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Will - Fun with a Freeman

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Will

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Rank: S/Sgt
Region: Metland
Length of Service: 2 years
Planned Hours: 1600-0200 assisting response

After reading so much about them on this forum (mainly from bensonby!) I recently had the pleasure of meeting a "freeman of the land" so thought I'd write it up...

1530 - Arrive at the station with 2 MSC colleagues. Kit up, grab a callsign and a panda and out we go.

1630 - An I-graded call comes out of a man wielding a knife. We're on the same road (that never happens) so I use the full extent of my basic driver exemptions to carry out an area search. With other units involved, questionable intel coming back from the informant and no trace 10 minutes later, we come to the aid of a fist-waving cyclist who points out a van driver who allegedly just tried side-swiping him.

1650 - We get the van stopped near the forecourt of a petrol station and the fun begins. I introduce myself and go through normal proceedings. He's refusing to get out the van, turn the engine off or provide any sort of documention, pointing out that as a human he is not obliged to comply to any of these statute laws. I weep a little at where I can see this going, holding nothing but distain for the cyclist for pointing out this van (I joke).

1710 - 20 minutes later and having recited half of the Road Traffic Act - to be questioned in return about my own religious beliefs and whether I am acting under my oath - he finally concedes and provides his driving licence. A check with PNC and the MIB reveals he is uninsured (another weep on my part). He greets the news that his van will be seized by winding up the window and ensuring the doors are already locked. Well played, Sir. I was mindful that until this point he wasn't obliged to exit the vehicle, and vaguely recalling a thread I read on here debating powers to enter the vehicle.

1750 - My colleague plays "good cop" (at this point, guess which one I am) to try and coerce him out while I seek advice from the duty traffic Sergeant around powers to remove him for the purpose of a seizure. After deliberation I'm told that this would constitute an offence of obstruction, therefore necessary force could be used to effect the arrest. I was already picturing myself on YouTube smashing the window of a parked van with a "compliant" driver inside.

1800 - Moments after I requested recovery, and with my colleague still trying to talk him down, the driver decides he's had enough and simply drives off down the main road. Excellent. I shout it up and an IRV is behind him 30 seconds later, confirming it as a Fail To Stop and reporting the pursuit speed as fluctuating between the public-endangering speeds of 10 and 15mph. A couple of other units (including the area car) are now involved and after a few minutes of commotion, it's reported that he's been stopped and detained.

1810 - Having been making our way from afar in slow(ish) time, we arrive at the van to find the passenger window smashed in and the driver detained on the pavement - even less happy than before but making sure to ask everyone if they are acting under their oath. I take great pleasure in arresting for obstruct police, fail to stop, driving with no insurance and theft of motor vehicle (based on his resistance, being uninsured and not being able to speak to the owner) and off we head in a Met taxi.

1820 - The custody Sergeant enjoys this gentleman as much as I have, and after 45 minutes of to-ing and fro-ing and him refusing any details (reminding us we're breaching his human rights) he is escorted into a cell.

1900 - Paperwork

2000 - Paperwork

2030 - I inform CID for the case to be picked up by CPU on early turn - I don't envy them

2100 - We're asked to turn out to an RTC - moped vs lamppost. Second on scene we help the ambulance crew and one of my colleagues heads off to hospital for continuity (the joys of being a Special at the bottom of the food chain).

2200 - Resume patrol and we precariously help half the borough with an area search at a firearms/shots fired call. I circulate the sighting of a male who is possibly ident and leave the ARV's to do their business.

0000 - We pick up our colleague from hospital and head towards a report of several hundred teenagers congregating/causing a nuisance on a playing field next to a large residential block. We arrive with a couple of other units and wade through the cloud of cannabis smoke and mouthy (drunk) teenagers to disperse the group. All of a sudden they all start sprinting towards a nearby empty warehouse which they've managed to gain entry to. The next hour is spent inside this warehouse facing off against a huge group of kids. 

0100 - After a few occasions of the atmosphere feeling like it was going to turn nasty they all left voluntarily, citing us all as fun sponges. Moments later a couple of TSG serials turned up - good timing.

0200 - Home time

I'm keen to hear how any of you would have dealt with the traffic stop differently - like I say it was a first for me and having it escalate into a "pursuit" clearly wasn't ideal. I'll post the outcome once the case is closed.

Will


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1810 - Having been making our way from afar in slow(ish) time, we arrive at the van to find the passenger window smashed in and the driver detained on the pavement - even less happy than before but making sure to ask everyone if they are acting under their oath. I take great pleasure in arresting for obstruct police, fail to stop, driving with no insurance and theft of motor vehicle (based on his resistance, being uninsured and not being able to speak to the owner) and off we head in a Met taxi.

The van was almost certainly the property of the police at the stage that you seized it and so you might actually have a theft of the vehicle from the Metropolitan Police... The CPS might not go with it, but it's an interesting one to consider...!

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Absolutely. There's caselaw that it certainly amounts to TWOC and if you can prove the intent then it could be theft.

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MajorDisaster

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I've not had the pleasure of meeting one of these characters yet, but from your account I think you handled it very well. You managed to get his details from him before he chose to escalate by driving off.

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After the trial being adjourned in December we finally went through the ordeal of a retrial last week - prepare for a bit of a rant! The suspect was ultimately charged with driving with no insurance and failing to stop, and there were 4 of us warned to give evidence in court (yes this did feel a little excessive, but attempts to get a couple section 9'd were fruitless).

The suspect had better things to do than show up at court (didn't we all) and so it should have been a quick run through of our statements and an easy guilty verdict - really, there was nothing subjective about either offence. Needless to say, we still spent 3-4hrs waiting before being given the opportunity.

From the outset the prosecutor treated us with about as much hostility as you would expect from a defence lawyer, including frequently cutting us off mid-sentence. I've been to court a fair few times and know to keep answers concise, so her attitude made it a frustrating experience.

Once the trial was concluded the prosecutor emerged from the court room to declare, to our amazement, that the suspect been acquitted of all charges. Essentially, the equally-chirpy legal advisor had realised that none of the officer testimonies had explicitly mentioned the suspect name and date of birth in full, and as a result the Magistrates had decided on a non-guilty verdict. We were not able to re-enter to confirm these details, nor was it accepted that these details be read from all of our signed statements(!)

The icing on the cake is that the prosecutor had the audacity to blame it on all of us for not giving these details. Of course, she hadn't taken the trouble to ask the question during the trial, and she retreated meekly when this was put to her.

So in summary - a monumental waste of time and money, a suspect who is probably still driving around with no insurance, and who probably now has the right to contest the costs incurred of damaging and seizing his van.

The CPS have a letter of complaint sat in their inbox. :(

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