Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stupid Leftist domestic violence laws in Britain

Thousands of women are at risk of assault because new laws to curb domestic violence have backfired, deterring victims from seeking help,The Times has learnt. Since legislation was introduced in July to criminalise domestic abuse at least 5,000 women have failed to report violent partners, judges have claimed. Under the Domestic Violence Act 2007 a breach of a non-molestation order is now a criminal offence and not dealt with in the civil courts. But battered wives, and sometimes husbands, are reluctant to seek an order for fear of giving their partners a criminal record and, potentially, a prison sentence of up to five years.

The judges' concerns have prompted talks at the highest level between Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, and Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division. The alarm was raised by both circuit judges and the Association of District Judges, whose members deal with domestic violence cases. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said that an urgent meeting with Sir Mark would be held to discuss his fears. "We would be concerned if the courts were not making protecting orders," he said. A spokesman for Sir Mark said: "The president is very concerned that, for whatever reason, the legislation appears to have led to a reduction rather than an increase in the protection afforded to victims of domestic violence as a result of the change of the law." Sir Mark felt it important that judges "at the sharp end seeing its impact" were able to flag up their concerns, he added.

Judge John Platt, a circuit judge with more than 20 years' experience of domestic violence cases, has drawn up a report reflecting the judges' views for the president. He told The Times that he estimated that the number of [mostly] women seeking non-molestation orders had fallen by between 25 and 30 per cent since July 2007. Judges were doing their own informal surveys and "every judge I have spoken to thinks there has been a drop", he said. In 2006 there had been 20,000 such applications - so a 25 per cent drop meant 5,000 women had not come forward to ask for the courts' protection. "Obviously this is a very worrying figure. Either offenders have changed their behaviour - which seems extremely unlikely - or the victims do not want to criminalise the perpetrators."

Victims in a close relationship with a violent partner, who was perhaps the father of their children and the bread-winner, would not want them to have a criminal record, he added. "It's human nature." Women were deterred from the moment they walked into a lawyer's office and were told what the new laws meant. "It is obviously very worrying," he said.

Formerly, judges could add a power of arrest to a non-molestation order. A victim could then ring the police and complain of a breach and the man would be arrested, he said. Some simple breaches were dealt with within 24 hours but most within 14 days in the county courts as a contempt of court. Offenders might be given a second chance and ordered to report back to court, he said. They could be given a suspended sentence of up to two years, jailed for up to two years or, rarely, fined. Now, however, there appear to be few prosecutions, and some offenders are being dealt with by conditional cautions, said Judge Platt. "What we can say is that there are far fewer prosecutions than there would have been arrests if the old legislation was still in place."

The Crown Prosecution Service denied that prosecutions had dropped. A spokesman said that the most recent figures showed that both numbers of cases and the conviction rate were up on previous years. However, these predate the new Act. The spokesman added that conviction rates had risen from their lowest recorded point of 46 per cent in 2003 to 59 per cent in 2005, up to 66 per cent in 2006 - up year on year by 7 per cent and 20 per cent over three years. The spokesman added: "The fact that the Government has increased the number of specialist domestic violence courts to 64 is an indication of the number of cases that are being prosecuted and the seriousness with which it's regarded."

Judge Platt said that a third problem was severe delays in special domestic violence treatment programmes, which judges felt were effective. He added that a community penalty was often best in a family context. But without the special programme, either the woman would remain at risk or the offender would have to be jailed.


British couple who spank their daughter as 'last resort' cannot be foster parents

A couple have been prevented from fostering children after insisting on the right to smack their own daughter "as a last resort". David and Heather Bowen told an adoption panel that they would never smack a foster child but might physically chastise their own daughter "once or twice a year". Despite initially being recommended as good candidates by social workers, the couple were turned down for fostering after refusing to reconsider their position. The couple, from Taunton, Somerset, were told by the panel that they would not be allowed to take in children because of their approach to "behaviour management".

Mr and Mrs Bowen, who are both volunteers at their church and local schools, are appealing against the decision by Somerset county council. Mr Bowen, 42, said: "Based on the evidence presented to the council, we cannot understand why we are unsuitable and it seems that we have been excluded on the basis that we physically chastise our birth child, in accordance with our beliefs and UK law. "I'm sure other parents would have just lied."

He added: "Our birth daughter is only chastised physically as a last resort amongst a whole range of other forms of behaviour management strategies which include rewards and sanctions. The council has made us feel we are bad parents and yet we do nothing that hundreds of thousands across the UK do as loving and responsible mothers and fathers." Parents are legally allowed to smack their children if it is considered a "reasonable chastisement" and provided they leave no more than a "transitory" mark.

The Government ruled out a total ban after reviewing the law in 2000. Mr and Mrs Bowen fear that the ruling against them will mean thousands of children will be denied access to good foster care because potential foster parents smack their own children. The Bowens have a nine- year-old daughter, Emma, and felt they were good candidates for fostering after failing to conceive following the death of their second child, Jonathan, from a rare illness.

They were turned down last month following a 14-month approval process. Mrs Bowen, 47, said: "We felt we had room to give more love to other children. As the outcome sank in we began to grieve again, feeling a tremendous sense of loss that we would not be allowed to complete our family and provide a loving home to a child in need."

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering said it believed smacking was generally inappropriate, particularly for vulnerable children who may have been abused in the past. John Simmonds, its director of policy, research and development, said: "The expectation is that you treat foster children as one of your own. You can't set one standard for your own children and another for the foster child."

Linda Barnett, the head of children's services at Somerset county council, said: "In common with most other local authorities, Somerset has a Foster Carer's Agreement which describes our belief about parenting. Where carers have a very strong personal belief that differs from the Foster Carer Agreement, it is potentially unfair to expect them to operate to a set of guidelines which conflicts with this."

Smacking remains legal but the law on it was toughened up in 2004 in response to pressure from children's campaigners. The Children Act removed the defence of "reasonable chastisement" from parents who left more than a "transitory mark" on their child. Causing a bruise, reddened skin or psychological injuries can result in an assault charge and five years' jail. However, earlier this year the Sentencing Guidelines Council, which sets down rules for magistrates and judges, appeared to signal a change of opinion. It called for leniency, recommending light sentences for parents who are prosecuted for smacking but did not intend to hurt their child.

Campaign groups such as the NSPCC and the National Children's Bureau continue to press for tougher laws, however. The Children Are Unbeatable! alliance wants an outright ban.


Australia: Muslim majority wants secular law

By Shahram Akbarzadeh (A Western-trained academic of Iranian origins)

The following may well be a true and reasonable account of the Muslim majority in Australia but it would help if it were backed by evidence rather than mere assertion. One would hope for better than mere assertion from an academic. He does not in any case offer any guidance to dealing with the troublesome minority. How are we expected to know which Muslims are haters and which are not? On the "precautionary principle" much-loved by the Green/Left in other contexts, we would assume that ALL Muslims are bad eggs

There is a presumption about Muslims' inability to live under secular rule that rests on the view that they live by strict Koranic codes that are incompatible with the modern way of life in Australia. This is false on two grounds.

First, most Australian Muslims are not affiliated with any religious organisation, do not attend mosque or send their children to Islamic schools. They may pray in the privacy of their homes but would not wear their religion on their sleeves. This group is best described as cultural Muslims. Islam is the religion they are born into and proud of, and anything short of this would be tantamount to rejecting their heritage. Islam is part of their identity, as is social-familial status, political affiliations and ethnic background. But Islam is not the sole pillar of identity. This group is as comfortable with the laws that govern Australia as any of their non-Muslim neighbours; that is, they drive over the speed limit on occasion and try to dodge taxes if they can.

A lot of public debate about Muslims ignores this large demographic group. Instead, the focus is often on the more religiously devout and organised sections of Australian Muslims. There is a good reason for that. Cultural Muslims are the silent majority, as they don't organise and present their case under the rubric of Islam. It is not that cultural Muslims lack organisational skills. But as far as they are concerned, why form an Islamic society when they could form an ethnic or social club? The latter is more inclusive and allows for a broader cultural appeal than religiously oriented associations.

But by going down this path, cultural Muslims have been excluded (wittingly or unwittingly) from the public debate on Islam. The Coalition government effectively ignored ethnic Muslim groups when forming the Muslim Reference Group. These communities were not seen as representing the interests of Australian Muslims. But the reality was the reverse. The appointed reference group was drawn from a small pool of religious leaders and had little authority in the ethnically diverse Muslim communities, least of all among youth. This was a critical flaw. The Rudd Government seems more sensitive towards the question of community representation, although the public debate is still confined to religious associations.

Second, devout Muslims who attend mosques and Friday prayer on a regular basis have a much more nuanced view of their place in Australia than that with which they are credited. Contrary to the views of former treasurer Peter Costello, devout Muslims do not champion the establishment of sharia law in Australia. What is important for them is no different to other groups. Education opportunities and employment prospects for themselves and their kids rates much higher than any other concerns. There is a persistent pattern of expression among devout Muslims.

Being religiously minded, ideas and views are often expressed using Islamic terminology. For example, it is common to say inshallah (God willing) if one wishes for something. This comes naturally to devout Muslims but to outsiders it could be confronting, even scary. Why invoke a foreign God when God has been pushed to the private sphere under Australia's secular rule?

Devout Muslims are comparable with other religiously devout groups. They emphasise their religious affiliations and don't shy away from expressing their religious beliefs. But this does not mean that they neglect other duties and responsibilities to their family, community and society as a whole. One may even argue that religious devotion makes Muslims more conscientious about their social duties as moral citizens.

The irony is that devout Muslims feel more comfortable living under secular rule than any other system because the Australian political and judicial system allows equal freedom to all religious and non-religious groups. Devout Muslims appreciate that and live by that rule. There is widespread acknowledgment among devout Muslims that Australia's secular laws are the best guarantee they have for practising Islam freely. To be sure, there are sporadic complaints about media representation of Islam and discrimination. But these do not negate the fundamental fact that the overwhelming majority of Islamic organisations view Australian law as their protector and appeal to it for redress.

Australian Muslims, whether cultural or devout, value the fair-go spirit of Australia. This spirit resonates with their cultural and religious beliefs. It would help us all if we paused to look at values that bind us together.


Australia: A rare display of spine from an Anglican archbishop

Though expressed in a suitably Anglican way, of course. If he had been a North American Anglican bishop he would probably have been ogling the boys concerned by now

The head of the Anglican Church has backed a Brisbane school's decision to turn down the request of gay students to bring male partners to a school dance, as Queensland Premier Anna Bligh welcomed debate on the issue. Several of the Anglican Church Grammar School's 215 Year 12 students want to take their gay partners to their end-of-year dance on June 19. However, under current policy, the young men may only attend the ball with a female partner.

Headmaster Jonathan Hensman said the policy had never been challenged and it had always been the tradition that boys took girls to their matriculation dance. However, Mr Hensman said he was open to discussing the matter with students and encouraged those concerned to raise the issue in writing so he could refer it to the school council for debate. No complaint has yet been lodged with Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Commission.

Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, who is president of the school council, said he supported the headmaster's decision. "I have no personal objection to a school deciding to allow boys to take friends who are boys or girls to take friends who are girls to school formals," Dr Aspinall told ABC Radio. "But I understand in this particular instance the school has decided that its approach is to emphasise the interaction of young men and young women and providing them with an opportunity to do that in this kind of formal setting. "And I have no objection to that either. I think that's a reasonable and legitimate approach." Dr Aspinall said all students should be treated with respect and care.

Ms Bligh said she supported the school's decision to discuss the issue within its community. "These are very difficult issues for schools to manage and I can understand why it's not a clear-cut matter," Ms Bligh told reporters in Brisbane today. "Parents will inevitably have strong views, both ways. "I can certainly say that as (a past) education minister I'm aware that many teachers and many guidance officers and school support staff face the reality of talking to young people about their sexuality. "We can't put our head in the sand on this. "As young people develop from their early teenage years through to young adulthood the question of sexuality will emerge and it will arise."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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