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25th September   

Update: Threat or Tweet?...

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Authorities seem unable to differentiate an obviously jokey tweet from a real threat
Link Here

Twitter logoPaul Chambers, a 27-year old trainee accountant from South Yorkshire, has launched a fightback against what is thought to be the UK's first criminal conviction for the content of a tweet on the microblogging site.

He landed a £1,000 fine after the snow closed Robin Hood airport near Doncaster in January as he planned a trip to see Crazycolours, a Northern Irish girl he had just met online, and he tweeted to his 690 followers: Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!

A week later, he was arrested at work by five police officers, questioned for eight hours, had his computers and phones seized and was subsequently charged and convicted of causing a menace under the Communications Act 2003.

In an appeal at Doncaster crown court, his barrister, Stephen Ferguson, said Chambers had been merely engaging in banter and craic and that far from having menacing intent, his message was a jest, a joke, a parody .

The defence applied to the judge to rule out the prosecution case that the tweet was menacing on the grounds it had not been sufficiently proved and there was no intent on Chambers' part to cause menace. Throughout proceedings, Chambers sat largely expressionless behind toughened glass panels with a security guard beside him, only wincing slightly at the the continual repetition of his offending tweet. He nodded when Ferguson told the judge simply: The intention was innocent.

Fresh evidence emerged which was not heard at the previous trial that the police noted after Chambers was bailed there is no evidence at this stage this is anything other than a foolish comment posted on Twitter for only his close friends to see . But the crown said the conviction should stand and presented evidence that Chambers had sent direct messages to his girlfriend apparently on the terrorist theme.

The court earlier heard that a senior airport official had determined [the message] was a non-credible threat after it had been found by Sean Duffield, an off-duty airport duty manager searching on-line at home. Under cross-examination, Duffield, said the impact after he found Chambers' message was operationally nothing. It had no impact.

Chambers was not cross-examined, but the court heard extracts of his original police interview. Looking back it's daft now but that's my kind of humour, Chambers had said. Not for one second did I think anyone would even look at it. It was just a comment made on the back of the fact that the flight had been grounded. The tweet, Stephen Ferguson pointed out, was made in the context of a young man and a young woman .

The judge and magistrates retired to consider their ruling and said the case would conclude a later date.

 

19th September   

Offsite: A Tweeter Persecuted...


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Twitter and a terrifying tale of modern Britain
Link Here

Twitter logoPaul Chambers has felt the full force of state persecution, simply for sending a tweet

The 27-year-old worked for a car parts company in Yorkshire. He and a woman from Northern Ireland started to follow each other on Twitter. He liked her tweets and she liked his and boy met girl in a London pub. They got on as well in person as they did in cyberspace. To the delight of their followers, Paul announced he would be flying from Robin Hood airport in Doncaster to Northern Ireland to meet her for a date.

In January, he saw a newsflash that snow had closed the airport. Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed, he tweeted to his friends. You've got a week… otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!

People joke like this all the time. When they say in a bar: I'll strangle my boyfriend if he hasn't done the washing up or post on Facebook: I'll murder my boss if he makes me work late , it does not mean that the bodies of boyfriends and bosses will soon be filling morgues.

You know the difference between making a joke and announcing a murder, I'm sure. Apparently the forces of law and order do not.

...Read the full article

 

6th September   

Update: Extraditing Injustice...


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Home Office to review recent extradition agreements
Link Here  full story: European Arrest Warrants...Arrested in Britain for non-crimes

Home Offie logoThe Home Office is to review UK extradition agreements with other countries, including the controversial and some say unbalanced agreement with the United States.

According to reports, the review will include the Extradition Act 2003 which implemented into law the UK-United States extradition treaty. It will also consider the European Arrest Warrant, which was used for 50% more arrests last year.

The review fulfils the pledge made in the coalition's program for government to review the operation of the Extradition Act – and the US/UK extradition treaty – to make sure it is even-handed .

The former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has told the BBC that the agreement with the US was forged very much in the shadow of the September 11 2001 attacks. He also regrets some of its features:

The problem, campaigners say, is that whereas the U.S. extradition agreement may have been designed with suspected terrorists in mind, in fact it has been used to extradite many who have nothing to do with terrorism, such as Gary McKinnon. It is also accused of being unbalanced in favour of the US.

 

3rd September   

Update: Treated Like Kids...

Britain is infantilising young adults buying supermarket alcohol
Link Here  full story: Drinking Restrictions...Drinking becomes the target of killjoy politicians

id check signConstant ID checks in supermarkets and off-licences are infantilising young adults, a report by a civil liberties group claims.

The survey by the Manifesto Club suggests that cashiers' over-zealous questioning of customers in their 20s is penalising thousands of innocent people and forcing them to carry their passports all the time.

The study, 2 8¾: How Constant Age Checks Are Infantilising Adults , is published as the coalition government is considering increasing to £20,000 the maximum penalty for those illegally serving underage drinkers .

The most annoyed constituency is people in their late 20s, who are being frequently ID checked, particularly by supermarkets, the report says.

Campaigns under the slogans of Think 21 and Think 25 have led to confusion about the correct age limit for consuming alcohol, resulting in some checkout staff refusing to sell products to those who are under 25 but over 18, the Manifesto Club maintains: People are being refused alcohol when shopping with younger siblings or children – including one woman who was prevented from buying a bottle of wine, because her 23-year old daughter and 22-year-old friend could not provide ID.

The Manifesto Club describes its aim as campaigning against the hyper-regulation of everyday life . Its director, Josie Appleton, added: 'Producing your passport should not be a routine part of the checkout procedure. There is little point in the government abolishing ID cards while backing policies that mean we have to show ID whenever we go shopping. People in their 20s and 30s should be free to go to the supermarket or off-licence without being constantly challenged.

 

30th August   

Update: Extraditing Justice to Europe...

Britain slavishly inflicts injustice whilst other nations protect their citizens
Link Here  full story: European Arrest Warrants...Arrested in Britain for non-crimes

EU flagBritain slavishly implements foreign extradition requests while other countries are protecting their citizens with opt-outs.

Anger at Britain's gold-plating of the controversial European Arrest Warrant is growing after it emerged that other EU countries have secured significant safeguards for their citizens that are not available to British nationals.

More than 1,000 people in Britain last year were seized by police on the orders of European prosecutors, a 51% rise in 12 months.

Many are accused of trivial crimes overseas such as possessing cannabis or leaving petrol stations without paying. No evidence need be presented in British courts of the alleged offence and judges have few powers to resist the person's extradition.

Those affected can spend long periods in jail here and abroad for crimes which might not even be prosecuted in this country. They can also be seized for offences which are not even crimes in Britain.

The Sunday Telegraph has established that many other European countries have given themselves opt-outs or conditions to protect their citizens.

Holland will not extradite Dutch nationals under the EAW unless the accusing state agrees that they can serve any prison sentence in a Dutch jail. The Belgians have opt-outs so that the warrant does not cover abortion. France appears reluctant to extradite its own nationals under the EAW and has stated in the past that they will not be extradited.

Europe's largest country, Germany, has imposed a proportionality rule stating that only those accused of serious crimes can be seized under a warrant. The definition of serious is not given, but it would exclude large numbers of the trivial charges dealt with by the British extradition courts.

Karen Todner, one of Britain's leading extradition lawyers, said: It is typical of us not to have given ourselves proper protection. British judges apply the EAW treaty to the letter and these massive injustices come about because the Government hasn't thought this through. There are a lot of quite simple things we could do now to mitigate the harm done to British citizens, which could be done quite quickly through a simple administrative decision.

Jago Russell, the chief executive of Fair Trials International, said: The human impact of an extradition is crazy. In its forthcoming review of extradition law, Britain needs to learn lessons from the likes of Germany, which have put much-needed safeguards in place to protect their citizens.

 

27th August   

Offsite: The Death of Ian Tomlinson...

A Photographer's Account
Link Here  full story: Policing UK Demonstrations...Heavy handing policing of demonstrations

Ian Tomlinson takes a hitMy role in this, what has become a farce, is relatively minor. My photographs were part of a jigsaw that probably shed little light on events. But due to my minor involvement, the decision made by the CPS has angered me more than it perhaps would have otherwise. I always understood that it was going to be difficult to charge PC Horwood with manslaughter but I did not expect that he would be charged with nothing. I am not naive to the power and interests of authority, and you could almost imagine the high-level phone calls being made to handicap the proceedings made against PC Horwood. A conviction against Horwood would have had huge consequences on the role and actions of the police in England, working against their interests and current practice. It is obvious that we are not all equal under the law. Imagine if Tomlinson had been a banker making his way home, or if a protestor had attacked a police officer immediately before his death?

...Read the full article

 

26th August   

Biometrics Failure...

British man who put on weight denied entry due to differences to old passport photo
Link Here

UK PassportA British man who put on 31kg was denied entry to the UK and forced to spend three months from Amsterdam because he looked different from his passport photograph.

Derrick Agyemen was returning home to Britain after spending a weekend with friends in August 2006 when border control officers stopped him, Fox News reports.

They said his fuller lips and ears did not match his passport photograph — which was taken nine years ago.

Agyemen said he looked different because he put on 31kg. He stayed in Amsterdam for three months before he was allowed back home.

I cry when I think about what happened with me, Agyemen said.

He is now considering another round of legal action after losing an appeal in Britain's High Court over his treatment.

 

23rd August   

Medway Madness...

People who sell their cars in Medway require council permission
Link Here

Medway CouncillMedway Council's Environment Enforcement team have forbidden anyone to place a for sale sign on their own car and park it outside their own house, on their street.

As the Kent Chronicle explains:

Trainee plumber Pete Dolling stuck no more than a sheet of paper inside his windscreen advertising his R-reg Ford Escort outside his mum's house in Hempstead.

Soon after, he got a notice slapped on the window from the council's Environment Enforcement Team telling him he had to get their permission to sell his car and then shift it within week four weeks, or risk having it forcibly removed.

The notice said: The vehicle to which this notice is attached is being offered for sale without consent from Medway Council.

The notice demanded Pete wrote to the council to prove ownership of the car, that he was not a trader and that it was not causing a nuisance where it was parked, otherwise it would be removed and he would be charged for the cost.

That's right, Pete should have written to the council to ask if he could sell his car. But since when did councils have any sort of jurisdiction over the sale of private property?

If they really wanted to establish he wasn't a trader (although - as a commenter on the Kent website points out - in order to be done as a trader he would have to be advertising in two or more motor vehicles parked within 500 metres of each other ) then they could simply leave a note asking him to call and confirm.

But no, they would rather threaten, demand foreknowledge, and finally give a time limit before they send one of their jobsworths round to tow his car.

 

22nd August   

Lessons in Mugging...

UK school sends out pupils to rob innocent people on the street
Link Here

ciggybusters video Pupils at the Hundred of Hoo Comprehensive School in Medway have been running up to smokers in the street, shouting ciggy busters and snatching their cigarettes from them. And filming themselves doing it for later upload to YouTube.

Here's a quote from the teacher responsible, an Italian media artist named Margherita Gramegna. From a write-up in the Medway Messenger:

I was scared about doing something so crazy on the street - I mean you can get arrested.

I knew we could not really go and film in public and attack people in that way and take goods off of them, so we devised a cunning plan.

We planted some people and we started with them. People were watching and following us and at the end we tried with some other people.

And here's a quote from the write-up at This is Kent: Kent police in Medway were made aware of the planned filming, prior to the event taking place.

And didn't stop it!?

This is a remarkable and quite disgraceful story. Law-abiding people in Kent are being robbed on the street, with the tacit approval of the local constabulary. The mob action is part of an ongoing scheme from the school and is going to continue in September.

Shame on you, Kent Police. Shame on you, the school!

 

24th July   

Update: Licensed to Kill...

As always, no charges for police to answer
Link Here  full story: Policing UK Demonstrations...Heavy handing policing of demonstrations

Ian Tomlinson takes a hitA police officer who was filmed pushing a man to the ground during the G20 protests will not face charges over his death.

Ian Tomlinson died after being caught up in the clashes on 1 April 2009 in the City of London.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer claimed there was no prospect of conviction because experts could not agree on how  Tomlinson died.

Tomlinson's son Paul King described the decision as outrageous .

The officer who was filmed pushing Tomlinson has been named as Pc Simon Harwood from the Metropolitan Police territorial support group.

Tomlinson, a newspaper seller who was not involved in the protests, was walking home when he was caught up in the demonstration.

The video footage showed him being apparently struck by a baton and then pushed to the ground. He was seen moving away after the incident but was found collapsed 100 metres away in Cornhill.

Update: To be charged

2nd June 2011. See article from independent.co.uk

Crown Prosecution ServiceSimon Harwood, the police constable who is alleged to have given the news vendor Ian Tomlinson a fatal shove during a G20 demonstration, is to face a charge of manslaughter.

The decision is a turnabout for prosecutors who a year ago dismissed the possibility of criminal charges resulting from Mr Tomlinson's death. PC Harwood, a father of two from Carshalton, Surrey, is due to appear in court on 20 June.

A five-week-long inquest, which began two years after his death, ended earlier this month. Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said new medical evidence at the inquest and the opinions of experts during the hearing helped change his mind.

He said: The difficulties that would now confront any prosecution have changed in nature and scale from last year when a decision was taken not to prosecute, although it is clear that real difficulties remain.

Taking the evidence as it now stands, we have concluded that, even with those remaining difficulties, there is now sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of successfully prosecuting PC Simon Harwood for the manslaughter of Mr Tomlinson.

That being the case, it is clearly in the public interest that criminal proceedings be brought. Accordingly, a summons charging PC Harwood with the manslaughter of Mr Tomlinson has been obtained from the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

The inquest saw CCTV and helicopter footage, which showed the shambling figure of Mr Tomlinson trying to find a way round the lines of police who were kettling protestors outside the Bank of England. He reacted angrily to being shoved and hit with a baton, but got back to his feet, only to collapse nearby.

Update: Acquitted

21st July 2012. See article from itv.com

HM Courts ServiceThe policeman found not guilty of killing Ian Tomlinson during the G20 riots had been previously accused of excessive force, ITV News has learned.

Pc Simon Harwood was also investigated for alleged off-duty road rage - but jurors who cleared him today were not told of his disciplinary record.

Trial judge Mr Justice Fulford rejected an application by prosecutors to admit the claims as evidence of the officer's bad character because they were never proved.

 

17th July   

Update: May We Take Photos?...

Theresa May utters fine words about an end to the police harassment of photographers
Link Here

theresa may good sideTheresa May's made a speech in the House of Commons in a discussion of the absurd treatment of photographers under current anti-terror laws. Prompted by the excellent Tracey Crouch,  May gave the following assurance:

Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con): Under the previous Government, a photographer from Medway was arrested in Chatham high street under section 44 stop-and-search powers, and he and fellow photographers from Medway will welcome today's announcement from the Home Secretary. Will she assure the House that any future revision of anti-terror legislation will strike the right balance between protecting the public and safeguarding the rights of individuals?

Theresa May: I am happy to give that assurance to my hon. Friend. She may have noticed that in my statement I specifically said that we would look at the issue of photographers and stop-and-search powers. It is one issue that has been brought home forcibly to me. I have had constituency cases of people who have been stopped under those powers and been concerned about it, and I have received a number of representations from Members of this House, and indeed of another place, about those problems.

 

14th July   

Offsite: Do you Mind if I Speak Candidly?...

Scots will have to ask permission before speaking sexily
Link Here

nudge nudge wink winkIn October Scotland's new Sexual Offences Act will come into force. Unlike the 2003 Act that was written for England and Wales, the Scottish act contains a clause outlawing indecent communication . It will soon be illegal to communicate with someone sexually – either in writing or in speech – without obtaining their consent, or without the reasonable belief that they do consent to it. Quite simply they have taken the standard traditionally applied to rape – to the actual penetration of another person's body – and applied it to what people say.

Thankfully it is fairly normal to ensure that somebody consents to sexual intercourse. This is because putting your penis inside another person can have a serious and lasting affect on them, not least if they do not want it there. More generally people expect to enjoy sovereignty over their bodies and their physical experiences. By contrast we do not have – nor would any sane person require – a general right to be protected from hearing things we don't want to hear. And that is why, in our culture, it is not normal to ask people for permission to say something sexual during the course of a facebook chat or a conversation in a bar. Do you mind if I deploy an innuendo just wouldn't sound right. And quite frankly it shouldn't.

...Read the full article

 

10th July   

Update: Trains Packed with Officious Ticket Inspectors...

South West Trains gets nasty about photography
Link Here

south west trains logoA UK rail passenger who took photographs of an overcrowded train carriage was threatened with arrest under anti-terror laws.

Nigel Roberts was so appalled by the cramped conditions commuters have to endure he warned a ticket inspector that dangerous overcrowding could cost lives.

But when he showed his mobile phone photos of luggage-crammed aisles and exits he was told it is illegal to take such pictures and threatened with prosecution.

The inspector then demanded Roberts' personal details as Roberts explained: When I told him I had taken some photos he said it was illegal under the Terrorism Act and that I could be arrested and demanded my name and address.

He said there were police officers on the train and I may be arrested for taking the photographs. He said he had powers given to him under the Railways Act to ask me for the information and it was an even more serious offence for me not to comply.

I felt as if I was in a police state. He explained that for some reason it was for my own protection but my argument was that every passenger on the train would have needed protection in the event of an emergency.

He told me he would make a note of our conversation so that they could be used in the event of a prosecution. He was pleasant enough but it was a frightening and chilling experience for me.

A spokeswoman for South West Trains - owned by the Stagecoach group - said: Staff are aware they need to be particularly attentive to unusual photos being taken or suspicious behaviour and to challenge this if necessary. However this was clearly not an issue in this case and we will ensure our staff are re-briefed to avoid any misunderstanding in the future. We are sorry for any upset and anxiety caused to Mr Roberts.

 

9th July   

Update: Obstacle Course...

Unvetted parents banned from their children's school sports day
Link Here  full story: Vetting Workers...UK vets all adults to work with kids

CRB Vetted onlyA school turned a father away from his son's first sports day after banning parents who have not been checked by police from mixing with pupils.

The taxi driver had gone to watch his son, a year seven pupil, compete in sprints and egg-and-spoon races.

But teachers refused to let him spectate because they did not believe he had undergone checks by the Criminal Records Bureau.

De Lisle Catholic Science school in Loughborough has a policy which says that any parent who has not passed the checks is banned from attending events in which pupils take part.

The father told a Talksport radio programme: I couldn't believe it when they told me I wasn't allowed in because I didn't have the relevant CRB checks. I'd called the school that morning to ask if it would be OK if I came along and they said it would be no problem. But when I got to the school the assistant head teacher said that as I hadn't had a CRB check then I couldn't watch.

I'm a taxi driver and I have to have regular CRB checks as part of my licence. I've never had any trouble.

What is the world coming to when parents can't watch their own kids take part in what is a big day in their young lives? I'm all for protecting kids, but surely there has to be a place for common sense.

The school said in a statement: We fully appreciate that one parent was upset by our policy regarding the attendance of parents at sports days.

A spokesman for Leicestershire County Council told Talksport: Parents should have access to school activities. We certainly do not issue any guidance to say parents should have a CRB check to attend school sports days. The day-to-day running of the school is a matter for the school and its governors, but we are contacting the school to discuss their policy with them.