Julian Saunders, aka the Sandwell Skidder, confesses to wasting police time.
The celebrated blogger tells us he took up the time of two police officers from the “complex crime unit” for four hours at WMP’s Oldbury Custody Suite. We’d prefer to call it Oldbury nick, to avoid any confusion with facilities offered by a Best Western or Warners.
Before anyone demands that the Skidder is shamed and prosecuted with the full rigour of the law for abusing the time of the hard pressed constabulary and before anyone speculates what complex crime old Julian committed, the circumstances need consideration.
He was there voluntarily to be interviewed under caution after complaints of harassment had been made against him. According to him the complainants were three Sandwell Labour councillors.
There seems to have been some misunderstanding, in that during the interview, it first appeared that five Labour councillors were complaining about him. It turned out that Cllrs. D and E were not complaining about the Skidder but about harassment of them by Cllrs. A and B. Only A. B and C were complaining about the Skidder.
If that mistake was made by the police officers, when they were in possession of statements made by D and E, as Julian Saunders says, it does not bode well for the detection of complex crime.
Mr. Saunders says that, on advice, he gave responses of “No comment” to all questions, so the four hours must have dragged by with the productivity of watching paint dry.
Mr. Saunders’ blog does not disclose the identity of all the complainants though he makes it pretty clear that a leading light was the Sandwell Labour leader Cllr. Eling and hints that another was Cllr. Richard Marshall, Eling’s co- conspirator in the scheme to use the Skidder blog for their own nefarious purposes. If, indeed, Marshall is a complainant he has more front than Blackpool.
The harassment complained of seems to have been Mr. Saunders’ criticism of Sandwell council and Eling’s role in running the show. It is obvious that Eling has, to put it kindly, an extremely thin skin, an intolerance of any criticism or questioning. The remedy for Eling is to get out of the kitchen, if he can’t stand the heat. It indicates the nature of the beast that, instead, he bleats to the police.
Mr. Saunders is sometimes intemperate, sometimes rude but he has done much good in exposing wrong doing at Sandwell council. It is somewhat astonishing that police officers are unlikely to attend domestic burglaries but bother with petty vindictive spite such as this appears to be. But there is a greater concern; the need to safeguard freedom of expression especially where it challenges power and alleges abuse of authority.
WMP must be careful not to cross the line. It’s not their job to play nanny to politicians who’ve sustained a bit of bruised ego.