ‘Sherlock’. Tom sighed: Holmes and Watson never had to worry about reports and witness statements.
Those other 14 investigations would have to wait until tomorrow...