law

The Land Isn’t Green And Pleasant

Bdw93bFCcAA2D36Well, I say the land, I really mean the politics.

Scots law and English law are obviously different so the measure outlined in the image does not affect Scotland.

That said, the minds (using that word in the loosest possible way) behind it DO affect Scotland, and a No vote just keeps us at the behest of this kind of ‘mind’.

For the purposes of clarification however, I asked my colleague on the For A’ That podcasts about the veracity of this claim and it is true for civil, rather than criminal cases.

If you think it is just this Tory-Liberal government that have issues surrounding this kind of thing, try watching this wonderful documentary.

If you don’t have time for that, this article sums it up well.

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.

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.