Sunday, 2 May 2010


I suppose it was to be expected when our Government pressured Karzai to deal with the widespread corruption in his jurisdiction that he would respond by arresting and dealing with a British subject. Major Bill Shaw MBE, formerly of the RMP and now the Commercial Director of a security company has been sentenced to two years imprisonment to be served in a local jail with a most unsavoury reputation. The various reports of his trial and the charges laid are similar and suggest they all stem from one local news feed.

This leaves a number of questions unanswered. We do not know what part our Man in Afghanistan may have played in supporting the defence of the officer or gaining any amelioration of the conditions of his detention. It seems that much of the evidence was in the local language - not understandable to the accused - and he was defended by someone with a European name who may also have no understanding of what went on. It may be significant that the local who was alleged to have received money from the manager was not found by the police - he has ample funds to stay out of their interview rooms. One would have thought that the absence of this crucial witness would be a bar to any prosecution; hearsay reports of his actions should have been well countered by the officer and his translator.

Our Embassy will have taken things on board - I suppose this will be the usual one visit from a junior clerk every six weeks. Nothing too aggressive there then; our PM is able to insult little old ladies but our Foreign Secretary is too busy fighting for his political life to tear a strip off the Afghan ministry in London.

There is a petition for the release of the officer but that seems to be the sum total of any response. He has the right of appeal but I would not hold out much hope of that avenue. What is needed is much greater exposure of the whole case and the attention of a very high profile defence lawyer. This should really be manna from heaven for the Get Out Of Afghanistan Now In Any Way Possible brigade - of which I am proud to be a member. We have all sorts of top class correspondents and TV reporters out there and they should crowd out the courthouse. If this is an injustice, it must be exposed.

I write if this is an injustice. The reports make much of the fact that the officer served as a major in the Royal Military Police after 28 years service and is the holder of the MBE. I can only say that I have dealt with RMP officers with a similar profile who have fallen by the wayside. He had experience on the civil network in that part of the world and should have been aware that things are rarely what they seem. Meeting someone whose bona-fides he did not know to hand over a large sum in cash in respect of a dodgy seizure was on the edge of careless and the con was not particularly sophisticated.

I am minded of the words of an old copper when one of his colleagues had gone down the steps. "If you are a copper, there's always something on offer" Awareness of this is an essential part of being a policeman.

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