Sunday, 8 November 2009

Psychic Detectives

Evening all. Two jolly queer stories this week from Dock Green.

Firstly, Police in Lampeter spent £20,000 following up tips from psychics in a murder investigation. The suicide verdict was questioned when mediums told the police that a lion, a horse and a man called Tony Fox were important. So off went the Boys In Blue round all the local pubs with Lion or Horse in the name.

The police were told that the dead man's ghost had been in touch to say he was strangled by gangsters and forced to drink petrol and bleach. Oddly enough, a second postmortem found no trace of either substance. Tip for mediums: don't make claims that can be disproved in five minutes with a scalpel.

The Dyfed-Powys police said they followed up the leads 'to reassure the family that the full circumstances of the death were as they appeared. Police have a responsibility to the deceased, their family and the public to investigate all deaths thoroughly'.

Up to a point, lads. Going against post mortem evidence does not say a great deal for their trust in forensics either. The men and women in white coats can't be exactly delighted.

The dead man had a row with his girlfriend and local news added that 'Their relationship had deteriorated since the birth of their son Luca in 2005, and Miss Edwards, 23, said her former partner had developed bouts of anger. She said Mr Assaf, who had spent six months in jail for assaulting her in 2006, was addicted to amphetamines'.

Does this make the police more or less gullible? Were they fooled by an alleged psychic or were they just doing their job? Could the mediums have been giving them a real tip-off based on facts they were trying to dress up as knowledge from Beyond the Veil for who knows what motive? The police said they had to be sure no third party was involved and someone decided this was worth twenty grand of police time.

We will never know at what point in the mystic revelations the police decided they'd been had or, in their terms, decided that no third party was involved.

A police source commented: 'We are becoming a laughing stock'.

Well, yes.

Then, a few days later, there was another story, this time about Alan Power, a police trainer with Greater Manchester Police, who is going to court after being sacked because he believes psychics can help in police investigations.

Judge Russell at the Manchester Employment Tribunal said 'I am satisfied that the claimant's beliefs that there is life after death and that the dead can be contacted through mediums are worthy of respect in a democratic society and have sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance to fall into the category of a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Regulations'.

He is referring to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. This is the same law used by Tim Nicholson when he argued that green beliefs are equal to religious beliefs recently.

There's respect for someone's right to believe any old nonsense and then there's taking that nonsense seriously in the workplace, which requires quite a leap especially in a job where lives and safety are at stake.

The judge said that a later hearing would have to establish whether Power was 'dismissed for the possession of religious or philosophical beliefs or for his alleged inappropriate foisting of his beliefs on others'.

Power has belonged to a Spiritualist church for 30 years. He told the hearing that he believed in psychics and their 'usefulness to police investigations'. He is to call a psychic he has known since 1980 to testify that his association with the psychic has proved 'detrimental' to his police career.

Greater Manchester Police are going to argue at an appeal that Judge Russell 'erred in law' because Power did not originally claim to have a religious belief, only that he had a belief in psychics and their usefulness to the Force.

They must be aware that their public reputation is at stake - something Dyfed-Powys police might like to have considered.

On the one hand, is there really any difference between believing that the dead can be contacted and that (fill in any mainstream religious belief of your choice here). If the latter is 'worthy of respect in a democracy', why not the former? What is the difference between praying to a supernatural being to guide you in your investigation, solving the case and ascribing it to His Wisdom and bringing in a psychic? Both are world views based on faith not science, evidence or any testable claim. Both often involve
post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning, confirmation bias, seeing patterns where there are none and a whole gamut of logical fails, not to mention leaps of imagination.

On the other hand, Manchester police do appear to be showing a lot more common sense than the Dyfed-Powys police. The fact that Power wants to prove his beliefs have been detrimental to his career means that he has form, that they have known about him for a while and he went too far.

If Power wins his case, then the floodgates will be open for people with any kind of belief to refuse to do certain work because it is against those beliefs, to bring those beliefs into the workplace, demand concessions or privileges and to appeal if they get sacked. As long as they can prove they didn't just make up a belief on the spot because they fancied a day off, they could have a case.

Two incidents of psychics and police do not make a trend, but it would be interesting to know just how many members of the Force have some sort of supernatural belief that they bring to work with them. There is a Christian Police Association , a Muslim Police Association, a Sikh group and a Pagan Police group.

The pagans wanted to take the Solstices and Halloween off and Hertfordshire police have appointed two pagan police chaplains. A member of Staffordshire Police is a practising Wiccan who has offered to do spells to help his colleagues.

In the light of all this, does using the dead to grass up the living seem so extreme?


Power's case has now been heard and the judge found against him.

The tribunal heard that Power was playing the part of an arrested shoplifter during a police training exercise near Warrington in 2004. But, according to the report, 'he became visibly aroused during the frisking process'.

A sergeant from Merseyside police saw this and decided not to use him again. Cheshire Constabulary made the same decision because of his 'inappropriate behaviour'.

So the perp had form.

The information came to light in October 2008 after Power, who denied the allegations, got a job as a special trainer with Greater Manchester Police. He was sacked three weeks later with the force citing his 'current work in the psychic field' as a reason.

It was also alleged that he had handed out inappropriate research materials to Merseyside officers about the World Trade Centre attacks.

The GMP said "The matter has never been about Mr Power's beliefs and we vehemently deny any claims he was discriminated against on those or any other grounds".

So first time round he was sacked for a stiffy, then either for his psychic activity or for handing out leaflets. Or possibly his pony tail. The evidence is not exactly clear.

Either way, this particular psychic will no longer be using his invisible friends as police informants or copping a feel-up on the job.

More importantly perhaps, citing discrimination against your beliefs is becoming an increasingly tenuous response to being fired.
UPDATE 26 November
This post appeared on the Friends of the National Secular Society Facebook page:
I'm the sister of the man in this story. I'd love to say lots more, but then he'd take me to court too! All I can say is that I'm very very glad he lost!!!


  1. It should be fairly simple. We respect people's right to hold beliefs even if we don't respect the belief. And I see no difference between believing in mediums or gods. In return, people who have these beliefs just have to realise that as soon as their beliefs come into contact with the running of society they may need to be kept private. It just so happens that in this country we have chosen to run our society based on laws, facts, reality, rationality (well, we try) etc. We don't live in, for example, a theocracy where using irrational beliefs in the running of society is at least consistent.

    So, people have to accept the fact that their irrational beliefs are incompatible with running our society. The ones who believe in mediums may also like to reflect on where they are in the queue - i.e. we're more likely to start with a theocracy if we decide to ditch secularism, and mediums may still be shunned.

    Of course, once they start thinking like this, they may be astute enough to realise that everyone's irrational beliefs are equal and that we'd have to accommodate everyone, which would rapidly lead to the breakdown of the structures which run our society.

    I could be a medium who talks to the dead who tell me that things are much better after you die. If that were the case, it would be entirely consistent for me to go around killing people for their benefit.

  2. The above comment is right. People have a right to hold beliefs, but should not bring them in to the workplace. If the sacked copper was wasting his paid work time with a psychic, that's the same as just sitting in the office praying to a god, Christian or otherwise, to help him solve a crime. Neither course of action would be considered a good use of police time I think. He's been watching too much TV...

  3. The psychic detectives are some great persons who can solve mysteries easily and more conveniently then the others with the help of their spiritual and supernatural powers. They can also help to catch the criminals and murderers of the innocent people.