Category Archives: Law

Online Harms Bill could be Johnson government’s only USEFUL new law

Social media trolls could be neutered by incoming Online Harms legislation by the Tory government. It could be the most useful thing Boris Johnson ever does.

I’m not just publishing the above headline because, if the Online Harms Bill had been an active law in 2019, Rachel Riley’s followers – and allegedly Riley herself – would have been prevented from abusing a teenage girl with mental health issues who supported Jeremy Corbyn.

There are some very good ideas in here, including a demand that political content must be policed impartially, which is startling.

Consider:

All social media sites, websites, apps and other services hosting user-generated content or allowing people to talk to others online will have a duty of care towards their users so that what is unacceptable offline will also be unacceptable online.

They will need to consider the risks their sites may pose to the youngest and most vulnerable people and act to protect children from inappropriate content and harmful activity.

They will need to take robust action to tackle illegal abuse, including swift and effective action against hate crimes, harassment and threats directed at individuals and keep their promises to users about their standards.

The largest and most popular social media sites will need to act on content that is lawful but still harmful such as abuse that falls below the threshold of a criminal offence, encouragement of self-harm and mis/disinformation.

The final legislation… will contain provisions that require companies to report child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) content identified on their services.

That takes care of the kind of abuse received by the teenage girl in Rachel Riley’s libel case against me (from Riley’s supporters), and also of the gaslighting (allegedly) carried out against her by Riley herself.

All in-scope companies will need to consider and put in place safeguards for freedom of expression when fulfilling their duties.

People using their services will need to have access to effective routes of appeal for content removed without good reason and companies must reinstate that content if it has been removed unfairly. Users will also be able to appeal to Ofcom.

Category 1 services [the largest and most popular social media sites] will need to conduct and publish up-to-date assessments of their impact on freedom of expression and demonstrate they have taken steps to mitigate any adverse effects.

These measures remove the risk that online companies adopt restrictive measures or over-remove content in their efforts to meet their new online safety duties. An example of this could be AI moderation technologies falsely flagging innocuous content as harmful, such as satire.

Content on news publishers’ websites is not in scope. This includes both their own articles and user comments on these articles.

Articles by recognised news publishers shared on in-scope services will be exempted and Category 1 companies will now have a statutory duty to safeguard UK users’ access to journalistic content shared on their platforms.

This means they will have to consider the importance of journalism when undertaking content moderation, have a fast-track appeals process for journalists’ removed content, and will be held to account by Ofcom for the arbitrary removal of journalistic content. Citizen journalists’ content will have the same protections as professional journalists’ content.

This is handy for people like This Writer, who have had our accounts on Twitter (for example) suspended because of vexatious complaints by (in my case) people who described themselves as supporters of Riley.

Ministers have added new and specific duties to the Bill for Category 1 services to protect content defined as ‘democratically important’. This will include content promoting or opposing government policy or a political party ahead of a vote in Parliament, election or referendum, or campaigning on a live political issue.

Companies will also be forbidden from discriminating against particular political viewpoints and will need to apply protections equally to a range of political opinions, no matter their affiliation. Policies to protect such content will need to be set out in clear and accessible terms and conditions and firms will need to stick to them or face enforcement action from Ofcom.

When moderating content, companies will need to take into account the political context around why the content is being shared and give it a high level of protection if it is democratically important.

For example, a major social media company may choose to prohibit all deadly or graphic violence. A campaign group could release violent footage to raise awareness about violence against a specific group. Given its importance to democratic debate, the company might choose to keep that content up, subject to warnings, but it would need to be upfront about the policy and ensure it is applied consistently.

This is the part that amazes me, coming as it does from a right-wing – fascist – government.

As with everything in politics, the proof of its usefulness is in practice, so I can’t give it my unqualified support.

On paper, it means the court case currently taking up a certain unwanted amount of my time won’t happen again, because the abuse caused to the teenager at its centre would break the law.

Whether the activities provoking that abuse would also be against the new law is an element that may have to be tested, though.

I think we can all look forward to some interesting debates on this in the Commons, where I hope MPs will examine how the new legislation would relate to some of the more infamous online incidents in recent history…

Including those involving me.

Source: Landmark laws to protect children and stop abuse online published – GOV.UK

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Confused by the Riley libel appeal? Here’s what it all meant


I was just looking at viewing figures for the Court of Appeal on YouTube.

The case before mine came in at 156; the one after, 67.

Riley v Sivier: 3,400.

How nice to be popular!

But I wonder how many of those were repeat views by people trying to understand what was going on. The suited and bewigged inhabitants of Court 70 seemed to be arguing about things to which the casual viewer wasn’t privy.

This article is an attempt to address that.

So for a start, let’s look at my grounds for appeal.

One of my defences was that I had published my article about Rachel Riley and the teenage girl with anxiety issues who suffered sustained abuse on the social media for daring to criticise the TV parlour game-player because it was a matter of public interest.

According to the Defamation Act 2013, it is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that— (a) the statement complained of was, or formed part of, a statement on a matter of public interest; and (b) the defendant reasonably believed that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest.

In determining whether the defendant has shown this, the court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case, and must make such allowance for editorial judgement as it considers appropriate.

For the avoidance of doubt, this defence may be relied upon, irrespective of whether the statement complained of is a statement of fact or a statement of opinion.

So the task for our justice system was to determine three issues:

i) was the statement complained of, or did it form part of, a statement on a matter of public interest?

If so,

ii) did the defendant (that’s me) believe that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest?

If so,

iii) was that belief reasonable?

The first and third issues are objective – it either was or wasn’t, depending on whether it meets the relevant criteria. The second issue is subjective – it’s about what I believed at the time I published the article.

In respect of the second and third issues, the truth or falsity of the allegation complained of by Rachel Riley is irrelevant. The defence can apply to an untrue statement (or in this case, a statement for which insufficient evidence was provided to the strike-out hearing to establish that it was true).

My public interest defence was separate from, and in addition to my other defences, which were that my statements were true and that they were statements of honest opinion.

The judge at the strike-out hearing, Mrs Justice Collins Rice, struck out my truth defence on the grounds that I was unable to provide a tweet by Rachel Riley declaring that she was a bully and that she published the tweets mentioned in my article in order to cause a teenage girl with mental health issues to suffer an enormous amount of abuse.

She then struck out my honest opinion defence on the grounds that I could not have an honest opinion about statements that were not true.

Her finishing touch was to strike out my public interest defence on the basis of a false submission by Rachel Riley that it must fail as a consequence of the truth defence being struck out.

Here’s what Riley said, in paragraph 71 of her strike-out application:

“71. Similarly the defence brought under s.4 DEA 2013 cannot have been reasonably believed if the facts relied on in the truth defence are incapable of supporting a plea of truth.”

This was a clear error of law.

Riley’s counsel accepted in oral submissions (that’s during the strike-out hearing itself) that this statement was wrong.

Riley’s case concerning my public interest defence was otherwise undeveloped and did not occupy the court’s time.

Nevertheless the judge, in her judgment, seemed to have swallowed Riley’s submissions whole and did not address any of the requirements of the defence.

She did not address the contents of my actual pleading (what I said).

In fact, she showed no evidence that she had given my public interest defence any due consideration at all.

Not only that, but the conditions in which my truth defence was judged – which had been laid down by a different judge, Mr Justice Nicklin – had nothing to do with the public interest defence.

Mrs Justice Collins Rice appeared – although we cannot be sure because her judgment was so vague that she did not even provide the reasons on which it was made – to have proceeded on the assumption that “the statement complained of” in a public interest defence against the allegations against me was the same as the single meaning of the words complained of, as found by Mr Justice Nicklin. Not true; “the statement complained of” refers to the actual words that I published. There’s a difference!

And, by the way, I pointed out that there was a difference, through my own representative, at the strike-out hearing. She couldn’t even say she hadn’t been told.

If she had considered my defence as pleaded – as she was bound by law to do – it would have been readily apparent that she had no power to strike it out, because it is unsuitable for such an action. “The court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case” – so it is impossible to determine whether it was reasonable for me to believe that publishing my article was in the public interest without hearing any actual evidence from me.

I’ll come back to this, because there’s an assumption here that my article is dishonest – and I take the greatest offence to anyone – High Court judge or whoever – bandying about such a claim without even showing any evidence for it.

Furthermore, the public interest defence is a developing area of the law. Mr Justice Nicklin (remember him?) said, “In an area of law which is developing, and where its boundaries are drawn incrementally on the basis of decided cases, it is not normally appropriate summarily to dispose of the claim or defence.

“In such areas, development of the law should proceed on the basis of actual facts found at trial and not on the basis of hypothetical facts assumed to be true on an application to strike out.”

Are we clear, so far? The strike-out application did not provide any admissible grounds for my public interest defence to be struck out, and the judge made an error in law by doing it.

So, in her response to my appeal, Riley put forward a completely new case that was longer than the whole of her previous application to strike out all of my defences. Not allowed!

So in my appeal, I submitted that Riley should not be permitted to advance her new case, on the following grounds:

Whilst a respondent may provide “reasons different from or additional to those given by the lower court” it does not extend to mounting an entirely new case, unheralded in that lower court. It is confined to “reasons” which were open to the lower court, but which it did not rely on. In order for these reasons to have been open to the lower court, they had to have formed part of the respondent’s case. And these hadn’t.

It was incumbent on Riley to bring forward the entirety of her case in her original application. As a matter of procedural fairness it is objectionable for her to withhold the entirety of her application until my appeal.

This was addressed in the appeal hearing when my Counsel pointed out that the proper place for Riley to bring forward her new arguments was the High Court, and in not doing so, she had deprived me of the opportunity to consider and respond to them there – putting me (and contributors to my CrowdJustice fund) to the extra expense of an appeal court hearing that could otherwise have been prevented.

My public interest defence cannot be determined in the absence of my evidence as to my belief that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest. Concerning as it does my subjective belief, this is an in inherently fact-sensitive inquiry. In the absence of a clear case that the defence is bound to fail – which this is not – it is not amenable to summary determination (in other words, strike-out by a judge on the basis of barristers’ arguments rather than on the basis of evidence).

Possibly the most important point is that my appeal had to be on a “pure point of law”. By the same token, Riley should not be permitted to raise a new case in the Court of Appeal because it is not a “pure point of law”.

So, having failed to put forward a permissible argument in the High Court, Riley had no right to make an entirely new and separate case against me in the Court of Appeal.

That said, I still had to show that her new arguments were wrong, so let’s look at them.

She claimed that the statements I made were not on a matter of public interest because:

It discloses no grounds capable of giving rise to a reasonable belief by me that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest. Further or alternatively:

The particulars of the defence are deficient such that the pleaded defence stands to be struck out as being likely to obstruct the fair disposal of proceedings.

I responded without prejudice as follows, to Riley’s new case:

My defence (the original document, written in early 2020) pleads four matters of public interest addressed in the Article:

  • Online bullying and harassment including death threats; I highlighted the online bullying and harassment including death threats to which C has been exposed, as well as Rose.
  • The power of an adult celebrity compared to the relative powerlessness of a vulnerable child suffering anxiety.
  • Mental health; this point is connected with that of Riley’s power in comparison with that of her teenage victim, emphasising that the girl is a vulnerable person, quite apart from the fact that she was a child at the time of the events to which my article referred.
  • Anti-Semitism.

Riley’s contention is that none of the last three matters “is the focus or purpose of the article. None of these topics is examined in the article or forms any material part of it”. This is demonstrably wrong . Amazingly, she even made a general assertion to the effect that they aren’t even matters of public interest – although she did not provide overt arguments.

In respect of “Online bullying and harassment including death threats”, Riley does say that this is not a matter of public interest. This is a curious position for at least three reasons:

i) The article explains that Riley herself is the victim of such bullying, harassment and threats, as reported in a national newspaper. The first portion of the article is specifically concerned with The Guardian’s reportage and includes Riley’s own words.

ii) The article then sets up a counter-narrative by addressing the online bullying and harassment including death threats, suffered by the teenager. This remains a matter of public interest not least as it again concerns Riley, albeit as perpetrator, not victim.

iii) In terms of wider context, it is indisputable that online bullying and harassment is not just a matter of public interest, but pressing public interest – consider the recent Online Harms White Paper and Law Commission consultation on reform of communications offences (as I did, in my written submissions).

On the claim that I could not reasonably believe that my article was on matters of public interest, I had the following to say:

Riley was proceeding from a false premise – a limited selection of the tweets that formed the basis of my article. The full facts were not considered by the High Court. The judge excluded relevant tweets showing that the teenage victim was trying to retreat from the debate (and from the abuse she was receiving) – but Riley kept dragging her back to it, culminating in a thread on December 18 in which she said:

“I’m not finding Rachel Riley to be a nice person at all. I said I wanted to move on from this debate and end it, then she tweets me about retracting my comments after I said I stand by my opinion but will always listen to others.

“She said that she isn’t singling me out but all she has done has encouraged an onslaught onto me. I tried to be respectful and mature to her by saying I understood her stance but she’s just thrown it in my face.

“I may be sixteen but that doesn’t automatically make me an idiot. I will not sit here and let her dictate what I say and how I feel. I do not feel threatened by you, Rachel and I would have hoped you could have listened to everyone else’s opinions instead of just your own.”

According to Mrs Justice Collins Rice, the dialogue between Riley and this girl was entirely civilised and respectful until the teenage changed her attitude in January (nearly a month after this thread was published). The judge expressed the belief that other people had persuaded the girl to change her stance but this is clearly untrue.

No consideration is given to tweets by anybody other than Riley and her teenage victim.

In addition, the Twitter accounts of various third party followers of Riley’s, including their tweets, had since been deleted.

Riley does not challenge my belief in the public interest in publishing my article, whether in terms providing a counter-narrative to the Channel 4 News broadcast, The Times article, The Guardian article and her own widely-published tweets, or in highlighting perceived hypocrisy in her own treatment of the teenager or her record on anti-Semitism. These are not addressed.

These omissions are significant, as I will explain in his evidence at trial – should I ever get to provide it! I will demonstrate that:

a) The version of events presented in the mainstream media appeared incomplete. Riley was reported as being targeted by Labour supporters but the reportage did not detail how Riley had engaged with and attacked those same Labour supporters with whom she disagreed.

b) Primary sources in the form of the tweets of Riley, Tracy-Ann Oberman and the teenager were available and I checked them. Riley and Oberman are blue-tick Twitter celebrities whose tweets could be attributed to them (the blue tick on Twitter means the account is only used by the celebrity claiming ownership of it). I considered Rose’s tweets and the bullying narrative they conveyed (including those in which she specifically implicated Riley). I saw the abusive messages to which the girl had been subjected by Riley’s followers and noted the intensity and unpleasantness of the campaign waged against her and her father by Oberman, who had tagged Riley into her tweets. Oberman’s campaign coincided with Riley’s own tweets about Rose.

c) In my judgement this was a matter of public interest. It was not a minor Twitter spat. A child, who faced mental health challenges, reported being subject to online abuse culminating in death threats which had extended to attacks upon her parents. This was as a result of the conduct of adult celebrities whose power was wholly disproportionate to that of the child. The protections afforded to those adult celebrities were also disproportionate, Riley receiving extra security in her role as a television presenter whereas no protections were available to the child. There was a wider context to the hypocrisy alleged against Riley, given her record concerning anti-Semitism.

d) Riley’s story was prominent in national broadcast and print media and had been publicised on Twitter to her 600,000-plus followers. By contrast, the girl’s story had a much narrower audience. I sought to draw the public’s attention to both stories in parallel, highlighting a counter-narrative which in his judgement was of public interest.

e) I published urgently – at my earliest opportunity – in order to challenge the narrative in the mainstream media most recently conveyed in newspaper articles that morning. I am an experienced journalist. The decisions I made with regard to the article were in the exercise of my editorial judgement.

This is only a summary of the evidence I will give. But it serves to illustrate that my reasonable belief is unsuitable for summary determination by any judge in the absence of actually hearing my evidence.

Nevertheless, Riley squarely challenged the honesty of my belief that publishing the statement was in the public interest. To say, as my Counsel did, that “This is objectionable” is a devastating understatement. I take deep offence to unevidenced claims that I am a liar and of course no judge should ever support unevidenced claims made in a courtroom. Case law must be about facts, not fanciful tittle-tattle from the top of a TV game show girl’s head.

Put another way: “dishonesty must be specifically alleged and sufficiently particularised” and “The purpose of giving particulars is to allow the defendant to know the case he has to meet” – Sofer v Swissindependent Trustees SA [2020] EWCA Civ 699 per Arnold LJ at paras 23(1) and 24(1). That’s your actual case law.

According to the Defamation Act, when considering a public interest defence, “the court must make such allowance for editorial judgement as it considers appropriate”. Riley did not address my editorial judgement as described in my defence. Instead, she simply asserted that “the article as a whole was not on a matter of public interest”. This assertion is untenable.

That is the gist of what I said in my written submissions to the court, and what Riley’s Counsel (and the judges, at times) tried to argue against.

When the judges announced they were retiring, after the evidence had been heard on Tuesday (April 27), I thought they were going to come out with a verdict straight away – that they had already made up their minds.

It was a huge surprise when they said they were reserving judgment and would submit it in written form in the future. On the day I tweeted that this may be because – as the public interest defence is a new area of law – they need to consider the possible repercussions of any decision in either direction.

As time stretches on, I don’t mind admitting that there have been discussions about whether the judges are trying to find an excuse for a verdict against me.

If that happens – well, you’ve seen the arguments. You can see that they are all on my side.

And it’s only a short hop to the Supreme Court.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Twitter is ordered to answer Vox Political’s Subject Access Request. This could be embarrassing!

Remember when Twitter suspended This Writer’s account back in December?

It was connected with my reporting of Rachel Riley’s attempt to strike out my defence against her libel claim.

Apparently, this person complained to Twitter about it –

Identified? This person posted screenshots that appear to show they are responsible for the complaint that had Vox Political’s Mike Sivier suspended from Twitter. Mike has no idea who this person is and a Twitter search provides no evidence of any contact.

– and Twitter suspended me on the spot.

I then submitted a Subject Access Request which Twitter failed to honour, despite being legally obliged to do so – and that’s where the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) came in.

Twitter emailed me on December 17. Its statement – and what I wrote in response on This Site – are as follows:

“Thank you. Our record indicates that your account is not suspended. This case will now be closed.

“It really won’t, you know.

“Yes, my account was restored on Thursday (December 17), but it had still been unavailable to me for five days and I want to know why. I have a right to know why. Remember, Twitter never contacted me with a reason for my suspension.

“I submitted a Subject Access Request, which is a legal requirement. By UK law, Twitter has one calendar month from the date I submitted my request (December 12) to honour it. No excuses. No apologies. If it fails to provide the information, Twitter will have broken the law.”

At the time, Twitter had been collecting a huge amount of criticism for suspending accounts belonging to left-wing writers, apparently after receiving co-ordinated complaints from users who were making false claims of anti-Semitism.

The message from Mr(?) Grunspan, above, clearly appears to be connected with this as it deliberately makes a connection with Rachel Riley’s court case against me and reasserts the false claims of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial against me.

I had to wait a while for the ICO to get back to me.

In the meantime, Twitter suspended my account again at the beginning of February – again with no notification. I had to wait a whole month before it was restored this time and, as with the December suspension, I was told that investigations showed I had not, in fact, done anything against the site’s rules.

Today (April 21) I received an email from the ICO. Here are the relevant parts [boldings theirs]:

“We have considered the issues that you have raised with us and our decision is that there is more work for the organisation to do.

“We have therefore raised your issues with the Chief Executive, via the Data Protection Officer, explaining that we want them to work with you to resolve any outstanding matters.

We expect the organisation to fully address your complaint by telling you what they are going to do to put things right, or if they believe they have met their data protection obligations by explaining fully how they have done so.

“We have allowed the organisation 28 days to consider the issues that you have raised with us, and to consider next steps in your case. Many organisations will contact individuals sooner than that, however, if you have allowed 28 days, and there is no contact at all then please let us know.”

I look forward with interest to finding out how Twitter will say it honoured my Subject Access Request. I expect you will, too.

The clock is ticking. Do you think I will even receive a response by (checks calendar) May 19?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Mercer sacked over unequal treatment in prosecutions of armed forces veterans

Mercer: it’s right that he should leave the government – but it’s for the wrong reason.

The Minister for Armed Forces Veterans has reported that he has been “relieved of my responsibilities in government” because he disagrees with Tory policy on prosecutions for historic crimes.

This is extremely dodgy ground. It seems clear to This Writer that, if a serving member of the forces has committed a crime while on active duty – but the evidence only comes to light later – they should still face prosecution for it.

The Tory government sees the matter differently and has included in its Overseas Operations Bill measures to protect veterans from prosecution if the alleged crimes were committed more than five years before any allegations are made…

… except for those who served in Northern Ireland. They have been excluded from this measure, meaning long-retired personnel could face imprisonment for alleged crimes committed decades ago.

Nobody deserves to face the extreme distress of court proceedings and possible imprisonment over false allegations, of course.

But nor should anybody receive an automatic free pass if they did commit crimes, no matter how long ago they happened. Think of paedophiles whose abominable practices with children only come to light decades after they took place.

So Mercer is right to go – but he’s going for the wrong reason.

He should be leaving because personnel who served elsewhere are being let off – not because those who served in Northern Ireland are still on the hook.

He should also be leaving because the government hasn’t bothered to devise ways of weeding out unfounded, frivolous or malicious attempts to prosecute veterans, but has instead opted to offer (potentially) amnesty to criminals.

But nobody can say his views weren’t known. He offered to resign from Theresa May’s government in 2019 over the same issue. So it is perhaps unsurprising that he has now left Boris Johnson’s government after it refused to pay attention to his concerns about the same issue.

Of course, we don’t know the exact circumstances yet. First we were told Mercer was on the point of resigning, then we were told he had been sacked, then that he had actually resigned, and then in his resignation letter he said he had been “relieved” of his responsibilities.

Still, this is another departure over government policy, following that of Samuel Kasumu – who actually quit after Boris Johnson’s cronies rewrote a report on institutional racism in order to pretend that it no longer exists in the UK.

We may conclude that the Johnson government is highly prejudiced. Not only is it deeply racist, but it also discriminates against forces personnel depending on where they served.

That’s not a good look for a government that desperately wants to appear friendly to those in the services after years of scandal over veterans who were left homeless after their discharge.

Mercer himself won’t be short of cash after losing this job – if he’s still got his £85,000-a-year job as ‘non-executive director’ of a cyber-security firm.

So don’t worry about him. Worry about people who have been wronged by our armed forces who won’t get justice – and about veterans who are being wronged by a government that is still allowing vexatious prosecutions against them.

Source: Johnny Mercer: Tory MP resigns as defence minister – BBC News

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Tories vote down plan to register stalkers and domestic abusers – because of how it would affect them?

Priti Patel: she initially said she would support a register of stalkers and domestic abusers, but reneged on that promise when it came to a vote. Was it because it wouldn’t directly target immigrants?

Boris Johnson’s government is showing us in increasingly blatant ways that Tories only ever make law for their own profit.

David Cameron’s Greensill scandal came about because it seems he designed his law to register lobbyists specifically to ignore the lobbyists who would employ him in the future – to quote just one example.

So what are we to make of this?

The government is facing growing anger after voting against putting serial stalkers and domestic abusers on a national register, despite briefing they were likely to support the measures following the death of Sarah Everard.

Conservative MPs voted against amendments to the domestic abuse bill on Thursday that would have placed serial domestic abusers and stalkers on the current Violent and Sex Offender Register (Visor).

MPs also voted down House of Lords-supported amendments that would have given family court judges training on sexual abuse and provided greater protection to migrant victims of domestic violence.

Why would a Tory government reject a change in the law that would make people safer?

Is it because they don’t think it would affect them?

Or is it because they do? Think about it.

Source: Anger as Tory MPs vote against register for stalkers and domestic abusers | Domestic violence | The Guardian

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Priti Patel attacks immigrants again: her policies breached human rights rules on deaths in detention

Priti Patel has been creating prejudiced policies to frustrate or undermine inquiries into the deaths of people held at her immigration detention centres.

That is the ruling of two judges in the immigration court (and be honest, did you even know we had one?) on Wednesday.

It relates to two friends, Ahmed Lawal and Oscar Lucky Okwurime, both from Nigeria, who were in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre when Okwurime was found dead in his cell there on 12 September 2019.

Lawal was a key witness – but the Home Office, run by Priti Patel, tried to have him deported back to Nigeria five days after the death was discovered – before he could provide any evidence.

He took the case to the High Court where a judge halted his removal.

After he gave evidence in person at an inquest in November 2020, a jury found that Okwurime had died unnaturally, as a result of neglect following a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which can rupture due to hypertension. His blood pressure reading on August 22, 2019 showed hypertension.

The jury found that this reading was not taken again due to multiple failures to adhere to healthcare policy.

Given these opportunities to repeat this basic medical test on a vulnerable person, neglect contributed to the death.

So the Home Office was responsible for the death through neglect of a person in its custody – and had tried to deport the vital witness before he was able to give evidence.

Lawal then challenged the Home Office in the immigration court, focusing on whether the home secretary can remove a potential witness to a death in custody before it is clear whether they will be needed as a witness.

The judges found fault, not only with Home Office policy at the time but with two replacement policies:

The judges found that the home secretary’s decision to remove Lawal to Nigeria was unlawful as she had failed to take reasonable steps to secure his evidence relating to Okwurime’s death before starting removal proceedings.

A replacement policy in August 2020 was also found to be unlawful as it failed to identify and take steps to secure the evidence of those who may have relevant information about a death in detention.

The home secretary’s current policy was found to be “legally deficient”. The judges found that the absence of a policy to direct what should happen following a death in immigration detention was unlawful and concluded that there needed to be such a policy.

A spokesperson for the Home Office is reported as saying that it will be “refreshing” its current processes – not changing them, notice.

I suppose we should be grateful that they didn’t say “lessons have been learned”.

I expect we shall soon find that the only lessons learned from this case are how to cover up any further deaths so we don’t find out about them.

Source: Priti Patel’s detention policies found to breach human rights rules | Priti Patel | The Guardian

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Greensill: further evidence of Cameron’s corruption comes to light

David Cameron: does he regret his involvement with Greensill? Doubtful. Who knows what other connections he lined up for himself while he was supposed to be serving the public in 10 Downing Street?

It seems that after ensuring that a financial services firm he had welcomed into Whitehall could continue lobbying the government, David Cameron did his best to profit from it.

That is the heart of the Greensill scandal, although some of the reporting of it seems vague on the subject.

Cameron ensured that his Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act would not stop firms like Greensill from persuading government ministers to give them money.

Then, after he left Parliament, he took a job with Greensill – and lobbied his former colleagues on Greensill’s behalf.

Now it has emerged that he stood to benefit from a £21.8 million employee benefit trust, and the implication is that this is the reason he lobbied hard for the firm during the Covid-19 crisis, when it was about to go bust.

Now that the firm has been dissolved, of course, his shares are worth nothing.

“Good thing too,” you might say. “He’s had his comeuppance and there’s the end of the matter!”

Well, no.

You see, it stinks of corruption.

We have not just a former minister but a former prime minister who paved the way for his future employers to have access to government funding, then took a job at that company in order to enjoy the profits from that arrangement.

He also lobbied the government on behalf of that company – using loopholes he had made in the law while he had been prime minister – in order to safeguard his own future income.

We have no reason to believe that Greensill was a suitable firm to receive government investment. Indeed, the government’s reluctance to award contracts to the firm, and withdrawal of permission for it to access Covid-related financial aid schemes, suggests strongly that it was not.

The social media are abuzz with this – with much of the gossip focusing on a suggestion that Cameron relied on the “old boy network” to have his way – going to former Eton schoolmate Boris Johnson (the current PM) for help:

This supports the claim that the Tories are sinking in their own corruption. Everybody in the UK needs to know about this, so they can make an educated choice on whether they want continued Tory rule.

Remember: the rest of us were struggling to cope with Cameron-imposed austerity while he was (allegedly) planning to rake in the millions with this now-collapsed company.

And while Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson are all now enmired in the Greensill allegations alongside Cameron – and Johnson in corruption allegations of his own connected to Jennifer Arcuri, we are still struggling to cope with austerity.

The sheer self-serving greed of these Tories is a blight on every citizen of the United Kingdom.

Source: Cameron ‘lobbied senior Downing St aide and Matt Hancock’ to help Greensill | David Cameron | The Guardian

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Starmer tries to jump on ‘law and order’ bandwagon. Satirists push him off

Keir Starmer: I couldn’t find a single image of this former Director of Public Prosecutions with police officers.

The ridiculous Keir Starmer never misses an opportunity to make a fool of himself.

Elected as Labour leader on the basis of 10 pledges (all now broken) that didn’t say a word about law and order, he is now trying to remodel Labour as “the party of law and order” because he can see public opinion swinging against the Tories.

Apparently he’s putting the enforcement of criminal justice at the centre of his local election campaign – even though local authorities have no influence over policing. Nice one, Keith!

Also, there’s currently a huge controversy over the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that his Labour Party rightly opposes due to its introduction of a huge number of new offences (many in breach of our human rights) and draconian punishments for them.

Labour can’t stop the Tories from passing it into law. Does his new campaign mean Labour will enthusiastically support the punishment of these new offences, despite opposing their creation?

He also said the new Police Bill was a missed opportunity to stop violence against women and girls – taking his cue from the backlash against the policing of the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard and the numerous protest demonstrations against police misbehaviour that have followed.

It is – but he didn’t say how he would improve that Bill to ensure that the law protects us, enshrines our human rights, and punishes police officers who cross the line into unlawful violence.

In other words, he gassed a lot of hot air at us. It doesn’t mean a thing.

If he thought we wouldn’t notice, he was sorely mistaken. Here are a few reactions from Twitter:

(This is obviously a reference to the year he has spent sitting on the fence, since he became Labour leader.)

Of them all, this is probably closest to the mark:

Source: Sir Keir Starmer vows law and order drive and hits out at Tories on crime | Evening Standard

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Greensill controversy proves Cameron’s lobbying law was NOT about restricting lobbyists

Cameron: we used to joke about him often having spit dribbling down his chin – maybe he was salivating at the thought of all the money he was (allegedly) lining up for himself post-premiership.

Remember the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act that David Cameron forced on us, back in 2014?

Some of us called it the “Gagging Act” because we knew it was about preventing some organisations and individuals from having a voice in Westminster.

You see, the remit of the lobbying and non-party campaigning part of the act was extremely narrow.

Of course, this meant it also allowed others to carry on bending the ears of government ministers, and I seem to recall that concerns were raised about high-level MPs receiving payoffs from these people in return for privileged access…

…Or indeed, taking jobs for these people – as seems to be the case with former Prime Minister David Cameron.

We need to get our ducks in the right row here, though: Lex Greensill, of financial services firm Greensill Capital, is alleged to have been afforded privileged access to government departments in 2012, two years before the Lobbying Act became law. That would not have been illegal at the time – would it?

Apparently Greensill had been promoting a financial product for pharmacists – The Pharmacy Early Payment Scheme, announced in 2012, that saw banks swiftly reimburse pharmacists for providing NHS prescriptions, for a fee, before recovering the money from the government.

Greensill Capital went on to provide funds for the scheme.

It was later accredited to supply lending under the government’s Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), before Greensill went bust.

The dodgy part is Cameron’s role. He would have been responsible for giving Greensill privileged access in 2012.

He would have been able to ensure that the 2014 law did not affect that privileged position – by narrowing criteria to make sure that Greensill didn’t have to appear on the register of lobbyists, perhaps.

He definitely joined Greensill – as a lobbyist – in 2018 and lobbied on behalf of that firm. The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, investigating, has ruled that Cameron’s activities did not fall within the criteria that required him to be registered as one – according to rules laid out in Cameron’s 2014 Lobbying law.

It looks very much like Cameron rigged the law to make it possible for him to feather his own nest. That would be a serious case of corruption, of course.

He certainly seems to have blocked rules that would now apply to him.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Source: Lex Greensill: Labour questions ex-adviser’s No 10 business card – BBC News

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Here’s what we learned last week about the way the Tories are changing the UK. What can we do about it?

Dictator Johnson: like all fascists, the only rights that interest Boris Johnson are his own – which is why he has announced he intends to abolish yours – and stop the courts from ruling that anything he does is illegal.

The last week in UK politics was seismic – in terms of the changes it announced.

Boris Johnson is using the Tories huge Parliamentary majority to change our way of life, fundamentally.

Here’s what they have started. But what can you do about it?

1. The Conservatives are ending your right to protest.

And they announced it at precisely the wrong moment. After a vigil for a woman who had been kidnapped and murdered – allegedly by a policeman – turned into a riot when policemen started attacking the female participants, Home Secretary Priti Patel introduced a new law that allows police to arrest anybody for making a demonstration that is noticed by anybody else.

There’s no point in protesting if you’re not allowed to make enough noise for other people to notice it, of course.

The move has been interpreted – correctly – as an attempt to head off protests against the Conservatives’ planned political changes that will alter the UK from democracy (albeit a not-very-progressive one) into a full-blown dictatorship.

2. The Tories are giving the police huge new powers of oppression

The example I used was the new power to arrest travellers – not for committing a crime, but on suspicion that they might do so in the future. This comes with a power to confiscate their homes.

Priti Patel’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is full of similar increases of oppression, against people in all parts of the UK’s society, we’re told.

3. The Conservatives are continuing to turn a blind eye to crimes against women – especially if they are committed by the police

Hate crime is the trademark of Conservative governments in the UK since 2010. They have stirred up hatred against migrant workers; they’ve stirred it up against people with long-term illnesses and disabilities. Their new Police Bill will stir up more hate against minorities, while failing to protect more than half the population from crime.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill sets the penalty for attacking a statue at 10 years imprisonment. That is twice as long a term as the starting-point sentence for rape.

We discovered this in the same week that a serving police officer walked free from a court after admitting assaulting a woman who was just walking home at night, using his police training to try to wrestle her to the ground while flinging misogynistic verbal abuse at her. His colleagues had tried to ignore her complaint when she first filed it.

Oh, and after we were told the Metropolitan Police had learned its lessons from an incident when two of its officers published WhatsApp posts of them posing with the dead bodies of two murdered women, another Met officer was alleged to have sent a “vile” post about Sarah Everard, while guarding her body.

4. The Conservative government thinks giving £2.6 million to a firm based in a country that is hostile to the UK – for communications equipment (think about it) – is money better-spent than giving nurse’s an above-inflation pay rise in reward for their work against Covid-19.

5. The Tories are hoping to strike trade deals with nations across the word that violate the human rights of their citizens.

Like is attracted to like, it seems; the Tory government is ripping up the human rights of UK citizens.

6. The Conservatives have announced that they will spend billions of pounds adding 65 warheads to the UK’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

The UK does not have the facilities needed to fire all of these missiles and in any case it would be madness to do so, as it would certainly lead to the destruction of the entire nation in a retaliatory nuclear inferno.

7. The Conservatives have announced an attack on democracy with a plan to change the voting system at local elections to favour them.

They are using the result of a 2011 referendum – about a different subject – to justify changing the system by which Combined Authority mayors, the mayor of London and police and crime commissioners are elected from a form of proportional representation by which those elected must be supported by more than half of the electorate to the old FPTP (First Past The Post) system by which the candidate with the most votes wins, even if supported by a tiny minority of the electorate.

8. The Tories are following through on their threat to end the separation of powers that prevents the UK from falling into dictatorship, by curbing the courts’ ability to rule government actions illegal.

Boris Johnson was caught breaking the law over Brexit and the prorogation of Parliament in 2019 – when he actually misled the Queen in order to get her to end a Parliamentary session early – and he’s butt-hurt about it.

As a result, he intends to ensure that the courts will not be able to stop him from doing anything he likes in the future – no matter how many laws he breaks.

These are just the highlights – of which the worst must be Boris Johnson’s plan to put himself and his government above the law while subjecting the rest of us to increasing oppression.

The big question now is: what are you going to do about it?

We know that a quarter of the UK’s population is 100 per cent behind Johnson because they voted for him and his party – right? Granted, a small number of them might be wavering now because of the extremism of the changes listed above – and remember, they are only events that happened last week – but there remains a significant rump of Tory support.

About a third of those who are left are children who are too young to have their opinions taken seriously by the political elite.

That leaves around half the UK’s population to stand up for democracy.

But the question remains: How do you protect your freedoms when your right to do so is being taken away?

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