In what is fast becoming a summer tradition, yet another gathering has fallen victim to party-pooping police tactics. The UK's last free open-air festival has been cancelled under police pressure. Strawberry Fair, in Cambridge, viewed by many as the
starting gun for the festival season, has been stopped in its tracks after 37 straight years. Some (on Facebook at least) are vowing that some kind of festival will go ahead anyway.
The fair had actually been granted a full licence on March 2nd by
Cambridge city council, despite police objections. However the cops used their discretionary powers to appeal the decision to the magistrates court. A final decision on the outcome wouldn't have been made until just a few weeks before the event.
According to Justin Argent, chairman of the organising committee
The timetable for the appeal means we will not know whether the fair can go ahead as planned until far too late in the day. We do not want to pass this risk on to the supportive suppliers, traders and artists whose livelihoods would be severely
damaged by a last-minute cancellation.
The council weighed in with a spirited denunciation of the police. Jennifer Liddle, chairman of the city council's licensing committee, said, It is a great shame an unelected and unaccountable police
force decided to ignore that decision and lodge an appeal. Not only is their decision to try to ban Strawberry Fair undemocratic, it has cost an enormous amount of money . Even local MP David Howarth chipped in, It should be left to democratically
elected councillors to make decisions like these that affect our city, not unelected police officers.
So why the sudden change of tune? According to one organiser, They didn't have serious issues until we decided we weren't going to pay
them - this year they just wanted a nominal fee of £1,500. But that was set to change and rise to potentially thousands of pounds a year. Our attitude was that as the festival was free for all the people of Cambridge, there shouldn't be any charge
by the police. As soon as we refused to pay this process of licence, objections started. We've no idea what their ultimate agenda is but it's clear they don't want the fair to continue in its present form .
The age-old dilemma of whether the police need more powers in order to carry out their job effectively was back in the public arena this week.
First, there was the publication of advice to police chiefs by Home Office Minister David Hanson warning
in no uncertain terms that police over-enthusiasm to use Terror laws to clamp down on photography was counter-productive and undermining the War on Terror. On Monday, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published its report into recent police
stops , accusing several police forces of getting it wrong and disproportionately targeting members of black and Asian minorities.
A woman lay injured at the bottom of a mineshaft for six hours because health and safety rules banned firefighters from rescuing her.
Crews could only listen to Alison Hume's cries for help because regulations said their equipment was for saving
themselves but not members of the public, an inquiry into her death heard yesterday.
The revelation sparked fierce criticism of the health and safety culture among rescue services, with the Fire Brigades Union saying crews were being put in
an impossible position .
Mrs Hume was trapped 60ft below ground after she fell down the disused mineshaft 120 yards from her home in Galston, Ayrshire. Fire crews were called to the scene and a fatal accident inquiry heard that a
firefighter had volunteered to be lowered down to rescue her.
But a memo from Strathclyde Fire and 'Rescue' chiefs four months earlier had banned the use of rope equipment for lifting members of the public to safety, the inquiry was told.
Mountain rescue experts eventually freed Mrs Hume six hours later, but she died after suffering a heart attack as she was taken to the surface.
Christopher Rooney, the first senior fire officer at the scene, admitted it would have been possible for his crew to have rescued Mrs Hume from the shaft, had it not been for the memo.
During the hearing, solicitor Gregor Forbes asked
Rooney: On the basis of the manpower and equipment that you had available, is it your view it would it would have been possible for the firefighters to have brought the person to the surface before the mountain rescue team? He replied: Yes, I
Forbes said: Your position is that, while you were supplied with safe working-at-height equipment, while this could be used to bring up firefighters, it could not be used to bring up a member of the public. Rooney told the
inquiry at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court: Yes, that's correct. All 18 firefighters at the scene were trained and capable of using the equipment, he added.
A senior MSP yesterday criticised the increasing imposition of health and safety rules on
front-line rescuers. Scottish Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser said: Of course, the safety of rescue workers has to be a major consideration. But a strict adherence to health and safety rules in such circumstances should not prevent life-saving action.
Fire services will be told to follow new non-bureaucratic guidelines and take a sensible approach to hazardous incidents under a new policy unveiled by the Health and Safety Executive.
HSE chiefs said the guidelines aimed to ensure
firefighters could do their jobs properly without employers flouting safety legislation. Brigade unions welcomed the ruling, saying a balance had to be struck between safety rules and allowing fire crews to do their job.
But one MP called for a
complete overhaul of safety guidelines and their impact on rescues after the conclusion of a fatal accident inquiry into the death of Alison Hume.
Her family hit out at the fire service for failing to get Mrs Hume out of the shaft, after senior
fire officers ruled they did not have proper procedures in place to lift her out.
The case has sparked criticism of a health and safety culture among rescue services and calls for a shake-up of existing rules. The new guidelines make
it clear that fire services do not need to eliminate all risks in rescue situations.
Fire brigades and union leaders have backed the new rules, which acknowledge the principle that managers and firefighters need to make decisions in dangerous,
fast-moving, emotionally charged and pressurised situations .
Did you hear the one about the mother banned from taking a snapshot of her baby in the pool? Or the student prevented from photographing Tower Bridge at sunset? Be warned. The authorities now have the power to confiscate your camera — or even arrest you
— for daring to take a picture in public.
Put that camera away. Yes, you, put it away right now. This is a public place, you can't take pictures here. What right have you got to take photographs? People might not like it. Did they say you could
take photographs? Did they? No. Are you some sort of paedo? A terrorist? Gimme that camera. Delete those images. Delete your rights, delete trust, delete innocence before guilt. You're nicked.
Perhaps I exaggerate a little: nevertheless, the days
when you could photograph freely in public spaces are disappearing fast.
The Government's terrorism watchdog has called for a stop and search law to be scrapped.
Lord Carlile of Berriew said the use of Section 44 powers was having a disproportionately bad effect on community relations and had become counter-productive
in the fight against terrorism.
He also revealed that not a single arrest for terrorism offences and only morsels of intelligence had resulted from more than 200,000 such searches carried out last year — 151,000 in the Metropolitan
Police area alone. Lord Carlile said this lack of success meant it was now time to repeal the legislation.
He wants it replaced with a new law allowing searches without suspicion only during terrorist incidents and truly iconic events or
outside a limited number of critical national infrastructure sites, such as power stations.
His comments in a speech to the Policy Exchange think-tank will increase the pressure on the Government to overhaul the powers, introduced in the
Terrorism Act of 2000 and recently declared unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights. Ministers have failed to respond to that ruling but Lord Carlile said: Nothing fills my in-tray and in-box more than complaints on the use of Section 44. I
suggest that there should be a political accommodation now between all parties for the repeal of Section 44 in its present form.
He said that in most future cases police should instead use Section 43 powers, which require searches where there
are grounds for suspicion.
The red official decided that I wasn't allowed to take pictures of him and the PCSO doing their job, I explained that I was and took another picture to prove it. He then instructed the PCSO to get my details and began ranting about terrorists and not
wanting his picture in the paper.
The PCSO asked me to come on one side and talk to me which I did. He then began babbling about terrorists, asked me for my details and asked me why I had an attitude! I told him I would not give him my details. I
told him that as he is a public officer I had every right to take his picture whilst doing his job, because unlike other countries law enforcement officers are accountable here. He told me that he didn't want his picture in the newspapers because of the
A former Royal Marine was told to cover-up a tattoo of his regimental badge by security staff at Heathrow Airport, because it was offensive to other passengers.
Paul Fairclough was furious after he was challenged over the famous Marine
dagger insignia as he arrived for a transfer flight.
The man had just arrived at Terminal 5 from Toronto and was transferring for a Manchester flight when he was stopped by a female security operator as he passed through a metal detector. After he
put his bag on to an x-ray machine he was told to take his jacket off - revealing the 12-inch tattoo on his right arm.
The female operator spotted the tattoo and said: That tattoo is offensive. You will have to cover it up.
[er put his jacket back on. It was she who asked him to take it off in the first place]
She said she knew exactly what it was but that it made no difference. They had a policy that tattoos showing offensive
weapons of any kind must not be on show.
A spokesman for British Airports Authority at Heathrow said: This should not have happened. We have no policy against tattoos. We do sometimes ask passengers to cover-up things like slogans that
would be offensive to other travellers, but that is clearly not case on this occasion. BAA would like to offer our sincere apologies to the passenger concerned.
The director of a hearing aid company, was struck off from his trade association and handed a £30,000 legal costs bill. He had been caught with a few porn images on a computer used for testing customers' ears.
He has launched a High Court
fight to salvage his career. Jason Saunders, the director and part owner of Eastbourne Specsavers Hearcare Ltd, was discovered in April 2007 with 15 pornographic images, on the same work computer that he used to carry out hearing tests on clients, his
barrister, Jamie Carpenter, told London's High Court.
Saunders was additionally found to have posted a naked picture of himself on the work PC, which was also used to program hearing aids, the barrister added. A police investigation was mounted,
though no prosecution followed, and Saunders resigned from his job soon afterwards, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, was told.
He was struck of the list of registered dispensers of hearing aids by the Hearing Aid Council on February 9 this year, and
ordered to pay £30,000 in legal costs. The Hearing Aid Council struck off Saunders, having found that he had fallen below the standard of conduct required for his position.
This week his lawyers asked Mrs Justice Davies to overturn
both the council's decision to erase his name from the the register and the huge costs bill. Carpenter argued that the sanction of erasure was disproportionate and the costs order excessive in the circumstances. The committee did not say
what aspect of Mr Saunders' overall conduct was fundamentally incompatible with his practice as a hearing aid dispenser. They certainly didn't conclude that he posed any risk of harm to his patients, the barrister said. The images themselves
were not illegal and there were relatively few of them. The question of professional misconduct only arose because of his use of a work computer. The committee gave insufficient weight to the fact that he had deleted the images a year before
discovery, and the fact that he had already lost his job and livelihood.
Mrs Justice Davies reserved her judgement, following a half day hearing, to be given at a later date, yet to be set.
A man who photographed police while he was on a trip to buy fish and chips was searched under the usual abuse of anti-terrorism powers.
Stephen Russell spotted police swarming Kidlington High Street and, as he had his camera with him, he took
four photos because it was unusual to see so much action in the centre of the village.
An officer demanded the ex-RAF engineer deleted the photos, but Russell, refused because it is not illegal to photograph police in a public place.
officer then searched him. A form handed to Russell after the incident reveals he was searched using powers under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act. This legislation gives officers the power to stop and search a suspect they reasonably suspect to be a
Russell turned out his pockets and the officer used his bank card to carry out an identification and criminal records check. When the details came back clear, Russell demanded paperwork for the stop-and-search.
The form says
Russell was stopped for taking pictures on High Street, Kidlington, of police. Refused all details. Not recognised by officers . It names Pc Steve Burchett as using Section 43 legislation to carry out the search.
Russell plans to submit a
complaint to Thames Valley Police, and added: He used the Terrorism Act to search me. I'm not a terrorist.
Police questioned an amateur photographer under anti-terrorist legislation and later arrested him, claiming pictures he was taking in a Lancashire town were suspicious and constituted antisocial behaviour .
Footage recorded on a
video camera by Bob Patefield shows how police approached him and a fellow photography enthusiast in Accrington town centre. They were told they were being questioned under the Terrorism Act. They were taking photographs of Christmas festivities on 19
December. The last images on his camera before he was stopped show a picture of a Santa Claus, people in fancy dress and a pipe band marching through the town.
Patefield and his friend declined to give their details, as they are entitled to under
the act. The police then appeared to change tack, claiming the way the men were taking images somehow constituted antisocial behaviour .
He turned on his video camera the moment he was approached by a police community support officer
(PCSO). In the footage, she said: Because of the Terrorism Act and everything in the country, we need to get everyone's details who is taking pictures of the town.
Patefield declined to give his details and, after asking if he was free to
go, walked away. However the PCSO and a police officer stopped the men in another part of the town. This time, the police officer repeatedly asked him to stop filming her and claimed his photography was suspicious and possibly antisocial .
Patefield asked if the officer had any reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify him giving his details.
She replied: I believe your behaviour was quite suspicious in the manner in which you were taking photographs in the town
centre … I'm suspicious in why you were taking those pictures.
Patefield and his friend maintained that they did not want to disclose their details. They were stopped a third and final time when returning to their car. This time the officer
was accompanied by an acting sergeant. Under law, fine, we can ask for your details – we've got no powers, he said. However, due to the fact that we believe you were involved in antisocial behaviour, ie taking photographs … then we do have a
power under [the Police Reform Act] to ask for your name and address, and for you to provide it. If you don't, then you may be arrested.
Patefield was arrested for refusing to give his details, while his friend, who gave in, walked free.
Patefield was held for eight hours and released without charge.
When heavy snowfall threatened to scupper Paul Chambers' travel plans, he decided to vent his frustrations on Twitter by tapping out a comment to amuse his friends. Robin Hood airport is closed, he wrote. You've got a week and a bit to get your
shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!
He was arrested a week after the airport bomb threat joke was posted on Twitter. He has now been charged with sending a menacing message.
He is believed to be the first
person to be charged for posting offensive messages on the social networking site.
A police spokesman said: A 26-year-old Doncaster man has been charged with sending by a public communications network a message that was grossly offensive or of
an indecent, obscene or menacing character contrary to Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.
Police are planning to use an anti-terror law deemed unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights across the country during the London Olympics, The Times has learnt.
Senior officers are considering using Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 at
every Underground and railway station nationwide.
Privacy campaigners criticised the proposal yesterday. The powers would enable police to stop and search members of the public without any suspicion that they were involved in terrorism.
Times understands that this would be the first time that the powers would have been used across such a wide area. Police said that Section 44, which must be granted by the Home Secretary for a designated area, would be used only in the event of an
escalated terror threat. Officers are being trained to use behavioural profiling to spot suspicious characters during stop- and-search operations.
Simon Davies, the director of Privacy International, said: The history of stop and search in this
country is abhorrent. I wouldn't trust the police to make the right judgment. It is well known that stop-and- search powers have created extraordinary tensions among a range of ethnic groups, he said. There's no doubt that extension of the use of
those powers would exacerbate those tensions.
Last month the use of the terror law was criticised by the European Court of Human Rights. It found that Section 44 violated individual freedoms guaranteeing the right to private life. Despite
this, Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said that police would continue to use Section 44. The Home Office is appealing against the European Court ruling.
Cherie Booth, QC, as she is known while sitting as a judge, is the subject of a complaint for allegedly keeping a violent yob out of prison because he was religious .
Shamso Miah had left a mosque when he grabbed Mohammed Furcan and punched
him over an argument about queing. The thug ran outside but Furcan chased after him and demanded to know why he had been struck. Miah punched him again.
Sitting at Inner London Crown Court, Mrs Blair told Miah: I am going to suspend this
sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before. You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable.
Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society,
which has protested to the Office for Judicial Complaints, says: This seems to indicate that she would not have treated a non-religious person with the same latitude. We think this is discriminatory and unjust.
A man has been fined by cops for blowing his nose in a car. Michael Mancini pulled out a tissue while he was stuck in stationary traffic - with his handbrake on. But he was given a £60 fixed penalty notice for not being in control of his vehicle
The cop who handed out the ticket was PC Stuart Gray - dubbed PC Shiny Buttons for his zealous approach to the job. He was exposed last year after he issued a £50 fixed penalty to a man who accidentally dropped a £10 note in the
Last night, Michael who's never been in trouble with police, said: I was in total shock. I was stuck in traffic with the handbrake on and my nose was running. It's beyond a disgrace. Surely it would have been more dangerous to drive
with a blocked nose?
Michael has refused to pay the fine and now faces a criminal trial later in the year. He said: I needed to blow my nose so I put my handbrake on and took the car out of gear. I noticed four police officers standing
around near the Wallace Tower but I didn't think anything of it. Then one of them waved me over. I still had the tissue in my hand and was totally stunned when he said I was getting a fixed penalty notice for not being in control of my car.
I thought it was some kind of Beadle's About moment - a wind-up. The traffic was at a complete standstill and I had my handbrake on.
His lawyer, Peter Lockhart, has written to the procurator fiscal saying it beggars belief Michael is
being prosecuted. But prosecutors are adamant they will put Michael through a trial at Ayr District Court.
PC Gray had previously doled out a £50 fine for littering to unemployed Stewart Smith, who accidentally dropped a tenner out his
pocket as he left a shop.
Last night, a source said: Total nonsense like this is the very opposite of good policing. This officer is known as PC Shiny Buttons for his lack of a common sense approach to the job. It is supposed to be about
serving and protecting the public - not embarking on some petty power trip like this appears to be.
Under threat of the torment of eternal damnation, did you exceed, or have you ever exceeded, the Government's safe drinking limit?
Pharmacy customers seeking hangover cures or the morning-after pill are to be questioned about their drinking habits and offered help with alcohol problems. Under a new pilot scheme involving 'community' chemists,
20 pharmacies in the
North-east of Scotland are being recruited to take part in the pilot scheme to 'help' people change their drinking habits and tackle supposed alcohol abuse.
The pilot study in the NHS Grampian area, being led by researchers at Aberdeen University,
follows similar brief intervention schemes which have already been introduced at GP surgeries and accident and emergency units throughout Scotland over the past 18 months.
Dr Margaret Watson, the senior research fellow at the university's
Centre of Academic Primary Care, who is leading the study, said: The role of community pharmacists is changing. In the past, pharmacies have just been seen as the place where you get your medicines. But the pharmacist is a trained health professional
who can offer advice and counselling about a range of matters and this is another area where they could become involved.
Under the scheme, customers who call at pharmacies and ask for specific products, such as chlamydia testing kits, the
morning-after pill or hangover cures, will be asked to fill out a simple questionnaire about their alcohol consumption.
She said that during the brief consultations, the pharmacist would try to motivate the customer to reduce their alcohol
consumption and arrange for help and counselling where necessary. Watson stressed: Everything must be done with the consent of the customer.
Running around the streets in combat gear, waving around glittery hairdryers and claiming to be dork hunters , they couldn't fail to attract attention.
But children's TV presenters Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers never dreamt that
their outlandish outfits would warrant suspicion by police who stopped them under the Terrorism Act.
In addition, their so-called weapons consisted of hairbrushes and hairdryers.
The hosts of the hit ITV show Toonattik told
how they were issued with a warning under Section 44 of the act when they were filming a promotional clip for an animated comedy series for young children. Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers
But that didn't deter four Metropolitan Police officers
on London's South Bank who noted suspicious items including the hairdryers used to advertise GMTV show, Dork Hunters from Outer Space , which is popular with four to nine-year-olds.
Presenter Jamie Rickers said: We were stopped, not
arrested, but they had to say "We are holding you under the Anti-Terrorism Act because you're running around in flak jackets and a utility belt", and I said "and please put spangly blue hairdryer" and he was, like, "all
Details of the incident which took place in 2007 emerged after the controversial anti-terror laws were ruled illegal by European judges who said the power was a breach of the right to privacy.
Police are only supposed to
use anti-terrorism legislation where there is a real risk of an attack. But there has been mounting criticism of police abusing the power.
Yesterday Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: I've heard of anti-terror powers
being misused before but never on children's TV presenters carrying hairdryers. This farce shows either an absence of humour amongst our police force or a serious misunderstanding of anti-terror legislation. We need to go back to a situation where stop
and search is used on the basis of suspicion and intelligence.
Sabina Frediani, of Liberty, said: It's conceivable that actors in combat gear might raise suspicion but you would have thought that the glittery hairdryers might have helped
the penny to drop. The power to stop and search under the Terrorism Act is so broad that often common sense goes out of the window. The law needs urgent attention as not all the abuses are quite so funny.'
Photographers fed up with being stopped and searched by British police under the country's terrorism laws gathered in London to protest against the practice.
Waving placards with the message, I am a photographer, not a terrorist, about
2,000 photographers called for more leniency from the British police.
The slogan is the name of a group set up to campaign against certain sections of Britain's Terrorism Act 2000, which was designed to give police greater powers to fight
Photographers say they have been unduly targeted by Section 44 of the Act, which allow officers to stop and search people, regardless of whether they have reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
We're coming together to show
solidarity and to show that we won't be intimidated, said Jonathan Warren, a freelance photographer and one of the founders of the campaign group.
A small number of police watched the protest Saturday in London's Trafalgar Square, but they
maintained a low profile.
Some protesters wore police costumes and badges identifying themselves as vigilance officers, amid frequent camera flashes. Mock freedom wardens also made their way through the crowd pretending to arrest
Government announces ideas to ensure that pubs are even more troublesome
The more the authorities try to restrict alcohol the more it makes the problem worse. The restrictions tend to be effective against the oldies who choose to
drink at home, yet they make little impact on youngsters who are essentially out to find a partner, an almost unstoppable human urge.
The net result is that the older, socially calming customers, stay home, leaving pubs full of youngsters, a
recipe for increased troubles.
Pubs, bars and off-licences will be forced to ask under 21s for identity in the latest campaign against supposed binge drinking.
They will be legally obliged to make checks if they have a reasonable suspicion that customers look under that
age, ministers will announce next week.
At the moment they are only encouraged to do so. Alcohol retailers will face the prospect of hefty fines and losing their licence if they flout the new rules. A security guard checks the identity of a young
man and his girlfriend before he allows them into a bar
From next week, identity checks will be compulsory before serving alcohol to drinkers who look under 21. The Government fears that thousands of youngsters under the legal drinking age of 18
are getting away with buying alcohol because they look much older.
A ban on supposedly irresponsible drink promotions such as happy hours and two-for-one deals is also expected to be announced by Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
[Perhaps encouraging people to get well tanked up at home before leaving for expensive bars. Surely not a helpful outcome].
A Government source said: We have moved beyond voluntary codes and guidelines. This
will be mandatory and non-negotiable. It will be legally enforceable. The Prime Minister has made it clear we cannot tolerate the continued widespread abuse of alcohol through the UK.
Pub and club promotions that encourage binge drinking will be banned within months. Alan Johnson, the Home
Secretary, said: Alcohol-related crime costs the UK billions of pounds every year and while the vast majority of retailers are responsible, a minority continue to run irresponsible promotions. Speed-drinking games and dentist's chairs ,
where alcohol is poured directly into the mouths of customers, will also be banned.
Pubs and clubs will have to provide free tap water to customers and be required to ask for the identity of anyone who looks under 18.
The code will force
licensed premises to offer wine in small 125ml glasses as well as the more common 250ml measure. Pub and club owners will also have to offer small beer and spirit measures.
Parliament will debate the code within the next few weeks, but the
measures dealing with irresponsible drinking and making tap water available will come into effect in April, before the general election. The measures on age verification and ensuring that smaller measures are available to customers will come into force
on October 1.
Ministers have, however, backed down from banning supermarket bulk buys. The mandatory code also avoids an outright end to happy hours where drinks are sold cheaply for a certain period of time. Instead, local authorities will
have wider powers from the end of this month to impose a ban on happy hours in individual pubs.
Ian Gilmore, the President of the Royal College of Physicians, welcomed the code but whinged that it failed to deal with the issue of cheap supermarket
When heavy snowfall threatened to scupper Paul Chambers' travel plans, he decided to vent his frustrations on Twitter by tapping out a comment to amuse his friends. Robin Hood airport is closed, he wrote. You've got a week and a bit to get your
shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!
Unfortunately for Chambers, the police didn't see the funny side. A week after posting the message on the social networking site, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and
questioned for almost seven hours by detectives who ludicrously interpreted his post as a security threat. After he was released on bail, he was suspended from work pending an internal investigation, and has, he says, been banned from the Doncaster
airport for life.
While it has happened in the United States, Chambers is thought to be the first person in the United Kingdom to be arrested for comments posted on Twitter.
Chambers said the police seemed unable to comprehend the intended
humour in his online comment. I had to explain Twitter to them in its entirety because they'd never heard of it, he said. Then they asked all about my home life, and how work was going, and other personal things. The lead investigator kept
asking, 'Do you understand why this is happening?' and saying, 'It is the world we live in'.
The police deleted the post from his Twitter page. He has been bailed until 11 February, when he will be told whether or not he will be charged with
conspiring to create a bomb hoax. In the interim, detectives have confiscated his iPhone, laptop and home computer.
The civil libertarian Tessa Mayes, an expert on privacy law and free speech issues, said: Making jokes about terrorism is
considered a thought crime, mistakenly seen as a real act of harm or intention to commit harm. The police's actions seem laughable and suggest desperation in their efforts to combat terrorism, yet they have serious repercussions for all of us. In a
democracy, our right to say what we please to each other should be non-negotiable, even on Twitter.
West Midlands Police are about to employ a full-time web cop .
The officer will search for criticism of the police and use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Bebo to promote the force.
Assistant Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie told
Police Review: There will be someone on the web chatting about West Midlands Police right now, about whether they have had bad service or if they have heard a rumour about guns and gangs. He added: A lot of chatter is ill-informed. We need to
be much smarter about identifying these conversations so we can join in and influence what people think.
Big Brother Watch is concerned that this role is designed to prevent criticism of the police from taking place online. Those with
understandable grievances should be free to air them in a democratic forum without fear of reprisal. We would appreciate the West Midlands police giving assurances that there will be no black-list created as a result of the web cop's work.
Naked rambler Stephen Gough has been warned he could spend the rest of his life in jail unless he puts on some clothes. Gough, who has become notorious for trying to walk around the UK naked, was arrested within seconds of being freed from Perth Prison
on 17 December.
He was found guilty yesterday of breaching the peace by walking naked in the street and refusing a request by police to put on some clothes. On the past two occasions when Gough has been released from jail, officers from Tayside
Police were waiting at the prison gates to re-arrest him.
Sheriff Lindsay Foulis told Gough he would not have to be crystal ball gazing to realise that the same process would occur again and again and again .
Gough – who has
spent the bulk of the past seven years in jail for identical crimes – yesterday turned down an offer to walk free on condition that he get dressed.
Foulis told him he would consider granting him bail to go back to his warmer home county of
Hampshire if he agreed to put some clothes on, but Gough said he would not. A number of your recent convictions have arisen in similar circumstances, the sheriff said. You have more or less been apprehended when you have been released from
prison. I suppose it doesn't need an expert in crystal ball gazing to anticipate that if I impose a custodial sentence then in so many months a similar scenario will arise. When the day comes for you to be released from a prison establishment, you will
be apprehended and the same process gone through again.
Gough said he accepted it was potentially the case that he could remain in jail forever – apart from the few seconds of freedom he enjoys every six months or so.
trial, he compared himself to the African-American civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks, and said he believed his behaviour was reasonable . Gough said: Essentially, this is about individual freedom and people's tolerance to other people being
different. I understand a lot of people will disagree and have strong feelings about it. Walking the amount of miles I have, through towns and cities, it is on the whole a very small moral minority who act in an irrational way. I believe I am behaving in
a reasonable way.
Gough was allowed to conduct his own defence in open court while completely naked and the sheriff said he would consider whether that was a contempt of court when he is sentencing. He warned Gough that he could be jailed for
upwards of 18 months.
Most parents believe the days of supervising their children on the loo are long gone by the time they are teenagers. If so, they may want to avoid eating out in Glasgow.
The city council has ordered that children under the age of 16 must be in
sight of their parents anywhere on licensed premises — even if that means being accompanied to the lavatory.
The regulations have the potential for family embarrassment when, for example, a 15-year-old boy eating at a cafe with his mother has to
use the ladies' loos.
The council says the rule is required by the 2005 licensing act. It acknowledges there is a huge difference between a toddler and a teenager , but says there are no legal provisions for making a distinction between
Restaurateurs say it is absurd to extend to lavatories the requirement for children to be in sight of an adult at all times, but believe they have no alternative if they are to avoid the risk of punishment.
The regulations, brought in
late last year, state: While children are in any part of licensed premises and in particular the toilet areas, they must at all times be within sight of an accompanying adult.
When armed officers tackle a group of young men in fancy dress, there is something amiss in Britain's police
After the arrest and detention last year by armed police of the rock band the Thirst, whose members were spotted by a CCTV operator trying
to start a vehicle with jump leads, which he thought was a gun, I began to wonder if there should be some sort of national award for dumb and dangerous cops. Four or five stories of unbelievable stupidity come my way every month. If the police aren't
maliciously arresting people under terror laws and paying out very large sums in compensation, they are putting the faces of innocent shoppers on wanted posters for burglary, arresting farmers for pigeon-shooting or throwing pensioners into cells for
their public-spirited actions. Those are just a few of the stories from last year that would certainly have been considered for any national awards.
You will not be surprised to know that it hasn't taken long to find the inaugural nomination for
the Dumb and Dangerous Cop awards of 2010. It comes from an incident in Weymouth and concerns Dorset police, who sent armed officers to surround young men preparing to go to a fancy dress party. It is entered in the section devoted to preposterous
People meekly accept official behaviour, even if they might strongly suspect it is the police who are behaving illegally
Even were I to live within walking distance of the Queen's Sandringham estate, it would never occur to me to spend any part of
Christmas Day standing outside its church to take photographs of attendant members of the Royal Family. Yet, odd as such behaviour might seem – it's not as if the media don't produce film and pictures from the same event, saving everyone else the trouble
– it is about as harmless as anything can be.
That, however, is not the view of the constabulary, which increasingly sees – or pretends to see – the most innocent acts as pregnant with potential criminality. I realise this attitude is inevitable
in an organisation that daily encounters the bleakest aspects of human character, but traditionally the British police have managed this moral challenge without descending into obvious madness. Yet it was a peculiarly modern form of bureaucratic
insanity, surely, which compelled the Norfolk Police officers in charge of this annual Christmas spectacle to confiscate the cameras of all the well-wishers lined up outside Sandringham church on Christmas Day.