UK News

 2006: Jan-March



30th March   Burning Books before they are Written

From The Guardian

Civil servants working in politically sensitive areas will be required to sign away to the government the copyright, including newspaper serialisation deals, on any future books they may write, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, revealed yesterday.

Confirming the government's latest attempt to curb disclosures by senior officials close to ministerial private offices, Straw published a Cabinet Office plan that would remove one of the incentives to publish.

In evidence to the public administration committee of MPs Straw deplored past lapses, most recently the memoirs of Sir Christopher Meyer, the British ambassador to Washington during crucial Bush-Blair encounters, which were serialised in the Guardian.

Straw said he did not write a diary - and felt
uncomfortable working with people who did. His old boss, Barbara Castle, had done so and and been very nice about me on every page

 

26th March   Smoking Out Censorship

This seems a bit of a non-story to me. The actors can use a non lighted cigarette. The glow and smoke can be added later digitally

From The Times

For Joanna Lumley, famous for her role as a chain-smoking fashion editor, the rules are Absolutely Fatuous.

Today is the last gasp for actors in Scotland smoking on screen in a ban that will soon stub out the cigarettes of Britain’s television characters.

The Scottish authorities have brushed off pleas by Lumley, who played Patsy in the BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous, and other opponents of the measure to lighten up.

From today, actors north of the border will be banned from filming scenes with cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Even a request to permit herbal cigarettes has been rejected.

ITV, which films the Rebus detective series, based on the Ian Rankin books, is now amending the scripts for the next three dramas, which will be filmed shortly. The scriptwriters have opted to turn the ban to their dramatic advantage. Rebus falls foul of the law when he attempts to light up in his favourite watering hole, the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh. He may emerge as Scotland’s smoking ban martyr.

The ban in Scotland, which follows similar curbs introduced in Ireland in 2004, is to be followed by legislation for England next year, which could have the same consequences for actors on stage or screen.

 

26th March
Updated 30th March
  Free Speech Rally

Based on an article from the Daily Mail

March for free speechA demonstration championing free speech in central London passed off peacefully. Some protesters carried placards featuring cartoons that infuriated much of the Muslim world.

About 250 protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square to demonstrate against the uproar generated by the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Police said no arrests were made but one man was questioned by officers after they received a complaint about the nature of his placard. It showed a copy of the cartoon depicting Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.

Iranian Reza Moradi, who has lived in London for eight years, left the protest after being quizzed by police and returned later.

Nine Muslim counter-protesters wearing black-and-white head scarves were escorted from the protest.

A police spokeswoman said:
Police informed them they were free to go wherever they wanted, but because they had scarves covering their faces and they were chanting, officers remained with them.

Risdon initially had announced that he would allow protesters to display banners and wear T-shirts depicting those images. However, he later withdrew the invitation posted on the rally's website, asking demonstrators not to show the cartoons out of fear their display would alienate sympathetic Muslims and give credibility to a far-right political group, the British National Party, which has used the cartoons as a rallying cry.

The decision sparked hundreds of angry responses on the website by those planning to attend the march, many of whom deemed Risdon's change of heart as political censorship.

30th March   Update: Police with Short Fuses in their Helmets

From Butterflies and Wheels: "Fighting fashionable nonsense"

Reza Moradi was questioned by police at Saturday's free speech demonstration. The Washington Post reported:

It's my freedom, everyone's freedom, to expose these pictures and encourage everyone to do the same," said Reza Moradi, a protester who identified himself as an Iranian who has lived in Britain for eight years. Moradi was later questioned by police after someone lodged a complaint regarding the "nature of his placard," which featured a copy of the Danish cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, a London police spokeswoman said. After a brief, heated exchange with officers, Moradi left the protest on his own and then rejoined the demonstration later.

It now appears that Reza Moradi was told that he will be summoned to court for "offending" someone because he carried a placard with the Mohammad caricatures at the March 25 free speech rally.

 

19th March   Blaming Freddy

From the BBC

As multiple murderer Daniel Gonzalez is convicted, BBC News looks at the killing spree he carried out.
By the age of 24, Gonzalez had become bored and frustrated with his life. Unemployed, friendless and using drugs regularly, he spent most of his time watching horror films and playing computer games..

Gonzalez wanted to be a famous serial killer. He wanted to make newspaper headlines and he wanted to spend a day being Freddy Krueger - a fictitious child-murderer from the Nightmare on Elm Street films.

To do this, he believed he would have to kill 10 people - so, on 15 September 2004, he set out on a campaign of murder.

Gonzalez admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility - claiming he was a schizophrenic and voices in his head told him to act like Freddy Krueger.

But the jury dismissed his story and convicted him of murder.

Gonzalez's childish fascination with horror films may briefly have given him the newspaper headlines he craved - but it could not excuse the real-life horror of his crimes.

 

9th March   Sperm Wasted on Brighton Police

From The Telegraph

Police have ordered a shopkeeper to remove a toddlers' T-shirt from his window display because its slogan "Winner of the Egg and Sperm Race" was deemed offensive.

Tim Price, who has run the Ju-Ju clothes shop in Brighton said that he was stunned when officers began telling him what T-shirts he could and could not display: Apparently, someone had found the word 'sperm' offensive. Is sperm a swear word? he asked.

Price initially left the T-shirts in the window but covered up the offending words and replaced them with less offensive ones. The move, however, only brought another visit - and another warning - from the police: Our customers are bewildered. We do not set out to offend - the T-shirts are supposed to be funny. It's odd that we can't display them but people can wear them in the street. Are they breaking the law?"

A Sussex police spokesman said:
An officer has spoken to the staff at Ju-Ju and advised them to display some of the more controversial items within the store or cover offending words to prevent further complaints.

 

7th March   Special Repression Branch

From Prison Planet

Singer Morrisey was quizzed by the FBI and British intelligence after speaking out against the American and British governments.

The Brit is a famous critic of the US-led war in Iraq and has dubbed President Bush a "terrorist" - but he was baffled to be hauled in by authorities.

Morrissey explains, The FBI and the Special Branch have investigated me and I've been interviewed and taped and so forth. They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, and similarly in England. But it didn't take them very long to realise that I'm not.

I don't belong to any political groups, I don't really say anything unless I'm asked directly and I don't even demonstrate in public. I always assume that so-called authoritarian figures just assume that pop/rock music is slightly insane and an untouchable platform for the working classes to stand up and say something noticeable.

My view is that neither England or America are democratic societies. You can't really speak your mind and if you do you're investigated.

From Info Wars

One of Morrissey's recent songs was a proudly patriotic composition that relayed the message that to him being British was not about being coerced to think in whatever way the state wishes, but to enjoy hard earned freedom of expression. The lyrics to Irish Blood, English Heart are as follows:

Irish blood, English heart, this I'm made of
There is no-one on earth I'm afraid of
And no regime can buy or sell me

I've been dreaming of a time when
To be English is not to be baneful
To be standing by the flag not feeling
Shameful, racist or partial

Irish blood, English heart, this I'm made of
There is no-one on earth I'm afraid of
And I will die with both my hands untied

I've been dreaming of a time when
The English are sick to death of Labour
And Tories, and spit upon the name of Oliver Cromwell
And denounce this royal line that still salute him
And will salute him forever

Is it now traitorous to hold these views? The FBI and British special branch certainly seem to think so.

 

3rd March   Contemptible Justice

From the BBC

Naked Rambler Stephen Gough has been jailed for two months for appearing naked in the dock from custody.
Gough completed his second naked trek from Lands End to John O'Groats last week.

He had been arrested on Wednesday for walking naked into Edinburgh Sheriff Court to face previous charges. On Thursday, he again refused to cover himself and Sheriff Derrick McIntyre found him in [justifiable] contempt of court, telling him he was "offensive".

 

26th February   Inconsistent Standards

Slightly off topic news included to highlight the contradiction with sex related TV channels where adverts continually suggest stronger material than we ever get to see. The ASA presumably think it's ok for sex customers to be misled.

Based on an article from ign.com

In a decision that may have wide-ranging implications for the way videogames are advertised,  the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has ruled that Activision's advertisements for its Call of Duty games are "misleading" and ordered them never to be shown in their present form again.

The complaint centered around the television advertising for Activision's Call of Duty 2. According to the complaining parties, Activision's advertising was misleading because the graphics used in the [advertisement] were superior to that of the game itself.

The subsequent investigation by the ASA revealed that the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) -- a group responsible for the pre-transmission examination and clearance of television advertisements in the UK -- believed that the graphics in the advertisements were "scenes taken from the games themselves." It was only after contacting Activision itself to ask about the complaints that it was discovered that the graphics were "computer-generated scenes...produced solely for the ads."

According to the ASA, this revelation "immediately made the ads unacceptable for broadcast" because the ads did not reflect the quality of the actual graphics which would be present in the games themselves. The ASA ruled that because the ads were misleading, they could no longer be shown in their present form.

Activision attempted to counter the ASA ruling by stating that such use of pre-rendered footage represented a "common industry practice" and that the company had acted in "good faith." The ASA rejected this argument on the grounds that it was an "insufficient" defense of the advertisements.

 

25th February   Nazis on the Standards Board

For overseas readers, the Evening Standard and Daily Mail are right wing papers that pander to intolerance and bigotry. Ken Livingstone's colourful views about them are more than justified.

Based on an article from The Independent

The London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been suspended for four weeks after being found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute by comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard. A disciplinary tribunal said he had been "unnecessarily insensitive and offensive" when approached by a journalist from London's Evening Standard after a party at City Hall last February.

The Mayor will be suspended on full pay for four weeks starting on 1 March. He will not be permitted to work for the Greater London Authority from its headquarters at City Hall or his Brent home and his duties will be carried out by the deputy mayor, Nicky Gavron. Since he lost the case he must pay his own costs, estimated at £80,000.

His treatment of the journalist was unnecessarily insensitive and offensive, said David Laverick, chairman of the adjudication panel, which took up the case after it was referred by the Standards Board for England, the local government watchdog. He persisted with a line of comment likening the journalist's job to a concentration camp guard, despite being told that the journalist was Jewish and found it offensive to be asked if he was a German war criminal.

Livingstone issued a statement condemning the ruling. This decision strikes at the heart of democracy. Elected politicians should only be able to be removed by the voters or for breaking the law. Three members of a body that no one has elected should not be allowed to overturn the votes of millions of Londoners. He signalled that he would decide next week whether to mount a legal challenge.

During the hearing, Livingstone sought to defend himself against charges that he had damaged the reputation of the mayor's office by claiming he was acting in a private capacity on the night of the incident.

The controversy began when Livingstone was approached by a Evening Standard (associated with the Daily Mail) reporter, Oliver Finegold, as he left a party at City Hall on 8 February. After aggressive and repeated hassle for a comment, Livingstone unsurprisingly retorted on the possibility that the reporter had been a "German war criminal"

The story first appeared on another newspaper's website and, after the Mayor refused to apologise, the matter was referred to the tribunal following a complaint by the Jewish Board of Deputies. Earlier this month, a report by the Community Security Trust, which advises Britain's Jews on security, said the comments were to blame for 11 anti-Semitic attacks in London and the South-east last year.

It is unlikely that Livingstone will face any further charges as a result of the ruling. Although there is a public order offence of using threatening or abusive language, the six-month period to bring charges in this case has elapsed.

'You're just like a concentration camp guard, doing it because you're paid'

This is a transcript of the taped exchange between Ken Livingstone and Oliver Finegold which led to the Mayor of London being suspended from office yesterday. Livingstone was leaving a reception at City Hall in February last year when approached by the reporter.

Oliver Finegold: Mr Livingstone, Evening Standard. How did it ...
Ken Livingstone: Oh, how awful for you.
OF: How did tonight go?
KL: Have you thought of having treatment?
OF: How did tonight go?
KL: Have you thought of having treatment?
OF: Was it a good party? What does it mean for you?
KL: What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?
OF: No, I'm Jewish. I wasn't a German war criminal.
KL: Ah ... right.
OF: I'm actually quite offended by that. So, how did tonight go?
KL: Well you might be, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard. You're just doing it 'cause you're paid to, aren't you?
OF: Great. I've you on record for that. So how did tonight go?
KL: It's nothing to do with you because your paper is a load of scumbags.
OF: How did tonight go?
KL: It's reactionary bigots ...
OF: I'm a journalist. I'm doing my job.
KL: ... and who supported fascism.
OF: I'm only asking for a simple comment. I'm only asking for a comment.
KL: Well, work for a paper that isn't ...
OF: I'm only asking for a comment.
KL:  ... that had a record of supporting fascism.
OF: You've accused me ...

 

25th February   UK Government Villains

From ZD Net

This year's ISPA Internet Villain is the UK government. The UK government walked off with the title of Internet Villain of the year for pushing for tougher data retention laws in Europe.

The award was presented at the ISPAs, the annual awards evening organised by the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA).

During its presidency of the European Commission last year, the UK government drove forward the data retention directive. It forces ISPs and fixed-line and mobile operators to keep details of their customers' communications for up to two years.

The other nominees for the award were:

  • European Commissioner Reding "for the revision of the TV without Frontiers Directive which threatens ISPs by extending the scope of broadcasting regulation to content delivered via the Internet, in a market which is not yet fully developed."
  • The European Commission "for its inability to get through one year without producing yet another piece of intellectual-property Legislation."
  • Russia "for failing to deal with illegal Web sites and online abuse hosted within its borders".
  • Sony BMG "for compromising the security of its customers’ PCs with its copyright-protecting rootkit technology"

Sony's actions sparked calls for a boycott of the company last year, but it's understood that the judges were swayed by the massive costs that ISPs could face in order to comply with the data retention directive.

 

23rd February   Police Abuse their Trust

Based on an article from The Telegraph

A teenager who used "fuck" while chatting with friends in a park has been handed an £80 fine by a police officer for anti-social behaviour.

Kurt Walker, 18, a student and volunteer youth centre worker, is refusing to pay the fine, saying that the use of the word in a private conversation was normal among his peer group and did not constitute an offence.

Walker said yesterday that he was not given a chance to explain when the woman officer approached him in a park in Dover, Kent, and handed him the fixed penalty notice fine. He said the incident happened as he was walking through the park on his way to the youth centre, when he came across a group of his friends. One of my mates asked: 'What have you been up to?' And when I replied, I used a swear word. But I was shocked when the police officer gave me the fine. She just slapped on the fine and then left. I walked off up the street furious. It's my right to swear in a private conversation. In my eyes I have not committed any crime whatsoever. There's no way I'm going to pay the fine. I'm going to take it to court and argue my case.

The fixed penalty notice was abusively issued under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and the decision to issue it has been welcomed by some campaigners in the town.

A spokesman for Kent Police said: "Swearing is an offence under the Public Order Act."
[Well Fuck You!]

 

21st February   Congratulations to the Naked Ramblers

From The Guardian

If the certainty of having your collar felt, metaphorically of course, by the local police every few days is not enough to put you off walking the length of Britain naked, then the February wind blowing off the Pentland Firth should at least be a deterrent. So, as the Naked Rambler and his girlfriend finally arrived at the northernmost tip of Scotland yesterday, their first thoughts turned to clothes. "Quick, get them on," said Stephen Gough to his partner, Melanie Roberts.

Before they dressed, there was a little welcome party of locals waiting at John O'Groats with cameras and mobile phones to record the end of the 874-mile naked walk. Bobbie, a man in his 70s from the village of Halkirk, near Thurso, had driven down especially. It's not him I've come to see, it's the girlfriend  he said unabashed. It's a bit of fun. There's not much else to brighten the winter here.

Clothed, they reckon they could have completed the walk in 40 days, covering 20-odd miles a day. Naked, a few problems with the law lengthened the expedition. Gough was arrested nine times, Roberts five.

I've never been in trouble with the police before and I found the first night in the cells quite frightening, said Roberts, I still don't see what all the fuss is about.

In all, Gough has spent four months in jail for causing offence with his naked ramble.
What's the point, why do it? Why do anything? I want to show people that nakedness is nothing to be ashamed about and they should not pass their shame on to their kids.

 

 16th February   Blasphemy Insults our Freedoms

Based on an article from The Times

Philip Pullman and Nicholas Hytner are leading a campaign to repeal blasphemy laws after the Government’s failure to outlaw “abusive and insulting” criticism of religion. Both are spearheading a movement to remove the special protection afforded to the Church of England by 300-year-old blasphemy laws. They have been brought together by English Pen, a lobby group for freedom of expression.

Pullman said that the blasphemy laws had no place in modern Britain and Hytner and that repealing blasphemy laws was the next logical step for the Government. He told The Times that he had discussed the matter informally with members of the cabinet who suggest that repealing the law is a good idea.

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat human rights spokesman, said that he was waiting for an opportunity to propose repeal of blasphemy laws, either as an amendment to relevant legislation or as a Private Member’s Bill.

Blasphemy is illegal under common law and the 1697 Blasphemy Act. It covers only blasphemy against the Church of England after a judgement in 1938. The last successful prosecution was in 1977, when Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association brought a private prosecution against Denis Lemon, editor of Gay News, for publishing a poem about a gay centurion’s love for Christ.

 

 13th February   A Serious Offence on Paper

The BBFC recently awarded a 12 rating to a DVD because of a badly dubbed 'fuck'. Now they harp on about the it being 'a very serious offence' to supply that DVD to a child. If BBFC decisions are to be used to imprison people, then the BBFC should have to consider whether there is sufficient harm to justify a 6 month prison sentence before being able to award an age restricted certificate. Badly dubbed 'fuck's surely do not cause sufficient harm to justify people being set up for a six month jail term.

From The Sunday Herald

Newsagents face fines or even imprisonment for selling papers containing free 12 and 15-certificate films.

British censors have warned that many of the DVDs given away recently with newspapers carry 12 or 15- certificates, which makes it illegal to supply them to anyone under the appropriate age. The fact they are free makes no difference in the eyes of the law.

It is a very serious offence, said Sue Clark, head of communications at the BBFC. You end up with a criminal record and can go to prison or be heavily fined.

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents has warned members of the implications of selling age-restricted DVDs to children, but there is anecdotal evidence that many continue to do so.

Trading standards officers are responsible for policing the Video Recordings Act and the local authority regulatory body, Lacors, has made representations to newsagents, stores and garages, trade bodies and news papers demanding they all tighten up.

As suppliers, newsagents are in the frontline. But Clark said some papers had broken the law by failing to show film certificates on their front pages, so newsagents might not realise they contained age-restricted material.

There is the further complication of paper boys and girls delivering age-restricted DVDs to homes. I know from one person who rang the BBFC that they came in to find their child watching a 15-rated film and they were about seven or eight, said Clark. Parents have raised concerns. And we are concerned that parents may not be able to choose what their children access.

Highlander and Conan the Destroyer, both 15-rated films, were given away with red-top tabloids last month. But English broadsheets have been handing out the kind of films in which Wingate specialises. Last month The Independent gave away Czechoslovakian masterpiece Closely Observed Trains, which is rated 15 and yesterday it gave away the Italian 12-certificate film The Sky Is Falling.

Sue Clark said one solution might be for newspapers to give away vouchers for DVDs instead, and some already do this. Adam Whisker at Lacors said they had suggested DVDs should be supplied separately from newspapers.

 

8th February
Update 9th February
  Not Coming Clean with the Statistics

I thinks some one is exaggerating the problem here, Surely one has to subtract all the hits originating from spiders and automated systems from these figures. Then one has to discount a proportion of the links that are made without realisation that it is a banned site. Then the daily hits hardly sounds very large. (for the sake of comparison Melon Farmers receives 17,500 page hits a day compared with 35,000 blocked pages).

We should also discount those sites featuring 16 & 17 year olds. Images of young people above the age of consent is not child porn but is illegal because it is considered to be child exploitation.

Based on an article from the BBC

The number of attempts to view illegal child pornography on the web has risen sharply since 2004, according to BT.

The company has a system to block sites carrying indecent images of children and over the past four months it has been thwarting 35,000 hits each day.

When BT first launched its Cleanfeed system 18 months ago, there were just over 10,000 attempted hits every day.

Children's groups have repeated calls for all internet service providers to prevent access to illegal websites.

BT's blocking technology forbids access to sites blacklisted by the Internet Watch Foundation, which monitors illegal activity on the web.

Most of the bigger service providers use similar blocking technology to BT, but there is continuing pressure on all UK providers to follow suit.

The IWF blacklisted more than 6,000 websites in 2005 - up from 3,500 in the previous year.

John Carr, an internet adviser to the children's charity NCH, has welcomed the work being done by BT and other companies. He believes the current system of self-regulation is "reaching its outer limits". He threatened: unless the industry can show pretty quickly that they're at or close to 100% coverage in Britain, I'm afraid we will be going to talk to our MPs... demanding legislation.

According to the industry about 80% of domestic internet users in the UK are covered by BT Cleanfeed-type solutions, he said, but he also raised concerns that there was "some scepticism" about that figure and called for it to be independently verified.

9th February   Opinion: Clean & Spun but still Bollox

From backdoor_uk on The Melon Farmers' Forum

"The BT CleanFeed figures are even more deceptive than that..."

The BT CleanFeed figures are pretty meaningless. The Internet Watch foundation, who administer the Child Abuse Images database that CleanFeed is based on say themselves that the real increase is on the number of urls on the list. More urls means more hits; it`s as simple as that. The real question is why more urls?

- According to an email I had from the IWF 5% of urls feature pictures of `children` aged 16-17 (IWF changed its definition of child porn to `under 18` when the 2003 sex offenders act did, this only really took effect in their 2005 figures)

- For a url to be included on the database it only takes 2 of their reviewers to judge a picture as category one. In other words they only have to think that the picture *looks* like they are under 18 and it is `erotically posed` (it doesn't even have to be nude).

The CAI database is a piece of work. Not only are website owners not informed when they are put on it, no one but approved partners has the right to access it. If a website does find out and appeal the IWF asks the police (effectively) for the final say on if an image is illegal or not. Ultimately then it constitutes censorship in the hands of the police.

The IWF can only go after websites on the basis of breach of current laws. Since the OPA doesn't cover other countries they can't do anything about adult porn production outside of the UK. But there is some suspicion that the whole point of the proposed law on extreme pornography is not so much to prosecute individuals, but rather to give the IWF a legal excuse to monitor websites containing such pictures and publish a database similar to the CAI.

How many of us would be happy with adult porn urls being blocked on the say of 2 'expert' IWF reviewers with the police as the only avenue of appeal?

 

3rd February   Scottish Sexual Offences

Thanks to Chris on The Melon Farmers' Forum

Have people read the new Scottish Law Commission Discussion Paper on Rape & Other Sexual Offences?

It’s refreshingly sensible and free from legislation based on sexual prudery. It addresses things like consent and BDSM from the point of view of sexual autonomy being the most important thing and even for things like bestiality it defines only as an offence if it causes harm to the animal. It’s quite different in tone than the government's consultation paper on extreme pornography (though this one doesn't actually cover porn).

It is to be found at Discussion Paper No 131  Rape and other Sexual Offences [PDF]. Comments are requested by 1 May 2006
  • Letter to consultees
  • Relevant News Release
  • Response Form 
  • Summary

The press release is as follows:

CONSULTATION BEGINS ON SEXUAL OFFENCE REFORMS

Sexual offences such as rape are on the path to reform as public views are sought on proposals issued for consultation today. The Scottish Law Commission publishes its Discussion Paper on Rape and Other Sexual Offences, marking an important stage in the first ever systematic review of Scots law on sexual offences.

The Commission was asked by the Scottish Ministers to examine the law on rape and other sexual offences and the evidential requirements for proving these offences. This request followed two widely-reported High Court cases in 2004, together with concern among the general public, and professionals working in this field, that the law was in confusion.

Launching the consultation period today, Professor Gerry Maher QC, the lead Commissioner on the project, stressed the need for clarity: The law on rape and other sexual offences must be clear. People must be able to know what types of sexual conduct the law prohibits and what types are legal.

Professor Maher also emphasised that the paper is not aimed only at lawyers: This paper is not concerned with a technical area of the law. Rather it deals with issues which are of concern to the public at large. Our Discussion Paper, which can be accessed on our website, is part of our public consultation on reforming the law on rape and other sexual offences. We hope that anyone with views on the issues covered in the paper will send us their response.

Following consultation, the Commission aims to publish a final Report, including draft legislation, next year. The key issues covered in the Discussion Paper are redefining rape to cover male and female victims, as well as a wider range of sexual acts; enhancing the protection of the vulnerable, including young people, from exploitative sexual activity; and defining in statute the meaning of consent to sex. The paper emphasises the need for the law to apply equally to men and women, and it asks whether the requirement for corroboration for proof of sexual offences should be retained or removed, and, if it were removed, for which offences.

 

3rd February   The Blame Game

From The Telegraph

A schoolboy shot his cousin in the face with a shotgun, seriously wounding him, after playing a notoriously violent video game, a court heard yesterday.

The boys, both 13 at the time, had been playing the game Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas which, in America, has been blamed for prompting several killings by teenagers.

Joanne Eley, prosecuting, said that the prosecution did not accept that the shooting had been an accident because the boy, who denies unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm, had to release the safety catch.

Eley described the Grand Theft Auto game - various versions of which have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide - as a "gangsters and guns" game that involved "running around nicking cars and shooting people".

Eley told the court that the two cousins and other friends had all been playing the game where you beat people up, scare them, get cars and shoot people.

In the United States it has been the subject of a lawsuit following the fatal shootings of three people, including two police officers, by an 18-year-old in Alabama in 2004 who went out to steal cars after becoming addicted to the game.

Another lawsuit has arisen from the fatal shooting of a motorist and the wounding of another by two teenagers who opened fire on cars on a Tennessee motorway after playing Grand Theft Auto.

The hearing continues.

 

15th January   Teachings of the Witchfinder General

The infamous Operation Ore targeted those that used their credit cards to subscribe to a suite of porn sites. Most featured adult porn but some featured child porn. US police evidence was trumped up to suggest that all the subscribers knew about about the child porn content. But this evidence was found to be false, and many on the subscriber list were merely paying for adult porn sites and were totally unaware of any child porn content.

Presumably on police investigation, any evidence of child porn would result in prosecution and the appropriate stiff punishments. I find it hard to believe that the police would hand out a caution for anybody with any real evidence of downloading illegal material. So the suspicion must be that cautions were handed out when there was no evidence beyond the subscriber list. The failure of the Police to own up to the consequences of this policy is proving devastating to those caught up in their face saving.

Understandably, nobody wants any risk whatsoever for their children so I don't really see the situation improving much. Minor sexual misdemeanors, or even the accusations of, will always end a teachers career....just in case!

It seems to be a fundamentally stupid career move to become a teacher.

From Inquistion21

A new report containing criminal allegations against the police has been submitted to both the National Crime Squad and the Metropolitan Police Service in the UK.

The substance of the report is that that PE teacher Paul Reeve’s life has been put at risk by false statements made during the Ruth Kelly affair, so much so that panic alarms have been placed in his house. Certain senior police are in a position to do something about this and are seen by the report therefore to be both personally, and as an organisation, liable for what might happen.

The report alleges that these police have information which they should immediately convey to Ruth Kelly, unless they want this man to be tortured and the law to be subverted by the criminal activity of named senior police officers, concerning which other crime reports have already been submitted.

Reeve was arrested in 2003 by Norfolk police as part of Operation Ore, but was not put on List 99, the official blacklist which bans adults from working in schools if they are a threat to children; however, because he received a caution he was put on the Sex Offender’s Register, despite the evidence against him being ‘inconclusive’. The travesty however is that the mechanisms that the police used in arresting Operation Ore suspects have now been shown to have been false and corrupt and there are several investigation into senior police officers concerning this underway.

Despite these investigations, last week saw another parliamentary and media circus about a child ‘sex offender’ who was not one.

More on the way.

 

14th January   Bad Censorship vs Good Censorship

Contrast pointed out by Alan.

From Shitty_Bank

The Chatsworth, California branch of Citibank has recently, proactively closed some of its accounts because they were operated by adult entertainment organizations that Citibank deemed "not within their target market.

From indymedia (More detailed story here)

Providers of postal addresses to Fascist organisations in Leeds Mail Boxes Etc (UK) Ltd (MBE), were picketed on Tuesday.

The picket encouraged many people to challenge the management of Leeds City MBE. Several people who were collecting mail also said they would be cancelling their contract with MBE, rather than share an address with Nazis. There was one short disruption when two thugs tried to disrupt the picket. Through the time more than 300 leaflets were distributed.

Recently MBE branches in both Belfast and Brighton have taken a welcome decision not to play host to fascists, but so far the Leeds branch have refused to reconsider their position, despite being shown documentation on the British Peoples Party and their fascist activities. The 635 Group, who organised the picket, will be organising further protests.

 

12th January   Sherrifs Bringing Contempt into Disrepute

From The Scotsman

Naked rambler Stephen Gough was admonished by a sheriff for breaching bail conditions by failing to wear clothes as he left prison.

But his pleas of not guilty to two charges of breach of the peace on separate occasions last year were accepted by the Crown at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Gough still faces sentencing on contempt of court charges for refusing to wear clothes for court appearances in December.

The charges against Gough, of Chamberlayne Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire, arose as he was carrying out his second marathon walk the length of Britain last year. The hearing was carried out in Gough's absence after he refused to put on clothes for the occasion. He has consistently defended what he claims is his right to appear naked in public.

Gough was jailed for two weeks in September last year for committing a breach of the peace by walking naked on the A701, near Bilston, Midlothian, earlier that month. But he was arrested moments after leaving Edinburgh's Saughton Prison on September 15 for refusing to cover up. He was bailed on September 16 at the city's Sheriff Court and continued his naked walk north.

But Gough was later jailed for two months at Dingwall Sheriff Court for breach of bail conditions and he was sent back to Saughton to serve his sentence. Once again, as he left jail on November 3, naked Gough was arrested for refusing to cover himself up.

Gough faced two separate charges of committing a breach of the peace on September 15 and November 3 by refusing to wear clothes in the public car park at Saughton Prison. His not guilty pleas were accepted by the court.

Gough's lawyer John Good told the court his client admitted breaching bail conditions imposed on September 16 by appearing naked in Saughton car park on November 3. Sheriff John Horsburgh ruled that Gough should be admonished in respect of that charge.

Gough was granted bail until his case is called again at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on March 1. He is expected to face sentencing after two sheriffs ruled on separate days last month that he was in contempt of court by refusing to dress for court appearances.

 

11th January   Arseholes On Line

From Inquisition 21st Century

AOL is placing full page advertisements in the UK, and presumably in the US, newspapers. The one in the Sunday Times of January 1, 2006 read as follows: “Child abuse, terrorism, racism.” This headline was accompanied by pictures of a little child, an exploding bomb and a burning cross.

“Should censorship really be the only thing not allowed on the internet?”

This was followed with a section headed ‘Discuss’. It read:

The World Wide Web is a bit of an understatement. It just keeps getting bigger, with more and more information being added every day. And that’s the beauty of the internet – anyone, anywhere can put anything on it. It belongs to everyone. A place where freedom of speech can exist.

But is it so beautiful when the information put there is the views of paedophiles, terrorists and racists? With no-one regulating the internet, this information is now within reach of more homes than ever before. It is the World Wide Web after all. But who in the world should regulate it? Should it, and could it be regulated at all?

We have a view - that internet providers, governments and individuals can work together to keep the internet open, but safer too. Which is why one of the things that we do is support the Internet Watch Foundation, set up to monitor and minimise the availability of child abuse images online. But where does censorship begin and freedom of speech end?

As Inquisition 21st Century say:

We need full page advertisements, not calling for censorship, but hoping that our slide into the police state can be halted before it is too late.

 

6th January   ASA's 50 Cents Worth

From the ASA

Complaint:

Get Rich posterObjections to a poster for rapper Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson's new album, Get Rich or Die Tryin, which was the soundtrack to his forthcoming film of the same name. The poster featured an image of 50 Cent from the rear, naked from the waist up with a weapon tucked into the waistband of his trousers; he was holding a baby over his right shoulder. The complainants objected that the ad was offensive and irresponsible because it glamorised and condoned gun crime. Several complainants were especially concerned that the ad had appeared in an area, which had recently been associated with gun crime that involved children.

Adjudication: Complaints upheld

Universal Music Group (UMG) said the image chosen for the album ad was taken from the promotional material created for the film of the same name and was designed to communicate the narrative of the main character's struggle to escape the ghetto in which he grew up. They maintained that the image was intended to show the choice that Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson's character had to make between the child and the violence represented by the gun. UMG said the poster was no longer in use.

We noted the relationship between the image in the poster and the narrative of the film. We considered, however, that Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson had such cultural credibility, especially among young people, that his association with gang culture and criminal behaviour was likely to be seen as glamorising and condoning the possession and use of guns. We also considered the combination of the title, Get Rich or Die Tryin, and the image of Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson carrying a gun could give the impression that success could be achieved through violence. We concluded that the image was likely to cause serious or widespread offence and was irresponsible. We told UMG not to repeat the approach.

 

3rd January

Updated 5th January

  Expansion and Contraction of Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information (FoI) has hardly proved very revealing when applied to secretive and unjustified decisions made by Ofcom.

On the other hand, the BBFC have proven to be very open outside the jurisdiction of FoI. Perhaps when organisations have to comply they simply hide away their private data in even deeper holes. I wonder if the FoI legislation will be extended to the BBFC? and would it do more harm than good? But saying that, it would have been beneficial in the secretive Ferman era of the BBFC.

From the BBC

The government is considering changing the year-old Freedom of Information Act to limit so-called frivolous inquiries.

Writing in the Guardian, the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said the new laws had successfully cracked open "the culture of secrecy in Whitehall". But a minority of requests had been made simply to feed the "wilder fevers of journalistic wish-lists".

Lord Falconer told the BBC the scope of the Act could be widened to include private bodies running public services.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000, which became law on 1 January 2005, means people have the right to access information held by 100,000 public bodies. Police forces, hospitals, schools, local councils and the government are obliged to reply to requests for information. But privately run public services are not covered by the laws.

Lord Falconer said he could see a case for widening the provisions of the act to include such bodies. He told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: They have not been included in the first wave, but there's a provision in the Act which allows the Act's provisions to be extended to bodies like privately run prisons or city academies.

He suggested a consultation on which bodies they should be extended to should be undertaken.

5th January Update: Secret Discussions about FoI Fees

From The Times

An about-turn on the newly implemented Freedom of Information Act has been prompted by a series of embarrassing revelations about the inner workings of government. The cost of responding to requests has also proved so expensive for civil servants to administer that a charge for information is being seen as the only alternative.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, has been told that the Government is considering reviving plans to introduce fees for every request.

Shortly before the Act came into force, the Government dropped plans for charges of up to £60 for requests to central government and £45 for local bodies. This was against the will of senior Whitehall figures, who argued that the costs should be even higher.

A spokesman for the Department for Constitutional Affairs confirmed that a review of fees was under way but said that no decision had been taken. The DCA has ruled out amending the Act, but would be able to introduce fees without primary legislation.

Frankel said such a move would undermine the entire Act and deter the public from using it. The system is very sensitive to fees. When the Irish increased their fees considerably three years ago, their volume of requests fell to a quarter of what they were the previous year.

 

2nd January   Diplomatic Ethics: Threats and Censorship

From The Telegraph

Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain's former ambassador to Washington, accused the Government of making "threats" against him over the publication of his highly controversial memoirs, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

He also claimed that the top civil servant at the Foreign Office, Sir Michael Jay, had made an "unpleasant insinuation" about his commercial motives in writing the book.

In the months before DC Confidential was published last November, ministers and senior civil servants went to great lengths to see Sir Christopher's manuscript, sparking an ill-tempered exchange of correspondence and the accusation that he was breaching diplomatic secrets.

The letters have been seen by the Sunday Telegraph and details can be revealed for the first time. They also show how Tony Blair was concerned about the book divulging his private conversations.

The exchange started on June 30, 2005, when Heather Yasamee, a middle-ranking Foreign Office official, wrote to Sir Christopher after seeing a "trailer" for his book on the Amazon website. She wrote: I thought I should remind you that as a former member of the Diplomatic Service you are covered by the rules set out in the Diplomatic Service Regulations and Diplomatic Service Code of Ethics.

These made it clear he must consult the Foreign Office before writing books, Yasamee wrote. She asked to see the "draft manuscript for approval". Sir Christopher replied on July 12 to protest at her reminder of his duties being made "at this very late stage".

The Government's big guns then got involved. On July 26, Sir Michael, the permanent under-secretary of the Foreign Office, wrote to Sir Christopher reminding the former ambassador that he was bound by the Official Secrets Act, and stating that Blair had been worried about the potential for Sir Christopher to break confidences.

In a discussion about what might or might not damage the public interest, Sir Michael wrote: [This] is a matter of judgment which cannot be assessed reliably by one individual acting alone, particularly if the individual in question left the Civil Service more than two years ago. I called you on June 4 last year to relay concerns expressed by ministers, including the Prime Minister, that some of your public comments appeared to be straying towards the revelation of confidences gained in conversations in which you had taken part. I would also emphasise that your assessment of whether any particular disclosure would be damaging to the public interest will inevitably be conditioned by the fact that … you have a commercial interest in the success of the book.

Sir Michael's intervention appears to have riled Sir Christopher. On August 7 he replied: You make a rather unpleasant insinuation that money might warp my view of the public interest. In fact, he had always said he would give any serialisation money to charity, Sir Christopher claims.