Recent Crime Articles

The new Lobbying Bill will criminalise even basic campaigning by Trade Unions

by Nigel Stanley     August 19, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Proposals in a bill slipped out as Parliament broke for the Summer, and due to be debated as soon as MPs return, will gag the TUC, trade unions and every campaign group in the country in what can only be seen as a “chilling attack on free speech”.

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill will make organising the 2014 annual TUC Congress or organising a TUC national demonstration in the 12 months before the 2015 General Election into criminal offences.

The Bill does this by making three changes to the regulation of campaigning by non-party organisation in the 12 months before a general election – breaching these will become a criminal offence:

  • Changing the definition of what counts as campaigning – at present only activities designed with the intent of influencing an election result are regulated. The new Bill will instead regulate activity that may affect the result of an election. As any criticism of government policy could affect how people vote, this will severely limit any organisation’s ability to criticise government policies in the run up to an election – not just unions, but charities, NGOs and local campaign groups.
  • Reducing the spending limit for third party campaigners to £390,000 – the amount that third party campaign groups can spend in the year before an election will be reduced by more than half to £390,000.
  • Including staff time and office costs in expenditure limits – currently only the costs of election directed materials, adverts and activities are regulated. The Bill proposes that staff time and other costs should now also be included in the limit. £390,000 may buy a lot of leaflets but any major event involves significant staff time.

The notes on clauses for the Bill have more detail of how it would work.

The 2014 TUC Congress for e.g., or a national demonstration would not just take the TUC over the annual limit but each member union as well. But political parties’ own conferences happening in the same month would be given an exemption in election spending limits.

Organisations that campaign locally face even tougher challenges. Spending has to be allocated under tough limits by constituency. Every penny of spending will have to be tallied and reported – this will severely limit campaigns such as those run by Hope Not Hate against the BNP, or local grass-roots campaigns such as those against hospital closures or road building.

It is an open secret at Westminster that this rushed Bill has nothing to do with cleaning up lobbying or getting big money out of politics. But it has been drawn so widely that its chilling effect will be to shut down dissent for the year before an election.

Even though the restrictions on third party campaigning make the Bill a constitutional measure, there has been no consultation process or cross-party talks.

Today we’re seeking an urgent meeting with Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith to protest at the way this damaging Bill is being rushed through without the proper consultation.

Of course not everyone agrees with TUC views and policies, but we expect there is going to be a very wide revulsion at this outrageous attack on freedom of speech.

a longer version of this blogpost is at the Touchstone blog.

Why we should oppose Islamic Sharia courts in Britain

by Guest     August 16, 2013 at 11:05 am

by Ben Six

The Islamic Sharia Council is the biggest Sharia body operating in Britain. The officialdom includes Maulana Abu Sayeed, Suhaib Hasan and Haitham al-Haddad. Sayeed, its President, was charged with involvement in war crimes in his homeland of Bangladesh, and has said that rape is “impossible” within marriages.

Hasan, its Secretary, was recorded by Undercover Mosque preaching that “the Khilaafah” will have “political dominance”; establish “the chopping of the hands of the thieves, the flogging of the adulterers and flogging of the drunkards” and wage “jihad against the non-Muslims”.

Haitham Al-Haddad, who represents the Council in the media, is a regular target of my blog. He is a sincere fellow and tends to be frank in expressing his principles. These are almost as obnoxious as principles can be but it is good to know where stands. It is what helps us to know that to have a man who endorses genital mutilation, tells parents to marry their daughters off while they are young, orders women to obey their husbands and tells people not to question men who beat their wives preside over familial affairs is dangerous and obscene.

Such beliefs can be reflected in the workings of the courts. I will take a moment to say that I have no grievance with anyone making the point that divorce, especially between people who have children, is a grave step that should be preceded with seriousness. What is vile about Suhaib Hasan, for one, is that he treats marital abuse with no such seriousness.

Panorama sent an undercover journalist to him, bearing a secret camera and a tale of regular, painful beatings from her husband. Hasan granted that she should go to the police as a last resort but told her that she should first ask him if she could appease him with her behaviour. To suggest that abuse might be a level response to, say, bad cooking is offensive in its silliness. To suggest that it is the victim’s duty to change her ways is obscene.

The Guardian plonked a camera down in his office two years ago. “He has hit me in the past,” it filmed a woman saying, “He hit me once”. “Only once?” Hasan replied with an obnoxious chuckle. “So it’s not a very serious matter”. How many women have been talked into staying with their husbands and endured further suffering?

Charlotte Proudman, a barrister blogging for the Independent, has explained how the courts are weighed against women.

If a husband seeks to divorce his wife, for example, he has to pay two hundred pounds. If a wife seeks to divorce her husband, she has to pay four hundred pounds. These women are not liable to have a great deal of spare cash. A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s. An article on the website of the Islamic Sharia Council, which also endorsed capital punishment for adulterers almost in passing, said this is because “women…are governed by their emotions” while “man is governed by his mind”.

These courts have been overlooked because, well – they are filled with eccentric religionists doing things among themselves. This is idle. Women are being manipulated into endangering themselves, on the basis of ideas that most of them will have been raised to accept without question. Panorama alleged that kids have been ordered to be given up to violent husbands.

Moreover, men like Hasan, who wants to “offer” sharia law to the United Kingdom, and Haddad, who has spoken of the “Islamic Republic of Britain”, hope to one day expand their power over everyone.

It is time we made it harder for them to indulge their fantasies.

How prisoners are missing trials because the service company fails to produce them

by Guest     August 12, 2013 at 4:43 pm

by Maeve McClenaghan

Prison van
(Image: Shutterstock Prison Van)

In early July staff of Serco, a service company, were transporting a female defendant the 38 miles or so from HMP Holloway London to Basildon crown court in Essex. The defendant was securely locked in the back of a Serco van. But when they arrived at the court the guards found they did not have the keys to let her out of the vehicle, and so could not get her to her place in the dock.

The guards and prisoner set off back to London for the keys. Realising that with a two-hour round-trip they would not make it back to the court on time, the judge let the court rise for the day.

New analysis of government figures shows the number of crown court trials being stopped and re-started because the prison escort fails to produce the defendant is on the rise. The company with the worst delivery rate is Serco.

A growing problem

In the first quarter of 2013 the rate at which crown court trials were declared ineffective because the defendant was not produced by the prison escort service rose by 75% compared to 2012.

Between January and March this year fourteen crown court trials, involving full juries, were stopped and had to be re-scheduled because of failures by companies contracted to deliver defendants to court. This equates to more than one trial a week. Many more were delayed until later on the scheduled day.

Last year, in the same quarter 8 trials had to be stopped and restarted. For all of 2012 31 crown court trials had to be stopped and restarted because of prison escort problems.

The rate of trials failing in London is higher than in other areas. Half of all the trials that were declared ineffective due to problems with the prison escort service, were in London crown courts. But trials in London crown courts account for just 18% of all crown courts cases in England and Wales. This suggests the problem is disproportionate in the capital.

The company contracted to deal with escorting prisoners in the London courts is Serco.

In 2011 the Ministry of Justice awarded Prisoner Escort and Custody Services contracts for four areas across England and Wales. Geo Amey secured three of the areas, while Serco won the contract for London and the East. The MoJ estimated the out-sourced work would save the department £261m over seven years.

The companies are responsible for all inter-prison transfer excluding the movement of Category A prisoners, which are managed by the Prison Service.

As Serco notes on its website, its contract ‘includes many of the most high profile courts in England & Wales, including the Royal Courts of Justice, the Central Criminal Court and Westminster Magistrates’ Courts.’

The MoJ does not record how many of the figures were Category A prisoners, and therefore the responsibility of the Prison Service.

The Bureau has spoken to a number of barristers who complain of Serco failing to produce prisoners on time and even times when the company delievered defendants to the wrong courts.

In early July a defendant being held in remand was due at a plea hearing at which he would plead guilty or not guilty. But his transfer from Pentonville prison to Chelsmford crown court was problematic. The defendant had a prosthetic leg and, according to his barrister, Serco had trouble locating a suitable vehicle to transport him in.

In the end the defendant arrived six hours late by which time the judge had given up and re-listed the hearing for three weeks. That meant another three weeks in custody before pleading for the defendant.

‘We do see a lot of delays, and judges and juries are often left waiting for prisoners,’ the defendant’s barrister, who wished to remain anonymous, explained. ‘It has always been an issue but you would have thought when it was privatised things would have gotten better,’ he added.

In 2012/2013 the MoJ spent £131,765,033 on prison transit, an decrease of 19% on the 2010/2011 spend.

The MoJ explained that the numbers involved in trial stoppages are small in relation to the overall number of offenders moved. It also pointed to bad weather during the start of 2013 as a reason for the increased failure rate.

Victoria Colloby, Secure Transport Director at Serco told the Bureau: ‘Serco’s priority on the Prisoner Escorting and Custody Service (PECS) contract is to provide a high quality service at all times which is safe, secure and punctual. Our performance is measured by the Ministry of Justice against a comprehensive range of specific indicators.’ The company added that its does not measure its performance against the MoJ’s ineffective trial figures.

Prison complaints

Prisons are also logging concerns with the Serco transport system. The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for HMP Pentonville noted in their 2011-12 report that,There have been some recurring problems with the Serco contract for the transfer of prisoners. This affects the efficiency of the Reception process. At times there has been bunching of Serco vans outside Reception, leaving prisoners to wait in them for longer than is desirable. Sometimes the vans arrive very late, due to there being too few vans to bring prisoners from the courts until the end of the day.’

Wormwood Scrubs Prison also noted problems with Serco, as recorded in the IMBP’s 2012 report. The report found, ’The court and inter-prison service run by Serco leaves much to be desired. Prisoners are often kept in court cells for hours due to a lack of vehicles and delivered to the prison well into the evening often unfed. Inter-prison transfers often do not take place as arranged. Nor is the prison regularly notified of no-shows.’

The report mentions cancellations and over-crowding of vehicles are serious issues in the transfer system. According to the report prisoners can be driven round for hours as various prisoners are picked up and dropped off. The vans supply only water, and not food. Toilet stops happen every two and half hours, otherwise prisoners can use an on-board potty with a type of cat litter. A situation the IMBP board finds ‘unacceptable’.

This was originally posted to TBIJ

Why has it taken this long for a call to look at the Police’s undercover activities?

by Jenny Jones AM     June 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I hope the news that the Metropolitan Police sent undercover police to spy on the Stephen Lawrence family becomes the turning point in the on-going spy cops scandal.

It’s surprising it has taken until now for broad calls for a public inquiry. Why not when we first discovered undercover police officers had been having long-term intimate relationships with activists as a tool for gathering information? What about all the other victims of police spies?

The Met had a unit that stole the identities of dead babies, apparently withheld information from a judicial inquiry and used sex as a tool to gain information and cover from innocent women.

Plus, we already have a fresh set of allegations that police spies infiltrated campaigns against police corruption. The sorry saga of perverted and possibly illegal undercover policing needs a public inquiry to get to the truth, or as much of it as we can.

There are currently between 12 to 15 inquiries or reviews looking into different aspects of the murky world of police spies.

The time has come for one judicial inquiry to look at all the allegations, including the crimes Mark Kennedy committed in Germany, Bob Lambert authoring the McLibel leaflet, fathering children with the women they spied on and the allegations about the firebombing of Debenhams raised under Parliamentary privilege.

There must be senior Ministers who are open to the inquiry idea, in the same way that the Met Commissioner appears to be.

It’s been 20 months since the Met launched Operation Herne, their own investigation into undercover policing, but the Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee are yet to be told how many matters have been referred to the IPCC for investigation, how many cases the CPS are looking at, if any disciplinary action has been taken against officers, or if these officers are still supervising undercover operations.

There are 23 officers and 10 staff working on the case, but there have been no arrests and the Home Secretary only heard about the alleged smearing of the Lawrence family via the media.

A judicial inquiry, unlike the internal police investigation and Tom Ellison QC’s review, would allow the victims of undercover operations – the women, the children of officers, the parents whose children’s identities were stolen and the Lawrences – a voice in this process.

They could tell their side of the story and see those responsible held to account in public for their actions and decisions.

PS, I will be questioning the Commissioner about undercover policing at Thursday’s meeting of the Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee.
I will also be speaking in the Speakers Forum, Green Futures Field of Glastonbury at 3pm on Saturday.

What if the police infiltrated left groups not for the state but for corporations?

by Guest     June 25, 2013 at 9:20 am

by Jonathan Kent

So the leaflet at the centre of the McDonalds libel trial was co-written by Bob Lambert, an undercover police officer who later apologised to the “law abiding members of London Greenpeace,” which he described as a peaceful campaigning group.

Likewise Mark Kennedy/Stone, who couldn’t fathom what threat the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station protesters he’d infiltrated posed. The judge trying one group of Ratcliffe protesters praised their public spiritedness. Doesn’t anyone else think it odd that the state spends millions of pounds infiltrating annoying, but mostly harmless, groups of hippies?

It makes no sense, until you stop to consider what happens to the surveillance data.

Simon Jenkins, in The Guardian, noted that Stone/Kennedy was working for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit whose chain of command lead to the Association of Chief Police Officers.

But ACPO isn’t a statutory body. It’s a private company and, according to Jenkins, it sold data to other private companies. It’s when you start to think about surveillance as a business that infiltrating peaceful, democratic green / leftist / anti-capitalist groups starts to make sense. There’s a market for surveillance data and demand drives supply.

Ask yourself this: who might buy data about far-right groups or militant ‘Islamists’ who represent a threat to public safety and the state? The answer, surely, is the state, and the state has tight budgets and a security apparatus of its own.

But who would buy information about greens, democratic leftists and assorted anti-capitalists? Big business has limited security apparatus of its own, deep pockets and, if protesters threaten the bottom line, the corporation’s motive-of-motives; money.

So the question is not ‘why spend so much infiltrating peaceful protest groups?’ but ‘just how far have our security priorities been distorted by the market for information?’ The more it becomes about money the less it becomes about national security and the more about protecting financial interests.

Now think about all this in the context of the Snowden revelations about PRISM and GCHQ.

Once we stood up for our liberties. Indeed millions donned uniforms and fought, were wounded or were killed in their defence. Now all it takes is one or two savage attacks on our streets and we’re prepared to throw away everything our forebears gave their lives for.

But we live in a different world where power is inexorably seeping away from our elected representatives who, however flawed they may be, are ultimately accountable to us. And power is flowing equally inexorably towards corporations – unaccountable, faceless and legally constituted to be amoral; uninterested in right and wrong only in serving their shareholders’ interests. PRISM benefits them.

What is at stake is not different ideas of right and wrong, right-wing morality versus left-wing morality, it’s whether we have a world in which morality plays any significant part at all.

Overwrought? Two weeks ago suggestions of an all-seeing, all-encompassing surveillance state across the Western democracies might have seemed equally so. But PRISM exists and so do real threats to the very fabric of society.

Our forebears were prepared to give their lives to stop this sort of thing. What are we prepared to give?

Jonathan Kent blogs here.

The trouble with how the media reports crime against women

by Guest     June 6, 2013 at 8:50 am

by Jonathan J Lindsell

Trigger warnings: rape, sexual assault, child abuse.

“Man fucks woman; subject verb object.”

That’s how Catharine MacKinnon, American feminist legal professor, characterised Western gender relations and savaged pornography. Women are objectified statues, men are aggressive actors.

But if you look at the media’s treatment of gender-related crimes in the past few months, you’ll see something different:

“Victim was assaulted; Object verb.”

That’s how sexual crimes are reported. ‘X children were abused’, ‘Y women are raped in India each day’. Discussion overwhelmingly uses the passive voice and focuses on the victim to the perpetrator’s exclusion, unless the aggressor is notable – an ethnic minority, a celebrity, a religious figure. Otherwise rape and abuse are described as if they ‘just happen’ like freak weather events.

This absolves the public from considering whether Diane Abbot’s ‘crisis’ is a genuine problem in their immediate community – rape is either a misfortune that happens to unwary women, or a vile crime committed by people so different from the reader that their motivations are wholly alien.

Society has a standard narrative for how rape ‘just happens’ – usually a young, attractive girl, alone at night, wearing inappropriate clothing, who indulged in excess, attacked by a stranger (by tf support everette) . Passive reporting feeds this trope by focusing on victims and minimising the rapist’s role. He just ‘happened’ to be tempted when all necessary factors were in place.

The narrative is dangerous. In the eyes of the public and of juries, it discredits stories which don’t fit. Abused male or trans*people are ignored. Likewise accusations from women who are unattractive, sensible, or lived with their assailant face ridicule. The myth thrives despite SlutWalk’s efforts to dispel the idea that women’s clothing or actions constitute ‘asking for rape’ and UK government statistics showing that 90% of serious sexual assault victims know their attacker.

Whereas most sex-crime coverage investigates what personal failures caused a horrific ‘accident’ to happen to the (culpable) female victim, there’s a flip-side. When the perpetrator is different, comfortably distant from the largely white male middle-class world of today’s writers, then it’s fine to pick them apart.

This is especially evident in recent stories: Dehli bus rape, Oxford abuse ring, Catholic Church scandals and Operation Yewtree. In each case, the perpetrators are either foreign, non-Christian, or live highly atypically. Priests are celibate and secretive; celebrities extremely extrovert.

Although there was still gratuitous victim-blaming in these cases, the media switched focus to the ‘abusive cultures’ and their immorality.

This was highlighted in Joseph Parker’s piece, It’s time to face up to the problem of sexual abuse in the white community. Parker was satirising the media, I’m not. By deploying the passive tense in ‘normal’ sex crimes and demonising minorities in sensational cases, we blind ourselves to that fact that, statistically, we almost certainly know such people ourselves.

Supporting victims is important, but so is acknowledging and exploring how violent misogynist attitudes flare in all communities, and run deeper than we’d admit. Rape culture exists, and until we start to think about the rapists, it will continue. That’s unacceptable.

Jonathan Lindsell is a freelance writer who has written for Bluffers online, Trinity College Oxford’ Broadsheet and the Leamington Courier. As a research fellow at Civitas thinktank he also writes a weekly blog there.

Oxford gang-rape case: were the girls exploited because they were white?

by Sunny Hundal     May 14, 2013 at 7:59 pm

The Oxford gang of men who abused, raped and exploited young girls were finally convicted today, and the issue of race has raised its head again.

Reading through the details of what the girls were subjected to is enough to make anyone physically sick, and feel angry at how this was allowed to happen for so long.

Anger also makes people want to reach for easy answers so they can deal with it.

I’m aware that the far-right are trying to exploit these cases for politician gain. But I think the focus should always be on doing what is right and highlighting injustices, even if it raises some uncomfortable issues that can be exploited by extremists. In other words, the presence of the far-right should not lead us to blunt our criticisms or arguments.

To what extent is race a relevant factor in the exploitation?

Let’s look at some evidence first.

After the Rochdale case, the children’s commissioner in England conducted an inquiry into what could be learnt from the case. They published a short briefing paper and later an interim report. The Foreword said:

The vast majority of the perpetrators of this terrible crime are male. They range in age from as young as fourteen to old men. They come from all ethnic groups and so do their victims – contrary to what some may wish to believe. The failure of agencies to recognise this means that too many child victims are not getting the protection and support they so desperately need.

Moreover, of the backgrounds of the victims who gave evidence to the inquiry, 42% were white British and 28% were ethnic minorities. I’m assuming the remaining were mixed or unknown backgrounds.

During the Rochdale case the Judge said: “You preyed on girls because they were not part of your community or religion” — this is repeatedly cited by some people. But it’s also untrue. As was revealed after the ring-leader in the Rochdale case also ‘repeatedly raped an Asian girl over many years.

My point is not that race is irrelevant – but that it’s not relevant to why the girls were targeted.

In some of the cases of gang-related child grooming and rape, the men were primarily of Pakistani backgrounds. I suspect this is simply because they congregated together for work and to commit crime. There are other similar cases where the gangs of men have been exclusively white.

To my mind, the key question is: did they target white girls because of their skin colour and because they hated white girls, or simply because they found it easier to groom white girls? The fact that there are instances of black and Asian girls also being raped implies that in the Oxford (and other similar cases) – the men simply found it easier to prey on young white girls.

Of course, in the Oxford case the men may have deliberately targeted young white girls – I can’t read their minds. But generalising that Asian men are pre-disposed to targeting white girls make no sense given the evidence. Furthermore, these generalisations make no sense since the Jimmy Savile revelations and other cases where not only did rape and abuse take place, but many more people were involved in the cover-up.

But we can make one generalisation with some certainty: too many men still find it acceptable to exploit, groom and rape young girls without much regret. Rape culture remains a serious and widely prevalent problem and we need to do more to help and listen to the victims, rather than using them to score political points.

The EDL endorsement proves that UKIP’s faux-libertarian pretense doesn’t work

by Guest     April 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm

by Alex MacDonald and Olly Neville

On Wednesday evening, The Backbencher broke the news of how the English Defence League’s leader, Tommy Robinson – aka Stephen Lennon – endorsed UKIP and their policies on immigration and Islam. It was a controversial interview, and we found it fascinating to hear the comments from the EDL’s most senior figure about where his political allegiances lay. The EDL, on its official Facebook page – which boasts over 18,000 ‘likes’ – has written comments which throw the radical-right wing organisation’s weight fully behind UKIP and the oratory finesse of Nigel Farage.

Farage himself is unlikely to welcome the endorsement, despite the EDL boasting a significant amount of online support (2/3rds of the number of Facebook fans as UKIP). This is because the majority of British people overwhelmingly reject the politics that the EDL espouses, and association with an anti-Islam group will threaten to drag UKIP back into the territory of ‘BNP in Blazers’ accusations; a view the party has put some considerable work into dispelling.

But why do Farage and his Party – of mostly older white men – so often get dragged down into the pits of British politics by highly despised groups which advocate all sorts of nonsense?

Well, despite being a fully fledged political party with a well rounded if woefully uncosted manifesto, UKIP has only ever really focused on two main issues: The EU and immigration; often linking the two via tough rhetoric on the EU’s internal open borders and how they give access for migrants to travel easily to Britain. Election after election, be it town or Parish councils, London Mayoral or EU elections, regardless as to whether the position they are running for has any influence over immigration or not, UKIP will push immigration as hard as they can; which can see all range of weird and wonderful leaflets coming through your letterbox. Indeed UKIP’s London Elections campaign saw them sauntering around the Capital in a bright purple taxi which demanded that Londoners say ‘No to Open door Immigration’, despite the Mayor of London having no actual control over Britain’s immigration policy.

Nigel Farage is unlikely to welcome the EDL’s endorsement.

UKIP are the only party that has found the need to ban the BNP, EDL, and NF members from joining their brigade – something that is not always effective – which in itself suggests that their politics attracts undesirable members. Moreover, accusations of racism have dogged UKIP from the very beginning, with their founder quitting and calling the Party ‘morally dodgy’ and ‘extremely right wing.’ This was highlighted in recent times when a Tory MEP wrote that Nigel Farage had allegedly said some highly controversial comments in regards to ethnic minorities.

UKIP’s stance on immigration is not the only area where their policies have caused problems for their image, their former leader Lord Pearson – who was heavily backed by Farage, and Robinson of the EDL – pushed the policy of a Burka ban with great significance in UKIP’s 2010 General Election campaign. The notion was met with horror by many voters, commentators, and newspapers that a political party would attempt to regulate the clothes we can and cannot wear.

But why do we care? Why do we care if UKIP is anti-immigrant, opposed to gay marriage, and at one point became so authoritarian it wanted to regulate your clothes? Well it’s not because we are worried that UKIP have enough support to win in 2015; nor are we writing this because we are affiliated with a party and have a particular motive to win back lost votes; and nor is it for some personal vendetta against the party – even if one of us was recently scorched by UKIP’s wrath. No, we are writing this article, and highlighting these issues because despite the authoritarian politics that UKIP provides, they still have the nerve to call themselves libertarians.

Politically speaking, it may be smart to advocate for closed borders – we see it as a dreadful policy – if it means that you could win votes. It may be a politically smart move to continue to push for a protected NHS, oppose individual rights to gay marriage, decide what people can and can’t wear if you think you can gain votes in the process; but that doesn’t make it libertarian in the slightest.

Libertarianism is about freedom of the individual and being allowed to live in an environment as far away as possible from the shackles of the state. For example, libertarians would not want the government to increase defence spending by 40%; adopt a much tougher stance on crime and punishment; control who citizens can or cannot marry; and impose a strict border control policy – those ideas are in direct contrast to the idea of ‘don’t tread on me’.

The fact is that UKIP have jumped on to the growing brand of libertarianism in order to persuade the public that they are not in fact the bastion of Social Conservatism; but we see through the rhetoric. For us the fact that UKIP are attracting the endorsement of figures such as Tommy Robinson proves that they cannot be advocating the libertarian cause; how could they be if they are getting the thumbs up from the leader of an anti-Islamic organisation?

If UKIP want to continue down the road of Social Conservatism, protectionism, and anti-immigration then that is their prerogative, – and quite frankly it is not our concern – but calling themselves libertarian whilst doing it only serves to damage their credibility, and will damage the identity of what it really means to be a libertarian. This is not a good look UKIP; we think you should remove the word Libertarian from your Party’s description.

The Backbencher is a Libertarian blog

I was beaten for saying ‘Cameron has blood on his hands’

by Guest     March 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

by Bethan Jones

Yesterday I was found guilty in the Oxford Magistrates’ Court of causing “harassment, alarm and distress” following a peaceful and legal political protest in Witney in December. The judge said “I can think of nothing more alarming than the statement that ‘Cameron has blood on his hands’.”

I will continue to say that Cameron has blood on his hands, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

The words that the government and media are using is the indirect part of their attack on disabled people. Disability hate crime, which ranges from comments in the street through vandalism of motability cars up to imprisonment, torture, rape and murder is growing.

I knew about this through hearing and reading stories about the people who are being affected, I also knew that these stories weren’t being given the front page spreads that ‘scrounger’ stories get.

Here’s what happened. On the 30th November David Cameron was booed as he came on stage to turn on the Witney Christmas Lights. There’s a very funny video of him trying to drown out any criticism by awkwardly getting the crowd to cheer everyone from themselves to the Queen.

I find it very weird watching the video, because while this was going on I was being beaten up by the police on the other side of the stage. I have never been so scared.

I held up a placard that said “Cameron has blood on his hands,” and I shouted that “disabled people are dying because of Cameron’s policies.” I didn’t expect that to be a big deal, I only wanted to do my bit to show that we’re not all taken in by the rhetoric that disabled people are ‘scroungers’ and ‘shirkers.’

My face was pushed into the ground, I could feel blood coming from my nose, there was someone putting their whole weight on my back while someone else was stamping on my knees, along with various people grabbing and twisting my limbs. And then the officer on my back moved a knee up onto the back of my neck.

Up until then I’d been shouting “I’m not resisting, I’m cooperating,” trying to ask them to stop, but from the moment I felt someone pressing their body weight into the back of my neck I gave up trying to communicate anything to them, I realised the police officers on top of me either couldn’t or wouldn’t hear me.

Instead I began begging anyone who was nearby to intervene, to tell them to stop. Images flashed into my mind of what could happen. I was in pain, I couldn’t see what was going on, I was crying and bleeding, I couldn’t properly breathe, and I thought that they might leave me seriously injured. I’ve worked supporting people who’ve badly damaged their necks or back, and I can’t believe that any police officer was taught that kneeling on the back of someone’s neck is every an acceptable thing to do.

I didn’t think that it would lead to being beaten up, arrested, held overnight and then taken to court on two ridiculous charges.

The fine and costs come to more than I earn in a month. The judge said that on a whole £700 a month, of course I’d have no trouble paying it back. After rent, travel to work, food and paying off loans I don’t have money left at the end of the month, and my salary is going down soon.

We can listen to the voices of the people who know what’s going on, the people on the front-line of the cuts, and share them with our friends. Calum’s List lists the deaths caused directly by welfare reform.

A longer version of this post is posted to Facebook.

Anonymity for rape defendants mostly helps one group: rapists

by Sian Norris     February 17, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Anonymity for rape defendants is a bad idea that benefits one key group of people – rapists.

It was a bad idea in 1975, when it was how rape cases were conducted. In 1975, lest we forget, men still had the legal right to rape their wives (until 1990). It was a bad idea in 2010 when the new coalition government tried to bring it back into law. And it will be a bad idea now, as the Chair of the Bar Council in England argues for it again.

Anonymity for rape defendants, and only for rape defendants, is a policy based on the belief that women routinely and maliciously lie about rape in a way that no other crime gets lied about. But this belief is entirely false.

The idea is justified by its supporters because of the stigma of a rape accusation. But if that was really the case, then anonymity would apply to all violent crime. There is stigma attached to an accusation of murder. No crime carries more stigma than child abuse. Yet the only reason rape is singled out is because of this pernicious belief that women are just making it up in order to hurt men.

False accusations of rape make up about 3% of reported rapes. This number is no more than false accusations of any other crime.

The evidence is there to prove that naming rape defendants is a sensible policy that encourages reporting and that leads to convictions. When a prolific rapist is named, like John Worboys, it helps women who have been attacked by him feel confident to come forward. Once his identity was known, around 70 women came forward reporting attacks – reports that helped convict him.

Naming Worboys meant that he was finally, after years of terrorising women, convicted. Otherwise the police might still be dismissing reports – which they did at the time.

We cannot propose or make laws based on women-hating myths. We’re in a real crisis of violence against women in this country. There are 500,000 sexual assaults every year including 69,000 women raped and yet there are only 1070 convictions. Only 2910 reported.

This is the time to be doing everything we can to create an environment where women and girls feel confident reporting rape to the police – confident that they will be listened to, believed and that their rapist will go to jail.

Rape Crisis Helpline: 0808 802 9999
National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

A longer version of this post is here.

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