A councillor has accused unelected officers of censoring him.
Kirklees Council has refused to put Clr Martyn Bolt's annual report on its website – because it includes criticism of the council and a former MP.
Instead officers have presented a watered-down version for publication. The Kirklees report is radically different to the original, with phrases like debacle replaced by saga .
Clr Bolt said yesterday he would not sign-off the censored report: Their version doesn't read like something I would write. I'm a forthright Yorkshireman who calls a spade a spade.
The deputy Conservative leader added he was concerned that unelected officers were telling him what to say. He said: In some cases I think officers forget how a council should be run. Councillors need to stick up for themselves and point out that we
actually put our names forward for re-election every four years. If more councillors did that, Kirklees would be more democratic.
Clr Bolt criticised the way Kirklees is run. His report says monthly council meetings are of questionable value given the power of the ruling Labour Cabinet. But the censored version includes a line added by officers which describes the monthly
meetings as important and influential .
Bolt uncut on the ability of councillors to hold the Cabinet to account:
I have continued to play a leading role in council meetings, though many were of questionable value as the 'partnership' between other parties gives them a majority in council and Cabinet has no effective means of challenge.
The official version:
I have continued to play a leading role in council meetings, though the power of the council remains limited and the majority of decisions are made by the council's Cabinet. Having said that, full council remains an important and influential arena
which can have an impact.
Bolt uncut on the Government's decision to overturn the council's plan to close Castle Hall: The conclusion of the debacle was very pleasing as the entrenched position of Kirklees Cabinet and their supporters was
overthrown by an independent adjudicator.
The official version: The saga has had a positive conclusion in regard to our two secondary schools, despite proposals to close one of them.
A Brighton And Hove Green Party councillor, Jason Kitcat, is being disciplined for posting clips of
Brighton & Hove Council meetings to Youtube.
The clips are claimed as a political use of Council resources .
Their documents say Jason attempted to hold the administration politically to account by trying to highlight what the he believed were the administration's deficiencies , while using the council's intellectual property and website.
Rather than concluding he was doing his job, they say Jason should face being suspended from his post.
The Council claim the web clips are resources which belong to the Council. They assert Jason must therefore abide by the Council's code of conduct, which: specifically prohibits the use of resources (such as IT equipment) improperly for
political purposes, including party political purposes
These rules are designed to stop unfair use of telephones and offices to campaign for re-election, for instance. The rules are not meant to be applied to matters of free speech, with no impact on council finances, using tools that are freely available to
Jason has, in copyright law, a fair dealing right to use clips to report news. Fair dealing is meant to stop copyright interfering with free speech, by placing a limit on intellectual property . Whether Jason's use of the material is fair dealing
can only be decided in a Court.
If Jason is held to have abused council property , Councillors will be intimidated from using information to tell residents what is going on. The same information, in words, is reported in minutes and placed in political leaflets. Will
Brighton Councillors stop such reporting, as the same copyright subsists in Council minutes?
Paul Chambers, a 27-year old trainee accountant from South Yorkshire, has launched a fightback against what is thought to be the UK's first
criminal conviction for the content of a tweet on the microblogging site.
He landed a £1,000 fine after the snow closed Robin Hood airport near Doncaster in January as he planned a trip to see Crazycolours, a Northern Irish girl he had just met online, and he tweeted to his 690 followers: Crap! Robin Hood
airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!
A week later, he was arrested at work by five police officers, questioned for eight hours, had his computers and phones seized and was subsequently charged and convicted of causing a menace under the Communications Act 2003.
In an appeal at Doncaster crown court, his barrister, Stephen Ferguson, said Chambers had been merely engaging in banter and craic and that far from having menacing intent, his message was a jest, a joke, a parody .
The defence applied to the judge to rule out the prosecution case that the tweet was menacing on the grounds it had not been sufficiently proved and there was no intent on Chambers' part to cause menace. Throughout proceedings, Chambers sat
largely expressionless behind toughened glass panels with a security guard beside him, only wincing slightly at the the continual repetition of his offending tweet. He nodded when Ferguson told the judge simply: The intention was innocent.
Fresh evidence emerged which was not heard at the previous trial that the police noted after Chambers was bailed there is no evidence at this stage this is anything other than a foolish comment posted on Twitter for only his close friends to see .
But the crown said the conviction should stand and presented evidence that Chambers had sent direct messages to his girlfriend apparently on the terrorist theme.
The court earlier heard that a senior airport official had determined [the message] was a non-credible threat after it had been found by Sean Duffield, an off-duty airport duty manager searching on-line at home. Under cross-examination, Duffield,
said the impact after he found Chambers' message was operationally nothing. It had no impact.
Chambers was not cross-examined, but the court heard extracts of his original police interview. Looking back it's daft now but that's my kind of humour, Chambers had said. Not for one second did I think anyone would even look at it. It was just
a comment made on the back of the fact that the flight had been grounded. The tweet, Stephen Ferguson pointed out, was made in the context of a young man and a young woman .
The judge and magistrates retired to consider their ruling and said the case would conclude a later date.
Users of a website who helped a stranger couple commit suicide have been warned they face up to 14 years in jail.
Joanne Lee and truck driver Steve Lumb were found dead in a Vauxhall Astra parked alongside an area of overgrown wasteland on an industrial estate. They had gassed themselves after meeting just hours earlier after making contact on the internet.
It has emerged that Miss Lee, who used the user name Heaven's Little Girl, received advice and encouragement on a German hosted internet forum in the days leading up to her death.
Cyber friends had given her tips on how to successfully kill herself and expressed their sorrow that she had failed to end her life on previous suicide attempts.
Miss Lee had written: I haven't the strength to do this alone. I have all the ingredients and want to do it ASAP. You should... be willing to pick me up when it is time to (kill myself). If you are "very" serious, please email me .
Answering the advert Lumb then drove 200 miles to Braintree, Essex, and shortly after the pair were dead.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed that anyone who promotes or encourages suicide on a website could face prosecution and jail. She added that even if no suicide attempts take place as a result of the information, the author could still be found
guilty of an offence.
The law was amended last year to deal with cases such as these. It reads:
Under section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 (as amended by section 59 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009) it is an offence to do an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person with the
intention to so encourage or assist.
The person committing the offence need not know the other person or even be able to identify them.
Brooks Newmark, Conservative MP for Braintree, Essex, said: We need to do far more to deal with these suicide websites which unfortunately lead to tragedies like this. It's not a question of more regulation but of better regulation and also figuring
out how we can close down websites such as these.
Authorities consider Public Order Act prosecution over graphic abortion pictures on protest placard
Surely religious campaigners should be accorded every right to make their protest. But, the rest of society should be also be given the right to criticise religions for the intolerant arseholes that they spawn.
Anti-abortion activists are preparing to launch a landmark freedom of expression test case after they were arrested and held
in police cells for 15 hours for refusing to take down placards showing graphic images of an aborted foetus.
Andy Stephenson and Kathryn Sloane, both committed Christians, were detained after a peaceful protest outside a publicly-funded abortion clinic.
Stephenson and Sloane are both members of Abort 67 , an organisation which uses shocking images to try to deter women from going through with terminations. They believe the use of graphic imagery is critical in trying to shape public opinion and
to reduce the 200,000 abortions taking place in the UK every year. The images, obtained in America are, according to the group, perfectly lawful there and in most other countries across Europe.
The pair were arrested last month as they held a banner aloft outside Wistons abortion clinic in Brighton. Police were called by a member of staff concerned that patients entering the clinic felt traumatised and upset.
Officers asked Stephenson and Sloane to take down a 7ft by 5ft placard depicting an aborted eight-week-old embryo – which they duly did but only to replace it with another banner showing a 10-week-old foetus.
The pair were arrested and taken to Brighton police station where they were held until three in the morning.
The Crown Prosecution Service will decide next month whether to press charges against the pair for causing harassment, alarm or distress under the much abused catch-all Public Order Act.
Ann Furedi, the head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service which runs the Wistons clinic, said she fully supported the right of pro-life activists to demonstrate against abortion clinics .. BUT... Furedi added: There is a distinction
between freedom of expression and actions that are designed to distress people who are accessing legal, medical services.
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting the case, said: This is a test case for their democratic right to reveal what abortion really is like. In the 21st century it is not appropriate to silence and to censor those
who speak out against abortion, even if the manner in which they do so is not how many would choose.
Paul Chambers has felt the full force of state persecution, simply for sending a tweet
The 27-year-old worked for a car parts company in Yorkshire. He and a woman from Northern Ireland started to follow each other on Twitter. He liked her tweets and she liked his and boy met girl in a London pub. They got on as well in person as they did
in cyberspace. To the delight of their followers, Paul announced he would be flying from Robin Hood airport in Doncaster to Northern Ireland to meet her for a date.
In January, he saw a newsflash that snow had closed the airport. Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed, he tweeted to his friends. You've got a week… otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!
People joke like this all the time. When they say in a bar: I'll strangle my boyfriend if he hasn't done the washing up or post on Facebook: I'll murder my boss if he makes me work late , it does not mean that the bodies of boyfriends and
bosses will soon be filling morgues.
You know the difference between making a joke and announcing a murder, I'm sure. Apparently the forces of law and order do not.
Who said pornography was acceptable in the workplace? An investigation into the use of pornography by NHS fertility clinics -
Every so often we hear of a council worker, a judge or a teacher – someone in a position of trust and authority - being sacked for viewing pornography at work. Pornography is still considered unacceptable in the work environment,
and should be illegal. The Obscene Publications Act was designed to convey the message that it is unacceptable full stop, but the lack of prosecutions would imply that we have been feeble at enforcing this. Not surprisingly, both because of ease of
availability and a largely permissive culture, we have an alarming amount of graphic images that would imply a major disconnect. Is it that in our anti-censor society we have forgotten the negative impact on men, women and children of such material? Or
have we subconsciously accepted the pornographer's line that porn is just another word for sex and we dismiss the evidence base for pornography both encouraging aggressive, debasing treatment of women and being a causative factor in the
hyper-sexualisation of our culture?
Either way, the workplace should be a location in which we can work in a safe and healthy environment, where our dignity is not threatened and we feel respected. The presence of pornography would compromise this.
One in three hospitals which provide fertility services provide pornographic material for donors, according to a report by nutters posing as a health think tank.
Some 17 hospitals disclosed they had bought porn when questioned by 2020health.org, which highlights cases of NHS waste.
Most of the magazines were bought from newsagents, but two hospitals admitted having placed orders with publishers while others said the porn had been donated by staff, patients and visitors, The Sun reported.
The think tank said the disclosure was disrespectful to women working for the NHS, many of whom face uncertain futures thanks to tight budgets.
Squeamishness about exposing young eyes to filthy language has produced some memorably mealy-mouthed evasions
Swearing in children's books, and even in books for teenagers, used to be pure anathema. SE Hinton's 1967 young adult novel The Outsiders , for instance, an emotionally-charged account of youthful gangs clashing in Tulsa, features no language more
colourful than Glory! , Shoot! or a very occasional Hell!
On this side of the pond, Robert Westall's 1975 Carnegie-winner The Machine-Gunners generated a sustained fuss over the inclusion of bloody . Despite being set in second world war-torn England at a time of great fear and freedom for its
child protagonists, and featuring a story saturated with exhilaration, danger and distress, the use of even a mild swearword was a step too far into realism for many parents and teachers at the time of its publication.
Cherie Blair has launched a legal action against Peter Mandelson over the publication of details of a private letter in which she made a vitriolic attack on Gordon Brown.
Mrs Blair was furious when she read Lord Mandelson's recently published memoirs, The Third Man , which includes details of a personal note from Cherie after he had to resign from the Cabinet following a home loans scandal in 1998.
She said in the note that Mandelson had been the victim of a ‘vicious and selfish' campaign orchestrated by Mr Brown and his supporters and that she was ‘angry and upset by what had happened'.
Blair has now employed lawyers Atkins Thomson, who have written to his publishers, HarperCollins, to demand the removal of the entire section.
In the legal letter, which arrived last week, they also ask for the note to be returned to Blair, and demand £800 (plus VAT) in legal costs.
A source at HarperCollins said: We think it is a bit petty. Hasn't her husband just betrayed a series of confidences in his own book?
A stalker was jailed after writing an online story about raping and murdering a woman he had been harassing in real life for two years.
Greg Downing detailed the imagined attack on children's author Katharine Quarmby in an online novel.
He had bombarded Quarmby with phone calls and e-mails since they met through an online dating site in 2008. He was convicted of stalking her on three separate occasions before she found the blog online after typing her name into the internet search
The 29-page piece, titled A Novel: Katharine Quarmby , is about a man stalking the writer, burgling her home, raping and finally murdering her.
Judge Deva Pillay sentenced Downing to six months in jail. He said: This can only be described as a campaign of harassment. It is clear that your harassment of Miss Quarmby has been deliberate and premeditated so as to cause her and her family the
maximum discomfort, embarrassment and fear.
Royal Mail are launching an investigation after thousands of Scots had a 48-page porn brochure delivered to their homes.
Among the 350 titles on offer were The Horny Handyman, To The Manor Porn, Wobbling Whoppers and Mucky Malcolm's Misadventures.
Bizarrely, the mailshot envelope also contained separate leaflet promotions for vintage toy cars, antique watches and gardening equipment.
Retired police officer Bill Parker was among the 'shocked' recipients: I am as broadminded as the next man ...BUT... I am amazed this type of material can be legally sent through the post. I'm sure there will be many people disturbed and
offended to get this sent to their homes. Some of the material is extreme. It is as bad as anything I saw during 30 years in the police and gives a new meaning to the term 'junk mail'.
The Royal Mail said they were investigating the promotion. They said the PO Box number given on the envelope containing the porn had expired last month.
A spokeswoman said: It is an offence to send items which are indecent, obscene or offensive. If customers are concerned, they should contact our customer services.
We have recently received a legal threat that we feel deserves attention and airing for a variety of reasons.
...2. The threats are quite incredible, demanding that we shut down the entire site of Techdirt, due to a comment (or, potentially, comments) that the client did not like.
...5. Most importantly, this threat is coming from the UK, and the lawyers insist that they will take it to court in the UK. This makes it rather timely and newsworthy for an entirely different reason. Just a few weeks ago we wrote
about the new SPEECH Act that was passed into law to protect against libel tourism. As the Congressional record shows, the law was specifically designed to protect US businesses from libel judgments that violate Section 230 -- and the bill's backers
explicitly call out libel judgments made in the UK. In other words, the SPEECH Act explicitly protects us from exactly the sort of threat that these lawyers and their client are making against us:
Given the newsworthy nature of an example of where the brand new law (thankfully) protects us, as well as the fact that we do not feel it is decent or right for anyone to demand we shut down our entire site or be sued halfway around
the world, because he does not appreciate a comment someone made about him, we are publishing the letter that was sent to us.
Thanks in part to the new law, we have no obligation to respond to Mr. Morris, his friend or the lawyers at Addlestone Keane, who (one would hope) will better advise their clients not to pursue such fruitless legal threats in the
An England footballer has obtained a super-injunction to prevent the media revealing details of his private life.
He obtained the legal order on Friday night after discovering that a Sunday newspaper was planning to publish an expose.
The star is the latest in a string of high-profile figures using Draconian privacy laws to block the media from reporting on matters they would rather keep secret.
The injunction has reignited the row over judges allowing celebrities to restrict the public's right to know the truth.
MPs and civil liberties campaigners have expressed alarm at the ease with which celebrities can obtain orders to gag the press.
Celebrities are increasingly relying on the injunctions to quash negative stories, rather than using the libel courts to challenge them.
The existence of the latest super-injunction - so called because the media are not even allowed to report details of their existence - is in the public domain now only because a newspaper on which it was not served published a report about it.
Another England footballer has won a draconian injunction to gag the media from reporting revelations about his private life - the second in a week.
The player, who cannot be named, is a father in a long-term relationship. He won the restrictive order last night banning a woman from publicising personal details about him.
Last night critics said he is part of an increasing trend which allows highly paid sports stars with access to expensive lawyers to exercise legal rights denied to ordinary members of the public.
In addition, the latest example of media censorship will reignite the row over judge-made privacy laws which have never been approved by Parliament. Instead, the orders are based on judges' personal interpretation of human rights laws.
Both orders were granted at the High Court in London by Mr Justice Nicol, on the grounds that the revelations would breach the footballers' right to a private and family life .
Do you know who JIH is? Well, you shouldn't. He is a well-known sportsman who has won an injunction restricting the publication of allegations about his sex life. You cannot be told his name because the Appeal Court has ruled that he should remain
The judges decided that, since JIH had previously been the subject of salacious stories about his sex life, were his name known it would be easy to deduce that the new allegations must also be about a sexual relationship, as indeed they are. This
appears to suggest that the worse an individual behaves, the greater his chance of securing anonymity.
Andrew Robinson has resigned from his position as the leader of the UK's Pirate Party, slightly over a year since the party was founded and in the wake of relatively weak results in 2010's general election.
He made the announcement in a blog post listing the achievements of the party over the last year, including an invitation from OfCom to work with them on the implementation of the Digital Economy Act, and formation of a political party from what
began as a subforum of Pirate Party International's messageboards.
The party stands for three main issues: significant reform of copyright and patent law including the legalisation of non-commercial filesharing, increased privacy and reduced surveillance from both the government and businesses, and a guarantee of
free speech for everyone.
In a blog post, Robinson said: When the party started out we needed someone who was prepared to do everything that wasn't being done by someone else, and to be a peacemaker between different internal factions. Now we need a leader who can
consolidate on the work we've done so far, and do a job that involves a lot more dealing with the media and talking to the membership on the forums, and a lot less time smoothing out internal management issues, designing adverts, sourcing
suppliers and so on.
The party has now opened up nominations for the position on its messageboard.
Calls for Waterstone's to cancel a book signing by Tony Blair have been met with a Voltaire response counter-call.
Iain Banks, AL Kennedy, Moazzem Begg, Andrew Burgin, Ben Griffin, Lindsey German, Dr Felicity Arbuthnot, Tanya Tier, John Pilger, Michael Nyman, Andrew Murray wrote to the Guardian
We urge Waterstone's to reconsider its decision to host a book-signing on 8 September for Tony Blair to launch the publication of his memoirs. We believe this event will be deeply offensive to most people in Britain. A large
majority of the British public say Mr Blair told lies and fabricated evidence to take Britain into a war with Iraq that he knew to be illegal under international law. According to a recent poll, 25% believe Mr Blair should be indicted for war
In April 2002, Mr Blair gave a secret commitment to George Bush that Britain would join the US in an attack on Iraq, as has been revealed by leaked documents and witness statements to the Iraq inquiry. He then deceived
parliament and the country to achieve this. The consequences for the Iraqi people has been hundreds of thousands of killed, 4 million more driven from their homes and the destruction of their country. In Britain, this illegal war was a prime
motivation for the perpetrators of the London bombing atrocities on 7 July 2005, as confirmed by Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of the British secret service, in her evidence to the Chilcot committee. We believe Waterstone's will seriously
harm its own reputation as a respectable bookseller by helping him promote his book.
In today's Guardian, Index editor Jo Glanville, Article 19 trustee Dr Evan Harris and Jonathan Heawood, director, English PEN responded.
We respect the writers of yesterday's letter (18 August) and share their view on the illegality of the Iraq war and Tony Blair's nefarious role in engineering this country's participation in it. But we can not share their
call for Waterstone's to desist from promoting it on the grounds that the event will be deeply offensive to most people in Britain , even if that were the case.
When it comes to literature, drama, journalism, artistic expression and scientific publication we must be consistent in our support for free speech. How can we defend the right of the Birmingham Repertory to put on and
advertise a play like Behzti, despite it being deemed offensive to some Sikhs, and then call on a bookseller not to promote one of its books – or a library not to stock it — on the grounds of offence? The answer, in a liberal society, is to not
read the book if it offends you, and to not buy a copy if you don't wish royalties to go to the author.
While Iain Banks and colleagues say Waterstone's will seriously harm its own reputation as a respectable bookseller by helping him [Blair] promote his book , we think its reputation would now be harmed by caving in to
this sort of pressure.
A self proclaimed holy man who tried to sue The Sikh Times and its journalist which said he was an impostor is to renew his appeal
application after a decision to strike out his claim.
Justice Eady struck out his Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj's libel claim in May and refused permission to appeal the decision.
However, an application to renew the appeal before the Court of Appeal remained open.
He had attempted to sue journalist Hardeep Singh and Eastern Media Group over an article which appeared in The Sikh Times in August 2007.
The libel claim suggested that the article alleged he was the leader of a cult and an impostor who had disturbed the peace in the Sikh community of High Wycombe and promoted blasphemy and the sexual exploitation and abuse of women.
Justice Eady struck the case out on 17th May 2010 accepting submissions on behalf of Singh that the courts could not deal with the case because of the well established principle of English law that the court will not attempt to rule on doctrinal
issues or intervene in the regulation of governance of religious groups.
The judge said it would appear that issues of a religious or doctrinal nature permeated the pleadings in the case.
Nick Collins, head of litigation at Leeds-based law firm Ford and Warren, which is representing the claimant, said the application was being renewed, and would be dealt with at an oral hearing at the Court of Appeal in October.
An exhibition of nude paintings in an art gallery at a council office was taken down after just one hour - because prudish staff were offended by the pictures.
Artist John Vesty spent three months painting his 22 paintings and had arranged to display them for four weeks at the North Norfolk District Council offices in Cromer.
He was left baffled, irritated and disappointed when his conventional life studies were immediately taken down by council officials after complaints that they were offensive and obscene . Complaints from staff at the council
office in Cromer led to John Vesty's work being put in a cupboard.
All but one of his oil paintings in the exhibition called Figures in Light were of naked or semi-nude women.
Vesty and his supporters insisted that none of his paintings were erotic or pornographic. He said: All of them are standard life poses - the sort of work that artists have done for hundreds of years. There are no explicit
full frontal poses or anything like that.
I felt disbelief that someone could object to paintings like this in this day and age and that the council should respond in such a politically correct way by removing them.
You think that this sort of thing only happens in the Middle East in places like Iran or Iraq rather than in a Norfolk seaside town. Gallery owner Nick Reynolds, seen above holding one of Vesty's pictures, agreed to display
eight of the paintings at his gallery around half a mile from the council offices
Karl Read, the council's leisure and cultural 'services' manager, said the artwork had been displayed in an area used by many members of staff and the public. He said: In this case we received a number of complaints from
members of staff and union representatives who found the paintings offensive. Whilst respecting the fact that art, by its very nature, is open to subjective interpretation, on this occasion the council made the decision to remove the paintings
from display. This is not a case of political correctness... RATHER ...it is a balanced reaction to some members of staff finding the artwork offensive.
The former leader of Bournemouth council will face no further action after it was discovered pornography
had been accessed on his work laptop.
The images were found on Councillor Stephen MacLoughlin's computer after a routine IT service in December 2008.
He faced a public hearing earlier where a panel ruled he was not acting in an official capacity when the incident was alleged to have occurred.
The panel will present its full findings next week.
Roy Wardle, chairman of the committee, said: Whilst the committee does not condone the use that Councillor MacLoughlin made of his laptop, our conclusion is that [he] was not conducting the business of the council at the time and therefore a
breach of the code did not arise.
Colin Montgomerie, the golfer, has become the latest sportsman to use an injunction to prevent the publication of a story about his private life.
The injunction relating to Montgomerie was granted by Mr Justice Eady last month, preventing a tabloid newspaper publishing the story. The matter was resolved out of court and there is no suggestion of any truth in the allegations.
Montgomerie, who is Europe's captain for the Ryder Cup in Wales in October, was at a press conference with his American counterpart in Wisconsin on Wednesday. I know a lot of you are having a lot of fun right now at my expense, he said. I apologise for this, that you have to bring this up, but at the same time no further comments from myself on that matter.
Montgomerie's life off the course was in the news in June when he admitted difficulties in his marriage to his second wife, Gaynor Knowles. He said he was very sorry for the hurt he had caused amid reports that he was seeing a former
President Barack Obama has signed the SPEECH Act into US law, a move designed to protect US writers and reporters from England's
controversial defamation laws.
The Act, tabled by Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, makes libel judgments against American writers in foreign territories unenforceable if they are perceived to counter the First Amendment right to free speech.
The Libel Reform Campaign has expressed concern that our reputation is being damaged internationally due to our restrictive, archaic and costly libel laws which cost 140 times the European equivalent.
The coalition government has said it will table a draft Bill to reform our libel laws in January 2011 after the campaign led by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science. The campaign has 52,000 signatories to its petition and all
three main political parties committed in their general election manifestos to libel reform.
Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship said:
The US's response to our libel laws has already played a key role in advancing the campaign for reform in the UK. I'm hopeful that the government's draft bill will address the issue of libel tourism, which has a clear chilling effect on freedom
of speech, and make it harder for claimants from outside the EU to bully publishers, NGOs, bloggers and investigative journalists into silence.
Síle Lane, Public Liaison of Sense About Science said:
As other countries move to protect their citizens from the chilling effect of our libel laws we urge bloggers, science writers, NGOs and small publications facing threats and bankruptcy to keep up the pressure on the Government to ensure that
the proposed draft libel bill brings the meaningful change that is so urgently needed.
A German doctor who killed a British patient is seeking an injunction across Europe to silence his victim's family. Daniel Ubani was
providing out of hours care in the UK when he injected David Gray with ten times the recommended dose of a painkiller.
Nigerian-trained Ubani gave Gray, 70, a fatal dosage of diamorphine when he treated him for kidney stones at his home in Manea, Cambridgeshire, in February 2008.
He is now trying to silence Gray's sons using European human rights laws by claiming that their campaign to bring him to justice is stopping his right to practise.
Stuart and Rory Gray have spoken out repeatedly about how Ubani escaped punishment by refusing to return to Britain to face potential criminal-charges. Instead he cut a deal with German prosecutors which allowed him to avoid extradition and being
struck off in Germany.
The brothers now plan to travel to Bavaria to fight the legal action. Stuart Gray, himself a doctor, said: I consider this a grave threat to free speech and we will fight it in every way possible.
Ubani has submitted papers to a Bavarian court calling for the brothers to be banned from talking publicly about the death.
Earlier this year they stood up and denounced him as a charlatan and a killer as he spoke at a medical conference.
Although he was struck off in Britain in his absence, Ubani's ability to continue practising general medicine and cosmetic surgery elsewhere was not affected.
Rory Gray spoke at a court hearing as Daniel Ubani launched his legal bid to gag him and his brother to prevent them damaging his reputation in future.
Gray told the panel of three judges at the State Court in Kempten, Bavaria, that his statements were based on fact and not opinion. He spoke of the outstanding malpractice lawsuits still pending in Germany against Ubani who is seeking a
European-wide injunction against him and his brother to prevent them damaging his reputation.
He is trying to use European human rights law by claiming that their campaign to bring him to justice is stopping his right to practise. But by the time the court reconvenes on August 25 to give its verdict in the case Ubani's career in Germany
may be over.
Ubani, who has a doctor's surgery and cosmetic surgery practice in northern Germany, is facing a fitness to practise hearing on August 18. He has indicated that he does not intend to attend the hearing where the German equivalent of the
General Medical Council plans to make him sit a written exam to test his medical skills. This would trigger an application to a judge to suspend his licence to practise as a cosmetic surgeon which would, in turn, disqualify him from also
practising as a GP.
If the gagging order is successful, Ubani wants the court to make the brothers pay £200,000 each time they breach it. He also demands that the brothers keep a minimum of 600ft away from him at all times.
Yet another independent festival has been cancelled after a concerted campaign by bureaucrats, nimbys
The Grassroots Feastival was a small volunteer-run event due to take place in Cambridgeshire in early September. Organisers had lined up three days of revelry, from poetry to Drum n Bass and culminating in a communal banquet replete with
The Feastival faced determined opposition from the very start. According to one of the organisers, Mooney, when the application process began in January the council and police made it clear they would do all they could to stop the festival taking
Mooney said, They didn't want it to happen so they played their games. They couldn't use legislation so instead they used dirty tactics. The now familiar modus operandi involved heaping ludicrous demand after ludicrous demand on organisers
and stalling for time to the point that the festival risked financial ruin if they pressed ahead.
After the initial consultation, organisers met monthly with the local authorities and there were six revisions of the festival's management plan in total. Each time they were presented with ever more unreasonable conditions, ranging from
heras-fencing the A11 in case of invasion by wandering partygoers who had strayed three miles over fence and field, to installing security watchtowers.
Each time, organisers either met the conditions or managed to argue their case that what they were being asked was beyond the realms of sanity or reason. However the killer blow came with the final application for a licence. When handing in the
application, local authorities clearly told organisers that they only needed to submit one paper copy and that the pack of other relevant licensing bodies, such as traffic management and the fire brigade, would be happy with an emailed copy. At
the eleventh hour of the last day they had to submit the application, organisers were then told that the licence would be refused unless all the bodies had paper copies. With no time left to do this, organisers would have had to resubmit and
wouldn't have received a decision until just days before the festival. If the licence had been refused at that point it would have spelled financial disaster for all involved and so organisers were left with no choice but to cancel.
Colin Warhurst (Producer, Co-Director of Mancattan ) has previously written to the Melon Farmers outlining the repressive effect of high BBFC fees on micro-budget film making.
Anyway his work has now come to fruition as described in the following press release:
Mancattan is an entirely 100% independently made British Feature film which is being released internationally online this Friday July 30th.
Credited as being a tremendous work piece of achievement and one of three independently made feature films that has kick-started what has become known as the North West New Wave.
Mancattan will be available for free streaming via www.mancattan.co.uk thanks to both www.dailymotion.com and www.renderyard.com What's more, once the film receives over 10,000 hits, we begin to raise money for
The story itself involves two characters, Col and Phil, who are post-graduates from Manchester knee-deep in their mid-twenties life crises. Deciding modern Mancunian life is too much for them, they flee to New York in
order to make a film about their idol, Woody Allen. However, as the film's events unfold, we realise that our dynamic duo have not only ran away from their problems, but have actually managed to bring their neuroses with them across the pond, thus
threatening the very film they are trying to make.
Mancattan is a rom-com shot and edited between 2007-2009 with location filming taking place in both Manchester UK and Manhattan USA. Being made on now budget and entirely in the team's own spare time pulling in favors
from friends, colleagues and acquaintances, the film originally had a Premiere at The Dancehouse in Manchester in April 2009 with over 350 people in attendance. After that, the team were tired, happy that people had seen the film, and so wanted to
leave it there. However, word spread, people continued to hear about us and more and more people kept insisting on seeing the film. It was invited to be part of a Double-Bill alongside Pleased Sheep's Diary Of A Bad Lad at the Salford Film
Festival in 2009. Following this massively successful screening the film went onto the Pennine Film Festival until finally being offered international representation via renderyard.com.
Now, wishing to have the film seen and raise money for charity, Mancattan finally has it's moment to shine and is available for FREE.
By visiting www.mancattan.co.uk on or after July 30th you will be helping raise money for two good causes, and hopefully enjoy our humble globe-trotting adventure made entirely because two guys with a camera thought the idea
of their own self made movie could be done. It can.
Many thanks, Colin Warhurst -(Producer, Co-Director – Mancattan )
The US senate has passed legislation to protect US journalists, writers and publishers from libel tourists — litigants who sue
Americans in foreign jurisdictions which place a lower emphasis on free speech
The legislation was specifically designed to negate the threat of English laws, amid claims that the UK has became an international libel tribunal. One case in particular incensed US politicians, that of New York based academic Rachel Ehrenfeld
who was sued in London despite only 23 copies of her book, on the financing of terrorism, being sold in the UK.
The bill, co-sponsored by Democrat Patrick Leahy and Republican Jeff Sessions has broad cross-party support. If passed, the proposal will prevent US courts from recognising foreign libel rulings that are inconsistent with the First Amendment.
The Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Bill will now go before the House of Representatives.
The United States House of Representatives passed a Bill aimed at shielding US journalists, authors and publishers from libel tourists who file suit in countries where they expect to get the most favourable ruling.
Lawmakers approved the measure, which now goes to President Barack Obama to sign into law.
The bill had such widespread support from Democrats and Republicans that it was passed on a voice vote in Congress.
The legislation will prevent US federal courts from recognising or enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation that is inconsistent with the first amendment and will bar foreign parties from targeting the American assets of an American author,
journalist, or publisher as part of any damages.
Campaigners for more liberal libel law in Britain said they hoped the new law would influence the Government as it prepares a draft reform bill for publication in January.
Padraig Reidy, a spokesman for the Index on Censorship, said: It's a vindication of our argument that English libel laws in their current state do not encourage or protect free expression. The fact that Britain's best ally feels the need to
protect itself from the English libel courts demonstrates the need for reform.
Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Congressman who drafted the bill, said it was vital that Americans' rights are never undermined by foreign judgments.
A Newport man was told he must serve at least 11 years of an indeterminate sentence yesterday after being convicted of an appalling
Gareth Gregg wore a rubber mask to conceal his identity when he forced his way into a woman's home in a different part of the city at around 2am and tried to strangle her before raping her twice.
Following his arrest officers searched his computer and found he had watched violent pornography, which included a masked man forcing a woman to have sex, before the incident at 1am and again after the incident between 3.01am and 3.09am.
Checks on Gregg's phone and Facebook account showed he had tried to contact girls to persuade them to come to his house and have sex with him that night.
The Recorder of Cardiff, Nicholas Cooke, QC, described the incident as appalling and said he was greatly concerned that material depicting violent rape was available.
Puppeteer Daniel Liversidge has been ordered to tone down his Punch and Judy act after organisers claimed the traditional show
could be deemed offensive.
Liversidge has been told his upcoming Mr Marvels Punch and Judy performance at Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower cannot include any scenes with Punch hitting Judy.
As a result, the puppet has ditched his whacking stick for a more benign fluffy mop.
Liversidge, who has been performing his act for 21 years, said: We have had to change the show a few times over the last six or seven years to reflect modern tastes. You always get people asking for the traditional stick to come back but you
have to move with the times. At the end of the day I am a children's entertainer and my job is to keep children happy. Mr Punch is still a rascal and still has a variety of weapons in his arsenal but they are more socially appropriate like a
feather duster or a tickling stick.
Liversidge added: Punch no longer throws the baby out of the bath instead he puts him to bed.
Paul Mahy, commercial manager at the Spinnaker Tower, said: We think some people could be offended by the traditional Punch and Judy story, especially at our family friendly attraction. We have agreed that many aspects of the traditional script
had to be omitted. For example, Judy was originally put through a mangle and that is how sausages were made, obviously we cannot do this anymore.
Hate legislation removes an increasing quantity of matters traditionally dealt with in civil society to the domain of the state and the courts. In a new report from the independent think tank Civitas, A New Inquisition: religious persecution in
Britain today , Jon Gower Davies, formerly the Head of Religious Studies at Newcastle University, reveals the bizarre and oppressive nature of judicial attempts to prosecute individuals for religious hatred - this new legal concept has
resulted in some singularly worrying court cases.
Blasphemy Law by the Backdoor
The Blasphemy Law was abolished in 2008, but has re-emerged in a new and radically augmented guise. Today, individuals are not charged with blasphemy, but with causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress under
the Public Order Act. Jon Davies argues that the growth in accusations of hate crime threatens freedom of speech because they destroy the possibility and practice of open, sociable and critical discussion of religion.
Hatred in the legal sphere
Whilst the total number of racial and religious hate crimes fell from 13,201 in 2006-7 to 11,845 in 2008-9, the volume of hate legislation has rapidly expanded. Yet legal definitions of hatred are elusive. A government action plan states:
A (religious) hate crime is a criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a persons religion or perceived religion.
In addition, hatred is not only presented as an offence on its own account, but can also be seen as something which aggravates ordinary public order offences. When an ordinary offence is aggravated by hatred based on race, religion,
gender, or age, then the sentence too is aggravated (i.e. increased).
Judges become theologians!
Jon Davies argues that these definitions are without substance, and inevitably result in confusion and silliness in their application. The attempt to define a hate Incident in terms of hostility results in perilous
imprecision: it is not possible to know when individuals have been hated - or, indeed, when they have themselves been hating! - and for how long and to what depth and to what effect. The essence of the criminal justice system should be justice and
impartiality, but turning religious hatred into a criminal offence turns police, the Crown Prosecution Service and judges into surrogate theologians - a kind of theocracy (an uncomfortable theocracy at that) by the backdoor.
Are judges, even judges giving the "right" verdict, so qualified in theology that they feel able to offer doctrinal guidance? Is the Crown Prosecution Service so prudent in its understanding of "religious hatred" that it
should be free, with no penalty for error, to mobilise the power and resources of the state against ordinary citizens who make comments about religion?
A danger to freedom of speech
One of the great triumphs of liberalism has been to separate the discovery of factual truth from the assertion of religious doctrine. And yet, when Judge Richard Clancy dismissed the case against the hoteliers, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, in
December 2009, he commented that it might be best for individuals not to engage in discussions about religion! As a result: It becomes "wise" to "be careful", to restrict the compass of what we say about what we believe, or
do not believe, or about what others believe or do not or should not believe, and to turn what were once vigorous public conversations into a frightened, if safe, if amiable and fundamentally humourless chat about small and dwindling things. (p.49)
Because freedom of speech is the prevailing view in Britain, we are not as alert to the risk of its overthrow as we should be. The freedom to speak our minds without fear or favour is worth fighting for. In A New Inquisition , Jon Davies
shows why the liberal majority needs to reassert the convention that the law should be used not as a weapon to suppress unpopular opinions, but rather as the protector of free speech.
Anyone looking for the website SpinProfiles – uncovering the dark corners of PR and raising questions about lobbying – will have had a harder time finding it recently. And why? Because it was virtually shut down by its web
firm, 1&1 Internet.
And why did that happen? Because it posted what has become a controversial profile of Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, rightwing thinktanker and son of the famed journalist Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens didn't like it. More
than that, he didn't like the location. SpinProfiles and sister site Spinwatch are run by Professor David Miller, who also has a site called Neocon Europe. Hitchens says that his profile appeared on that site in pretty unsavoury company, and thus
he didn't want to be featured on any website owned by Prof Miller.
He asked for the profile to be taken down – but here's the thing: he doesn't say anything in it was defamatory, and furthermore he says he never sought to have the site shut down. 1&1 took it upon themselves to remove
the site after Spinwatch refused to remove my profile, Hitchens told us.
1&1 says it acted within the agreed rules following complaints to protect its legal position. But the upshot is that a site came down because someone featured there raised an objection. Even the complainant didn't ask for
David Miller's Spinwatch websites exploit free speech and those profiled, as I was, should be able to disassociate themselves
On Cif last week, David Miller wrote a piece complaining that I had his website, SpinProfiles, shut down. As his article argues, he does indeed have the right to free speech, but this is not a one-way street, and the people who his projects target
have a right to object to witch-hunts and harassment.
Britain's theatre community comes out against oppression and censorship in Belarus, the last dictatorship of Europe .
Sir Tom Stoppard and actor/director Sam West Has led a protest of high-profile theatre practitioners outside the Belarussian Embassy in London.
They presented an open letter to President Alyaksander Lukashenko of Belarus calling for greater democratic freedom and for an end to censorship of the Internet.
Other signatories include Mark Ravenhill, Howard Brenton, Alan Rickman, Laura Wade, Caryl Churchill, Henry Goodman, Henry Porter, Simon McBurney, Simon Stephens and Lyndsey Turner.
We urge you to allow the people of Belarus the right to express and share their opinions freely, whether this is on the internet or not. We urge you to use your powers to prevent any further repression of citizens who hold
alternative, and oppositional, beliefs to you. We urge that the practice of physical abuse and intimidation against any citizen, including those who dare to hold alternative and oppositional points of view, be stopped. Finally, we urge you to
protect the right to freedom of assembly in accordance with Article 21 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which Belarus is a state party, – the letter says.
Sam West performed an extract of Generation Jeans , a play from the multi-award winning Belarus Free Theatre.
Generation Jeans charts one man's journey as an activist. It captures all of the courage, the humour and the foolhardy determination that you need to resist a totalitarian regime, which makes it perfect for our protest today,
says director Clare Lizzimore, co-organiser of the protest.
On Thursday 1st July a new Presidential decree on the Internet comes into force. It gives the authorities greater powers to monitor usage and will enable the Government to restrict or block access to websites that offer independent and alternative
sources of information. It has been described as a step in the wrong direction by the European Union. The decree is a clear attempt to curb the freedom of speech and the right to self-expression.
Playwright and co-organiser of the protest, Alexandra Wood says: The internet is a vital tool in communication and should be available to all. Lukashenko's law, imposing censorship on the Internet, particularly affects those
in Belarus who oppose his regime, who want to offer the Belarusian people an alternative, which is of course, his intention.
Actor Sam West says: The purpose of theatre and the purpose of the internet is the same: to connect people, to bring them together as a collective entity, an audience, a world. Repressive regimes are rightly frightened of the
internet for its ability to put free thinkers in touch with one another and give them inspiration and strength; it's not us and them out there, it's all us. We must oppose any withdrawal of these freedoms as anti-thought, anti-freedom, anti-human.
The protest was in support of the Belarus Free Theatre and is in conjunction with the Global Artistic Campaign in Solidarity with Belarus, founded by playwright, Sir Tom Stoppard.
The leader of Bournemouth Borough Council, who is facing a public inquiry into adult pornographic images
found on his council laptop, has resigned.
Councillor Stephen MacLoughlin said he took the decision, at a meeting of his local Tory party, to draw a line under recent events.
In his resignation statement, MacLoughin said he hoped his resignation would help repair his party's reputation [as a bunch of mean spirited politicians hell bent denying others the pleasures of life].