Tag Archives: Crown Prosecution Service

Court case over acid attack threat to charity trustees is cancelled – because the CPS says it’s too costly

Firebombed: Ms Waugh’s car was firebombed by vandals last July, in what may have been a politically-motivated attack.

A court case against men accused of threatening to break the legs and throw acid in the faces of trustees at a vocal charity helping people in poverty has been halted – because the Crown Prosecution Service says it is too expensive.

Elaine Waugh of Humanity UK (also Humanity Torbay) said the threats, believed to be from far-right activists, were made in May last year; it has taken this long for the case to come to the Crown Court.

The accused were also said to have threatened to firebomb the building.

“These guys pleaded ‘not guilty’ and now the CPS said it would cost too much money for a three-day Crown Court trial – and they’d just get a slapped wrist,” said Ms Waugh.

“Our charity has been broken into and our offices destroyed. They threw bleach – and the police were not interested. They were here for 25 minutes, gave us a crime number and we didn’t hear anything again.

“They took a list of our donors from the Labour Party – and nothing else. Something is going on.”

She told This Site she understood that the people harassing them run a “hate” page on Facebook.

“It’s weird that if we say anything at all [that is objectionable to people on the political right wing], our page gets suspended – but they can say what they like and they aren’t taken down.”

Ms Waugh’s own car was firebombed last July, in an attack that endangered her house and the lives of herself and her family. She said the police told her it was a hate crime against Jews – but she is not Jewish.

“My husband was Jewish, and my two sons,” she said. But if the attack was due to her charity work, she could not see the connection because she is Catholic.

“We’re now on a list for hate crime and minority support and help,” she said. “We then had the Jewish Chronicle getting in touch with me and I had to explain.

“I said it was political.”

Ms Waugh added that she had it on good authority that nearly 500 other UK charities are going through the same abuse.

“We have been told that 465 other charities have been victimised. It has been outrageous,” she said.

Ms Waugh said the charity had lost its chief source of funding after a video she made, criticising the Conservative government, was seen more than six million times during the general election campaign.

It costs only £1,400 per month to run, and the service it provides is vital to poverty-stricken and homeless people.

If you can help, please donate to the organisation’s Go Fund Me site.

Larger organisations willing to provide more substantial and long-lasting sponsorship may contact Ms Waugh via the charity’s Facebook page.

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Criminal evidence on Vote Leave handed to CPS. Will Boris Johnson go to Number 10 – or jail?

How can Boris Johnson show his face on the election trail when he may face criminal charges as part of the Vote Leave campaign?

That is the big question. Some may deny it – but they’ll be the ones who say Labour is a disgrace for being investigated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission over trumped-up allegations of anti-Semitism. Hypocrisy?

It is true that Mr Johnson will be among those implicated in the criminal evidence that has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service by the Metropolitan Police after a 16-month investigation.

Vote Leave has denied any wrongdoing but the formal referral by the police means they are seeking advice on how to build the case against that organisation, and where they need further evidence to advance the prospect of charges being brought.

In practise, this means any actual prosecution is still a long way away.

But the timing could not be worse for Mr Johnson.

It links his – and chief adviser Dominic Cummings – to possible criminal charges at a time when he is trying to pretend he is trustworthy enough to lead the United Kingdom.

And of course, this is also a time when he has failed to achieve Brexit on the date he said he would.

Worse still, it comes after the Met dropped an investigation into rival Leave campaign Leave.EU, fronted by Arron Banks, due to a lack of evidence. The fact that an investigation against Mr Johnson’s team is still ongoing is even more damning in contrast with that.

Most damning of all is the fact that Mr Johnson is trying to fight a Brexit election based on a campaign won through potentially criminal activity. He is harming the integrity of the electoral system by continuing to stand as a candidate.

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Johnson and Patel’s police state takes shape

Priti Patel and Boris Johnson: They’re telling us they want to restore law and order – but are they simply planning for the effects of a ‘no deal’ Brexit or positioning for a general election?

Boris Johnson has announced a tightening of security in prisons, to go with yesterday’s increase in funding for lawyers to deal with violent crime cases, and a review – and toughening – of  prison sentences.

This Writer cannot help but notice that these announcements, along with a plan to build more prisons, are arriving alongside news that the UK’s economy has hit a downturn.

Economic activity fell in the second quarter of 2019 – for the first time since 2012. And unemployment has risen by 31,000.

Is Boris Johnson planning for unrest after a ‘no deal’ Brexit that harms jobs and our way of life?

Well, no. The worst part of this is that he probably isn’t.

The one-off payment of £100 million might help in the short term, but Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has described it as “tinkering at the edges”.

And the Howard League for Penal Reform said prisons have become centres of crime and violence and drugs, and the Tory government need to “pour good money after bad” (provide continuous funding) to solve a problem it has created.

The Crown Prosecution Service will receive £85 million to help it prosecute violent offenders – but the Criminal Bar Association has said that this will not seriously improve a system that has been “severely underfunded” by Conservative governments of the last nine years.

It has led to a situation in which “those who commit crime walk free and the innocent risk being convicted”, the organisation has said.

These claims follow assertions that the promise of 10,000 new prison places will not be enough; courts will order criminals to serve tougher sentences before those places become available, meaning that there will still be too few.

We can only conclude that these announcements do not indicate a serious commitment to tackle crime.

So why make them?

One theory is that the prime minister we call BoJob is trying to discourage people from participating in civil unrest if a ‘no deal’ Brexit takes place on October 31.

The thinking would be that a show of sabre-rattling now might reduce violence later.

But we’re being told that, even with the new funding, the authorities would not be equipped to deal with such unrest. So that plan has backfired.

The alternative – and far more likely – is that these announcements are simply attempts to position the Conservatives as the “Party of Law and Order” once more in the run-up to an autumn election.

The government has denied any intention of calling an election – which of course makes it more likely in the mind of a general public that is used to Tories who say one thing and then do another.

And of course there is a possibility that Mr Johnson will be forced into an election after an early vote of no confidence in his government.

September 9 is the date this is most likely to happen, we’re told – less than a month away.

Make a note in your diary.

Source: Prisons: Boris Johnson pledges £100m to boost security – BBC News

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DWP blamed by second coroner for incapacity benefit claimant suicide

The late Julia Kelly

The late Julia Kelly

So you thought Mary Hassall was the only British coroner to have blamed a benefit claimant’s death on the DWP? Think again.

To This Writer’s shame, the case of Julia Kelly was reported in This Blog, earlier this year – but I did not recall that Northamptonshire County Coroner Anne Pember’s report had conferred responsibility for her death on the Department for Work and Pensions after the case of Michael O’Sullivan was reported last month.

Mr O’Sullivan committed suicide in late 2013. North London coroner Mary Hassall, at his inquest early the following year, recorded that his death occurred as a direct result of being declared “fit for work” in a DWP work capability assessment, made in response to his claim for Employment and Support Allowance.

Julia Kelly took her life in November 2014. At her inquest in March this year, according to the Northampton Chronicle, “Coroner Anne Pember, recording her verdict of suicide, said she also believed that the ‘upset caused by the potential withdrawal of her benefits had been the trigger for her to end her life’.”

Ms Kelly had been forced to give up work in 2010 due to pain caused by a car crash (which was not her fault) five years previously. In 2013, she was involved in a second crash and had to undergo a six-hour operation on her spine as a result.

Together with her father, David Kelly, she formed a charity – Away With Pain – to help fellow sufferers of chronic back pain.

But then the Department for Work and Pensions told her she had to repay £4,000 in Employment and Support Allowance payments, saying she had failed to declare capital funds.

It seems the government department was referring to money held by the charity, rather than funds owned by Ms Kelly herself.

Ms Kelly, who had fought for every penny of her benefit at three tribunal hearings, was bombarded with a series of repayment demands. According to her father, it was this relentless stream of brown-envelope letters that pushed her to suicide.

He told Channel 4 News about it. Take a look at the report:

A few months later, the DWP started stridently claiming that no causal link had been shown between claims for incapacity benefits and the suicide of claimants, in response to demands from almost 250,000 petitioners – and more than 90 MPs including the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn – to publish the number of claimants who have died on benefits.

We all know the DWP was lying, thanks to Ms Hassall’s report on Michael O’Sullivan.

The facts about Julia Kelly mean we must now question the magnitude of the lie.

We know the DWP examined the cases of around 60 people who committed suicide after their benefits were withdrawn or reduced – that fact was most recently mentioned in Prime Minister’s Questions, in the House of Commons on Wednesday (October 21) – but the Department has refused to publish its findings.

All Cameron would offer was that he would “look … at” the question asked about publication. He can look at it all day without doing anything about it, of course.

Meanwhile, serious questions are arising as we learn more about these deaths and the extent of the DWP cover-up.

How many people have died due to the reduction or withdrawal of incapacity benefits?

How many of these deaths happened long enough after their benefits were withdrawn that the DWP never bother to record them – on the grounds that it was none of the Department’s business (this is what happened with Mr O’Sullivan)?

How many more coroners’ verdicts have implicated the DWP in the deaths, but have been quietly swept under the carpet?

And – as the United Nations investigates possible grave and systematic violations of incapacity benefit claimants’ human rights – what can be done to secure the release of the facts?

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Vox Political on LBC radio to discuss DWP lies

LBC

Vox Political’s Mike Sivier (that’s me) will be appearing on LBC radio at around 1pm to talk about the revelation that a coroner ruled that a man died as a direct result of being involved in a work capability assessment organised by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Thanks to the Daily Mail, we now know that the deceased was 60-year-old Michael O’Sullivan, of Highgate, north London, who took his own life six months after being found fit for work. The Atos assessor never asked him about suicidal thoughts and the DWP decision maker never considered relevant evidence from his doctors.

The DWP said this was because its policy on further evidence was “regrettably not followed in this case” and that it would circulate a reminder. We have no evidence that this was done or that further deaths did not follow because of similar omissions – and any claims by the DWP must be treated as suspicious.

This is because the DWP, knowing that a causal link between the work capability assessment and the death of claimants had been proved by north London coroner Mary Hassall in January 2014, spent the whole summer denying any such link to campaigners and MPs who were demanding publication of up-to-date claimant death statistics.

Even after its statistics – poor as they are – were published, the DWP kept up the pretence. Clearly, we cannot trust a word that comes out of that organisation.

… and that’s what I’ll be saying at around 1pm today.

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The DWP has lied; ministers know ‘fit for work’ decisions lead to death

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the deaths of claimants.

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the death of at least one claimant.

Let’s get this straight: In an inquest into the death of a disabled man, a coroner ruled in early 2014 that his suicide was a direct result of being declared ‘fit for work’ in a work capability assessment.

Bearing this in mind…

What has the DWP been saying about there being “no causal link” between its administration of the benefit system and the deaths of claimants, again?

Time and time again, we have been told that there is no link between the deaths of any benefit claimants and their treatment by the DWP, even though that government department had at least one report proving the opposite. We can say “at least one report” because we have no evidence to show that coroners have not submitted many, many more.

We do have evidence that the Department for Work and Pensions – and with the Conservative Government as a whole – has been lying to us.

The DWP’s response to the concerns raised by North London coroner Mary Hassall was that its policy on dealing with cases such as that of ‘Mr A’, the deceased, “regrettably was not followed in this case”. And in how many others?

The Atos-employed work capability assessor, responsible for collecting evidence to determine whether Mr A should receive Employment and Support Allowance, had recorded that Mr A was “at no significant risk by working” and failed to ask him if he had suicidal thoughts. Perhaps this is for the best, as we know from experience that the next question is “Why haven’t you killed yourself?” – the query that many of us suspect has ‘nudged’ many towards suicide.

According to Disability News Service, “The Atos healthcare professional had failed to take into account the views of any of Mr A’s doctors during a 90-minute assessment, telling him the DWP decision-maker would look at that evidence instead.

“But the DWP decision-maker did not request any reports or letters from Mr A’s GP (who had assessed him as not being well enough to work), his psychiatrist (who had diagnosed him with recurrent depression and panic disorder with agoraphobia), or his clinical psychologist (who had assessed him as “very anxious and showing signs of clinical depression”). Instead, Mr A was found fit for work. Six months later, he killed himself.”

Six months later? So Mr A would not have appeared in any of the statistics released by the DWP in August, then.

You see how the government has tried to spin its way out of responsibility?

The DNS report continues: “The coroner said in her report that she believed that action should be taken ‘to prevent future deaths’ and that DWP had the power to take such action.

“In its response, DWP said there was a ‘clear policy that further medical evidence [should be requested] in cases where claimants report suicidal ideation in their claim forms which regrettably was not followed in this instance’. It said it planned to issue a reminder to staff about this guidance, but appeared to make no further suggestions for how to prevent further such deaths.”

We have no evidence that any such reminder was issued to staff or that any of them acted upon it if it was.

These are circumstances that should lead to a major prosecution for corporate manslaughter.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, an organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death; and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.

It seems clear that, not only has the coroner accused the DWP of such a breach; the Department has admitted it – and failed to take steps to stop it happening again.

Let’s pause for a moment and note that we would not have evidence that the DWP has been lying about the “causal link” between its behaviour and the deaths of benefit claimants without my now-infamous Freedom of Information request – submitted in May 2014, after the inquest into the death of Mr A.

The request called for the number of deaths of anybody who had been found ‘fit for work’ between the end of November 2011 and May 28, 2014. This would, of course, have included the death of Mr A. The DWP failed to include his death in its statistical release of August 27 this year (which the government claims is a response to my request). Only people whose claim ended within two weeks of their death were included in the figures. I have asked the Information Commissioner to enforce publication of the full number of deaths, in line with both my request and his decision notice of April 30 this year.

It is only when the full number of deaths is known that we may be able to start assessing the full, devastating effect of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy of hate towards people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

For those of us who are working to defend the most vulnerable people in society, important ground has been gained.

But the hardest battle is yet to come.

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Cameron aide charged over child abuse images – at long last

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

Patrick Rock, a former aide of David Cameron and protege of Margaret Thatcher, has been charged with three counts of making an indecent photograph of a child, and with possession of 59 indecent images of childrenmore than four months after he was arrested on suspicion of child pornography offences.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers assessed the images as Level C, meaning they showed sexual activity between adults and children.

This is the man who, as deputy head of 10 Downing Street’s policy unit, had been working on policies that are allegedly intended to make it harder to find images of child abuse on the Internet.

He was arrested on February 13, only hours after resigning his position with the government. Coincidence?

Nothing was mentioned in the press at the time, but days later the Daily Mail started stirring up historical allegations against Labour’s Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt. Coincidence?

It seems suspicions were raised in the Labour Party, because shadow minister Jon Ashworth asked, in the public interest:

  • When were 10 Downing Street and David Cameron first made aware that Mr Rock may have been involved in an offence?
  • How much time passed until Mr Rock was questioned about the matter and the police alerted?
  • What contact have officials had with Mr Rock since his resignation?
  • What was Mr Rock’s level of security clearance?

And, most importantly:

  • Why were details of Mr Rock’s resignation not made public immediately?

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood stonewalled: “Our … actions were driven by the overriding importance of not jeopardising either [the National Crime Agency’s] investigation or the possibility of a prosecution.”

He said: “We judged it was inappropriate to make an announcement while the NCA investigations were continuing.”

David Cameron has declined to comment on the latest development, saying it is a matter for the courts.

He’s changed his tune, hasn’t he?

When Andy Coulson was still facing charges in the phone hacking trial, Cameron couldn’t wait to get on television and make a statement, and never mind whether it was in contempt of court.

All in all, it seems we are facing yet another cover-up bid by this “most open government ever”.

Let us not forget that this happened in the same week that Iain Duncan Smith lost his legal appeal to keep problems with Universal Credit veiled in secrecy.

The DWP had insisted publication of the papers, warning of the dangers likely to be caused by Universal Credit, would have a “chilling effect” on the DWP’s working – a standard defence (see Andrew Lansley’s successful bid to prevent publication of the risk register, detailing problems with his calamitous Health and Social Care Act) that was thrown out by Judge Wikeley in a trice.

The DWP then argued that the order to publish was perverse – that the tribunal responsible had reached a decision which no reasonable tribunal would have reached. Judge Wikeley found that the challenge “does not get near clearing this high hurdle”.

Finally – and most desperately – the DWP tried to argue that the tribunal had not given due weight to the expertise of a DWP witness. Judge Wikeley had to point out that, by law, he cannot substitute his own view of the facts for that taken by the original tribunal.

The DWP was then sent away to consider whether to lodge another appeal.

That’s at least three attempts to hide facts from the public in a single week (it is arguable that Cameron spoke up about Coulson in order to cause a mistrial and prevent him from being convicted of two charges; he cannot say he was unaware of what he was doing, because he has already been rebuked by another judge, earlier this year, for commenting on the trial of Nigella Lawson’s former assistants. In addition, wasn’t it suspicious that Coulson’s defence team immediately leapt up to call for a mistrial ruling, based on the “maelstrom of commentary” Cameron stirred up?) from – as previously mentioned, this “most open government ever”.

There may be more that haven’t become public knowledge.

Does David Cameron really think the public will put their trust in him, with a record like that?

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Lucas, Miller and a law that worked so hard not to treat them equally

140417lucasmiller

Congratulations are due to Green MP Caroline Lucas, who walked free from court today after criminal charges against her were overturned.

She had been charged with obstructing a public highway and a public order offence, during high-profile anti-fracking protests last summer. Neither offence carries a prison sentence – the maximum penalty for either charge would have been a fine of up to £1,000.

District judge Tim Pattinson said the prosecution had failed to satisfy him that Lucas had “the requisite knowledge” about the Section 14 order being in place.

On the obstruction charge, he said he did not hear any evidence that any actual obstruction of a vehicle or person was caused by the protest.

It is good for British justice that Ms Lucas was acquitted – but bad for British justice that she was taken to court in the first place, most particularly because the case contrasts so strongly with that of disgraced former cabinet minister Maria Miller.

Miller claimed tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money under false pretences. You can call that fraud, if you like (maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment).

Did she go to court? No.

Because she is a member of Parliament, the financial irregularity was investigated by a Parliamentary body, the Commons Committee on Standards. Rather than take the advice of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, who recommended that Miller pay back the full amount, the committee ruled that she should return just £5,800 and apologise to Parliament for obstructive behaviour during the investigation.

Surely everybody can see the double-standard here?

The least we can learn from these two stories is that the law absolutely does not treat everybody equally.

Ms Lucas was arrested, detained at Her Majesty’s convenience and now she has faced trial for the offences alleged against her. This MP, who opposes the government in Parliament, was then acquitted after a fair trial and has the support of the general public in this matter.

Miller was accused of a far more serious crime than Ms Lucas but has not been arrested, has not been detained, and has not been tried for the offences alleged against her. The then-government minister was whitewashed by her colleagues and only resigned because of a public outcry against the decision.

What conclusion can the public draw, other than that government MPs are effectively above the law?

David Cameron’s government can only redeem itself with two actions: It must remove Parliament’s right to investigate claims of financial irregularity by MPs and placing this duty firmly where it belongs – with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The other action?

Obvious, really…

Maria Miller must face a criminal trial, charged with fraud.

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Was Stephanie Bottrill a victim of corporate manslaughter?

140111Stephanie-Bottrill

It’s what we all feared, as soon as we found out that people who have been in the same social housing since before 1996 are exempt from the Bedroom Tax:

Stephanie Bottrill, the grandmother who committed suicide because she could not afford to pay the Bedroom Tax, was one of those who should never have been asked to pay.

She took her own life by walking in front of a lorry on the M6 in May last year, just one month after the Bedroom Tax – sometimes called the State Under-Occupation Charge – had been introduced by Iain Duncan Smith. Her rent at the time was £320 per month, some of which was subsidised by Housing Benefit – but the imposition of an extra £80 charge, to come from her own money, was too much for her finances to take.

She left a note to relatives in which she made clear that she had taken her own life – and that she blamed the government.

She had lived in the same Solihull house for the previous 18 years (since 1995). Recent revelations by Joe Halewood at SPeye have shown that this meant she was exempt from paying the charge under the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006.

The government has a duty of care in these matters. It may not impose charges on people who are exempt under legislation that is currently in force, nor may it demand that local authorities should do so. If a person dies as a result of such action, then the government is guilty of a very specific criminal offence.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, an organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death; and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.

An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.

It seems clear – from the suicide note at the very least – that this is an open-and-shut case.

Will we soon see Iain Duncan Smith – or better still, David Cameron – in court?

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