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UK News

2012: July-Sept

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Update: Easily Offended Manchester Police...

Getting heavy over another football insult on Twitter

Link Here29th September 2012
Full story: Insulting UK Law...UK proesecutions of jokes and insults on social media

A football fan who sent a Twitter insult about Premier League referee and cancer survivor Mark Halsey following last weekend's Liverpool v Manchester United game has been cautioned by police.

Liverpool supporter John Wareing tweeted: I hope Mark Halsey gets cancer again and dies , after the official sent off Reds midfielder Jonjo Shevley and handed United a late penalty that gave Sir Alex Ferguson's side a 2-1 win.

Commenting on the incident, easily offended DS Tony Lunt of Greater Manchester Police spouted:

Clearly the victim and his family were very distressed by the extremely offensive comments posted on Twitter. We take all reports of abuse on social networking sites very seriously as these remarks can and do have a devastating impact on people's lives.

As a result of our investigation, we have cautioned a man who has admitted responsibility for some of the messages. This individual was very apologetic and realises that in a moment of stupidity he posted deeply derogatory remarks about the victim and completely regrets his actions.

Our inquiries are ongoing to identify anyone else who posted these offensive messages.



Offsite Article: Daily Mail Blame Game...

Link Here18th September 2012
Woman raped and strangled by porn-obsessed neighbour after he watched online films of women being attacked

See article from



Update: A Costly Rant...

Man found guilty of grossly offensive communication after a Facebook rant about dead soldiers

Link Here15th September 2012
Full story: Twitter Twits...Police overreact to trivial insults via Twitter and Facebook

A teenager has been found guilty of posting an offensive Facebook message following the deaths of six British soldiers in Afghanistan.

Azhar Ahmed, 19, was charged with sending a grossly offensive communication.

He told Huddersfield Magistrates Court he accepted the message had been unacceptable but had denied it was grossly offensive .

The judge said his comments were derogatory, disrespectful and inflammatory .

The six soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device in March. The offending message, which said all soldiers should die and go to hell , was posted by Ahmed two days later on 8 March.

Ahmed told the court he was only trying to make his point that many other deaths in Afghanistan were being ignored and added he had no idea it would cause so much upset.

He will be sentenced later.

Do western democracies protect free speech?

See  article from

In the age of social media, the European Union needs to defend free expression. But it often falls far short, says Padraig Reidy.

Update: Sentenced

10th October 2012. See  article from

Azhar Ahmed has been given a community order after being found guilty of sending a grossly offensive communication . Ahmed, 19, from West Yorkshire wrote on Facebook that All soldiers should DIE & go to HELL! This morning at Huddersfield Magistrates' Court he was fined 300 and ordered to complete 240 hours of community service over a two-year period.



Update: Scotland's Never Ending Shame...

Stephen Gough's sentence extended to 6 years and 4 months for being naked in public

Link Here14th September 2012
Full story: Naked Rambler...Stephen Gough imprisoned for being naked

Naked Rambler Stephen Gough has been jailed for a further five months after refusing to get dressed and go home to England. He has been jailed ever since 25th August 2006. So his sentence has now totalled 6 years and 4 months.

Gough appeared in court suitably naked for sentencing at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court, Fife.

He was found guilty last month of committing a supposed breach of the peace by strolling naked near a swing park where children were playing in Dunfermline, also Fife, and refusing to put on clothes.

Gough who insists he is not a naturist and claims his naked rambles are a protest , was initially removed from the dock after only five minutes when he refused to sit down so his privates were hidden by the wooden dock. After he was brought back in, and agreed to sit, the court heard he had refused to meet social workers and so no assessment was available.

Persecutor Brian Robertson said the Crown was prepared to help him go back to England if he co-operated.

Sheriff James Williamson told Gough, that he was concerned that he had not met or co-operated with social workers drawing up the background report ordered. The sheriff said: Will you meet with them and assist them?

When Gough responded, No, not really , Sheriff Williamson said he had been left with no choice but to jail him for five months.

[So why don't the authorities transfer him to a prison near his home in Hampshire whilst he is in custody?]



Update: Only Drizzle from Sky...

The Cloud Public WiFi service will be censored for children

Link Here11th September 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Sky has announced that its public Wi-Fi service, The Cloud, will begin blocking adult related content as standard from October.

The move means shops, venues and other commercial buildings covered by The Cloud's network that want a children's internet service will have their wireless broadband filtered automatically.

Lyssa McGowan, Sky's brand director for communications products said:

We believe this will give parents the peace of mind that when their children access content over Sky networks outside the home, where we can't offer individual parental controls, they will be similarly protected as when in the home.

The Cloud will be the first Wi-Fi operator in the UK to take this step.



Offsite Article: Bare Boobs and Bare Faced Prudery...

Link Here11th September 2012
The next batch of nutters get wound up by Page 3

See article from



Offsite Article: The Ends Incited by the Means...

Link Here31st August 2012
Full story: Suicide Censorship...UK government proposes to ban suicide information
Campaigners condemn suicide websites that provide information about best methods, seemingly conflating 'providing information' with 'incitement'

See article from



Grousing about Shooting Magazines...

Country culture vs animal rights activists

Link Here30th August 2012

An animal rights group is campaigning for country sports magazines to be promoted to the top shelf, alongside pornography, because of their supposed corrosive effect on young minds.

Animal Aid is calling for a ban on their sale to under-18s, and will soon be leafleting major retailers with claims that such magazines celebrate casual cruelty and can effect the emotional development of children.

The Westcountry's country sports community rounded on the ridiculous comments, citing the discipline which shooting instills and lauding it as a way to encourage young people to get out into the countryside.

And Farming Minister Jim Paice said the campaign failed to recognise the contribution that country sports made to rural economies. He said:

Animal Aid doesn't want to understand the reality of what goes on in the countryside -- the value of these sports to local communities, to their economies and to conservation.

Animal Aid has produced a report, and won support from Peter Squires, Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at the University of Brighton. He said organisations which promote the shooting of animals should not be allowed to promote their activities to children.

British Association for Shooting and Conservation spokesman Simon Clarke said:

This is one of the more ridiculous campaigns to come from extreme animal rights activists with a vegan agenda. Shooting magazines promote best practice in pest control and game shooting, both vital elements of the countryside.

Trying to ban magazines because you happen to disagree with their content is crass censorship at its worst.



Simon Cowell Cops Booed Off...

Liverpool Council thwarted in an attempt to censor buskers

Link Here30th August 2012

Liverpool City Council suspended its plan to become a censor for buskers  after a legal challenge.

Street performers are claiming victory in the first round of a court challenge to the council plans to introduce a suffocating system of licensing and quality checks. The threat of a High Court injunction prompted council chiefs to suspend the measures pending a review .

Liverpool buskers had been ordered to buy a permit, pay an annual fee for insurance and book pitches in advance before they could perform in the city. Under the censorship rules any busker who was not licensed and up to the performance quality mark set by council officials or police could have been ordered off the streets.

Permits cost 20 a year and buskers and other street performers were also required to pay 100 a year for public liability insurance. The new rules came into force on 1st August but caused controversy with the scheme dubbed The Simon Cowell Cops , after the music mogul known for his ruthless treatment of performers.

But a Keep The Streets Alive! campaign enlisted the support of solicitor David Kirwan who sought a High Court judicial review of what he described as restrictive terms and conditions .

In a hearing at the High Court in Manchester Liverpool City Council declared that new busking regulations have been suspended pending the outcome of a review. Kirwan said:

Legal proceedings appear to have focused the minds of Liverpool City Council's leaders.

We are pleased that implementation of the unfair policy has been suspended, therefore protecting buskers in the short term at least.

Our belief is that the new policy is unreasonable and unlawful and that ultimately a High Court Judge will share our view at judicial review.



Update: Opting for a Children's Internet...

Survey finds support for default blocking of sites for adults

Link Here30th August 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

A survey commissioned by Recombu Digital for The Telegraph shows that 37% of adults in the UK would support a mandatory block on adult websites.

The poll of 2,000 adults in the UK found that about 25% of respondents join ISPs in opposing such a plan. A further 18% declined to state their position.

Only 7-13% of respondents admitted they would opt to be able to view adult material.



Updated: Feeling a Bit Harried...

UK press banned from publishing pictures of Prince Harry having fun

Link Here25th August 2012

While millions of people around the world have been able to view the naked images of Prince Harry cavorting with girls in a Las Vegas hotel online, the photographs have been banned in Britain by a furious Royal Family.

British newspapers and TV stations have been unable to show the pictures after Harry's father Prince Charles threatened legal action and St James's Palace warned that the pictures were a gross invasion of the young royal's privacy.

A St James's Palace spokesman also confirmed that it had contacted the Press Complaints Commission about the images.

Two grainy pictures of the young royal cavorting with a naked woman in his Las Vegas hotel suite were published on TMZ, which is the second most popular entertainment news website in the U.S. and has an audience of more than 18.5million on its own. But within hours, they were also being shared on dozens other websites with a huge combined global reach.

Update: Flash Harry

24th August 2012. See  article from

The Sun has become the first British newspaper to publish the photos of a naked Prince Harry taken in Las Vegas.

Owner News International said it was making the move despite warnings from the Royal Family's lawyers that it would be an invasion of his privacy.

The Sun said the images were widely available around the world, its readers had a right to see them and freedom of the press was being tested.

Update: The Sunny Side

25th August 2012. See  article from

About 850 complaints have been made to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about naked photographs of Prince Harry that were published in the Sun.

The PCC said all the complaints it has received came from members of the public and none had come from St James's Palace or any other representatives of the royal. Nearly all of the complaints are about invasion of privacy and are to be investigated in due course. (And will be probably declared out of remit because only those effected can complain).

The Sun said it printed them so the millions of people who get their news in print or have no internet access could take a full part in that national conversation .

A Sun editorial said:

The Prince Harry pictures are a crucial test of Britain's free Press. It is absurd that in the internet age newspapers like The Sun could be stopped from publishing stories and pictures already seen by millions on the free-for-all that is the web.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said he had a deafening indifference to the publication of the naked photos. He told the BBC:

The real scandal would be if you went all the way to Las Vegas and you didn't misbehave in some trivial way.

Update: 3600 complaints but not from anyone that counts

29th August 2012.  See  article from

The press censor has received more than 3,600 complaints about the Sun's publication of pictures of a naked Prince Harry in Las Vegas.

Most of the 3,600 complaints had been received by Tuesday afternoon over an alleged invasion of Prince Harry's privacy by publishing the pictures.

However, the PCC generally does not investigate third party complaints. The PCC said Prince Harry's representatives had not complained as of Tuesday afternoon.



Blogging Judged Dangerous to Impartiality...

UK judges have been allegedly banned from blogging

Link Here11th August 2012

It has been alleged that this guidance has been issued to the judiciary:

Judicial office holders should be acutely aware of the need to conduct themselves, both in and out of court, in such a way as to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.

Blogging by members of the judiciary is not prohibited. However, officer (sic) holders who blog (or who post comments on other people's blogs) must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary. They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known that they hold judicial office, could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general.

The above guidance also applies to blogs which purport to be anonymous. This is because it is impossible for somebody who blogs anonymously to guarantee that his or her identity cannot be discovered.

The author of the blog asks:

So long as judges avoid expressing opinions which.... could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general why can't they blog as judges. They can give interviews, write books, newspaper and magazine articles and lecture as judges so long as they do not compromise their impartiality - why can't they write on blogs as judges?



Armchair Critics...

Edinburgh Airports bans Picasso nude but later restores it

Link Here9th August 2012

Edinburgh airport decided to censor a nude Picasso painting after several people whinged about supposedly offensive material. But after a little further consideration, Nude Woman in a Red Armchair was uncovered.

The BBC reports that the nude Picasso painting greeted passengers in international departures as part of an advertisement for the Modern British Art exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, called the censorship bizarre:

It is obviously bizarre that all kinds of images of women in various states of dress and undress can be used in contemporary advertising without comment, but somehow a painted nude by one of the world's most famous artists is found to be disturbing and has to be removed. I hope that the public will come and see the real thing, which is a joyous and affectionate portrait of one of Picasso's favorite models, an image that has been shown around the world.

A spokesman for the airport said that the decision to censor the painting came after several passengers complained about the artwork. The spokesperson said that the airport always takes customer complaints seriously but may have over-reacted about the nudity in the Picasso painting:

We have now reviewed our original decision and reinstated the image. The initial decision was a reaction to passenger feedback, which we do always take seriously. However on reflection we are more than happy to display the image in the terminal and we'd like to apologize, particularly to the exhibition organisers, for the confusion.



Extract: Despicable Legal Decision...

Judgement extends Obscene Publications Act to private internet chat

Link Here6th August 2012
Full story: Obscene Private Chat...Extending OPA to private internet chat

According to the Court of Appeal's Judgment in the recent case of R v GS [2012] private one to one text chat on the internet can be subject to the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA).

This means that anyone using the internet to discuss sexual fantasies may be at risk of committing a criminal offence.

Prior to this judgment it was presumed that the OPA did not apply to one to one conversations between individuals. This position was clearly overturned by paragraph 21 of Lord Justice Richards' lead Judgment wherein it was stated that:

In our judgment, to publish an article to an individual is plainly to publish it within the meaning of the Act.

...See the full article



Update: Police Don't Need New Laws for Twitter...

But it's us that need new laws to preserve free speech

Link Here5th August 2012
Full story: Insulting UK Law...UK proesecutions of jokes and insults on social media

Twitter should take action as quickly as possible to deal with supposed abuse on its website, according to a senior police officer.

Stuart Hyde, chief constable of Cumbria police who speaks on e-crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it was right for police to intervene in cases of bullying on twitter.

Asked if new laws were needed, Hyde told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

No, I think we have got quite a lot of legislation, dating back to the Malicious Communications Acts of 1998 and 2003. There is a lot there that helps us and gives us the power to do stuff.

This is a new technology, a new way of communicating, it has grown exponentially. There hasn't been separate legislation, so we are using legislation that wasn't particularly created for this, but it works reasonably well most of the time.

We are learning from it, there are things that have sometimes gone wrong and I think sometimes it is important that we make sure we provide the service people need.

If people come to us and say 'I am really upset, I've been offended, my life has been made a misery and I want somebody to do something about it', then yes the police should, whenever possible, try to help.

I don't want police officers dragged off the streets to deal with frivolous complaints. Where these complaints are pretty serious, then it is quite right that we should intervene, and we do that.

It is important to look at the whole context. It is not just about one tweet, it is a whole range of tweets.

Look at what the individual has done -- is this a concerted attempt to have a go at one individual in a way that passes the threshold for offences against the law? If it is, then clearly we should intervene and do something to stop it.

But Hyde said that police have so far not received large numbers of complaints about abusive Twitter messages.



No Free Speech in Gloucester...

Council apologise after being caught banning leaflet

Link Here5th August 2012

A group of Christians banned by a council from handing out leaflets containing passages from the Bible has won an apology.

Gloucester City Council admitted it was wrong to stop worshippers distributing material at a Bible Day celebration. The council issued its apology a day after The Mail on Sunday contacted officials to ask how it justified the ban.

Church leaders in Gloucester complained after a council worker interrupted the event in June, where more than 30 Christians, had gathered at The Cross, a pedestrianised part of the city.

They say the celebration, which included Bible readings and the distribution of a leaflet called Jesus The Suffering Saviour, was ruined by a council employee who claimed that distribution of leaflets contravened a 2002 bylaw on anti-touting.

Roland Parsons, an evangelical preacher who was at the event, said: I'm delighted the council has seen sense. We felt strongly

Gloucester City Council  admitted it was wrong to stop worshippers distributing material at the Bible Day celebration



Extract: Twisted Obscenity Law...

UK judges quietly declare text chat can be obscene

Link Here4th August 2012
Full story: Obscene Private Chat...Extending OPA to private internet chat

You could be committing a criminal offence next time you discuss your deepest fantasies with someone online. Alarmist? Only slightly.

A ruling slipped out quietly by the Appeal Court earlier this year, and lurking in the background while the substantive case to which it applied came to court, makes it plain: the act of publishing as defined within the Obscene Publications Act can take place with an audience of just one individual.

That means it is therefore perfectly possible for the content of online chat, should a jury decide that it is capable of depraving or corrupting , to be judged obscene - and as such for one or both participants in that conversation to be guilty of a criminal offence that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, and a stint on the sex offenders' register.

This is legal dynamite - and in one single judgment catapults the UK to the back of the queue on a range of international indices on freedom of speech.

...Read the full article



Update: Bad Policing...

Are police realising that its a crap job arresting little people for trivial insults?

Link Here1st August 2012
Full story: Insulting UK Law...UK proesecutions of jokes and insults on social media

Police admitted last night that they are being dragged into too many Twitter disputes as a row raged over the decision to arrest a youth who abused Olympic diving star Tom Daley.

The police over reacted and swooped on the home of Reece Messer, 17, at 2.45am yesterday as if he was some sort of highly dangerous master criminal.

Last night, as Dorset police handed the troubled teenager a formal harassment warning, police leaders claimed forces are being dragged into too many petty social media rows.

Officers were asked to look at content 14,000 times on Facebook alone last year and Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said forces do not have the resources to monitor the internet. He said:

There is legislation which concerns causing harassment, alarm or distress. But can we police the internet when someone upsets someone else?

I don't think we have the resources to do that. We can't have a free-for-all online but we cannot involve the police every time something unpleasant is said.



Updated: The 1936 Berlin Olympics?...

A 17 year old arrested for a nasty tweet to athlete Tom Daley

Link Here1st August 2012
Full story: Insulting UK Law...UK proesecutions of jokes and insults on social media

A 17-year-old has been arrested after insulting tweets were sent to Olympic diver Tom Daley accusing him of letting his late father down.

Dorset Police have confirmed the teenager was arrested on suspicion of 'malicious' communications at a guest house in Weymouth following a series of abusive messages.

Daley and his partner Pete Waterfield missed out on a medal \ when they finished fourth in the men's synchronised 10m platform diving event at the Olympics.

Shortly afterwards, Daley retweeted a message from user Rileyy69 which said: You let your dad down i hope you know that.

Daley responded by tweeting: After giving it my get idiot's sending me this...

Rileyy69 apologised: @TomDaley1994 I'm sorry mate i just wanted you to win cause its the olympics I'm just annoyed we didn't win I'm sorry tom accept my apology.

The apologetic messages were interspersed with a stream of expletives and further abuse to other users.

Update: Nastier comments than originally reported

1st August 2012. See article from . Thanks to David

The arrest of the guy tweeting insults to Tom Daley seems to be more about specific, if hardly credible, threats of violence that he made to Daley and at least one other individual.

So it's not just the usual thought police thing this time, though with the cops and CPS having cried wolf enough times with previous stupid Twitter cases...

Offsite Comment: The best response to cruel, offensive or disgusting tweets, is simply to ignore them

1st August 2012. See  article from by John Kampfner



Comment: Obscene Legal Manoeuvre...

Man pleads guilty to an obscene private online chat

Link Here31st July 2012
Full story: Obscene Private Chat...Extending OPA to private internet chat

Kent Police have set a legal precedent after successfully prosecuting a man for making lewd comments about children during a private online conversation.

Gavin Smith was charged in 2010 with nine offences of publishing an obscene article. Under the Obscene Publications Act, it is an offence to supply material ( interpreted as distribute, circulate, sell, hire, give, or lend) , that tends to deprave and corrupt those view it.

When the case first came before magistrates, it was discharged on arguments of no case to answer. However the CPS said they had received new evidence in this matter and, following a review, decided to re-charge Smith.

At his first trial at Maidstone Crown Court in November last year, the court heard that Smith had online conversations in which he spoke about molesting and spanking children. His counsel claimed Kent Police were on a moral crusade by prosecuting Smith under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. The jury in the trial was discharged by Judge Charles Macdonald QC after hearing legal arguments.

His barrister Roger Daniells-Smith told the court on that occasion: This is a test case. We say it is part of a political campaign by Kent Police. We say this is a moral crusade by Kent Police to extend the law, to try to get this material included as extreme pornography. But their arguments to have online conversations included fell on stony ground , he said: They therefore had nothing other than to try (to prosecute) under this act.

But the court decision was subsequently appealed by the Crown Prosecution Service, with the Court of Appeal ruling in their favour.

Smith was due to go on trial for a second time this week. But after being given a Goodyear direction , in which a judge indicates what the likely sentence would be if a defendant pleads guilty, Smith admitted all nine offences after being told that the sentence would likely be a suspended jail term or community order.

Adjourning sentence for reports, Judge Philip St.John-Stevens described the case as unusual .

The case could now open the doors for police forces across the country to charge suspected offenders for online conversations.

Comment: Private conversations considered publication

12th July 2012. Thanks to Angelus

Disclaimer: I am not a legal professional, but...

> Kent Police have set a legal precedent...

Kent Police have not set a legal precedent - to my understanding, only a judge in a Crown Court or higher can set a binding legal precedent.

>...after successfully prosecuting a man...

They did not successfully prosecute anyone in this case - the accused pleaded guilty, which is a very different thing.

This case mirrors very closely recent cases in the USA, where despite strong constitutional protection of freedom of speech, people are regularly threatened with ridiculous sentences unless they plead guilty.

A private conversation is just that - private - and should in no wise be considered publication . To say that such a conversation could constitute the giving of obscene materials is outrageous, and this approach should have been stamped on by any half-competent counsel.

Comment: A private telephone conversation may now also be regarded as a publication

29th July 2012. Thanks to Angelus

Well, it seems I have been completely wrong-footed by this latest judgement, which does set a legal precedent. The section of the OPA in question, 1(3)(b), For the purposes of this Act a person publishes an article who ... in the case of an article containing or embodying matter to be looked at or a record, shows, plays or projects it or, where the matter is data stored electronically, transmits that data is clearly and unambiguously intended to apply to audiovisual material ( record meaning a gramophone record), not text. In order to be able to apply this section to online chat, a chat session must effectively be treated as an audiovisual experience, which given its capability of exchanging audiovisual data (even something as simple as a smiley) is perhaps not too much of a stretch for a legal mind.

However, online chat did not exist when the OPA was first enacted. So, in cases like this, it is part of the duty of the higher courts to examine laws to determine Parliament's clear intention when the legislation was first enacted and reinterpret it for the current situation. Although the OPA's definition of publishing is drawn very widely, it was clearly and obviously never intended to apply to private, interpersonal behaviour, and in this respect the Court of Appeal has now committed a grave error. So grave that it now raises the possibility that, because telephone systems are now all digital and store audio data (albeit temporarily) at several points along the signal route, a private telephone conversation may now also be regarded as a publication .



Update: Nearly Lost a Good Precedent...

CPS were considering conceding the twitter joke trial

Link Here29th July 2012
Full story: Police Twitter Twits...Man charged over terrorism quip on twitter

The director of public prosecutions (DPP) stopped his staff dropping the case against Paul Chambers, author of the Twitter joke about blowing up Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire, it has been claimed.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers had been prepared to back away from one of the most controversial cases in years, telling Chambers that they no longer saw a public interest in opposing his appeal against conviction.

The CPS even sent Chambers and his solicitor, free-speech campaigner David Allen Green, papers stating that it now agreed that the case should end. However, at the last minute the DPP, former human rights lawyer Keir Starmer, overruled his subordinates, it is alleged.

Friends of Chambers said Starmer was trying to save face by refusing to admit he was in the wrong. Louise Mensch, Chambers's MP, has called on the Commons home affairs or justice committees to investigate the DPP's behaviour.

The CPS confirmed that it spent 18,000 fighting Chambers. Taxpayers will also have to pay Chambers's costs.

However now that the appeal has been won, Starmer's decision seems a good one. The Chief Justice's judgement now sets a strong precedent that the police and CPS should not attempt such nasty bollox again.



Update: The Only Menace is the CPS...

Twitter Joke conviction quashed on appeal as the tweet lacked 'menace'

Link Here28th July 2012
Full story: Police Twitter Twits...Man charged over terrorism quip on twitter

The famous Twitter joke conviction of Paul Chambers has been overturned on appeal, bringing welcome clarity to what is and what is not an offence of this type.

On discovering a week before he was due to take a flight that the airport was closed due to adverse weather conditions, he tweeted:

Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!!

There was no evidence that this tweet alarmed any of his followers. It was picked up several days later by an employee of the airport, and it was referred to another member of staff, who took did not consider it a credible threat, but as a matter of procedure it was referred to the airport police. They took no action, other than to refer it to South Yorkshire Police.

Chambers was arrested and charged, then later convicted of the offence of sending by a public electronic communication network a message of a menacing character contrary to the Communications Act 2003. He appealed from the Magistrates' Court to the Crown Court, and then to the Divisional Court (part of the High Court).

The Court noted that in order to be menacing, as a matter of fact the people who receive or read it, or may reasonably be expected to do so, feel apprehension or fear. So, if those people instead,

...brush it aside as a silly joke, or a joke in bad taste, or empty bombastic or ridiculous banter, then it would be a contradiction in terms to describe it as a message of a menacing character. In short, a message which does not create fear or apprehension in those to whom it is communicated, or who may reasonably be expected to see it, falls outside this provision, for the very simple reason that the message lacks menace.

A CPS spokesman said: We accept the court's reasoning and consider this to be the end of the matter.

Speaking to Index on Censorship, Paul Chambers said he felt relieved and vindicated by the decision, adding that the case should never have got this far .

Chambers's solicitor David Allen Green said: This shameful prosecution should never have been brought.



Wooden Toy Wind Up...

MP Jo Swinson launches attack on Liberty over rocket launcher toy

Link Here23rd July 2012

The London store Liberty has pulled a 23.50 toy from its shelves following complaints, with whingers describing it as vile and tasteless .

The toy was based on Katyusha rocket launchers which were first used in the Second World War by the Soviet Union.

Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who is also a parliamentary aide to Nick Clegg, told The Independent on Sunday:

Liberty can sell what they like, but I think it is bizarre. When small children in conflict zones around the world are being killed and maimed by rocket launchers, it seems rather tasteless to be marketing a sanitised pink version to young children in our country.

The Dutch design company Kids on Roof made the wooden rocket launcher and it is listed on the firm's website under the category uncensored toys .

A spokesman for Liberty said the rocket launcher had sold out on its website and in store. However, he admitted the toy was an oversight which should not have been ordered. He added:

We do not condone warfare and we apologise for any offence caused. We won't be selling anything like that again.'



Offsite Article: The risks of using asterisks in place of swearwords...

Link Here 23rd July 2012
Omitting letters can confuse. How is the poor reader expected to differentiate between b******* and b*******? By David March of the Guardian.

See article from



Quick to Gag...

Trial judge asks newspapers to censor prejudicial archive material

Link Here21st July 2012

On the sidelines of the Simon Harwood trial, the judge, Mr Justice Fulford, has looked at how high-profile cases are reported in the internet age, making decisions with potentially far-reaching significance for the media. Fulford cited earlier newspaper reports giving some general details about Harwood's chequered disciplinary record, information which, he had already ruled, the jury should not hear.

The prosecution drew up an initially lengthy list of suspect newspaper articles, including some in the Guardian. In the end Fulford asked just the Telegraph and the Mail websites to remove stories voluntarily, which they did.

As a precedent this has the potential to fundamentally alter the way the media report trials in the digital era. In the gap between an alleged offence and arrest (and, in practice, sometimes between arrest and charging, and even between arrest and trial) it is common to report details that cannot be raised once a court case begins. That was particularly relevant in the case of Harwood, when it initially seemed there was going be no prosecution. If Fulford's reasoning becomes accepted, then before any jury trial each media group will need to comb their digital archives for stories containing potential contempt of court issues.

Jonathan Caplan QC, for the Mail's publishers, Associated Newspapers said it was simply not practical to ringfence jurors in the internet age and they had to be trusted to follow a judge's instructions to not carry out their own research on the internet.

It remains to be seen how far a single high court judge can reshape digital reporting. What is certain is that media organisations will study Fulford's ruling carefully and, most likely, challenge it.



Updated: The Riots: In Their Own Words...

Rioters' words banned by court order

Link Here21st July 2012
Full story: A Riotous Blame Game...So what is to blame for the 2011 hoodie riots

A court has banned the BBC from broadcasting a film about last summer's riots. The film, about the experiences of rioters during the disturbances, was due to be broadcast on BBC2.

The two part series is a dramatisation based on the testimony of interviews conducted for the Guardian and London School of Economics research into the disorder. It features actors who play anonymous rioters speaking about their experiences of the riots last August.

In a blog posted before the film was pulled, a BBC producer on the project said that using the important and illuminating interviews in the drama would provide insight into why and how the riots had happened .

The BBC did not give details about the nature of the court order.

Update: Murder trial judge banned documentary over possible issues of sub judice

20th July 2012. See  article from

A judge prevented the BBC from broadcasting two documentaries about last summer's riots without having watched the films -- and later prevented the media from reporting his injunction.

Mr Justice Flaux, who was presiding over the murder trial of eight men who were acquitted at Birmingham crown court on Thursday, made the injunction on the grounds that the film raised issues which echoed arguments put before his jury.

He used an unusual power under section 45 of the Senior Courts Act 1981, which in some circumstances grants crown court judges the same powers as those used by the high court, to prevent the film from being broadcast.

The BBC and Guardian had sought to challenge the ruling, on the grounds that the films made no reference to the case being considered by the jury and did not even mention rioting in Birmingham.

However, the judge rejected the appeal, saying the films touched on issues related to his case, and if he were to allow the films to be broadcast, jurors could potentially have social contact with others who watched the programmes.

The end of the trial rendered the orders redundant.

Update: Disquiet about censorship

21st July 2012. See article from . Thanks to Nick

The BBC has spoken about a court order that banned it from showing two drama-documentaries about last summer's riots, as legal experts questioned the excessive injunction. In a statement, the BBC said:

The BBC was of the firm view that as the programmes did not contain any reference to the incident which was the subject of the trial their broadcast could not have affected the trial's outcome.

As makers of current affairs programmes we felt this was a critical point regarding the freedom of the media to discuss matters that are of general public interest. We were disappointed by the judge's ruling which prevented the programmes from being broadcast until the jury returned its verdicts. Now that has happened, we are pleased to be able to show the programmes.

Legal experts have also said the injunction raises troubling questions about the freedom of the media to report on issues in the public interest. Media law expert David Banks said:

It is very worrying in that it effectively negates the section 5 'discussion of public affairs' defence in contempt of court which is at the heart of the 1981 act and which balances freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. I think the judge was wrong in saying the right to a fair trial outweighed the interest in broadcasting the programme -- there is a balance to be struck and one right does not automatically outweigh another.

David Allen Green, the legal commentator and head of media at law firm Preiskel & Co, said there was a strong public interest in the documentary being shown:

For a court to order a national broadcaster not to show such a programme really should only be done if there was direct evidence of prejudicial content. As it was, the film was anonymised and we are told it did not refer to the Birmingham incident at all. If so, the court order was excessive and misconceived.



Offsite Article: Choc Ice Jibes...

Link Here19th July 2012
Full story: Twitter Twits...Police overreact to trivial insults via Twitter and Facebook
The lunacy of police trawling Twitter for so-called hate crime. By Steven Glover

See article from



Updated: Bruce Springsteen Unplugged...

When did Britain become a Health and Safety Police State?

Link Here18th July 2012

Elf and Safety extremists pulled the plug on a concert by Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band and Paul Mccartney citing ludicrous bollox that they had run 8 minutes past their allotted time.

Fans were left angered after the Hard Rock Calling event ended prematurely after Paul Mccartney joined Bruce Springsteen on stage to perform Twist and Shout and I Saw Her Standing There. 

As 80,000 rapturous fans yelled their delight under the pouring rain, the microphones were switched off after the health and safety curfew was breached by eight minutes, leaving the singers to leave the stage in silence.

While organisers defended the unfortunate decision last night, it provoked a storm of protest from fans and even members of Springsteen's entourage.

Steven Van Zandt, the guitarist with Springsteen's E Street band, said:

One of the great gigs ever in my opinion. But seriously, when did England become a police state?

Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, also wade into the row, criticising the excessively officious decision .

Last night, a spokesprat for Live Nation, the event's organisers, spewed:

The curfew is laid down by the authorities in the interest of the public health and safety.

A Westminster Council spokesman said it was concert organisers, not the council, who pulled the plug.

Update: Oops Wrong Jobsworths. It wasn't Elf & Safety after all. It was the department of Petty Bureaucracy and Clock Watching

18th July 2012. See  article from

Promoter Live Nation released a statement in the hours after the plug was pulled on Bruce Springsteen, claiming the curfew was in place as a result of safety issues.

However Kevin Myers, the deputy chief executive of the Health and Safety Executive, who was actually at the gig, said it was not true to blame the end of the show on those grounds. He said:

The fans deserve the truth. There's no health and safety issues involved here. While public events may have licensing conditions dictating when they should end, this is not health and safety.



Update: Prosecution Unterminated...

CPS tries christians re nasty poster display for abortion clinic visitors

Link Here17th July 2012
Full story: Abortion Protests in UK...Public order, censorship and religious arseholes

Andy Stephenson and Kathryn Sloane will stand trial in what their supporters say will be a landmark case concerning freedom of expression.

The pair were arrested in June last year outside Wistons abortion clinic in Brighton, after they refused to take down a 7ft by 5ft illustrated banner.

They will appear before magistrates in September after the Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges against them.

Stephenson has been charged with causing harassment, alarm or distress under the Public Order Act 1986, and with obstructing a police officer by refusing to hand over the banner. Sloane faces one count of obstruction.

They are both committed Christians and members of Abort 67, a anti-abortion group which uses shocking images, obtained in America, to try to deter women from going through with terminations. Stephenson said:

We are as passionate about free speech as we are about the abortion issue. Showing these images is absolutely crucial to our campaign. We are determined to fight it all the way. All we were doing was showing what is taking place legally inside abortion clinic every day, some of which are funded by the taxpayer.



Offsite Article: Censorship Olympics Article Now Censored...

Link Here17th July 2012
Full story: London Olympics 2012...Restrictions and control
It beggars belief, but it can now be a criminal offence to use words like Games, Gold and Summer, or even a picture of the London skyline. The reason? An outrageous abuse of our laws to protect the profits of Olympic sponsors...

See article from



Cleethorpes Gets a Reputation for Miserable Shopkeepers...

Traders get wound up by saucy postcards

Link Here 15th July 2012

Miserable traders in the town of Cleethorpes are calling for poster sized politically incorrect postcards to be taken down.

The posters had originally been put on display to welcome visitors to the annual Cleethorpes in Bloom floral show due to be held at the end of July.

However, shopkeepers ludicrously claim that the nostalgic cards are somehow lowering the reputation of the seaside town.

Phyllis O'Connell, who runs an equestrian shop, spouted:

How would you explain these sort of jokes to your five year old grandchild? They are so sexist and rude. They have really put people's backs up. They are bad for business and we should have been consulted before anything was put up there anyway.

Mark Treacher, who runs a gallery and picture framing business directly opposite the display, whinged:

The one with the dog is just obscene and the rest are sexist. They may be 1950s postcards but I do not think they have any place at all in a family resort.

And, following the complaints, it looks as though the giant postcards, designed by a local artist based on original images, will have to be removed.

The seaside postcard company Bamforth's Managing Director Ian Wallace hit back at the calls to take down the signs:

It seems the po-faced tradition continues to this day in Cleethorpes. It would be really said if the placards have to be taken down. There is enough gloom and doom about at the moment.



Extract: Olympics Gets a Reputation for Miserable Control Freaks...

Hopefully they will be a bit too short staffed to enforce restrictions on linking to their website

Link Here 15th July 2012
Full story: London Olympics 2012...Restrictions and control

Our attention has been drawn to the terms of use of the London Olympics 2012 website, which make it very clear under what circumstances you're allowed link to the site:

Links to the Site.

You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted.

Got that? You're only allowed link to the official site of the Olympics if you're going to say nice things about the Olympics.

...Read the full article



Offsite Article: Libel Claims Dismissed in Court...

Link Here15th July 2012
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth
Nature journal wins three-year case where Egyptian academic El Naschie claimed defamation after his articles were described as low quality and lacking peer review.

See article from



Offsite Comment: Who the f-word does this protect?...

Link Here13th July 2012
Full story: Twitter Twits...Police overreact to trivial insults via Twitter and Facebook
Re the John Terry case. The BBC reporting of what he is supposed to have said on the field is side-splittingly awful. It was 'an f-word, black, c-word'.

See article from



Offsite Article: Time to Scrap Obscenity Laws?...

Link Here11th July 2012
An interesting read. MR Hall notes that it it difficult to get juries to convict in obscenity cases, but rather misses the timely point that it easy to get successful prosecutions via a big stick and carrot approach to plea bargaining

See article from



Offsite Article: The doublethink that allows tabloids to campaign against online porn...

Link Here 7th July 2012
Full story: Reg Bailey Report...Mothers Union boss pens governement report
A teenage rapist was excused by a judge because he had been corrupted by online filth. Where's the evidence? By Martin Robbins

See article from



Update: Persecuting Internet Porn...

Keir Starmer of the CPS joins those baying for default porn blocking

Link Here6th July 2012
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said he was worried about the exposure of young people to all sorts of material .

He claimed there could be a link between the easy access to internet pornography for children with emerging research about increasing violence among teenage boyfriends and girlfriends.

The news came after a schoolboy rapist had escaped a jail term because the judge said he had viewed internet pornography. The 14-year-old boy was freed and given a three year community order with supervision after he was found guilty of raping a four year old girl.

The judge in Cambridge justified the sentence on the grounds that the boy had been sexualised by the corruption of pornography , and blamed society for what happened.

Asked about the case on BBC Radio Five Starmer declined to comment on the case or the sentence. But he added: I myself have been concerned about the exposure of young people to all sorts of material, and the emerging research tends to suggest that there is a lot of abuse within teenage relationships.

Last year, in a speech, Starmer warned that the UK was clearly at risk of a whole new generation of domestic violence in teenage relationships. He published figures that suggested 13 year olds to 15 year olds were as likely to experience violence as youths aged over 16. The cited research was carried out by Bristol University and the NSPCC found those from poorer backgrounds are twice as likely to be abused as their better-off counterparts.

Update: More

8th July 2012. See  article from

Re the 14-year-old boy was freed and given a three year community order with supervision after he was found guilty of raping a four year old girl.

Since sentencing took place this week the victim's parents have been told by the police that while there was porn on the boy's laptop, it was mild and did not feature children.



Offsite Article: Feel free to insult us!...

Link Here5th July 2012
Full story: Public Order Act...Enabling police censorship
Activists, MPs and faith groups are united against Section 5 of the Public Order Act. By Lord Dear of Willersey, a former Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police

See article from



Obituary: David Webb...

Campaigner noted for the National Campaign for the Reform of the Obscene Publications Acts (NCROPA)

Link Here4th July 2012

IDavid Webb, Director of the National Campaign for the Reform of the Obscene Publications Acts (NCROPA) died of cancer on 30th June 2012.

David Webb's organisation was particularly well known in the pre-internet era when the likes of Mary Whitehouse were banging on about obscenity in the media.

Fellow campaigner Sean Gabb writes:

It is partly thanks to David's tireless, and often thankless, campaigning over the years that we enjoy our present semi-relaxation of the laws against sexual expression.

I helped publicise his campaign against the Customs and Excise in the 1990s, when he challenged their use of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876 to seize a mass of pornographic videos that he had imported from Holland and declared on arrival here as for personal use! Though his challenge failed on a technicality in the Court of Appeal, the 1876 Act is nowadays used far less aggressively than in the 1980s and 1990s.

I also fondly remember joining him on the platform at the NCROPA fringe meeting at the 1992 Conservative Party conference in Brighton. Otherwise, David was a frequent speaker throughout the United Kingdom on issues of sexual liberation, and he stood for Parliament on more than one occasion.

Outside of campaigning David Webb was a well-known and much-loved actor on stage, screen and television.

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