Saturday, August 08, 2009

UK: Curbs on freed violent offenders

This will just be a cover for letting offenders out early. Politics in Britain are seldom what they seem

Asbo-style Violent Offender Orders (VOOs) that can restrict criminals' movements after they are released from prison are coming into force. Civil VOOs are intended to help cut re-offending by banning criminals from certain places or from contacting particular people for up to five years. But the Howard League for Penal Reform said it feared they could be overused and counterproductive.

Ministers have also announced £3.2m of funding for victims of sexual assault.

The measures are part of an updated strategy by the government to tackle violent crime and were contained in the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act. Under the terms of VOOs, serious offenders who have reached the end of their prison sentences or licence can be banned from places, events, and from contacting specified people for between two and five years. They must also tell police if they move home, change their name, or go abroad. Breaking the terms of a VOO could be punishable by five years in prison.

Police can apply to a magistrates' court to grant a VOO for any offender who has served at least 12 months in prison for offences including manslaughter, attempted murder or grievous bodily harm. Policing Minister David Hanson said: "Violent crime can have a devastating effect on victims and on communities. "Violent Offender Orders are a valuable tool to help protect the public and disrupt offending behaviour."

West Mercia Chief Constable Paul West said they would help deal with offenders who were "no longer subject to any statutory supervision, but nevertheless are still deemed to pose a risk of serious violent harm".

But Andrew Neilson from the Howard League said he had concerns about the idea. "Our experience of these civil orders, as with Asbos, is that we are told they will be used in a minimal way, but then over the years they seem to be overused in every way possible by agencies who are covering their backs," he told the BBC News website. "One of the reasons our prison population is growing so rapidly is because many of the people in there have broken the terms of these sorts of orders. Initiatives like this need proper training, implementation and evaluation if they are to be worthwhile

"Our other worry is that they can be counterproductive. They can actually impose restrictions that make it more likely that someone will reoffend, not less likely. "For example, restrictions that prevent someone gaining employment, when we know that getting a job is one of the best ways to prevent reoffending."

Deborah McIlveen, from domestic violence charity Women's Aid, said that while the initiative was welcome, it would remain to be seen how consistently and effectively it would be implemented across the country. "There are already procedures in place to protect victims, but they are not always followed by police and other justice agencies," she said. "For example, ex-partners of offenders should always be told when they are released from prison, but they're not. "Initiatives like this need proper training, implementation and evaluation if they are to be worthwhile."


Are Black Victims of Police Brutality the Only Ones who Count?

by Michael Medved

Why do some victims of alleged police brutality merit more attention than others? Why should the trivial inconvenience suffered by Professor Henry Louis Gates become an international obsession while major media outlets continue to ignore the disabling brain injuries of Christopher Harris? Isn’t it obvious that the stark contrast in the treatment of the two cases by politicians and the press stems from the fact that Gates is black and Harris is white?

Harris is a 29-year-old from suburban Edmonds, Washington who had driven to downtown Seattle on Sunday night, May 10th. Unfortunately for him, police received reports that same evening of a bloody brawl in a bar that later spilled out onto the street. A female witness wrongly identified Harris (now acknowledged by all as an innocent bystander) as a participant in a knife fight, and two King County Sheriff’s deputies tried to approach him. According to eyewitnesses, the deputies never identified themselves as law enforcement officers and in the darkness Harris didn’t recognize them as cops. Frightened by the encounter, he ran for several blocks as the determined deputies gave chase. Eventually, Harris slowed and stopped in front of the popular Cinerama movie theatre, at which point Deputy Matthew Paul lunged at him, knocking Harris off his feet and inadvertently slamming the back of his head against a concrete wall.

For several days, Harris failed to regain consciousness and his brain injuries may well leave him permanently disabled. More than two months after the tragic incident, his family’s attorney told the Seattle Times that “he has responded to some simple commands, and the family is hopeful they will be able to move him soon to a place where he can get more aggressive rehabilitative care.”

Despite the grim outcome, prosecutors decided that no charges would be brought against the deputies involved. An official statement explained: “The law provides that an officer ‘shall not be held criminally liable for using force without malice and with a good faith belief that such an act is justifiable.’ Christopher Harris was identified by witnesses to officers as a suspect in a violent crime. He ran for several blocks after he was told to stop by uniformed officers. As the deputy caught up to him, the deputy used a standard takedown procedure. As a result, no criminal charge can be filed.”

Prosecutors announced this seemingly reasonable decision just days after the celebrated “Beer Summit” at the White House brought together Professor Henry Louis Gates, Sergeant James Crowley and President Obama. The contrast in media treatment of the two episodes left a striking impression. Christopher Harris spent weeks in a coma and may never resume a normal life, but his case drew scant protest and no national attention. The brief Crowley-Gates confrontation, on the other hand, produced no lasting damage and involved no use of force by either party, yet President of the United States and a host of other eager commentators leapt on the case as a damning symbol of police misconduct and prevalent racism.

There is, in fact, no evidence whatever that race played a role in the police response to Professor Gates. The Good Samaritan 9/11 caller who first contacted law enforcement never identified the suspect as black, and Sergeant Crowley has a long, distinguished record altogether untainted by any hint of racial bias. There’s no basis to assume that he would have treated Professor Gates any more leniently had the academic been white, just as there’s no basis to assume that Deputy Paul in Seattle would have treated Christopher Harris any more harshly had he been black.

In police work, mistakes and accidents happen even to the most skillful and dedicated officers. Some of those errors and mishaps may involve race, but it makes no more sense to claim that every harsh episode involving a black victim expresses racial hatred, than to assume that every time a white suspect gets off easily it’s because of racial preference.

The Harris case deserves consideration, but not as an example of police malfeasance; in fact, video of the fateful “takedown” (shot by a surveillance camera) suggests that the deputy never intended to inflict serious injury. But it’s still a useful reminder of the obvious fact that many (and perhaps most) victims of aggressive law enforcement tactics across the country are white, not black.

Why, then, does every famous, well-publicized episode of controversial police brutality involve an African-American (or, more rarely, a Latino) male? It’s not because episodes involving white suspects never occur. It’s because those incidents never seem worthy of serious indignation or attention, because they fail to fit the familiar narrative of police racism so beloved by the media, politicians, and academics.

Which brings us back to the odd instance of the Crowley-Gates misunderstanding, and the ongoing efforts to place that six minute interchange (the time between first encounter and arrest) in a racial context.

It’s simply not true to say that the entire episode would have unfolded in exactly the same way had Professor Gates been white. Yes, Crowley might well have behaved the same way. But try to imagine another famous Harvard academic—a non-black academic --- responding to a cop at his front door, checking on a reported break-in and asking for ID. Would a white professor fly into a rage, instantly accusing the officer of bias and misconduct?

In this sense, race did play a crucial role in the incident after all, but not through any evidence of racial bias on the part of Sergeant Crowley. It was, rather, the racial obsession of Professor Gates that turned a routine visit from a by-the-book cop into a symbol of eternal oppression.

Yes, it’s possible to argue that Sergeant Crowley shouldn’t have asked for identification once he saw the professor in his own house, and maybe he should have laughed-off the insults and hysteria from Gates and walked away without making an arrest. Still, it’s possible to justify his actions every step of the way – but it’s not possible to respect the reactions of Professor Gates.

Again, imagine a white professor so clearly losing control of his emotions and blowing up at a cop who was simply trying to do his job. No one (no, not even the president, if he repeated the hideous mistake of getting drawn into the debate) would hesitate in criticizing a white homeowner in an identical situation. Why, then, the near-universal public impulse to explain and excuse the behavior of Henry Louis Gates?

Offering those explanations and excuses with reference to the long history of strained relationships between cops and the black community still amounts to a double standard based on race: in this case, a famous black guy gets treated far more favorably than would a famous white guy in the same predicament.

And on the other side of the country, in liberal and enlightened Seattle, an unlucky white innocent named Christopher Harris sees his own potential grievances largely ignored because his case fails to fit the convenient, cherished, one-dimensional media template of black victimhood.


Competition 'needed' in childrens' sports

Report from South Australia

THE state's largest swimming school operator will stage a racing carnival on Sunday which it says goes against the "sanitisation" of children's sport. State Swim chief executive officer Julie Stevens said it was time to listen to children, who wanted to compete. Nearly 300 children have registered for individual events at the carnival.

"I know that some people advocate sanitising children's sport to remove any competitive element, but the fact that the children themselves have asked for this event indicates that this is something that kids want," Ms Stevens said yesterday. "In the past, we ourselves have been mindful of removing the perceived pressure of competition, which saw us rename our squad program, calling it a team program. "However, the feedback we had is that the children liked the idea of being part of a squad and the competitive element that went with that." In previous carnivals, swimmers raced for their team, not for themselves. Ms Stevens acknowledged the move might be unpopular with those concerned about children's self-esteem.

Joanne and Chris Rose have entered daughters Jessica, 10, and Emma, 8, in Sunday's State Swim carnival. Mrs Rose said learning how to compete was a life skill. "You always want your kids to win but they can learn to deal with not winning too," she said.

Office for Recreation and Sport director Paul Anderson said children were naturally competitive. "Kids need to play just for the sake of playing but they also need to have opportunities to compete," he said. "They can learn the lessons that come from that."

Department of Education and Children's Services sport manager Peter Roberts said modified sports, which were less competitive and helped develop skills in beginners, were likely to build confidence. "We believe that any program that engages kids and gives them more opportunity to touch the ball and be involved is going to keep kids in sport for longer," he said. He said most schools still fielded teams for competitive sport as well.


Australian prosecutor blasts offensive net censorship plan

The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions has slammed the Federal Government's internet censorship policy, saying it will have very limited, if any, success in achieving its aims. Nicholas Cowdery, QC, made the comments in response to a question from a journalist at a conference on e-crime in Sydney yesterday.

"Crime prevention methods need to be practical ... I'm not an expert in the field, but talk of filters, blocking mechanisms and all of that sort of thing, I think, ultimately, in a society like ours, are going to have very limited, if any, success in achieving the aims that their proponents set out for them," he said.

The Government plans to implement mandatory filters in ISPs that would block, for all Australians, sites that have been "refused classification" by Australian regulators. This includes child sexual-abuse imagery, bestiality and sexual violence material but also content that is perfectly legal to view in Australia, such as regular gay and straight pornography, and innocent sites that have been added to the secret blacklist by mistake.

Experts have long warned that filters would inevitably block innocent sites and also inadvertently let through nasty sites, and these concerns became reality last month when it was revealed a year 10 student searching for information about the swallow bird was instead presented with hardcore pornography.

Despite surfing the web with internet filtering mechanisms installed by the Department of Education and Training, the student was unable to view harmless sites such as the Education Minister Verity Firth's own website.

In further written comments made to this website today, Cowdery questioned whether an internet filtering scheme would help him catch and prosecute more criminals such as child porn traders. He said compromises to freedom of expression would also need to be considered.

People looking to view banned material on the web would probably be able to bypass the filters, while those peddling material such as child porn would most likely change their tactics to avoid detection by the filters.

"Theoretically an internet filtering scheme could capture and facilitate the proof of criminal offending [e-crime] on the internet - at least on the 'supply side'," he said. "But it is unlikely that such persons, once they know that such a scheme is in place, would continue to expose themselves to the risk of detection in that way."

Previously, communications experts have said that simply trading illegal images over peer-to-peer software, instead of via web pages, would be all it would take to bypass the ISP filters. And those determined to view banned material on web pages could evade the filtering by accessing the internet through an encrypted proxy server.

Cowdery said some other issues that needed to be considered before implementing mandatory filtering included the level of offending, the ability of such a measure to prevent or reduce such offending, the costs of introducing filtering and "the compromises that would need to be made to the freedom of expression and freedom of association in an open democratic society such as Australia".

"Especially where such compromises would be unpopular and not broadly acceptable to the community, there would be an incentive for persons to avoid or thwart such a measure and to explore and implement such avoidance," Cowdery said.

"With the present and probably future state of the technology of the internet, it seems likely that such avoidance could be achieved and that would reduce the effectiveness of internet filtering accordingly."

A group of mainly smaller internet providers are now finishing their trials of the Government's internet filtering scheme and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said he expected to release results within weeks.

Senator Conroy has said the results will determine whether the Government proceeds with the controversial election policy. He said there was no silver bullet to protecting children online and that the internet filtering scheme would be complemented by ramped-up law enforcement.

The policy is opposed by web user groups, communications experts, most political parties, the Australian Library and Information Association and even some child-welfare groups, who say education is the key to protecting children online. Last month, the British ISP industry awarded Senator Conroy its annual "internet villain of the year award" for his internet censorship policy.



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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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