September 2012 Last
updated at 08:03 GMT
19 September 2012 Last updated at 08:03 GMT
Why British police don’t have guns
The deaths of two female police constables have brought into focus the unarmed status of most British police. Why does Britain hold firm against issuing guns to officers on the beat?
It's the single most obvious feature that sets the British bobby apart from their counterparts overseas.
Tourists and visitors regularly express surprise at the absence of firearms from the waists of officers patrolling the streets.
But to most inhabitants of the UK - with the notable exception of Northern Ireland - it is a normal, unremarkable state of affairs that most front-line officers do not carry guns.
Unremarkable, that is, until unarmed officers like Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone are killed in the line of duty. There are always those who question why Britain is out of step with most of the rest of the world, with the exceptions of the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and a handful of other nations.
For a heavily urbanised country of its population size, the situation in Great Britain is arguably unique.
Film director Michael Winner, founder of the Police Memorial Trust, and Tony Rayner, the former chairman of Essex Police Federation, have both called for officers to be routinely armed.
But despite the loss of two of his officers, Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy was quick to speak in support of the status quo.
"We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed policing. Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot."
But one thing is clear. When asked, police officers say overwhelmingly that they wish to remain unarmed.
A 2006 survey of 47,328 Police Federation members found 82% did not want officers to be routinely armed on duty, despite almost half saying their lives had been "in serious jeopardy" during the previous three years.
It is a position shared by the Police Superintendents' Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The British public are not nearly so unanimous.
An ICM poll in April 2004 found 47% supported arming all police, compared with 48% against.
In 2007, the centre-right think-tank Policy Exchange found 72% of 2,156 adults wanted to see more armed police patrols.
For decades there have been incidents that have led to calls for issuing all officers with firearms. Cases like those of Sharon Beshenivsky, shot dead during a robbery in 2005, or of the three plain-clothes officers murdered by Harry Roberts in west London in 1966, or the killing of PC Sidney Miles in the Derek Bentley case of 1952.
Few expect the system to change even after widespread public horror at the deaths of PCs Bone and Hughes.
For one thing, incidents such as that in Greater Manchester are extremely rare. Overall gun crime, too, remains low.
In 2010-11, England and Wales witnessed 388 firearm offences in which there was a fatal or serious injury, 13% lower than the previous 12 months. In Scotland during the same period, there were two fatal and 109 non-fatal injuries during the same period, a decade-long low.
Additionally, officers, chief constables and politicians alike are wary of upsetting an equilibrium that has been maintained throughout Britain's 183-year policing history.
"There's a general recognition that if the police are walking around with guns it changes things," says Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.
Arming the force would, say opponents, undermine the principle of policing by consent - the notion that the force owes its primary duty to the public, rather than to the state, as in other countries.
This owes much to the historical foundations of British criminal justice, says Peter Waddington, professor of social policy at the University of Wolverhampton.
"A great deal of what we take as normal about policing was set out in the early 19th Century," he says.
"When Robert Peel formed the Metropolitan Police there was a very strong fear of the military - the masses feared the new force would be oppressive."
A force that did not routinely carry firearms - and wore blue rather than red, which was associated with the infantry - was part of this effort to distinguish the early "Peelers" from the Army, Waddington says.
Over time, this notion of guns being inimical to community policing - and, indeed, to the popular conception of the Dixon of Dock Green-style bobby - was reinforced.
While some in London were issued with revolvers prior to 1936, from that date only trained officers at the rank of sergeant or above were issued with guns, and even then only if they could demonstrate a good reason for requiring one.
Today only a small proportion of officers are authorised to use firearms. Latest Home Office figures show there were just 6,653 officers authorised to use firearms in England and Wales - about 5% of the total number.
None of which implies, of course, that the British police are somehow gun-free. Each police force has its own firearms unit. Police armed response vehicles have been deployed since 1991.
In addition, trained officers have had access to Tasers since 2004 despite controversy about their use. Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe called for police response officers to be routinely armed with the weapons in November 2011.
Particularly in London, the sight of armed officers at airports, embassies and other security-sensitive locations has become a familiar one, especially since the 11 September attacks.
However much firearms become an accepted part of British life, former Met deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick doubts police themselves will ever support a universal rollout.
For one thing, the sheer cost of equipping all personnel with weapons as well as providing regular training would be prohibitive at a time of public spending cuts, he says.
In addition, Paddick adds, front-line officers would not be keen to face the agonising, split-second decisions faced by their counterparts in specialist firearms units.
"In terms of the police being approachable, in terms of the public being the eyes and ears of the police, officers don't want to lose that," he says.
"Every case in which a police officer has shot someone brings it home to unarmed officers the sheer weight of responsibility that their colleagues face."
Cases like that of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead by a Met firearms officer after he was wrongly identified as a terrorist, illustrate Paddick's point.
For now, at least, that starkest of all distinctions between British officers and those abroad looks secure.
Additional reporting by Kathryn Westcott, Tom Heyden and Daniel Nasaw
1 December 2014 Last updated at 16:50
Why Texas is closing prisons in favour of rehab
The US is known for its tough criminal justice system, with an incarceration rate far larger than any comparable country. So why is it that Republicans in Texas are actively seeking to close prisons, asks Danny Kruger, a former speechwriter for David Cameron.
Coming from London to spend a couple of days in Texas last month, I was struck most of all by how generous and straightforward everyone was.
Talking to all sorts of different people about crime and punishment, the same impression came across: We expect people to do the right thing and support them when they do. When they don't we punish them, but then we welcome them back and expect good behaviour again. It's not naive, it's just clear.
For years that straightforward moral outlook translated into a tough criminal justice system. As in the rest of the US, the economic dislocations of the 1970s, compounded by the crack epidemic in the 1980s, led to a series of laws and penal policies which saw the prison population skyrocket.
Texas, for instance, has half the population of the UK but twice its number of prisoners.
Then something happened in 2007, when Texas Republican Congressman Jerry Madden was appointed chairman of the House Corrections Committee with the now famous words by his party leader: "Don't build new prisons. They cost too much."
The impulse to what has become the Right on Crime initiative was fiscal conservatism - the strong sense that the taxpayer was paying way too much money to fight a losing war against drugs, mental ill-health and petty criminality.
What Madden found was that too many low-level offenders were spending too long in prison, and not reforming. On the contrary, they were getting worse inside and not getting the help they needed on release.
The only response until then, from Democrat as well as Republican legislators, was to build more prisons. Indeed, Mr Madden's analysis suggested that a further 17,000 prisoners were coming down the pipe towards them, requiring an extra $500m (£320m) for new prisons. But he and his party didn't want to spend more money building new prisons. So they thought of something else - rehab.
Consistent with the straightforward Texan manner, the Congressional Republicans did not attempt to tackle what in Britain are known as "the causes of crime" - the socio-economic factors that make people more disposed to offend. Instead, they focused on the individual criminal, and his or her personal choices. Here, they believe, moral clarity and generosity are what's needed.
Though fiscal conservatism may have got the ball rolling, what I saw in Texas - spending time in court and speaking to offenders, prison guards, non-profit staff and volunteers - goes way beyond the desire to save money.
The Prison Entrepreneurship Programme, for instance, matches prisoners with businesspeople and settles them in a residential community on release. Its guiding values are Christian and its staff's motives seem to be love and hope for their "brothers", who in turn support the next batch of prisoners leaving jail.
The statutory system is not unloving either. Judge Robert Francis's drugs court in Dallas is a well-funded welfare programme all of its own - though it is unlike any welfare programme most of the 250 ex-offenders who attend it have ever seen.
Clean and tidy, it is staffed by around 30 professionals who are intensely committed to seeing their clients stay clean and out of jail, even if that means sending them back to prison for short periods, as Judge Francis regularly does when required.
Every week the ex-offenders attend court and take a drugs test. Then, in the presence of 50 of their peers, they tell the judge what they've been up to before receiving a round of applause from the crowd.
Immediate, comprehensible and proportionate sanctions are given for bad behaviour, plus accountability to a kind leader and supportive community. This is the magic sauce of Right on Crime.
Far from having to build new jails for the 17,000 expected new inmates, Jerry Madden and his colleagues have succeeded in closing three prisons.
I visited one by the Trinity River in Dallas, now ready for sale and redevelopment. They spent less than half the $500 million earmarked for prison building on rehab initiatives and crime is falling faster than elsewhere.
This, then, ticks all the boxes - it cuts crime, saves money and demonstrates love and compassion towards some of the most excluded members of society. It is, in a sense, what conservatives in America and Britain dream of - a realistic vision of a smaller state, where individuals are accountable for their actions and communities take responsibility for themselves and their neighbours.
It is a more positive version of the anti-politics - anti-Washington, anti-Westminster - tide that seems to be sweeping the West.
I hope that Right on Crime will catch on in Britain. Already there are positive steps towards establishing drugs courts, expanding rehab and opening up our prisons to the community groups which can make such a difference.
This is part of a major reform of outsourcing - some call it privatisation - of prisons and probation, which involves handing huge contracts to private companies who will, it is hoped, subcontract to the little guys.
The danger is that people distrust big corporations as much as they distrust central government. The ideal is a criminal justice system that is genuinely community-led - not directed by profit or by politics, but by local people and the professionals accountable to them.
Danny Kruger is a former speechwriter for David Cameron and now runs Only Connect, a charity for young people involved in, or at risk of, crime.
4 December 2014 Last updated at 22:20
India's 'fightback' sisters and the video questions
Two Indian sisters have been in the headlines since video showed them fighting back against men allegedly sexually harassing them on a bus. Then a second video showed the pair apparently attacking a man in a park. BBC Hindi's Rupa Jha travelled to Haryana state to piece together an intriguing story.'Abuse' and a belting on the bus
The incident happened in Rohtak district on 28 November when the two students, 22-year-old Aarti and 19-year-old Pooja Kumar, were on their way home on a state-run passenger bus.
Younger sister Pooja told BBC Hindi that the three men "threatened and abused us". She said she took out her belt and hit them in self-defence. The sisters say a pregnant passenger shot the incident on her mobile phone.
In the video, Pooja can be seen hitting one of the men, while a second man is partially hidden behind his friend. The third man is not in the frame - it is unclear whether he was already on the bus when the film was shot. The sisters say he boarded the vehicle after the two men rang him.
The video also shows a male passenger repeatedly trying to separate one of the men from the women, while most other passengers look the other way. The video went viral amid growing concern in India about sexual violence against women and generated a wave of support for the sisters.
The three men were arrested the next day and later bailed. They have been charged with sexual harassment and causing the women "grievous hurt". Police are still investigating the case.The conductor who didn't see
Police say the driver and conductor of the bus have both given testimony. Local police chief Shashank Anand said the driver, Balwan Singh, had corroborated the account given by the sisters.
I met Labh Singh, the conductor, in his village - the driver was away.
"The sisters told me that some men were misbehaving with them on the bus, though I did not see the attack. I had asked the men to leave the girls alone," he said.
"I also offered to call the police after the bus stopped and the men and the sisters alighted. I did what I had to do."
But media reports say five other women passengers on the bus have testified to police that the fight was caused by a dispute about seats and that no sexual harassment was involved.The pregnant passenger
Both the sisters and the bus conductor say a pregnant passenger took the video on her phone. The conductor says the woman was a regular passenger on the route.
The sisters say they were given the footage by the woman, who asked them not to disclose her identity. It is not clear whether the police have been able to speak to this woman.
Rajesh Singh, the father of the women and a government clerk, says the families of the accused men put pressure on him to withdraw the police complaint against their sons and "reach a settlement".
He says he released the video to the media after the "settlement failed".
Public sexual harassment of women, dubbed "Eve teasing", is rampant in parts of India and causes misery for women.
The footage in which they appear is far from unique. India has some 915 million mobile phone subscribers and call and data charges are among the cheapest in the world - videos are constantly being uploaded, many purporting to show women fighting back against men.
Since a fatal gang rape in Delhi in 2012 crimes against women have received greater scrutiny. No wonder then that the sisters' fightback gripped India.Miss Talented and Miss Fresher
The two women live with their parents and two other siblings in the village of Thana Khurd, some 40km (24 miles) north of India's capital, Delhi.
Haryana is one of India's more prosperous states. Thana Khurd, unsurprisingly, is more urban than rural - the streets are lined with shops and its brick and concrete homes have running water and electricity.
When I met the sisters, they said they were "tired of talking to the media".
Days after the incident, outdoor broadcasting vans were still parked outside their home, and messages of support have been pouring in on social media. Women from neighbouring villages have flocked to their homes to show their solidarity.
The sisters, who study IT, have won a host of college competitions - they proudly show me two certificates declaring them winners of Miss Talented and Miss Fresher. Pooja says she loves to dance.
They appear spirited young women, and have the backing of their family in the largely patriarchal society they live in.
And they are definitely going to keep on taking public transport.
"We will hit back again if men misbehave with us. We will not take it lying down," they say.That other video
When I ask them about the emergence of another video showing them apparently attacking a man in a park in Rohtak, they dismiss suggestions that it casts doubt on their story.
"Let them say what they want to say. They have got used to beating girls. Now they are coming up with weird allegations," Arti says.
"I wish I had known about the new video earlier so that I could have filed a police complaint against this man as well."
Indian TV channels say the second video was filmed about a month ago. There is no evidence of the sisters being harassed in the footage.
The video was reportedly released by the father of one of the men accused of harassment on the bus.
He told The Indian Express newspaper the video "arrived at their doorstep under mysterious" circumstances.
"We cannot reveal how it reached us. But we do not know who the boy [in the video is]. Maybe, his family does not want him to get into trouble."
Police chief Shashank Shekhar says the new video has not "changed the line of investigation".Claims of innocence
The men live a few miles away, in village of 6,000 inhabitants called Aasan. All three are students and in their early 20s.
Police patrol vans are doing the rounds when I visit and all is quiet.
Two of them have passed physical education exams for jobs in the army. Some media reports suggest these jobs might now be at risk.
"The allegations are all fabricated," the sister of one of three men tells me.
"These women have a habit of alleging harassment by men and then demanding money [from them]. I know my brother is innocent. We demand a proper investigation into the incident."
The families blame the media and the police for taking sides, and framing the men.
Police deny the charge, saying that they have registered a complaint from the men's families as well, and are investigating it.Studies, jobs and... marriage?
Many men in both villages accuse the sisters of being "women of easy virtue".
One young boy in their village told me the "girls are characterless".
When I asked him what that meant, he said: "They are too smart. Please don't ask me anything more."
Deepak, a student in the village, said he was angry that the women had "become celebrities".
"Are they the only girls who have been molested? You cannot have a media trial."
Such reactions are not uncommon in a state which has one of India's lowest gender ratios and is dominated by men.
But the women are not budging from their version of events, and are confident they will be vindicated.
"We will continue our studies. We will take up jobs. We are not sure whether we will marry," says Aarti.
"In any case, who will marry us now?" she says, bursting into laughter.