Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Vote Leave

The wait is finally over, the starting gun has been fired and Britain's EU referendum will take place on 25th June. The British people now have the opportunity to regain their independence and end our subservience to the European super-state.

The main issue in this referendum is whether or not we can reclaim our parliamentary sovereignty as a democratic nation, unfettered by interference and control from a supra-national authority. The political establishment will use every trick in the book to frighten us into believing the horrors that awaits us outside the protection of EU. These scare tactics will all be bogus; there is absolutely nothing to fear from being an independent nation, with control over our own destiny.

Currently the opinion polls show both sides neck and neck, although the remain side are the bookies favourite. But the leave campaign can win this referendum if they show determination, courage and a will to challenge the misinformation of their opponents. Further posts will outline in detail why it is essential that Britain leaves the European Union.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Britain's Injustice System part 3 - Indeterminate sentences

Britain's political elite place great faith in the European Convention on Human Rights believing that it delivers a fair justice system. What they overlook is that judges making interpretations of law under the Convention have their own agenda to pursue. In this respect they are no different to politicians. However, if an unjust law is passed by politicians it is a comparatively straightforward matter to get it changed if problems arise. If a law is passed at the behest of judges, particularly foreign judges, it is much more difficult to get it removed.

The European Convention on Human Rights did nothing to prevent the introduction of indeterminate sentences by the Blair government in 2005. The principle of indeterminate sentences is not new, we have for a long time had mandatory life sentences for murder, and they can similarly be handed down for other crimes of a most serious nature. Only a relatively small proportion of prisoners given a life sentence are never released, most are released on licence after a lengthy prison term. If they breach the conditions of the licence they can return to jail.

However, the introduction by the Blair government of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences were a new innovation which represented a serious attack on the rights of the citizen. An IPP could be issued when it was believed that an individual represents a significant risk of serious harm and has committed a 'serious specified offence' described in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Those prisoners handed an IPP sentence would also be given a minimum tariff by the judge, that is a period of time before they could be considered for release by a parole board. The intention was that IPP sentences could only be handed down in cases were the judge was minded to grant a minimum four year sentence, which meant that the minimum IPP tariff would be two years to reflect the practice that prisoners are normally released on licence after serving half their sentence.

It used to be a principle of British justice that once prisoners had served their sentence the slate would be wiped clean and they could resume their life outside prison without further interference by the judiciary. This principle has been seriously eroded in recent years and IPP sentences are an example of how this can occur. In practice the vast majority of IPP prisoners have remained in prison long after their tariff expired. Reasons for this can include the unavailability of rehabilitation courses (for which their might be a lengthy waiting list), or the refusal of parole boards to agree to a release. Even if they are released there will still be the threat of a return to prison hanging over them indefinitely should they breach the conditions of their licence.

In practice many more prisoners received IPP sentences than was expected when the legislation was introduced, and some prisoners received an IPP sentence when their tariff was for a short a time as a few months. As a result of the greater than expected numbers there were far more IPP prisoners than there were places on rehabilitation courses, for which attendance was a necessary precondition before release could be considered. So the numbers of IPP prisoners continued to increase, with little hope of release for the majority, despite having served the time set out in their tariff.

Former coalition justice secretary Kenneth Clarke described IPP sentences as a 'stain on the British justice system'. As a result of growing criticism IPP sentences were abolished in late 2012 but shamefully this did not apply retrospectively. At the end of June 2015 there were still 4600 IPP prisoners in jail with only limited expectations of release, all of them adding to prison overcrowding and each one an indictment of our justice system.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Mary Whitehouse v The Counterculture

The decade between the mid sixties and mid seventies was a time of considerable social change in Britain. At the beginning of this period British institutions were controlled by a conservative establishment, based on traditional morality infused by our Christian heritage. This came under attack from a coterie of political radicals who came to be labelled as the counterculture. Their agenda would gradually morph into the dominant social and cultural mindset of the present day known as political correctness. The strongest voice defending the values of the old conservative outlook was a Midlands schoolteacher Mary Whitehouse, who sprang to national prominence through her clean up TV campaign. The culture clash which ensued would determine what made Britain the society it is today.

Mary Whitehouse was a vociferous opponent of what she termed permissiveness, which promoted sexual relations outside marriage as a normal recreational activity. She was also concerned about the increased use of bad or suggestive language on TV, depictions of gratuitous violence, the increased availability of pornography, abortion, divorce, the 'gay liberation' movement, nudity, blasphemy and the spread of atheism. Her views were underpinned by her strong Christian faith and values, which she assumed were shared by the vast majority of the British public. In the early 1960s that was not an unreasonable assumption, but by the mid 1970s her views were becoming marginalised and outmoded, as she became the butt of ridicule from an increasingly self confident freewheeling counterculture whose values were beginning to permeate the political elite.

The counterculture specifically rejected the traditional commitment to chastity before marriage and fidelity within it that was the prevailing ethos within British society during the 1950s. They promoted campaigns to give equal rights to homosexuals and lesbians and supported the fledgling women's liberation movement. They adopted an 'if it feels good do it' attitude to life and enjoyed illegal recreational drugs. They were highly idealistic, opposed the Vietnam War, and treated with disdain the materialism and acquisitiveness of 'straight' society. They considered that mainstream religion appeared to be more concerned with spreading self righteous censoriousness, and a conservative cultural conformity, rather than promoting high spiritual ideals. Their culture was reflected in the new wave of psychedelic rock music, and by revolutionary changes in fashion featuring long hair and colourful clothes for men, and mini-skirts for women. The hippie and the 'dolly bird' became the symbols of this new generation of 'let it all hang out' radical bohemians, seeking a new utopia of peace and love.

Politically, the ideals of the counterculture were detested by the Conservative party and were treated with suspicion by the more working class elements of the Labour party. However, middle class supporters of the Labour and Liberal parties were more open to these new ideas and they became the foundation on which today's politically correct agenda was forged. In the 1960s the right were seen as the opponents of free speech, supporters of censorship and suspicious of change, whereas the left were considered to be the champions of modernity, openness, toleration, liberation, anti-authority and anti-puritanical, viewpoints that have proved difficult to dislodge. This ostensibly progressive outlook provided a cover in which the ideals of the bohemian freedom loving counterculture would gradually be hijacked by a combination of strident feminists, supporters of identity politics and promoters of the culture of victimhood, resulting in the oppressive, puritanical and meddling political correctness of today.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Britain's injustice system part 2 - ASBOs

This the second in a series of posts highlighting how injustices can creep into our legal system despite Britain being signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights. The politically correct establishment enthusiastically supports the Convention as a safeguard against legal injustices. In practice, however, the Convention offers little protection since nearly every article allows a wide range of exemptions.

One judicial innovation introduced by New Labour were Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). The motivation behind them was not unreasonable as many people were concerned about unruly behaviour, particularly by children and younger people, which appeared to be getting worse. The popular press highlighted the threat of 'hoodies' and 'feral' youths terrorising an increasingly intimidated public.

Previous to the introduction of ASBOs laws existed to regulate public nuisances of one kind or another, sometimes vaguely worded or expressed in archaic terms. A more modern attempt to address this kind of problem came with the Public Order Act 1986, which referred to 'words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress'. ASBOs were introduced as an extension of this principle, designed to be quick and efficient by 'nipping in the bud' individuals thought likely to develop repeated anti-social behaviour.

Before issuing an ASBO a magistrate must decide whether an individual has behaved in a manner ‘that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress’, and that the order is necessary to stop the behaviour recurring. Breaching the conditions of an order is a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison. In practice, very few ASBO applications were refused by magistrates who were often happy to grant them based on nothing more than hearsay evidence of disgruntled neighbours.

Prime minister Tony Blair was a keen enthusiast of ASBOs seeing them as a useful armoury in his Respect agenda. The government White Paper Respect and Responsibility sought 'a cultural shift… to a society where we respect each other… a society where we have an understanding that the rights we all enjoy are based in turn on the respect and responsibilities we have to other people and to our community’.

ASBOs were introduced in 2002 and for the first few years relatively few were issued, lees than 200 a year, much lower than what the government had hoped for. As a result the Home Office appointed ASBO ambassadors whose remit was to encourage authorities to make greater use of their ASBO powers. From 2003 ASBOs could be handed down by the courts after a criminal conviction, which some argued was punishing people twice for the same offence. In 2006 a National Audit Office report noted that up to 50% of ASBOs were being breached. Reports in the media suggested that some ASBO recipients regarded them as a 'badge of honour', which boosted their 'street cred' with their peers. ASBOs reached a peak of over 4000 in 2005 but by the last year of the Labour government had fallen to about 1600.

Some authorities, keen on issuing ASBOs, soon found that the vagueness of the definition as to what constitutes 'anti-social behaviour' could allow them to push the boundaries of their use beyond what was originally intended, namely challenging low-level nuisance behaviour such as vandalism and abusive neighbours. Authorities discovered that ASBOs could be an effective tool for curtailing other activities that were thought to need controlling.

Opposition to ASBOs began to grow. Youth groups, civil liberties campaigners and concerned parents argued that ASBOs had the effect of ‘criminalizing the young’ as they could be served against children from the age of ten. The probation union, NAPO, called for a re-evaluation of ASBOs on the grounds that 'far too many people are being jailed where the original offence was itself non-imprisonable" and that a 'geographical lottery' exists with massive inconsistencies across the country.

In some cases ASBOs have been issued with arbitrary and absurd conditions attached. Examples of what activities individuals can be banned from doing include; crossing a street, riding a bike, entering a shopping centre, throwing snowballs, meeting friends, riding a push-scooter on the pavement, possession of matches or lighters, entering subways, travelling on the top deck of a bus, wearing a hoodie, entering their own house by the front door, possessing a mobile phone, reading a book in a public library, staring at women, feeding pigeons in their own garden, sitting at a bus stop and being seen wearing underwear in their own home.

None of the above activities are (as yet) illegal in Britain but any individual who breached their ASBO by carrying them out could have faced a five year prison term. This is the reason why ASBOs should be unacceptable, because they criminalise activities which are not themselves criminal and, as a result of which, people can then be sent to jail. They target people not criminal activity. ASBOs were abolished by the coalition government in 2012 only to be replaced by new measures which appear to be even worse in infringing individual liberties.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Ray Honeyford - Britain's first victim of PC hatred.

Ray Honeyford was the headmaster of a Bradford school in the early 1980s in which 90% of his pupils were of Asian origin. He came into conflict with an unholy yet predictable alliance between religious primitivists and hard left activists. Honeyford condemned the all powerful 'race relations lobby' within the local education authority, and the 'multicultural zealots' intent on closing down debate whenever the behaviour of ethnic minorities became problematical.

Honeyford was particularly scathing about what he termed 'Asian parents' regular habit of sending their children back to the Indian sub continent during term time to the obvious detriment of their education. He was also concerned that Asian parents were removing their daughters from drama, dance and sporting activities in contravention of his school's commitment to sexual equality, and he flagged up the problems faced by pupils whose first language was not English.

Matters came to a head at a local meeting of parents to discuss the educational disruption caused when children were removed from school during term time. An atmosphere of intimidation was orchestrated by some Asian 'community leaders' outraged that their cultural practices were being questioned by the school. As a result the education authority caved into the Asians' demands, and the practice of removing children during term time was allowed to continue, despite its possible illegality.

As a result of the publicity generated by this meeting local hard line leftist activists began a campaign to denigrate Honeyford for his alleged 'racial prejudice' and 'ignorant and counter productive' educational strategy 'that must give cause for concern'. Asian parents and political activists formed an action group that organised large-scale protests outside his school. Eventually, about half the pupils ceased to attend lessons, Honeyford received death threats and had to be given police protection. After several months of abuse and intimidation Ray Honeyford took early retirement and never worked as a teacher again.

In a magazine article from this period Honeyford didn't pull his punches against the malign forces confronting him. He identified the tactics that have since continued to grow whereby 'propaganda generated by multi racial zealots is now augmented by a growing bureaucracy of race in local authorities... (that) makes freedom of speech difficult to maintain.' Moreover, he rightly accused 'the race lobby' of 'managing to induce and maintain feelings of guilt in the well disposed majority, that decent people are not only afraid of voicing certain thoughts, they are uncertain even of their right to think those thoughts'.

Honeyford went on to condemn the opportunist and self righteous agenda of those teachers who 'have eagerly embraced the career enhancing possibilities of the new multi-racial orthodoxy in schools. Such people never proceed through rational argument, but rather by the tactic of impugning others' good will.' He correctly identified their agenda as 'far from helping to produce harmony, it is, in reality, operating to produce a sense of fragmentation and discord.' He denounced the reflex use of the term 'racism’ claiming that it 'functions not as a word with which to create insight, but as a slogan designed to suppress constructive thought.'

As a result of the vicious agenda of those ranged against him to subvert his authority, and to undermine and disrupt the running of his school, Ray Honeyford became Britain's first casualty of politically correct zealotry and hatred.