Friday, 30 March 2007

Insufficient Evidence

The Police have to present evidence from an investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service. We receive a report of a crime, we attend and investigate the circumstances leading up to and subsequent to the crime being committed. Due to our superior investigative skills, well resourced and staffed Police stations, excellent co-operation with other departments and management who leave us alone to do our jobs (no, honestly, it really is just like The Bill. Well, perhaps not...) anyway, however we get there, we have a suspect for this crime.

We gather evidence from the scene, be it CCTV, witness statements or forensic evidence. We look at the wider aspects of the crime and think of possible defences that our suspect might have. We then try and either prove or disprove these defences, perhaps by interviewing other people or maybe by trying to trace the suspect's movements.

Our suspect will be interviewed and asked for an account of their whereabouts and possible involvement with this crime. If they give such an account, then that too will be investigated. We're not necessarily interviewing the person to prove their guilt. We're just gathering more evidence. And, once we've done all the above, we submit a file to the CPS and they decide whether or not to pursue the investigation through to a prosecution.

A fairly simple, managable and accountable method of bringing justice to victims of crime? Not always...

I investigated a report of the theft of a car, a green Vauxhall. The owner had driven to the local leisure centre and was using the gym. His car keys were in his tracksuit pocket, and his tracksuit was in the gym with him, but lying in the corner near the water fountain. Only one other person was in the gym, and this person left within five minutes of the car owner entering. The owner described this person only as being male, in his late teens and with fair hair. I took the man's statement.

I spoke to the member of staff on duty at the desk. He remembered seeing a local bad 'un enter the leisure centre, but without paying any money at the desk. He knew the male by name, as they had gone to school together. Before he had the chance to go and check what he was up to, the member of staff saw this same male leave the leisure centre, go to the car park, enter a green car and drive away. He was only in the leisure centre for 10 to 15 minutes. I took his statement and, as well as naming the male, I took a description. The suspect was described as being in his late teens and with fair hair. I then viewed the CCTV, which showed a person matching the description entering the leisure centre and leaving shortly afterwards, walking to the green car and driving away. Unfortunately, the quality wasn't good enough to show the persons' identity, but it did corroborate what the two witnesses had told me.

Right, I had my suspect. Now, to arrest him... I went to his house and, before knocking on his door, did a little drive around the area just on the very remote possibility that he had driven the stolen car home, some five or so miles from the leisure centre. Less than 300 yards from his house was parked..... the stolen green Vauxhall.

I had the vehicle recovered for examination by forensic experts. The suspect wasn't at home though (no doubt doing some of that charity work I spoke about in my last blog) so I didn't get the chance to arrest him for a couple of days. When he was arrested, I searched his room and found some clothing matching that which I had seen in the CCTV. So I seized that too. All good evidence.

The forensic examination was to show no physical evidence in the car, but a partial handprint on the frame of the car close to the driver's door. This matched my suspect.

In interview, the suspect completely denied the offence. His story was:
- the victim of the theft must have left his keys somewhere else.
- the witness who worked at the leisure centre had a grudge against him and so was lying.
- the CCTV didn't identify him and lots of his friends had the same or similar clothing.
- it was a coincidence that the car was found so close to his house. But he had heard that there were some car theives who lived near him. No names though, obviously.
- he did remember looking into a green car which he didn't recognise. As a bit of a car enthusiast he does this often, but never steals from the cars. This must be where the handprint came from.
- he gave no further information regarding where he was during the time the theft was committed.

So, with quiet confidence, I completed a file for the CPS and submitted it for review, fully expecting the male suspect to be charge.

The decision came back to NFA (No Further Action) the file due to there being no probable likelihood of a successful prosecution. And for a few seconds I looked around me expecting a mate to slap me on the back, say "only joking" and pass me the real decision. But it wasn't a joke. And I was the lucky chap who got to inform the victim that he wouldn't be getting justice after all.

It makes me wonder sometimes what level of proof the CPS really need. I mean, I know that the Court can only convict on "beyond reasonable doubt" but perhaps we take this too far sometimes. Do we actually have to catch people in the act with eighteen independant witnesses and a TV camera crew on hand? I've had simple shop-lifting jobs NFA'd by the CPS due to lack of CCTV evidence. But what does that mean for the small businessman who can't afford CCTV? Don't bother reporting any thefts until you've forked out a couple of grand for cameras...

I don't know, it's for people more intelligent than me to decide. All I know is that my suspect left the station with the biggest, smuggest grin on his face.

Your Country Needs You (for a few hours a week)

I'm always being asked (normally by somebody who's not very happy with life) "What are you doing about...." and they add their current biggest annoyance.

The stock answer, and as it happens normally the true answer, is that we're doing what we can. But that we're limited to what we can do. Not because of our powers. Due to the current Government's knack for writing legislation I've got more power now than I know what to do with. But we are limited by resources. I can totally understand the person's frustrations at what they perceive as lack of action, but in their anger they can forget that there are lots of other people making reports of their own. And everybody expects an immediate and effective response from the Police.

So, here's a radical idea. Instead of merely complaining about how bad their communities are, can I suggest that these people do something about them. As far as the Police are concerned, they could join the Specials or become a volunteer at their local station. They could become a volunteer with Victim Support. In fact, for some of those with the more "minor" complaints, this would give a valuable insight into just how well off they are.

But it doesn't stop there. Volunteer to help at your kid's school or youth club. Help out with running the local scouts or guides groups. Coach kids football. Do a few hours a week helping out at the local charity shop, particularly if they directly help your community.

You could even go the whole hog and run for election onto the local council.

There's so many ways that we can all have a positive effect on our communities. And as my old mum once said, you have to help yourself before people will help you...

Saturday, 24 March 2007

The Youth Of Today...

I should start this post by pointing out that I don't believe that everybody under the age of twenty is a thug, yob or (God forbid) hoodie. I know that most of the young people I meet aren't actively trying to destroy everything that they can get their hands on or steal everything that isn't nailed down.
It's for this reason that when I respond to a report of "Nuisance Youths" I'm open-minded and speak to them, trying to point out that although they don't mean to be, they are being a bit noisey and so would they mind keeping it down? Most of the time, if you approach them on this level, with a bit of respect, they react well and do as they're asked.
Whenever I attend this sort of job, and it goes this way, I quite enjoy it. We had one such job where a school caretaker had phoned us to say that there were half a dozen kids on the school grounds (this was in the evening. Not during school time. Though sometimes having half a dozen kids in class is a bit of a novelty too!) The caretaker said that these youths had thrown something in the school pond and that they were generally making a mess.
I attended, spoke to them and they were good-natured and attentive. I organised them into a line and we did a litter pick around the school grounds and retrieved a tractor tyre from the pond. I got on quite well with them and they actually worked really well as a team. I'd like to think that having them spend half an hour picking up empty crisp packets was more effective than shouting at them. Time will tell I suppose, but none of them have caused any problems there since.
However, there's another sort of youth who is much more difficult to deal with. This is the youth who has been told by their parents all about their "rights" and that the Police, their teachers and other adults in the community have no right to tell them to stop breaking the law.
This is the youth who, when told to move away from an area where they've been causing problems replies, "You can't make me. My mum'll sue you and then you'll get sacked".
The fourteen year old girl who's been drinking cheap cider and who doesn't want to listen to the fact that this makes her much more likely to be raped. And when you take the little angel home Mum, assuming she's in the house and sober, actually gets really angry with me. Because now she's going to have to exercise some parental responsability and look after her child.
There's loads of reasons for the amount of anti-social behaviour today. But can I suggest it doesn't help that some parents can't be bothered to accept the responsability for being a parent and that over the last decade or so it's become effectively impossible for schools and the Police to properly deal with bad behaviour. Can we really blame some of the kids for running wild when there's not really any reason for them not to?
And finally, a note to those people who've forgotten what it's like to be a child - playing football on a football pitch next to a leisure centre does not constitute anti-social behaviour. That's actually children spending time doing something healthy rather than sitting infront of a computer.
That said, given that I'm writing a blog, perhaps I should be running around chasing a football? Don't want to upset anybody though...


Mispers. This is a Police term for Missing Persons and, as the name suggests, refers to a person who has disappeared, normally unexpectedly, and has been reported to the Police as such.
It then becomes our responsabilty to find them. They are graded as to the level of risk attached to them going missing.
We recently had a report of a three year old girl missing from her home where her grandmother had been looking after her. This immediately received the highest possible grading. Within a couple of minutes of the call there were more than a dozen Police officers, plus the Force helicoptor and a dog handler involved in helping to find her. Officers were conducting house to house enquiries to establish whether any neighbours had seen her wander off or whether, more worryingly, anybody unknown to them had been seen near her house. This is vital in the first minutes because if the child has been abducted we need to know if any vehicles have been seen leaving the area. Other officers were searching the surrounding streets, gardens etc in case the girl had just decided to widen her horizons and go exploring. Again, this happens a lot and doesn't necessarily mean that the adult looking after them is at fault. I've learned from experience that small children can make themselves disappear in a way that Houdini could only have dreamed of.
Another officer went to speak to the grandmother to get details of what the girl was wearing, where she might have gone to (favour park etc) and to help search the house again.
The officer, who clearly had been to this sort of job before, went straight to the girls bedroom, pulled back the duvet which was completely flat and found the girl sound asleep in the space between the bed and the wall, totally oblivous to all the comotion outside.
The grandmother and the girls' parents were so relieved and completely apologetic about wasting our time. All those officers, all that money spent on finding their girl who hadn't been missing all along.
And we didn't care about all that. Because they needed our help, they called us and we did what was asked of us. Every single officer was bouncing along happily after the good news. Not one grumble about having our time wasted. (Though there were a few jokes about whether toddlers should wear little bells so they're easier to find).
This job was the reason that we joined the Police and the look of relief and gratitude on the faces of the girls family was priceless.
Now compare this to the fourteen or fifteen year old who is, for whatever reason, rebelling against their parents or carers. We have a number on our patch who habitually "go missing" to the extent that they have their own files so it's easier to find their paperwork the next time we get the phone call.
We had one such report a few weeks ago. The mother of this chap had phoned us up to say her son (14 years old) had gone missing. The circumstances were that he didn't want to get into his taxi to go to school, had punched the car window and then run off down the street. I phoned her up to get a better idea of what was going on. Whilst talking to her, I asked if she was going to go and look for him. Her reply was, "no, I've had it up to here with him. I can't be bothered any more". It took real restraint not to point out that it was her son that was missing, not the car keys, and that perhaps she might drag herself away from the telly for ten minutes to help us find her flesh and blood. Instead, rather than get into a counter-productive arguement, I made some sort of non-commital grunt and made my excuses. This was the latest of more than a dozen such reports from his mother since the start of the year.
Reaching for his file I saw that he was likely to turn up at one of a few different places. Because of his age (and hence his vulnerability) we had to actively search for him so I sent a car out to look for him. Thanks to his file, he was found quite quickly and returned to the loving embrace of his mum. Job done.
Until about half an hour later. Mrs X phones the Control Room to report her son missing. Apparently he still didn't want to go to school! Considering the lack of staff at the moment, I wanted to phone her back and report a load of coppers missing, and would she mind awfully helping me to find them? Instead I just reached for the file...

I'm a Trained Observer

A few years ago, during a weekend late shift which runs from 5pm to 3am, I was part of a van crew of about half a dozen officers.
We were called to a "disturbance" at a house which was only about two hundred yards from the Police station. Now "disturbance" can mean anything, from full blown fight involving several people, perhaps with weapons, to a couple arguing over who lost the remote control. Whilst you're on your way to such a job you've got no idea what you're going to be facing when you get there. And, I have to be honest, this is part of the attraction of the job.
So, we volunteer to attend and arrive there from the town centre where we'd been watching drunk people falling over within a couple of minutes.
We pulled up outside the house and I could see, straight away, about five or six people at the front door shouting and screaming at each other. You get a feel for this sort of job fairly quickly and automatically learn to look for things like injured people, whether it looks like a fight or an arguement etc. This job looked very much like half a dozen people trying to out-shout and out-point each other. Nothing too exciting but it needed splitting up before it got too out of hand.
We all ran from the van, up the garden path and started pulling people away from each other, standing in between them and trying to calm them down. In the minute or so that this took I was vaguely aware that there was another person stood in the garden, about five yards away. This person, a bloke roughly in his fourties, wasn't doing anything other than watch what was going on. Clearly no threat to me or my colleagues I basically ignored him and concentrated on the job at hand. I thought he was a bit rude him staring like that maybe, but hey, it's better than most of the stuff on TV. Turns out he was also from the house but apparently didn't want to get involved in the sillyness outside.
We got the warring parties inside the house and tried to work out what had caused the disturbance. After a few minutes, one of my colleagues said to the Sergeant "I'm sure that bloke was holding something outside".
He went back out to the garden and with his torch started to look around where the man had been stood. He later told us how he peered over the hedge where the man was and saw, lying on the ground, a loaded, sawn-off double-barrelled shot gun. He quickly pointed this out to the Sergeant and the man was searched. In his pockets were a load of other shot gun shells.
He was arrested and the rest of the house was searched by a van crew of Police officers who were suddenly a lot less complacent about what they were doing. We ended up finding more handguns and face masks.
Turns out we'd interrupted a domestic between armed robbers and their wives.
After we'd finished we were all sat down in the canteen having a brew, alternating between nervous laughter and stunned silence about the job where we all ran past a dangerous armed criminal completely oblivious to the shot gun in his hands.
Like I said, Trained Observer...

Wednesday, 14 March 2007


Today was a weekday early. Which meant there would be plenty of RTC's to keep those budding traffic officers busy. I knew this in advance because there are always plenty of RTC's on weekday mornings. Some people will do anything to get the day off work!

I popped along to lend a hand at two today.

The first was called in by ambulance. They'd been on standby round the corner when somebody told them about a crash on a nearby roundabout. They raced along, calling us to assist whilst en route. By the time I got there (less than 5 mins after the call) there was only one (badly damaged) car at scene and the paramedics scratching their heads. Apparently the driver of this vehicle had got into the other car involved and both parties had driven off together.

As we considered the possibilites (kidnapping, stock car enthusiasts, practical jokers) the other vehicle involved returned. Basically the first driver was being driven around by the other party involved trying to arrange recovery of his vehicle. Even though the car was a total write-off and the collision could have caused really serious injury they were getting along famously, helping each other out. Restored my faith in human nature. I felt like hugging them both for giving me such a pleasant start to the day. (Didn't though. Still cynical enough that I didn't want to be accused of making any whiplash worse!)

The second one was a single vehicle RTC on a really fast and busy dual carriageway. An elderly gent driving a huge 4x4 had managed to leave the road, drive into a ditch, come half out of it again as he drove along the ditch taking a load of small trees and hedges with him before coming to a stop teetering on the edge of the ditch. (too many uses of the word "ditch"?)

He was another really nice fella who kept saying that he'd been driving since 1947 and that this was his first crash. Unfortunately he kept asking us to allow him to try and drive out of the ditch, thereby not needing a recovery truck. No matter how many times we pointed out that he could end up turning his car onto it's roof he wouldn't have it. Had to take the keys off him in the end. But that's the sort of single-minded "never say die" attitude that got us through the Blitz, so fair play to him.

The recovery truck came and dragged him out and I gave him a lift to their depot. Had the chance to sit and chat with him (mostly involved me screaming loudly into his left ear as he was "a trifle deaf") about his wife and their 50 year marriage.

So, lots of nice people and it was lovely and sunny. Cracking day at work.

Not nice...

Got into work this morning to see that the late shift yesterday had to deal with the death of a 2 year old baby who had drowned in a garden pond. I'm not going to talk about the job specifically because a) i wasn't there and b) it's not fair on the family.

It highlights though some of the things that we (and paramedics) go through.

About 2 months or so ago I dealt with a P.P.O. This is a Police Protection Order whereby a Police Officer can remove a child to a place of safety if (s)he believes the child to be in immediate danger, whether physical, emotional, sexual etc.

This one was pre-planned with Social Services who had sent a social worker to our nick. As the duty Sgt I liased with her and she had to convince me that the P.P.O. was necessary. This didn't take too long. A couple of hours earlier the mother of the children had disclosed to Social Services long term abuse of her and the children by their father. The abuse (physical in this case) was serious enough that it was felt necessary to remove the children and place them into temporary foster care immediately.

There were four children in all and both parents had what are called "social problems" nowadays. Basically they had drug and alcohol addictions and their children came a long way down their list of priorities. I knew that the father was violent and that his brother in law, who lived two doors away, was even more so. This, with the number of children involved, meant that I arranged for five other officers to come with me with more nearby if required.

Straight away, from knocking on the door, I knew that this job was going to be difficult (not that you ever expect otherwise with a P.P.O.). The mother refused to let us in and straight away started screaming that her partner was a good father. She then ran off to fetch the brother in law.

We entered the house and the father had to be restrained almost immediately as he became violent towards us. He was arrested to prevent a Breach of the Peace (a minor offence) and handcuffed. Meanwhile, other officers started to take the children upstairs whilst the standby officers kept the brother in law at bay.

One officer was carrying the eldest child (still only 5 years old) upstairs and I stopped to make sure she was as well as could be expected. The little girl, asked me, "are you going to take my daddy?". Not wanting to upset her further I replied, "No, he's going to be staying here". (This was the truth. Unless he did something completely stupid he was to be dearrested once the children were removed.)

She then asked me "are you going to take me away?" I gave what I thought would be the right answer, "I'm not sure at the moment, but try not to worry". To this the girl, a five year old who surely should be full of fun, dreams and barbies, replied, "Please take me away, I don't like it here".

I was just stopped in my tracks. For a few seconds I couldn't move or speak. A five year old child asking to be taken away from their parents. How bad must this child's life be? As my eyes filled up I just said, "well if that's what you want then we can do that for you" and she gave me a beaming smile.

To cut the story short, the children were removed without too much further incident. The mother screaming in the street distressed them though. Can't help thinking that the screaming was for mum's benefit rather than the childrens. Ten minutes later they were sipping orange juice and watching cartoons at the nick. And making fun of my hair do!

The reason I mention the story is to illustrate some of the absolutely heart-rendering things we deal with, in order that the general public don't have to. We even felt some sympathy for the parents, strange though it seems. There were parents amongst the coppers there who could, at least to an extent, empathise with having your child taken away. Afterwards there was a really weird atmosphere. We all felt really crappy, knowing that we'd done our job well and to the best of our ability.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Stop Search

I was looking back through the threads on a Police forum I'm into and saw one about stop searches in the Met. Apparently, in a trial area, those searched will have the opportunity to makr the officer(s) out of 5 and text the result in. Got me thinking about one search a mate and I did some time back...

We were in plain clothes in the town centre and came off the High Street to a car park behind some shops. Looking over to our right, about 50 yards away, we saw two lads in the car park. One was on foot, the other on a bike, and both were looking into the cars as they passed them, faces pressed right up against the windows. Now it occurred to my buddy and I that these two lads (roughly aged 16) probably didn't own every single car that they were looking into. In fact, and I know this sounds cynical, they might have been looking for things to steal. So we decided to search them.

As we approached to within about 10 yards the lad on the bike clocked us and rode off the other way. With no chance of catching him we turned our attention to the other lad. Even though we knew him, and were pretty sure he knew us (given that we'd arrested him enough times before) we produced our warrant cards and identified ourselves as Police.

He made some comment along the lines of "fuck off, you're not searching me" and continued to walk off. I took his arm and immediately he began to get aggressive with me. So the other bobby took his other arm. We tried talking him into calming down but he was getting more and more violent so we had to take him to the floor and handcuff him in order that we could safely conduct the search without causing anybody injury.

This couldn't have been entirely pleasant for him, because he started to scream about Police brutality and harassment. As we held him still and went through his pockets and coat etc (a process that took a lot longer than it should have given that he kept trying to spit and kick at us) a random member of public walked past us.

The little cherub saw this and decided to gather public support by screaming out "help, the Police are beating me up!"

Without missing a beat, the chap looked down at him, then at us and with a look on his face that suggested he'd had enough of people committing crime in the area said, "I didn't see nothing" and walked off.

This actually deflated our guy a bit so the rest of the search went a lot quicker. And we, nothing actually. So we picked him up, dusted him off and offered him a copy of the search record (reply: shove it up your arse!).

Can't help thinking what my marks out of five would've been. He wasn't exactly a satisfied customer.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Use of Force

I'm sure most people have seen the recent reports of the Police Officer in South Yorks striking the woman he'd arrested five times in order to subdue and handcuff her. And I've read loads of different opinions on other blogs and websites. Whenever a Police officer uses force it's such an emotive issue that's bound to raise heated debate.

Just thought I'd scribble down some of the thought processes that go through your mind when you find yourself in the same position as that officer.

I've been there more times than I care to remember, normally reacting to a call from a member of public or CCTV operator or doorstaff. When I'm on my way to jobs like this I'm trying to think about my safety, that of my colleagues and members of public who may be present. I'm trying to take in (sometimes conflicting) information about numbers of persons involved, descriptions, any weapons that have been seen, information about any named persons involved etc. And I normally have only a few minutes to digest all this whilst trying to make my way there safely.

On arrival, if there is a fight or other violent incident taking place then at least one of those involved in invariably under the influence of alcohol. I know from bitter experience that this will make them generally more difficult to reason with, more likely to make snap decisions and lash out and more difficult to overcome and arrest.

I'm weighing up their apparent demeanour and frame of mind as I approach them. Are their fists clenched? Are they staring right at me? What's their stance like? Are they standing with their feet slightly apart as if ready to throw a punch? Are their hands in their pockets? If so, do they have a knife in that pocket? How are they speaking? Do they seem angry, reasonable, drunk, drugged? Am I alone? If so, how far away is the nearest officer if I ask for urgent assistance? If I am not alone, is my colleague OK? Where is my colleague?

I'm normally approached by numerous people all wishing to scream at me various different versions of the same story. I have to try and seperate them, but I can't turn my back on anybody if I can help it because this leaves me open to attack from behind. If I do manage to seperate them, I can only speak to one person at a time. But invariably the other person starts screaming that I'm taking the other party's side and again I end up having to try and calm and seperate people.

What about if the fight is still ongoing when I attend? I have to try and prevent people from being assaulted. But if I'm alone then whilst I'm trying to stop any assault then I'm again open to attack from people behind me. (This happens all too often. Look on

Perhaps I have to arrest a person who is clearly drunk and acting aggressively. I know that, as I approach them, this is a potentially really dangerous situation for me. I know that drunk people can be almost impervious to pain, so if they attack me then my baton may not be of use. I know that something like 33% of people do not react to CS spray, more so if they are under the influence of drink or drugs. So this is probably not an option open to me.

If I can't contain the person until further officers attend by speaking to them then I have no option but to go "hand to hand" with them. Now at this point I should mention that I'm 5' 7" tall and weigh just over 9 stone, so I'm not exactly likely to have strength on my side. This is particularly the case with a non-compliant drunk person who really, really doesn't want to be arrested.

Suddenly, either because they've lunged at me or tried to run away, I've had to grab hold of them. Out of nowhere I'm involved in a struggle to stop myself from being injured without injuring the other person. The person is strong, screaming in my face, throwing punches at my head. I try to take them to the floor using an arm or wrist lock but they manage to wriggle out of it and we tumble to the ground. We're rolling around and they're screaming "I'll fucking kill you! I'll fucking have you!"

I can't get to my radio to update on the urgency of the situation. It's basically just me and the person trying to hurt me. So I use force against them. I strike their arms and legs, trying to deaden them so they can't be used against me. I apply pressure to the arms and elbow joints to try and restrain them on the ground, and even though I know this really hurts them and may cause injury, I have no choice because this person will really hurt me given half a chance.

Eventually, other officers arrive and we safely handcuff the person and they are taken away to the custody suite. And what happens as soon as we get there? The person who minutes ago was trying their best to, in their words, "kill me", complains that I punched him in the arm, and he's got a bit of a bruise. And from that point I know that I'm going to be facing an investigation for improper use of force, a criminal allegation that could end in my losing my job and being imprisoned. For doing my job.

The public have a decision to make. Either they want the Police to support them in making the streets safer, in which case they have support the Police. Or instead they can support the violent criminals and yobs when they make spurious complaints against those officers.

I get paid to deal with some truely horrible people. To wade through blood, spit, vomit and tears on a daily basis. I knew this before I joined and I'm happy to do so because I think I can genuinely make a difference. That said, I won't put myself at such risk if the general public, who have asked for our help, then turn on us. If that continues to happen then I'll probably find myself a nice, safe desk job at headquarters where the pay is just the same, the pension's just as secure but I don't have to worry about losing my job and going to prison quite so often.

I'm back...

I've been working away for a few weeks so haven't had proper chance to write anything. But I'm back at my station now so...

Last night we attended a report of a woman who'd alleged she'd been beaten by her husband. We met the paramedic there who had asked for our backup and went and spoke to her.

There was no evidence of any injury to her and she stated that she'd made up the allegation about her husband. You have to keep an open mind (in case she's just saying that) but she was obviously suffering from severe psychosis. She was rocking backwards and forwards, yelling that everyone hated her. She'd written a suicide note and had self harmed on her wrists. She was repeatedly asking for our help.

The paramedic (and my colleagues and I) were really concerned about her so we called out a doctor to attend and carry out an assessment on her with a view to admitting her to a psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately, the doctor decided (after keeping us waiting for over an hour) that the hospital probably wouldn't admit her so he wouldn't be attending. We put our heads together and decided that he really shouldn't be making this decision from however many miles away so we'd try another route.

Basically, we waited until she went outside and then detained her under the Mental Health Act and took her to the hospital ourselves. (This was technically a bit naughty). We then had to fight with the staff there to get her admitted and eventually, more than four hours after we arrived at her house, she was given a bed. I had to argue her case with four seperate members of staff until they finally relented.

On the one hand, we got enormous satisfaction out of helping this lady and her family who were at their wits end. But it was so difficult for this person, who clearly needed help and was trying to get that help, to find someone willing to take the time to give her the support she needed.

Point is, with all the concerns about care in the community and those with mental health problems injuring themselves and others, I can't believe that we're still struggling to have sufferers admitted to hospital. And this woman was lucky that the paramedic who attended was switched on and caring enough to want to go the extra mile for her. Had the family simply followed advice (wait for an appointment with your G.P.) then she could well have gone through with the suicide and now a seven year old boy would have to grow up without his mum.

It's about time the professionals in mental health care supported their "colleagues" in the ambulance service and Police a little bit more, and remembered why they're there in the first place.