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30th November    Paying For It...
   
Government review on criminalising paying for sex

Home Office logoThe government has launched a root-and-branch review of prostitution laws, which will examine the effects of Sweden's policy of prosecuting men for buying sex.

Home office minister Vernon Coaker has told MPs he will travel to Sweden and the Netherlands in the new year to study how different regimes have affected demand, amid growing pressure for radical action to curb the growth in sex trafficking.

The Guardian revealed in September that ministers were considering radical proposals to criminalise buying sex, but Coaker's remarks are the first public acknowledgment of the discussions. The review will take around six months and look at the experience of several countries.

MPs want the change introduced in an amendment to the criminal justice bill going through parliament, which is backed by Fiona Mactaggart, until recently the Home Office minister responsible for tackling the sex industry. We would not have expected to be in the House of Commons in 2007 talking about modern day slavery, Coaker told the bill committee.

He said ministers had concerns about whether the Swedish system might make prostitutes more vulnerable, but there was considerable support to tackle the demand for prostitution and trafficking.

 

3rd November    Pegged Out to Dry...
   
Angling for statutory censorship of all games?

Tanya ByronDr. Tanya Byron, the author of the Government’s Review of violence in video games, has told MCV that the current system for rating games poses problems to both the industry and the consumer.

When asked if the PEGI/BBFC rating process might have to change, she answered: It’s something I’m thinking about. Lots of parents have emailed me saying they are confused by this system.

Can these people really feel supported by a system that has a statutory and non-statutory aspect to it? That’s a very difficult situation to put retailers in as well.

There’s no good clear information in shops to really help people understand this.

 

29th October    Minister for Women Spouting Bollox...
   
Harriet Harman tries to get escort small ads banned

Escorts ads in newspaperThe  Minister for Women Harriet Harman is to discuss banning adverts for escort services with the Newspaper Society.

Harman linked advertisements in some local titles with human trafficking. She said: The Newspaper Society and us need to sit down together and discuss whether this is acceptable in local newspapers, that girls are for sale.

Harman said the "ugly" adverts were published in some local newspapers and added: You see 'girls for sale - girls from Europe, from Africa, from Thailand, fresh girls every week, 18 to 25.

What sort of message does this send in the 21st century? We do know that there is a big problem of people trafficking.


28th November    Starkey Raving Bollox...
   
Another MP joins in on newspaper small ads

Escorts ads in newspaperMilton Keynes MP, Phyllis Starkey, told the House of Commons notices were appearing in local newspapers advertising women from around the world. She said: Just this week my local newspapers, MK News and the Milton Keynes Citizen, described 'Thai ladies and new Japanese and Chinese girls weekly'. It is difficult to see how any of those could be legally working in this country.

She asked for assurances that the police would follow up such adverts and check for evidence of vulnerable women being trafficked in the UK and forced into prostitution.

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said he had already met with the Newspaper Society to see what more could be done.


30th November  Update:  Trafficking Fictitious Stats...
   
Newspapers produce guidelines for small ads

Escorts ads in newspaperMilton Newspapers are working with the government to help tackle the problem of human trafficking for the sex industry - with a focus being put on the small ads which appear in the local and regional press.

The move follows a meeting between ministers and newspaper and advertising industry representatives.

The meeting between the government and news and advertising industries, chairman by Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker, included Ms Harman, Margaret Hodge, Hodge, a junior minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Solicitor General Vera Baird, Newspaper Society Director David Newell, Christopher Graham from the Advertising Standards Authority, Baroness Buscombe of the Advertising Association and Roger Wisbey of the Committee of Advertising Practice.

Coaker said after the meeting, on November 1: We agreed a number of important steps today, and will continue to work together. The Government will continue to work with the Police and Local Authorities, and the Newspaper Society has committed to strengthen its guidance to local papers on what adverts to accept, and to raise awareness of this link to trafficking.

Guidance issued by the Newspaper Society points out that while prostitution itself is not a criminal offence, brothels and other venues where sexual services are offered are illegal.

It says that the Sexual Offences Act 2003 created offences of causing or inciting prostitution for gain(S52) and controlling prostitution for gain (S53), and adds: Advertisements offering such services or requesting such service providers, should not be accepted if the publisher knows or has reason to believe that such activities are taking place.

On the issue of advertisements for massage services, the guidance says:

When deciding policies on the acceptance of massage advertisements publishers are advised to bear in mind the following points:

  1. Massage advertisements can disguise services of a sexual nature. Publishers could be acting unlawfully if they publish an advertisement in the clear knowledge that it offers sexual services. To avoid any question of such knowledge, publishers should be wary of advertisements which could be construed in a compromising way. For example, obvious phrases such as 'Let me take you to heaven' should be avoided.
     
  2. Publishers may wish to adopt a policy of only accepting massage advertisements from advertisers with the appropriate qualifications.
     
  3. Bona fides checks can be made to ascertain the legitimacy of such services.

 

27th October    Confronting Big Brother...
   
Gordon Brown being libertarian with the truth?

Gordon Brown wielding the scissorsGordon Brown has set out to jettison Labour's reputation for authoritarianism with a pledge to "open a new chapter" on civil liberty in Britain.

He acknowledged that criticism of the rise of the ''Big Brother" society under Tony Blair had to be confronted.

He also wanted to close off a line of attack for political opponents, who have increasingly focused on the illiberal nature of government policy.

The Prime Minister reinforced his commitment with a series of announcements – ranging from greater access to Government information to a relaxation of restrictions on the freedom to protest – to reinforce his commitment.

Brown also promised a new Bill of Rights to entrench civil liberties and said Parliament would have a say over whether the country goes to war or signs international treaties.

He conceded that tackling terrorism had led the Government to stray deep into territory that its predecessors would never have contemplated.

The greater surveillance of citizens, identity cards, DNA testing and other intrusions on privacy had been made necessary by the need to keep the country secure, he said.

But care was needed to ensure that the liberties the terrorists despised were not set aside in trying to beat them.

Among the measures he announced were:

  • New rights of protest. This will mean watering down laws – introduced just four years ago – that ban any unauthorised protest within one kilometre of the Palace of Westminster.
  • New rights of access to public information by extending the Freedom of Information Act to companies carrying out public functions, such as private prisons.
  • Entrenched freedoms of the press to carry out investigative journalism.
  • A review of the rule that allows Cabinet papers to be seen automatically only after 30 years.
  • New rights against invasion of property after it emerged there are 250 laws allowing state agents to enter a home.
  • A debate about a British Bill of Rights and Duties and the possibility of a written constitution.

Brown said he would not compromise the security of the nation and there would be tougher counter-terrorism laws before Christmas.

Comment: Free Speech organisations applaud ‘sea change’

From Index on Censorship see full article

Article 19, English PEN and Index on Censorship welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment, set out in yesterday’s speech on liberty, to implement many of the proposals in our joint ten-point plan for an open government, published in June

Gordon Brown’s promise to respect and extend freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and the public right to know marks a sea change in government attitudes towards these fundamental rights. We applaud the decision to drop the deeply unpopular and retrograde fees regulation, which would have severely limited freedom of information requests, and the proposal to consider widening the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. We also commend the decision to review the restriction to the right to protest outside the Houses of Parliament.

We note that Jack Straw has been commissioned to investigate the idea of a freedom of expression audit on future legislation, to ensure that the pursuit of new policy objectives such as combating terrorism and tackling hate crime does not ‘curb legitimate liberties to speak and be heard.’

However, it is not only new legislation which curbs these liberties. The presence of antiquated offences such as criminal defamation, sedition and blasphemy makes Britain a laughing stock in the international community, whilst the Official Secrets Act and Terrorism Acts continue to curb ‘legitimate liberties to speak and be heard’ on subjects of public interest.

We look forward to participating in the consultations now taking place, and welcome the chance to tackle these and the other restrictions on freedom of expression which we have already called on Gordon Brown to address.


27th October  Comment:  Free to Doubt Brown...
   
Small sops to freedom can't hide what Labour has stolen

Gordon Brown wielding the scissorsThe clouds of suspicion began to gather as I watched the Labour commentariat, their expressions resembling nothing so much as the empty rictus of halloween pumpkins.

Surely they see what Brown and Straw are up to. Both men were members of the Blair cabinet which mounted the greatest attack in peacetime on the people's rights and liberties.

Having taken what was ours, they now offer it back to us - reduced and compromised - but as though it was somehow their beautiful gift to the people.

 

10th October    Diplomatic Gag...
   
Foreign Office tries to gag diplomats for life

Muder in SamarkandThe Foreign Office has been accused of trying to gag diplomats for life after regulations were issued stopping them from commenting on international issues even after retirement.

Serving officials have always been required to seek permission before giving media interviews, writing public letters, publishing books or taking part in conferences. This restriction applies if any of these activities would draw upon experience gained during the course of official duties.

But a letter from the Foreign Office director of human resources, circulated to ambassadors and senior staff, effectively makes this a lifetime obligation. In a passage underlined for emphasis, the letter states that your obligations of confidentiality continue after you have left the service.

All serving diplomats are asked to show they agree to the requirement. They are asked to note that their "particular attention" has been drawn to the regulations covering the use of official information or experience in publications, contacts with the media, lectures, speeches and conferences.

A former ambassador said this amounted to a lifetime gag. The Government attempt to gag diplomats is regrettable not only because it makes their assertions that they want more freedom of speech appear hypocritical, but also because it is ineffective, he said.

Experience shows that the courts will not support arbitrary action by government, and that juries will not convict on laws they believe to be unjust.

Many retired diplomats have become keen bloggers on international affairs. Without Foreign Office clearance, their successors would be unable to do the same.

 

9th October    Inciting More Laws
   
Straw proposes to make it a crime to incite hatred over sexual orientation

Jack StrawThe Government is to make it a crime to incite hatred because of a person’s sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, Jack Straw announced last night. The offence will carry a maximum sentence of seven years.

Straw, the Justice Secretary, outlined the plans to MPs but the details of the measure are yet to be finalised. He will insert a clause to create the offence when the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which had its second reading last night, reaches committee stage.

Under the proposal it would be considered a crime to incite hatred against homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and heterosexual people.

Prosecutions will be brought only with the agreement of the Attorney-General. The new crime will cover people using threatening words or written material, or recording visual images or sounds that incite hatred because of sexual orientation.

Evangelical Christian groups was concerned that people who said gay sex was wrong could end up in jail. Colin Hart, director of the conservative evangelical Christian Institute, said: In a democratic society people must be free to express their beliefs without fear of censure. A homophobic hatred law would be used by those with an axe to grind against Christians to silence them. There have already been high-profile cases of the police interfering with free speech and religious liberty regarding sexual ethics. People shouldn’t face prison for expressing their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, said: If such an amendment is put forward, it is likely to be in the form of the existing incitement against racial hatred law. The type of actions targeted would not only be violently homophobic words, but would no doubt cover any criticism of practising homosexuality, homosexual acts and lifestyles.

Leading gay rights campaigners insisted that the proposed offence would not lead to the prosecution of people expressing religious views. It will not apply to those who temperately express religious views, a leading campaigner said.


10th October  Update:  Ban on Gay Hatred Incites Religious Hatred
   
Preaching gay abomination = incitement of hatred

Jack StrawNutters could face up to seven years in jail for simply preaching from the Bible under Government plans to criminalise incitement of homosexual hatred.

Jack Straw announced proposals similar to the controversial incitement of religious hatred laws to target those who stir up hostility based on sexual orientation.

Religious groups warned it could lead to preachers being prosecuted for emotionally expressing their firmly-held beliefs and will restrict freedom of speech.

They said gay rights were being given priority over Christian values and that believers felt under threat.

Ministers insisted any new law is aimed at extremists, and that people would not be prosecuted merely for expressing an opinion.

But sources admitted it would be up to police and the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether charges should be brought in any individual case.

Colin Hart, director of The Christian Institute, said: In a democratic society people must be free to express their beliefs without fear of censure from the state. A homophobic hatred law would be used by those with an axe to grind against Christians to silence them. People shouldn’t face prison for expressing their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

An Institute spokesman added: The criminal law will extend to the pulpit and we could have vicars standing before a court trying to defend themselves.

Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission said: If someone is reading the Bible and calls homosexuality an abomination, is that going to be incitement? There are similar passages in the Koran and the Talmud.

I was against the incitement to religious hatred legislation. Either you water it down until it becomes pointless or you have a situation where you deprive people the right to have access to freedom of speech.


12th October  Update:  Incitement of Biblical Proportion
   
Incitement law won't protect gay people

Jack StrawThe government's proposed law against homophobic hate speech is unworkable and disingenuous.

Unless the government has it in mind to ban the Bible, the new law announced by the government this week proposing to outlaw homophobic hate speech will be ineffective.

The major source of homophobic hatred in our society is from religious groups. Almost every single anti-gay group in Britain is religious. These groups hide behind their 'holy' texts, and unless the law has the backbone and resolve to ban these texts and to prosecute the priests, imams and rabbis who quote them, it is wasting its time trying to clamp down on anti-gay hate-speech.

The proposed law will bring itself into disrepute and serve only to trivialise homophobic violence if it were only ever used against dim-witted Big Brother contestants and drunk Oxford students, while ignoring religious leaders - the most guilty.


9th November  Update:  Blackadder vs JackBoots
   
Rowan Atkinson criticises Straw's hatred law

Jack StrawThe right to crack jokes or be rude about homosexuals could fall victim to new government laws to stamp out "homophobic" behaviour, Rowan Atkinson, the Blackadder star warned yesterday.

Atkinson, who mounted a successful campaign in 2004 to water down legislation aimed at criminalising expressions of religious hatred, has returned to the fray to defend the art of gay leg-pulling.

His concern is that Labour ministers are so obsessed with creating laws to stop people being rude about each other that they are putting in danger the right to free speech and, equally dear to his heart, the comedian's craft.

In a letter to a newspaper he accused ministers of filling their legislative programme with measures that have serious implications for freedom of speech, humour and creative expression.

Atkinson was referring to measures in the Criminal Justice Bill, currently passing through Parliament, which could mean people who stir up hatred against homosexuals being put in prison for up to seven years.

He said the Government measures, which could be expanded to cover hatred against disabled or transgendered people, seemed to be "infinitely extendable". Witness the fact that the Government has invited two additional groups - the disabled and transsexuals - to 'make the case' for the proposed legislation to be extended to them. I am sure that they could make a very good case, as indeed could all those who can claim that they cannot help being the way they are. Men, for example, or women. Or people with big ears.

Atkinson added: The devil, as always, will be in the detail but the casual ease which some people move from finding something offensive to wishing to declare it criminal - and are then able to find factions within government to aid their ambitions - is truly depressing.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, has told MPs that such fears are unfounded because he will shortly introduce an amendment to the Bill ensuring that cases can be pursued only when the offending words are specifically intended to pose a threat and are not merely humorous, mocking or abusive. [So why weren't such protections in the original then?]

Lord Lester, the Liberal Democrat peer who helped draft the compromise wording on the religious hatred law, said it was clear that "politically incorrect jokes at the expense of gay people" should not be banned.


27th November  Update:  Enough Hatred
   
Government debates whether new gay hatred law is needed

Jack StrawThe Government plans to criminalise the stirring up of hatred against gays and lesbians are in disarray because of a Cabinet split over the need for such a law.

The split – between Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Attorney-General, and Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary – are likely to scupper plans for a new offence.

Baroness Scotland has privately expressed concern about the controversial legislation proposed by Straw, The Times has learnt.

Straw announced the plans last month with the backing of Harriet Harman, the Equalities Secretary. He had said that he would bring forward an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill this month to extend the law that already protects religious and racial groups, carrying up to seven years in jail.
Related Links

But Baroness Scotland, who is also determined to crack down on the problem of homophobic behaviour, believes that there are sufficient laws on the statute book to deal with the issue.

She is understood to have told colleagues that she wants to see more successful prosecutions in this area, but is unconvinced that a new law is the way to do it and would prefer to focus on existing procedures.

Straw’s plan was to mirror the offence of incitement to religious hatred. The amendment would cover hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality. Ministers insist that it would not prohibit criticism of gay and bisexual people but protect them from incitement to hatred because of their sexual orientation.

But, despite strong backing from bodies such as Stonewall, the campaigning group for gay rights, the proposals have caused controversy and been condemned as a threat to freedom of speech, including from some prominent homosexuals.

Matthew Parris, the Times columnist, wrote that some groups may be so weak and fragile as to need the law’s protection from hateful speech. I’d like to think that we gays are no longer among them.

 

28th September   Drunken Ramblings...
 

 
Rovers ReturnHome Secretary blames drinking on TV for all the country's ills

From the Telegraph see full article

Television programmes that glorify drunkenness will be branded unacceptable as part of a "zero-tolerance" approach to anti-social behaviour, Jacqui Smith has announced.

The Home Secretary began a campaign to shame television companies into taking the programmes off-air, saying they encourage alcohol misuse.

Alcohol misuse can cause real damage to people, she told the Labour conference. And incidentally, why celebrate drunken behaviour on our television screens?

Her aides made clear that there were no plans to legislate or regulate, with the aim being to shame programme makers into realising that they were damaging young people's lives.

Ibiza Uncovered, which is shown on Sky television, follows the drinking and other antics of young people on holiday and Booze Britain, which is produced by Granada and shown on Bravo, follows groups of mainly young people "on the town".

In 2003, the charity Alcohol Concern warned that soap characters were seen drinking too often in television pubs. It said scenes on television involving drinking had almost doubled since the 1980s.

 

4th September   Brown's Bollox...
 

 
Gordon Brown wielding the scissorsViolence and pornography are ‘terrible issues'

Maybe not all bad, Gordon Brown has not actually mentioned any restrictions on adult material for adults but...

From Mediawatch-UK from BBC Radio 4 Today programme

In an interview with John Humphrys on the Radio 4 Today programme the Prime Minister said that he had been thinking about how to deal with some of the ‘long term challenges' that face our country

... I have visited most countries in the world in recent years and everybody is preparing for their future. We have got to prepare for ours. ‘So whether its terrorism and security ... whether its in the field of education

... whether its dealing with some of the new issues, the erosion of childhood, how we can deal with video and internet, violence and pornography and all those terrible issues that we have to deal with ...'

From The Sun see full article

New moves to stop kids watching gore and violence on the internet were announced yesterday by Gordon Brown.

The PM has ordered ministers to work on a crackdown with media watchdog Ofcom and web service providers.

Among his plans are to make parents more aware of filtering equipment. Ofcom is to develop kite-marked software which is simple to use and guarantees to block kids’ access to violence or hardcore porn.

Ministers will also look into whether new rules are needed on the advertising and sale of some products to youngsters.

The Premier said in a speech yesterday: I know parents are concerned. We will be looking to see what can be done to help regulate access to inappropriate material.

Brown is disgusted with the amount of violence readily available. Kids can watch thugs carrying out attacks and even beheadings in Iraq with just a few computer key strokes.

He is also growing increasingly alarmed by the spate of shootings and stabbings on our streets. “Happy-slapping” gangs use video phones to film attacks, then put the footage on the web.

The PM’s move is part of his first “citizen’s jury”, unveiled yesterday. He wants random groups to help draw up new policy ideas.

From The Herald see full article

The government is also working with the industry and Ofcom to find a common framework for labelling on the internet, videos, games and websites like Youtube without applying draconian censorship.

An industry spokesman said: We think the answer is having the industry play a much more important role helping consumers know what they are going to see, and help parents protect their children against antisocial content.


5th September  Update: Brown's But...
 

 
Gordon Brown wielding the scissorsBrown announces review of media, sex, violence & children

From the Guardian see full article

The impact of media violence on children will be the focus of a wider than expected government review being launched today. It may lead to new voluntary controls over excessive violence and sex on children's television and the internet and in video games.

Gordon Brown stressed that he did not see the review leading to state censorship...BUT...hoped it would lead to a common agreement between parents, programme makers and internet providers that new controls are necessary.

Speaking at his monthly press conference in Downing Street, Brown said parents were right to expect the government to do everything in its power to protect children from harmful material in a multimedia age. The review is to be conducted by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

In the past the sources of authority for children had been schools or parents. The aim of the review was to protect children from some of the malign influences in the media, he said. He added that he had concerns about the routine violence on children's television, saying he wanted to see a better-policed watershed hour and a review of advertising before the watershed.

He stressed: This is not the government telling people what they should do [...BUT...] this is society reaching a conclusion with all those people involved about what are the legitimate boundaries.

He added: I think we have got to look at this as a society. I hope this is one of the areas where there can be common ground between all parties. I think you need to review this with a large number of representative groups, from parents, from the different industries itself and from other areas of public life.

This is not an area where you can proceed in my view without trying to establish both what the boundaries are and what is the consensus you can build around these boundaries.


I am not interested in censorship at all, ...BUT... I think we do need rules governing some aspects of the internet and videos where children are involved. He said he expected the media to be fully willing to be involved in the review.


7th September  Update: Brown Inquires...
 

 
Tanya ByronTanya Byron to inquire into impact of games & internet on children

From the Times see full article

Tanya Byron, the clinical psychologist, is to head an inquiry into the impact of violent video games and internet pornography on children.

The appointment of Dr Byron could presage interventionist action. Ministers believe that the views of parents must be given as much weight as those of the technicians, government sources told The Times.

Ways of preventing children from watching violent and gory images, will be explored. Dr Byron, a mother of two who is for her appearances on the BBC series Little Angels and House of Tiny Tearaways, said that it was vital that parents understood the dangers of such material: The internet is a powerful and positive tool for children in terms of their learning and ongoing development. However, we must all enable our children to use the possibility presented by the internet in a way that is both positive and safe.

Ofcom, the media watchdog, is already looking at the idea of a kite-marked filter device, with easy-to-understand instructions for parents, that could be sold with computers and video recorders.

Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary, said: More and more children and young people have mobile phones and play video games in their spare time. These technologies bring our children new, fantastic opportunities and lots of fun but we need to balance this with the risks and worries that parents have of their children accessing inappropriate content.

This review is not about stopping children having fun or preventing them from taking full advantage of the educational, social and entertainment benefits that the internet and video games technologies offer. But it is about making sure they can do so safely, as far as possible, without being exposed to harmful or inappropriate material.


28th September  Update: Harmful Consultation...
 

 
Tanya ByronDetailing the Byron Review into protecting children from games and videos

It looks like consumers of games and video are missing from the list of those being consulted.

From the DFES see full article

Byron Review: Statement by Dr Tanya Byron

Helping parents and their children get the best from new technologies while protecting children from inappropriate or potentially harmful material is crucial in today’s fast moving world. That’s why, as a clinical psychologist with many years of experience working with children, young people and their families, I am very pleased to have been asked by the Government to conduct such an important review. The internet and video games have huge potential for children’s play and learning. Parents welcome the benefits technologies can bring but they also want their children to be safe and many have concerns about what their children may come across online or whether the videogames they are using are appropriate.

I hope to identify measures that help all parents feel confident that their children are using these great new opportunities in a way that’s appropriate for their age and development. As part of my clinical experience I have had contact with very vulnerable and at risk children and young people, who can be more affected by harmful or inappropriate material in games or on-line. But I do not propose to focus the work of this review solely on those most extreme cases.

This review is about pulling together the shared responsibility we have as parents, society, government and industry to protect our children and young people from harm. I will be engaging with all the people who have a role in this, in direct conversations with the industry and through focus groups with parents, children and young people. I will also be issuing a call for evidence in early October so that everyone with an interest will have the opportunity to contribute to the review and ensure that my conclusions are based on robust evidence and informed opinions. My final report is due at the end of March 2008.

If you would like to send comments to the review please use the following email address: >Byron.Review@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

Public Enquiries 0870 000 2288, info@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

Update: Launch

9th October 2007

The review is due to be launched by Dr Byron - together with Schools Secretary Ed Balls and Culture Secretary James Purnell - at a school in east London today


10th October  Update: Malign Influences...
 

 
Gordon Brown wielding the scissorsGordon Brown: I am not interested in censorship at all...BUT...

From Spong see full article

Gordon Brown spoke at the press conference to launch the Byron Review into protecting children from games and videos:

" have said before that parents in the modern world, and I count myself one of them, feel under enormous pressure because whereas the sources of authority and the sources of information even for previous generations were often the parents, the school, the peer group, voluntary organisations, the sources of information for children at a very young age now are the internet or television, commercial advertising. And that is a good thing in so many different ways, but where there is pornographic or violent material any parent is going to be concerned about the impact, and any parent wants the reassurance that everything possible is being done when they can't see in almost every occasion the point at which their son or their daughter is watching some of these Internet materials either through a telephone or through other media of communication, they want reassurance that we are doing everything in our power."

"I am not interested in censorship at all...BUT...I think we do need rules governing some aspects of the internet and videos where children are involved and the whole purpose of this review would be to draw on the advice of all sources so that we can look at this in a sensible way".

"I think it is a common if you like endeavour of our society to make sure that our children, while given every opportunity to benefit from new technology and the new media, are also protected against some of the malign influences that are trying to operate through that media.”

 

3rd October  Religion Worthy of Hatred...
 
Stoning film scene

Religion
Worthy of hatred

 
Racial and Religious Hatred Act comes into effect

From the National Secular Society

Sweeping Racial and Religious Hatred Act comes into effect
After a long delay, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act has been signed and will now come into effect on 1 October 2007.

The
National Secular Society led the campaign against this legislation for five years when it became clear that in its original form it would have posed a severe threat to free expression – particularly on the right to criticise and mock religion. In a high profile campaign – that involved Rowan (Mr Bean) Atkinson, and which was spear-headed in Parliament by NSS Honorary Associate Evan Harris – we managed to get the most illiberal elements of the Bill removed.

The Government was not happy with the watered down version, but it was passed by the House of Commons with a majority of one. The-then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had left parliament before the vote on the Bill was taken in the mistaken impression that it would be lost regardless of his vote.

It is thought that the Government still wishes to bring in stronger legislation.


 
2nd October  Update: Religion Still Worthy of Hatred...
 
Stoning film scene

Religion
Worthy of hatred

 
Racial and Religious Hatred Act has come into force

From Ekklesia see full article

Incitement to religious hatred has now become a criminal offence in England and Wales with the commencement of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act.

The Act creates a new offence of intentionally stirring up religious hatred against people on religious grounds.

Existing offences in the Public Order 1986 Act legislate against inciting racial hatred. Jews and Sikhs have been deemed by the courts to be racial groups and are protected under this legislation, but other groups such as Muslims and Christians are considered to be religious rather than racial groups and have therefore not previously received protection under the law.

The new Act will give protection to these groups by outlawing the use of threatening words or behaviour intended to incite hatred against groups of people defined by their religious beliefs or lack of belief.

The new law however explicitly does not outlaw expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions.

The new offence therefore has an even higher threshold than the race hatred offence, recognising that religious beliefs are a legitimate subject of vigorous public debate.

 

15th September   Thinking Regulation...
 

 
Dept of Culture, Media & Sport logoGovernment suggest a media think tank to consider future direction of regulation

From Broadcast Now see full article

The government is creating a new think-tank to steer media policy in the rapidly changing UK media environment.

Culture secretary, James Purnell said that he and business secretary, John Hutton, would recruit senior figures from inside and outside government to inform media policy as part of a wide-ranging overhaul of the way the sector is regulated.

Ofcom has struggled to keep pace with changes in the media environment, particularly as new technologies provide more direct connection with viewers over broadband. The move is being seen as a first step in an attempt to move policy forming away from Ofcom, which only has responsibility for regulation.

The new think-tank will convene a series of public consultations and will conduct work likely to result in a new Communications Act before the existing analogue signal is switched off in 2012.

Purnell also spoke about the public's trust in TV. He said that the industry must fight the perception that recent fracas would lead to the public givong up on public service broadcasting.

By contrast, he said, people approach the internet with a built-in understanding that not everything they see will meet the same standards as TV and radio output.

To protect broadcasting's legacy as a source of trusted reputation Purnell outlined three broad objectives.

  • The first of these was to maintain an open market without dictating the direction of technology as consumers increasingly seek to have some say in how they access their media. We must guard against the risk of new bottlenecks and new gatekeepers emerging with the potential to stifle innovation and constrain access.
  • The second revolved around maintaining a distinct form of public service broadcasting centred on universal access, which Ofcom and the DCMS are currently reviewing.
  • Referring to the government's recently-launched investigation into the effects of the media on children, Purnell's final focus was on empowering consumers in a broadcasting world in which restrictions such as the 9pm watershed would lose their relevance. He said: If we can give more parents more power to control their children's viewing, they will prove to be very keen regulators: certainly much sharper than the blunt instrument of censorship.

 

10th September   Government Nutters...
 

Puritans

Gordon Brown's ministerial team.
Left to right:
Women's Issues,
Patriotism & Jingoism,
Religious Observance,
Fun & Recreation,
Men's Issues 

 
More nasty ideas to get more people in prison

Based on an article from the Guardian see full article

Ministers are considering proposals to prosecute men for buying sex, the Guardian has learned.

Senior members of the government are discussing whether to criminalise the purchase, rather than sale, of sex - as Sweden did eight years ago.

One minister acknowledged the move would be quite a dramatic step, but added: There's no doubt whatsoever it's being talked about. There is increasing awareness among senior ministers, particularly women, that demand for prostitution is an area which needs to be tackled seriously and hasn't been.

A number of senior women in government - including Jacqui Smith, the home secretary; Patricia Scotland, the attorney general; Vera Baird, solicitor general; and Harriet Harman, leader of the house - are thought to be sympathetic to the calls.

Other proposals being considered include large-scale programmes to name and shame men caught kerbcrawling, which is already illegal. But campaigners believe that only by criminalising clients can they help women working in brothels as well as on the streets and send out a signal that paying for sex is not acceptable.

Fiona Mactaggart MP, who as a home office minister was in charge of tackling prostitution until last year, said: The criminal justice bill that comes back on the first day [after the parliamentary recess] includes changes to the prostitution strategy. It would be possible to put into it some amendment which deals with this issue of men who pay for sex, she said.

A Home Office spokeswoman said it had no current plans to criminalise paying for sex. But the Guardian understands that the proposal is being discussed informally with a view to longer-term action.

The government has won praise from unexpected sources for other socially conservative measures recently, ranging from scrapping plans for a supercasino to launching a review of media violence and its impact on children and young people.

Sweden criminalised buying sex but decriminalised selling it eight years ago. Supporters of the scheme say it has slashed the number of brothels and clients and cut the level of sex trafficking into the country to hundreds of women. But some critics have suggested that women who remain in the sex industry have become more vulnerable as a result of the reforms.


11th September  Comment: Intervening in Our Private Lives...
 

Puritans

Gordon Brown's ministerial team.
Left to right:
Women's Issues,
Patriotism & Jingoism,
Religious Observance,
Fun & Recreation,
Men's Issues 

 
Reminding the Government of what Wolfenden said

From Alan

This month, the government engages in a spasm of self-congratulation on the fiftieth anniversary of the Wolfenden report.

Next month, it proposes:

  • throwing tarts in the slammer if they don't attend naughty behaviour correction courses
  • throwing mildly kinky people in the slammer if it doesn't like their choice of videos
  • and now, it seems, throwing blokes in the slammer if they engage the services of a prostitute.

Maybe, instead of celebrating the Wolfenden report, MPs should read it:

"there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law's business. To say this is not to condone or encourage private immorality."

"the function of the criminal law... is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others, particularly those who are specially vulnerable because they are young, weak in body or mind, inexperienced, or in a state of special physical, official or economic dependence".

"It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private lives of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour, further than is necessary to carry out the purposes of we have outlined."

 

10th August  Gambling on Repressive Laws...
 
Police raiding home

Open Up!
We know you have advertisers inside


Government to ban advertising for offshore gambling

The ramifications on the UK internet industry could be far reaching, how will it effect Google, or sites running syndicated advertising such as Google Adsense. How does one know where companies are based? and how does one define a UK publisher?

And worst of all, the Government will surely be tempted to extend advertising bans to all sorts of other sites.

From The Guardian see full article

The government has banned about 1,000 off-shore gambling websites, including well-known operators such as William Hill, from advertising in the UK.

The ban applies to any gambling companies operating outside the European Economic Area, affecting popular websites such as William Hill Casino, Betfred Casino and Poker, Interpoker.com and Littlewoodscasino.com.

From September, when the Gambling Act comes into force, any online firm based in gaming company havens such as Costa Rica, the Netherlands Antilles and Belize will not be able to market in the UK and the Department of Culture Media will crackdown on illegal advertising.

Because most of the companies have no operations in the UK to legally pursue, websites, broadcasters and advertising companies that create campaigns for such companies will face fines or imprisonment.

I make no apology for banning adverts for websites operating from places that don't meet our strict standards, said the culture minister, James Purnell.

Countries that want to be exempted from the ban - which applies to all forms of media including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, taxis, buses, the tube and websites that publish in the UK - have to pass a strict test of regulatory standards to then join a "white list".

Alderney and the Isle of Man are the only jurisdictions to have so far made the "white list" after sufficiently demonstrating a rigorous licensing regime designed to stop children gambling, protect vulnerable people, keep games fair and keep out crime.

 

10th August  Armed Forces Gagged...
 

   
MOD logo
UK becoming a country not worth fighting for

From The Guardian see full article

Sweeping new guidelines barring military personnel from speaking about their service publicly have been quietly introduced by the Ministry of Defence.

Soldiers, sailors and airforce personnel will not be able to blog, take part in surveys, speak in public, post on bulletin boards, play in multi-player computer games or send text messages or photographs without the permission of a superior if the information they use concerns matters of defence.

They also cannot release video, still images or audio - material which has previously led to investigations into the abuse of Iraqis. Instead, the guidelines state that all such communication must help to maintain and, where possible, enhance the reputation of defence.

The regulations, issued by the Directorate of Communication Planning, come in the wake of the row over the MoD allowing two of the HMS Cornwall sailors held captive in Iran to be paid for their stories. Receiving money for interviews, conferences and books which draw on official defence experience has now been banned.

The MoD document, circulated last week, covers all public speaking, writing or other communications, including via the internet and other sharing technologies, on issues arising from an individual's official business or experience, whether on-duty, off-duty or in spare time.

The rules have provoked consternation among the ranks, with human rights lawyers saying yesterday that they could be in contravention of Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, which allows for freedom of expression. The rules apply not only to full-time forces but to members of the Territorial Army and cadets whilst on duty, as well as MoD civil servants.

An unofficial soldiers' website, arrse.co.uk, was full of angry debate about the issue yesterday. One poster said: Why does it not occur to MoD that if it did things properly, and treated its people well, they wouldn't feel the need to bring things into the public arena quite so often, and they wouldn't need to spend so much time covering-up?

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a leading human rights lawyer, said that the guidelines were likely to contravene the Human Rights Act. He said they reminded him of the "catch-all" section of the old official secrets act, which made it a criminal offence to disclose information without lawful authority. The discredited section, which was repealed in 1989, stopped soldiers from revealing the brand of tea served in the MoD canteen, he said.

 

5th August   Update: Censorship Persists...
 

   
Faded Union JackMuch discussed Bush Blair memo still secret

From Index on Censorship see full article
See also O'Connor - Keogh official secrets trial on Wikipedia

Index on Censorship has won a limited victory in its joint appeal with the BBC, the Times, the Guardian and other media organisations, against the gagging orders on reporting the Leo O'Connor and David Keogh official secrets trial.

Leo O'Connor and David Keogh were jailed in May for breaching the Official Secrets Act. David Keogh, a civil servant, had leaked a memo of a conversation between George Bush and Tony Blair.

During the trial, discussion of the contents of the memo were held in camera. After Keogh and O'Connor were sentenced, the judge, Mr Justice Aikens, ruled under the Contempt of Court Act that the press could not discuss the trial and the alleged contents of the memo in the same article - despite the fact that the memo had already been widely discussed in the press.

Index, along with the UK's leading broadcasters, newspapers and media organisations, appealed against the gagging orders.

The Court of Appeal has upheld the ruling - albeit under a different section of the law - which bans the press from reporting the statement made by David Keogh in open court. It also ruled that the press cannot suggest that allegations about the contents of the memo, which appeared in the Daily Mirror in 2005, represented the evidence given in camera. Mr Justice Aikens has said that the reports are inaccurate. So although the Kafkaesque restrictions have been modified, censorship on how the press reports the case still remains in place.

 

29th July  Manhunt for a Chairman...
 

Martin Salter

I propose fellow nutter
Keith Vaz

 
Keith Vaz to chair Home Affairs Committee

From UK Parliament see full article

At a meeting on 26 July 2007, the Home Affairs Committee chose the Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP to be its Chairman.

Keith Vaz has been Member of Parliament for Leicester East since June 1987.

The motion that Vaz take the Chair of the Committee was proposed by Mr Martin Salter MP and agreed unanimously.

The previous Chairman of the Committee was the Rt Hon John Denham MP, who withdrew from participation in the Committee after accepting ministerial office on 28 June.

 

14th July   You Know What to Do...
 


Suicide Girls DVDInternet companies asked to halt suicide amongst the young

From the BBC see full article

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has met Bebo, Vodafone and Google in a bid to stop websites being used to promote suicide among young people.

He highlighted the growing danger of copycat suicides linked to internet usage and social networking sites.

McGimpsey asked internet firms to confirm by the end of the month what action they intended to take.

The minister said that while recognising the positive contribution made by the internet industry, what was needed now were preventative measures. Young people are our most valuable resource and we cannot delay in putting in place strong measures aimed at protecting them. In the last twelve months the rate of suicides in Northern Ireland has increased significantly and the internet has been cited as a contributory factor in some cases.

McGimpsey chairs the Ministerial Coordination Group on Suicide Prevention. 

 

29th June  Ministers of Censorship...
 

   
DCMA logoJack Straw and James Purnell

Gordon Brown has named his new ministers and our old friend Jackboots Straw is back in charge as the Minister of Injustice. There seems little chance that he will do anything to tone down the nasty Dangerous Pictures Act currently going through Parliament.

From Broadcast Now see full article

James Purnell has been named the new culture secretary in prime minister Gordon Brown's cabinet overhaul, taking over from Tessa Jowell.

Previously minister for the creative industries, Purnell, 37, also worked as a special adviser to Tony Blair between 1997 and 2001, and was previously head of corporate planning at the BBC where he worked for John Birt.

Well known in the broadcasting industry, Purnell, is widely credited with developing the idea for Ofcom at the age of 24 - he set the blueprint for a converged media and telecommunications regulator when he was a research fellow for the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Jowell, who had lead the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, has been sidelined but it is understood that she may still retain responsibility for the 2012 Olympics in a specially created role.

 

13th June  Rubbish Call for Media Curbs...
 

   
China flagBlair notes reduced capacity for politicians to take the right decisions

From The Telegraph see full article

Tony Blair called for new curbs on the media yesterday after warning that increasingly sensational news coverage threatened politicians capacity to take the right decisions for the country

In a bitter parting swipe at newspapers and television before he stands down as Prime Minister on June 27, he said the media behaved like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits.

While Blair acknowledged that New Labour shared some of the blame by "spinning" too much in the early days of his government, he claimed the media was increasingly driven by "impact" rather than providing accurate news.

He said the current regulatory system, in which broadcasters and the press were subject to different rules and bodies, would need revision as internet broadcasting blurred the line between television and newspapers.

Newspapers are currently subject to self-regulation by the Press Complaints Commission, while broadcasting is regulated by Ofcom - except for the BBC, which has its own regulatory system.

As the technology blurs the distinction between papers and television, it becomes increasingly irrational to have different systems of accountability based on technology that no longer can be differentiated in the old way, Blair said.

In a speech to the Reuters news agency on public life, Mr Blair said the media world was becoming more fragmented, with the main BBC and ITN bulletins now getting half the audiences they had previously and newspapers fighting for their share of a "shrinking market''. He said fierce competition for stories meant that the modern media now hunted "in a pack''.

He said senior figures in public life had become "totally demoralised" by the completely unbalanced nature of reporting.

He criticised what he described as increasing commentary on the news. There will often be as much interpretation of what a politician is saying as there is coverage of them actually saying it, he said.

The internet did not escape Blair's criticism either. He said he used to think the internet would allow politicians and the public to enjoy more direct and better communication but the growth of aggressive blogs and websites had proved him wrong. It used to be thought - and I include myself in this - that help was on the horizon. New forms of communication would provide new outlets to bypass the increasingly shrill tenor of the traditional media. In fact, the new forms can be even more pernicious, less balanced, more intent on the latest conspiracy theory multiplied by five.

Blair concluded his speech by saying he had made it "after much hesitation'' and he expected it to be "rubbished in certain quarters''.

 

10th June   Military Censorship Exhibition...
 

   
MOD logo
MOD ban media from military exhibition

No mention of which conference. Maybe Soldier Technology 2007

From The Times see full article

The Ministry of Defence has banned the media from attending a conference in which the head of the Army and other senior officers are to reveal their vision of future land warfare.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, who caused alarm bells at the Ministry of Defence last year after revealing his concerns about the continuing presence of British troops in Iraq, is to be the main speaker.

Whitehall insiders said that the MoD was worried that the conference, which was to have been open to the press, could generate unpalatable headlines in the newspapers the next day.

One Whitehall source said: The organisers of the conference have had their hands tied by the MoD and there is nothing they can do about it. The MoD has had a bad year and they don’t want something coming out of the conference which will cause more trouble.

 

15th May   No Secret about Blair's Embarrassment...
 

   
Faded Union JackMen jailed for disclosing Bush Blair conversation

The judge promptly issued a ban on reporting details of the memo Keogh had sent to O'Connor. However the gist of the memo is widely reported around the world and entering "Keogh O'Connor" into Google provides many links providing further details.

Perhaps the judge might like to take some time off from demonstrating the asininity of the law by googling "Ibrahim al-Hassan chief justice Iraq". It's not unknown for regimes to change.

From The Independent see full article

Tony Blair's ill-fated war with Iraq claimed two more victims yesterday when a civil servant and an MP's researcher were convicted of disclosing details of a secret conversation between the Prime Minister and President George Bush.

MPs, lawyers and civil rights groups described the prosecution as a "farce" and accused the Government of misusing the Official Secrets Act to cover up political embarrassment over the war.

David Keogh a Cabinet Office communications officer, was jailed for six months. He passed on an "extremely sensitive memo" to Leo O'Connor, a political researcher who worked for an anti-war Labour MP, Anthony Clarke. O'Connor was today sentenced to three months in jail after an Old Bailey jury found them guilty yesterday of breaching Britain's secrecy laws.

At the centre of the trial was a four-page Downing Street document which recorded discussions about Iraq between Blair and Bush, held in the Oval Office in April 2004 in the run-up to the handover of power to the Iraqi government.

Keogh, who copied the document to O'Connor while he was working in the Cabinet Office, said that he acted out of conscience because he believed the document showed Bush to be a "madman".

O'Connor passed the document to Clarke, but the Northampton MP alerted Downing Street who in turn handed it over to the police. Clarke's action won him the gratitude of the Prime Minister. Blair wrote a letter to the MP in which he said: Tony, I know we differ over this issue but I just wanted to thank you for doing the right thing. Sometimes the good stuff has to be done privately.

Clarke said yesterday that justice had "not been served" and urged his former researcher, to appeal against the verdict. He said O'Connor did not have a bad bone in his body and had acted honestly at all stages.

Throughout the trial, the public and press were excluded from parts of the hearing which referred to the contents of the highly sensitive memo. It is a contempt of court to publish details of the memo.

David Perry, prosecuting for the Crown, told the jury: We live in a democratic society, not the Wild West. It is not for people to decide they are going to be the sheriff in town.

But Keogh's barrister, Rex Ted QC, said there was nothing in the document that related to British troop action in Iraq. He told the judge that Keogh had not acted for a political motive but had been following his conscience.

Last night the Government was accused of making examples out of the two men in order to protect Tony Blair's embarrassment about what he had said to Bush. The eminent human rights lawyer, Sir Geoffrey Bindman, said: The amendment to the Official Secrets Act was supposed to limit prosecutions to cases where harm to the public interest could be proved and it's not clear whether in this case any damage to the public interest has been done.

Keogh was found guilty of two counts of making a damaging disclosure, O'Connor of a similar single count. The two men were granted bail and made no comment as they left the court but Keogh's solicitor, Stuart Jeffery, said that his client would be "shell-shocked".

 

4th May   Civility Censorship...
 


Tessa JowellCivil blogging proposal should be implemented in the UK by Tessa Jowell

From The Guardian see full article by Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

User-generated content on the internet - citizen journalism - is just one welcome example of "virtual ourspace". But as power shifts increasingly into the hands of citizens, responsibility must follow. The internet is transforming the way the government interacts with people and the way people interact with one another. But change never comes without challenges.

That's why in a lecture for the organisation Progress on Monday night, I publicly welcomed and supported the initiative by web pioneer Tim O'Reilly and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales for a blogging code of conduct.

The wonderful, anarchic, creative world of the blogosphere shouldn't be a licence for abuse, bullying and threats as it has been in some disturbing cases.

There is a need for serious discussion about maintaining civilised parameters for debate, so that more people - and women and older people in particular - feel comfortable to participate.

I'm not wedded to the specific words and phrases in the draft code that O'Reilly and Wales have proposed (that is up for debate), but I do think their proposal is right in principle and should be adopted here too. Blogging took off earlier in the US and the blogging community has become a powerful political force there - I hope the same happens here. But surely its full potential to benefit civil society cannot be realised unless the quality of online debate itself is civilised? Surely we do not want online discussions simply to mirror the often aggressive, boorish and pointless exchanges that sometimes pass for debate on the floor of the House of Commons, and which are such a turn-off for voters?

Some commentators have suggested that the idea of a code of conduct shows the growing maturity of the blogging community in the US, although some of the more virulent attacks on the suggestion (and on O'Reilly and Wales themselves) have shown nothing except the immaturity of some users. But perhaps, taken as a whole, this proposal is a rare example of a good lesson for us in Britain to learn from American politics?

 

30th April  Censorship Memoirs...
 


The Blair Yearsand Government spin

From The Times

New rules to prevent the publication of politically damaging memoirs by former politicians and civil servants will not be in force until after Alastair Campbell’s diaries are released, The Times has learnt.

The Government was due to announce restrictions on the publication of memoirs, diaries and biographies that may cause damage to the confidential relationships between ministers last September.

The move was in response to the controversial memoir by Sir Christopher Meyer, which called ministers who visited the US “political pygmies” and quoted John Prescott talking about war in the “Balklands” and “Kovosa”.

But the proposals have failed to materialise, despite a promise from Sir Gus O’Donnell, the head of the Civil Service, in February that they would be released “within a week or two”.

The delay has outraged opposition politicians, who suspect that Tony Blair is personally delaying their introduction to allow Campbell’s diaries maximum room for manoeuvre.

The Cabinet Office denied last night that the delay was connected to the Campbell diaries.

The new guidelines would restrict authors from publishing anything that may cause damage to international relations, may cause damage to national security and may cause damage to the confidential relationships between ministers, and between ministers and civil servants, or which would inhibit the free and frank exchange of view and advice within government.


30th May   Update: Less About the Blair Years...
 


The Blair Yearsin Alastair Campbell's biography

From The Age see full article

Readers will miss out on British Prime Minister Tony Blair's potty mouth, his rows with Chancellor Gordon Brown and his conversations with US President George Bush about the Iraq war after his former spin doctor gave in to pressure to delete unflattering excerpts from his memoirs.

Alastair Campbell's book, The Blair Years, purports to be an insider's view of Downing Street and has angered Blair's wife, Cherie, who tried to block its publication. Despite Mr Campbell's heavy self-censorship, another Labour insider said it was "fantastically indiscreet".

He selectively cut nearly 90% from the diaries he kept as Blair's press secretary before submitting the book for approval by Downing Street in time for its July 9 publication.

Campbell has polished the image of his former boss by reducing the Prime Minister's profanities and not including his reported use of the "c-word" to describe a senior Labour critic. He has also pared back Mr Blair's stormy relationship with the Chancellor. Mr Blair's conversations with leaders such as former French president Jacques Chirac, former US president Bill Clinton and the Queen have also been cut.

Cherie Blair tried to block the book's publication as a breach of official confidences, reportedly having proofread it because her husband was too busy. Campbell did delete references to the couple's children after her complaints.

References to the Iraq war have been reduced, leaving readers in the dark about when Blair first knew of Mr Bush's plans to invade Iraq and how much influence he really had over the decision, according to The Independent.

 

3rd April   Government Nutters Get Animated...
 
Anime girl of indeterminent age

How the fuck are we expected
to know how old she is?


Jail proposed for impossible to determine cartoon child sex

From the > Home Office see full article
See also consultation document [pdf]

Consultation on the possession of non-photographic visual depictions of child sexual abuse

This consultation paper outlines the concerns about non-photographic visual depictions of child sexual abuse, i.e. computer generated images (CGIs), drawings, animation, etc, and seeks views on proposals to make its possession an offence.

Under current law it is an offence to possess indecent photographs (including videos) and pseudo-photographs of children. However, it is not an offence to possess non-photographic visual depictions of child sexual abuse. The police and children’s welfare groups report a growing increase in interest in these images, including an increase in websites advertising this sort of explicit material.

Police and children’s welfare groups are concerned that these images could fuel the abuse of real children by reinforcing abusers’ inappropriate feelings towards children. These images, particularly as they are often in a cartoon or fantasy style format, could be used in 'grooming' or preparing children for sexual abuse.

Under current law owners of these explicit images could not be prosecuted for their possession, nor could the images be forfeited by the authorities.

The purpose of this paper is to seek a wide range of views on the issues set out in the document and in particular the proposal to make the possession of these images an offence.

The closing date for responses to the consultation is 22 June 2007.

Responses should be sent to:

Consultation On The Possession of Non-Photographic Visual Depictions of Child Sexual Abuse
Criminal Law Policy Unit
2nd Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Tel: 020 7035 6981
Fax 0870 336 9141
Email:
npvdcsaconsultation@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Update: Consultation Closed

July 14th 2007

See >Non-photographic depictions of child abuse Melon Farmers' Response

 

8th March   Parental Guidance...
 

   
PG certificateSome viewers may find some of Gordon Brown's words disturbing

From The Guardian

A "labelling" system for media content is under way to help parents protect their children from unsuitable content in the digital age, Gordon Brown revealed today.

The chancellor said that Ofcom, the industry regulator, has agreed to introduce a media content rating scheme to provide better information about websites, TV programmes, computer games and other media.

Brown also signalled the need for international agreements to block the scourge of inappropriate content available to children on the internet.

Speaking to an audience of mothers and fathers in central London, Brown drew on his own experiences as a father to expose the new challenges faced by parents trying to teach their children right from wrong as sensationalist images of violence, drugs, and sex proliferated on the internet and other new media outlets.

He said: We want to promote a culture which favours responsibility and establishes boundaries: limits of what is acceptable and unacceptable. We can't and shouldn't seek to turn the clock back on technology and change. Rather we need to harness new technology and use it to enable parents to exercise the control they want over the new influences on their children.

As part of its responsibilities for content regulation and media literacy Ofcom will introduce common labelling standards providing information on the type of content, regardless of the medium concerned: cinema, TV, radio, computer games, or the internet, Brown told the parents.

An Ofcom spokesman said the labeling system will cover all media content in a "text-based" form. This will spell out the level of nudity involved in the content, for example: We have not set in stone yet is what these labels will look like but it won't be like age related labelling you get in cinema classifications.

The regulator will also conduct an information campaign to let parents know about the software available for computers and TV set-top boxes to control what their children see. Ofcom will also work with the Internet Watch Foundation to ensure internet service providers tell their subscribers about software which blocks access to sites, Brown said.

Other measures will include persuading technology manufacturers to give better information on blocking software and investigating new ways of restricting access to violent and obscene material sent over the internet.

A Treasury spokeswoman was unable to confirm when the scheme will be introduced, but said: The labelling is going to affect all visual media - DVDs, videos, films and games. It is still currently under discussion and will involve various organisations.

 

30th January  As If...
 

   
Law CommissionLaw Commission consulting on which laws to reform

I tend to agree with Littlejohn here. This Government doesn't have the vaguest notion of being liberal. Any identification of any of the UK's crap laws may only make things even worse.

From Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail

The public are to be asked which laws they would like changed. Suggestions can be made on a new website set up by the Law Commission.

Sir Terence Etherton, the High Court judge who chairs the organisation which advises the Government on legislation, said: We are trying to improve people's lives by making law more up-to-date and fair.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Before you all start logging on at once to www.lawcom.gov.uk the only thing you need to know is that they don't mean it.

There is not the remotest chance that any change in the law put forward by the paying public will be implemented.

This is just another gimmick in the name of 'consultation'. Sir Terence goes on to admit that new legislation will be brought forward only if it finds favour with the Lord Chancellor and other ministers.

Any idea that the public could have a say in framing laws is anathema to those in power.

From www.lawcom.gov.uk see Tenth Programme of Reform Consultation [pdf file]

The Law Commission was established to keep the law of England and Wales under review with a view to its systematic development and reform. Our aim is to achieve more accessible, intelligible and modern law. We would like you to help us identify new projects for inclusion in our next programme of work. Please respond by 30 March 2007.

In formulating the next programme the Commissioners will wish to identify projects that will provide real public benefit. Whilst our statutory duty requires us to keep all the law under review, inevitably we have to make choices about which projects would make the best use of our resources. In making our decisions, we will be using the following criteria:

  • Importance

    The extent to which the law is unsatisfactory (for example, unfair, unduly complex, unclear, inaccessible or outdated); and the potential benefits likely to accrue from undertaking reform, repeal or consolidation of the law.
     
  • Suitability

    Whether the changes and improvements in the law are suitable to be put forward by a body of lawyers after legal (including socio legal) research and consultation. This would tend to exclude subjects where the considerations are shaped primarily by political judgements.
     
  • Resources

    The qualification and experience of the Commissioners and their legal staff; the funding likely to be available to the Commission; and the need for a good mix of projects in terms of the scale and timing so as to enable effective management of the programme.

It is open to anyone to suggest to the Commission an area of the law that is need of reform. We tend to consider reform of particular branches of the law (as opposed to looking at the operation of a particular statute for example), but we will consider any proposal that is made to us applying the criteria set out above. We are particularly interested in projects that will assist the drive for better regulation by reducing regulatory burdens on business and the public.

 

25th January  Fishing...
 

   
Northern Ireland ParliamentGovernment trial no-evidence search and seizure in Northern Ireland

From Reporters without Borders

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a bill currently being discussed by the Parliamentary Assembly of Northern Ireland. Entitled the “Draft policing - Miscellaneous Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 2007,” it would extend the powers of the police to search and seize documents.

The organisation wrote yesterday to Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain warning him about the threats that this bill poses to press freedom and the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, and asking him to intervene to ensure that they do not materialise: As you know, the work of journalists depends closely on their ability to protect the confidentiality of their sources. This essential condition for investigative journalism is seriously threatened by this bill.

The letter continued: Under this law, the police would no longer have to produce such explicit evidence as they are currently required to show in order to obtain permission to carry out a search and seize documents. The new prerogatives would also allow them to confiscate documents or electronic files for a period of 48 hours, which could be extended to 96 hours if the files had to be translated or deciphered.

Reporters Without Borders pointed out in the letter that journalists have been subject to harassment and threats and that controversial searches of premises and homes of journalists have taken place in recent years in Northern Ireland. We are convinced that the adoption of this bill would do a great deal of harm to press freedom and the process of normalisation in this region, the letter concluded.

The order is expected to come into effect by the spring or summer of this year. These enhanced powers relate only to Northern Ireland, but the national situation regarding the threat of serious crime and terrorism is under review, and a government official in Northern Ireland Office said she understood that consideration might be given to extending the measures throughout the UK in the future.

Paul Goggins, the Northern Ireland minister with responsibility for security, told members of the region’s legislative assembly last week that police would not be able to go around willy-nilly seeking documents. There has to be a rationale. He said that, having examined such documents or files, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place.

Séamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the London-based National Union of Journalists, said he would write a letter, expressing his concern, to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain. The NUJ has a particular concern at the abuse of searches because of our past experience of ’fishing expeditions’ by security forces in raids on the homes of reporters and photographers. We have experienced such behaviour in the past where notebooks were unlawfully seized. There must be an onus on the security forces not just to obtain a lawful warrant but also to justify the need for seizure. That need must be based on firmly grounded suspicions.

Two cases in recent years have drawn particular sharp protests from media workers.

One website journalist, Anthony McIntyre, had his home raided in 2003 by police who took away his computer, disks and notebooks, saying they were looking for stolen documents. McIntyre called it political policing, censorship and a trawl for my contacts. He got his property back after protesting that the raid was unlawful.

Liam Clarke, the Northern Ireland editor of London’s Sunday Times, and his wife Kathryn Johnston had their home raided in 2003 after they published leaked transcripts of telephone conversations between a senior Republican politician and government officials. Clarke says the authorities had sought to create a "chill factor" by using heavy-handed policing to stifle investigative reporting. But the couple complained to the Police Ombudsman who ruled the police action unlawful - leading, in September 2006, to a compensation payment by the police.

 

19th January  Bully Vaz...
 

   
Bully Playstation game Keith Vaz meets with the government

Based on an article from Spong see full article


Nutter MP, Keith Vaz has met with government ministers to discuss sales of violent games to minors.

Vaz met with minister for 'creative Industries’ and tourism, Shaun Woodward, and minister for industry, Margaret Hodge, last week.

Vaz said: I am pleased that the Ministers agreed to meet with me and discuss this important issue. This is a good opportunity to raise concerns that many parents and I have on violent video games falling into the hands of young children.

Recent research has demonstrated that violent video games can encourage a propensity towards violence in their users. I do not believe that this is a question of censorship, but of protecting children.

He also stated that he was keen to discuss Rockstar titles Manhunt and Canis Canem Edit in particular.

The outcome of the meeting, which Vaz has been hankering for since last October, is not clear.