A crisis in the custody suite – part 4

Posted by Guessedworker on Monday, 25 December 2017 00:53.

A cautionary tale for policemen

Interview Room 3 was the only one with an observation window; observation in the other three only being possible through live video feed.  Usually, it was just the more serious cases which attracted an audience.  But Slice had said he wanted to view, so here they were, Ian Bennett, Kevin Boulder and the BAME officer assigned to the case, Tony Eilam, waiting on his pleasure outside the interview room.  They waited fifteen minutes before he strode into the corridor.

“Ah Ian,” he said, “Sorry to hear about the no-show at Telegraph Hill yesterday?”

Bennett replied, “Three hours of my life I’ll never get back, sir.  And then, when we did finally enter the flat, we found it had already been cleared.  But there’ll be DNA evidence somewhere.”

“Something for the SOECA officer attending, then?”

“Hopefully.”

“Right, well,” Breadwardine declared, rubbing his hands together, “I see everybody is here but the suspect.  Shall we have him in?”  With that, he and Bennett entered the observation room and took up position before the window.

Prakash Ghosh, a slight figure in his mid-twenties, had been taken into custody three hours earlier.  Physically, he did not remotely match the muscular nature of his on-line rhetoric as detailed in John Holly’s crime report.  As he spoke in the preliminaries it was immediately apparent that he was born and raised not in this country but in India.  His accent was quite heavy but his articulation was that of an educated man.  Beside him, was a local criminal lawyer Narayan Singh, also Indian-born, and very familiar to all the Peckham detectives.  Opposite the pair of them sat Boulder and Eilam.

Boulder went in all assertive from the outset.  “It is,” he stated flatly, “very unusual wiv this type of offence for a charge not to be bought once the facts ‘ave been established.  To be perfectly honest, it’s a low bar, evidentially.  I mean, if the victim says he’s a victim, then he’s a victim.  You don’t ‘ave much of an available defence.  And the courts ... they take ‘ate crimes very seriously now.  Don’t assume that you are going to walk away with this with a slap on the wrist.  Custodial sentences are the norm.  So on the face of it, old son, I’d say you are in a spot of bovver.  Crystal?”

Ghosh stared back wide-eyed.  “No comment,” he said.

“So, Prakash,” said Eilam, “tell me about this crew you have.”

“No comment.”

“Given yerselves a girl’s name, ‘aven’t you?” Boulder threw in, “Cathy or somethin’?”

Ghosh looked at the lawyer who nodded.  “We are a proper Third Sector organisation.  I am the director.  Our title is the Campaign To Halt Hatred.  Our logo is a capital ‘C, small ‘a’, capital ‘THH’.  I don’t know why, but nobody ever gets that right.  It’s so frustrating because name-recognition is important to funding potential.”

“Maybe it’s a bad name,” offered Boulder, “So your idea of ‘altin’ ‘atred is to run around the internet postin’ it, is it?”

Ghosh looked at the lawyer again who remained still, staring at his hands cupped together on the table.

“No comment,” said Ghosh

“Prakash, help us understand what you and your friends do,” asked Eilam.

The lawyer nodded.  “OK, said Ghosh, “Well ... we have been in existence for eleven months.  In that time we have raised twenty-eight complaints with police serves all over the country.  The first and best was a homophobic vicar in Essex.  It was in all the papers.  We got funding as a result of that.  But eight others have resulted in convictions.  Two for race hatred, one for religious hatred, and five for anti-Semitism.  We have registered with the Charity Commission.  We are building a website.  You can google it but it is not functional yet.”

“Who is “we”, exactly?  Names and addresses, please?” Eilam asked.

Ghosh again checked with the lawyer to his right, who returned a barely perceptible nod.

“It’s not that I don’t want to answer you.  But … it’s the internet, isn’t it?  Apart from Dev, I don’t really know much about the others.”

“Dev?” asked Boulder.

“Dev Badhari is my friend.  He lives with me.  You saw him when you came to arrest me.  He helps from time to time with the campaign but he’s not really interested in politics.”

Eilam again: “And the others?”

Ghosh: “One of them is in London, I think.  He calls himself Stephen, but I don’t know if that is his real name or where he lives.  He introduced the two others.  They definitely live abroad.  Maybe America, I don’t know ... I don’t know anything else.”

Eilam again: “How did you meet this Stephen?”

Ghosh: “Never met him.  He contacted us when the vicar Syme was in the papers.  He congratulated us and said he would like to work with us.  He said he could bring funding so we could organise properly, and he did.”

The door of the interview room opened.  “Sir,” said Boulder, rising from his seat.

“Alright, Detective Sergeant,” Breadwardine said, and then, “For the benefit of the tape, Chief Constable Ronald Breadwardine has entered the room.  I have a question for Mr Ghosh.  You say you received funding.  Was the money from this Stephen directly or from another party?”

Ghosh glanced to his right.  The lawyer nodded.  “The payment came from the Tagrium Trust,” Ghosh said, “but I don’t know anything about them except that the originating bank for the transfer was in the Caymans.”

“I see.  Didn’t you question who these people were and why this was happening?” asked Breadwardine.

Ghoshed looked to the lawyer.  He nodded more emphatically than before. “I looked,” said Ghosh, “but there is nothing about Tagrium online.  We did think it was strange for a funding body not to ask for an application of any kind, or a spending proposal.  Dev and me wanted money I suppose, and they wanted to give us money.  So we let Stephen get on with it.”

“So you bit their ‘and off, you mean” observed Boulder.

“We have only had the one payment of $25,000.  Stephen says more is going to be triggered as we achieve results.  Stephen says we will receive a second payment in a few weeks, but I don’t how much it is.  Larger, I hope.”

“You don’t know anythin’ much, do you? “ said Boulder, “I mean, ‘asn’t it occurred to you that you and your mate are being used by this Stephen bloke?”

If it had, Ghosh was not embarrassed about it, “ We have the same interest in fighting what we would call culturally embedded hatred.  Stephen wants a successfully diverse society and so do we.  It cannot accommodate irrational fears based on unfamiliarity and negative stereotypes.  That is obvious.  No amount of talking about intercultural understanding is going to banish them.  That is also obvious.  But we have the law.  It is there to be used.  What does it matter if Stephen uses it and we use it?  What does it matter if, to do that, Stephen uses us when we are also using him?”

“For one thing, it matters,” Breadwardine said, “because if it can be shown that your organisation has a legal personality, and the other members of it were acting by the rules and practises laid down or sanctioned by you, as its sole director, then it is you who will be held to account for everything.”

Ghosh shot a nervous glance as his lawyer who, however, remained motionless in confirmation.

“Alright,” said Breadwardine firmly, “I am halting this interview there.  Before you ask, Mr Singh, we still require your client to answer questions, and a further interview will follow presently.  But for now he may leave.  I will review with my officers material information which has been provided by him before a decision is taken as to when we shall require him to report here again.”

Ghosh and Singh were swiftly escorted from the interview room.  Just as swiftly, Bennett came into the interview room, “Did I miss something,” he exclaimed.

“I have a nasty feeling,” replied Breadwardine, “that we may already have reached the end of the line with this investigation.  Didn’t young Holly warn us that these people are Jews?  I mean this mysterious Stephen and these other two who apparently live abroad.  Then there is the funding that comes out of the blue from the even more mysterious Tagrium Trust.  No application or spending proposal required.  No proof of conformity to the international charitable standards.  Nothing.  Add to that the group’s apparent change in focus from fighting homophobia to fighting anti-Semitism.  You know how this will turn out.  I can see it now.  Stephen will be found to be an intelligence officer working from the Israeli embassy.  The other two will be working from Israel itself.  We would be lent on by the security boys.”

It was Eilam, a racially conscious black officer tasked to investigate a white man’s accusation of race-hate, who asked the obvious question.  “But why would Israelis be interested in two Indian amateurs?  I’d like to know that much, at least.”

“I agree,”  said Boulder, “If we are gonna be shut down at least let’s give ‘em a definite reason to do it?”

“Alright”, said Bennett, “Tony, let’s see if the other Indian boy can tell us anything else.  Get both their mobiles and computers over to DCC and keep the forensic brief as narrow as you can.  Kevin, so far Holly is proving a credible witness.  Go back to him and find out what else he knows, or even thinks he knows.  I’ll get judges orders for one or two of the digital media the group used, which will give us IPs and whatever else they’re holding on these people.”

Andy Crabtree was a happy man.  Fate or, perhaps, hate had handed him the opportunity to give his career a timely boost.  Whatever happened with the Holly complaint he would make a tidy profit.  If it didn’t fly in court he could say that he never thought it would, and only went along with it because the balance of the initial evidence was in its favour, and the CPS, who had the final say, provided no material objection.  If, however, it did fly, and caused even half the stir that Breadwardine was talking about, he could claim credit for overcoming his initial scepticism - distate, actually - and impelling the little drama along to its just conclusion.  It all seemed bullet-proof. 

But then DI Walker turned up at his office.

“SO15?  To what do I owe this pleasure,” Crabtree asked him, forgoing the call-me-Andy routine for once.  It certainly had not been his intention to parade himself in front of the security securities.  No career boost ever came from attracting their attention.  They were never, never good news.

“You very thoughtfully sent a digital document, sir, concerning a John Holly ... a document which you had received from Peckham police station ... to our liaison at Marsham Street.  I imagine you sent one also to your opposite number at the CPS.  We are aware that you used a private mail system, which is highly suspicious in itself for any serving officer.  But my immediate concern is that you tell me … now, please ... if you used only the one private system and if you circulated anyone else.”



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