“Because they took your van off you”

At the time “Jessica”‘s story broke, I expected people in Peterborough who knew the gregarious and popular Cllr Andy Coles to experience shock and there has been a little of that. That is why I wrote about the sensation of falling which is how the shock of the allegations first affected me.

I have been too busy out and about campaigning to write much about this story but while I’ve been busy a great deal has happened. This post is an update and a pulling together of threads.

The council can’t do anything

Firstly in response to a number of points and questions I communicated to the council’s leader and chief executive officer, the council has explained its position with respect to removing an elected representative:

“The legal position is that all democratically elected councillors, are entitled as of right to attend all meetings of full council.  There is no power for officers or members to remove that right.”

So while “Jessica” believes that Coles should resign as a city councillor (and I wholeheartedly support her call) I don’t think that anybody can force that to happen. If Coles continues not to resign, it seems that he can’t be pushed.

His party won’t do anything

I believe that a decent political party would have suspended Coles already, pending clarification of his situation. However his party is the Conservative Party which is in power and which has been close to being in power for a century. It is an integral part of the establishment which has used the police to target over 1,000 organisations, including my own political party, my party’s only MP and my party’s only member of the House of Lords. This is why I personally have no expectations that the Conservative Party will even worry about behaving decently: that simply isn’t what the party or the British establishment is about. They are about power full stop. If they did suspend or expel him I would expect him to opt to remain in post as an independent councillor. This may be more of a worry to them than his remaining in post. The horrible question which then arises is where are the other 120 ex spy cops and how do their current networks, contacts, employments or appointments help to protect their secrets and abuses or those of others and to what extent and how might such arrangements be tolerated or even organised? Let’s not underestimate the usefulness of professional, political and cultural networks. Cllr Coles is one of the best connected people in Peterborough.

Three investigations are underway: none of which stop him talking

Back to fast moving present reality. There are now three investigations or cases ongoing. As far as I am aware none of these require Coles to maintain silence on the allegations:  his silence is entirely a matter of personal choice, not of contractual or legal obligation. I am as ever happy to be corrected.

1  A civil case is now underway at the Metropolitan Police Service’s Legal Directorate.

There have been rumours on social media of an out of court settlement. This gossip is not true.

2  “Jessica” has been admitted as a core participant into the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI)

3  The Cambridgeshire Police & Crime Panel will consider the referral back from the IPCC

The Independent Police and Complaints Commission (IPCC soon to be IOPC) responded to a FOI request in the following terms:

IPCC FOI response IPCC Ref 1006605 received 7th August 2017

which at first glance looks as if the IPCC is not investigating and did not investigate. But if you check what the IPCC does and how it does it, it is perfectly possible that this interpretation is not quite correct. IPCC can supervise local investigations without actually doing them. This statement does not eliminate the possibility that it could be involved in supervising a Cambridgeshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (Cambridgeshire OPCC or here just OPCC) investigation which hasn’t started yet. As for regulations, here is something which may or may not help in understanding what they are and what will or won’t happen next.

In order to understand what has or hasn’t happened here, it would be necessary to see both referrals and to form a judgement about their sufficiency or otherwise. It would also be necessary to understand whether these referrals relate only to Coles’ behaviour while he was applying for or occupying the post of Cambridgeshire Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner (as I strongly suspect is the case).

Our local paper secured a different statement from the IPCC which explains how the Cambridgeshire OPCC intends to handle the referrals.


Meanwhile the local paper indicates that the Cambridgeshire OPCC has delegated the investigation to the Cambridgeshire Police & Crime Panel. This body meets next on 6th September. The agenda for that meeting is not yet online, but it should be available on the 1st at the latest.

We really do need to know what Coles’ motives were in going for the role of Deputy PCC and we need to know everything about who knew the whats and the whys about that appointment.




I call on Cllr John Holdich, Leader of Peterborough City Council, to suspend Cllr Andy Coles

Email sent to Cllr Holdich

Please Suspend Cllr Andy Coles!

Please suspend Cllr Andy Coles. It is reasonable that he is suspended. 

It is not decent, fair or reasonable that he stays in post while Jessica’s allegations of dreadful behaviour, (amounting to state sanctioned rape) remain unresolved. 

I believe that the Conservative Party is the only body able to suspend a Conservative Councillor who won’t resign.

Please let me know if I have been incorrectly advised.

Why I believe you have no choice: In other words: If Coles stays, where does this position Peterborough City Council?

In failing to suspend Coles, you as the Leader of Peterborough City Council are placing yourself, our council, the Mayor (himself an ex policeman, Cllr John Fox) all our elected councillors (including those who are not members of the Conservative Party) and your entire party and its national membership in the same place as and appearing to collude with whoever (maybe also members of his party) authorised the #Spycops behaviour in the first place (whether the long list of people I have listed like it or not, and without a single one of them getting a vote on the matter).

Why suspending him is critical for the reputation of the city:

If whoever has power to suspend him from the Conservative Party, did so promptly, pending resolution of whatever processes are or have to take place, then the Leader of Peterborough City Council, our council, our Mayor, all the elected councillors and his entire party could achieve distance from contamination with the behaviours of a group of people who have been able to abuse state power, in fact were paid to do so, with impunity and (unfortunately now) your stated personal approval (I think you may have done this in some ignorance of the gravity of what has been alleged – I know you are a very busy man).

The council is contaminated by association until that is achieved. The council does not need this. Peterborough does not need this. I do not believe this to be in anyone’s best interests: not even Cllr Coles’.

Background & Why I Think What I Think

Resign Cllr Andy Coles!

I called for Andy Coles to resign as soon as I heard about and read up on the allegations made against him by “Jessica” (not her real name). The Channel 4 programme was viewable for a day or two, but was taken down very promptly (I think). This programme alone was sufficient to convince me that he would have his hands full dealing with the allegations, whether he was innocent or guilty and that either way he had to resign.

Since I thought I knew Andy Coles, liked him and above all, found him relatively easy to talk to (which is unusual in my experience of Peterborough Conservative Party members in Peterborough) my very first response to Jessica’s story was disbelief. I’d seen him do what looked like useful work in the creative arena in the city, in West Town (not my patch) but also in the campaign to Save The Green Backyard #SaveGBY a major environmental project which had been under threat, but which had been saved (that means granted a 12 year lease) with a lot of help from elected councillors from various political parties. I first learned about him at the Green Back Yard while he was still a top bar bee keeper and at that time he was trying to help a woman who has since died to parish West Town, which I would very strongly support.

But none of my prejudice in his favour affected my call on him to resign. Calling on him to resign wasn’t about the truth or otherwise of the allegations. This was solely about his ability to cope with what was alleged and being in elected position at the same time.

Could a troubled teenager go to him as her councillor for help? Not in my opinion.

That would be simply impossible until the facts were established in some sort of due process and he’d cleared his name. His family’s ability too. My heart went out to his family. Then I realised I’d never met any of them and suddenly I had one of those lurches deep in the gut. I’d had a similar experience before: tiny tiny bells ring so small you simply don’t hear them until suddenly the floor vanishes from under your feet. I gasped as a new reality – a new set of possibilities – a new narrative entirely – opened up beneath me. My memory raced back as little doubts were sown. As you fall like Alice you grab the things on the wall of the hole. What did and didn’t I know about Andy? Everything I knew about him was suddenly capable of meaning something entirely different. From that moment of doubt until now, there have been for me two Andys. Jessica’s Andy and the one I thought I knew right up to the moment I read her story. I could place one little cut out character (let’s face it, I don’t really really know a lot about either Andy) on top of the other with no trouble at all. They slotted together perfectly. The things Jessica said fitted into the life of the person I knew. All he’d had to do was leave little things out when talking to me. Everybody does that: it is nothing remarkable. That is surely exactly how nobody notices how things are done both covertly and in plain sight. For anyone who has read the exposure story, he is not the same man. If he remains the same to them, they haven’t really read it.

I began to confront the plausibility of Jessica’s story.

I thought back. We’d had a long conversation in town over coffee. Cllr Andy Coles was recently elected and had just taken charge of Children’s Services from Cllr Sheila Scott. I said “Good: that job needs someone with a brain.” There had been no doubt in my mind at all that he was as bright as a button. This guy had a degree in what seemed a relevant subject and right or wrong, the plight of Childrens’ Services at the time was being laid firmly at the stodgy, uninformed ineducable and totally immoveable Scott’s door (I accept I might be right or wrong about her, but she is typical of a type of councillor who I keep being forced to conclude is literally impermeable). I saw a background in policing as hugely beneficial to the role: he’d have a perspective and a brilliant training: with skills such as investigation, scepticism, analysis to hand. He asked me about my family: kids, husband. I thought these questions were downright impertinent on a first acquaintance so he got public domain basics: not the specifics he was cheekily after.

Since the allegations sank into my consciousness I have defriended him on facebook, where he has made friends with a huge number of my facebook friends. I’ve defriended some of his (for all I know perfectly nice and decent) political friends. I have to. Facebook is a political network as well as a social network and I’m not sure how the facebook network has been used, whether or how my friendships with real people have been used in real life and for what. Most of my facebook friends see no harm in him at all. I can’t do that.

Thinking back to that over inquisitive conversation. That friendly bright face, those honest eyes. Had he been miked up? What else did I say? He told me his family had been in shoe manufacturing when he was little. I told him I love design. I used to love shoes: that I’d once considered studying at the Cordwainers. Did I tell him how I got into design? About the putti I sculpted in the garden that very hot summer? I think I did. He told me that his family business failed along with most of the English shoe making industry and that that was the moment when he decided to join the Metropolitan Police.

OMG The Met and maybe MI5 knows that I totally adore Kinky Boots!

Did I share that with him? Almost certainly, since the only reason we were talking was that Peterborough was trying to rise from the ashes of its industrial past and face the total horror of continuing Austerity by sparking the creative sector it had so far suppressed pretty effectively. Regeneration, niche markets: that was why we were talking. Campaigning to do good things, like save The Green Backyard, which we both knew was an incubator for sustainable projects, for good green things. I felt that as if he’d taken a crucial piece of clothing off me and I hadn’t even noticed. I felt exposed. I understand power and how uneven it is. I’ve been stamped on (though never ever like Jessica). I think most women have had a moment. But we think we grow. We develop out and beyond those naive moments. We wouldn’t put ourselves through that again, would we? But that conversation can never be again what it was at the time. Sharing requires trust. I can no longer trust Andy Coles.

Did he walk all over me?



I require him to be totally and unconditionally exonerated

before I can have a normal conversation with him again. Some of my friends are struggling to believe that he could be what Jessica claims. They are lovely people and they see the nice guy. I’m not quarrelling with them. I’m not a judge and I am perfectly well aware that every person is entitled to a hearing and due process in the face of an allegation. Frankly I am concerned that he won’t get due process.

The people of Peterborough, if they only knew, would require the same

Not every voter follows what councillors get up to, let alone what is alleged about them. Very few people even knew we had a General Election.

Women, if only they knew, would deserve and require the same

But I also understand power and I understand where women are in relation to men. The salary differentials. Pension inequality. The horrendous abuses. Women in Peterborough experience terrible oppressions. I’ve met women who are walked over, trodden on, beaten down. Who have nowhere to go. I’ve campaigned for women in prison. I’ve seen despair. I know women who’ve lost their children here. Our society has been like that. We fight like cats to make it better, but we shouldn’t have to. I see disparities, unevennesses everywhere I go. I know what it feels like to be looked at as if you are a piece of shit. That happened to me only LAST SUNDAY afternoon, outside Peterborough Prison, where I joined a noisy memorial for Charlie Noakes, who died there and still has not been given the decency of an inquest. The vulnerabilities and innocences of being young and not even knowing what power is. Being exposed. Being in the wrong place. Everywoman has been there. We’d prevent it if we could. We do what we can. But we know the places are there. The wrong places.

What does it feel like to be someone with a story like Jessica’s to tell?


If I was Jessica’s mum, what would I do?

It took a moment from falling down that rabbit hole to putting myself in the position of Jessica’s dad. Or her mum. My imagination takes me onto some kitchen floor and in she walks and the story is told. It feels better to have my feet on the ground. I can imagine being either of them. Who would I believe: my daughter or the weird, strangely useful but disappearing hippy?

This isn’t about justice or due process. This is about putting yourself into other people’s shoes and imagining what if. Some people can’t do this with their imaginations. Imagination is one of those things which teachers notice you have when you are seven and encourage you to quietly dispose of before you go to secondary school. But I never did that: I can do that: I’ve always been able to do that and I have never understood what it must be like to be one of those people who doesn’t have this skill. I know they exist. They may even be a majority of people. I know it is unusual to be able to imagine and I know also that I’m very very good at that. And that – nothing to do with right or wrong, guilty or innocent, fair or unfair – is why he simply has to resign.

He has to resign because we all know that he was apparently not in that sort of relationship – an uneven, manipulative, power over youth – to the people who elected him: that is not how he was elected: that is not the basis on which he was elected. That was neither his image nor his reality. He was just a bright, rather nice ex copper as far as the electorate, his friends, colleagues and neighbours were concerned. Maybe even his family saw nothing more than that.

It is possible that even his party colleagues knew no more – but of course this is an awful lot less likely. There is the distinct possibility that they knew a lot more: surely this should have been revealed to two local constituency party’s election agents? Don’t they vet their candidates? What were they told? What did they ask? They have to ask, surely, because of the risks of not asking? He has stood and represented people as a councillor in two constituencies (South Bretton in the Peterborough constituency, then Fletton & Woodston in the North West Cambridgeshire constituency). Why was he moved from one to the other? Two officers of the Conservative Party will presumably have been charged with asking whether or not there is anything in his past which could bring the Conservative Party into disrepute.

Their voters might want to know.

But now that the story is out, those straightforward people cannot see him in the same way: well perhaps they can. But I can’t. Cllr Holdich can opt to be resolute and refuse to read what is put under his nose. That’s not how I operate. And it is not how a council leader should operate.

Allegations have to be confronted: they need facing up to

Holdich has failed to do this to date. Remarkably he has excused Coles anyway even in the event of his being found guilty. He finds what he has been accused of as admirable, necessary. He clearly hasn’t read what the Met concluded about these abuses (see below). Holdich needs to geek up very quickly and consider his position and what the position he is taking says about the position of his entire political party on the issue of #SpyCops, especially given the extraordinary news which broke yesterday (continue reading).

Coles needs to exonerate himself. He needs to be officially exonerated. An explanation is required. And that has so far not happened. He has markedly, signally NOT provided an explanation, a confession, a challenge in whole or in part or a rebuttal. Meanwhile nobody is fighting for or representing Jessica on the City Council, which is going along with the IPCC investigation narrative and tying itself up in confidential tape (which given the Tories allergy to red tape is presumably not red – what colour is it by the way?).

For some reason, quite beyond me, Coles believes he can hang on as a city councillor: do this job in the face of a political and media storm and his decision to hang on despite the allegations is what led to the extraordinary but highly effective protest last Wednesday.

Demo for Andy Coles’ Resignation, Peterborough – Campaign …campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/event/demo-andycoles

Andy Coles has resigned his post as Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, and he must now step down from his post as Councillor as well. It is important that the Andy

Jessica calls for Andy Coles to resign his position on …https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/jessica-calls-for-andycoles

In her own words: “I welcome the news that Andy Coles has resigned from his post as Cambridgeshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner. I would like to know …

Coles did resign quickly and in terms of media coverage in a sudden and media-spectacular way from his post as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner but he did this on the basis that the allegations were getting in the way of him performing the role, not on a point of principle or honour.  I noted on Monday 24th July that he had not yet updated his Register of Interests at Peterborough City Council to match that declaration, and I am not sure that the declaration was complete (this would require an audit). I have just submitted a question to full council to find out what exactly what happened when, just in case there is something curious underlying the discrepancy.

Media Coverage of Andy Coles’ Resignation from the PCC role is Substantial

A list is available below the video on this post.

Background Story is Credible, Though so far Untested in any Due Process

The revelations which led to his resignation can be found as footnotes here: http://undercoverresearch.net/2017/05/12/finding-andy/ Here they are:

A biography is provided here: http://powerbase.info/index.php/Andy_Coles

Where the Met stands: re: previous similar but proved cases

All councillors inclined to agree with keeping Coles on their body should read this:


So if Coles stays, where does this position Peterborough City Council?

In failing to suspend Coles, the Leader of Peterborough City Council is placing himself, our council, the Mayor (himself an ex policeman, Cllr John Fox) all our elected councillors and his entire party in the same place as whoever (maybe also members of his party) authorised the #Spycops behaviour in the first place (whether they like it or not, and without a vote). If whoever has power to suspend him from the Conservative Party, did so, pending resolution of whatever processes are or have to take place, then the Leader of Peterborough City Council, our council, our Mayor, all the elected councillors and his entire party could achieve distance from contamination with the behaviours of a group of people who it appear to have been able to abuse state power, in fact were paid to do so, with impunity. The council is contaminated by association until that is achieved. I do not believe this to be in anyone’s best interests.

Yesterday, those abuses widened substantially

This does not sit well with the proud assertions of our council about democracy diversity and inclusivity, values I believe are shared by city residents.

But tonight we learn the firm intention of our council is to exclude the public from its meeting. The local paper has noticed. The council plans to put the public into the Bourges Viersen room which has a fire door between it and the Council Chamber. It is my opinion that putting people behind a fire door (instead of in the Reception Room, which the Mayor clearly alluded to in his remarks on the night – see Cllr Fower’s video below) means that the council is trying to insulate itself from any sound from a Spectators Alternative Containment Room.

Please just suspend him. It is reasonable that he is suspended. It is not decent, fair or reasonable that he stays in post while these dreadful allegations remain unresolved.

Spectators Gallery sign in Peterborough Town Hall showing the way up four flights of stairs

Peterborough Green Party supports the continued use of the Spectators Gallery as what it says on this notice:

Spectators Gallery sign in Peterborough Town Hall showing the way up four flights of stairsand the door leading to it from Bridge Street. #OpenTheDoor (locked last Wednesday).

Press Coverage of Coles’ resignation from his PCC role

Cambridgeshire’s deputy police and crime commissioner Andywww.edp24.co.uk/news/crime/cambridgeshire-s-deputy-police-and…

A deputy police and crime commissioner has resigned following allegations that he deceived … Cambridgeshire’s deputy police and crime commissioner Andy Coles resigns.

Andy Coles, Cambridgeshire’s deputy crime … – BBC Newswww.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-39920189

The allegation relates to Andy Coles‘ work as an undercover police officer in the 1990s. … Cambridgeshire’s deputy PCC resigns over ‘sex deceit’ claim.

Cambridgeshire deputy police commissioner resigns over spy …https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/15/cambridgeshire…

A deputy police and crime commissioner has resigned after being accused of deceiving a woman into a sexual relationship while he was an undercover officer. Andy Coles

Breaking – Andy Coles resigns as Deputy Police …undercoverresearch.net/2017/05/15/breaking-andy-coles-resigns

Andy Coles has announced his resignation, effective immediately, following a weekend of press scrutiny over his past activities as an undercover police officer, in …

Deputy Police Commissioner resigns in face of sex …www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/deputy-police-commissioner-resigns

Deputy Police Commissioner resigns in face of sex allegations. Claims have emerged that Andy Coles used his position as an undercover police officer to begin a sexual …

Update Breaking – Andy Coles resigns as Deputy Police Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, our blog, 15 May 2017. Rob Evans, Cambridgeshire deputy police commissioner …

Police deputy quits over undercover grooming claims | News …https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/police-deputy-quits-over…

A deputy police and crime commissioner has resigned after claims that he deceived a woman … Andy Coles, 57, stepped… Our … Police deputy quits over undercover …

Deputy police and crime commissioner resigns from role …www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/…resigns…to-former-career-1-5018240

Allegations regarding Andy Coles’ work for the Metropolitan Police came to light at the weekend and have led to him stepping down from the role he took up last year …

Philippa and the judge

Today’s story about the jailing of Philippa by Judge Noble in Peterborough highlights several critical problems in Peterborough.

1 Peterborough awards the motorist absolute priority

Fiona Radic in 2013 on top of Queensgate car park.

Me in 2009 on top of Queensgate car park with Bourges Boulevard behind. Went there to observe something astronomical. Ended up watching pied wagtails diving over the top. Thought about a mum who’d recently jumped to her death.

Very obviously and in my view outrageously, the absolute priority this city awards the motorist is demonstrated by this judgement just as it is in local infrastructure investment decisions, where roads for cars can always be funded, but decent routes for other forms of transport are consistently unaffordable.

The judge chose to reinforce this view by claiming he felt obliged to jail a woman who was on foot and in desperate need because:  “I have to have regard for hundreds of motorists who were severely inconvenienced by her actions.”

Philippa breached a previous judicial order, so the judge had to do something. But Judge Noble jails her, apparently believing that the inconvenienced driving community somehow deserves this, or requires it of him.

I drive a car and I don’t want this woman jailed. #NotInMyName. I’d like her released now. #FreePhilippa

Most drivers are decent folk who would stop for someone who clearly needed help. This must be what they did that day, however unwilling. This delay was long, but delays on the road happen everyday.

In this case the risk of a fatal outcome for Philippa was very high, but thank goodness, diligent caring people helped avert it. So why jail Philippa when the best possible result was achieved by the large number of people, including local emergency services and all those drivers who stopped, however inconvenient, to help make sure that someone’s life was protected at a lethal moment?

Good question.

Philippa was sent to prison early this morning. As I writing this and going about my day, two young men died at the hands of a hit and run motorist in Yaxley on a patch of road where spending on a cycleway/footpath has allegedly been put off for a whole decade. But the money for the brand new road which underpasses that same road was found. However, just as happened when the old road was built, not quite enough for a pavement or cycle way.

Peterborough has created a problem for itself and it was not Philippa’s fault.

2 Peterborough is one of the most dangerous places to be on the road

Ranked with all the other parliamentary constituencies in the UK, the City of Peteborough is ranked fifth from the bottom.  Bad driving is at epidemic levels in the city and around it. And given its appalling safety record, one has to ask why Judge Noble feels any need to conciliate the community of motorists living anywhere round here.

This is not Philippa’s fault either.

3 Peterborough only cares about shopping and getting to work

Given that the city’s second priority after the private motor vehicle is earning enough money to shop and then to do your shopping, which all too often means buying and driving a car, road traffic is a massive problem for most people, whether or not they are experiencing emotional distress and whether or not they happen to be in a car at a particular moment. It is not all about accidents. It is also about air pollution and life expectancy. It is about quality of life. And how much of a person’s life is eaten up travelling.

I don’t think it is an accident that historically women (mostly) have chosen the city’s car parks to express their despair. Queensgate’s car parks only service the retail sector and they shut as the shops close. Women find places which reflect their feelings.

Philippa is not alone. Her behaviour is not unique to her. Unhappy women have been telling Peterborough very important but not very nice things about how we are restricted and tied down by the way we live. But the city doesn’t listen. And I suspect that Judge Noble really doesn’t want to hear those awful truths.

If I’m right, that isn’t Philippa’s fault.

4 Peterborough does not have a working public transit system

Non ownership of a car in Peterborough renders you virtually unemployable, a phenomenon never experienced by residents of cities with working public transit systems. Here it makes you a non person. Something not worthy of consideration.

So often people are trapped in a vicious cycle of having to have a car. Another group of people is stuck outside the car owning circle. A huge number of people can’t or don’t drive a car but the transport needs of this very diverse group (including children) are not taken care of. Their chances and opportunities can be massively compromised, because they experience travel only as a passenger in someone else’s vehicle, not as something they can embark upon autonomously.

The systems we put up with affect everyone’s happiness. Not just Philippa’s. Roads affect the map and our relationships with one another. They define and divide communities. Some of Peteborough’s roads are hideous.

When our environment is neglected and fails to support people’s needs, it has an impact on our health and happiness.

That isn’t Philippa’s fault either.

5 Peterborough does not have an effective mental health system

If Philippa had been discharged from effective mental health care she would not have ended up back in court.

That isn’t Philippa’s fault, obviously.

6 Peterborough is angry

A judge finds himself in an impossible position. Judges have to be very professional and aren’t supposed to express their emotions. But I think it might be well worth trying to imagine what it would really feel like to be a judge faced with Philippa. Suppose I was the judge.

I’d feel disappointment that Philippa has landed back in court. Disappointed for her, because I know that failure is bad and hurts and she will be hurting.I’d be trying to see how she is, and trying to figure out what on earth went wrong. And disappointed for myself and the court, because the very fact that she is standing in front of me means that what we did last time didn’t work, or didn’t work well enough.

So I’d be quite annoyed too and probably cross with her. She didn’t have to do this, did she? We gave her a chance, but she hasn’t taken it. She’s gone the wrong way and landed up back in front of me. I’d be irritated and I might be inclined to lose patience.

And how come she’s been discharged from mental health care but done it again? What is wrong with the health care system? Why can’t they get it right? One row and she’s completely destabilised? How come? What kind of discharge was it? What strategies did they give her? Did they get anything right? I’d be furious that they were so useless.

But being a judge, I would of course be very very good at managing my emotions, keeping them firmly under control, being objective, turning them into something positive, like sport or a hobby. Because someone probably taught me how to do that.  A chap’s ability with his own emotions is partly why he is a judge.

I might be aware of what Philippa thinks she needs, but not necessarily. It seems to me that a judge, faced with terrible distress finds himself equipped with all the wrong tools. I might well feel annoyed about what my judge options were. What I’ve got is a sledgehammer.

What Philippa needs and probably knows she needs are the sort of things you would find in a properly functioning hospital (eg not one like Peterborough – on permanent alert). A nurse, probably medication, time, secure spaces, counselling and therapy, companionship, advice, training, reflection, perspective. Things which are far more akin to needle and thread.

Our Peterborough judge knew this morning that the tools and resources which might help repair Philippa are not available in our city. You can’t refer someone to a non existent or inadequate service. She has already been discharged from what has been made available to her and our judge can see that one family conversation has been enough to plunge her back into misery. I’d be livid if the judge was me.

But of course it was Judge Noble. Yes he has got all the sledgehammer might of the law and he isn’t going to get all emotional. But the trouble with the law is that it imagines that a desperately unhappy person is capable of caring a single jot about it. It is so vain. All systems are like that: they all believe that it is about them. That is how people get crushed utterly. We all know that.

Of course everybody knows that nobody in desperate need should be required to defer to the paramount needs of any system. Systems should work with those in need. Systems all have policies which say that this is exactly what they do. But we also all know that in practice they don’t.

There is a 100% chance that the judge knows that as well as I do, and again, if it was me, I’d be even crosser. I’d be twenty times crosser than I ever ever get in real life.

And that in my opinion is why the actual Judge Noble jailed her. Sending Philippa to prison was not about her. It was all about him. If Philippa was a such pain in the neck to a bunch of motorists, what terrible trouble will she cause in prison? And why would anyone burden an hopelessly overloaded prison service with someone who will cause nothing but obstructions and delays within it?

Putting Philippa very gently to one side, frankly, it isn’t fair on the prison service.

There simply is no rational explanation for jailing Philippa.

But we don’t need a rational explanation, do we? Becasue we can all see straight through an angry, impotent, frustrated system, can’t we ladies? We know how hard it is to mend something bigger than you, compared with how easy it is to smash something smaller.

7 Peterborough is a hot spot for female vulnerability

Lastly but very importantly, Peterborough is a hot spot of female vulnerability, where retaining your personal integrity can prove fatal. Women are required to support the system and to do its bidding, even to their own undoing. The cure here is not the council. The cure is usually other women: people who can and must help and support one another. Women who have seen and befriended a lot of women suffering know the extent to which Philippa is not alone. But it is impossible to understand that you are actually in excellent company while you are still suffering. Just as it is impossible to comprehend the law or do its bidding. These realisations come only once people are able emerge out of a crisis.

My wish for Philippa is that recovery and this realisation come soon. Maybe, crazily it will come for her in prison, the right thing even if in completely the wrong place. I hope that the penny will drop quickly that she is OK. Yes, she is unhappy and probably quite unwell. But she is absolutely not the problem and she is in the company of a huge number of wonderful people, wherever she is, including prison.

Please be sure that wherever women find themselves especially vulnerable, so do a lot of other people and your readers are far too clever to assume that what I describe is only about or for women.

4 Jan 2017