law

Some Situations, half-hypothetical or other

Most of the following things have happened. See if you can spot which one didn’t.

  1. A 17th century king takes offence at the words recounted to him by a diplomat. A country is invaded.
  2. A white supremacist bombs a government building. All white people are interned.
  3. A group of mostly Saudis attacks a trade building. Several predominantly muslim countries are bombed and invaded, even though the people in those countries had nothing to do with those attacks.
  4. One member of a tourist bus tour pisses in the street. All the tourists are deported.
  5. A resistance movement against the Nazis kills an officer of the SS. All the men, women and children in the village where the assassination took place are killed.

All of the above are examples of collective punishment.

Very few people would find the homicidal rationalisations that people give for such actions to be sane. In fact, they would generally be disgusted.

Or would they?

There are certain situations where some people actively support such actions.

I don’t mean they support the mass killing of anyone who happens to live near the person or people who have caused damage or offence, I mean that they suppport the principle of collective punishment.

And this is your example….

The level of violence at Euro 2016 has been alarming, but more alarming for me has been the willingness of both UEFA, the media and also individuals to support the idea of collective punishment.

Experts believe that there are around 150 Russian hooligans who are organised and have even trained for this. Bad people, no doubt. However, for me it does not follow that as a result of the behaviour of these people, 5000 Russian supporters should be deported and the Russian team should be expelled from the tournament. This has been threatened by UEFA and supported broadly across the media.

There have also been problems with England, Croatia and Poland.

Did the players do it? Did the majority of Russian/English/Croatian/Polish supporters do it? No. So why should the rest of them be subjected to collective punishment?

If you can’t justify it in the situations I gave above at the start of this article, then I don’t see how you can morally or logically justify it in the situation of this tournament, or, because it is widely done, in sporting situations in general.

A simple stark fact about a crime or an offence, whether it be real or only perceived, if you can’t find who did it, you cannot justifiably punish anyone. I know it is a difficult thing to accept in situations that are both volatile and emotional, when people are crying for someone’s head, but you can’t seriously make an appeal to justice and fairness by asking for revenge on a group of people, most of whom had nothing to do with the crime or crimes in question.

You find the people who actually did it, then you follow the law. Anything else is revenge, not justice.

 

Time For A Review

k1Recently the Scottish Government have suggested they aren’t particularly interested in speeding up a review of the Offensive Behaviour Bill, but I think some of the following information might make people want to see a review before 2015, when the review is due to come up.

These statistics were obtained from the Scottish Government by Siobhan McMahon MSP and were stated in an interview by  Jeanette Findlay from the Celtic Trust and Fans Against Criminilisation. You can find the original recording here, starting from about 66 minutes.

The first question put was…

“What projects have been funded to tackle sectarianism in each of the last two years?”

This was asked to get an idea of what educational projects were underway. The answer gave some rather surprising facts about where the money was going.

In short, according to Findlay and McMahon (via ScotGov)…

  • A large amount of the funding for anti-sectarianism educational projects, in fact more than half of it, went to the FOCUS (Football Coordination Unit for Scotland) group of the police.
  • In 2011-12 this group received 75% of the funding
  • In 2012-13 they received 32% of the funding
  • They received 1.82 million in total
  • This unit consists of no more than 10 people

Furthermore, this group are there to police an act which at no point mentions sectarianism, but rather mentions “Offensive Behaviour”.

Findlay went on to say…

“One of the things that FAC (Fans Against Criminilisation) has always said is “in whose interest is this?”. The only people in whose interest this act now remains is the police service of Scotland because this is funding which is separate from their core budget. They have a core budget which is getting squeezed so  they need to find other nice tempting budgets that they can get into, and they seem to be swallowing up the bulk of this budget.

A second question was put…

“How many people have been convicted under the Offensive Behaviour Act?”

  • 64 people were prosecuted and of those, 54 were convicted  under the part of the act which is about offensive behaviour at football between 1st March 2012 and 31st December 2012
  • Before taking into account the costs of the lawyers, the court system etc, that works out as £33,703 per conviction.
  • There were 4 people prosecuted under the part of the act which is about threatening communications and one person was convicted under that.
  • Of Celtic supporters, who have been involved in the major protests against the bill and rightly or wrongly feel somewhat more persecuted by it, no one who has pleaded “not guilty” (and therefore gone to trial) has actually been convicted.

BHKhiunCMAIqRK9.jpg largeFindlay also said that another question will be asked about whether these people could have been convicted under existing section 74 offences (such as Breach of the peace, religious aggravation).

Moreover…

  • If you look at 2011-12 the last full year of Section 74 stats, only 8% of all religious aggravated offences took place at football grounds.
  • Therefore, only 8% of offences but then 75% and then 32% of the budgets for anti-sectarian projects are directed towards the policing of football. That makes 50% of the budget for 8% of the offences.
  • More than 10,000 letters have been sent to MSPs raising concerns about the bill. That was in turn discussed in the Justice Committee meeting of the Parliament of the 23rd April.

It’s time to bring forward the review of this.

Finally, she suggested people should be putting in Freedom of Information Requests.

__________________________________________________________________________

UPDATE

My podcasting colleague has informed me that, contrary to the impression I got from a recent interview on the subject of bringing forward the review, the law cannot be reviewed formally at any given time, although an informal review can obviously be done at any time.

Further, the requirement to report is built into the act itself and the law would need to be amended to speed up any review.

That said, given the car crash nature of the law, they should just get on with it.

THE ELECTORAL SIDESHOW

With all the hullaballoo going on about the US primaries a lot of people seem to be forgetting about some of the skullduggery that has surrounded electoral politics in the USA in recent years.

Below is the transcript of a incredibly important piece Democracy Now did about it the other day with someone who was jailed for his role in warping the election process (even more than it already is). Below that is also a fabuluous little piece from Bill Hicks…

Guest:

Allen Raymond, Former Republican operative who served jail time for phone-jamming in New Hampshire in 2002. He is author of “How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative.”

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue on election news, New Hampshire is not just known as a key primary state; it’s also gained attention for hosting one of the biggest election scandals of the last decade. On Election Day in November 2002, the telephone lines at the New Hampshire Democrats’ voting headquarters received scores of hang-up calls in a phone-jamming scheme intended to block a Democratic get-out-the-vote campaign. The Republicans won the Senate race, with John Sununu beating out the Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen for the Senate seat.

Two top Republican campaign officials were later convicted: Charles McGee, then the executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party; and James Tobin, then the northeast regional director of the Republican National Committee. Tobin’s conviction was later overturned pending a retrial.

Democrats say the scheme may have gone higher than New Hampshire Republicans. According to phone records, Tobin made two dozen calls to the White House in the twenty-four-hour period before and after the election.

Also convicted was the head of the telemarketing firm that made the calls on behalf of his Republican clients. Allen Raymond and his company GOP Marketplace received more than $15,000 for the phone-jamming scheme. Raymond served three months in prison in 2006.

Now, Allen Raymond has come out with a tell-all book. It’s called How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. In addition to the phone-jamming scheme, Raymond details other Republican tactics. In a New Jersey congressional race in 2000, Raymond’s firm used scripted, phony automated phone messages to try to play on white voters’ racial prejudices. Carefully selected white households were called with a pre-recorded message featuring an African American speaker urging listeners to vote Democratic. Union households were called with a similar message, but this time with an actor speaking in a heavy Spanish accent. Republicans thought this would take advantage of worker fears of losing their jobs to Latin American immigrants.

(more…)

SMACK

Britain is to remain one of the few places in Europe where parents are allowed to hit their children.

The BBC says

Laws on smacking in England and Wales were tightened in 2004 to stop parents and carers who assaulted children using “reasonable punishment” as a defence….

Under the 2004 Children’s Act, which came into force in January 2005 mild smacking is allowed but any punishment which causes visible bruising, grazes, scratches, minor swellings or cuts can result in action…

Children’s Minister Kevin Brennan said

“about 70%” of parents did not want a ban on smacking and did not want a mild smack to result in a parent being criminalised.

“I think that is the common sense position and we’ve decided to keep that, and are happy that strikes the right balance.”

Aside from the unfortunate use of the phrase “strik[ing] a balance” I wonder if anyone actually stopped to ask the children what they thought about it?

I saw this story and it just made me think about premise 4 of Derrick Jensen’s Endgame

  • Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

Regarding the above, here is what happened when a 5 year old girl hit back…

9. For having a tantrum… US cops handcuffed an unruly 5-year-old girl after she played up in class. After being placed in the back of a police car, she was released when her mother turned up and they said they wouldn’t bring charges against the child – which was very decent of them, dontcha think? 495, 29 April 2005

SEMANTICS

“Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.” –  Jonathan Swift

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Laws are written in such a way that the average person finds it very difficult to decipher them. This is not a technical necessity, it is a ploy. If the public do not understand their rights fully, how can they fight to defend them?

Ordinary people are forced to rely on a set of trained lawyers who are highly paid and for the most part unlikely to be in the position of having to defend themselves against the laws they interpret on behalf of their clients. In effect it is a cartel between lawyers and bureaucrats who draft and interpret the law in a way that guarantees that their services are always required. Unsurprisingly, this happy relationship tends to produce a situation where more and more power ends up in the hands of the bureaucrats and the lawyers. The establishment does not like people who defend themselves in court because it cuts out the trained middle-man and brings people closer to understanding their rights.

If the laws were written in clear and plain language the power of these groups would be drastically reduced.

The ‘Campaign for Plain English’ is “an independent pressure group fighting for public information to be written in plain English.” It has more than 10,000 registered supporters in 80 countries. It is not a plea for standardising English, far from it, “‘Plain English’ is language that the intended audience can understand and act upon from a single reading.”

Here are some quotes from their website that they have translated into simple English…

Before – High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process.

After – Children need good schools if they are to learn properly.

Before – If there are any points on which you require explanation or further particulars we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone.

After – If you have any questions, please ring.

There is also this from the ‘Golden Bull’ award, which is given to the most baffling use of English that the campaign could find…

Australian Taxations Office for its Goods and Services legislation

‘For the purpose of making a declaration under this Subdivision, the Commissioner may:
a) treat a particular event that actually happened as not having happened; and
b) treat a particular event that did not actually happen as having happened and, if appropriate, treat the event as:

i) having happened at a particular time; and
ii) having involved particular action by a particular entity; and

c) treat a particular event that actually happened as:
i) having happened at a time different from the time it actually happened; or
ii) having involved particular action by a particular entity (whether or
not the event actually involved any action by that entity).’

As you can see from the before and after sections, there is no need for this sort of nonsense. If people understand their rights more then they can stand up for them in a much more effective way.

Sign up for the Campaign for Plain English here. You could also check out their Gobbledygook generator or look at the longest and clumsiest sentence they could find. I also think you might enjoy reading ‘Jack and Jill’ written as if drafted by a lawyer.

I can decipher legalese, but I learned more about the law from a couple of Bertolt Brecht lines than I did from a whole load of textbooks. Take this example from ‘The Threepenny Opera’ which is itself an update of John Gay’s ‘The Beggars Opera’ – both of which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Peachum – “the law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it. And anyone who wants a crumb of this exploitation for himself must obey the law strictly”

Brown – “I see, then you believe our judges are corruptible”

Peachum – “not at all, sir, not at all. our judges are absolutely incorruptible: its more than money can do to make them give a fair verdict.”

Please join the campaign. This is not something like a fussy schoolteacher correcting you on your grammar, this is about knowing what your rights are and then fighting to preserve them. If you don’t know you have something, you won’t notice when it is gone.