Editor’s comment: I’m shocked and baffled by volunteers’ lies

Thiago Alves and Michael Scher were convicted for falsely accusing two teenagers of robbery. Picture

Thiago Alves and Michael Scher were convicted for falsely accusing two teenagers of robbery. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

The Shomrim volunteers who lied to police about a robbery in Stamford Hill have brought an honourable organisation into disrepute.

Thankfully, CCTV of the "incident" exonerated the boys. But it shed little light on why Shomrim began chasing them in the first place.

Even odder is the fact the volunteers - and the seemingly unconnected moped rider - doubled down instead of owning up, giving police statements that led to two innocent children being locked up for 16 hours.

Then, of course, there's the fact neither of the convicted men has accounted for his actions - and the fact a second Shomrim volunteer, who also lied to police, has now apparently fled the country: an offence in itself, a wild overreaction, and the kind of thing that irritates a judge no end.

The irony is that breaking walls of silence is actually one of Shomrim's many strengths: reporting of crime - particularly hate crime - is undoubtedly better, and better evidenced, thanks to the group's voluntary work.

But that work relies on trust, and these men have damaged that, just as the efforts of the police can be hampered and undermined by poor community relationships stemming from corruption and institutional discrimination - neither of which, sadly, is unknown in the history of Hackney's thin blue line.

I welcome Rabbi Herschel Gluck's vow to tighten up recruitment and training. I suspect, though, that he is just as perplexed as the court by these men's bizarre actions.

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It will take a lot for the boys and their families and friends to trust Shomrim again.

Yaakov Nowogrodski can do his part by returning to Britain and facing the music - but most of the work will fall on the shoulders of his innocent colleagues.