Tag Archive | "civil liberties"

MP’s utter contempt for the public is indisputable

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MP’s utter contempt for the public is indisputable


If anyone was in any doubt that members of parliament hold the people of this country in utter contempt, then a look at some of the news stories this week ought to be enough to convince even those that are in awe of the ruling elite.

The biggest story by far is the publication of MPs’ expenses. For months, we have been told that the MP’s in general and this government in particular wanted complete transparency and, that they would demonstrate this by publishing full details of their expenses. They cautioned that some information such as their home addresses, telephone numbers, bank account details and signatures would be “redacted”. However, they have gone much further than that, with vast swathes of information being ‘blanked out’ to the extent that the information that has been provided is virtually useless, at least to anyone that wants to be able to scrutinise how MP’s have been spending our money. It is farcical. It is also nonsense to suggest that much of this information was redacted because of the ‘Data Protection Act’, granted, the DPA is relevant to some of the detail, but MP’s are hiding behind the DPA to mask their own embarrassment in the forlorn hope that few people will understand what is, or is not covered by the Data Protection Act.

Take David Cameron, one of the most vocal proponents of transparency on expenses. He is making clear that he feels too much information has been censored, but if you listen carefully, he is not suggesting that the current set of claims be reviewed and published again, only that any future claims be dealt with on a more open basis. In other words, Cameron wants to give the impression that he is all for transparency, but he is being very careful not to advocate the publishing of uncensored expenses pre-2008 …which is what we are all interested in. Clearly, only the most inept MP would exaggerate or fiddle their expenses when the public and others are scrutinising their expenditure and MP’s have been aware of this being likely ever since they lost their court case last year. However, what we want and need to know is precisely what they were up to when they believed their expenses would never be open to public scrutiny. It is this period when MP’s were trusted not to abuse the system that matters and will determine whether or not they were entitled or should have been in receipt of such public confidence. It is the same principle as the speed camera that is much loved by this government, if everyone knows that they are being monitored, then they adjust their behaviour accordingly, but only a fool would speed past a camera whilst over the limit.

It is clear that this government and many other MP’s have become adept at saying much but meaning very little. They say just enough to get them of the hook, they are willing to stretch the truth, but not so far that they could be accused of lying and, when all else fails, they don’t answer the question at all or go underground. The bottom line is, the public has not given any MP an amnesty for wrongdoing or fiddling their expenses, simply based on an assurance that they will be good boys and girls in the future. If they (our MP’s) have taken the public for mugs, then they must may the price with their jobs and if necessary, their liberty. Party leaders must also be wary of our view in respect of their decision to set up their own ‘scrutiny panels’ to allow them to set the rules and issue the adjudications behind closed doors and without any public involvement. We don’t have ex-cons acting as judge and jury, nor should we have MP’s doing the same, because we will, inevitably, believe that they are simply protecting their own, whilst using the opportunity to throw the mavericks to the wolves. The public is increasingly aware that we are being treated like fools, we know that MP’s, ministers and yes, party leaders, routinely lie or mislead us.

Perhaps what irks me most is the fact that the vast majority of Labour MP’s and many, many opposition MP’s supported government initiatives that permitted the state to consistently and relentlessly invade our privacy and our everyday lives. Supported by the majority of MP’s, the state will routinely spy on our email’s, monitor our telephone calls, record and store our internet traffic, monitor and store details of our local and international travel arrangements and share our most private and intimate details with up to 700 other government and non-government departments or organisations. Yet, it is these same MP’s that seek to protect their own privacy by redacting material that they believe they think we should not see, even though it is our money that they are spending. When the ruling classes become so overtly and arrogantly hypocritical, then we have to know that something has gone very badly wrong with the relationship between the people and the state.

However, this was not the only news which demonstrates how things are changing between the people and the state. Using legislation introduced in 2003, a high court has ruled that a robbery trial can go ahead without a jury. Now I am not arguing the merits of this particular case, only what this landmark ruling could mean to the rest of us, because the right to a jury trial is undoubtedly an ancient and preciously guarded feature of the English criminal justice system. Ask the average citizen whether they would prefer to be judged by 12 fellow citizens or a single judge and I think we all know what the answer will be. Whilst a non-jury trial is supposed to be used only in exceptional cases, we all know that our recent history is littered with such precedents becoming the norm. Mission creep, abuse, deception, lies, it doesn’t matter what you call it, somewhere along the line this high court ruling is likely to become far more widespread. Remember when CCTV cameras were only used to deter criminals? Today they are used to track the movements of people and cars using, respectively, facial recognition technology and automatic number plate recognition systems. Remember when it was only suspected terrorists and big criminals that had their telephones and other communications monitored? Now, every call, text message and email of every citizen in this country is monitored and stored by the state. Remember when you were innocent until proven guilty? Tell that to anyone that is targeted by the HMRC, or someone that has had their assets seized and have to prove how they attained them. Tell that to someone that has been detained without charge or subjected to a control order under anti-terror legislation, without ever being informed what evidence there was to justify such action. Anyone that believes that these state activities will never affect the average citizen is incredibly naive, there are endless examples of laws introduced for one purpose being used for something entirely different. For example, it is not just terrorists that are affected by anti-terror legislation, an old man was ejected from an open meeting for heckling Jack Straw, and a lady was detained for walking on a path that had been designated a bike path, Iceland’s assets were seized using anti-terror legislation even though there were other laws that would have been more appropriate. The state either directly or through their proxies abuse legislation routinely at our expense. If we cannot trust our lawmakers to be honest and beyond reproach in the submission of their expenses and in their dealings with the public, how can we continue to trust them with our liberty or values?

Take the most recent political debate over public expenditure, can we trust our government to be honest? I mean, who are we to believe? Gordon Brown tells us that public spending is going up, whilst the Conservatives tell us it is not. The difference appears to be whether it is includes or excludes inflation, whether it includes variables such as interest payments and how the bringing forward of capital spending plans affects the numbers. Semantics or bullshit? In my view, whilst Brown may not be lying, he is most certainly trying to deliberately mislead and that is unforgivable. Brown is in a position of trust, yet he thinks it is acceptable to play childlike games when attempting to explain the public finances, even though it is precisely these types of pathetic, self-serving, juvenile tricks that got us into the financial mess we are in today. But how can we trust the opposition either? They have many members that have been fiddling their expenses or, at the very least, been stretching the available allowances to extremes? But, rather than taking the opportunity to purge politics of reprobates and stealing a lead by removing the censorship of past expense claims, they go into self-preservation mode and refer only of future claims. This amounts to a virtual amnesty for any MP that hasn’t been caught yet.

Party leaders are saying one thing and doing another. For example, they are making overtures about the fact that parliament can no longer be self-regulating yet, as party leaders, they consider their own committees best able to judge whether or not an MP has broken the expense rules or abused the often repeated “spirit of the rules”. These committees then have the power to ‘clear’ an MP and we are expected to accept that these secret investigations, adjudications and punishments have been fair, impartial and proportionate. We are forced to conclude that whilst MP’s believe we are capable of voting them into power, they do not trust us to judge them based on their actions and our standards. This is class snobbery at its best, MP’s from all parties truly believe that they are the elite and we are the peasants. We are simply a necessary evil on their journey to power. The only thing tMP’s fear is losing their seat and therefore, their power base.

Oh, and on top of everything else, this government does not believe that we are entitled to a public enquiry over the Iraq War. Now, lets get this straight shall we? This is a war that very few of us supported, this is a war that has cost the lives of many brave servicemen, not to mention the lives of the many innocent women and children in Iraq. This is a war that has cost us over £6bn and placed us on the front line of international terrorism. This is a war that has cost the people of this country a loss of liberty and privacy on an unprecedented scale, that has virtually destroyed the freedoms and liberties that have evolved and been fought for over hundreds of years. Yet this government believes we are not entitled to have a public enquiry to establish why we went to war.

The public want to know why we went to war, based on what evidence and, whether or not it was considered legal. Was the country and/parliament mislead and if so, by whom? Other than something that directly affects national security, everything must be open to public scrutiny, up to and including the cabinet minutes. When a democratic country is taken to war against the will of the people, then the government has an obligation to provide an open and honest account of why they went against public opinion, especially when the initial justifications for their actions have subsequently been proved completely unfounded. Those responsible must not be allowed to conduct such matters in secrecy given we are all having to pay the price. We need to know that our government did not take us to war for regime change or to instill our form of democracy on another country, there must better be another very good reason such as, there being a very real threat to the safety or security of the UK.

So much has happened over the past 7 days that it is difficult to know where to start or finish. However, what is clear to me, is the so-called ruling classes do not give a toss about you and I. With few exceptions, MP’s treat us with disdain and contempt, they consider themselves above the law, not open to scrutiny and not subject to the same rules that you and I must adhere to. Fiddling expenses has become so ‘routine’ that MP’s no longer understand the difference between what is right or wrong. Lying to the public has become so routine that Ministers can now do it with a straight face. Rhetoric has displaced action and, truth has replaced political spin in government and, all of the major political parties. MP’s and their leaders have never really been trusted by the public and for all intents and purposes, we have been proved right. 

In spite of that, they expect us to trust them at their word, even though they continue to lie and bullshit us on a daily basis, even though they protect their own and, even though they lack the humility to admit their mistakes. In reality, recent election results imply that we have lost confidence in all of them because, in spite of the fact that New Labour has destroyed this country in economic terms, massacred our civil liberties, made the people of this country a target for any radical terrorist, acted against our wishes and yes, consistently lied to us, we still don’t trust the alternatives, specifically the Conservatives or LibDems. The opposition party’s should be cleaning up with such a pathetic government and prime minister in place, they are not, and that should worry them. It is time for all parties and MP’s to treat the people of this country like grown-ups, if they don’t then there is a very real likelihood that the people will react and if that happens, I doubt that Jackie Smith’s 10,000 Tasers will make a great deal of difference. This country needs a regime change, the problem is, the alternatives don’t look much better!

Something that galls me most about this whole mess, is that whilst we have tended to look at the expense scandal as a serious, but local difficulty, our ruling elite have given the likes of the Ayatollah Khamenei license to refer to the people of this country as being corrupt. We, are all being tarred with the same brush as many of our MP’s and that is quite simply unforgivable.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems, World | Comments (4)

Jacqui Smith wants your DNA, innocent or guilty

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Jacqui Smith wants your DNA, innocent or guilty


The Home Office has outlined a series of proposals in relation to the DNA database designed to counter the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that it was illegal. However, in doing so, they have demonstrated utter contempt for the ruling, choosing instead to go for a fudge. If these proposals are put into force, it will inevitably lead to further legal challenges in the European Court by Human Rights campaigners.

The Home Office consultation proposes the following:

  • Destroying all original DNA samples, like mouth swabs, as soon as they are converted into a digital database profile
  • Automatically deleting after 12 years the profiles of those arrested but not convicted of a serious violent or sexual crime
  • Automatically deleting after six years the profiles of anyone arrested but not convicted of other offences
  • Retaining indefinitely the DNA profiles and fingerprints of anyone convicted of a recordable offence
  • Remove the profiles of young people arrested but not convicted, or convicted of less serious offences, when they turn 18

The bottom line, is that even in Big Brother Britain, you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. It is, therefore, unreasonable in the extreme for DNA samples to be retained where individuals have been arrested, but not convicted, or arrested but not even charged. By retaining the samples, the Home Office is suggesting, by implication, that the individual may commit an offence in the future. Under these proposals, if the Home Office want to increase the size of the database, all they have to do is encourage the Police to arrest more people, the Police will then be entitled to take, record and retain a DNA sample.  How long before the Police are targeted on the taking of DNA samples?

Clearly DNA evidence can be very useful in solving crimes. However, this must be weighed against the infringement on the civil liberties of the majority. We are all entitled to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. We must not permit the state to use this ‘back door’ method of arrest without charge to increase the size of the DNA database.  It is also worth noting that the Home Office is proposing that DNA samples be retained indefinitely for what is termed a recordable offence. But these offences can vary from the public order offence of failing to give notice of a procession and, for example, drunkeness, public order, begging  right through to having a bladed weapon or crossbow in public.  In fact, making a hoax 999 call or falsely claiming a professional qualification are all recordable crimes. How can such a broad range of offences brought under the innocuously sounding term ‘recordable offence’ be considered proportionate, especially given any of these offences would mean that your DNA is on file for life under the current proposals.

Whatever your view on Big Brother Britain and the DNA database, we must all remind ourselves, that in 12 years, this government has introduced 3,607 new laws, in other words, a month doesn’t go by without there bing new laws that we are supposed to know and not infringe. If this continues, it is only a matter of time before we all find ourselves on the national DNA database. No government in the world has considered it necessary or desirable to have so many of their citizens recorded on a DNA database. In fact the UK has the largest database in the world, now ask yourself this, do we all feel safer, do we have a higher detection and conviction rate when compared to comparable countries? NO! Because if we did, you can be certain that the Home Office would have told us.

We must say no to this massive intrusion into our everyday lives.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (5)

One in 10 MP’s to stand down at next election. Its not enough!

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One in 10 MP’s to stand down at next election. Its not enough!


The latest news is that some 10% of MP’s are intending to stand down at the next election, if accurate, then we only have another 590 or so to go. It is clear, that many of our current batch of MP’s have failed to listen to the public, to the extent that, in my view at least, we have never had a period in our history where the people of this country have felt so disengaged from the politicians elected to represent us.

For the past 12 years, as a people, we have had to standby as our right to privacy, civil liberties and freedoms have been steadily eroded. Yes, this is the fault of the government, but it is also the responsibility of the opposition MP’s who have failed to wade in on our behalf. Our country is more like a police state than ever before, New labour has introduced during their time in office, some 3607 new laws. The police have been provided with massive powers to stop and search, arrest and detain. They have been provided with their very own ‘weapons’, including a steel truncheon, pepper spray and now all front line police officers are to be provided with lethal Tasers, some 10,000 of them. We no longer feel like a free country, instead we are ruled, monitored and controlled. Our police officers don’t care or don’t know the difference between a protest or a riot. Our action, words and thoughts are constantly monitored and recorded on a raft of databases, even our children have their every action recorded on a database, information from which, will be used to determine whether or not they are likely to turn into criminals (see: Onset Profiling Tool).

Much has been said about MP’s self-interest. They have benefited for decades from an expense and allowance system that actively encourages abuse. Yes, their actions may well be “within the rules“, but the rules were quite clearly wrong, yet no-one did anything about it, only now, when the Freedom of Information Act meant that the public could review their expenses have they started to consider revisions. Gordon Brown as Chancellor decided that he was going to raid the private sector pension plans, this action has raised approximately £10bn per annum, money that has been squandered, not invested. Meanwhile, they have done nothing about public sector pension plans which will, if not dealt with quickly, bankrupt this country, because they are paid out of tax revenues, not a pension fund. Our MP’s failed to consider the irony of the fact that whilst they were punishing those that had diligently invested in a private pension, members of parliament had one of the best pension schemes in the country. Now, there is a private members bill going though parliament that seeks to protect all public servants, MP’s included, from any wrongdoing if they can claim ‘reasonable discretion’. How can they claim to be representative or not full of self-interest?

No matter what political party you support, even the most foolhardy could not claim that our current government has any real direction, their rallying call is always “we will do whatever is necessary“, that does not provide much confidence, given it suggests that they are not in control, are lacking direction and any fresh ideas. Above and worst of all, it implies that they are reactive, not proactive. Whenever Gordon Brown or his cronies have to defend their actions, or lack of them, they always turn to party politics, by claiming that “at least we are doing something, the Conservatives would do nothing” or “we are investing, whilst the Conservatives would cut“. Haven’t they worked it out yet, the people of this country are simply sick and tired of this bullshit. Gordon Brown and his cabinet need to be reminded that the Conservatives are not in power, they are! In fact it is 12 years since the Conservatives were in power, New Labour can’t continue to blame the Conservatives for everything. All MP’s need their heads banging together. The opposition parties have not offered much opposition to this New Labour government, in fact, many MP’s have been complicit in the mess that we are in by failing to say something. Apart from PMQ’s and one or two ‘major’ debates, there is rarely more than a handful of MP’s in parliament to debate our future or protect our interests from what has become a over-bearing, increasingly authorotarian government.

More than anything, I would like to see a massive clear out of MP’s, not all, but most. Clearly we need to retain some experience, but equally, we need to elect people that will genuinely represent our interests instead of their own. During the debate over MP’s expenses, I heard some of the most impassioned speeches ever, it is quite telling that it had to take something like their expenses to illcit this type of response! It also brought out some of the worst aspects of the self-indulgent character of our MP’s, with some whining about how poor their wages were, or suggesting it was a vocation not a job, implying they are doing us all a favour. The bottom line is, they knew what the pay was before they entered parliament, if the money wasn’t good enough, they should have done something else. What they need to remember is that parliament is not a true meritocracy, MP’s get to keep their jobs irrespective of their abilities, at least for 5 years anyway. In addition, very few are promoted on merit, because in parliament, promotion is normally offered as a reward.

That notwithstanding, if there are any MP’s that are not happy with the wages, prospects or allowances, then I feel certain there will be thousands of people who would be delighted to work for £65k per annum, and above all, for the privilege of being able to represent their constituents. I would like to see the political parties open their doors to ordinary people. By limiting their scope to mates, old Etonians, union leaders and the like, so they limit the spectrum, depth and ingenuity of our parliament. For me, unless we witness a substantial change to our representation, a return to democracy, renewed respect for the people of this country and an end to cronyism, then I think it is time to consider emigrating.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (7)

Paul Stephenson, are you proud of the Met?

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Paul Stephenson, are you proud of the Met?


So, we have IPCC investigations into the conduct of two police officers and now, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) will review policing tactics. No doubt, these investigations will take an age to come to any conclusions, so much of the detail will have faded by that time. No doubt we will also have a new Met Commissioner and undoubtedly a new Government. So that’s all right then!

It does not take a review or an inquiry to determine that herding law-abiding citizens into a small area and then stopping them from leaving amounts to an illegal detention. None of these people have committed a crime, therefore to prevent them from leaving the area, when they have not been arrested, amounts to the Metropolitan Police breaking the law they are supposed to uphold. What type of example  is this? There has been a court case on this police tactic and the courts suggested that so long as it is proportionate, then it is legal, that cannot be acceptable to the majority in this country!

The Police call this tactic “Kettling”, because it is supposed to take the steam out of a potentially violent situation, however those contained would argue that it is more likely a cynical description of the fact that protestors will want to let off steam when they find themselves ilegally contained. This almost smacks of deliberate provocation or at the very least, active baiting.

No Police force is above the law, and there must be an immediate and unambiguous commitment made by the police that they will never again illegally detain innocent demonstrators en-masse. Further, Jacqui Smith must also come out of her bunker, remover her blinkers and uphold the civil liberties and rights of the people, that is HER job. The containment and illegal detention policies adopted and implemented by the Metropolitan Police were more akin to those of a Police State, than those of a democracy where liberty and freedom are values are respected and upheld.

Stephenson must also provide an explanation as to why some of his officers were permitted to cover up their identification numbers and/or wear balaclavas? This does not need an inquiry, nor a review, just an explanation from the boss and a commitment that it will never happen again. Otherwise we will be forced to draw our only conclusions as to why those required to uphold the law would feel the need to hide their identities with methods normally associated with the criminal fraternity…disguised identity numbers, balaclavas etc.

The very latest images of a large police officer cuffing a small woman is completely unacceptable, as was the use of a baton by the same officer on the same woman. No matter what the verbal provocation, police officers are supposed to be highly trained, they are supposed to defuse, not inflame volatile situations. What if the crowd erupted over this incident? Based on the evidence I have seen and assuming that the officer was verbally abused, I can see no justification whatsoever in slapping the woman across the face and then using a steel baton against her. This was not proportionate. The question must be whether this was an isolated incident or more akin with modern policing tactics in the Met, or further afield.

Whatever the circumstances, based on what I witnessed on television, this is not how I want our country represented abroad, this did not feel like a country that permitted peaceful demonstration and free speech, it did not feel like we had a world class police service and above all, it gave me the impression of being in something akin to a police state. Aggressive policing, active herding of law-abiding demonstrators, officers attempting to hide their identities and overwhelming force does not make me feel free. By all means, the police must protect people and property, but this scatter gun approach does not work, it is oppressive and has no place in a free society.

SPREAD THE WORD:

A Conservative MP is seeking a second reading for a new Bill, titled ‘Exercise of Reasonable Discretion’. If passed into law, this will allow every public servant, including MP, civil servants, local government officers, the police etc., a legal defence of ‘reasonable discretion’ in any civil or criminal case brought about as a consequence of their actions. All they would have to prove, is that they acted in good faith, this as anyone in the know will understand, is a catch-all defence.

In essence, it could allow MP’s to argue that they made certain decisions, such as going to war, based on advice where they were required to use reasonable discretion, officials entering into multi-million pound contracts which are subsequently cancelled or overrun, will also be able to claim that they exercised reasonable discretion. It is effectively a get out of jail free card for any public servant. Effectively removing accountability and increasing risk, because of course, if there is no effective punishment, there is no need to be careful. We should all shout as loud as we can to ensure that this type of legislation never sees the light of day.

Posted in Civil Liberties, General, Labour | Comments (0)

Big Brother Britain goes mobile in Manchester

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Big Brother Britain goes mobile in Manchester


Not satisfied with 4.2m CCTV cameras, speed cameras and ANPR, the Greater Manchester Casualty Reduction Partnership has now introduced (as a pilot) a Smart Car complete with high level CCTV camera. The aim is to catch errant motorists that speed, use a mobile phone, park illegally or commit any other form of motoring offence. Drivers can then expect to receive, in the post, a fine and/or penalty notice which could carry 3 points.

At a time when the public struggle to get the police to act when they are the victim of a burglary, anti-social behaviour, fraud or criminal damage, the police have decided to continue persecuting drivers, simply because they are an easy target and the police can claim to have detected, investigated and prosecuted another crime. Great for their clear up rates! However, this type of prosecution (or persecution) lacks any interaction with the public, therefore it is likely to create even more resentment between the police and the public at a time when they need all the support they can get.

Of course, this type of system will only be able to trace and prosecute people that are, for the most part, law abiding. This is because these types of cameras rely entirely on the registration number and as we all know, there are over 1m vehicles on the road where the drivers have no insurance and/or bogus registered keeper details. So the serious criminals will be simply get away with it. I am not defending law breaking, instead I am advocating a programme where the police treat all crime seriously, rather than placing so much resource behind a single section of the community, because is is easier to secure a ‘hands up’ prosecution.

At a time of economic mayhem, increased cases of serious crime and terrorist threats, the police, presumably supported by politicians, make clear where their primary focus will remain. Targeting easy crime. Of course these cameras won’t just take pictures of errant motorists, operating constantly, they cannot discriminate between an errant motorist and someone going about their normal business. So must we all acccept that, if extended, we must allow ourselves to be monitored by 4.2m CCTV cameras, as well as mobile cameras?

Big Brother Britain is getting out of hand. Everything we do and say is being monitored and stored, this does not feel like a free and democratic country, instead is seems like we are in a police state. Civil liberty campaigners are often derided, as are those that claim we are moving to a police state, but take my word for it, in a few years time, the people of this country will realise that far from being reactionary, these people were visionary…and unlike our politicians, they have been speaking the truth.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Farcical Regulations, General, Labour | Comments (5)

British Police are out of control

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British Police are out of control


Now I am not just referring to the case of Ian Tomlinson the bystander who died of a heart attack shortly after being hit (allegedly) by a police officer at the G20. No, I am basing my statement on the fact that the Police appear are, for all intents and purposes, a law unto themselves.

Unless you are very lucky, anyone that has had to report a crime to the Police will be aware that they (the Police) are the ultimate arbiter as to which crimes they will investigate and which one’s they will not. This is likely to depend on what their local priorities are, which can range from Government targets, to a local, ‘wet behind the ears’ Police Inspector’s latest management wheeze, designed only to progress his career. A friend of mine has a business which is in a street just behind the main police station, it has been plagued for over 5 years by open drug dealing, anti-social behaviour, criminal damage, tenant intimidation and arson. The best the Police can do is send a PCSO around the industrial estate once or twice a day, the ‘local’ bobby was moved off the area nearly 2 years ago. He has not been replaced.

A neighbour of mine has complained 3 times over a period of 5 weeks about cars parking on the ‘zig-zags’ outside her children’s school. She was prompted into action after witnessing a near miss accident when a child ran onto a crossing, he could not see the car and the driver could not see him because of 3 other cars being parked on the zig zags. The first time she complained, a PCSO was sent over, but only one person dared to park on the zig zags that day, but the PCSO could do nothing anyway. Then a traffic officer promised to do several drive-by’s at the appropriate time, a promise he failed to keep. On the 3rd complaint, the local police officer “promised” to deal with the issue, that was two weeks before the kids broke up for Easter, nothing happened. What has made her particularly angry, is that she has witnessed 5 police cars over the period in question manoeuvre their own vehicles around those illegally parked without do anything about it, not so much as a warning.

The Government has recently launched a new initiative designed to ‘engage’ with the public, but no-one seems to have told their front-line staff. If you try and speak to your local officer you must go through their call centre, staff will record the information and state that they will pass it on to the relevany departement, but offer no promises of any action. If the police do respond, it will not be a proper copper, it will be a PCSO. If you want to lodge a complaint you cannot speak to a ‘senior officer’ (by that they mean anyone of sergeant level of above, yep…a sergeant) by telephone, no, you must go into the station.

My car was hit my an uninsured motorcyclist. To his (the drivers) credit he gave me his correct name and details. When I went to the police station, I had to give all of the details to a civilian, not a police officer. The police never contacted me about the issue, I had to chase them, when I eventually got an answer they said they would be taking no action because there was no independent witness. I can tell you, that I KNOW they never even visited the other driver, much less investigated the incident, it was just swept under the carpet. They did not even bother to come and get a statement from me, something that had been promised. This is just a small microcosm of what is happening today, little wonder, that in spite of there being over 150,000 police officers, crime is up, detection is down and people feel less safe than ever before.

Meanwhile, everytime the Police want more powers, Jacqui Smith gives in to them. The police have unprecedented powers, they can even decide on whether or not we can exercise our ‘democratic right’ to demonstrate. At the G20, the Police effectively (and illegally) detained thousands of people by shepherding them into certain areas and then insisting that they remain there. What civilised democracy allows their police to act in such a way? When the Police decided that the demonstrations must end, they then acted like street yobs themselves by bullying, for the most part, well-behaved and peaceful protesters. I do not, nor would I ever criticise the Police for dealing quickly and decisively with those breaking the law, acting in a threatening manner or intent on trouble at such demonstrations, but to tar everyone with the same brush is completely unacceptable.

The film of Tomlinson appears to show an unprovoked attack on someone who was trying to go home and had no part in the demonstrations. The film depicts an image of a police office hitting him with a baton and then shoving him over. The man had his hands in his pockets and his back to the Police, he was even walking away, based on the filmed evidence he posed no threat to the officers. That did not stop one Police Officer acting in a manner that was completely unacceptable and reckless. Only a complete idiot would push a man with such force that he could fall forward, but would only be able to break the fall if he was to get his hands out of his pockets in time. This action was captured on film, prior to that the Police were denying that there was any interaction between them and the victim. There is no suggestion here that the actions of the Police were a contributory factor to the mans death, instead, I contend that the Police Officer, on the face of it, acted in what appeared to be an aggressive and unprofessional manner. Further, the Police tactics of dealing with the G20 demonstrators amounted to nothing other than illegal detention, it must not happen on our streets again.

The current Police baton is a very serious piece of kit and would be considered an illegal weapon if carried by a civilian, because it could prove lethal. Yet the Police routinely bring out the baton when there is NO threat, just watch any ‘fly on the wall’ programme on the Police service. Officers also have CS gas and now, all front line officers are to be ‘armed’ with lethal Tasers. Have the public been provided with any safeguards against rogue or over-zealous Police Officers, no, in fact they (the Police) can now rely on new legislation to prevent anyone filming them? Little wonder people refer to this country becoming a Police State.

I am NOT anti-police, but I believe people that are paid to do a job must do it, they should not be allowed to pick and choose which bits they will or will not do on a whim. Further, officers are given extensive training on how to handle difficult situations calmly and professionally whilst always operating within the law. The film clip of the Tomlinson incident suggests that there are some officers out there who think they can do what they want or perhaps that they are above the law.  Yet the Police are forever whining, especially is anyone dares to criticise them or expect them to fight crime.

If a Police Officer dies in the line of duty, we are reminded at how the Police put their lives on the line to protect the public every day, now that is true. But they also know what is expected of them before they join the police service, they are well trained and very well rewarded. Good career prospects, excellent salary and pension scheme and if they behave themselves, a job for life. However, scratch below the surface and the ‘danger’ aspect of policing in this country just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, with all the health and safety rules they must adhere to and the fact that they so rarely get their hands dirty, it is probably one of the safest. Many times more travelling salesmen die in the course of their work than police officers.

The police have demanded and received from compliant politicians more and more powers to monitor, control and deal with ordinary members of the public. Further, they have been given physical weapons and new laws that they can use against any person they so wish, with little, if any independent oversight. They have people within their ranks (serving officers) that have been charged and found guilty of offenses ranging from drink driving, through to violence and drug dealing…..yet they are still expect the public to trust them. Even though these same officers will be the ultimate arbiter of which laws to enforce, when and against whom. A succession of compliant Ministers have made the police in this country all powerful and answerable to no-one. We must wrestle control back to where it must be and that is with the people….because it is difficult to argue that the British Police are NOT out of control.

 

SPREAD THE WORD:

A Conservative MP is seeking a second reading for a new Bill, titled ‘Exercise of Reasonable Discretion’. If passed into law, this will allow every public servant, including MP, civil servants, local government officers, the police etc., a legal defence of ‘reasonable discretion’ in any civil or criminal case brought about as a consequence of their actions. All they would have to prove, is that they acted in good faith, this as anyone in the know will understand, is a catch-all defence.

In essence, it could allow MP’s to argue that they made certain decisions, such as going to war, based on advice where they were required to use reasonable discretion, officials entering into multi-million pound contracts which are subsequently cancelled or overrun, will also be able to claim that they exercised reasonable discretion. It is effectively a get out of jail free card for any public servant. Effectively removing accountability and increasing risk, because of course, if there is no effective punishment, there is no need to be careful. We should all shout as loud as we can to ensure that this type of legislation never sees the light of day.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (5)

Government to spend over £100bn on spy databases

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Government to spend over £100bn on spy databases


In another example of this government paying lip service to the rights and freedoms of the individual, The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, suggests that some 25% of government databases are actually illegal, either under Human Right Legislation or the Data Protection Act. As you would expect from a government that has slowly eroded our liberty and privacy, there is no apology or commitment to put things right, instead we are expected to accept a bland statement as follows: “It takes its responsibilities seriously and will consider any concerns carefully, adapting existing safeguards where necessary.” Take the rebuke the government received in December from the European Courts, in relation to the DNA database, have they done anything about it? No! In fact, the government doesn’t even know how many databases they have!

This year the government will spend £16bn on databases and they are committed to spend a further £105bn over the next 5 years. Has no-one reminded them that there is a deep recession going on? This government has indicated that it will have to raise taxes to balance the books, this includes increasing national insurance by 0.5%, raising income tax to 45% for those earning over £150k and an increase in VAT to 18.5%. This is in addition to the double whammy on fuel duties as a consequence of the fuel escalator and the shafting we were given when this government adjusted the fuel duty to take eliminate the “benefit” of the reduction in VAT to 15%. They will now gain that money back when they increase VAT back to 17.5%, because the duties will not be adjusted.

We are expected to pay additional taxes to this pathetic administration at a time when we must all trim back our costs whilst the government are continuing to spend £billions on unnecessary databases which only service to destroy individual civil liberties and right to privacy. It is the state gone mad. Take one of ‘their’ databases, Onset, this is a profiling tool which examines a child’s behaviour and social background to identify potential child offenders. What? They are now going to use information from ContactPoint and then profile it to work out who tomorrow’s criminal are likely to be. How long do you think it will be before they are using all of the data gathered from the various databases to work out how adults might behave? One thing they do not need a database for is to profile an MP’s likelihood to maximise their expenses, quoting their adherence to the rules, rather than the spirit of the arrangement. It doesn’t bear close scrutiny, yet their couldn’t give a toss what we think, so long as they have claimed as much as they can, without breaking the rules.

But, don’t think that the Conservative Party will do anything to redress these massive state powers that have been ceded to ministers through the introduction of ever more draconian legislation, the Conservatives have said virtually nothing. Cameron hasn’t got the backbone to deal with this issue, no he prefers to talk about “social cohesion” and tell us that we must all accept higher taxes, even though he doesn’t know how much money he could save by curbing public sector excess and waste. Gordon Brown maybe deluded and an idiot, but Cameron is also demonstrating that he is a bit of a prat, because he can’t see how angry the people of this country are, not just with the government, but the opposition who have sat idly by and allowed it to happen.

The reality is the majority of the people in this country are so complacent, they haven’t got a clue that this massive land grab of state power will affect each and everyone of us in the future, irrespective of whether we have done anything wrong. This is so clearly not about fighting crime and terrorism and anyone that believes otherwise is at best, naive and more likely, plain stupid.  No government will ever hand these powers back, so unless we start to fight back now, we will have to accept that each and EVERY aspect of our lives will be recorded and monitored. That is not a free democracy, it is a police state. Me, well quite frankly, I have had enough!

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (6)

PoCA: Yes, Crime does pay in the UK

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PoCA: Yes, Crime does pay in the UK


In yet another example of this government burying anything that doesn’t work, the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) has been abolished and responsibility passed to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Yes, the ARA failed to achieve its objectives, having collected just £23m from criminals whilst costing the taxpayer £65m over 4 years, but this is hardly the way forward. All that will happen now is that the seizure of assets gained through criminal activity will receive much less attention and will, eventually, be lost amongst the myriad of other priorities within SOCA. It sickens me when I see failed government initiatives buried rather than being fixed, particuarly when the government basked in the glory of the original announcement. The government statement suggest that this is to “streamline” the work by law and order agencies, but we know the truth, it is simply to hide their failure from the public.

The ARA was originally set up by David Blunkett in 2003 to act as the enforcement arm designed to support the new legislation introduced under the Proceeds of Crime Act (PoCA). At the time, David Blunkett said, “We are hitting organised criminals where it really hurts – in their pockets.” Yet, four year later, this is what Conservative MP Edward Leigh, had to say about ARA: “It was ill-planned and recovered only about a third of its expenditure. Far too few cases were ever referred to it, its management information systems were in a mess, it prioritised cases badly and it underestimated the time it would take to pursue them.”

In an interview with BBC Panorama, David Blunkett said that at this juncture, he would have expected the ARA to be seizing between £500m and £800m a year instead of the paltry £137m siezed this year. Of equal concern must be the fact that a 2007 National Audit Office enquiry found more than £16m had been spent on receivers fees and that in 12 cases the fees amounted to more than the assets frozen, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the difference. This is a clear and utter failure.

What is not lost on me is the irony of this Government’s approach to crime. Even though there is existing legislation in place (PoCA) to target and seize the assets of criminals, which is not working, they continue to introduce even more draconian legislation. However, this time the legislation targets everyone of us, all 61m!

According to the government, in the fight against crime, we must all be spied on and treated as ‘potential’ criminals. We are having every email we send, every text and every mobile phone call monitored and recorded; we must accept that our internet browsing history will be recorded; we must now accept that our travel arrangements have to be registered and recorded, including names (and who we travelled with), addresses, telephone numbers, seat reservations, travel itineraries and the credit card details of travellers; Oyster cards, both in their current format and that proposed, which can track our movements on any form of public transport; ANPR and CCTV cameras that monitor our every move, there are some 4.2m CCTV cameras in the UK, many on the road networks, so our journeys can literally be tracked from camera to camera. ANPR can be used to track individual cars using number plate recognition; ID cards with full biometrics; a massive DNA database; ContactPoint which records every aspect of our children’s behaviour, education and well-being up to the school leaving age…the list just goes on and on. It is as if each and everyone of us is on probation, everything we do, say and write is recorded on at least one Government database.

The bottom line is that the UK IS turning into a Police State, but instead of targeting criminal and terrorists, the Government is going for ‘soft targets’, by targeting each and everyone of us just in case we do something naughty. Surely the answer is to target our finite resources on known criminals, the Police know who they are and the same with potential terrorists, the Police and MI5 also know who the majority of them are? The truth is Government’s consistently lie to us. For example, when Margaret Thatcher introduced the Child Support Agency, she made a great play on the fact that its first priority would be to target “errant father” who were not supporting their children, in fact they did nothing of the sort, instead, they went after all those that were paying and simply re-assessed their payments using a ‘one size fits all’ calculation that brought many families to their knees, just so that they could hit targets. This current Government is doing the same thing, justifying draconian, Police State type laws, which will be applied to each and everyone of us, whilst demonstrating an impotence in the utilisation of existing (new) legislation that was supposed to target serious, career criminals.

The State runs the very real risk of turning the majority of people in this country into criminals for some relative misdemeanor, whilst ignoring those that can and should be targeted. Criminalising the majority is not the way to solve major crime, surely even our inept and contemptuous Government can understand that?

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (8)

Travel database and Government spin

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Travel database and Government spin


Whatever the government tries to tell us, the new travel database has little to do with securing our borders and more to do with controlling and monitoring the activities or each and every British citizen. In fact, with the new telecommunications database, which will monitor every email, text message and mobile phone call, this governments access to our personal data will be akin to a prisoner having a tag fitted, except, it will be on 61m people.

For those that believe the travel database won’t affect them, then think again, as many as 1800 government and private agencies will have access to our personal travel details. Anyone that believes this information will only be used by government agencies with responsibility for border controls is at best naive. Let me give you a couple of examples of what this information could be used for.

If you have children of school age and decide to take them out a week before their school break to save money for your annual holidays, then you should be aware that the travel arrangements will be recorded. The school could then, theoretically at least, access this information and commence proceedings against the parents. Yes, you can argue parents shouldn’t do this, but it is worth nothing that as many as one third of all parents do.

Suppose you regularly go abroad for your booze and fags, these journeys will now be recorded, as will your luggage. As a consequence, if the HMRC deem that you go too often they could seize the goods, seize your vehicle, fine you, prosecute, you or all four!

Maybe you earn air miles as a result of your business or work. If you use air miles or some other voucher to pay for a personal flight, then this will be recorded. How long do you think it will be before the HMRC cotton on to this and send you a bill for this ‘benefit in kind’?

Perhaps you are lucky enough to win an incentive from your company which includes overseas travel or, maybe you have been invited by a supplier for a conference or the like. Strictly speaking, you should ascertain whether or not this would be considered a ‘benefit in kind’, if so, you must declare it on your tax return. If you get it wrong, forget to include it on your return or try and get away with it, HMRC will know, because the details of the trip, including the cost and who paid for it will all be recorded. Do you really think they won’t be looking?

Lets say you have saved up for a trip of a lifetime, or perhaps one of your relatives have contributed to the cost, the HMRC will be able to check the cost of the travel arrangements against your earning and if it is above an accepted average, it could trigger an investigation. Granted, it may be perfectly innocent, but the onus will be on you to prove how the trip was funded, this may mean you having to detail your income and outgoings for

decades. If you have a perfect record AND you can prove it, then you have nothing to fear. If, however, a relative, has gifted you money, whether for the trip, or at some other time, unless it is below the annual gift threshold, then the gift could be subject to tax. If you haven’t paid the tax, you can also expect, at the very minimum, a fine, but they may also prosecute. So, you still think the travel database won’t affect you?

Remember, these new controls will include monitoring how much you spend whilst you are abroad, so if you normally buy a few gifts, electrical items, DVD’s, clothes etc., and you don’t bother declaring them, then think again. Because they will know how much you spent, where and, of course, if you declared these goods when you returned to the UK. How many of the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” brigade can claim to have a perfect record I wonder?

So, if you have never carried out any of the above and you don’t intend to, you are almost certainly in the minority, therefore it may not affect you.

Unless, of course, there is something that I have missed out and you can be certain, that this Government is well ahead of the game. They have even looked at it as a revenue generating scheme by threatening anyone who does not register their travel details with a fine of up to £5,000, as always with this government, it is always stick and no carrot.

For example, this database and UK Border Controls will also start to collect fingerprints, how long before they require other bio-metric data, remember, the Government wanted to include this information on ID Cards, but because there was such an uproar, they are intending to collect it using other means,

in this case, anyone that travels abroad and that is most of us. This Government are just hoping that we are too stupid to notice that they are simply gathering this information via another means. We have seen the government agencies sell our personal data to private companies, one example is the DVLA who have provided parking companies with the name and addresses of vehicle owners, so that they can be hounded for parking fines. How long before they are selling our travel arrangments to airline companies and the like?

Our government consistently lie to us about why they need so much data, constantly harping on about terrorist threats and so on. The reality is, determined terrorists will always be able to get in through our porus borders, they know how to get virgin passport; spying on the travel arrangements of 61m people will NOT prevent terrorists (who may be here anyway) from entering the UK, nor will it stop people being smuggled into the UK. Instead, all it will do is allow the state to terrorise the people of this country. Is this really what you want?

The LibDems, and no I am not a supporter, do at least appear to want to roll back government intrusion with their Freedom Act, lets hope that they will have some success and the electorate will start to understand just how intrusive government has become into our everyday lives.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (1)

Dismiss the dodgy coppers now

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Dismiss the dodgy coppers now


At a time when the police are targeting any misdemeanor made by a member of the public, it transpires that some of their number are themselves convicted criminals, yet they are still entrusted with the power to deal with the public. This is completely unacceptable, although to be honest, with Jacqui Smith’s track record, I am not completely surprised.

Under Jacqui Smith’s tenure each time the police want more powers to persecute the public they get them, irrespective of what this means to the civil liberties of the individual (Tasers, Prostitution, DNA etc). I am not anti-police, far from it, but if I am going to be investigated by a police officer, he had better have a record as clean as my own. That said, I am firmly against the police gaining ever more powers to spy on every citizen in the country, irrespective of whether there are grounds for such intrusion. It is completely unacceptable and implies that we are all suspects.

Just who are the police serving? Public confidence in the police service will not come by placing ‘plastic’ policemen (PCSO’s) in the front line, whilst experienced officers are searching databases looking for criminal intent or hiding in their comfortable and often, very expensive motor cars. In fact, where are the 160,000 police officers?

According to the LibDems, information gathered using the Freedom of Information Act, indicates that more than half of the 1,063 convictions admitted to by police forces that responded to the FOI request related to speeding or other motoring offences. However, what is particularly shocking, is the fact that some 77 officers have convictions for violence and 96 for dishonesty. How is the public supposed to retain faith in the police force of this country if they retain officers that have been convicted of criminal acts such as these? It is worth noting that the quoted figures are likely to be lower that the actual numbers reported given only 41 of the 51 police forces responded.

According to the LibDems, offences included a serious assault in Durham and four incidents of drug possession in Surrey. What is perhaps more shameful, is rather that condemning, the Police Federation sought to defend these officers. Granted, it is a small number when compared with the 160,000 police officers in the service, but, what is undeniable, is the fact that these dodgy coppers have besmirched the service they are supposed to represent and in doing so, cast a shadow over the police officers that do abide by the law.

In my view, this is shameful, Jacqui Smith should try and do something useful during her term in office, (which, mercifully, is likely to be quite short) and that would be to ensure that these officers convicted of a criminal offence are immediately thrown out of the police service.

Posted in Civil Liberties, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (8)

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