Category Archives: Crime & Justice

Green Defends Human Rights Act

This is the full version of a letter to the Derby Telegraph (pub 18 October 2014) written by Derby member Jean Macdonald to defend the Human Rights Act. She wrote in response to a correspondent who was following the anti-human rights propaganda of the right wing parties and suggesting Britain should “leave the EU to get away from human rights law”.

 

The campaigDefence of Human rightsn to denigrate the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the Tories determination to repeal it is madness. Mr Cameron’s demonising of human rights law marks a significant shift to the right and appears to be an attempt to fight off the threat from UKIP. However, the result of repealing the Human Rights Act will do incalculable damage to the country.

After the Second World War, the Council of Europe (CE) was set up to promote democracy and human rights in Europe. It has 47 member states with 820 million citizens, and is an entirely separate body from the European Union.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was drafted in 1950 by British lawyers and supported by Winston Churchill. Its aim was to ensure that no future fascist regime could lock up its own citizens or make them ‘disappear’.

The Convention established the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). All public bodies such as courts, police, local governments, hospitals, publicly funded schools carrying out public functions have to comply with the Convention rights. Any person who felt his or her rights had been violated could take their case to the Court in Strasbourg.

In 1998, the Human Rights Act was passed by the UK Parliament and came into force in the United Kingdom in October 2000. The Act enabled individuals to take human rights cases to domestic courts rather than having to go to Strasbourg to argue their case.

Many “ordinary” people have had their rights upheld by the court. Public authorities in the UK – including hospitals and social services – have an obligation to treat everyone with fairness, equality and dignity. Through taking a case to court a vulnerable elderly couple who had been sent to different care homes won the right to be cared for in the same care home.

In 2008 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK was violating an individual’s right to privacy by holding fingerprint and DNA information of people who hadn’t been charged. At the time, nearly one million innocent people had their DNA or fingerprints on the database. The UK Law Lords had defended the police’s right to hold our personal information in this way and it took a European Court judgement for common sense to prevail.

What will happen if we remove ourselves from the court and laws that protect our rights in the UK? The only country in Europe not in the ECHR is Belarus. Do we want to join them? The UK is rightly proud of our tough stance around the world on human rights. Can we be confident that no future UK government will ever contemplate actions that will threaten our human rights?

As a member of The Green Party I am committed to the principles in the European Convention on Human Rights and to staying in the EU and working to reform it. I am concerned to hear of any party who is considering opting out.

Everyone can quote examples where money appears to have been wasted on ‘trivial’ matters but what the Tories are doing is highlighting a few decisions they dislike by the ECHR and ignoring all the good decisions that are made. This is nonsense and appears to me to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Jean Macdonald

Gaza Day of Rage – London Rally – Saturday 9th August, 2014

Two Derbyshire Green Party members attended the London Rally. Charlotte and Tony give a short report in words and pictures.

As you know from the press it was really big, the organisers reckoned about 150,000. We got to Hyde Park at about 3.30 pm and it was already full with people arriving all the time.

Natalie Bennett Gaza RallyAs we were marching we saw a few Green Party banners and only one other party banner being Islington Labour Party (Jeremy Corbyn was the final speaker). There was such a variety of people, we were pleased to see Jewish people bravely joining in the appeal to Israel to end the violence. A young Jewish student addressed the crowd at the start of the rally at the BBC. He reminded us all that the lesson of history is that it is wrong always to turn a blind eye to crimes against humanity. With the civilian death toll in Gaza over 2000 people, 400 of them children, it is difficult to know what else to call this action by Israel.

You can see his speech in the Stop the War coalitions report from this link
http://stopwar.org.uk/resources/reports/9-august-2014-the-biggest-ever-uk-demonstration-for-gaza

Speeches had already started when we got to Hyde Park, good points were made by Seumas Milne and Owen Jones (guardian journalists) Natalie was also one of the speakers.  She talked about stopping arms sales and the humanitarian suffering.

To listen to Natalie Bennet’s speech click below. Recorded by Martin Francis.  Apologies for the sound quality
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Eef5CkMvY0U&list=UUMQdWx1-B7B-VRfD2-uETRw&feature=youtu.be

So a good day, let’s hope the government does actually realise the strength of public feeling and stop tacitly supporting Israel, including the selling of arms,

To catch the mood of the day watch this short video put together by Tony Youens
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDPNNchsD3U

The Gagging Bill

DemocracyWe are sliding into a dictatorship.  The new aristocrats of wealth are staging a coup by stealth, controlling what Government does, determining who makes up Government, influencing the political agenda and ensuring that all legislation conforms to their interests.  They are ensuring that the public are unaware of the Government’s programme until it is too late, and are distracting public populist distractions away from policies that will have a huge impact on their lives.  I do not claim this idea as original; I have taken it from Professor Robert Reich of the University of California, who said:

‘I fear that at least since 2010 we’ve been witnessing a quiet, slow-motion coup d’état whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal and entrench the privileged positions of the wealthy and powerful – who haven’t been as wealthy or as powerful since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.’

Alarmist, and relevant only to America?

Remember…

  • ·        ‘It’s the Sun Wot Won It!’ The American owned News International claiming credit for the Tories 1992 unexpected election victory.  Murdoch again endorsing Blair, and hey – he wins!
  • ·        The economic strategy of Austerity that suits the financial institutions but was not included in the Tories election manifesto. 
  • ·        The singular lack of effort to regulate the financial sector that is such a big donor to Tory coffers. 
  • ·        Corporate lobbyists steering energy policy away from renewables towards fossil fuels at a time when 97% of people who know what they are talking about on climate change are screaming, ‘cut carbon emissions’! 
  • ·        Tories in Europe blocking regulations on fracking and blocking moves to implement a Financial Transaction Tax. 

And so the list goes on.  We are seeing members of Parliament acting against the interests of their electors, secure because they know that the corporate press will support their re-election.

In the face of disquiet about the influence of lobbyists, the Government felt compelled to bring in a Lobbying Bill, but with a twist straight out of 1984 – they managed to exclude the activities of the powerful corporate lobbyists and focus instead on charities and small campaigning groups.  They have turned the Lobbying Bill in to a Gagging Bill. The Corporation who are running the show are unaffected and it is the small citizens groups who are trying to bring their concerns to the political agenda who will be effectively silenced in an election year.

So we now find that if the ‘Gagging’ Bill is passed into law, the ability of groups such as the Women’s Institute, Frack Off and campaigns against Austerity will be severely limited in their ability to bring their concerns and policy preferences to the attention of the public in an election.  The corporate run big party election machine will have a clear run to push the official line.  All the electors will hear is ‘Britain’s on the mend’ and ‘the medicine’s working’.  Nothing about destitution, hunger, under-employment, full time jobs for less than a living wage, obscene banker’s bonuses, the rich getting richer, the poor poorer.  Those who might have the true facts on the state of British society will have been silenced.

And this is not all.  Hidden away in the sub-clauses of an Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill are proposals to stop protest.  A middle ranking police officer will have the power to ban any protest if it is deemed to risk causing a disturbance.  Any Council will have similar rights if any group of electors raises opposition to a demonstration. 

This Bill is proposing a nebalcombe-frackingw power called the Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance.  Unfortunately it can’t be applied to politicians on Newsnight, but it can apply to just about anyone else away from their home.  So a landowner could apply it to ramblers on a foot path; the owners of a drilling site could apply it to people walking slowly along an access road; the organisers of a hunt could apply it to anyone holding a critical placard.  A person speaking in a public place can be silenced least she or he annoy anyone. 

There is no definition of ‘Nuisance or Annoyance’; it is the opinion of a Council or a senior police officer who seeks the injunction.  Once granted the injunction can be enforced by any ‘officer in uniform’.  There needs to be no clear intent, only the officer’s opinion that there is a risk of undefined ‘antisocial behaviour’.  The Officer will have dispersal and exclusion powers and the power to remove any person they ‘suspect’ to be under 16.  Failure to abide by the instructions of the Officer is an arrestable offence that could lead to imprisonment.

This is an attack on our fundamental right of free assembly and free speech.  This Bill has been sternly opposed by campaigning groups, the churches, political groups and legal opinion.  Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, acting on behalf of the Christian Institute said

 ‘It is easily foreseeable that these powers may be invoked by the police in situations where their use impacts bluntly upon the exercise of rights to free expression and free assembly, as well as other core right.’

In his Opinion he cited the following statement from the European Court of Justice referring to the European Convention of Human Rights.

 ‘Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of (democratic) society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man.  Tolerance, of low-level non-criminal behaviour that may be capable of causing some person annoyance or nuisance, is an important feature of an open and democratic society governed by the rule of law.’

We may also note here that the Conservative Party wishes to withdraw the UK from the European Convention, in the light of this Bill, we can see why.

For more information on opposition to the Gagging Law go to:  http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2014/01/22/gagging-law-we-won-the-argument-but-lost-the-vote/

Mike Shipley – Press Officer, Derbyshire Green Party

'Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria'

Caroline-LucasSpeaking in the debate on Syria in the House of Commons last night, Caroline Lucas echoed the sentiment of the majority of members of the House in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

‘I have no doubt that we are all united in complete condemnation of the deplorable chemical attacks on civilians in Damascus. The gut-wrenching images of those attacks are etched on all our minds as we sit here tonight.’

She went on to recognise the importance of opposition to another military intervention in this volatile region, recognising that the force of public opinion and the opposition in Parliament had stayed the Government’s hand and forced it to recall Parliament rather than fall in line behind the American determination to mount a military attack.

‘It beggared belief that, once again, we could have been about to embark on military engagement, without apparently having learned any of the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan…. As Hans Blix pointed out earlier this week:

“If the aim is to stop the breach of international law and to keep the lid on others with chemical weapons, military action without first waiting for the UN inspectors report is not the way to go about it.”

Caroline went on to express her concern that once again it seemed that Governments were prepared to flout international law in taking military action without the full support of the UN.

‘… both the US and our Government are indicating that they are prepared to act against Syria without a UN mandate. For all that the Government’s motion talks of making “every effort” to ensure a Security Council resolution, the bottom line appears to be that they are happy to proceed without one.’

She outlined work that has been undertaken by Madeline Albright and others to clarify the legal position on military intervention in sovereign States and said that the clear conclusion was that explicit UN approval was essential.

‘ The conclusion from all this is clearly, if inconveniently for the Government, that military action against a sovereign state, other than in self-defence, without the authority of the Security Council cannot be justified under the responsibility to protect.’

Acknowledging the views of other members of the House, she said :

‘…we have an opportunity now with the new regime in Iran and we should be responding to a more moderate leader there, yet by going ahead and giving a signal that military action is the direction in which we are heading, we absolutely undermine the authority of that new leader in Iran.’

Referring to the wider consequences of any attack, Caroline expressed concern that these clearly had not been thought out.  She pointed out that in being asked of the likelihood of Assad taking retaliatory action in the event of an attack, Nick Clegg had no answer.

 ‘It was put to him [on radio] that Assad could well retaliate against an attack, but when he was asked what we would do in the face of such an escalation, answer came there none.’

Expressing serious concern of the implications of yet again taking military action that flouts international law she warned:

‘As the law of the jungle takes hold, it will be increasingly difficult to condemn similar actions by others. I am increasingly convinced, therefore, that only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria and by extension hold its spread beyond the region. That is why I will not support the Government’s motion.  Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria ‘ 

[for a full transcript of Caroline’s speech, see:http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2013-08-29a.1479.0 ]

‘Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria’

Caroline-LucasSpeaking in the debate on Syria in the House of Commons last night, Caroline Lucas echoed the sentiment of the majority of members of the House in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

‘I have no doubt that we are all united in complete condemnation of the deplorable chemical attacks on civilians in Damascus. The gut-wrenching images of those attacks are etched on all our minds as we sit here tonight.’

She went on to recognise the importance of opposition to another military intervention in this volatile region, recognising that the force of public opinion and the opposition in Parliament had stayed the Government’s hand and forced it to recall Parliament rather than fall in line behind the American determination to mount a military attack.

‘It beggared belief that, once again, we could have been about to embark on military engagement, without apparently having learned any of the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan…. As Hans Blix pointed out earlier this week:

“If the aim is to stop the breach of international law and to keep the lid on others with chemical weapons, military action without first waiting for the UN inspectors report is not the way to go about it.”

Caroline went on to express her concern that once again it seemed that Governments were prepared to flout international law in taking military action without the full support of the UN.

‘… both the US and our Government are indicating that they are prepared to act against Syria without a UN mandate. For all that the Government’s motion talks of making “every effort” to ensure a Security Council resolution, the bottom line appears to be that they are happy to proceed without one.’

She outlined work that has been undertaken by Madeline Albright and others to clarify the legal position on military intervention in sovereign States and said that the clear conclusion was that explicit UN approval was essential.

‘ The conclusion from all this is clearly, if inconveniently for the Government, that military action against a sovereign state, other than in self-defence, without the authority of the Security Council cannot be justified under the responsibility to protect.’

Acknowledging the views of other members of the House, she said :

‘…we have an opportunity now with the new regime in Iran and we should be responding to a more moderate leader there, yet by going ahead and giving a signal that military action is the direction in which we are heading, we absolutely undermine the authority of that new leader in Iran.’

Referring to the wider consequences of any attack, Caroline expressed concern that these clearly had not been thought out.  She pointed out that in being asked of the likelihood of Assad taking retaliatory action in the event of an attack, Nick Clegg had no answer.

 ‘It was put to him [on radio] that Assad could well retaliate against an attack, but when he was asked what we would do in the face of such an escalation, answer came there none.’

Expressing serious concern of the implications of yet again taking military action that flouts international law she warned:

‘As the law of the jungle takes hold, it will be increasingly difficult to condemn similar actions by others. I am increasingly convinced, therefore, that only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria and by extension hold its spread beyond the region. That is why I will not support the Government’s motion.  Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria ‘ 

[for a full transcript of Caroline’s speech, see:http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2013-08-29a.1479.0 ]

A Police Commissioner for Derbyshire

John Youatt, the convenor of the Derbyshire Dales region interviewed Carole Brister, an independent member of the Derbyshire police authority (DPA) – and chair of its Citizens’ Focus and Partnerships committee.

Carole served the DPA for nearly 10 years. She found the position extremely interesting and worked hard to represent the views of her community. She finds it disappointing that a good system has been abolished in favour of a party political system. However, Carole states: ‘The process is underway, whether we like it or not, and I urge people to turn out and vote for their candidate. This way at least the elected Commissioner will have a mandate’

The DPA consisted of 17 people:- 9 elected councillors appointed by the county and city councils to reflect the councils’ political make-up; and 8 independents. There was thus a stronger overall democratic and citizens’ element, with better balance and continuity, than the new system. In one case (not Derbyshire), thousands of £s is being spent by a rich right wing candidate, dedicated to cuts and outsourcing, or privatisation. He might prove to be the model for any Tory or UKIP commissioners.

Very few strong independent “great and good” citizens have come forward (as Cameron had hoped). It seems that, with only days to go, the turn out, with no government funded leaflets, and on a winter’s day, will be poor. In most cases, only political parties have the cash and organisation to put up candidates. The Tories’ purpose that they can dominate shire police forces, might be achieved: their mantra that it will be ‘more democratic’ will almost certainly fail. Labour, likely to win the next general election in 2015 or before, is standing in Derbyshire and elsewhere, but is opposed to the principle and might well abandon the practice in due course.

John says, “If there was anything wrong with the current authority, it could have been mended by direct elections, eg of the chair and a few members, coincident with the county elections. I don’t understand how a party-funded commissioner can swear an oath of impartiality. It’s fatally flawed”

Green party members have the usual options – not to vote: or to write ‘not this system’ or similar; or to read the candidate manifestos and vote for the only experienced candidate, closest in beliefs to the Green Party.

All the candidates are on the website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-19506238 Here you can look for the candidate with the best experience and the best manifesto for you.

Some basic facts.

  • Derbyshire constabulary’s recent budget is £180m of which £1m is spent on the Police Authority
  • The 17 members were paid a basic fee of £9k, with a support staff of a CEO and 9 officers
  • The DPA had a clear structure with 4 main committees, one of which was dedicated to community focus. It had statutory powers
  • Recent cuts have been well managed. The Derbyshire Police are in good shape all round. It is actually recruiting at the moment
  • The present Gov’t, or at least the conservative element, is seeking cuts of 20%
  • The Commissioner will be paid £75k and a deputy could be paid £45k. He will have sweeping powers over the budget and the Chief Constable
  • The officers will be transferred on current terms for at least 2 years
  • There will be a panel to scrutinise the work of the Commissioner consisting of 10 Councillors and two independents with no power
  • Some Tories favour the USA model in which party policies are delivered vigorously by locally elected party members
  • Senior police officers have been muzzled
  • The constabulary’s assets of buildings, equipment and vehicles worth hundreds of millions of £s will be at the disposal of the Commissioner
  • The count is on Friday morning at Alfreton leisure centre. The result is expected in the afternoon.

The election of Derbyshire's Police and Crime Commissioner.

 

Few would argue that the actions of the police have an enormous impact on Derbyshire residents. Their role is to uphold laws agreed by Parliament on behalf of the community. To do this they are provided by a budget provided by the tax payer, partly from central government and partly from a proportion of Council tax paid directly to the Police Authority. In reflection of this budgeting arrangement, local councils are represented by elected Councillors on the Police Committees and the Home Secretary, nominally with Parliaments consent, can set a strategic framework for national policing. In the current financial climate, resources are scarce and the Coalition Government is forcing the Derbyshire Police Authority to cut 170 jobs to save £22m.

Difficult decisions will have to be made, the police can not do everything that the community might wish them to do with the budget provided. What will be cut? Funds for crime prevention? Funds for partnerships with youth agencies to help young offenders change their behaviour? How does the enforcements of traffic speeding compare with drug enforcement? Is enough attention given to pursuing corporate fraud? The list is endless.

Under a proposal brought forward by the Conservative Party and enacted by the Coalition Government, the way the police are managed is about to change. All Police Areas outside London will be voting on Thursday for a new position of Police and Crime Commissioner, an idea imported for the USA. Although operational decision will remain the prerogative of the Chief Constable the management decisions and budgeting allocations will lie with the new PCC, who will also hire and fire the Chief Constable.

The Green Party opposed the establishment of the PCC, fearing that the holder of this post, who in many cases will have been sponsored by a political party, will be more susceptible to the corporate lobbying of vested interest groups and to the populist agenda of the tabloid press than the real priorities of the people of Derbyshire. These fears have already been given substance here in the East Midlands. The Sunday Telegraph, hardly a conspiracy theory newspaper has disclosed how Mervyn Barrett, one of the “independent” candidates in Lincolnshire has flooded the county with DVDs and leaflets in a £100,000+ election campaign “secretly backed by American neo-conservative lobbyists and companies pushing for police privatization” The fact that he thinks G4S, who already run most of Lincolnshire back-room operations, to be a “well run” company, is particularly alarming.

[see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9623068/The-secret-US-lobbyists-behind-Police-and-Crime-Commissioner-election.html# ]

To stand in this ‘democratic’ election, a candidate needs to put down a depot of £5000, and would need to spend at least as much on publicity in order to be noticed among the slick gloss of the big money candidates like Mr Barrett. The Government has refused to fund a mailing to the electors to inform them about who is standing. By putting high finical hurdles in place for participation in these elections the coalition government have ensured that only those with considerable financial means, or support from business are able to participate and that is not democratic. When the former Police Chief Ian Blair is so concerned he tells the public not to vote you know there’s something amiss.

The Green Party will not be participating in this sham election and we advise our supporters to follow Ian Blair’s advice and not to vote. We remain committed to proper accountability and control of the police, but that can best be achieved through directly elected police boards that can properly reflect the range of interests and priorities within the County. It will not be achieved by the imposition of a police commissioner who the public do not understand, want or can afford to pay for.

Duncan Kerr & Mike Shipley

The election of Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

 

Few would argue that the actions of the police have an enormous impact on Derbyshire residents. Their role is to uphold laws agreed by Parliament on behalf of the community. To do this they are provided by a budget provided by the tax payer, partly from central government and partly from a proportion of Council tax paid directly to the Police Authority. In reflection of this budgeting arrangement, local councils are represented by elected Councillors on the Police Committees and the Home Secretary, nominally with Parliaments consent, can set a strategic framework for national policing. In the current financial climate, resources are scarce and the Coalition Government is forcing the Derbyshire Police Authority to cut 170 jobs to save £22m.

Difficult decisions will have to be made, the police can not do everything that the community might wish them to do with the budget provided. What will be cut? Funds for crime prevention? Funds for partnerships with youth agencies to help young offenders change their behaviour? How does the enforcements of traffic speeding compare with drug enforcement? Is enough attention given to pursuing corporate fraud? The list is endless.

Under a proposal brought forward by the Conservative Party and enacted by the Coalition Government, the way the police are managed is about to change. All Police Areas outside London will be voting on Thursday for a new position of Police and Crime Commissioner, an idea imported for the USA. Although operational decision will remain the prerogative of the Chief Constable the management decisions and budgeting allocations will lie with the new PCC, who will also hire and fire the Chief Constable.

The Green Party opposed the establishment of the PCC, fearing that the holder of this post, who in many cases will have been sponsored by a political party, will be more susceptible to the corporate lobbying of vested interest groups and to the populist agenda of the tabloid press than the real priorities of the people of Derbyshire. These fears have already been given substance here in the East Midlands. The Sunday Telegraph, hardly a conspiracy theory newspaper has disclosed how Mervyn Barrett, one of the “independent” candidates in Lincolnshire has flooded the county with DVDs and leaflets in a £100,000+ election campaign “secretly backed by American neo-conservative lobbyists and companies pushing for police privatization” The fact that he thinks G4S, who already run most of Lincolnshire back-room operations, to be a “well run” company, is particularly alarming.

[see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9623068/The-secret-US-lobbyists-behind-Police-and-Crime-Commissioner-election.html# ]

To stand in this ‘democratic’ election, a candidate needs to put down a depot of £5000, and would need to spend at least as much on publicity in order to be noticed among the slick gloss of the big money candidates like Mr Barrett. The Government has refused to fund a mailing to the electors to inform them about who is standing. By putting high finical hurdles in place for participation in these elections the coalition government have ensured that only those with considerable financial means, or support from business are able to participate and that is not democratic. When the former Police Chief Ian Blair is so concerned he tells the public not to vote you know there’s something amiss.

The Green Party will not be participating in this sham election and we advise our supporters to follow Ian Blair’s advice and not to vote. We remain committed to proper accountability and control of the police, but that can best be achieved through directly elected police boards that can properly reflect the range of interests and priorities within the County. It will not be achieved by the imposition of a police commissioner who the public do not understand, want or can afford to pay for.

Duncan Kerr & Mike Shipley