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2009: Jan-March

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27th March   

Morrison Minor...


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Supermarket encourages parents to leave children outside while shopping
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Morrison's logo A mother was stopped while buying a 12 certificate DVD at a  Morrisons supermarket because she was with her young children.

Karen Richards said she was amazed and outraged after the incident at her local Morrisons.

She was shopping with her eight-year-old son, Sean, and nine-month-old baby when she was stopped at the checkout trying to buy the film Ladies in Lavender , a drama starring Dame Judi Dench.

The assistant said she could not buy it because she was with her young children.

Miss Richards said: Is Morrisons suggesting I should leave them both outside while I shop in case I want to buy something of a slightly adult nature? Does Morrisons not realise how totally ridiculous this is?

She added: The ironic thing is the staff member was quite happy to sell me a bottle of wine at the same time. It is further proof, if it is needed, that this 'PC' world of ours has gone barking mad. But with regards to films, I'll decide what my son does or does not watch, not Morrisons.

She said after talking to the supermarket's supervisor she was eventually allowed to buy to film.

A Morrisons spokesman said customers suspected of buying an age-restricted product for a minor should be refused sale: The DVD product in this case had an age restriction applied to it and the store followed procedure.

 

24th March   

Update: Indebted to Recession...


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Court bailiff's new powers for breaking and entering postponed
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HM Courts Service Bailiffs will not be allowed to force entry into people's homes on a first visit to collect debts, the government has announced.

The proposal had been considered as part of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act.

But the Ministry of Justice said such a change will not now be considered until the industry is regulated in 2012.

Currently most bailiffs can only force entry if they have been previously invited into the house by the debtor.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Money Box, Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said the decision was based partly on current economic circumstances: Secretary of State Jack Straw asked me last year to have a complete reassessment of the provisions of the act given the current economic climate. We don't think they are appropriate at the moment.

The minister also felt that allowing stronger entry powers was inadvisable in the absence of the bailiff industry being properly regulated: The idea of someone entering your house to seize your goods is a very serious one and so it really is important that we get everything set up with a proper regulatory authority.

 

21st March   

Update: Torture in Tooting...


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Police pay £60,000 damages to muslim man beaten in police custody
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Metropiltan Police badge The Metropolitan police have agreed to pay £60,000 damages to a British Muslim after a high court admission that officers had subjected him to serious, gratuitous and prolonged attack.

The court was told that Babar Ahmad, who is accused of raising funds for terrorism, had been punched, kicked and throttled during his arrest by officers from the force's territorial support group in December 2003.

Lawyers for the force's commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, admitted at the high court that Ahmad had been the victim of gratuitous and sustained violence at his home in Tooting, south-west London.

The commissioner has today admitted that his officers subjected Babar Ahmad to grave abuse tantamount to torture during his arrest, Ahmad's solicitor, Fiona Murphy, said outside the court.

During the hearing, it emerged that the Met had lost a number of large mail sacks containing details of other similar allegations against the officers who assaulted Ahmad. Murphy said  other crucial documents relating to the case were also lost. They included all the officers' contemporaneous notebooks and the taped recording of an interview with the senior officer in the case.

Murphy added: The papers will be referred to the director of public prosecutions for urgent consideration of criminal charges against the officers concerned and for an investigation as to whether events surrounding the mislaid mail sacks constitute evidence of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

During his arrest, Ahmad was punched, kicked and throttled, the court heard. Officers stamped on the 34-year-old's feet and repeatedly punched him in the head before he was forced into the Muslim prayer position and they shouted: Where is your God now? Pray to him. After a sustained attack, he was forced into the back of a police van, where he was again beaten and punched before being put in a life-threatening neck hold and told: You will remember this day for the rest of your life. At one stage, one of the officers grabbed his testicles and he was also deliberately wrenched by his handcuffs – a technique known to cause intense pain.

 

20th March   

Update: Torture in the UK...

500 victims a year of female genital mutilation
Link Here  full story: Stop FGM...The nasty world of female genital mutilation

Ragged Union Jack The NHS is offering to reverse female circumcision amid concerns that there are 500 victims a year with no prosecutions

Despite having been outlawed in 1985, female circumcision is still practised in British African communities. Police have been unable to bring a single prosecution even though they suspect that community elders are being flown from the Horn of Africa to carry out the procedures.

The advertisement will appear from next month on a Somali satellite TV station much viewed in Britain. It features Juliet Albert, a midwife who does the reverse operations, and promises, in English and Somali, confidentiality for victims of female genital mutilation.

The advertisement was expected to help to undermine demand for girls to be circumcised, and to popularise the reversal procedure, Ms Albert said. Thousands of such operations have been carried out at specialist clinics and hospitals around Britain and demand is growing slowly.

A study by the Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (Forward), estimated that 66,000 women living in England and Wales had been circumcised, most before leaving their country of origin. The government-funded research also found that more than 7,000 girls were at a high risk of being subjected to genital mutilation in Britain.

Sarah McCulloch, of the Agency for Culture Change Management UK, said that every year more than 500 British girls were having circumcisions. A lot of them are done in the UK, but some still travel overseas, she said.

She said that a code of silence in Britain's African communities had allowed circumcisions to continue and prevented arrests. The unqualified female elders, known as house doctors because they act in secret in a family home, are flown into the country: What the communities do is they gather together and collect money to pay for the ticket for a ‘doctor' to come from Somalia, Sudan, or whatever. And when she arrives here, she goes to a house and has the girls brought to her.

 

17th March   

Trainspotters Banned...

National express to destroy popular British hobby
Link Here

National Express Trainspotters could be banned from King's Cross and other major stations for security reasons, it was claimed today.

Union leaders say National Express will bar spotters from stations on the East Coast main line because they are a nuisance and pose a security risk.

The ban, which union leaders claim betrays Britain's 170-year long railway heritage, covers King's Cross and York, which is the spiritual home of the industry and next door to the National Rail Museum.

National Express is instigating the ban as it installs automatic ticket gates at main stations along the line.

Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the TSSA, the industry's second largest union, said The barbarians have finally taken over the industry. Only people with no sense of history would commit such an act of mindless vandalism. Young trainspotters have been with us since Victorian times. Now National Express is saying they should be banned as they are a nuisance. The company has told us that train spotters will be banned at all its main line stations which will be installed with gated barriers.”

Stations covered by the ban also include Stevenage, Peterborough, Newark, Leeds, Durham, Doncaster, Wakefield and Newcastle.

One trainspotter, who would only give his name as Roger, said: National Express has taken leave of its senses. Trainspotters may be seen as a bit odd but we are friends of the railways. We don't smash it up, steal cables or blow ourselves to bits — so why are they picking on us?

 

16th March   

Police State of Kent...

Heavy handed bullies policed power station protest
Link Here

Kingsnorth Protesters gathered at Kingsnorth power station last August had many reasons to feel aggrieved at their treatment by police.

A report into the policing of last year's Climate Camp demonstration has criticised Kent police for its apparent use of psychological operations.

To wake protesters during the week-long protest last August, police are accused of using vans to play loud music that included Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries and the theme from 80s sitcom Hi-de-Hi.

On the final day of the protest the van departed and - in what was taken as a smug gesture of triumphalism - blasted out I fought the law and the law won , the lyrics to the Clash's rowdy cover.

The report, launched by the Liberal Democrats, said the music seemed an attempt to deprive attendees of sleep.

The report also highlighted the police approach to participants of a festival picnic procession mostly made up of families and small children. A helicopter ordered them via loudspeaker: Disperse now, or dogs, horses and long-handed batons will be deployed.

Allyn Thomas, Kent's assistant chief constable, claimed the operation, which he oversaw, was very successful but conceded the helicopter message threatening anti-riot techniques had been a mistake.

Kent police have come under repeated criticism for their heavy-handed approach to policing the event, a protest against the planned £1bn coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth by energy firm E.ON.

Officers from 26 forces were drafted in to help mount a £5.9m operation. Home Office minister Vernon Coaker, who initially said the response had been proportionate , later apologised to MPs after it emerged the 70 police officers he claimed had been injured in clashes with protesters had suffered unrelated ailments - including bee stings and a toothache.

The report found protesters were threatened with arrest after invoking their right to not to disclose personal details. They were also subjected to repeated searches, and police seized more than 2,000 items, including a clown outfit, cycle helmets, tent pegs and board games. The confiscation of the camp's supply of soap was justified by police because protesters might use it to make themselves slippery and evade the grip of police, the report says.

 

12th March   

Update: Sobering Reality...

Alex Salmond's minimum alcohol pricing receives a setback
Link Here  full story: Drinking Restrictions...Drinking becomes the target of killjoy politicians

The Scottish Parliament Alex Salmond was dealt another major setback last night after it emerged his plans to crack down on cheap alcohol have been blocked by Opposition parties.

The First Minister's controversial proposals to introduce minimum prices for alcohol and ban drinks promotions are likely to be delayed until next year. He had planned to use only amendments to existing laws to bring his plan into force, but Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats have insisted on brand new legislation. They argued that only by being included in a Bill will the measures get the proper scrutiny they deserve.

Speaking after the meeting, Mike Rumbles, Scottish Liberal Democrat chief whip, said: I made it absolutely clear that the Government's alcohol strategy faced certain defeat unless they brought these proposals forward properly. They need to let MSPs scrutinise fully and vote on controversial measures like minimum pricing, which could have a devastating impact on the whisky industry. It is absolutely clear that if they continue trying to sneak through these measures then the entire package would be dead in the water.

David McLetchie, Scottish Tory chief whip, said: These are highly controversial proposals and they should not be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion or bulldozed through the parliament in this way. There needs to be a proper inquiry into the plans before parliament decides on the specific proposals.

Michael McMahon, his Labour counterpart, said: We will not be opposing them because we disagree but because of the way they are bringing it forward. If they are confident in their arguments they will not be afraid to put them to the full Parliament for debate.

Under the SNP's scheme, alcohol cannot be sold below a minimum price per unit. This has yet to be set, although Scottish ministers suggested a level of about 40p.

This would mean a bottle of wine with 13% alcohol by volume could not be sold for less than £3.90 and a bottle of 40% whisky would cost at least £11.20. Promotions, such as three-for-two offers, are to be banned.

Other parts of Salmond's alcohol blueprint are included in the new Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill and he could add the minimum pricing and promotions ban to this legislation. However, this would see their introduction delayed until next year.

Update: Standalone Legislation

27th March 2009. See article from timesonline.co.uk

The SNP government announced yesterday that they would bow to pressure from Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative party managers and allow full parliamentary scrutiny of the measures, which include setting a minimum price per unit for all alcoholic drinks.

Instead of bringing in the changes by amending existing regulations, entailing a much shorter scrutiny process in Parliament, the minority government has now agreed that they should be contained in a standalone health bill that will see full parliamentary scrutiny.

The legislation will also include other controversial initiatives such as allowing local licensing boards to raise to 21 the age limit for buying alcohol in off-sales, a crackdown on cut-price drink promotions and making alcohol retailers pay a “social responsibility fee” to help deal with the social consequences of alcohol abuse.

 

9th March   

The Rotten State of Britain...

An angry rant at what New Labour have done to Britain
Link Here

The Rotten State of Britain book Britain has become a bureacratic and authoritarian state watched over by a quarter of the world's CCTV cameras, a study of Labour's decade in power claims.

The Rotten State of Britain claims to be the first deeply researched factual account of Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's time in office.

The author Eamonn Butler, a director of the leading think tank the Adam Smith Institute, claimed that his book had been turned down by two publishers because of the unconventional nature of the content.

Among the claims in the book are that Britain has a quarter of the world's CCTV cameras, the largest of any country and that taxes have risen by 51% since 1997.

Each year the Government has passed 3,500 regulations, along with 100,000 pages of rules and explanation.

Butler also claims national debt is running at £4.6billion, or £175,000 per household, not £729billion (£29,000 per household) as the Government claims.

Dr Butler said he wrote the book because he got so angry about the way that they have no concept of the rule of law.

One in nine hospital patients picks up an infection during their stay on a ward, while the total cost of outstanding claims against the NHS is £9.2billion, Dr Butler claimed.

He said that 30,000 of the 200,000 people who die of cancer and strokes each year would survive if they lived anywhere else in northern Europe.

Dr Butler also claimed in the book that the number of people receiving state benefits has risen from 17million people in 1997 to 21million people by 2007. He found that nearly six million families receive £16billion-worth of child credit. Dr Butler said: It's ridiculously high number of beneficiaries for something aimed to help the poorest.

 

4th March   

Intimidatory Policing...

Police 'crossed the line' at Climate Camp
Link Here
Haw forced to teh ground by police outside parliament

You are being arrested for possession of dangerous balloons

Kent Police have been accused of crossing a line after it was revealed officers seized balloons and books at a power station protest camp.

MP David Howarth said police confiscated items to intimidate protesters at the Climate Camp in Kingsnorth near Hoo in August 2008.

A Freedom of Information Act request showed items taken included blankets, a walking stick, a clown outfit and soap.

A spokesman for the force said many of the items have now been returned.

Howarth, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, said: If people carry knives it is right to seize a knife, I'm not claiming that everything that was seized was wrongly seized. A mountain bike, cycle helmets, bin bags and party poppers were also taken from protesters entering the camp site.

I think [the police] did cross an important line. You have to have a really creative imagination to think these items might be involved in committing a crime. It seems to me that I think that there is a very clear line between trying to do their job... and trying to disrupt the process itself. That takes [the police] into a political area where they just shouldn't go.

In December, police minister Vernon Coaker apologised for telling Parliament that 70 officers were injured dealing with protests at Kingsnorth power station. There were only 12 reportable injuries, according to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by Howarth, four of which involved direct contact with another person.

 

28th February   

Offsite: Unbalanced Policing...

Taking Liberties, the Live Show
Link Here
Haw forced to teh ground by police outside parliament

You are being arrested for failing to provide information pertaining to your height

My suspicion that Taking Liberties , the British Library exhibition now in its final week, would be a slightly sanitised version of the story of liberty was borne out by a visit last Tuesday.

Within eight paces of the entrance to Taking Liberties two officers, a man and woman, had stationed themselves inside the library and without the slightest sense of irony or trespass were stopping people to ask their names, contact details and height under terror laws.

I would have taken a photograph with my phone but that has been made illegal so I watched while a stream of utterly ordinary-looking people were questioned. I asked one man whether this was usual in the British Library. Yes, he said, it was well known that the police used the library as a convenient means of boosting their stop and search quotas and balancing the number of black and Asian people stopped in the street with the white people in the library.

I cannot say whether this is true but I saw nothing to disprove it while I looked through the postcards.

...Read full article

 

18th February   

Update: Another Liberty Shuttered Up...

More police excuses to prohibit photography
Link Here  full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state
Haw forced to teh ground by police outside parliament

Copper: What time is it please?
Protester: It's ten past three.
Copper: You're arrested for providing information useful to terrorists.

Hundreds of photographers protested outside Scotland Yard in London as a new law which they claim restricts their freedom came into force.

Under section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, illiciting, publishing or communicating information on members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers which is likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism will carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Photographers fear police will use the law to prevent lawful pictures of protests being taken.

To mark the law, at least 300 photographers gathered outside Scotland Yard to exercise their democratic right – and take pictures.

The police officers present were repeatedly photographed, but took the protest in good spirit.

Some photographers wore masks and fancy dress, while others wore stickers that said: I am a photographer – not a terrorist.

David Hoffman, a photographer with 32 years' experience, said he now carries shinpads in his bag, claiming he had been kicked by police officers at protests. He said: They have been beautiful today, but it's the individual officer who's on his own at a back-street anti-fur protest. He's less accountable.

When I started, photographers were seen as representatives of the press, an important part of a public event. But over the last 30 years that has deteriorated. They're using the law as an excuse to stop photographers when, politically, they don't want coverage. Animal rights protests, peace marches, of course the poll tax – police are simply saying: We don't want this in the paper.

Marc Vallee, protest co-organiser and a photographer well-known for covering protests, said: This has been amazing. Photographers are fed up with the way they have been treated for the last few years. They are trying to do their job in a professional way and the counter-terrorism laws are being used against them. I have had colleagues that have come out of the tube station to cover a protest, with press card, and officers have come across and said: I'm stopping you under section 44 [stop and search powers].

What is that doing for press freedom?

 

18th February   

Smacks of Sharia...

No kissing zones in Warrington Station
Link Here

No Kissing sign Lovers hoping to bid each other an intimate farewell will no longer be able to do so in certain areas of Warrington Bank Quay train station after no kissing signs appeared following concerns that embracing couples were supposedly causing congestion.

The signs were installed as part of a refurbishment of the station and have divided the car park and taxi ranks into kissing and no-kissing zones.

The idea of the no-kissing zones at Warrington station in Cheshire, was first mooted in 1998 by Colin Daniels, chief executive of the town's chamber of commerce. He came up with the idea after hearing that a station in Deerfield, Illinois, had used the signs to ease congestion.

Daniels said: It is a fairly congested station and ideally what we want is for people to come here, drop someone off and move on. But that wasn't always happening and people were lingering and causing delays.

With these 'no-kissing' signs we are pointing out that we don't want people doing that right outside the front of the station. If they want to linger and say a longer goodbye they can do that in the 'kissing zone' where there is a limited amount of parking.

Daniels said that the station would not be enforcing the zones too rigidly, adding: It is a bit of fun, but it will be interesting to see if people observe it. They may seem frivolous but there is a serious message underneath.

 

18th February   

Britain on Trial...

Britain said to have colluded with torturous interrogation in Pakistan
Link Here

Guantanamo Bay British terrorist suspects who claim they were tortured in Pakistan were then interrogated by MI5 agents under rules drawn up in Whitehall, a court has been told.

The Home Office has already launched an inquiry into claims that UK intelligence services colluded in the brutal treatment of British citizens and residents in Pakistan.

Last night it emerged that an MI5 officer told the High Court an official policy existed over the questioning of suspects by Pakistani authorities. It was agreed by MI5 lawyers and government figures, he said.

The disclosure came as the officer, known only as Witness B, was cross-examined over the case of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident held in Guantanamo Bay. Mohamed claims he was hung from leather straps, beaten and threatened with a gun by Pakistani officers before being questioned by MI5. Other UK-based detainees have alleged UK officers turned a blind eye to their treatment in Pakistan.

 

17th February   

Offsite: A British Story of Lost Liberty...

Why can't we take pictures of policemen?
Link Here  full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state
Haw forced to teh ground by police outside parliament

You're arrested:
assault & camera battery

Too often in recent years the public dialogue in our country has undervalued the importance of liberty, Gordon Brown said: Now is the time to reaffirm our distinctive British story of liberty – to show it is as rich, powerful and relevant to the life of the nation today as ever; to apply its lessons to the new tests of our time.

Yet, not for the first time, what the Government does bears no resemblance to its rhetoric. From today, new counter-terrorism laws come into effect that will entrench a growing tendency by the police to prevent anyone taking photographs in public, especially if they (the police) are the subject. There has been a worrying increase recently in police arresting or seeking to prevent what is a lawful activity.

...Read full article

 

13th February   

Offsite: Even Ann Widdecombe can see the Injustice...

Tainted by a crime you did not commit
Link Here  full story: Vetting Workers...UK vets all adults to work with kids

CRB Vetted only There was a time, when British justice was the envy of the world, when innocent until proved guilty meant just that.

If the police could not find enough evidence to bring a case, the name of the suspect might lie on file but that had no impact whatever on his ability to function as a normal citizen.

If someone came to trial and was found not guilty he left court without a stain on his character.

That is no longer the case and especially where sexual offences are concerned.

...read full article

 

12th February   

Goodies and Baddies...

Police baddies raid cowboys and indians party
Link Here

Buffalo Bill VHS Some had feather head-dresses, others were in buckskin and a few were shouting Bang! Bang! You're dead! at Roy and Val Worthington's offbeat silver wedding celebrations, which had a Wild West theme. The party was going well until the real law arrived at their saloon.

It was, according to guests, one over-relaxed cowboy who triggered a full-scale armed police alert at the party's pub venue in the Leicestershire village of Castle Donington. He failed to wrap his toy rifle in newspaper or tuck it into a bag, and instead sauntered down to the party with the fake weapon over his shoulder.

An anxious neighbour rang Leicestershire police, who responded rapidly and in force, including dispatching a police helicopter.

Mrs Worthington said: We'd just come out of the church after renewing our vows and my husband said 'I bought you a helicopter' as a joke, because there was this one overhead. But when we got to the bottom of the road there were all these police cars stopped outside. There was an armed police unit and a police dog.

The landlady of the Moira Arms, Tina Whiting, said that the scale of the response was surprising and doubtless expensive. She said: I think it was obvious what was going on. They were dressed as cowboys and Indians. You could tell it was a party and not a shootout.

A spokesman for Leicestershire police said the helicopter had been nearby, but all reports of firearms had to be treated on the assumption that they could be real guns. He said: People need to remember that it is an offence to carry a gun, whether real or imitation, in a public place and should bear this in mind when attending fancy dress parties. It can cause real distress to those who witness it.

None of the Worthingtons' party guests were arrested or charged.

 

5th February   

Update: Vulnerable Britain...

Children's chat room moderators will required vetting
Link Here  full story: Vetting Workers...UK vets all adults to work with kids

CRB Vetted only Organisations with interactive websites likely to be used mainly by children must ensure that staff moderating the sites are not barred from working with children from October.

It will be a criminal offence for an organisation to knowingly employ a barred person for a regulated role, such as moderating children's sites.

The Government is changing the way that it controls who has access to children and vulnerable adults and new laws take effect on 12th October. Those make the moderation of online services such as bulletin boards a regulated activity.

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act was introduced in 2006 and has been modified by a commencement order which expands it to include some online services as regulated activities, meaning that they cannot be performed by anyone on the list of banned people. The new law includes as a regulated activity "moderating a public interactive communication service which is likely to be used wholly or mainly by children".

The law will be phased in and from 12th October this year will only apply to people filling new jobs in regulated areas. It will extend to all 11 million roles connected with children and vulnerable adults over the following five years on a phased basis, but the Government has not yet published the phasing-in programme.

 

5th February   

Policing for the Space Age...

Armed police arrest man for amusing child with toy ray gun
Link Here

Space Gun Police scrambled eight patrol cars filled with armed officers after a man in his 50s pointed a toy ray-gun at a baby and said Pow, Pow.

The man was arrested after he approached the baby and its mother with a silver ray-gun which lights up and makes a buzzing noise when the trigger is pulled.

Onlookers in Hove, East Sussex, were astonished when the police cars sped to the scene to apprehend the man.

Alison Edmonds  said that she saw the man - who is not believed to be related to the baby and mother - approach the pram holding the toy gun, before jokingly saying Pow, pow while pressing the trigger repeatedly.

The mother of the child then called police, who sent an armed response team to find and arrest the man, who was waiting for a bus less than a few hundred yards away.

Miss Edwards said: It was unbelievable. All he did was try to make the child laugh, but the mum decided to call the police and obviously told them a man with a gun had threatened her and her baby.

What happened next was truly astonishing. I've never seen anything like it. These eight cars screamed to a halt and surrounded the poor man at the bus stop. They were fully kitted out with machine guns, rifles and everything. The man didn't know what was happening. All he was trying to do was make the baby crack a smile.


Police seized the man's toy ray-gun and arrested him on suspicion of possessing an imitation firearm in a public place.

 

3rd February   

Update: Better Hassle than Prohibition...

Scottish Labour suggest hassling 18-20 year old drinks shoppers
Link Here  full story: Drinking Restrictions...Drinking becomes the target of killjoy politicians

New Labour for Scotland logo The Scottish Labour Party have set out measures aimed at hassling young adults in the name of curbing the supply of alcohol to under-18s which it claims are workable.

Richard Baker, the party's injustice spokesman, called for the Challenge 21 scheme to be made mandatory for all off-sales – as an alternative to daft Scottish Government plans to ban under-21s from buying drink.

The Labour proposals have the backing of retailers, trades unions and campaigners.

The Challenge 21 scheme sees retailers asking for identification if a customer doesn't look 21 – but they will be served if their identification shows they are over 18.

Baker said it would lead to a healthy culture where youngsters expect to be challenged when buying alcohol.

Labour's proposals would make it a legal requirement for alcohol retailers to ask for proof of age for all customers who appear under the age of 21.

Update: Kenny MacKillJoy publishes his proposals

4th March 2009. See article from guardian.co.uk

The Scottish Government have now published their proposals including giving chief constables the right to ask for bans on under-21s using off-licences.

Richard Baker, Labour's shadow Scottish justice secretary, said the crackpot idea of banning all under-21s from buying alcohol ignored Labour's own, more sensible, plans for mandatory age checks to weed out underage drinkers.

He added that the Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, has had two years to deliver his alcohol and criminal justice strategy and despite delay after delay, and rethink after rethink, Scotland is left with an unworkable mess.

 

27th January   

Update: Propaganda Street...

Beat: Life on the Street TV programme confirmed as government propaganda
Link Here

Beat: Life on the Street Beat: Life on the Street
ITV1, Series 1: 29 October - 3 December 2006, 18:00.
Series 2: 27 January - 2 March 2008, 18:00

Beat: Life on the Street is an observational documentary series about the work of Police Community Support Officers (“PCSOs”) in Oxford and Lancashire.

The series was fully funded by the Home Office.

Two complainants, who became aware of the Home Office’s involvement with the series following press reports, objected that the programmes were essentially government “propaganda” and the Home Office’s relationship with the series should have been made clear to viewers.

Ofcom considered:

  • Rule 9.4 – a sponsor must not influence the content and/or scheduling of a programme in such a way as to impair the responsibility and editorial independence of the broadcaster.
  • Rule 9.5 – there must be no promotional reference to the sponsor, its name, trademark, image, activities, services or products or to any of its other direct or indirect interests. There must be no promotional generic references. Nonpromotional references are permitted only where they are editorially justified and incidental.
  • Rule 9.7 - The relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored programme must be transparent.

Channel Television (“Channel TV”), which complied the programmes on behalf of ITV
Network, confirmed that the Home Office fully funded the series. The sponsorship
was arranged through the Central Office of Information (“COI”). The programmes
were made by an independent production company, TwoFour Productions.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rules 9.5 and 9.7

A sponsored programme is a programme that has had some or all of its costs met by the sponsor with a view to promoting its own or another’s name, trademark, image, activities, services, products or any other direct or indirect interest.

There is no evidence to suggest that the sponsor influenced the content of the programme so as to undermine the independence of the broadcaster and, as such, we do not find the series in breach of Rule 9.4.

Ofcom judged that overall the series portrayed the PCSOs and the contribution they made to communities in a positive light. There were several elements in the programmes that contributed to this overall positive tone, including interviews with serving officers, who talked in detail about why they enjoyed their role.

Ofcom considered that the overriding tone of the programmes was supportive and likely to leave viewers with a favourable impression of the PCSO service. Taking into account the fact that the Home Office sponsored these series, and that the PCSO service is at least an indirect interest of the Home Office, Ofcom therefore considered that these references within the programmes were promotional, in breach of Rule 9.5.

Ofcom noted that the message displayed on screen during the credits immediately preceding the programme contained the text: Let’s Keep Crime Down, and the strapline Keep It Safe, Keep it Hidden - In Association with Beat: Life on the Street. We considered these credits, broadcast at the start and end of each programme would have notified viewers that the programmes were sponsored. However, the text did not tell viewers who the sponsor was.

Ofcom judged that the Home Office’s role and relationship with the series, as its sponsor, was not made sufficiently clear. While a small, inconspicuous Home Office logo was displayed in the top right hand corner of the screen for a very brief period at the end of the sponsor credits, Ofcom considered that the sponsorship arrangement was not made transparent since the size of its text and the brevity of the logo’s appearance on screen meant it was likely to have been missed by viewers.

In Ofcom’s view, the relationship between the sponsored programme and the Home Office’s role as its sponsor was therefore not made transparent to the audience, in breach of Rule 9.7.

 

23rd January   

Torrent of Justice Abuse...

Top judge condemns Labour for endless new criminal offences
Link Here

UK Supreme Court One of Britain's most senior judges has delivered a scathing attack on the ceaseless torrent of new laws. 

Lord Phillips, who is to head the new Supreme Court, said that too much legislation had done nothing to cut crime while laying heavy burdens on judges and the courts.

He singled out new sexual offences as particularly pointless. Some, he said, have yet to see the face of an indictment. Sweeping reforms have been made to sex law, with aims such as ending discrimination against homosexuals and convicting more men accused of rape.

Laws that rely on hearsay and bad character have also clogged the courts with appeals, he said. The Criminal Justice Act of 2003 also allowed hearsay and evidence of bad character to be used against those accused of offences.

Since Labour came to power in 1997, more than 3,600 new criminal offences have been added to the statute book.

The criticism by Lord Phillips, follows political and legal controversy over the number of new offences. Lord Phillips is currently the senior law lord and will be the first president when the Supreme Court begins operations as the highest court in Britain.

He spoke out in his last annual review of the workings of the Appeal Court: The work of all who sit in the criminal jurisdiction has been rendered infinitely more arduous by a ceaseless torrent of legislation, adding complexity to substantive law and to the sentencing exercise. Some of this legislation is needed to deal with changing circumstances, and this includes some of the new terrorist offences.

 

22nd January   

Updated: There's Nothing to Fear if you have Nothing to Hide...

So I wonder why MPs fear public scrutiny of their expenses
Link Here

Freedom of Information Act With the approval of parliament, our government is planning to hold more information about us than ever before. It wants a national identity database of every UK citizen, identity cards for many UK residents, DNA records kept for millions of innocent people, and records kept of emails sent (although not their contents), web-pages visited and phone calls made. In arguing that these measures are needed for the protection of society, they assure us that "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear".

It has now emerged that the government has drawn up proposals to exclude MPs' expenses from the Freedom of Information Act (Leaders, 17 January). This despite the fact that the existing law has exposed irregularities in how MPs are using their expenses. This double standard is concerning in and of itself. That it is happening during an economic downturn when we are all being expected to tighten our belts is nothing short of outrageous. That it happens 18 months after Gordon Brown launched his premiership by announcing that parliament should be covered by the Freedom of Information Act is deeply worrying.

MPs will have an opportunity to pass or block the Freedom of Information Order this week. If they pass it, they will do the reputation of parliament tremendous harm. We urge them to see sense and block this regressive measure.

Signed

Peter Facey Unlock Democracy, Maurice Frankel Campaign for Freedom of Information, Matthew Elliott TaxPayers' Alliance, Roger Smith Justice, Phil Booth NO2ID, Anthony Barnett OurKingdom, Neil O'Brien Policy Exchange, Guido Fawkes Order-Order.com, Louise Christian, Stuart Weir Democratic Audit, Sunny Hundal Liberal Conspiracy, Pete Myers EnougthsEnougth.org, Neal Lawson Compass,Simon Davies Privacy International, Henry Porter, Ken Ritchie Electoral Reform Society, Barry White Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, John Kampfner Index on Censorship, Prof AC Grayling, Prof David Miller SpinWatch, Nick Mole PAN UK, Tony Curzon Price Open Democracy, John Jackson

Update: Labour Rebel MPs Preserve their Integrity

22nd January. See article from independent.co.uk

Details of expenses claims made by MPs will continue to be made public after Gordon Brown abandoned plans to try to keep them secret. A vote was due today on an amendment that would have exempted detailed expenses breakdowns from the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

But the Prime Minister backed down from plans to block the bill-by-bill publication yesterday amid warnings that up to 100 backbenchers would defy an order to vote with the Government.

Some ministerial aides are thought to have been ready to quit over the plans, which would have kept secret the release of about one million receipts covering everything from MPs' office costs to their household furniture, electrical appliances and grocery bills.

 

22nd January   

Offsite: Officious Britain...

The bullies that Labour has unleashed
Link Here

  Put down the bird seed...
Take a step back from the table...
And raise you hands above your head!

Power has been given to the most minor officials to hurt and harass people. The new air of officiousness is unacceptable.

What is noticeable now that so many of Labour's laws have come into force is the increase of pettiness, bullying and loss of humanity in local officials, government agencies and the various new breeds of wardens and community officers who patrol the streets looking to fine those who feed the birds and put up notices for their lost cat.

It is the detail of stories that reach the local press that tells us of the vast change in the relationship between the man in the street and authority. A new and – to me – alien element of harshness has entered the equation, and I believe we are going to see a lot more of it.

...Read full article

 

21st January   

Updated: Impersonating a Policeman...

Charges dropped against stripper performing as a policeman
Link Here

Sgt Eros A stripper who dresses up as a police officer has had charges against him dropped more than a year after he was brought to court.

Stuart Kennedy, a student who performed as "Sergeant Eros" to pay his way through university, was charged with impersonating a policeman and breaching the peace in November 2007.

Police officers held him for 39 hours following the alleged incident at Tiger Tiger nightclub in Aberdeen, where Kennedy claimed he was attacked by a clubber.

Kennedy has now been told the case had been dropped. Kennedy said: This is excellent news. I was confused as to why it was ever taken to court, the CCTV evidence from the night clearly proves my innocence.

Update: Caught in Persecution of a Police Performer

21st January 2009. Based on article from independent.co.uk

Last week the latest case to be brought against the young scientist for impersonating a police officer collapsed in court after the Crown Office unexpectedly dropped the charges against him.

It was the 22nd time Mr Kennedy had appeared before the bench since his first arrest in March 2007 and he has spent 123 hours in police custody. Since his first brush with the law he has faced charges including possession of an offensive weapon – his truncheon and a fake CS spray – and allegedly fitting a flashing light to his car.

But so far none of the cases brought against him have yielded a successful prosecution and with two further court dates pending, there is mounting anger over claims that the legal actions have cost some ฃ170,000 of public money and have risked turning the police in and around his native Aberdeen into a laughing stock.

Richard Baker, Labour's Justice spokesman, said local people were growing sick of the saga of Eros. I don't see this as serving effectively as a deterrent and people regard this more as ludicrous than as a serious matter, he said.

Bill Aitken MSP, the Conservatives' justice spokesman, said it was time to stop: This is a classic instance of time being wasted unnecessarily.

Kennedy believes he may have become an unwitting target for police officers looking to settle a score, though he says he will not give up his routine even though it threatens his future – fully-clothed – employment prospects: In relation to the case which was thrown out on Friday, I was held in police custody for 39 hours even though I had, and still have, no convictions. I can only assume that the decision by Grampian Police to hold me was malicious. I have no doubt that they were trying to intimidate me after they had been made to look foolish as a result of my first high-profile arrest.

Update: Prosecuted

25th June 2009 See article from thescotsman.scotsman.com

Stuart Kennedy has been found guilty of impersonating a police officer and pulling over other drivers using flashing lights.

Kennedy fitted a white strobe light to the dashboard of his car to stop motorists on Aberdeenshire roads on 28 June, a court heard yesterday. The stripper, known as Sgt Eros, was also dressed as a police officer and had police equipment in his red Peugeot while driving on the way to work last year.

Giving evidence, Kennedy denied impersonating a police officer and insisted he used the strobe as a safety light so other drivers could see him.

But Sheriff Marysia Lewis found him guilty of the unusual offences after a three-day trial at Peterhead Sheriff Court.

Kennedy was further accused of having a genuine police uniform and equipment in his car without a satisfactory explanation. However, he claimed an entertainment supplier had sold him the items after checking his credentials as a stripper.

Kennedy was yesterday found guilty of fitting his car with a flashing light, two charges of impersonating a police officer on 28 June, and having a police uniform and equipment in his possession the following day. Sheriff Lewis deferred sentence due to the "unusual" nature of the charges until 16 July.

Update: Impersonating a Prosecution Service

29th August 2009 See article from news.bbc.co.uk

An Aberdeen stripogram facing court over an incident while dressed as a firefighter has had the case dropped.

Stuart Kennedy has been involved in several high-profile incidents due to his act. He performs as a police officer called Sgt Eros.

A Crown Office spokeswoman said after full and careful consideration of the facts, it was decided there should be no further proceedings.

The stripper was arrested on Aberdeen's Union Street in October 2008 while dressed as a fireman.

 

10th January   

Offsite: It's not debatable...

Britain's jack-booted paramilitary police
Link Here

Robo Cop police I left the Mail on Sunday office on Saturday evening, planning to walk to Paddington Station and go home. The Israeli Embassy is nearby, on Palace Green, but Palace Green is a closed street, blocked by gates, and anti-Israel demonstrators cannot get close to the actual building. Instead, they tend to gather opposite the gates, and when there are more than a few dozen of them, they block the whole street.

This is what had happened on Saturday. I couldn't get through, so I went round by back streets to the other side of the (fairly small) protest. I began walking eastwards along Kensington Road. Suddenly, out of the gloom I saw more demonstrators approaching me, presumably stragglers from Trafalgar Square, come to shout at the Israelis. That didn't bother me. They were quiet and peaceable.

What did bother me that, in front of the demonstration was a sort of skirmish line of black-clad, helmeted figures, each carrying a large round black shield and a big club. All were wearing clompy, macho boots and ( if my memory serves me right) leather trousers as well. They were both ridiculous and creepily frightening, and - to my eye - wholly unBritish.

They were part-astronaut, part-samurai, all menace. They were also pointless. I couldn't see any reason for this riot squad to be there. There was no trouble, before or behind or beside them. That was when they started bellowing at me. Get back! (or something like that). I looked round to see if I had accidentally got into the middle of a sudden melee, but the street was as peaceful as it had been before.

I held out my hands in a shrugging, mock-pleading gesture and began to ask why I couldn't just walk on the pavement undisturbed. I am , I began to say a private person on his way to Paddington station.

I didn't finish. I couldn't. The figures began bawling again, in a strange robotic chorus of Arthur-Mullard-like voices. And this is what they bawled: It's not debatable! Then they bawled it again It's not debatable! And then one more time.

...Read full article

 

9th January   

Update: Path to a Police State...

UK MP stopped for taking pictures of cycle path
Link Here  full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state

Conservative MP Andrew Pelling has said he was stopped and searched by police on suspicion of being a terrorist after taking photographs of a cycle path.

The MP for Central Croydon was stopped by police under trumped up anti-terrorism laws on December 30.

Despite him showing his House of Commons pass to the officers, they insisted on searching him after they found him taking photos of a cycle path in his area.

He told police that he was taking photos to highlight a long-neglected bicycle and pedestrian route, which had been of concern to his constituents and that he was intending on taking the photos to Parliament to illustrate the dangers posed by the protracted maintenance works.

But the two officers insisted on searching him after they told him they thought he was taking photos of East Croydon train station. They searched his bag, but after finding nothing of interest they sent the MP on his way.

A police spokeswoman said: An officer stopped and searched a man's bag in Cherry Orchard Road on December 30, under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. The officer conducted a stop-and-search, taking into account the current terror threat, as he was taking pictures in the vicinity of a major transport hub.

 

7th January   

Update: Terrorised by Police...

Artists and photographers harassed by police
Link Here  full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state

Reuben Powell is an unlikely terrorist. A white, middle-aged, middle-class artist, he has been photographing and drawing life around the capital's Elephant & Castle for 25 years.

With a studio near the 1960s shopping centre at the heart of this area in south London, he is a familiar figure and is regularly seen snapping and sketching the people and buildings around his home. But to the policemen who arrested him last week his photographing of the old HMSO print works close to the local police station posed an unacceptable security risk.

The car skidded to a halt like something out of Starsky & Hutch and this officer jumped out very dramatically and said 'what are you doing?' I told him I was photographing the building and he said he was going to search me under the Anti-Terrorism Act, he recalled.

For Powell, this brush with the law resulted in five hours in a cell after police seized the lock-blade knife he uses to sharpen his pencils. His release only came after the intervention of the local MP, Simon Hughes, but not before he was handcuffed and his genetic material stored permanently on the DNA database.

But Powell's experience is far from uncommon. Every week photographers wielding their cameras in public find themselves on the receiving end of warnings either by police, who stop them under the trumped up justification of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, or from over-eager officials who believe that photography in a public area is somehow against the law.

Groups from journalists to trainspotters have found themselves on the receiving end of this unwanted attention, with many photographers now fearing that their job or hobby could be under threat.

Yet, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers, the law is straightforward. Police officers may not prevent someone from taking a photograph in public unless they suspect criminal or terrorist intent. Their powers are strictly regulated by law and once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order. This applies equally to members of the media seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places, a spokeswoman said.

But still the harassment goes on. Philip Haigh, the business editor of Rail magazine, said the bullying of enthusiasts on railway platforms has become an unwelcome fact of life in Britain: It is a problem that doesn't ever seem to go away. We get complaints from railway photographers all the time that they are told to stop what they are doing, mainly by railway staff but also by the police. It usually results in an apologetic letter from a rail company .

 

6th January   

Update Spotting a Police State...

UK trainspotters harassed by police
Link Here  full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state

UK Police are using draconian anti-terrorism powers against trainspotters, it has emerged.

Enthusiasts innocently taking photographs of carriages and noting serial numbers have ludicrously been accused of behaving like a reconnaissance unit for a terror cell.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 has been used to stop a staggering 62,584 people at railway stations. Another 87,000 were questioned under separate stop and search and stop and account legislation.

The figures were uncovered by Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker, who warned that Britain was sliding towards a police state. While it is important to be vigilant about the threat of terrorism to the transport network, the sheer scale of the number of people stopped by police on railway property is ridiculous.

The anti-terror laws allow officers to stop people for taking photographs and I know this has led to innocent trainspotters being stopped. This is an abuse of anti-terrorism powers and a worrying sign that we are sliding towards a police state.

 

5th January   

Offsite: Prison Britain...

Why is Labour so keen to imprison us?
Link Here

House of Commons logo A quite extraordinary statistic has been dug out of the deepest quarries of Whitehall by a diligent government official following an inquiry about the number of laws introduced by Labour since taking office in 1997.

We know there has been a tidal wave of legislation, but it is mind-boggling to discover the size of the tsunami. It is estimated that more than 3,600 new offences have been created. But even more astonishing, as Baroness Stern, a crossbench peer, discovered when she asked, is the number of these that can result in a prison sentence. Believe it or not, there are 1,036 that the official could identify. There may well be more.

...Read full article