More than 350 photographers have issued a joint plea to end the hostile and humiliating use of anti-terror laws to prevent them taking pictures in public.
The professional and amateur photographers have signed a letter, published in The Sunday Telegraph, calling on ministers and the police halt the practice of them being stopped and searched while they are taking images in public places.
The letter, whose signatories include Rosemary Wilman, the president of the Royal Photographic Society, and the photographer and historian Professor John Hannavy, says:
As professional and amateur photographers, we are deeply concerned about the treatment of those taking pictures in public places. Photographers using equipment larger than a compact camera are frequently stopped and searched under
anti-terrorist legislation, which they find humiliating.
We do not believe it likely that real terrorists would bother to set up a tripod or use a heavy single-lens reflex camera, as perfectly satisfactory pictures for their purposes could be taken on a discreet camera phone.
If our photography has an effect on law and order, it is beneficial, as wrongdoers are unlikely to commit crimes in close proximity to someone visibly holding a camera.
Meanwhile, some in the police, especially PCSOs, believe it is illegal to take any pictures of a police officer. This is because of ambiguous legislation, introduced earlier this year, which made it an imprisonable offence to
collect information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism . Given the existence of Google Street View, we do not believe the legislation should be used against ordinary photographers.
In March, at a meeting with representatives of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS), the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) and Amateur Photographer, the Home Office agreed to issue guidelines to police forces
spelling out that the law must not be misused against those engaged in legitimate photographic activity. This does not appear to have had the desired effect.
Rather than treat photographers as terrorists, the Government should amend the Anti-Terrorism Act to prevent its misuse and explain to police forces that a hostile attitude towards photographers is unwelcome.
For those with an axe to grind over authority, the past week or so has been great fun: but has something fundamental changed in the way the
public now respond to being policed?
After a year in which the policing of photography has been something of a minority interest, there has been a parade of stories about photographers arrested or stopped for apparently spurious reasons and a flurry of journalists out and about waving
cameras in the faces of police and community support officers. YouTube is growing fat on footage of police-camera confrontation.
This is heavy stuff: no wonder a series of senior officers have started speaking up. In November HM Inspector of Constabulary warned of the perils of police losing the battle for the public's consent . Andy Trotter, a rising star in the
Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said much the same thing last week. This week, it was the turn of John Yates, widely regarded as one of the Met's safest pairs of hands, to remind the rank and file, in no uncertain terms, to respect the
public right to photograph.
Police community support officers (PCSOs) stopped Italian student Simona Bonomo under anti-terrorism legislation for filming
buildings in London. Moments later, she was arrested by other officers, held in a police cell and fined.
An Italian student has described how she was stopped by police under anti-terrorist legislation while filming buildings, and later arrested, held in a police cell for five hours and given a fixed penalty notice.
Simona Bonomo, an art student at London Metropolitan University at London Metropolitan University, filmed the moment on 19 November when she was approached by two police community support officers (PCSOs) in Paddington, west London.
When Bonomo was challenged by one PCSO, she said she was filming just for fun . He replied: You like looking at those buildings do you? You're basically filming for fun? I don't believe you.
Bonomo then declined his request to see what she had filmed. I can have a look if I want to, if I think it may be linked to terrorism. This is an iconic site, he replied.
Bonomo then said she was an artist. You're an artist? Have you got any proof or any identification? he said. After accusing Bonomo of being cocky, the PCSO said she had been cycling the wrong way down a one-way street and threatened to fine her.
After she apologised, the PCSOs departed, but returned moments later with about six police officers, she said.
She was searched and, after an altercation with one officer, was accused of being aggressive, bundled to the ground and arrested. The PCSOs were not involved in the arrest. After five hours in a police cell, Bonomo said she was told to sign an £80
fixed penalty fine for a public order offence. She plans to contest the penalty, which stipulated she caused harassment, alarm and distress in public.
Bonomo returned the next day to interview builders who had witnessed her arrest. Footage of the interviews appears to corroborate her account. I was disgusted, one said. They were terribly out of order. There was one officer who was spiteful to
The Foreign Office has made a partial climbdown in its legal bid to suppress intelligence material relating to a British
resident who claims he was tortured by American security services.
The British Government has been attempting to overturn a High Court ruling that ordered the publication of eleven paragraphs blacked out from two court judgments about former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.
It claims that the release of the information - which include summaries of the former terror suspect's treatment in custody - could damage national security and harm Britain's intelligence relationship with the US.
But the Foreign Office has now dropped its opposition to the release of three of the paragraphs, which appear to acknowledge that Mohamed was interrogated using controversial methods that have already been made public - and condemned - by the Obama
Reprieve, the legal charity which represents Mohamed, said that the innocuous nature of the newly-published material undermined the Government's claims to be insisting on secrecy to protect national security.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve said: It has become increasingly clear that the government is conflating national security with political embarrassment, in a desperate effort to cover up its crimes.
The information that was released today highlights the intolerable way in which the government has been censoring the truth. It underlines the fact that Britain is trying to suppress evidence that has nothing to do with national security.
Mohamed was released earlier this year after seven years in US custody, including four in the camp at Guantanamo. He was detained in Pakistan in 2002 and accused by US intelligence agencies of working with the Taliban in Afghanistan. He maintains his
innocence, and says any evidence against him was obtained through torture.
The Foreign Office said it would continue its legal effort to suppress the publication of the remaining paragraphs.
Mass Photo Gathering
Saturday 23rd January 2010, Noon
Trafalgar Square, London
I'm a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! invite all Photographers to a mass photo gathering in defence of street photography.
Following a series of high profile detentions under s44 of the terrorism act including 7 armed police detaining an award winning architectural photographer in the City of London, the arrest of a press photographer covering campaigning santas at City
Airport and the stop and search of a BBC photographer at St Pauls Cathedral and many others. PHNAT feels now is the time for a mass turnout of Photographers, professional and amateur to defend our rights and stop the abuse of the terror laws.
Offsite: Police snapper silliness reaches new heights
The City of London's police decision to stop and quiz London Tonight reporter Marcus Powell, who was out with an ITN crew filming a story about Grant Smith's little contretemps with the boys in blue shows extreme dedication to the cause of
According to a spokesman for City of London Police, Powell was initially asked whether he had a permit to film, and then on showing his press card was allowed to continue.
The real question now is: will police efforts to alienate the public and piss off press photographers continue into 2010. Early indications are that common sense should soon reassert itself and we will finally be able to stop reporting on the
increasingly silly interactions that appear to take place on an almost daily basis between police and photographers.
In August I wrote that the Home Office advice to police forces would be tested on the ground. It is clear that both the police and government have failed photographers as the abuse is still taking place. If the government is really serious about
protecting public photography – and many photographers would doubt this – then the first place to start would be to scrap section 44 once and for all.
This is why I will be in Trafalgar Square at 12 noon on Saturday 23 January 2010 for the I'm a Photographer Not a terrorist! mass picture taking event along with hundreds of other photographers to exercise our democratic right to make a picture in a
A libertarian coalition is emerging in the US to resist an ever expanding statute book. The need is just as urgent here.
I have a foolproof scheme for cutting crime in Britain. It would slash court overcrowding, rescue legal aid, empty prisons and calm public fears. It would save billions of pounds, and all without endangering a hair on a single Briton's head. The scheme
involves removing thousands of recently invented offences from the statute book.
This will not happen, because if there is one thing a macho politician loves, it is declaring any social problem or public disobedience a crime, and hiring more police to confront it. Constantly extending criminality enables prime ministers and home
secretaries to walk tall down Main Street, pistols twirling in their fingers, and with no care for who gets hurt.
Police have seen honour crime surge by 40% due to rising fundamentalism, new figures show.
Honour-based violence, including crimes like murder, rape and kidnap has increased in London during the last year.
Reported instances of intimidation and attempts at forced marriage have also increased by 60%.
A report into the scale of the problem by Scotland Yard found there were 161 honour-based incidents recorded in 2007-8, of which 93 were criminal offences. But in 2008/9 the number of incidents had risen to 256, with 132 being criminal offences.
The latest figures indicate that the trend is continuing, with 211 incidents reported in the last six months until October, of which 129 were offences - more than double the number in the same period last year.
Diana Nammi, of the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, said the group is now dealing with four times more complaints relating to honour than two years ago.
She said: More women are coming forward. They are becoming more aware of their rights in the UK, that there is help available and they feel confident enough to report matters to the police. But I also think cases and violence are increasing.
The Daily Mail are reporting that Manor Community College in Cambridge is to ban any visitor who has not been checked by the Criminal Records Bureau.
The Head of the Secondary School claims the decision is necessary to prevent strangers walking around the premises. But also admits that volunteers, visitors and contractors will be hit with the ban.
So, unless Manor Community College is unique in that there are a slew of strangers wanting to check out Year 5's latest art project, what this measure will actually achieve is reducing the number of volunteers able to donate their time and energy to help
out stressed teachers at sports days or similar events.
Not content with poisoning the way children view adults, the government is effectively making the fear of being left alone with young children the first step into adulthood for 16 year-olds.
The CRB is the rotten core at the heart of the national obsession with paedophilia. It seriously hinders volunteerism, has frightened many adults into not spending time with the young children of friends and family and is on the verge of making scouts
and sports clubs a thing of the past.
The CRB is fast becoming a symbol of the so-called broken society and needs urgent reform.
Police forces across the country have been warned to stop using anti-terror laws to question and search innocent photographers after The
Independent forced senior officers to admit that the controversial legislation is being widely misused.
The strongly worded warning was circulated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) last night. In an email sent to the chief constables of England and Wales's 43 police forces, officers were advised that Section 44 powers should not be used
unnecessarily against photographers. The message says: Officers and community support officers are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos. Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist
or professional, is unacceptable. Related articles
Chief Constable Andy Trotter, chairman of Acpo's media advisory group, took the decision to send the warning after growing criticism of the police's treatment of photographers.
Writing in today's Independent, he says: Everyone... has a right to take photographs and film in public places. Taking photographs... is not normally cause for suspicion and there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital
images in a public place.
He added: We need to make sure that our officers and Police Community Support Officers [PCSOs] are not unnecessarily targeting photographers just because they are going about their business. The last thing in the world we want to do is give
photographers a hard time or alienate the public. We need the public to help us.
Photographers should be left alone to get on with what they are doing. If an officer is suspicious of them for some reason they can just go up to them and have a chat with them – use old-fashioned policing skills to be frank – rather than using these
powers, which we don't want to over-use at all.
Section 44 of the Terrorism Act allows the police to stop and search anyone they want, without need for suspicion, in a designated area. The exact locations of many of these areas are kept secret from the public, but are thought to include every railway
station in and well-known tourist landmarks thought to be at risk of terrorist attacks.
Many photographers have complained that officers are stopping them in the mistaken belief that the legislation prohibits photographs in those areas.
The abuse has resulted in nearly 100 complaints to the police watchdog. Since April 2008 every complaint made by a member of the public about the use of Section 44 powers, unlike other complaints, must be forwarded to the Independent Police Complaints
Commission. In the past 18 months there have been 94 complaints. Eight of these specifically mentioned the fact that the issue arose around photography.
This is part of the message circulated by Andy Trotter, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, to police forces in England and Wales.
Officers and PCSOs are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos.
There are very clear rules around how stop-and-search powers can be used. However, there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should
not be prevented from doing so.
We need to co-operate with the media and amateur photographers. They play a vital role as their images help us identify criminals.
We must acknowledge that citizen journalism is a feature of modern life and police officers are now photographed and filmed more than ever.
However, unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional is unacceptable and worse still, it undermines public confidence in the police service.
Police have been accused of misusing powers granted under anti-terror legislation after a series of incidents, ranging from the
innocuous to the bizarre, in which photographers were questioned by officers for taking innocent pictures of tourist destinations, landmarks and even a fish and chip shop.
Police are allowed to stop and search anyone in a designated Section 44 authorisation zone without having to give a reason. But amateur and professional photographers have complained that they are frequently being stopped and treated as potential
terrorists on a reconnaissance mission. Last night the Government's independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws warned police forces to carefully examine how they use the controversial legislation.
Speaking to The Independent, Lord Carlile of Berriew said: The police have to be very careful about stopping people who are taking what I would call leisure photographs, and indeed professional photographers. The fact that someone is taking
photographs is not prima facie a good reason for stop and search and is very far from raising suspicion. It is a matter of concern and the police will know that they have to look at this very carefully, he added.
Lord Carlile's comments come just days after a BBC journalist was stopped and searched by two police community support officers as he took photographs of St Paul's Cathedral. Days earlier Andrew White was stopped and asked to give his name and address
after taking photographs of Christmas lights on his way to work in Brighton. And in July Alex Turner, an amateur photographer from Kent, was arrested after he took pictures of Mick's Plaice, a fish and chip shop in Chatham.
Most of those stopped are told they are being questioned under Section 44, a controversial power which allows senior officers to designate entire areas of their police force regions as stop-and-search zones. More than 100 exist in London alone, covering
areas such as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and other landmarks. Every train station in the UK is covered by a Section 44 order. But, due to the fear that the information could be used by terrorists to plan attacks, most of the the exact
locations covered by Section 44 authorisations are kept secret, meaning members of the public have no idea if they are in one or not.
Political leadership is urgently needed to protect the British brand of policing after years of drift and piecemeal initiatives, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary told The Times last night.
Denis O'Connor said that the principle of policing by public consent had been severely undermined, most visibly by aggressive and unfair tactics at protests such as the G20 demonstrations.
In a highly critical report O'Connor depicted how deploying officers in riot gear had become a routine response to lawful demonstrators because of ignorance of the law surrounding protest and a lack of leadership from chief officers and Home Office
O'Connor said that he had been particularly alarmed to discover that some forces trained officers to use their riot shields as offensive weapons. The potentially dangerous technique had spread by word of mouth.
His report was commissioned after the G20 protests in the City of London in April when one man died and hundreds of complaints were made about police violence, abuse of powers and the tactic of kettling or containment of crowds.
The 150-page document exposed the ad hoc nature of public order policing, with forces across the country differing in the equipment they bought, their training methods and their understanding of their powers to stop, question or arrest protesters.
The failure of police to understand the law was in part explained by the complexity of legislation, with 90 amendments to the Public Order Act since it was passed in 1986.
I would welcome some senior politicians addressing these issues, O'Connor said. We don't have these difficulties, albeit there are some terrible challenges, in defence. There are lots of discussions about health. Can we not elevate the
discussion about policing?
He said that the British policing model, as set down by Sir Robert Peel, should be nurtured and protected and that every policy initiative should be examined to see if it was compatible with the principle of policing by consent.
He added: It gets eroded, potentially, by each new bit of legislation, each new initiative — health and safety, whatever else — to the point where you end up with a shadow of what you thought you had.
It has happened by drift, by the absence of somebody asserting what matters. We need to think about the principles as well as the technical matters.
Police are arresting innocent people in order to get their hands on as many DNA samples as possible, senior Government advisers revealed last night.
The Human Genetics Commission said the Big Brother tactic was creating a spiral of suspicion among the public.
The panel - which contains some of Britain's leading scientists and academics - said officers should no longer routinely take samples at the point of arresting a suspect.
They also called for all police - including support staff - to place their own DNA on the national database in a show of solidarity with a public being routinely placed under suspicion.
By law, officers are only allowed to make an arrest if they have reasonable suspicion that a person has committed a crime. But the HGC, which has carried out a lengthy review of the merits of the database, said evidence had emerged of police
arresting people purely so they could take their DNA.
Its chairman, Professor Jonathan Montgomery, said: People are arrested in order to retain DNA information that might not have been arrested in other circumstances.
The claim, which was backed by evidence from a senior police officer, delivers a significant blow to the Government's defence of the database - which contains more than 5.6million samples.
The Commission said one of the consequences of current DNA laws was that young black men are very highly over-represented , with more than three quarters of those aged 18-35 on the database.
Proposals within the Crime and Security Bill - published last week - will for the first time put a time limit, in most cases six years, on how long profiles are stored when the alleged offender is either not charged or later cleared. But there are no
plans to reduce police powers to take samples on arrest.
LibDem spokesman Chris Huhne said: The Government's cavalier attitude to DNA retention has put us in the ridiculous situation where people are being arrested just to have their DNA harvested.
Tories last night attacked reported Government plans to charge innocent people a £200 fee to apply to have their names removed from the national DNA database.
Talk show host Michael Savage is finally getting some support from the political world in his battle against the British government. But while the intrepid radio star will no doubt prevail, is his case a portent of things to come?
After six months on a list of individuals banned from travel to Britain, talk show host Michael Savage finally has an ally in government. Taking up the cudgels for the radio star, Texas congressman John Culberson has written a letter to Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton urging her to pressure the U.K. into rescinding the travel ban.
This story began on May 5, when Britain's Home Office created a real What's wrong with this picture? scenario, announcing that Savage was lumped in with terrorists, murderers and neo-Nazis on the banned list. And it appears that they did this
simply to balance out Muslims on the list and avoid accusations of bigotry. As to this, the U.K.'s Daily Mail cited British government documents released under a freedom of information law and wrote:
One message, sent by an unidentified Home Office official on November 27 last year, said that with [Savage], I can understand that disclosure of the decision would help provide a balance of types of exclusion cases .
The documents include a draft recommendation, marked Restricted , saying: We will want to ensure that the names disclosed reflect the broad range of cases and are not all Islamic extremists.
. . . One civil servant, again unnamed, counselled caution, saying: I think we could be accused of duplicity in naming him.'
The ducks show what they think
of Sandwell litter wardens
Occasionally we at Big Brother Watch come across a story about our overbearing state that leaves us genuinely open mouthed, and this is one such example.
A young mother was given a £75 fixed penalty notice for throwing bread to the ducks in her local park.
According to the report, a warden approached Vanessa Kelly and her 17-month-old son Harry, and issued them with the fixed price notice for littering.
There simply is no defence for this action and Sandwell Council should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
Yet again our overbearing state has created a criminal out of an otherwise law-abiding citizen. The whole thing is completely quackers!
Big Brother Watch has just been in touch with Vanessa Kelly and she has accepted our offer to help her in her fight against Sandwell Council. Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said:
I am proud to be helping Miss Kelly in her fight against this ludicrous fine. Sandwell Council should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves – can there be a more absurd example of the Big Brother State in action? She will not pay, nor should she.
A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to police faces a manatory five years imprisonment for doing his duty .
Paul Clarke was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.
In a statement read out in court, Clarke said: I didn't think for one moment I would be arrested. I thought it was my duty to hand it in and get it off the streets.
The court heard how Clarke was on the balcony of his home in Merstham, Surrey, when he spotted a black bin liner at the bottom of his garden.
In his statement, he said: I took it indoors and inside found a shorn-off shotgun and two cartridges. I didn't know what to do, so the next morning I rang the Chief Superintendent, Adrian Harper, and asked if I could pop in and see him. At the police
station, I took the gun out of the bag and placed it on the table so it was pointing towards the wall.
Clarke was then arrested immediately for possession of a firearm at Reigate police station, and taken to the cells.
Defending, Lionel Blackman told the jury Clarke's garden backs onto a public green field, and his garden wall is significantly lower than his neighbours.
He also showed jurors a leaflet printed by Surrey Police explaining to citizens what they can do at a police station, which included reporting found firearms .
Prosecuting, Brian Stalk, explained to the jury that possession of a firearm was a strict liability charge – therefore Mr Clarke's allegedly honest intent was irrelevant. Just by having the gun in his possession he was guilty of the charge, and
has no defence in law against it, he added. But despite this, Blackman urged members of the jury to consider how they would respond if they found a gun.
Paul Clarke will be sentenced on December 11.
Judge Christopher Critchlow said: This is an unusual case, but in law there is no dispute that Clarke has no defence to this charge. The intention of anybody possessing a firearm is irrelevant.
The head of Britain's police chiefs has said that a scheme to monitor political campaigners may be scrapped as part of plans to make national policing more accountable.
In his first major interview since taking office, Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), acknowledged public disquiet over the way his units are gathering data on thousands of activists and said the scheme can go
tomorrow , although he said some form of monitoring of protesters would need to continue, with independent regulation.
Senior police officers from all 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are discussing his proposals. The discussions could result in Acpo becoming a statutory body, and could mean parts of the organisation, such as those responsible for
monitoring so-called domestic extremists , are sponsored by the Home Office and ultimately answerable to parliament.
Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, is expected to call for major reform of Acpo's domestic extremism units in a major report into the policing of protest later this month. His inspectors believe Acpo has fallen victim to mission creep,
taking on quasi-operational national policing functions that lack proper accountability.
Last month the Guardian revealed Acpo was running a £9m scheme to help keep tabs on political activists categorised as domestic extremists , a term with no legal basis. Three secretive units, which employ a staff of 100 and also advise
companies that are the targets of protest, are controlled by Acpo's terrorism and allied matters division, which Orde described as a huge piece of business .
They include the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), a national database that stores information on thousands of so-called domestic extremists, information which is made available to forces.
They refused my vetting.
They said I voted Labour so
showed masochist tendencies
If your sexuality does not fit, don't go looking for work in the United Kingdom. That is the message from across the Atlantic, as chilling new social controls, instituted this month, threaten to bar from public employment anyone whose sexual interests
place them outside a very narrow normal consensus.
The consequences go far wider than the strict letter of the law. Just as censorship generates a chilling effect on speech, so placing the question of individual fitness to work in certain jobs in the criminal arena is creating a culture in which
private conduct becomes the touchstone by which public acceptability is judged.
Criminal record checks have gone too far and must be tilted back towards those wanting to work with children, the new Supreme Court has ruled.
In a victory for campaigners fighting the rise of the Big Brother state, the Justices ordered an overhaul of enhanced criminal records bureau checks against anybody seeking a job with a vulnerable adult or child.
In particular, the presumption in favour of disclosing soft intelligence against an applicant came under attack. Each year, around 20,000 people have details of this type of information disclosed to potential employers, in many cases scuppering
their hopes of gaining a job.
But Lord Neuberger said soft intelligence may constitute nothing more than allegations of matters which are disputed by the applicant, or even mere suspicion or hints of matters which are disputed by the applicant . In future, where there are
doubts about the information, Chief Constables should allow the individual affected to make representations before the information is released to employers, the court ruled. Police must also show much greater consideration for the private lives of job
Lord Neuberger said: The widespread concern about the compulsory registration rules for all those having regular contact with children demonstrates that there is a real risk that, unless child protection procedures are proportionate and contain
adequate safeguards, they will not merely fall foul of the Convention, but they will redound to the disadvantage of the very group they are designed to shield, and will undermine public confidence in the laudable exercise of protecting the vulnerable.
Lord Hope said that, in many cases, disclosing details about an applicants private life goes further than is reasonably necessary for the legitimate object of protecting children and adults . The same information will be released to a succession
of employers, in what Lord Hope described as a rigid, mechanistic system that pays too little attention to the effects of disclosure on the applicant.
Lord Hope said past rulings had tilted the balance of the system against the applicant's right to privacy. He added: It should no longer be assumed that the presumption is for disclosure unless there is a good reason for not doing so .
Parents are being banned from playing with their children in council recreation areas because they have not been vetted by
Mothers and fathers are being forced to watch their children from outside perimeter fences because of fears they could be paedophiles.
Watford Council was branded a disgrace after excluding parents from two fenced-off adventure playgrounds unless they first undergo criminal record checks. The rules were imposed at Harwoods and Harebreaks adventure recreation grounds from
Children as young as five will instead be supervised by council play rangers who have been cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau.
Councillors insist they are merely following Government regulations and cannot allow adults to walk around playgrounds unchecked .
But furious parents attacked the move and threatened to boycott the playgrounds.
Concerns were raised last night that other councils around the country are adopting similar policies amid confusion over Government rules and increasing hysteria over child protection.
Mayor Dorothy Thornhill argued the council was merely enforcing government policy at the play areas. Sadly, in today's climate, you can't have adults walking around unchecked in a children's playground and the adventure playground is not a
meeting place for adults, she said. But the Tories claimed the row showed the Government's heavy- handed approach to safeguarding was completely out of control .
The mayor says that this enforces government policy. Actually that's not true because no government policy has yet determined that
parents may not supervise their own children in a playground.
It seems possible that the mayor and her appalling council may be in breach of article 8 of the Human Rights Act - the right to family life.
A mother of three named Rebekah Makinson was quoted by reporter Neil Skinner as saying: Banning parents from an open access playground, I feel, is a breach of our personal freedom.
She is right. This is a fundamental breach of rights, but almost as serious is the offence to common sense. The council pretends that it is forced into this position to protect children under the new vetting and barring scheme but as parents point
out, the number of kids using the play areas and the range of ages means that some parents want to keep on eye on the children. Makinson said: We have used Harwoods since I was a child and my mother stayed with me. It has always had a fantastic
community atmosphere. Even with the excellent staff employed it is ridiculous to assume that three staff members can safeguard the high volume of children that currently use the playground.
Record numbers of middle-aged people are being criminalised by a proliferation of new Labour laws and
The number of over-40s receiving a first conviction or caution has increased by half since 2001. After decades of abiding by the law, people are being punished for crimes such as motoring offences or refusing to pay wheelie-bin fines.
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said they were being pursued so police could meet the targets imposed by Labour: Labour have criminalised a generation and treated tens of thousands of law-abiding middle-aged and elderly citizens like
Parliamentary answers show the number of first-time entrants to the criminal justice system who are over 50 increased by 46% between 2000/01 and 2007/08, from 16,400 to 24,000. In the 40-49 age group, the leap was 57%t, with 32,900 previously
law-abiding people being criminalised.
The figures reflect the fact that many of Labour's new spot fines for crimes such as overfilling a wheelie bin are aimed at householders. These are more likely than the general population to be middle-aged.
Motoring offences, including things like not wearing a seatbelt, make up half the cases dealt with by the courts. Drivers who challenge a speed camera ticket must go to court and will account for many of the punishments. Refusing to accept a
wheelie-bin fine can also lead to court.
Huhne, who obtained the figures, said: The soaring number of people being criminalised is a direct result of Labour's target-driven, box-ticking approach to policing. This Government has created a new crime for every day in office. When
motoring offences and rubbish-bin misdemeanours are worth the same as convictions for murder or rape, it is easy to see how we have slipped into mass criminalisation.
A recent report warned that the middle classes have lost confidence in the police. It said they have been alienated by a service which routinely targets ordinary people rather than serious criminals, simply to fill Government crime quotas.
Author Harriet Sergeant said incidents which would once have been ignored are now treated as crimes. She said: Complaints against the police have risen, with much of the increase coming from law-abiding, middleclass, middle-aged and retired
people who no longer feel the police are on their side. Sergeant said this was due in part to people becoming upset by the rudeness and behaviour of officers.
Armed police officers are to patrol the streets of London for the first time in response to a rise in gang-related gun
Traditionally officers from the Metropolitan Police's specialist firearms unit - codenamed CO19 - have been deployed on the streets only when a response to incidents of gun crime is necessary or to protect VIPs.
The new initiative, announced yesterday, will see CO19 officers patrolling the capital's most dangerous streets and housing estates alongside neighbourhood officers. It has been described as a proactive response to the 17% increase in gun
crime over the past six months.
But it was immediately denounced by members of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), the body which governs the actions of Scotland Yard, which was apparently not consulted on the controversial decision. One MPA member described the move as totally unacceptable
while another called for an emergency meeting.
Joanne McCartney said: We want fewer guns on the streets not more, and people to feel safe in their community - not scared of those who are supposed to protect them.
There has been no debate, no consultation and apparently no consideration to the strong opposition that exists to arming the police. This is more than just an operational decision and should be brought before the police authority as a matter of
Jenny Jones, another MPA member, added: This is a totally unacceptable departure from normal policing tactics. I can't believe that the sight of a policeman with a machine gun will make people feel safer.
Are we heading down a slippery slope towards armed rather than community policing? I hope the Met will rethink this terrible decision immediately and think of a genuinely proactive way to prevent gun crime.
Pilot patrols have already begun in Brixton as well as Haringey and Tottenham, where three Turkish men were shot dead earlier this month in an apparent war between rival heroin gangs.
Hip-hop clubs have come under police scrutiny after a rethink of a strategy to prevent violence at music events.
There had been strong objections to the Metropolitan Police's use of Form 696, used to gather details of promoters and performers.
It has now been changed so as not to be primarily aimed at live music. It will in future focus on large promoted events between 10pm and 4am which feature MCs and DJs performing to recorded backing tracks .
Police claim it is necessary to track artists and promoters who have attracted problems, allowing officers to prevent violence by putting extra security in place or banning shows.
Police say evidence shows trouble is most likely at music events when DJs or MCs perform to a live backing track at late-night clubs.
Detailed research identified which events are most likely to attract crime and disorder, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police told BBC News. At the end of the day, you've got to say that certain events attract more trouble than
others. We're shifting the focus away from live music. Originally the definition of what Form 696 applied to was extremely broad so by narrowing it down, it's thought that we can better tailor it to our requirements.
Club promoter Rod Gilmore said the new criteria would target urban music. Reading between the lines, the indie kids are all right but we've got to look out for those black boys with microphones in their hands, he said. Saying it's over
recorded music with DJs and MCs really narrows it down.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband is in an ethical crater, entirely of his own making, but still he continues to excavate.
Last Friday, in a High Court judgment over the torture of the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Binyam Mohamed, he was not merely defeated, he was crushed.
According to Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, to accept Miliband's arguments would undermine democracy and the rule of law.
The judges, Miliband expostulated, had fundamentally misunderstood the case. Funded by the taxpayer, he would be mounting an appeal, contesting the judgment in the strongest possible terms - which is why we still cannot read the
document detailing what really happened to Mohamed.
With 10 others, I have been charged with impersonating a police officer, punishable by six months' jail, for a G20
Despite the fact that photographs from the first day of the G20 protests in April 2009 show me astride an armoured personnel carrier in black bra and blue boiler suit with another woman straddling me in red stockings, lipstick and heels, the Crown
Prosecution Service has charged me and 10 others with impersonating police officers. We've been charged with two counts under Section 90 of the Police Act 1996 - the greater of which carries with it six months in prison.
This is ridiculous, they'll never press charges, lawyers who attended to the arrested said on the day. Nearly six months and one court appearance later, the CPS is showing no signs of dropping what will be a four-day trial at the City of
Westminster magistrates court in February. Eleven people, witnesses for the defence, witnesses for the prosecution, at least half a dozen legal representatives, the paperwork, the man hours, the expense - to what end?
Police told over 50 girls to cover up after they stripped down to their underwear to win free outfits.
A new Joy store in North London had offered to give away clothes to the first 25 customers who came to the shop dressed only in their undergarments. Over 50 style lovers stripped down to their underwear to win a promotion for free clothes
Would-be fashionistas queued ahead of the midday opening in a light-hearted bid to win the trendy items. But five miserable police officers dashed to the scene to tackle the partially clothed girls - and even ordered a shop assistant to cover up a
raunchy picture in the window display.
Maureen O'Brien, buying director for Joy, who have 21 branches nationwide, said: I think there's been a sense of humour failure on behalf of the police.
We've done this in the City by St Paul's Cathedral, by the Tate Modern, in shopping centres in St Albans, Glasgow, Edinburgh - this is the only place in the country where they haven't allowed us to do it.
A Met Police spokesprat said: Police attended a clothes shop in Upper Street at around midday. They advised the owners against holding a promotion whereby people were asked to come to the shop in their underwear in order to receive free
clothing. The officer decided that we had a duty of care to the public and that with the variety of different people on the street, which included children and the elderly, this could be seen as inappropriate.
Drinking in streets and parks will be soon be banned in miserable Britain. Town halls are drafting new laws to introduce the
first blanket bans on public drinking applying to entire towns.
Nottingham is set to bar drinking alcohol in streets, parks and other public places from next year. Nottingham intends to be the first city to implement the ban. It is taking advantage of repressive new legislation which, for the first time, will
allow bylaws to be passed without needing approval by a Cabinet minister.
Nottingham said other town halls were also keen to introduce blanket bans - potentially outlawing street drinking across huge swathes of the country.
Council leader Jon Collins said: People understand clear messages. There's no confusion in alcohol-free zones. I do not think it's a civil liberties issue. It's about saying we do not want people drinking in the street.
Richard Antcliff, Nottingham's chief antisocial behaviour officer, said the council wanted to target loutish behaviour and street drinkers who intimidate law-abiding members of the public.
The Tories backed Nottingham and said it was absolutely right they should get tough on binge drinking on the streets.
Town halls will also be given new powers to strip late-opening pubs of their licences, removing the requirement they must have first received a complaint from residents or the police.
Currently, street drinking can be restricted only by Designated Public Place Orders, introduced by the Home Office in 2001. These are confined to very specific areas, where there must be a history of anti-social behaviour.
However, there are concerns that some councils may be too heavy-handed in the way they introduce new byelaws, possibly putting an end to picnics in the park. Dylan Sharpe of Big Brother Watch said: This is yet another piece of legislation with
the potential to create criminals out of law-abiding people.