The government has been accused of trampling on individual liberties by proposing wide-ranging new powers for bailiffs to break into
homes and to use reasonable force against householders who try to protect their valuables.
Under the regulations, bailiffs for private firms would for the first time be given permission to restrain or pin down householders. They would also be able to force their way into homes to seize property to pay off debts, such as unpaid credit card
bills and loans.
The government, which wants to crack down on people who evade debts, says the new powers would be overseen by a robust industry watchdog. However, the laws are being criticised as the latest erosion of the rights of the householder in his own home.
These laws strip away tried and tested protections that make a person's home his castle, and which have stood for centuries, said Paul Nicolson, chairman of the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, a London-based welfare charity. They could clearly lead to
violent confrontations and undermine fundamental liberties.
It emerged last week that Her Majesty's Courts Service has already handed out guidance to privately employed bailiffs, pointing out that under legislation passed in 2004 they can already break down doors as a last resort to collect court fines.
Some restraint should be exercised, according to the search and entry powers guidelines. If a person locks himself in their home, it might be reasonable to break open the door, but probably not to smash a hole in the wall, it advises.
Details of the new guidelines were obtained under freedom of information laws. They say homes should not be broken into when nobody is in. Reasonable grounds for breaking down the door include the movement of a curtain, a radio being heard or a
figure being spotted inside which may be the offender.
Comment: A Big Mistake
29th December. From Alan
Fascinated to read the story about bailiffs being allowed to kick the door in. A few months ago, I came home to find a note from bailiffs through the door. Nothing to do with me, or indeed my address. My street name and number happen to be duplicated in
at least three suburbs of my largish town. The pillocks had come to the wrong "Umpteen, Something Street", evidently being unable to read the postcode.
If I'd been out and they had "suspected" the curtain had twitched, this new law could have meant I would have come home to a ransacked flat.
Schools have installed CCTV cameras and microphones in classrooms to watch and listen to pupils.
The Big Brother-style surveillance is being marketed as a way to identify pupils disrupting lessons when teachers' backs are turned.
Classwatch, the firm behind the system, says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day and used to compile evidence of wrongdoing. The equipment is sold with Crown Prosecution Service-approved
evidence bags to store material to be used in court cases.
Data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner has warned the surveillance may be illegal and demanded to know why primary and secondary schools are using this kind of sophisticated equipment to watch children. Officials said they would be
contacting schools to seek proper justification for the equipment's use. A spokesman said the system raised privacy concerns for teachers, students and their parents. The use of microphones to record conversations is deeply intrusive and we
will be seeking further clarification on their use in schools and, if necessary, we will issue further guidance to headteachers.
Classwatch is set to face further scrutiny over the role of Shadow Children's Minister Tim Loughton, the firm's £30,000-a-year chairman.
The systems cost around £3,000 to install in each classroom or can be leased for about £50 per classroom per month. The firm says the devices act as impartial witnesses which can provide evidence in disputes and curb bullying and
unruly behaviour and protect teachers against false allegations of abuse – plus provide evidence acceptable in court.
Schools are required to inform all parents that microphones and cameras are monitoring their children.
A London teacher who won £250,000 compensation after a pupil tried to strangle him has criticised a can't touch culture in schools after other staff initially refused to intervene.
Colin Adams was attacked by a 12- year- old boy, who knocked him to the floor before punching and kicking him, and grabbing his neck. But despite other teachers yelling at the boy to stop, no one stepped in to help.
Adams's ordeal ended only after another teacher eventually came to his aid by forcing the boy's thumbs back to release his hold. Later, the unnamed teacher admitted to Adams that he was afraid the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would accuse
him of assault.
The police informed the school they could have kicked the boy in his back to make him let go, but I am not sure there is any teacher anywhere who would be willing to do that for fear of repercussions.
Wishing you a miserable christmas
from all at Norwich Council
Police have used anti-social behaviour laws to stop shopkeepers handing out mulled wine to customers as part of a village's Christmas celebrations.
Traders are angry that officers from Fife Constabulary moved in to stamp out a practice that has been a tradition in Anstruther for 17 years.
They have been told they must apply for an alcohol licence in future for the event, which begins the East
Neuk community's festive season.
Police said shopkeepers were sending out the wrong message when officers were trying to tackle alcohol abuse and underage drinking in the area.
The festive tipple was handed out by several shops when they stayed open late two weeks ago.
Martin Dibley, the secretary of the Royal Burgh of Kilrenny, Anstruther and District Community Council, said: It's a bit of 'bah, humbug'.
Another trader said: Giving adults a glass of spicy mulled wine to celebrate Christmas can hardly be compared to throwing vodka down a teenager's throat. The whole thing was hardly done in the Christmas spirit.
Elizabeth Gordon, who lives in the village, said police were telling shop owners they would nick them if they gave out mulled wine.
Inspector David Brown said: Preventing misuse of alcohol is a key commitment of Fife Constabulary and requires rigorous enforcement of the by-laws banning drinking and carrying of open containers of alcohol in public places.
While our emphasis is on using the by-laws to target alcohol abuse and underage drinking in the Anstruther area, it would send out the wrong message if we were to permit drinking in public for other groups of people.
In a letter to the National Union of Journalists, the Minister for security and counter-terrorism, Vernon Kay, clarified that the police may stop photographers
taking pictures or videos when the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations or inflame an already tense situation or raise security considerations. The Police have already been using heightened security tensions and their
powers under the Terrorism Act to remove and harass people documenting political demonstrations, which was the cause of the dialogue with the NUJ.
This signifies the Home Office coming clean and admitting from now on the Police will have ability to remove anyone at all with a camera - all the police have to do is declare, possibly not even publicly, that there are special circumstances:
Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace or to avoid a public order situation or for the person's own safety and welfare or for the safety and welfare of others.
This means if you witnessed the police bundling someone into the back of a van and decided to film it on your camera phone, you would be breaking the law. If a professional journalist did so, they would also be breaking the law.
Plumber Martin Solomon was heard by neighbours as he shouted foul and offensive language at his TV, magistrates in Stroud
His ranting put him in breach of an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) which had been imposed at an earlier hearing to try to stop him shouting and swearing at the television whenever he disagreed with a programme.
Simon James, defending at Stroud Magistrates' Court, said: Mr Solomon often drinks more than is good for him. He will have a drink and will return home. Then he will put on the television and if someone on the TV says something that upsets him, he
will swear at the TV.
The court heard that his neighbours in Farmhill close, Stroud - among them two children aged two and 11 - were disturbed from their sleep and upset by the language.
Stroud District Council obtained the two-year ASBO order in Gloucester Magistrates' Court on September 27 last year. But Solomon broke the order on October 21 at 10.10pm, October 23 at 23.55pm and November 10 at 9.55pm, the court heard.
Solomon admitted the breach in a police interview and pleaded guilty in court.
James said: He has tried very hard to comply with the order. He said Solomon had consulted a doctor and a rehabilitation service.
Colin Peake, SDC's anti-social behaviour co-ordinator, said: It's very frustrating for the family next door who've got two young children.
He was fined £80 and told to pay £60 costs plus a £15 victim surcharge at the hearing.
A grandfather was left humiliated after being handed a £60 litter fine when his cigarette was knocked out of
his hand as he walked past a scuffle between police and shoplifters.
Lazaris Michael, 76, had taken a single puff before his smoke was sent flying as officers apprehended two girls who were trying to flee a branch of Boots.
But the pensioner did not have time to bend down and pick it up before a council warden pounced on him and hit him the fixed penalty for littering in front of a large crowd.
When he begged the council to show common sense and drop the case they responded by threatening him with an even bigger fine if he does not pay up.
He has since written to the council asking them to investigate the case, which he says was the result of an over zealous council warden.
But he has been told the fee will be increased to £80 if he does not pay up.
Thanet Council's environment chief jobsworth Shirley Tomlinson said: We are happy with the process that has been followed.
Thanet Council's campaign warns people the council will take a zero tolerance approach to anyone who drops litter, including cigarette butts and chewing gum. If spotted, no excuses will be accepted. You will be handed a fine. It is therefore important to
dispose of any litter in the right way. Our wardens have been doing what they have been instructed to do and we cannot make any allowances.'
When three police officers came knocking at Brett Duxfield's door at 8am, he could not imagine what he had done wrong. The 39-year-old
Hartlepool lorry driver was arrested, taken to the police station, questioned and kept in the cells for 10 hours. His alleged crime? Lighting a bonfire on the village green in Elwick, where he used to live. On Bonfire Night.
It turned out that this breached an ancient, but recently revived, by-law. So he was charged with arson, for which the maximum penalty is life in prison.
This kind of disproportionate reaction is becoming something of a habit for the police. When Inspector Tony Green, of Cleveland Police, announced, We are duty-bound to follow a complaint through, he was using almost exactly the same words as the
Metropolitan Police did to justify arresting Damian Green, the Tories' front-bench spokesman on immigration, as well as searching his offices, seizing his computer, rifling through his private papers and freezing his email account.
Since when were the police duty-bound to behave like this? In what way does following a complaint through require three police officers to arrest someone who may have acted anti-socially, detain him for 10 hours and charge him with an
offence that was once a capital crime?
The National Police Improvement Agency, on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers has now issued some updated advice.
The Terrorism Act 2000 does not prohibit people from taking photographs or digital images in an area where an authority under section 44 is in place. Officers should not prevent people taking photographs unless they are in an area
where photography is prevented by other legislation.
If officers reasonably suspect that photographs are being taken as part of hostile terrorist reconnaissance, a search under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 or an arrest should be considered. Film and memory cards may be seized as part of the search,
but officers do not have a legal power to delete images or destroy film. Although images may be viewed as part of a search, to preserve evidence when cameras or other devices are seized, officers should not normally attempt to examine them. Cameras and
other devices should be left in the state they were found and forwarded to appropriately trained staff for forensic examination. The person being searched should never be asked or allowed to turn the device on or off because of the danger of evidence
being lost or damaged.
Terrorism powers must never be used for matters that are not related to terrorism.
Officers should take care to correctly record the power used on the record of search. Officers searching under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (but not section 43) can require subjects to remove footwear and headgear in public. (Officers should be
aware of cultural sensitivities when requiring people to remove headgear .)
There is no power to stop people taking photographs or digital images in public places under the Terrorism Act 2000.
Terrorism powers of search should be conducted in accordance with the principles of Code A of PACE
Frightening new police powers have emerged following the shocking treatment of Stoke City fans prior to their team's away fixture
with Manchester United on Saturday, November 15, 2008.
An estimated 80 Stoke supporters visited the Railway Inn pub in Irlam, Greater Manchester, on their way to Old Trafford. The pub was a natural stop-off point, being on en route to the stadium via the M6 and a local railway station. By all accounts that
the Football Supporters' Federation have heard it was a relatively quiet atmosphere, with little singing, never mind trouble.
However, at 1.15pm a number of officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) entered the premises and told fans they would not be allowed to leave the pub, would be forcibly taken back to Stoke, and not be allowed to visit Old Trafford.
Each supporter was then issued with a Section 27 from the Violent Crime Reduction Act of 2006. This allows police to move someone from a specified area for a period of up to 48 hours. You do not actually have to have committed any offence for the act to
be enforced. Section 27 gives police the powers to move anybody, from any place, at anytime, if they think there's a possibility an alcohol related offence may be committed.
Stoke City fan Lyndon Edwards, who is making a formal complaint to GMP and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, was one of those in the pub: I asked for it to be stated on the Section 27 form given that I was not intoxicated and that there
was no evidence of any disorder on my part. This was refused so I refused to sign the form. I was told to sign it or I would be arrested. We were then loaded onto buses and had to sit there for what seemed like an eternity.
There were no football chants being sung at the Railway Inn and no evidence of disorder whatsoever. If there had of been we would have left the pub and made our way elsewhere.
The Stoke supporters were then driven back in convoy to Stoke city centre, regardless of whether this was actually where they were from.
I have spoken to a number of Stoke fans who were there and I am quite satisfied that they did absolutely nothing wrong, but they end being hauled back to Stoke against their will and missing the game, said Malcolm Clarke, chair of the FSF and a
Stoke City fan: They were treated very badly by the Greater Manchester Police. This new law gives the police a great deal of instant power which can severely affect the basic civil rights of football supporters, if they happen to be in the wrong pub
or on the wrong train at the wrong time.
German police will get sweeping new powers to hack into people's home computers with 'Trojan' viruses sent through the internet.
Under a compromise between the hardline Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and dissenting MPs, Germany's Parliament is put unprecedented power in the hands of the Federal Criminal Police (BKA). Under the compromise, the police will need a judge's
approval before using the Trojans, even in an emergency.
Trojans will carry Remote Forensic Software that can search hard drives and send evidence back to investigators without their having to enter the suspect's home.
Rolf Tophoven from the Institute for Terrorism Research and Security Policy said: We need this. The masterminds among the terrorist groups of today are highly qualified, very sophisticated people. The police need as much power as we can give them so
that they can remain at the technological level of the terrorists. After all, the terrorists already have a huge advantage: they have the first shot."
In practical terms there are many potential drawbacks to this Trojan approach.
For starters, infecting the PC of a target of an investigation is hit and miss. Malware is not a precision weapon, and that raises the possibility that samples of the malware might fall into the hands of cybercrooks.
Even if a target does get infected there's a good chance any security software they've installed will detect the malware. Any security vendor who agreed to turn a blind eye to state-sanctioned Trojans would risk compromising their reputation, as amply
illustrated by the Magic Lantern controversy in the US a few years back.
A judge has condemned a police assault on a soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lance Corporal Mark Aspinall, 24, was thrown to the ground by three uniformed officers after a night out with friends and punched eight times.
The violent arrest - caught on CCTV - shocked a crown court judge, who called it appalling.
But astonishingly, Lance Corporal Aspinall was himself hauled before the courts and convicted of assaulting the police.
He was sentenced to 200 hours' community service and even ordered to pay compensation to the officers.
His ordeal ended only when Judge John Phipps watched the damning CCTV footage and quashed the verdict on appeal.
Judge Phipps said: I am shocked and appalled at the level of police violence shown here.
Police officers had been called to the town centre to deal with a man reportedly causing a nuisance to paramedics. But when a special constable and two colleagues saw Aspinall in the road they presumed he was the cause of the trouble.
In the footage, the soldier can be seen 10ft from them in the middle of the road as they stand on the pavement. Suddenly, the officers move across the road towards him and, startled, Aspinall falls over. As he gets to his feet one officer rugby tackles
him, while the other two help pin him to the ground and attempt to handcuff him.
The footage appears to show one of the officers - Special Constable Peter Lightfoo raining punches into the back of the defenceless man as he lies on the ground. Eight blows are struck in just a few seconds and the police officer stops only when a car
drives past slowly.
Eventually, Aspinall was bundled into a police van in handcuffs, with injuries to his face and neck. He was taken to Wigan police station and kept in custody for 20 hours. He was charged with two counts of police assault and a public order offence.
On September 22, at Wigan magistrates' court, the officers read statements claiming Aspinall had been behaving violently. Despite viewing the footage, magistrates found him guilty of the assaults, sentenced him to community service and gave him a
suspended-prison sentence. They also ordered him to pay £250 compensation.
He lodged an appeal against the conviction and on November 13 at Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Phipps saw the footage and asked: Where is this man of violence? I am shocked and appalled at the level of police violence shown here. The judge said he
had great concerns about the CCTV footage and questioned the truthfulness of the officers' statements: I would go as far as to say the statements contain untruths.
A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said the matter had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. One officer has had his duties restricted and another two are being investigated.
[How about all those responsible for the prosecution and original sentencing? Surely some jail time is due to them to]
Wishing you a miserable christmas
from all at Norwich Council
A Hairdressers who offer their customers a festive glass of mulled wine at Christmas have been warned that they face six months in jail and a £20,000 fine.
The threat was made by council chiefs, who even announced that they will send officers into salons under cover in an effort to catch offenders. Hairdressers have criticised the move as "Scrooge-like".
Norwich City Council wrote to all hairdressing businesses in the city ordering them to get a licence if they want to serve alcoholic drinks. Sent to 104 salons in Norwich, the letter states that the practice of serving complimentary alcoholic drinks is a
breach of the law and requires various licences.
It then warns: To address this issue enforcement action, including the use of undercover officers, may be undertaken in the near future.
The council also declares that anyone found guilty of unlawfully supplying alcohol could face a maximum of six months in jail, a maximum fine of £20,000 or both.
Nigel Matthews, owner of Nigel Alexandre salon, said: The vast majority of salons serve tea and coffee throughout the year and in the couple of weeks before Christmas offer a glass of wine or mulled wine or sherry. It seems very Scrooge-like to send a
letter out just as we are entering the festive period. It is traditional, the clients are rewarded and it is all part of the customer service.
What struck me was the potential sentence – you get a lot less than that for a lot more than serving a glass of wine.
A council spokesprat said that under the 2003 Licensing Act sale by retail includes providing alcohol to customers as part of the service. He added that a letter of complaint was received last month about salons offering drinks.
We wanted to make sure small businesses did not unwittingly fall foul of the law while trying to spread a little Christmas cheer in the build-up to the festive season, he said.
Michael Stephenson, misery services manager, said: We accept the letter we sent out to hairdressers in the city may not appear to be in keeping with the festive mood and are sorry if it has been misunderstood... HOWEVER ...we are a licensing
authority and there is a serious message here about the enforcement of licensing laws and helping businesses make sure they do not fall foul of the law."
A couple of weeks ago a 15-year old schoolboy on a geography field trip was stopped by police under Section 44 of the
Terrorism Act for taking a photograph of Wimbledon train station as part of his of GCSE course.
Community Support Officers forced him to give his details and sign a form or face arrest (legal note: You do not have to give your details under and stop and search, despite what lies the police will say and never sign any police notes).
Last week the police stopped four students from Kingston University from filming an interview with the anti-war Parliament Square protesters as part of their MA in Film Making. The police approached the students and told them they would need a
permit from the Council to film. Brian Haw from the Parliament Square peace camp filmed this incident, but the police curiously didn't stop him from filming! Later the students returned with a letter from the University course director explaining
their work and that it was not for commercial purposes and the students were covered by the University's insurance. But police would still not let the students film and when challenged refused to check with superiors.
The Debenhams store in Oxford Street has been banned from playing Christmas carols after council bosses said the music created noise pollution.
Westminster council officials have ordered managers at the department store not to broadcast the festive music that traditionally accompanies its popular window display, and threatened it with prosecution if it does not comply.
Thousands of families normally flock to see the £100,000 display featuring moving reindeer and snowmen while listening to traditional carols such as Jingle Bells or Silent Night broadcast onto the street through four-inch speakers.
However, despite being played on one of the busiest and noisiest shopping streets in England, environmental health officials told the shop's management the music would have to be switched off because it constituted noise pollution.
Daniel Astaire, Westminster's cabinet member for community protection, said: If every business was allowed to blast its choice of music and advertising into Oxford Street a visit would become unbearable and inevitably affect trade.
The store offered to turn down the volume but this was rejected by the council.
An employee at the store, who wants to remain anonymous, said the music would cheer people during the credit crunch and branded the council killjoys.
He said: We've done this for decades and at a time of grimness it brings an awful lot of joy into people's lives at Christmas. We were more than happy to turn the music right down so only people standing inches from the window could hear it but
he insisted it must be turned off or we would be prosecuted. We could understand the council's stance if were deliberately blaring out the usual Christmas songs by Slade with no regard for passers by. But this is a very gentle, very quiet,
discreet piece, composed especially to appeal to children as they watch the show. It's clear that Scrooge is alive and well and working with the killjoys at Westminster City Council.
More than 12,200 innocent people have been branded criminals by bungling police and Government officials, it has been revealed.
The incorrect records showing them to be paedophiles, violent thugs or other convicts were disclosed to schools, hospitals, nurseries and voluntary groups by the Criminal Records Bureau. The extent of the misreporting is four times worse than
officials had suggested.
Those wrongly accused by the CRB face having their careers blighted. They also have to go through an appeals process to clear their names. By the time that has finished, they may have been stigmatised and their chance of obtaining a job or
training post dashed - disclosures are sent to the potential employee and the applicant on the same day.
The CRB's annual report indicates that only 680 inaccurate disclosures were made last year. But figures seen by the Daily Mail reveal there were 2,785 last year. Since 2003-2004, more than 12,200 have been wrongly stigmatised as criminals. They
contested their cases, and were proved to be right.
Figures obtained by Tory MP Mike Penning show that, in some years, virtually every contested disclosure was found to be inaccurate. In 2005-2006, 2,669 disputes were upheld, out of 2,675 that were contested.
The CRB had been effectively covering up the scale of the problem by only making public those mistakes for which its staff were personally responsible. It had not been releasing details of disclosures containing inaccuracies supplied to the CRB by
other public bodies - most notably the police - then subsequently disclosed in the agency's name. Mistakes have included people having convictions wrongly attributed to their name because of a mistake by staff entering information into the Police
Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: The increase in the number of incorrect disclosures is disturbing. These are mistakes that risk ruining people's lives.
Phil Booth, of the NO2ID privacy campaign, said: One mistake in the system and your whole life can go down the pan. You are officially tagged a criminal when you have done nothing wrong.
All alcohol advertisements should be banned in Northern Ireland in an effort to repress the region's drinkers.
The legislative assembly heard that raising the age limit for buying alcoholic drinks in off licences from 18-21 and outlawing two-for-one and happy hour promotions in bars and clubs are also among a series of repressive measures proposed by the
The SDLP also called for a social responsibility tariff imposed on all licensed premises to ensure they contribute to the cost of policing the night-time economy.
The initiatives were outlined by Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey during a debate on the problems surrounding alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland.
Ramsey acknowledged that while some of his party's proposals could be legislated for by the Assembly others were devolved matters.