Police condemned for decision on vandals

MARK NICHOLLS Norfolk police last night conceded that one of their officers was wrong to send a letter to a crime victim saying two offenders had not been taken to court to face prosecution because they were jobless foreign nationals with no income.

MARK NICHOLLS

Norfolk police last night conceded that one of their officers was wrong to send a letter to a crime victim saying two offenders had not been taken to court to face prosecution because they were jobless foreign nationals with no income.

The issue centred around a case of criminals caught on CCTV camera vandalising cars in a Norwich street.

The controversy over the way the offenders were dealt with came to light after one of the victims, UEA research student Barry Ferguson, received a letter from PC John Waterman offering an explanation over why no prosecution was made.

In it the officer said the men responsible would not be prosecuted because they were "both unemployed foreign nationals with no income and it was not in the public interest to pursue due to the expenses incurred in having a trial".

But Norfolk police have now said the PC was wrong to say that and will be spoken to about the content of the letter by senior officers and establish why it was sent.

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A force spokesman said yesterday: "It is not the policy of Norfolk constabulary, nor is it legal, to administer a police caution based on someone's ethnicity or level of income.

"After careful consideration of the evidence, it was decided to deal with the offenders by way of an official police caution."

Police say the caution amounts to an admission of guilt.

"While not a conviction, it will be added to their police record and can be cited in court should they re-offend," the spokesman added.

However, the police's decision not to send the two men, who were not in the country illegally, to court has been condemned by MPs and victim support groups who warned the decision not to prosecute would give a perception that anti-social behaviour was acceptable.

Mr Ferguson, 29, of Magdalen Street, said: "I am dismayed that even though these people were caught in the act they are getting away with wanton vandalism.

"This has nothing to do with the fact they are foreign nationals - no one should get away with this type of thing."