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19th December   The Government is Pants ...

Underwear thieves to be added to the sex offender register

Based on an article from the Daily Mail

Thieves who steal underwear from washing lines will be placed on the Sex Offender Register, the Government has said.

In a move likely to lead to a huge increase in the number of registered offenders, stalking and child kidnap will also earn a place on the danger list.

The new rules give police and the courts the option of adding offenders to the list for crimes that indicate they may pose a sexual threat.

Ministers believe the fetish that drives underwear thieves may lead to more serious offending in the future, so placing them on the register will supposedly help to protect the public.

Those on the list, who currently number almost 30,000, must keep in contact with the police and tell the authorities when they move house.

29th December   Update: Creeping Abuse...

More crimes liable for the sex offenders register

From The Register

Internet and email users can be added to the sex offenders' register for a whole slew of new offences after the Home Office drastically increased the number of relevant offences.

An unspecified range of offences related to internet and phone use has been added. Now people committing a crime that involves improper use of public electronic communications networks can be made to be subject to the strict conditions imposed by being on the sex offenders' register.

A judge or the police can decide if someone committing one of these crimes should be made the subject of a Sexual Offence Prevention Order (SOPO), which means that they are added to the register.

We have not listed all the offences, this is an overarching offence, said a Home Office spokeswoman. What we are talking about is nuisance calls, obscene comments or obscene use of the internet where there is a sexual nature to it.

Police and the courts are instructed to issue a SOPO if they believe an offender might commit a sex crime if not issued with a SOPO.

The changes are to section three of the Sex Offenders' Act.

29th December  Update: 'Off With their Bollocks'...

The Government reveal their nastiness

From Yahoo News , thanks to Franco

Crime figures are likely to rise for the first time in 12 years according to a leaked Downing Street document.

The leaked document was drawn up by the No 10 strategy unit and it is said to predict that the prison population could reach 100,000 within five years.

The report suggests the Government should consider rationing the amount of alcohol people can buy and "chemical castration" for sex offenders.


15th December     Depraved Politicians ...

R18 logoAnother attack on porn

Some very worrying possibilities here

From Hansard

Brian Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Obscene Publications Act 1959 applies to internet websites offering pornographic material, with particular reference to child protection on the internet; and if he will make a statement.

Vernon Coaker: The Obscene Publications Act 1959 applies to all published material whether on the Internet or offline. Material is published if it is circulated, distributed, sold, given, lent or offered to another person. It will be deemed to be obscene if the court finds that its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely to read, see or hear it.

The Criminal Law Subgroup of the Home Secretary’s Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet has considered the implications of a judgement in the Court of Appeal (R v. Perrin [2002] EWCA crim 747) which indicated that where children are likely to access material of a degree of sexual explicitness equivalent to what is available to those aged 18 and above in a licensed sex shop, that material may be considered to be obscene and subject to prosecution. This applies to material which is not behind a suitable payment barrier or other accepted means of age verification, for example, material on the front page of pornography websites and non-commercial, user-generated material which is likely to be accessed by children and meets the threshold.

21st December   Update: Obscene Worries...

R18 logoInternet providers consider Coaker's pronouncement

From Linx Public Affairs

Most Internet pornography web sites are illegal, according to a legal interpretation Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker gave to Parliament last week. The Minister was commenting on the legal consequences of the judgment in the Court of Appeal in R v Perrin [2002].

The Minister declared that all R18 type material - that is, clear images of real sex between consenting adults - would be illegal to publish on the Internet unless “behind a suitable payment barrier or other accepted means of age verification”. This includes both commercial pornography and “non-commercial, user-generated material”.

In other words, free explicit pornography online is illegal.

Commercial pornography sites aren’t necessarily in the clear either. Those that provide a sample of their wares to prospective customers - which is probably to say, all of them - will now be considered to be breaking British law if they are deemed to operate within the UK jurisdiction. As to jurisdiction, Perrin, for example, was himself resident in Britain but publishing using an American web server.

Child protection campaigners are now expected to call for prosecutions against web site operators.

An explanation to the background of the Perrin case follows.

In Perrin, the defendant faced two separate charges of publishing obscenity contrary to the Obscene Publications Act 1959; one charge related to material he was selling access to through his web site, the other related to material on his web site that was available before/without having paid.

The Crown Prosecution Service website states that the Obscene Publications Act 1959 sets the legal definition of obscenity as: an article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect […] is […] to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.

The judge instructed the jury that that in respect of material paid for by credit card the legal standard is whether the material would “tend to deprave and corrupt” an adult, but in respect of freely available material the question is whether it would “tend to deprave and corrupt” a child, a direction approved by the Court of Appeal (albeit not without criticising the judge’s lack of clarity). The jury then convicted Perrin for the free pornography, but acquitted him for that which was sold.

22nd December  Update: Recalling Perrin...

R18 logoProsecuted for living in the UK

Thanks to Alan
See also The Court of Appeal judgement from R vs Stephane Laurent Perrin March 22nd 2002

It's interesting to see how enthusiastic Vernon Coaker and his pals have become about this case. It was, I recall, cited in the original consultation document for the proposed Dangerous Pictures Act.

I wonder how the government fits this with its enthusiasm for globalization and Europe? Julian Petley's excellent submission to the consultation , comprehensively demolishing the proposal, perhaps understates its case in saying that the proposal will make Britain a laughing stock. In the light of French reaction to the Perrin case, I think that disgust and contempt will be the common European reactions to such legislation.

The salient features of Perrin's case were probably these:

  • He was operating a site perfectly legally in the USA.
  • The site was a gay scat site, part of a business Perrin had bought. Perrin is straight, and no evidence was adduced, so far as I know, that he had even seen the content himself.
  • Sensibly enough, he had wished to ensure that he stayed within the law, and had taken legal advice from American attorneys that the site complied with federal and relevant state law.
  • His conviction was based on the absurd legal fiction that material downloaded in the UK is "published" here.
  • The site would have been legal in France, and consequently the French authorities would not have extradited him to the UK. Hence Perrin was effectively jailed for living in the UK!
  • As noted in your article, the jury's verdict was nuanced, with Perrin found guilty only in respect of the images in the "preview" part of the site.
  • He was nevertheless sentenced to a savage thirty months in jail by a judge wanting to make an example.

A good reaction of the French reaction to his conviction can be found at : This is actually distressing to read, being an interview with Perrin's devastated girlfriend, who had naively believed that the British press would take up the cudgels on his behalf. [French Language]

Now, that's the reaction to a French citizen being banged up for thirty months for publishing porn. Imagine what might happen if some resepectable businessman from Clermont Ferrand gets three years for having a naughty DVD in his portable player!

22nd December   Letter: Lavatorial Practices...

R18 logoHome Office questioned about the exploitation of Perrin

Thanks to Shaun who has written to the Home Office:

Letter writerWhen I asked the CLPU at the Home Office, a few years ago, what material could be legally published on the Internet, I was told that R18 would be the legal limit and would be permitted without fear of prosecution. This would allow the government to abide by the Human Rights Act, I was told. I am also aware that similar advice has been given to others by various Home Office officials, and that it also forms the basis for limits of what explicit material can be legally imported into the country.

Now, we learn that Mr. Vernon Coaker is trying to change the law, using the judgement of R V Perrin as a template for yet more repression and restrictions, NOW suggesting that some web sites displaying such material are against the law. EVEN THOUGH SOMEONE IN YOUR OFFICE TOLD ME OTHERWISE.

But can I PLEASE REMIND YOU that R. V Perrin, the material under question, WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN CLASSIFIED EVEN AT R18 because as far as I am aware it involved material consisting of (as Mr. James Ferman of the BBFC called them) "Lavatorial Practices" of both kinds. It WAS NOT MATERIAL which was limited to R18 material.

The fact that children might have seen this, was considered, because it was so extreme, and beyond what would be classified even for sale in a sex shop. Even then the implication was even THIS material should be allowed if behind a age verification screen.

Remember TOO, one of the reasons R18 was allowed back in 2000 was because the BBFC could not proportionately show, that such material was harmful to children. I know this. I attended the famous appeal remember ? The one where Dr. Gordonna Milavic was called, and could not demonstrate harm of R18 material, and R18 material IS NOT OBSCENE. Not in 2006.

Your office, and your MINISTERS are MAKING UP THE RULES AS THEY GO ALONG, and this is NOT ALLOWED.

Citzens of the UK should know AT ALL TIMES what IS, AND IS NOT permissible to publish.

Personally, I don't intend to publish any such material. But I RESERVE the right to, and also to view it online or anywhere else, up to the limit of the law, which should be concise so people who do, KNOW HOW NOT TO BREAK THE LAW.

The current situation is ridiculous. Especially after advice which was given BY THE HOME OFFICE when said R18 material was OK on the internet.

What's wrong with parental controls and rating web sites anyway ?

If anyone is breaking the law, it seems like Mr. Coaker, and the Home Office. The law on Human rights.

Currently the only thing I know about the Human Rights Act, regarding free expression etc. is that we don't really have any. Please try to correct this as soon as possible



14th December   Images of Child Abuse...

Billy Bunter have ear tweaked by teacher
The government has lost its marbles

From The Guardian

The government plans to ban the possession of computer-generated images of child abuse.

The move is one of a number of initiatives announced today at the first meeting of the task force for child protection on the internet.

There is no higher purpose for government than to protect children, said the home secretary, John Reid, who chaired the meeting. To that end I am currently consulting cabinet colleagues about how we might ban the possession of computer-generated images of child abuse, including cartoons.

He added that while such images are often found stored alongside illegal material held by paedophiles, and it is illegal to distribute them, it has been "entirely legal" to possess them.

It's too early to say whether something will or not be in a law that we haven't started consulting on, a Home Office spokesperson said. We're putting together a consultation document - we're just at the starting point.


16th December   Comment: Left Hand Right Hand...

Billy Bunter have ear tweaked by teacher
Realistic Images of Cartoon Abuse

Thanks to Peter

Vernon Coaker 23 Nov 2006 :

"Although cartoons depicting child abuse are deeply offensive, they do not in themselves constitute abuse of a child. The 1978 Act is well understood by those who work with it and enforce it and there are substantial arguments against extending its scope to cover cartoons of child pornography."

John Reid 13 Dec 2006:

"There is no higher purpose for government than to protect children. To that end, I am currently consulting cabinet colleagues about how we might ban the possession of computer-generated images of child abuse, including cartoons or other graphic illustrations of children being abused". "


19th November   Regulation On Demand...

DCMS logo
Enforcing the Video Recordings Act for computer downloads

The police have also been sniffing around the concept of somehow enforcing the repressive Video Recordings Act on download material. There is an article about this in the Adult Industry trade paper, ETO. But really I cannot even guess where they are coming from to suggest that the Act applies to computer communications.

From Hansard

David Cooke, the director of the BBFC, and Peter Johnson, Head of Policy had a session in the House of Commons with the Culture, Media And Sport Committee: New Media And The Creative Industries.

David Cooke

Our fundamental concern is about what might happen in the future, starting right now when things could be very different and we would face not so much a loophole but possibly a bypassing of the Video Recordings Act in quite a major way. Let me just try and explain this. Last year 17,000 titles were classified by the BBFC and 13,000 of those were DVDs, so that is very much the bulk of our business at the moment. In principle, all of those titles could at some point in the future migrate to distribution by download rather than in physical format.

Lawyers disagree about what precisely the impact of the Video Recordings Act is in that situation, but I think that the general view is that the Video Recordings Act probably would not bite. That has not been tested in the courts yet.

That could produce a situation in which our current, we believe, quite well respected and trusted system of age ratings and consumer advice would cease to apply and we know from our workload at the moment that there would be some very abusive material included in that content, and we have given some examples of some of that in our evidence. Self-regulation would obviously apply in that context but the question is really do we believe that that would be adequate or would we be in the kind of situation that we faced in the early 1980s with the concerns on video nasties.

We think that there are probably two broad approaches to tackling this problem.

We are certainly not pitching to trespass on anybody else's patch or to rub up against other regulators and we are certainly not pitching to try and regulate all downloads, which will constitute a huge and variegated mass of material, but we do think it would be possible to look quite carefully to seek to identify that part of the download market which would be very similar to DVD retail and DVD rental and to seek to bring that within the Video Recordings Act. That would be one approach. We can well see that that would be controversial and would be against the tenor of some of the other discussions you have had in the Committee.

Another approach which could be considered, either in conjunction or separately, would be to look at what kind of co-regulatory offerings were possible in this new environment. We believe that our expertise and the trust which BBFC ratings and consumer advice have and the high recognition factor that our ratings have, are the kinds of things that would enable us to play a part.


20th October
updated to
28th October
  Straw Calls for the Internet to be Veiled

YouTube logoFrom The Telegraph

Jack Straw, the Commons Leader and former Home Secretary, backed efforts to prevent offensive material being easily available on the web.

In the Commons, Straw was alerted to a video on the YouTube website, apparently filmed in the north of England, showing a man being chased down a street and kicked in the head.

Iain Wright, Labour MP for Hartlepool, said the video, entitled the Milton Road fight club , features repeated swearing from the aggressor. The scenes were clearly filmed in his constituency.

To view the video, which even shows people watching the attack, YouTube users – who are required to give their date of birth when signing up – are warned that it may contain content that is inappropriate for some users.

Wright, who reported the video to Cleveland Police last Monday, told MPs that it showed a man being attacked in the street and kicked in the face until he is unconscious. . I am worried that acts of violence and instances of happy slapping recorded on mobile phones are being transferred to the web for wider consumption.

In a response that clearly took the backbench MP by surprise, the Commons Leader urged the MP to raise the matter when the Violent Crime Reduction Bill was debated a week on Monday. He said:
There is a serious issue about how such videos should better be controlled.

23rd October   Update: We do not usually advocate censorship... BUT...

YouTube logo I do not know the paper but what is the betting that they call for censorship at every possible opportunity.

I had a look at the Milton Road fight club video on YouTube. It is quite interesting.

It is in fact quite disturbing for being real and of course those partaking in the thuggery seem egged on by the thought of being on camera.

On the other hand, the level of violence was very much in line with depictions of beating on TV. With a confidence of knowing that the violence was staged, then nobody would have batted an eyelid if it had appeared on post-watershed TV.

From the Sunday Sun

When the Sunday Sun speaks, the powers-that-be listen.

Now to our battle to curb violence on the internet after our expose of the shocking videos being posted on YouTube has the backing of cross party MPs and the Government.

The reason why is simple. It makes sense.

We do not usually advocate censorship... BUT ... when images of wanton violence and thuggery are broadcast for the gratification of some warped minds, a line has to be drawn.

When it comes to the misuse of the internet you have to look at the bigger picture, and pull the plug on such transgressions for the greater good of the community.

28th October   Update: 'Sexy and Entertaining' Punch Up Videos

YouTube logoISo why would someone campaigning against punch up videos describe them as 'porn'? Surely 'porn' means 'sexy and entertaining'

From the BBC

An MP is calling for a ban on the sale of violent football hooligan videos on an internet auction website. Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, describes the trade as "punch up porn" and believes it will stir up more trouble by inflaming local rivalries. He is promising to take action in Parliament and said he plans to ask e-Bay to stop selling them.

One DVD features a fight between Wolverhampton Wanderers fans and Birmingham City's Zulu Warriors. Another shows trouble flaring between 70 Aston Villa fans and West Bromwich Albion supporters outside the Uplands pub in the Handsworth area of Birmngham.

Adverts on e-Bay for the DVDs promise "toe-to-toe fights" and "footage of mayhem". There are currently 35 DVD sellers on the site, including one from Small Heath in Birmingham.


20th October   Consumer Voice: Representing Nutters and Snobs Everywhere

I wonder what the chances are of seeing any representatives of porn viewing, non church going, game show watching, binge drinking ordinary folks....None?

From The Guardian

The government has announced a major overhaul of consumer rights in the UK with the formation of a new super body to ensure consumers' interests are better represented.

Ian McCartney, the consumer minister, announced that Consumer Voice will replace the National Consumer Council, Energywatch and Postwatch. He said the new body would act as a "powerful and effective advocate" for consumers.

Yesterday's announcement ends a consultation process that started in January, although it will be around two years before it opens its doors for business.

McCartney said Consumer Voice will represent the interests of consumers across a range of markets and have the responsibility and authority to voice the concerns of all UK consumers.

However, there is one notable omission. A Department of Trade and Industry spokesman said yesterday that Consumer Voice will not cover the telecoms and broadband sector as originally proposed.

Complaints about broadband providers are currently running at record levels, although the body which oversees the market,
Ofcom, rarely intervenes on consumers' behalf.


19th October
updated to
28th October
  Anything to Keep the Nutter Quiet

Bully Playstation game Based on an article from Gamespot

Keith Vaz, Nutter Member of Parliament for Leicester East, called for a discussion of Rockstar Games' Bully ( Canis Canem Edit in the UK) in Prime Minister's Question Time.

Vaz addressed Tony Blair: Last Thursday the British Board of Film Classification gave a 15 certificate to a video game formerly called Bully. This game contains scenes of violence including players terrorising teachers and students, teachers being head butted, and the aggressive use of baseball bats. Currys has banned this game. Given the link between video games and their propensity to encourage violence, that has been demonstrated in some research, will the Prime Minister convene a meeting of the stakeholders including the industry and parents' groups to discuss this issue? And will he accept this is not about adult censorship, this is about protecting our children?

Blair said that he hadn't seen the game himself, with one of his famous smiles, which caused laughter in the Commons. He answered Vaz by agreeing on a meeting to discuss the issues raised.

I know that the Minister for Creative Industries and also the Minister responsible for the industry are very happy to meet with him and stakeholders to discuss it. It's obviously an important issue. I know there's a lot of concern about it. It is, I think, right to say that the video games industry, or certainly a very substantial section of it, have made significant strides and advances over the last few years, but he's quite right, it's important that's maintained, Vaz said.

28th October   Update: Vaz Pegged Back

Perhaps someone has realised that if kids were bored by only having access to childish games, they could devote more time to binge drinking, punch up porn and religious indoctrination.

Bully Playstation game Based on an article from Pro-G

Nutter MP Keith Vaz has backed down from previous plans to scrap the PEGI rating system used for video games.

Back in 2005, Vaz demanded that the industry should scrap the PEGI rating system, in favour of a statutory Government regulation on age ratings. However, the situation has now changed, and having witnessed the work the industry has been doing over the last year, Vaz said: As the prime minister has said there has been huge progress made: What I'm after is a meeting of industry, parents groups and Government to see what we can do for the future. We have made progress but there are still examples of young people buying video games that are rated 18 plus.

Many video games do now receive BBFC ratings, which make it illegal to sell the title to anybody under the specified age rating, but the current PEGI system (the most common form of age rating for video games) only acts as a guide and is not legally enforced at retail.


12th October  Terrorism Act Guidance

Does this mean that when the police find material supposedly inciting terrorism they simply ask for it to be taken down. Whereas if they find extreme porn, they march round to all downloaders and put them all in the nick for three years without even bothering to justify the harm. Hardly what I would call proportional

From Linx Public Affairs

The Home Office has published guidance on the procedures to be followed for the giving of notices under section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006 requiring the relevant person (as defined) to takedown material on the internet and other electronic services that is unlawfully terrorism-related.


11th July   Not Free to Freely Use Freedom of Information

From The Guardian
See also

Murder in Samarkand book coverThe government is threatening to sue former ambassador Craig Murray for breach of copyright if he does not remove from his website intelligence material that was censored out of his newly published memoirs.

Murray has posted full texts of all passages the Foreign Office ordered deleted from the book version of Murder in Samarkand, the former Tashkent ambassador's account of alleged British complicity in torture by the despotic Uzbekistan regime. His book contains links to the website.

The passages detail CIA intelligence reports that Murray says were false, and accounts of US National Security Agency intercepts and conversations with John Herbst, the US ambassador in Uzbekistan at the time. The Foreign Office says release of the material is damaging.

One previously censored passage describes how numerical codes on intelligence reports revealed they came from the Uzbek secret police, via the CIA, who shared them with MI6. These included, he says, "nonsensical" claims that Islamist militants were ready to swoop on the town of Samarkand from hilltop camps, and that Uzbek dissidents were linked to al-Qaida.

After a purported Islamist terrorist attack, Murray wrote: We had communications intercepts of the senior leadership of ... al-Qaida, based variously in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. They were all phoning each other up and saying 'Does anyone know what the hell is happening in Tashkent?' This was very inconvenient for the Americans, who desperately wanted it to be al-Qaida.

The Foreign Office is also demanding, in a claim that breaks new legal ground, that Murray remove from his website the text of Foreign Office correspondence which he says he obtained officially through Freedom of Information Act and Data Protection Act requests. The Treasury solicitors, the government lawyers, wrote to Murray last week claiming: Even if a document is released under the Freedom of Information Act or the Data Protection Act, that does not entitle you to make further reproductions of that document by, for example, putting them on your website.

Murray said yesterday: If the media do not react to this, they will lose the ability to report in any detail material released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Tactical use of copyright in the Murray case seems unlikely to succeed. Copyright law is designed to protect the commercial interests of writers and artists, not alleged state secrets. Lawyers say Murray would be able to argue a defence of public interest for his own non-commercial disclosures, as would the media if quoting from the government documents on his website while reporting on current news events.


24th May   Bitching about Rap

From the BBC

Parental Advisory: Explicit LyricsThe government's school discipline adviser has warned that children might learn from violent rap lyrics if parents do not assert moral values.

Head teacher Sir Alan Steer complained in particular about the "anti-women aspect" of some songs. He told journalists at a National Union of Teachers behaviour conference some music motivated a small number of children in a violent sub-culture.

If you don't stand up for your morality when bringing up your children, it's damn sure they will pick up somebody else's , he said. It was unacceptable to talk about women as "bitches and whores".


25th April  Blasphemy to Criticise Amputation, Stoning and Death to Apostates

From the Daily Mail

Blasphemy laws could be extended to protect Muslims, it emerged yesterday. Ministers said they are willing to consider the case for changing the laws, which at present only cover attacks on the tenets and beliefs of the Church of England. The move raises the prospect of charges against anyone who criticises or pokes fun at Mohammad.

The fact Ministers are mulling a change in the blasphemy laws is a surprise as they have just passed a Religious and Racial Hatred Act in the face of fierce opposition in Parliament. Such laws were at one stage to have been abolished in favour of new religious hatred legislation but under pressure from Turkey, which wants EU-wide blasphemy regulations, Ministers may now look at extending the law. Any new blasphemy law could be used to strengthen the new religious hatred laws which were watered down in a rebellion by MPs and peers earlier this year.

From IOL

An Islamic court in the northern Nigerian city of Katsina on Monday ordered that a young man's hand be chopped off as a punishment for burglary, a court official said.

Lawal Bala Batsari, a prosecutor at the upper sharia court in Katsina, said a judge had ordered that 20-year old Idris Garba be amputated at the right wrist for stealing money and property from a house. Garba was arraigned last September after he was arrested with 14 000 naira (about $120) in cash and a video recorder, clothes and a tape deck worth a total of 27 000 naira, Batsari said. He has been given 30 days to appeal the sentence if he is not satisfied with the judgement but will remain in prison custody, Batsari said.

Katsina is one of a dozen predominantly Muslim states in northern Nigeria that have readopted a strict Islamic code since 1999, when the country returned to 'democracy' after 15 years of military rule.

Although several people have been convicted of theft since the law code was reintroduced in Katsina, no-one has yet been amputated in the state. Up to a dozen convicts have lost their hands in other parts of Nigeria.


15th April


  The Glorification of Repression

From The Independent

Anti-terror measures planned in the aftermath of the July 7 bombings and brought into force yesterday have been given a hostile reception by MPs and civil liberty lawyers who branded them absurd and a curtailment of free speech.

The new laws, included in the Terrorism Act 2006, make it a criminal offence to say or do anything that glorifies terrorism. They also give more powers to the Government to ban groups which publish material that seeks to support any form of terrorism.

But MPs and civil liberty lawyers said the laws were unnecessary, as there was already legislation in place to combat terrorism. The Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn described the glorification ban as "absurd". He said: The legislation is misguided and the whole concept of glorification is frankly absurd, and will end up entrapping the innocent and preventing legitimate debate. He argued that one person's terrorist was another's freedom fighter: Nelson Mandela was branded a terrorist by Margaret Thatcher.

Muslim groups appealed to the Government to exercise "maximum restraint and caution" over applying the new measures. The Muslim Council of Britain's secretary general Sir Iqbal Sacranie said: The fact that these laws are based upon a number of false premises and an unacceptably vague definition of terrorism makes them a recipe for disaster, as well as a huge blow to our freedoms.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, warned that the new law was not only oppressive but unworkable.


2nd April


  Blasphemy Extended to All Nutters?

Blasphemy = enforcing unbelievable nonsense via intimidation from the state

From the National Secular Society

Home Secretary Charles Clarke intimated that the Government might yet extend the blasphemy law to cover all religions, rather than abolish it, as had been implied if the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill got through Parliament.

Speaking at a conference organised by the IPPR and the New Humanist this week, Clarke’s statement set alarm bells ringing among secularists who are afraid that pressure from Islamist groups may push the government into beefing up and reviving the medieval blasphemy laws.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: Any move to make the blasphemy law applicable to all religions would be fiercely resisted, just as the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill was. But this Government is still desperately trying to regain the support of the Muslim community after the catastrophic Iraq debacle. It will need their votes in key Labour constituencies in coming elections, and extending the blasphemy law to cover minority religions would be one way to do it. The problem is that the Government is still labouring under the impression that all Muslims in this country are represented by conservative theocratic spokespeople. There are, though, a large number of Muslims who don’t take their lead from reactionary imams, and their voices are never heard by policy makers.

Clarke made clear at the conference that although he has no religious faith himself, he fully backs the Government’s engagement with and privileging of religious organisations.


2nd March
Updated 7th March


  Larger Labels for Nutters

Based on an article from Gamasutra

Shameful MP, Keith Vaz, has launched a new campaign to curb the sale of violent video games, calling for larger labeling on the covers of games to show age restrictions and the reasons for them.

Vaz is once again championing the case of Giselle Pakeerah, whose 14 year old son was killed in February 2004. Early tabloid reports of the story suggested that the murderer was “obsessed” by Rockstar’s Manhunt, although police later repudiated this, pointing out that only the victim owned a copy of the 18-rated game.

Pakeerah and Vaz have met with Prime Minister Tony Blair concerning the issue, and Vaz is to submit a new bill to Parliament during a ten minute speech, but it is thought to have little chance of becoming law. The Prime Minister’s only comment on the situation has been to indicate that the Government has commissioned research on the issue which it will publish and debate when completed.

Vaz’s demand for larger labeling is peculiar given that age rating symbols have recently been increased for titles (usually violent ones) rated by the BBFC. All games also indicate exactly the content contained within them according to the European PEGI ratings system.

Despite this, Vaz suggests that:
This Bill is aimed at restoring public confidence, especially in parents of young people. The current provisions are inadequate and need to be updated. I am looking forward to presenting this Bill to Parliament because its provisions will ensure that we are doing all we can to avoid another tragic loss, such as that of Stefan Pakeerah.

5th March   Update: Vaz Faces Mandatory Labeling as a Nutter


Roger Bennett, director general of UK videogames publisher trade body ELSPA, has labelled as "complete and utter nonsense" a speech made in parliament by Labour MP Keith Vaz proposing new laws relating to videogame ratings.

The fact of the matter is that it was complete and utter nonsense, Bennett told His whole thrust with this proposed bill was about labelling, which he got utterly and completely wrong, in that he hasn't got up to speed with what has happened over the last three or four years.

Vaz was proposing an amendment to the Video Recordings Act 1984, which would make it mandatory for videogames to receive content ratings in the same way that films do - a role currently fulfilled by the voluntary PEGI ratings system. He argued in Parliament that the current system, which sees the PEGI ratings being complemented by a rating from the BBFC for the small number of titles which are rated 18, is "very confusing", and used a quote from Bennett in his speech to back up this point.

However, the quote in question was from an article in Readers Digest magazine in 2002 - four years ago - and pre-dates the introduction of the PEGI ratings system across Europe in 2003, which brought a standardised system with large, clear ratings on game boxes and advertising to the industry.

There's a perfectly well-established and robust system of ratings which appear on both the front and the back of the boxes, which he was totally confused about, clearly, Bennett commented. Not only that, but they appear in all advertising.

He lashed out at Vaz' motivation for introducing the proposed amendment, describing the Labour MP's speech as the absolute epitome of the promotion of the Nanny State . The fact of the matter is that we're one of only two countries in the whole of the 27 states of the European Union who have mandatory ratings, Bennett explained. Everywhere else in Europe , the ratings are on the boxes - the PEGI ratings - and they make informed decisions for their kids. The more you take the responsibility away from parents, the less responsibility they'll take. As soon as you take responsibility away from people, then they rely on others to do it for them.

The whole process is mindless, in my view. At the end of the day, as long as the information is there, we should leave it to parents and guardians, to those responsible for young people, to make informed decisions about what they should or shouldn't watch. The blame culture in which we seem to live these days is as a result of the promotion of the nanny state, no question about it. It's always somebody else's fault, and they have to have somebody else to blame.

ELSPA now plans to speak to the relevant government departments to ensure that they are aware of the industry's content rating initiatives, but Bennett is adamant that the proposed amendment represents little threat to the industry:
There's very little chance of it going any further anyway. Given that the whole thrust of the content of his proposal is already established and has been for the last three years - so I'm not sure quite what [Vaz] is aiming to achieve

7th March   Opinion: Bully Vaz

From Dan

For starters I am surprised so much time has been wasted in Parliament talking about video games. Surely this issue is one of such little public concern!

But Keith Vaz has opened the can of worm about video game violence and despite little media attention it should be the focus of anti-censorship campaigners. Vaz proposes more labeling but games are labled enough. It isn't the lack of labeling which is the problem it's stores selling adult rated games to children and parents buying adult rated games for their children.

But hold on, I am left confused by the likes of Vaz. One minute they are calling for games like Manhunt and Bully to be banned, and the next they are calling for tougher labeling. Well, you can't label games that are banned can you? What do the anti-game lobby want? I agree with labels and age ratings, which I believe should be enforced by stores and adhered to by parents. But I do not agree that games should be banned outright just because they do not fit in with the approval of a minority of lobbyists seeking to make newspaper headlines.

And I again repeat my view that whilst I have sympathy for people like the mother of Stephen Pakeerah I do not believe it gives them the right to tell me what games should and should not be available to me and other adult game fans.

I think a brave MP would be one that stood up to Vaz and told him that if we hold the video games industry responsible for murder murderers could go free on the defence that it "wasen't me Yer honour it was the Playstation!"


20th February


  Juvenile Politics

From The Guardian

The government was urged to bring in new laws to ensure magazines and newspapers, including so-called "lads mags", featuring "disturbing pornographic" images be kept where children cannot see them. Labour's Diane Abbott, in an early day motion, also called for retail giant WHSmith to recognise certain tabloid titles as pornography [ie the Daily Sport] . Her motion states: There is still no legislation in place to ensure that adult titles, including so called lads mags, newspapers and tabloids containing disturbing pornographic material are kept out of the reach and sight of children.


19th February


  Exploitation of Role Models

The obvious counter to nutter Jowell is for football fans to go and enjoy some female company, lie back, think of England.. and smirk.

Based on an article from The Times

England's star footballers are being urged by the government to use their influence as role models to campaign against fans using prostitutes during the World Cup finals in Germany.

Letters have been sent to Sven-Goran Eriksson, the coach, David Beckham, the captain, and the rest of the England team urging them to shun sexual exploitation — in the same way they have campaigned against drugs and racism.

Tessa Jowell, the culture and sport secretary and minister for women, called for “vigilance to protect women from exploitation” amid expectations that 40,000 foreign sex workers will arrive in Germany for the tournament.

Although prostitution was legalised in the country in 2002, a few of the women, working in scores of “mobile brothels” in car parks near stadiums, may be victims of forced prostitution and people-trafficking.

At a recent meeting with the Women’s National Commission, which is organising the campaign, Jowell said she was “horrified” when told how many sex workers were expected to descend on the finals. The commission is based at the Department of Trade and Industry. Jowell said last night: The concern is that where there are big global sporting events, large numbers of women are made available for large numbers of visitors. I support the call to the Football Association FA] and German authorities for vigilance to protect women from exploitation.

The FA declined to comment on the campaign yesterday, but an England insider said: I am not sure what this has to do with the national team.

The German football authorities have been dismissive of similar demands from the National Council of German Women’s Organisations, with a spokesman referring to it as a “tiresome issue”. However, Jens Lehmann, the Arsenal goalkeeper and German international, has promised to raise the issue with fellow players.

Preparations for an influx of prostitutes into Germany are well advanced. A new bordello has been built in Berlin and agencies are busily recruiting girls. In Cologne, the authorities have built a row of drive-in sex booths for motorists.

Sex industry figures in Germany have accused Jowell of seeking to meddle in a legitimate business. Rolf Gablin, a sex club owner in Cologne, said:
The sex industry was legalised. The girls pay taxes and health insurance. This letter is childish. I would not have expected it from an adult.


16th February


  Glorifying Oppression

Opinion from The Telegraph

The Government's appetite for passing oppressive laws grows with the eating. Yesterday's vote in the Commons to make the "glorification" of terrorism an offence was justified by ministers as essential to combat the rise of extremism. It is nothing of the sort.

The existing laws on incitement to murder, to violence, and to racial and other forms of hatred provide all the scope needed to prevent extremists from encouraging others to support violent attacks.

There was plenty of "glorification" of terrorism in the demonstrations in London a fortnight ago over the Danish cartoons: but it also constituted incitement to murder, for which the police have not yet seen fit to have anyone prosecuted.

The "glorification" law was said to be needed to stop the likes of Abu Hamza: but without it, Hamza is already in jail. It all helps support the case eloquently put by the shadow attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, that yesterday's proceedings were merely a stunt designed to make Tony Blair look tough.

Blair himself talked of the measure in terms of being a "signal". As with so much else he does, he sees even something so important as this as a matter of spin-doctoring.

The vote overturned a Lords amendment to the anti-terror Bill that would itself have provided an offence of encouraging terrorism. Lawyers can now argue long and expensively over what does or does not constitute an act of "glorification".

One man's "glorification" might merely be another man's "encouragement": or even something far less enthusiastic than either. When the law becomes rooted only in narrow semantics, it invites robust challenge, and feeds a climate of increasing absurdity.

The British traditions of liberty, free speech and freedom of thought are all ridden over roughshod by this measure. Within three days this limitation on free speech, the introduction of identity cards and the ban on smoking even on private premises have shown this administration in its true colours.

It wishes, plainly and simply, to engage as completely as possible in control of individuals and the monitoring of their behaviour.

Such part of this as is done in the name of improving the public's protection from terrorists is done dishonestly. Not a single life is likely to be saved because it might be an offence to glorify terror, or because the British people are to be increasingly forced to submit to carrying a state identity card.

If someone exalts terrorism his best punishment is to be treated like those who exalt the memory of Hitler, or deny his genocide of the Jews: to be made the subject of contempt and ridicule. If it is exalted to the point of urging violence then there can be prosecutions as the law stands.

Instead, the new law will give a steady supply of martyrs, many deliberately seeing how far they can go. That, and the minefield of legal argument that will inevitably follow, will secure one outcome: that the Government will eventually regret this law. Because of its serious impact on our liberties, the rest of us should regret it now.

23rd March   Update: Glorifying Censorship

From the BBC

The government has finally won its battle of wills with the House of Lords over proposals to outlaw the "glorification" of terrorism.

In the sixth round of parliamentary "ping pong", peers accepted the government plans by a majority of 112.

Charles Clarke warned peers that Labour had made a manifesto commitment to outlaw the glorification of terrorist attacks and intended "to honour it".

Many peers felt the new law was too vague and would curb freedom of speech. It was also opposed by Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal urged peers to back the government, saying the glorification offence was easily understood by "the ordinary man in the street".

Conservative spokesman Lord Kingsland asked Tory backbenchers to abstain this time because otherwise the government would use the Parliament Act to push through the Terrorism Bill, which would cause a nine month delay. He said Clarke had given an undertaking to "reconsider all the measures on terrorism" that were already on the statute book and to replace them. This would give peers the chance to look at a range of issues that have given us deep discomfort in the course of this bill.

The prime minister had said the measure would allow action to be taken against people with placards glorifying the 7 July bombers - which were seen in London during protests against cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.


4th February


  Judge's Judgement Required to Take Down Web Site


The House of Lords on Wednesday restricted Government plans to allow the police to order the take down of suspected terrorism-related web content by requiring that the authorities obtain the permission of a judge first.

The draft Terrorism Bill was published in October, in the wake of the London bombings, and was instantly controversial due to provisions dealing with the detention of terrorists, the criminalisation of those planning or preparing a terrorist act and the prohibition of the encouragement or glorification of terrorism.

Website owners and ISPs are also affected by the proposals, which deems them to endorse prohibited material if, without reasonable excuse, they do not take down or modify the material once notified by a constable.

But critics are concerned that this imposes too great a restriction on free speech and gives too much power to the police. The Lords have therefore introduced an element of judicial oversight.

I entirely accept the principle that where there is something on the internet which is transmitting material from a website which is indeed truly terrorist related I entirely accept that it should be removed , Lib Dem spokesman Lord Goodhart told the Lords

It is simply a question that the police should not have authority which would enable them to go round removing any material, which they had the slightest suspicion could possibly be of some interest to somebody for terrorist purposes, he added.

The peers also tightened the definition of unlawfully terrorism-related material to cover material likely to be understood as encouraging terrorism, rather than the previously broad reference to material that could encourage terrorism.

The amendment, which was passed by the House of Lords by 148 votes to 147, was the second time in 24 hours that the Government had lost a motion by only one vote. On this occasion the critical vote could have been provided by Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal, who is responsible for pushing the legislation through the Lords.

She had left the Chamber because of a family emergency, according to reports.


29th January
Updated 31st January
Update 1st February
  Government are an Insult to Free Speech
From The Observer

Comedian Rowan Atkinson today makes a last-ditch call for MPs to reject a controversial bill that would make it illegal to insult religions.

Atkinson, an outspoken critic of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, which goes before the Commons on Tuesday, says the move would stifle freedom of speech. The Mr Bean star is part of a vociferous alliance of thespians, atheists and Christians who are lobbying against the bill, which is also being opposed by the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

Others opponents include Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre; Ian McEwan, a Booker prize-winning author; best-selling children's writer Philip Pullman; and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.

The Lords voted by a majority of 149 to narrow the government's proposed new offence of inciting religious hatred to that involving the use of threatening words or behaviour. But Labour now plans to make it an offence to incite religious hatred through the use of insulting or abusive words.

I am deeply concerned for all performers and entertainers, because the climate in which we work will be very different if the government gets its way, Atkinson said. If the wording of the revised bill is read carefully, it can be seen that the new freedoms the government provides with one hand it deftly removes with the other.

Last night Christian groups expressed dismay that the government had opted to reject the Lords' amendments. Our previous relative relief that the Lords had delivered a workable and less extreme bill ... has now turned to alarm, said Dr Don Horrocks, head of public affairs at the Evangelical Alliance.

The practical effect will be to inhibit free speech and writing in such a way that people will worry about saying anything critical of religion.

Keith Porteous-Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, which was instrumental in co-ordinating opposition to the bill, said the legislation would be welcomed only by lawyers. There are an awful lot of litigious people around. Extremists are going to cow people into silence.

It is estimated between 20 and 30 backbench Labour MPs may rebel against the government, suggesting the vote will be very close.

Tuesday's vote will be the last and best chance for parliament to protect freedom of speech, said Lib Dem spokesman Evan Harris.
Unless these safeguards are kept in place, the chilling effect of this new offence would be to stifle free expression and set community against community - each seeking to prosecute others for perceived insults.

31st January   Update : Government Insult Britishness

From The Telegraph

An unlikely alliance of humanists, secularists, Muslims and evangelical Christians issued an eleventh-hour plea to MPs to reject the Government's proposed religious hatred legislation.

The appeal will increase the pressure on ministers to make significant concessions when the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill returns to the House of Commons for a critical vote today.

The group say in a letter to The Daily Telegraph today that the Bill, as it currently stands, will undermine free speech in a society where it is vital to allow debate: As people with strong views on religion, we know how easy it is to offend those with whom you disagree and how easy it is to resent what others say, and see insult in it, the letter says.

But we also recognise that a free society must have the scope to debate, criticise, proselytise, insult and even to ridicule belief and religious practices in order to ensure that there is full scope - short of violence or inciting violence or other criminal offences - to tackle these issues.

The signatories to the letter call on MPs to ensure that amendments to the Bill made by the House of Lords are not reversed in the Commons. Under the Lords amendments the new offence of inciting religious hatred would be restricted to threatening words and behaviour rather than a wider definition including insults and abuse.

The amendments would also require the offence to be intentional and specify that proselytising, discussion, criticism, insult, abuse and ridicule of religion, belief or religious practice would not be an offence.

The signatories to the letter include two Muslims, Dr Ghyasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, and Manzoor Moghal, of the Muslim Forum.

But the Government has indicated that it plans to reverse most of the changes made by the Lords.

1st Feb   Update : We Can Still Call a Nutter a Nutter

The victory has rather been eclipsed by the embarrassment of Blair and speculation about his political future. It seems a bit of pity that we cannot celebrate the defeat of the most extreme parts of this bollox law in its own right.

From The Guardian

The government last night suffered a chaotic defeat over its bill to combat religious hatred when a lethal mixture of Labour rebels, abstentions and absentees from Westminster delivered an unexpected triumph to the combined Opposition in both Lords and Commons.

Though the racial and religious hatred bill came from Charles Clarke's Home Office team, and some MPs predicted that chief whip, Hilary Armstrong will today offer her resignation, Tony Blair contributed personally to the defeat by missing the night's second key vote - which was lost by just one vote, his own.

As the Home Secretary immediately confirmed to gleeful MPs in the Commons the two defeats - the first by 288 to 278 votes - mean that the bill will now go for royal assent in the version amended substantially by the Lords last autumn.

Ministers had made concessions to reassure religious critics - Christian and Muslim, as well as atheists and civil libertarians, who claimed the bill was unnecessary and would threaten basic freedom of speech. Several hundred demonstrators had protested outside parliament for much of the day.

During last night's debate on the disputed Lords amendments, it fell to junior minister Paul Goggins to assure MPs he had embraced the need to make changes which will clarify the law and protect the free speech of polemicists and comedians alike. Rowan Atkinson had been a vocal opponent.

Changes made in the Lords now mean that someone charged with an offence would have to be shown to have used "threatening" language - rather than "threatening, insulting and abusive" the test in race cases. It will also mean that the prosecution will have to show "intention" to foment such hatred by the accused rather than intention or "recklessness" as Goggins's compromise had proposed.

As Goggins struggled to make his case he admitted that the cartoons critical of Muhammad which have triggered boycotts and a political crisis in Denmark after being published there could attract prosecution under the bill.

The straight answer is [yes] if there was an intention to stir up hatred or if the person was behaving in a reckless way about the impact of his behaviour, the minister told Labour backbencher Gordon Prentice when MPs on both sides pressed him for specific examples of a likely offence. The disputed cartoons included one showing Muhammad, the founder of Islam, wearing a bomb-shaped turban, and another of him telling suicide bombers he had run out of virgins to award them. MPs offered other examples - such as the punishment of death for seeking to convert Muslims - as possible problem areas.


27th January   Blair's Blames

Spotted by  Mediawatch-UK

Tony Blair, responding to a question about violent computer games from nutter MP Keith Vaz said, in the House of Commons yesterday: My honourable friend has campaigned on that issue for a long time, and I pay tribute to his work. It was partly as result of his representations that we announced last year that we had commissioned our own research to establish whether there was any substance to the allegations of a link between playing violent computer games and violent behaviour in real life. The Department of Culture Media and Sport intends to publish the results of that research shortly. We are also aware of the Missouri-Columbia research to the same effect. We will look carefully at the research and study its impact. We will then have a debate on how we take it forward.


25th January   Glorified Censorship

From The Stage

Peers have voted to remove those sections of the Government’s controversial Terrorism Bill that the theatre industry had feared would threaten freedom of artistic expression.

Members of the House of Lords have agreed to take out parts of the bill referring to “glorification” of terrorist acts, which many in the industry believed would have led to artists being prosecuted for work dealing with controversial subjects. The recent Out of Joint production of Talking to Terrorists was one play that opponents to the legislation thought could have been affected. Campaigners will now lobby MPs to ensure the bill is accepted in its amended form in the Commons.

Speaking during the parliamentary debate, Lord Goodhart said: The whole question of glorification is simply going to confuse and trouble the courts. The definition is amazingly wide… If one is looking at past acts of terrorism within the very wide definition of terrorism in the [Terrorism Act 2000], the War of American Independence is a terrorist act. When one then looks at glorification, it includes celebration, so that act of terrorism is celebrated every July 4 on Independence Day.

The National Campaign for the Arts, one of the groups which lobbied for the change, said the wording of the bill was now clearer.

Director Victoria Todd added: When the bill started out it was hopelessly vague. Now it should be very hard to prosecute someone who, for example, puts on a play about terrorism. There had been a lack of clarity about what was prosecutable and what wasn’t, which meant theatre directors might say: ‘I don’t want to get involved in this’.

The NCA had also campaigned for the concept of “recklessness” to be removed from the bill. While that has not happened, the government has provided assurances that the test will be whether or not someone knew that they were being reckless in producing material that could encourage terrorism.

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