Two Christian pro-life campaigners are celebrating what say is a victory for free speech after being cleared of criminal charges for displaying a graphic banner outside an abortion clinic.
A District Judge dismissed the case against Andrew
Stephenson and Kathryn Sloane who were arrested after unfurling 7ft banners showing aborted foetuses outside the Wistons clinic in Brighton last year.
They went on trial at Brighton magistrates' court last week accused of breaching the Public
Order Act by displaying images likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress .
District Judge Nicholson ruled that there was insufficient evidence to continue with the trial. He will give his reasons today.
Claims emerged during the
trial that police had been actively fishing for complaints in an effort to get rid of the campaigners. Stephenson said:
What the police have been doing in shutting us down has had a chilling effect on free
speech. Hopefully, this will have a chilling effect on the police to hold back on the over-reaching application of the law.
Azhar Ahmed has been given a community order after being found guilty of sending a grossly offensive communication . Ahmed, 19, from West Yorkshire wrote on Facebook that All soldiers should DIE & go to HELL! This morning at
Huddersfield Magistrates' Court he was fined £ 300 and ordered to complete 240 hours of community service over a two-year period.
An animal rights group is campaigning for country sports magazines to be promoted to the top shelf, alongside pornography, because of their supposed corrosive effect on young minds.
Animal Aid is calling for a ban on their sale to
under-18s, and will soon be leafleting major retailers with claims that such magazines celebrate casual cruelty and can effect the emotional development of children.
The Westcountry's country sports community rounded on the ridiculous
comments, citing the discipline which shooting instills and lauding it as a way to encourage young people to get out into the countryside.
And Farming Minister Jim Paice said the campaign failed to recognise the contribution that country
sports made to rural economies. He said:
Animal Aid doesn't want to understand the reality of what goes on in the countryside -- the value of these sports to local communities, to their economies and to conservation.
Animal Aid has produced a report, and won support from Peter Squires, Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at the University of Brighton. He said organisations which promote the shooting of animals should not be allowed to
promote their activities to children.
British Association for Shooting and Conservation spokesman Simon Clarke said:
This is one of the more ridiculous campaigns to come from extreme animal rights activists with
a vegan agenda. Shooting magazines promote best practice in pest control and game shooting, both vital elements of the countryside.
Trying to ban magazines because you happen to disagree with their content is crass censorship at
Liverpool City Council suspended its plan to become a censor for buskers after a legal challenge.
Street performers are claiming victory in the first round of a court challenge to the council plans to introduce a suffocating system of
licensing and quality checks. The threat of a High Court injunction prompted council chiefs to suspend the measures pending a review .
Liverpool buskers had been ordered to buy a permit, pay an annual fee for insurance and book pitches in
advance before they could perform in the city. Under the censorship rules any busker who was not licensed and up to the performance quality mark set by council officials or police could have been ordered off the streets.
£ 20 a year and buskers and other street performers were also required to pay £ 100 a year for public liability insurance. The new rules came into force on 1st August but caused
controversy with the scheme dubbed The Simon Cowell Cops , after the music mogul known for his ruthless treatment of performers.
But a Keep The Streets Alive! campaign enlisted the support of solicitor David Kirwan who sought a High Court
judicial review of what he described as restrictive terms and conditions .
In a hearing at the High Court in Manchester Liverpool City Council declared that new busking regulations have been suspended pending the outcome of a review. Kirwan
Legal proceedings appear to have focused the minds of Liverpool City Council's leaders.
We are pleased that implementation of the unfair policy has been suspended, therefore protecting
buskers in the short term at least.
Our belief is that the new policy is unreasonable and unlawful and that ultimately a High Court Judge will share our view at judicial review.
While millions of people around the world have been able to view the naked images of Prince Harry cavorting with girls in a Las Vegas hotel online, the photographs have been banned in Britain by a furious Royal Family.
British newspapers and
TV stations have been unable to show the pictures after Harry's father Prince Charles threatened legal action and St James's Palace warned that the pictures were a gross invasion of the young royal's privacy.
A St James's Palace spokesman also
confirmed that it had contacted the Press Complaints Commission about the images.
Two grainy pictures of the young royal cavorting with a naked woman in his Las Vegas hotel suite were published on TMZ, which is the second most popular
entertainment news website in the U.S. and has an audience of more than 18.5million on its own. But within hours, they were also being shared on dozens other websites with a huge combined global reach.
About 850 complaints have been made to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about naked photographs of Prince Harry that were published in the Sun.
The PCC said all the complaints it has received came from members of the public and none had come
from St James's Palace or any other representatives of the royal. Nearly all of the complaints are about invasion of privacy and are to be investigated in due course. (And will be probably declared out of remit because only those effected can complain).
The Sun said it printed them so the millions of people who get their news in print or have no internet access could take a full part in that national conversation .
A Sun editorial said:
Harry pictures are a crucial test of Britain's free Press. It is absurd that in the internet age newspapers like The Sun could be stopped from publishing stories and pictures already seen by millions on the free-for-all that is the web.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said he had a deafening indifference to the publication of the naked photos. He told the BBC:
The real scandal would be if you went all the way to Las Vegas and you didn't misbehave
in some trivial way.
Update: 3600 complaints but not from anyone that counts
A sheriff in Kirkcaldy has asked for mental health checks on Stephen Gough after the naked rambler broke down in court.
In his emotional final plea, Gough, heavily bearded and gaunt, referred to allegations made by the persecutor, Brian
Robertson, and complaints from two civilian witnesses about the alleged impact on their children of seeing him walking naked through Townhill, near Dunfermline. His voice breaking before he began audibly sobbing, Gough said: There's nothing about me
as a human being that is indecent or alarming or offensive. That's where I'm coming from, which is deep inside.
Sheriff James Williamson told him:
There were certain points in your evidence and certain
points in your summing up where I was concerned about your emotional behaviour, and I was a bit concerned as to whether or not you were in control of yourself. I want somebody independent to see whether your mental health is all that is should be
because, in the absence of any good reason otherwise, you're going to end up serving prison sentence after prison sentence.
Police admitted last night that they are being dragged into too many Twitter disputes as a row raged over the decision to arrest a youth who abused Olympic diving star Tom Daley.
The police over reacted and swooped on the home of Reece Messer, 17,
at 2.45am yesterday as if he was some sort of highly dangerous master criminal.
Last night, as Dorset police handed the troubled teenager a formal harassment warning, police leaders claimed forces are being dragged into too many petty social media
Officers were asked to look at content 14,000 times on Facebook alone last year and Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said forces do not have the resources to monitor the internet.
There is legislation which concerns causing harassment, alarm or distress. But can we police the internet when someone upsets someone else?
I don't think we have the resources to do
that. We can't have a free-for-all online but we cannot involve the police every time something unpleasant is said.
The director of public prosecutions (DPP) stopped his staff dropping the case against Paul Chambers, author of the Twitter joke about blowing up Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire, it has been claimed.
Crown Prosecution Service lawyers
had been prepared to back away from one of the most controversial cases in years, telling Chambers that they no longer saw a public interest in opposing his appeal against conviction.
The CPS even sent Chambers and his solicitor, free-speech
campaigner David Allen Green, papers stating that it now agreed that the case should end. However, at the last minute the DPP, former human rights lawyer Keir Starmer, overruled his subordinates, it is alleged.
Friends of Chambers said Starmer was
trying to save face by refusing to admit he was in the wrong. Louise Mensch, Chambers's MP, has called on the Commons home affairs or justice committees to investigate the DPP's behaviour.
The CPS confirmed that it spent
£ 18,000 fighting Chambers. Taxpayers will also have to pay Chambers's costs.
However now that the appeal has been won, Starmer's decision seems a good one. The Chief Justice's judgement now sets a strong
precedent that the police and CPS should not attempt such nasty bollox again.
The famous Twitter joke conviction of Paul Chambers has been overturned on appeal, bringing welcome clarity to what is and what is not an offence of this type.
On discovering a week before he was due to take a flight that the airport was
closed due to adverse weather conditions, he tweeted:
Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!!
was no evidence that this tweet alarmed any of his followers. It was picked up several days later by an employee of the airport, and it was referred to another member of staff, who took did not consider it a credible threat, but as a matter of procedure
it was referred to the airport police. They took no action, other than to refer it to South Yorkshire Police.
Chambers was arrested and charged, then later convicted of the offence of sending by a public electronic communication network a message
of a menacing character contrary to the Communications Act 2003. He appealed from the Magistrates' Court to the Crown Court, and then to the Divisional Court (part of the High Court).
The Court noted that in order to be menacing, as a
matter of fact the people who receive or read it, or may reasonably be expected to do so, feel apprehension or fear. So, if those people instead,
...brush it aside as a silly joke, or a joke in bad taste, or empty
bombastic or ridiculous banter, then it would be a contradiction in terms to describe it as a message of a menacing character. In short, a message which does not create fear or apprehension in those to whom it is communicated, or who may reasonably be
expected to see it, falls outside this provision, for the very simple reason that the message lacks menace.
A CPS spokesman said: We accept the court's reasoning and consider this to be the end of the matter.
Index on Censorship, Paul Chambers said he felt relieved and vindicated by the decision, adding that the case should never have got this far .
Chambers's solicitor David Allen Green said: This shameful prosecution should never have been
Kira Cochrane of the Guardian has a worthwhile luncheon interview with the BBFC.
It was interesting to hear of an examiners training video that maybe prepares new employees for the worst:
David Austin, head of
policy, says an image from some Thai boxing footage the board uses in training has stayed with him. The bone in this man's leg completely shatters into hundreds of pieces, he says, and you see him try to walk, and his leg just completely
Another example that upset examiners was documentary footage of a man facing a firing squad. Half his face was blown away, but he remained alive, gasping for air. This scene was included in Terrorists, Killers &
Other Wackos, a compilation of material too strong for news programmes, set to a hard rock soundtrack. It was probably calculated to be viewed by young blokes when they were just about to go to the pub, says Cooke, and the board refused to
classify it, making it illegal to supply the film.
The extensive explanation of the board's ruling includes the comment that the footage has the potential to desensitise viewers, and perhaps even to incite some to harm others
. But that same scene was allowed on another video -- a serious documentary about capital punishment, which the board passed at 18, uncut. That just shows how the same image can be legitimate or not, depending on the context, says Austin.
The London store Liberty has pulled a £ 23.50 toy from its shelves following complaints, with whingers describing it as vile and tasteless .
The toy was based on Katyusha rocket launchers which
were first used in the Second World War by the Soviet Union.
Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who is also a parliamentary aide to Nick Clegg, told The Independent on Sunday:
Liberty can sell what they like, but I
think it is bizarre. When small children in conflict zones around the world are being killed and maimed by rocket launchers, it seems rather tasteless to be marketing a sanitised pink version to young children in our country.
Dutch design company Kids on Roof made the wooden rocket launcher and it is listed on the firm's website under the category uncensored toys .
A spokesman for Liberty said the rocket launcher had sold out on its website and in store.
However, he admitted the toy was an oversight which should not have been ordered. He added:
We do not condone warfare and we apologise for any offence caused. We won't be selling anything like that again.'
Iranian propaganda channel, Press TV, claims to have resumed broadcasting its programs in the UK on the Sky Platform since the beginning of July.
The Iranian news network is broadcast on channel 200 of the Sky Platform for four hours a day, two of
which are recorded programs from a day earlier.
Channel 200 is home to Controversy TV which broadcasts from 6am until 10pm. It is unclear whether Press TV is supplying Controversy TV with progamming or else somehow using the unused night time
The channel was banned nominally for licensing issues. But its troubles began when the channel aired news featuring comments from a detainee clearly under duress, but then used the statements as if they were freely given.
Rhodri Phillips was the 21st journalist arrested in the Elveden bribes enquiry. If it had happened in Russia or Iran, Amnesty International would scream about the need for a free press. There'd be
questions in Parliament and a Radio 4 documentary.
On the sidelines of the Simon Harwood trial, the judge, Mr Justice Fulford, has looked at how high-profile cases are reported in the internet age, making decisions with potentially far-reaching significance for the media. Fulford cited earlier newspaper
reports giving some general details about Harwood's chequered disciplinary record, information which, he had already ruled, the jury should not hear.
The prosecution drew up an initially lengthy list of suspect newspaper articles, including some
in the Guardian. In the end Fulford asked just the Telegraph and the Mail websites to remove stories voluntarily, which they did.
As a precedent this has the potential to fundamentally alter the way the media report trials in the digital era. In
the gap between an alleged offence and arrest (and, in practice, sometimes between arrest and charging, and even between arrest and trial) it is common to report details that cannot be raised once a court case begins. That was particularly relevant in
the case of Harwood, when it initially seemed there was going be no prosecution. If Fulford's reasoning becomes accepted, then before any jury trial each media group will need to comb their digital archives for stories containing potential contempt of
Jonathan Caplan QC, for the Mail's publishers, Associated Newspapers said it was simply not practical to ringfence jurors in the internet age and they had to be trusted to follow a judge's instructions to not carry out their
own research on the internet.
It remains to be seen how far a single high court judge can reshape digital reporting. What is certain is that media organisations will study Fulford's ruling carefully and, most likely, challenge it.
Elf and Safety extremists pulled the plug on a concert by Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band and Paul Mccartney citing ludicrous bollox that they had run 8 minutes past their allotted time.
Fans were left angered after the Hard Rock Calling
event ended prematurely after Paul Mccartney joined Bruce Springsteen on stage to perform Twist and Shout and I Saw Her Standing There.
As 80,000 rapturous fans yelled their delight under the pouring rain, the microphones were
switched off after the health and safety curfew was breached by eight minutes, leaving the singers to leave the stage in silence.
While organisers defended the unfortunate decision last night, it provoked a storm of protest from fans
and even members of Springsteen's entourage.
Steven Van Zandt, the guitarist with Springsteen's E Street band, said:
One of the great gigs ever in my opinion. But seriously, when did England become a police
Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, also wade into the row, criticising the excessively officious decision .
Last night, a spokesprat for Live Nation, the event's organisers, spewed:
The curfew is laid down by the authorities in the interest of the public health and safety.
A Westminster Council spokesman said it was concert organisers, not the council, who pulled the plug.
Update: Oops Wrong Jobsworths. It wasn't Elf & Safety after all. It was the department of Petty Bureaucracy and Clock Watching
Andy Stephenson and Kathryn Sloane will stand trial in what their supporters say will be a landmark case concerning freedom of expression.
The pair were arrested in June last year outside Wistons abortion clinic in Brighton, after they refused
to take down a 7ft by 5ft illustrated banner.
They will appear before magistrates in September after the Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges against them.
Stephenson has been charged with causing harassment, alarm or distress
under the Public Order Act 1986, and with obstructing a police officer by refusing to hand over the banner. Sloane faces one count of obstruction.
They are both committed Christians and members of Abort 67, a anti-abortion group which
uses shocking images, obtained in America, to try to deter women from going through with terminations. Stephenson said:
We are as passionate about free speech as we are about the abortion issue. Showing these images is
absolutely crucial to our campaign. We are determined to fight it all the way. All we were doing was showing what is taking place legally inside abortion clinic every day, some of which are funded by the taxpayer.
It beggars belief, but it can now be a criminal offence to use words like Games, Gold and Summer, or even a picture of the London skyline. The reason? An outrageous abuse of our laws to protect the
profits of Olympic sponsors...
BBFC Annual Report 2011: BBFC find out their value in the internet age, announce plans for new research into sexual violence & adopt a tougher line on exempt video content
Sexual violence in films and the
availability of content potentially harmful to children in exempt videos were two key issues for the BBFC in 2011 and are carrying through into work undertaken by the BBFC in 2012.
In 2011 the BBFC considered The Human Centipede 2
(Full Sequence) (in which a man achieves sexual gratification from the stapling together of victims to form a human centipede and which culminates in him raping a woman with barbed wire) and The Bunny Game (in which a truck driver abducts, strips and
sexually abuses and tortures a prostitute).
The BBFC intervened with both of these works on account of their depictions of extreme violence against women. It made significant cuts to The Human Centipede 2 and refused to certify
The Bunny Game because of the harm risk both works posed.
Partly as a result of these and other films, the BBFC is commissioning a major new piece of original research into depictions of sadistic, sexual and sexualised violence,
mainly against women, to determine what the British public today believes is potentially harmful and therefore unacceptable for classification. The research will be completed in 2012 and the BBFC will publish it in the usual way, not least because it
might be helpful to other regulators.
At the same time the BBFC responded to the promise of a DCMS consultation on exempt video works in 2012. The BBFC, British Video Association, British Phonographic Industry, the Video Standards
Council and the Entertainment Retailers Association all support a technical adjustment to the Video Recordings Act whereby content in exempt videos which is potentially harmful to children should lose the video its exemption.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
In 2011 Reg Bailey highlighted concerns about the sexualisation of children through readily available audio-visual material that is exempt from classification. The BBFC hope that an adjustment to the Video Recordings Act will help prevent children
from being exposed to strongly violent or sexual content, whether in music videos, instructional DVDs or documentaries.
The issue of sexual violence in films in 2011 will also be considered in more depth in 2012, with new
research into the public's opinion around portrayals of sexual violence due to be published in the autumn.'
The 2011 annual report also reports findings of research into what value the British public place on the BBFC in the
internet age. Independent research carried out in June 2011 demonstrated conclusively that the public values the BBFC's work to bring content advice online. That research showed that while the public considers the internet to bring greater choice,
freedom and flexibility, the majority of viewers still consider it important to be able to check the suitability of audio-visual content they download. As more viewing takes place online, consumers expect that the same level of BBFC support will apply
online as currently applies offline: 85% consider it important to have consistent BBFC classifications available for VOD content, rising to 90% of parents of children under 16.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: The BBFC
has worked with the home entertainment industry since 2008 to develop voluntary content labelling strategies for online and Video On Demand (VOD) content and it's encouraging to know the public still want a trusted guide to online content. This is also
recognised by on-demand content providers and in 2011 we welcomed several new subscribers to our online service, including BT Vision, Talk Talk, Netflix and British Airways.
The availability of BBFC film content advice was
also expanded in 2011: Consumer Advice and Extended Classification Information (ECI) were made available to even more smartphone users with the introduction of an Android version of the free BBFC App, previously only available for iPhone. A podcast about
film classification was also launched to further engage the public with the BBFC Guidelines and key classification themes, as well as high-profile classification decisions.