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UK News

2009: April-June

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29th June   

Update: Cleared of Obscenity...

Girls (Scream) Aloud sorry not obscene in terms of its likely audience
Link Here
Full story: Obscene Text...Writer prosecuted for text fantasy story

A former civil servant who wrote an internet article imagining the kidnap and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud has been cleared of obscenity.

Darryn Walker was charged under the Obscene Publications Act after the blog appeared on a fantasy writing site.

He appeared at Newcastle Crown Court, but was cleared on Monday. His defence argued that the article was not accessible, and could only be found by those looking for specific material.

Walker's 12-page blog - Girls (Scream) Aloud - was brought to the attention of police by the Internet Watch Foundation.

David Perry QC, prosecuting, said: A crucial aspect of the reasoning that led to the instigation of these proceedings was that the article in question, which was posted on the internet, was accessible to people who were particularly vulnerable - young people who were interested in a particular pop music group. It was this that distinguished this case from other material available on the internet. The CPS concluded, with the benefit of counsel's advice, there was a realistic prospect of conviction."

However, a report for the defence by an information technology expert said that it could only be discovered by internet users seeking such specific material.

A report from a consultant psychiatrist also said it was baseless to suggest that reading such material could turn other people into sexual predators.

Tim Owen QC, defending Walker, said : It was never his intention to frighten or intimidate the members of Girls Aloud. He had written what he had described as an adult celebrity parody and was only meant to be for an audience of like-minded people. As soon as he was aware of the upset and fuss that had been created, he took steps himself to take the article off the website. This type of writing is widely available on the internet in an unregulated and uncensored form. In terms of its alleged obscenity, it is frankly no better or worse than other articles.

The court heard that Walker had lost his job since his arrest.

Judge Esmond Faulks formally returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of publishing an obscene article.

Jo Glanville, editor of the freedom of expression group Index on Censorship, said the prosecution should not have been brought in the first place: Since the landmark obscenity cases of the '60s and '70s, writers have been protected from such prosecutions and have remained free to explore the extremes of human behaviour. This case posed a serious threat to that freedom. In future, obscenity cases should be referred directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions before any prosecution is triggered.


20th June   

Update: Starved of Free Speech...

Famine Song confirmed as racist by Scottish Appeal Court
Link Here

The lyrics of the Famine Song are racist, a court said yesterday after a football fan challenged his conviction.

The Justiciary Appeal Court in Edinburgh ruled that Rangers supporter William Walls, who sang it, was rightly convicted of a racially-aggravated breach of the peace

Walls had been arrested at a Kilmarnock-Rangers game in November last year. He was shouting Fenian bastards and fuck the Pope , and repeatedly sang a line from the Famine Song, the famine's over, why don't you go home. The song is banned by Rangers.

A sheriff ruled Walls had committed a racially and religiously-aggravated breach of the peace, and put him on probation for 18 months and banned him from football matches for two years.

At the Justiciary Appeal Court, Donald Findlay, QC, for Walls, argued that the Famine Song was not racist, particularly the refrain sung by the accused. He said it was an expression of political opinion, permitted by the right to freedom of speech enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Findlay submitted that the refrain was no more racist than some of the lines of Flower of Scotland , which bid King Edward to return to England to think again, or God Save the Queen , which refer to crushing rebellious Scots.

An exchange of abuse between supporters was part and parcel of going to a football game, he added.

Giving the court's judgment, Lord Carloway said: The court has no doubt that (Walls's] conduct did amount to a breach of the peace, even in the context of a football match. Presence inside a football stadium does not give a spectator a free hand to behave as he pleases. There are limits and the appellant's conduct went well beyond those limits.

On the Famine Song, about the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, he said: The song calls upon persons of Irish descent, who are living in Scotland, to go back to the land of their ancestors, namely Ireland. They (lyrics] are racist in calling upon people native to Scotland to leave the country because of their racial origins. This is a sentiment which many persons will find offensive.


18th June   

Update: Burning Issue...

Liverpool to consult residents over an 18 rating for movies with smoking
Link Here
Full story: Adult Rating for Smoking...Anti-smoking lobby for 18 for smoking in films

Liverpool residents and local businesses are to be consulted on a proposal which would see new films which show characters smoking given an 18 rating in the city.

The proposed classification would mean that films which depict images of tobacco smoking would only be regarded as suitable for adult viewing. The move is being proposed by Liverpool Primary Care Trust.

This proposal would not apply to films which portray historical figures who actually smoked and those which provide a clear and unambiguous portrayal of the dangers of smoking, other tobacco use, or second-hand smoke.

It would also not change the classification of old films which have scenes of people smoking. These films would still be shown in Liverpool using their original classification.

Under the proposal, cinemas and any other premises showing films would have to notify the council 21 days in advance if they intend to show films containing images of smoking.

The City Council's Licensing and Gambling Committee have agreed to consult interested organisations and the general public about changing its licensing policy. The consultation with the public is likely to start in the middle of August and last until October.

Cllr Malcolm Kelly, Committee Chair, said: I would stress that no decision about this proposal has been made yet.

We were given a presentation earlier this year by the PCT in which they spoke about the high level of young people who smoke in Liverpool and that research showed that young people, are more likely to smoke if they were influenced by seeing their favourite stars smoking in films.

However, we want to get the views of a wide range of organisations and the public in general before we decide whether to go ahead with this idea.

Overruling the BBFC

Based on article from

Government guidance says authorities should only overrule the BBFC if there are "very good local reasons".

In its report to the council, Liverpool PCT said the city's smoking prevalence was excessively high at 29%. The national level is 22%. It added that research from several countries suggested smoking in movies was the most potent of the social influences which lead young people into smoking.

BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark told the BBC that while the council was obviously entitled to re-classify films, members of the public were unlikely to back the idea: We have done our own consultation with the public and we specifically asked them about whether smoking in films should be a classification issue - we were told it shouldn't. We don't make it a classification issue unless a film is actively promoting smoking to young people - and we've never seen a film which does that.

Excessive smoking in a film may be flagged up in its consumer advice, or the extended classification information on the BBFC website, said Ms Clark.


18th June   

Update: NightStick...

High Court allows Times newspaper to identify policeman blogger
Link Here

Thousands of bloggers could lose their cloak of anonymity after a landmark High Court ruling allowed the identification of a serving police officer who ran a controversial website.

Mr Justice Eady refused to grant an order to protect the anonymity of Richard Horton, the author of a blog called NightJack.

The 45-year-old detective constable with Lancashire Constabulary had sought an injunction to stop his name from being made public.

But the judge ruled that Mr Horton had no reasonable expectation' to anonymity because blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity.

Horton's award-winning blog gave a behind-the-scenes insight into frontline policing, including strong views on social and political issues, including matters of public controversy.

The officer also criticised and ridiculed a number of senior politicians and advised members of the public under police investigation to complain about every officer... show no respect to the legal system or anybody working in it, the High Court heard.

Horton has now deleted his website and received a written warning from his force. He has received several offers to publish a book after using the success of the blog to attract a literary agent.

But in the wake of the interest in his site, The Times newspaper discovered his identity and sought to publish it.

Horton sought an injunction, but after today's refusal, was immediately identified on the Times' own website.

Horton's counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC, had argued that internet bloggers' identities should be protected by the law of confidence, and an acknowledgement by the courts that improper disclosure of private information could be cause for action. He also submitted that there was a public interest in preserving the anonymity of bloggers.


17th June   

Update: Hurting Credibility...

I wonder if chiropractors can cure this with a back massage?
Link Here
Full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

Re the petition:

We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

Thanks to all your efforts, we are sending that statement again to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, but now with 10,000 signatures! And still they are pouring in. We've also had great comments, examples of similar cases, offers of help, and urgently needed donations for the campaign. Please keep them coming. We're working through offers of help and ideas as quickly as we can.

You can now buy Keep the Libel Laws out of Science T-shirts, mugs, bags, badges and caps online from Spreadshirt. The lovely logo is thanks to Hamish Symington, and thanks also to everyone else who offered design ideas. If you send us photos of you wearing them outside the Royal Courts of Justice, or similarly relevant venue, we'll put them up!

On the issue of chiropractic claims, some of you will have seen the cumulative effect of interest in the case on the blogosphere over this past weekend; hundreds of chiropractic websites were taken down following questions by bloggers and urgent instructions from chiropractic organisations to avoid breaking the rules on medical claims for chiropractic. 

A note from Simon Singh: I've met so many passionate, supportive people at talks I've given, most recently Skeptics in the Pub in Oxford and Cheltenham. The responses, with all the blogs and comments too, suggest this is a campaign gathering the momentum necessary to reform the libel laws. Please continue your support in any way you can, and tell others about it.


17th June   

Police Culture of Censorship...

University calls in police for the opinion on matters of art and censorship
Link Here

Helen Gorrill's women are imposing and beautiful. They stand seven feet tall from head to toe, their faces in the shadows, their bodies on display.

As a painter her expression is raw and controversial, enough for the University of Cumbria to censor her FDA Drawing degree show. It's not the women that are the problem, it's the men.

She says: The actual degree project is about the seven deadly sins. I'm the only person out of 25 that has done something that needs censoring. I thought there would be far more controversial work within the remit.

While the women in her paintings are powerful, their husbands are broken and humiliated. She depicts them naked and bound, bent over in poses of sexual submission that leave little to the imagination.

After discussing the work with the University, she decided to call in the police herself for guidance: The police came in and said the females were fine, but we should just be careful with the male figures.

The males were therefore hidden from public view and shown behind a screen which had the appropriate legal signage.

She was disappointed at first, she says, but she understands the art school has to protect its legal rights. If her paintings attracted complaints, it could have been prosecuted for obscenity.

The University of Cumbria degree show is being held until Friday, June 19.


13th June   

Diary: The Art of the Nasty Film Festival...

Book launch and one day film festival
Link Here

Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London
Saturday 11 July 2009, from 11am till 11pm
Tickets are priced at £25 in advance.

The Art of the Nasty is the most comprehensive collection of video nasty and pre-certificate video sleeves ever reproduced in one volume.

Now fully revised and updated, this brand new FAB Press edition has more than 100 new video nasty sleeves, which were not included in the original pressing, to increase the total number of videos covered in the book to almost 450. In addition, the text has been thoroughly revised and updated to reflect the knowledge gained about this era in the intervening 10 years since the book was first published. And this time the book is being published in hardback format to ensure its long-lasting durability.

The Art of the Nasty explains and conveys the media furore, fear and the rush for political legislation that greeted the arrival of uncensored horror films on video in the UK. The hysteria was generated and fuelled as much by the sleeves and marketing as by the films themselves. In fact, many of the biggest critics of the 'nasties' only ever saw the sleeves. Some of the early video sleeves are indeed an unbelievably bold and over-the-top mixture of outrageous graphics and in-your-face visual shock tactics, guaranteed to offend.

The Art of the Nasty book-launch and all-day film festival has been organised to mark the passing of 25 years since the introduction of the Video Recordings Act and the end of the pre-certification era for home video in the UK.

Five horror and exploitation films from the pre-cert era, all specially chosen for their rarity, and all screened from original release film prints in 35mm or 16mm, along with the UK PREMIERE of an outrageous brand new horror film that perfectly captures the spirit of the video nasty era.

The full line-up:

  • TAKE AN EASY RIDE and THE BRUTE (double-bill),
  • SATAN'S SLAVE (uncut export version),

Enjoy a shock-filled day out with your friends in London's most hospitable venue, with its bar and restaurant terrace overlooking the River Thames!


6th June   

Petition: Chiropractors' Libel Claim...

The law has no place in scientific disputes
Link Here
Full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic for various children's ailments through an open discussion of the peer reviewed medical literature or through debate in the mainstream media.

Singh holds that chiropractic treatments for asthma, ear infections and other infant conditions are not evidence-based. Where medical claims to cure or treat do not appear to be supported by evidence, we should be able to criticise assertions robustly and the public should have access to these views.

English libel law, though, can serve to punish this kind of scrutiny and can severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest. It is already widely recognised that the law is weighted heavily against writers: among other things, the costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. The ease and success of bringing cases under the English law, including against overseas writers, has led to London being viewed as the "libel capital" of the world.

Freedom to criticise and question in strong terms and without malice is the cornerstone of scientific argument and debate, whether in peer-reviewed journals, on websites or in newspapers, which have a right of reply for complainants. However, the libel laws and cases such as BCA v Singh have a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices. The libel laws discourage argument and debate and merely encourage the use of the courts to silence critics.

The English law of libel has no place in scientific disputes about evidence; the BCA should discuss the evidence outside of a courtroom. Moreover, the BCA v Singh case shows a wider problem: we urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about scientific and medical evidence.


4th June   

Updated: Back Problems...

When chiropractors drag a top science writer into the libel courts, the country has lost its backbone
Link Here
Full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

This week, Simon Singh, one of Britain's best science writers, will decide whether to carry on playing a devilish version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He has already lost £100,000 defending his right to speak frankly.

Last year, Singh published Trick or Treatment? with Professor Edzard Ernst on the reliability of alternative medicine , and devoted a chapter to the strange history of chiropractic treatments.

In 2008, the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) announced that its members could help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying. Writing in the Guardian, Singh said the claim was bogus. Chiropractic treatments may help relieve back pain, but Professor Ernst had examined 70 trials and found no evidence that they could relieve other conditions.

Singh is hardly a lone sceptic. A few weeks ago, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against a chiropractor who claimed he could treat children with colic and learning difficulties. Nevertheless, the BCA took Singh on and told me it had numerous documents which demonstrate the efficacy of chiropractic treatments.

Fair enough, you might think. Reputable medical authorities could test the evidence and decide whether the treatments work or not. Instead of arguing before the court of informed opinion, however, the BCA went to the libel courts.

If he goes ahead with an appeal this week, bloggers, academics and the massed ranks of the scientific great and good are ready to join him. They have grasped what too many still fail to realise: the greatest threat to freedom of speech in Britain is not the state or the security services or the press barons, but a fusty and illiberal legal system, which has become a public menace.

...Read full article

Update: Luminaries support Simon Singh in his appeal

4th June 2009. Based on article from

A galaxy of luminaries from the disparate worlds of science, comedy, the arts and humanities, from Ricky Gervais to the president of the Royal Society, have come out in support of a science writer who is being sued by chiropractors for saying they practise bogus treatments.

Dr Simon Singh announced yesterday that he intends to appeal against the ruling, which has already cost him about £100,000 in legal fees but won him the backing of more than 100 prominent figures, including a Nobel laureate.

The signatories to the statement in support of Dr Singh include Gervais, the actor Stephen Fry, the scientist Richard Dawkins, Lord Rees of Ludlow, president of the Royal Society, former government chief scientist Sir David King, the novelist Martin Amis and the comedian and doctor Harry Hill. We, the undersigned, believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence, the statement reads.

Dr Singh's supporters spoke out against the BCA's decision to launch legal action against an individual with no financial support. When a powerful organisation tries to silence a man of Simon Singh's reputation [he was made an MBE in 2003 for services to science] then anyone who believes in science, fairness and truth should rise in indignation, Fry said.

Professor Dawkins added: The English libel laws are ridiculed as an international charter for litigious mountebanks, and the effects are especially pernicious where science is concerned. While Sir David said: It is ridiculous that a legal and outmoded definition of a word has been used to hinder and discourage scientific debate. We must be able to fairly and reasonably challenge ideas without fear of legal intimidation. This sort of thing only brings the law into disrepute.


4th June   

Snitch Happy Britain...

Brits the mostly likely to flag up YouTube videos
Link Here

British YouTube users are amongst the most sensitive in the world, executives at the site have claimed.

The company has reacted by introducing special Britain-only policies following a raft of complaints from users over gang-related videos.

Victoria Grand, head of policy at YouTube, told The Times: The UK is a big flagging country. We get a lot of videos flagged up in the UK because of issues that British people are concerned about which maybe aren't an issue in the US, such as the brandishing of guns.

Scott Rubin, YouTube's head of communication, said: In terms of outside regulation verses internal regulation, this is a very new world, so the people who are closest to that world are the ones who understand best. We have a vested interest in making this site a place that's safe for advertisers and good for the community. Regulators coming from the outside would not have this deep understanding.

Calls have also been made by internet safety groups across Europe for websites such as YouTube to be subject to the same degree of regulation as television channels, but Rubin rejected the demands: We are not a broadcaster.

YouTube representatives have been in Britain in the past week to meet MPs and officials from the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom to demonstrate new internal safety measures introduced to bolster the self-regulation.

The site has partnered with the British organisations Childnet and Beatbullying to introduce a Safety Centre where users, especially children, are offered advice on how to report and deal with people who are harassing or threatening them on YouTube.

YouTube has also signed up to the code of practice set out by the EU Safer Social Networking Initiative and is in consultation with the new UK Council for Child Internet Safety on how to protect and inform children of the dangers of viewing inappropriate content.

This still leaves user-led regulation as the main form of policing available on YouTube. Users can flag videos they believe to be in breach of YouTube's guidelines on violent, offensive, obscene or inappropriate material. These videos are then checked out by a team of reviewers who have received training, including from the FBI, on how to spot dangerous material on their site.

These measures have been introduced after YouTube conceded they could not hope to police the 20 hours of video being uploaded onto the site every minute. The site has, instead, introduced optional swear-word filters for user-generated text on the site and has updated its technology to allow its reviewers to police flagged videos more quickly.

John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said he was encouraged by the changes to the policing of the site, but vowed to remain watchful of the situation: It's something we will continue to monitor and if any further areas for concern arise, we will raise that with them.


1st June   

Academic Trash...

Brunel University and Nouveaux Pictures to take trash seriously
Link Here

In what is believed to be the UK's first ever cross commercial-academic film venture, Brunel University's School of Arts Cult Film Archive, via its Cine-Excess project, has been given the rights to the archive of some of the 300 movies owned by the legendary B-movie producer and film director, Roger Corman.

The university's intention to take trash seriously in an academic respect and to release the films from the Corman archive on DVD has led to the university's lecturer in Film and TV Studies and director of Cine-Excess, Xavier Mendik, seeking out the services of the prestigious London-based art film outlet, Nouveaux Pictures, as a joint distributor of its forthcoming titles.

Cine-Excess was originally established in 2007 by the Cult Film Archive at Brunel University as a high profile annual conference and film festival aimed at bringing together leading international scholars and critics with global cult filmmakers for a series of plenary talks, filmmaker interviews and UK theatrical premieres of up and coming cult releases.

The aim of the Nouveaux Pictures/Cine-Excess label is to bring the very best examples of cult cinema to both the commercial consumer and to the cult film studies educational sector. Extra features on the label's releases will include university academics discussing the films, many of which have been, or are being remade in Hollywood, but may also have a "retro" appeal to new audiences and are of interest to film studies students.

The first DVD release from Nouveaux Pictures/Cine-Excess will be VIVA, the debut full-length feature by LA-based artist and filmmaker Anna Biller. Future releases will include the Corman-directed NOT OF THIS EARTH and ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS and Ron Howard's directorial debut feature, GRAND THEFT AUTO, along with such well-known cult cinema titles as SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, BIG BAD MAMA, DEATH SPORT, THE CRY BABY KILLER starring Jack Nicholson, plus Dick Maas' AMSTERDAMNED and a Special Edition of Dario Argento's classic, SUSPIRIA.

Speaking about the planned releases, Xavier Mendik said, These are probably the first cross commercial-academic DVD movie releases ever. For someone who grew up as a cult film fan the opportunity to be able to release some of my all-time favourite movies is a dream come true.


31st May   

Pig Business...

Legal threats to documentary criticising Smithfield Foods
Link Here

A documentary about intensive pig farming due to be screened at the Guardian Hay festival is facing a legal threat from one of the companies it investigates.

Pig Business criticises the practices of the world's largest pork processor, Smithfield Foods, claiming it is responsible for environmental pollution and health problems among residents near its factories.

The film was due to be broadcast on Channel 4 in February but was cancelled because of legal fears. A planned screening at the Frontline Club in London earlier this year was also called off.

On Wednesday London's Barbican centre was forced to delay a screening of the film after Smithfield's lawyers wrote a letter saying that the film was defamatory and included untrue claims. The show went ahead when the filmmaker, Tracy Worcester, signed an indemnity taking personal responsibility for its content.

A spokesman for Smithfield said that the company had never threatened to sue the filmmaker or tried to prevent the film being screened, but had requested that inaccuracies or false allegations be removed.

Pig Business shows the cramped conditions in which pigs are reared, similar to those of battery hens, and claims that waste is inadequately disposed off, leaking into the surrounding environment.

Worcester interviewed people who live near Smithfield farms in the US, where the company started out, who complain of health problems including asthma and digestive illnesses, and fishermen who report that stocks have been destroyed. The film documents the company's move to Poland, where locals claim to experience similar health problems.

Worcester, who spent four years making the film, said: It's crucial that consumers are able to watch this so they know what is being done to their food.


30th May   

More Cocks...

Edinburgh film festival screening to be uncut despite cock fighting scene
Link Here

Edinburgh audiences will see the blood sport of cock-fighting in its full savagery after city councillors ruled there should be no censorship at the Film Festival.

The scene is part of the Mexican film Rudo y Cursi , or Rough and Vulgar , which is to receive a Gala screening at this year's festival with director Carlos Cuaron and stars Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal set to attend.

The film follows its two stars as they aim to become football stars, and features a 20-second long cock-fighting scene, a sport illegal in the UK but popular in Mexico.

While the scene in the film does not include any animals being killed, it was of sufficient concern that EIFF organisers decided to flag it up to the city council, who must approve all festival screenings.

It is understood film promoters will cut the scene when it goes on general release in the UK to get a 15 certificate.

The city's licensing committee decided the scene should be allowed to stay for the festival however, as they felt the film should be shown in its uncut form. But they have ruled it should treated as an 18 certificate film rather than a 15.

Tory city centre councillor Joanna Mowatt, who was on the licensing committee that voted to keep the scene in, said: We decided to keep it in. After all, this is an international film festival and there shouldn't be any censorship. People should be able to enjoy the films in their entirety and if that involves scenes that are culturally challenging, so be it.

This year the council have also asked the festival to put signs outside every screening to inform people the films have not been certified by the BBFC, and giving an indication of the suggested rating agreed by the council.

Diane Henderson, deputy artistic director of the EIFF, said: We are very happy the festival is able to screen the full director's cut.


27th May

 Offsite: Telegraph Torture...

Link Here
Libel threats against Nadine Dorries underline the need for legal reform

See article from


19th May   

Update: Police Music Censors...

Concerts cancelled after discussions with police alerted by Form 696
Link Here

Police have defended their use of a controversial form that requires live music venues to hand over details of performers, promoters and fans.

The Met introduced the risk assessment form 696  identify gigs where they claim trouble might flare up, partly in response to black-on-black violence.

But it has been criticised for being heavy-handed and racially motivated.

The Met claimed the form had played its part in an 11% drop in serious violence in licensed premises in 2008.

Thomas Bowen, head of the Met team that deals with Form 696, said: A co-ordinated effort, and 696 assisting the process of identifying potential gang conflict, is undoubtedly contributing towards that reduction of shooting incidents in licensed premises.

Around 70 London pubs and clubs are currently required to complete the form. It asks for the names, dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers of promoters and artists, for details of the target audience and for the style of music, eg bashment, R'n'B, garage.

It recently came in for criticism from the House of Commons Culture select committee, which recommended that the form be scrapped, saying it imposed unreasonable conditions on events and goes beyond the Licensing Act.

It has also come under fire from Feargal Sharkey, former Undertones singer and now head of UK Music, an umbrella body that represents the British music industry: It needs to be abolished. It is now quite clearly beginning to have an impact in certain musical types and genres within the London area.

Last autumn, a concert to raise money for a teenage cancer charity was cancelled on police advice because the performers refused to give their personal details on the form, Sharkey said.

Earlier this month, a gig called Project Urban at the O2's Indigo venue was to have hosted some of the biggest names in UK hip-hop, including Tinchy Stryder, Wiley and DJ Ironik, but was called off.

There is no suggestion that those acts had been associated with any trouble. The promoters said police deemed it higher risk because they had not included the dates of birth of a couple of artists.

Jon McClure, singer with indie group Reverend and the Makers, has claimed the form is racist because it targets black audiences, and has started a petition against its use.


17th May   

Collateral Damage...

Ministry of Defence block troops from accessing
Link Here

Page 3 girls have launched a full frontal attack on Ministry of Defence killjoys — after they banned troops from looking at the beauties online.

The girls staged a protest at the MoD’s HQ in Whitehall after bureaucrats ruled that admiring their bazookas on was inappropriate for military personnel

The bombshell means 10,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus 25,000 sailors and airmen, are barred from seeing the site even on their own private laptops.

The Sun is urging Defence Secretary John Hutton to intervene.

We have been bombarded with complaints from soldiers and sailors since MoD internet servers began blocking A Royal Navy chief petty officer said: The fun police have struck again — it’s maddening.


15th May   

Saville Row...

Manic Street Preachers album to be sold under wraps
Link Here

The new Manic Street Preachers album is being shipped to supermarkets in a plain slipcase because its artwork has been deemed inappropriate.

Concerns have been raised that the cover for Journal For Plague Lovers , a portrait by artist Jenny Saville, looks like it is splattered with blood.

Singer James Dean Bradfield called the situation utterly bizarre. We just thought it was a beautiful painting. We were all in total agreement.

The frontman disagreed that Saatchi favourite Saville had intended to depict a bloody face: If you're familiar with her work, there's a lot of ochres and browns and reds and browns and perhaps people are looking for us to be more provocative than we are being. We just saw a much more modern version of Lucian Freud-esque brushstrokes. That's all we saw.

Four of the main supermarket chains - Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons - are among the shops using the slip cover.

Asda told 6 Music they wanted to be extra cautious in case the artwork upset some of its customers.

Meanwhile Nicola Williamson, Sainsbury's music buyer, said: We felt that some customers might consider this particular album cover to be inappropriate if it were prominently displayed on the shelf. As such, the album will be sold in a sleeve provided by the publisher.


15th May   

Diary: A Nose for the Naughty Bits...

Jonathan Yeo creates collage of Mary Whitehouse from porn
Link Here

The Rathbone, Rathbone Place, Soho London
15 May – 25 June 2009

An artist has produced a portrait of Cliff Richard with morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse out of pornographic cuttings from top-shelf magazines. From a distance, the collage looks harmless. But on closer examination, intimate body parts and various sexual poses become clear.

The portrait goes on display with a price tag of £25,000 at a new West End gallery which opens tonight.

The artist, Jonathan Yeo, told the Standard today he had chosen Mrs Whitehouse, who died in 2001 because he always had a problem with her . Sir Cliff is targeted because anybody who has lived in apparent abstinence deserves a bit of ribbing.

Yeo said: If Mary Whitehouse was still around I hope she would treat this picture as an insult. She equated nudity, bad language and violence as if they were all equally dangerous. I presume Cliff will have a sense of humour about it.

John Beyer, who took over Mrs Whitehouse's campaign, said: To have her memory besmirched is contemptible and passé. He needs to grow up.

But Mrs Whitehouse's son Richard said: It is quite witty really.


8th May   

Reading Too Much into the Leaves...

Reading Chronicle censured for excessive suicide details
Link Here

Mr and Mrs Marsh of Caversham complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article published in the Reading Chronicle on 15th January 2009, headlined Lucy was a ‘soul in torment’ , contained excessive detail about a method of suicide in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the editors’ Code of Practice.

The article reported the suicide of the complainants’ daughter, who had taken her own life by consuming poisonous leaves. It set out the following details: the precise type of leaf that had been used; the fact that the leaves had been ingested; the specific type of toxin found in the leaves; and the fact that death would have been quick as there was no antidote.

The newspaper said it had taken care to remove a reference to how the leaves were prepared which, in its view, was the sole detail that could have led to copy-cat suicides. It considered that it was important to report the fundamental cause of death and said this particular method of suicide was not that rare. The complainants disputed both these points.

PCC Adjudication: Upheld

The purpose of Clause 5 (ii) is to minimise the risk of copycat suicides by requiring that care is taken not to publish excessive detail of the method used in suicide cases. This requirement extends to the reporting of inquests.

On this occasion, the Commission considered that the level of detail was excessive. The information in the piece included the type of leaf used; how the deceased found out about it; the fact there was no antidote; and a reference to the speed of the process. Taken together, the Commission was concerned that this information may have been sufficient to spell out to others how to carry out such a suicide. There was therefore a breach of the Code and the complaint was upheld.


6th May   

Update: Rotten Apple Spoils a Lovely Bunch...

Apple censors The Sun for its page 3 fun
Link Here
Full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

Apple may put News International's nose out of joint with its definition of 'obscene', after rejecting a newspaper-reading iPhone app for reasons of rudeness.

Newspaper(s), an application that renders content from the world's newspapers, was rejected by iTunes because it included the UK's Sun newspaper - complete with topless Page Three girl - on the grounds that it violates the iTunes policy on obscene content.

But the Sun reckons it's a family paper, and takes accusations of pornography-pushing very seriously indeed.

According to a report on iLounge the publisher of Newspaper(s) was recommended to resubmit the application once OS 3.0 is released, after which a suitable category will be available, but instead decided to remove the offending newspaper from the app.


4th May

 Offsite: Authoritarian Government and Legal Actions...

Link Here
The many-headed serpent that threatens freedom of the press

See article from


1st May   

Five Soldiers Singing...

Israel 61 Family Show cancelled by Bloomsbury Theatre
Link Here

A group of singers from the Israeli army have become embroiled in a censorship row after their performance in London was cancelled over fears the content was political.

The five soldiers from the Israeli Defence Force, had been due to perform a medley of national songs at the Bloomsbury Theatre as part of a celebration for their country's 61st anniversary.

But the venue, owned by University College London, claimed the content was against the spirit of the agreement.

The Zionist Federation, the organisers of the event, claim the songs do not have any military content and have accused UCL of censorship. A spokesman said: The Bloomsbury Theatre has decided they should impose censorship on what people should be allowed to see. We agreed to remove the soldiers' act from the bill but even then the theatre was against the whole thing.

The event, the Israel 61 Family Show was rescheduled at another venue,

Peter Cadley, director of the Bloomsbury Theatre, said: We took the booking on the understanding it was going to be an entertainment event. We received assurances to that effect and then we spotted on the website about the IDF. This was against the spirit of the agreement so we decided to cancel.


26th April   

For a Freer World...

The 2009 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award winners
Link Here

The ceremony, hosted by Index on Censorship Chair Jonathan Dimbleby, with a keynote speech by Sir David Hare, honoured those who had made a contribution to free expression in five categories: books, films, journalism, new media and law and campaigning.

Speaking at the event, Jonathan Dimbleby said: Freedom of expression helps to define our essence as human beings and citizens. Everywhere this right is under growing threat. The Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards are a chance to celebrate those who against all odds have made distinguished contributions to this vital cause - to protect and enhance liberty in Britain and around the world.

The recipients of the awards for 2009 are:

The Guardian Journalism Award: The Sunday Leader – Sri Lanka

The Sunday Leader and its journalists have been subject to continual threats and brutal harassment since it was launched 15 years ago. The assassination of the Sunday Leader’s editor and co-founder Lasantha Wickrematunge in January provoked protests and vigils around the world. His brother Lal has since bravely taken on the position of editor, continuing the important work of the newspaper.

The Economist New Media Award: Psiphon

Psiphon is a revolutionary software programme that allows Internet access in countries where censorship is imposed. The programme turns a regular home computer into a personal, encrypted server, capable of retrieving and displaying web pages anywhere. Psiphon was developed as a human rights software project by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. One of its aims is to design software that is easy to use, so that those with limited technical abilities can take advantage of the technology.

The TR Fyvel Book Award: Beijing Coma – Ma Jian

Spiked with dark wit, poetic beauty and deep rage, Beijing Coma takes the life (and near death) of one young student to create a dazzling novel about contemporary China. In May 1989, tens of thousands of students are camped out in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. But what started as a united protest at the slow pace of their government’s political reform has begun to lose direction. People from all over China are coming to join the demonstration, but the students at its heart are confused by the influence they suddenly wield, and riven by petty in-fighting. One of them, Dai Wei, argues about everything from democracy to the distribution of food to protesters, little knowing that, on 4 June, a soldier will shoot a bullet into his head, sending him into a deep coma.

The Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award: Malik Imtiaz Sarwar – Malaysia

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is a leading human rights lawyer and activist and the current president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). Imtiaz has been a central figure in fighting lawsuits brought against journalists and bloggers, and was the lead counsel for Raja Petra Kamaruddin, popular blogger and editor of Malaysia Today, whose release he secured last year. In August 2006, a poster declaring him to be a traitor to Islam and calling for his death was circulated in Malaysia. He has proposed setting up an inter-faith council, and spoken in a series of public forums on the need for religious freedom.

The Index on Censorship Film Award: The Devil Came on Horseback

Using the exclusive photographs and first-hand testimony of former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle, Directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern The Devil Came on Horseback takes the viewer on an emotionally-charged journey into the heart of Darfur. Steidle had access to parts of the country that no journalist could penetrate; he was unprepared for what he would witness and experience, including being fired at, taken hostage, and being unable to intervene to save the lives of young children. Ultimately frustrated by the inaction of the international community, Steidle resigned and returned to the US to expose the images and stories of lives he believed were being systematically destroyed.


23rd April   

Poles Apart...

Facebook accused of allowing racist groups to congregate
Link Here

Facebook has become a breeding ground for racists and far-right extremists, according to immigrant leaders and anti-racism campaigners, who believe the site's owners.

The Federation of Poles in Great Britain has written a letter to Facebook's owner Mark Zuckerburg, calling on him to close down an anti-Polish group where one member said Polish people should be thrown down the well.

Jan Mokrzycki, a spokesman for the federation said: Generally we try not to react against every inflammatory gesture against Polish people, but the language within the website was so rude and racist that we felt like we had no choice.

He added: I recognise that you can't stop every racist website out there, but I would like to think that a supposedly respectable site like Facebook would have better checks and controls on what gets put on their site.

The sheer size of Facebook's online community makes monitoring extremists difficult. But a number of groups calling on Britain to throw out, and even kill, foreign nationals have been operating freely for months.

Dennis MacShane, the Labour MP for Rotherham whose father fled Poland before the Nazi invasion and fought for Britain during the Second World War, said social networking sites had allowed racists to talk openly without fear of reprisals: The way you defeat extremism, intolerance, prejudice and racism is to atomise it and make people feel that even if they think racist thoughts they can't say it openly. But websites like Facebook have unfortunately allowed people to come together in one space and say, 'there are people out there like me'. That is something that worries me greatly. For all the good social networking sites do, they also allow people to express prejudice that in a civilised society should be kept under lock and key.


21st April   

Gnomic Mentality...

Whinging at naughty garden gnomes
Link Here

It was meant to be a cheeky joke - three saucy garden gnomes that had a lot more on show than the usual fishing rod and wheelbarrow.

But after a neighbour complained to a council the nude figures were upsetting her children, their owner has been ordered to cover up their modesty.

The gnomes, one male and two female, have taken pride of place in Sandra Smith’s brightly decorated front garden - which boasts more than 200 novelty statues and figures - for around 15 years.

One neighbour complained to Bromsgrove District Council, and last week Mrs Smith was told to clothe the three 2ft clay creations by an officer who telephoned her.

Mrs Smith said: They have been here for around 15 years and everyone who visits me finds them funny and a bit harmless fun. They’re proper cheeky chappies with their little smiley faces looking up at you. Whenever people come up to the door delivering parcels they ask if they can have a little look under their T-shirt.

The offended neighbour confirmed she had made the complaint. The woman, who did not wish to be named, said she thought the gnomes were pathetic. I don’t think they should be in a garden with my young kids running around nearby. They are childish and I think it pathetic that they are in a front garden in full view of everyone.


17th April   

Offsite: Fret Saw...

Save me from torture porn: the theme-park rollercoaster
Link Here

The place my 17-year-old brother and his friends really wanted to go this Easter was Thorpe Park, for it was there, in the bucolic Surrey countryside, that they could be dropped from 100 feet into what the amusement park calls the head chopper . The head chopper is a series of rotating blades that you may well have seen on television, in adverts for Saw: The Ride, the world's first horror-movie-themed rollercoaster.

The term "horror" doesn't quite cover it though: really, it is torture porn, a phrase that first entered our vernacular a couple of years ago, only to become almost as successful a genre as the romantic comedy. In Hostel, a group of tourists are sold to wealthy businessmen who get off on tormenting them. In Captivity, a model is made to drink liquified body parts. Wolf Creek, Vacancy, Turistas, Wrong Turn, Saws I through V… all feature gratuitous, prolonged violence that invites the audience to glory in the demise of the victim, who is usually female and semi-naked. Thirty years ago they would have been banned along with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre; today they are freely available to watch at cinemas or to rent from your friendly DVD store. And now we have torture porn: the theme-park ride.

...Read full article

Comment: Total utter bollox!

From Dan

"Thirty years ago they would have been banned along with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre; today they are freely available to watch at cinemas or to rent from your friendly DVD store. And now we have torture porn: the theme-park ride."

Obviously the writer wants to go back to the days when such evil corrupting violent filth was banned and nobody was allowed to see it for "their own good".

"A few weeks ago, a Telegraph reader, Andrew Schofield, wrote in to criticise the British Board of Film Classification for allowing films such as Saw into the mainstream ( I do not comprehend the mentality of otherwise intelligent and responsible adults who cannot see the effect of screen sadism on young, developing minds, he said). A few days later, some young boys were found in Doncaster beaten to within an inch of their lives by their peers."

And what evidence do you have to show that such a violent attack was caused by violent torture porn movies?

None eh? Just your own personal opinions and prejudices based not on fact but hysterical scaremongering eh?

Thought so!

It just I think violent films turn youngsters into violent brutal monsters so I just know every incident where youngsters behave like violent brutal monsters is caused by violent films, total utter bollox!


15th April   

Open Secrets...

UK intelligence services fail to get book banned
Link Here

MI5 and MI6 have conceded they cannot stop the publication of a book on Britain's security and intelligence agencies even though it is said to contain the names of officers who have not previously been identified.

The courts would not grant an injunction, officials said, because the book, Secret Wars - One Hundred Years of British Intelligence Inside MI5 and MI6 , by Gordon Thomas, has already been published, and is widely available, in the US.

Journalists and editors were asked yesterday to consult Andrew Vallance, a retired air vice-marshal, secretary of the D notice advisory committee, before publishing the names of what he referred to as alleged MI5 or MI6 officers. The committee runs a system of voluntary self-censorship on defence, security and intelligence matters, in co-operation with the media.

Thomas's book was published in the US two months ago and is due to be published in the UK on 4 May.

Whitehall officials made clear yesterday that while they could do little about the book, its publication was unwelcome. They have little control now over what can be published about the activities of Britain's security and intelligence agencies and would like the public to rely on officially approved accounts of their work.


13th April   

Diary: The Heresy Project: Kill Your God...

Censored in Leicester, Banned in Swansea, Atheist Comedy Comes to Brighton
Link Here

The Heresy Project: Kill Your God
Brighton Festival Fringe 2009
The Quadrant, 12 North St Quadrant, Brighton
18:30 May 8 9 10
Tickets in advance or on the door

After already being forced to change their show title and promotion for their 2009 Leicester Comedy Festival show, Atheist comedy duo ‘The Heresy Project’ have now had their July date at The Dylan Thomas Centre cancelled by Swansea City Council.

The council run Dylan Thomas Centre, a venue named after the son of a devout atheist, claimed that the show The Heresy Project: Kill Your God , booked to perform as part of the venue’s Beyond The Fringes series, has been vetoed by line management and are seeking a replacement.

The Heresy Project are in the process of choosing an alternative venue for their Welsh debut, but this time will avoid any city that didn’t lift its ban on Monty Python’s The Life of Brian until 1997.

Despite selling out at the Glasgow and Leicester Comedy Festivals, this show can’t be seen in Swansea, it can however still be seen at the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe.

no-holds-barred comedy…satirising both religion and militant atheism
Edinburgh Evening News

reminiscent of early 90s, late night Channel 4…...if you don't manage to catch them now, you'll probably see them in hell
The Skinny


8th April   

Update: Censorship Syllabus...

Teachers concerned government influence over syllabus
Link Here

Teachers have attacked politicians' meddling in the national curriculum and the censorship of English literature, warning against the schools secretary, Ed Balls, winning the power to dictate what pupils read and learn.

Delegates at the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) voted to raise the issue of censorship with Balls following the banning of Carol Ann Duffy's poem Education for Leisure , which refers to knife crime, from an AQA exam board anthology last year after extreme pressure from a group of MPs.

Teresa Dawes, an ATL member from Park House school in Berkshire, said: It rather makes one think of historical book burnings and all that implies. If young people don't get the opportunity to think critically about difficult but important topics in school, topics that often trouble them, where do they discuss them? The idea of any politician determining which parts of history or science children are taught or which books they study is indeed a chilling and frightening one


7th April   

Updated: Pimp Centre Plus...

Scottish TUC whinge about job centre ads for the adult trade
Link Here

Scotland's Trade Union Congress has called for the abolition of outrageous advertisement of sex industry vacancies by Jobcentre Plus, amid fears that rising unemployment could see vulnerable women lured by the promise of lucrative earnings.

A co-ordinated campaign by the nutters of Object, the Feminist Coalition against Prostitution, and women's group Eaves, has branded UK job centres as Pimp Centre Plus in protest against the growing numbers of "exploitative" posts on offer.

Latest statistics show the service advertised 351 roles within the adult entertainment industry, ranging from party planners selling sex toys and sex shop workers to strippers, topless models and even a semi-nude butler.

The legitimate advertising of jobs in the adult entertainment industry has been a major issue for feminist and nutter groups since a legal ruling in 2003 ordered that the sex shop Ann Summers could advertise its vacancies in Jobcentre Plus. Under the ruling, centres must carry any job vacancy as long as it is complies with the law.

Mary Senior, the assistant secretary of the STUC said: "We're deeply concerned about attempts to normalise this because I think it's just perpetuating the objectification of women and certain attitudes - violent attitudes, abusive attitudes.

Many people who become involved in this sort of work are vulnerable, whether it's because of poverty, drug abuse or other sorts of substance abuse or other traumatic events which have happened in their lives. This so-called industry' preys on these types of women, and I think it's very disturbing.


3rd April   

Updated: Law for Bloggers...

Court reporting restrictions only apply to those that know about them
Link Here

Bloggers might be able to escape court reporting restrictions because they have not been informed of the restrictions. An ongoing case about a boy said to have fathered a child at 12 years of age has highlighted the issue.

Reporting on that case has been restricted but foreign news outlets have carried stories about it, with versions of those stories appearing on websites accessible from the UK.

Some bloggers have picked up the stories and may be within their rights to publish while national newspapers cannot. The court order imposing the reporting restrictions says that it only applies to people who know about the restriction.

There is no central database of reporting restrictions, so while newspapers are informed of restrictions, bloggers generally are not, opening a legal loophole for their possible publishing of restricted information.

The order does, in principle, apply to 'bloggers' because it applies to all persons who know that the order has been made, said James McBurney of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. Bloggers, along with any other person or corporation are therefore prohibited from publishing any of the restricted material, but only if they know that it is in place to start with, which is where the difficulty arises: how are they supposed to know about it?

McBurney said that publishers and bloggers should take down material from a case once they find out that it is the subject of a reporting restriction.

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