Tag Archives: injunction

Legal challenge to stop nuclear waste dumping near Cardiff

Don’t drink the tap water if you live anywhere near Somerset, Bath, Bristol or southern Wales – especially Newport and Cardiff.

That was the advice of net-based activist Tracy Kelly, in response to the announcement that 300,000 tonnes of nuclear waste is to be dredged from the seabed near Hinkley Point and dumped a mile off the Cardiff shoreline.

But a legal battle has been launched to stop this environmental disaster from being inflicted on the people of south Wales and the West Country.

Here’s the situation, courtesy of Ms Kelly: “Millions of cubic metres of radioactive sludge is being dumped in the Bristol Channel, contaminating inland waters, fisheries, oysters, seals, and will stay radioactive for the next – wait for it – 12,000 years!

“The sludge will create a whole new toxic sandbank which will be so big it’ll be picked-up on marine Radar and will be viewable by space satellites… George Osborne, the former chancellor who couldn’t answer a kid what six times seven was, made the cheap decision to just dump the toxic mud one mile offshore from Cardiff.

“The toxic sludge comes from the Hinkley A nuclear reactor. This is one of several dangerous old reactors in the west of England and western Scotland which have created no less than 19 million tonnes of toxic waste.

“About four million tonnes of that waste is dumped into the Irish Sea from outflow pipes near Windscale where there are high numbers of children with blood diseases and cancer.

“The French company building Hinkley C in North Somerset are the same people building a mega-reactor in Normandy which had to be stopped because the concrete dome cracked.

“Theresa May gave the French EDF company a ‘marine licence’ to dump radioactive waste in Cardiff Bay. Nice. Protestors in their thousands have written letters, staged demonstrations and also submitted petitions – however, BBC current affairs has refused to broadcast a single second of a single protestor’s views on national prime-time news – even though there have been concerned resident meetings happening since the year 2000.”

A barge made its first trip to dump radioactive mud off the coast near Cardiff yesterday evening (September 10).

That is the situation.

Here‘s what’s being done about it:

Opponents to a controversial scheme to dump mud from a nuclear plant off the coast of Cardiff have launched a last-minute legal challenge.

The Campaign Against Hinkley Mud Dumping submitted an application to the High Court in Cardiff on Monday seeking an interim injunction.

Campaigners have argued Natural Resources Wales (NRW) failed to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and said core samples were insufficient under international rules and did not cover all significant radioactive substances from the Hinkley plant.

Here‘s some evidence in support of that statement:

Independent Assembly Member Neil McEvoy said… only 5 samples of mud had been taken from a level lower than 5 centimeters for analysis. The Welsh Assembly petitions committee had asked Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to require the French energy company  EDF (who are building the new nuclear power station) to carry out additional analysis, but this had been refused.

I imagine the petitions committee had made its request after receiving the petition publicised by This Site, here.

The Labour-run Welsh Government said NRW made its decision based on “expert advice”. It also concluded the material was within “safe limits” and posed no “radiological risk” to human health or the environment.

But it seems the tests on which this “expert advice” was given did not assess whether uranium, plutonium and other alpha-emitting elements were present in minute “particulate” form. As such, they can be more easily inhaled into the deep lung and the lymphatic system, and will emit more radiation.

The injunction is an interim measure – if the mud dump is to be stopped for good, protestors will have to fund a costly judicial review.

If you care about your environment, your health and that of your children enough to do something about it, you can add to the crowdfunding scheme that is financing the legal battle.

Please visit the website here to make your contribution.

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Banned by the British courts: A VIP’s book on how he was sexually abused – David Hencke

court

In an era when child sexual abuse is literally coming out of the closet, an extraordinary decision has been taken by a British court to ban a book from an eminent figure on how he survived abuse as a child, writes David Hencke.

A judge has upheld an injunction bought by the man’s son to avoid publication on the grounds it would cause psychological damage to his son if the public knew about his father’s early life at school.

I am indebted to the excellent Inforrm blog for this story. You can read the full report by Dan Tench, a lawyer from Olswang, here.

The injunction was granted by Lady Justice Arden using a bizarre piece of English law [related to a backfiring practical joke].

You can read about Wilkinson v Downton [1897] QB 57 in Mr Hencke’s article. His concluding remarks are illuminating, though:

To my mind to ban a book using case law based on practical jokers to stop someone writing about child sexual abuse is a sick joke in itself. I hope this outrageous ban is lifted as soon as possible.

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Foiled! Lords veto Coalition bid to make being ‘annoying’ an arrestable offence

140108ipna

The Conservative-led Coalition government has suffered a major setback in its plan for an oppressive law to criminalise any behaviour that may be deemed a nuisance or annoyance.

The Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill was intended to allow police the power to arrest any group in a public place who constables believe may upset someone. It was rejected by 306 votes to 178, after peers on all sides of the House condemned the proposal as one that would eliminate carol-singing and street preaching, bell-ringing and – of course – political protests.

It seems the Lords are more interested than our would-be tyrants in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Cabinet in the basic assumption of British law – that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

The politics.co.uk website, reporting the government’s defeat, said the new law would have introduced Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs) to replace Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).

It explained: “Whereas an Asbo can only be granted if a person or group is causing or threatening to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’ to someone else, an Ipna could be approved merely if a judge believes the behaviour in question is ‘capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person’.

“Opinion could have been swayed by a mistake from Lord Faulks, the Tory peer widely expected to shortly become a minister who was asked to give an example of the sort of behaviour which might be captured by the bill.

“He described a group of youths who repeatedly gathered at a specific location, smoking cannabis and playing loud music in a way representing ‘a day-by-day harassment of individuals’.

“That triggered consternation in the chamber as peers challenged him over the word ‘harassment’ – a higher bar than the ‘nuisance or annoyance’ threshold he was arguing in favour of.

“‘I find it difficult to accept a Conservative-led government is prepared to introduce this lower threshold in the bill,’ Tory backbencher Patrick Cormack said.

“‘We are sinking to a lower threshold and in the process many people may have their civil liberties taken away from them.'”

It is the judgement of the general public that this is precisely the intention.

Peers repeatedly quoted Lord Justice Sedley’s ruling in a 1997 high court case, when he declared: “Freedom to only speak inoffensively is not worth having.”

It is interesting to note that the government tried a well-used tactic – making a minor concession over the definition of ‘annoyance’ before the debate took place, in order to win the day. This has served the Coalition well in the past, particularly during the fight over the Health and Social Care Act, in which claims were made about GPs’ role in commissioning services, about the future role of the Health Secretary, and about the promotion of private health organisations over NHS providers.

But today the Lords were not fooled and dismissed the change in agreement with the claim of civil liberties group Liberty, which said – in words that may also be applied to the claims about the Health Act – that they were “a little bit of window dressing” and “nothing substantial has changed“.

A further concession, changing the proposal for an IPNA to be granted only if it is “just and convenient to do so” into one for it to be granted if it targets conduct which could be “reasonably expected to cause nuisance or annoyance” was torpedoed by Lord Dear, who rightly dismissed it as “vague and imprecise“.

That is a criticism that has also been levelled at that other instrument of repression, the Transparency of Lobbying Bill. Lord Blair, the former Metropolitan police commissioner, invited comparison between the two when he described the Antisocial Behaviour Bill in the same terms previously applied to the Lobbying Bill: “This is a piece of absolutely awful legislation.”

The defeat means the Bill will return to the House of Commons, where MPs will have to reconsider their approach to freedom of speech, under the scrutiny of a general public that is now much more aware of the threat to it than when the Bill was first passed by our allegedly democratic representatives.

With a general election only 16 months away, every MP must know that every decision they make could affect their chances in 2015.

We must judge them on their actions.

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Lobbying Bill rethink – another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’?

Listening on lobbying: Andrew Lansley proved exactly how trustworthy he is with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Now he stands ready to hear concerns over the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.

Listening on lobbying: Andrew Lansley proved exactly how trustworthy he is with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Now he stands ready to hear concerns over the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.

It seems we have all been victims of a Parliamentary stitch-up.

Everyone who was getting hot under the collar last week, because the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill seemed to be attacking the fair and proper work of charities and other organisations, probably breathed a sigh of relief when the government announced it would scrap plans to change the way campaign spending is defined.

The Bill would have restricted any charitable campaigning which “enhances the standing of parties or candidates”, in the full year before an election, to £390,000. That’s a 70 per cent cut – plus it would now include staff costs.

The BBC reported that Andrew Lansley has tabled a series of amendments, including one reverting to the wording set out in existing legislation, defining controlled expenditure as any “which can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”.

What the BBC does not say, but is clarified in the government press release, is that “the Bill will still bring down the national spending limit for third parties, introduce constituency spending limits and extend the definition of controlled expenditure to cover more than just election material, to include rallies, transport and press conferences“.

In other words, this is a very minor change. Spending is still restricted during election years (and almost every year is an election year); the work of trade unions will be savaged – in a country that already has the most savage anti-union laws in Europe; and all organisations will still have to watch what they say about anything which might be considered an election issue.

Want to campaign to protect the NHS, introduce fair taxation, fight poverty, improve public health or education, reform the financial sector or civil liberties, or fight the privatisation agenda? Then your budget will be scrutinised and you may not go over. And don’t forget there will be limits on spending within constituencies.

This still means that smaller organisations will enjoy greater influence than larger ones and – perhaps most telling of all – it does not clarify the position with regard to the corporate media. Will the mainstream press be curtailed? Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp UK and the Daily Mail Group spend far more than £390,000 every day, and on material that absolutely is “intended to promote or procure electoral success” – for the Conservative Party. Does anybody seriously believe the Tories will enforce action against their supporters?

One tangential element that this does clarify is the BBC’s political stance. Its story makes no mention of the more-than-100 other amendments that have been proposed for the Bill – possibly because they were put forward by MPs who aren’t in the government. Nor does it mention any of the technicalities that water down yesterday’s announcement. Instead, the BBC presents it as a victory for charities, who are getting everything they want. They aren’t.

It’s another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’ trick.

Doubly so, in fact, because this little circus has diverted attention away from the other aspects of the Bill – its clampdown on trade unions and the fact that it does almost nothing to address lobbying, which was supposed to be its reason for existing in the first place!

Joint co-operation between various trade unions will be made more difficult – to such an extent that the Trade Union Congress will effectively be banned in election years (meaning almost every year).

All unions with more than 10,000 members will have to submit an annual ‘Membership Audit Certificate’ to the Certification Officer in addition to the annual return which they already make. The Certification Officer will have the power to require production of ‘relevant’ documents, including membership records and even private correspondence. What is the rationale for these draconian provisions when not a single complaint has been made to the Certification Officer about these matters?

Is the real motive behind this section of the bill to help employers mount injunction proceedings when union members have voted for industrial action, by seizing on minor if not minuscule flaws which the Court of Appeal would previously have considered ‘de minimis’ or ‘accidental’? Isn’t this about inserting yet further minute technical or bureaucratic obstacles or hurdles in the path of trade unions carrying out their perfectly proper and legitimate activities?

And what about the potentional for ‘blacklisting’? If union membership records are to be made publicly available, as seems the case, then it will be possible for businesses to single out job applicants who are union members and refuse them work.

And then we come to the matter of lobbying itself.

This Bill still does not do what it is supposed to do. A register of consultant lobbyists is not adequate to the task and would not have prevented any of the major lobbying scandals in which David Cameron has been embroiled.

Practically all forms of lobbying, including direct donations to political parties by corporate and private interests, will remain totally unaffected by the legislation and corporations could sidestep it easily, simply by bringing their lobbying operations “in house”.

No less than 80 per cent of lobbying activity will not be covered by the bill – and it must be amended to cover this percentage. The only lobbyists that will be affected are registered lobbying agencies, who will presumably suffer large losses as their clients leave. Perhaps the real aim of this part of the bill is to stop lobbying from organisations that don’t have enough money to make it worth the government’s while?

How does this bill prevent wealthy individuals and corporations from buying political influence through party political donations – direct donations to MPs who then coincidentally vote in ways beneficial to their donors – or directly to political parties, such as David Cameron’s “The Leaders Group”?

How will it stop paid lobbyists like David Cameron’s election adviser Lynton Crosby from having influential roles in politics?

How will it stop people with significant lobbying interests, like George Osborne’s father-in-law David Howell, being appointed as advisers and ministers in areas where they have blatant conflicts of interests with their lobbying activities?

How will it increase transparency when it comes to which organisations have been lobbying which politicians on particular issues?

It won’t.

Nor will it stop lobbyists targeting ministers’ political advisers (SPADs), as was witnessed in the Jeremy Hunt Sky TV affair.

Or prevent corporate interests being invited to actually write government legislation on their behalf – for example the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, who run many tax avoidance schemes, actually write UK law on tax avoidance.

An adequate register would cover all of the above, including details of all non-Parliamentary representatives seeking to influence members of the government, how much they paid for the privilege, and what they expected to get for their money.

Then we will have transparency.