Saturday, March 31, 2012
Secret courts, the cover-up of a Mafia-style shooting, and a worryingly unaccountable police force
Official secrecy is pervasive in Britain -- approaching that of a Fascist state:
At around 7.30pm on Tuesday, March 20, a Russian banker was gunned down outside his flat near Canary Wharf in London. German Gorbuntsov remains gravely ill in hospital having been shot three times in the stomach and once in the face.
Attempted assassinations of multi-millionaire Russian oligarchs are, thank goodness, unknown occurrences on British streets. And yet for reasons best known to themselves, officers at Scotland Yard did not immediately inform the media what had happened.
The day after the shooting they put out a bland and disgracefully misleading press release stating that there had been a routine shooting near Canary Wharf. So low-key was this statement that the British media ignored the incident altogether, which one suspects was what Scotland Yard had intended.
Indeed, the police mentioned that Trident Gang Crime Command was investigating the attempted murder, inviting newspapers to conclude that this was just another home- grown crime.
It was only on Friday, three days after the shooting, that the truth finally emerged. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Mr Gorbuntsov had been the victim of an attempted murder in London, and the British media were at last appraised of what had happened.
Over the past few days many details have been filled in. Mr Gorbuntsov was preparing to claim political asylum in Britain. Before amassing his fortune he was jailed for robbery. He was reportedly a witness to a 2009 murder attempt in Moscow on a billionaire banker called Alexander Antonov. Oh, and he has a mistress in London and a wife in Russia.
Isn’t it amazing that we should learn about this incident from a newspaper in a country with a long and continuing record of muzzling truth? We would almost certainly still be in the dark were it not for Kommersant. Though we pride ourselves on living in a free country, we are obliged to rely on the media of a gangster state to learn what is happening on our own streets.
But this is not because our media are sleepy. It is because the Metropolitan Police apparently tried to suppress an important story. So long as Mr Gorbuntsov did not die, and his would-be assassin was never apprehended and brought to justice, they would have had no obligation to come clean.
Why didn’t Scotland Yard want us to know? I can think of two possible reasons. The first is that MI5 and/or the Foreign Office wanted it hushed up. If they suspected that the Russian authorities were somehow behind it, they might have their own reasons for keeping schtum for the moment.
More likely, perhaps, the Metropolitan Police did not want the world to know that only a few miles from the Olympic Stadium, and four months before the Games begin, a Russian hoodlum has been spraying around gunfire. It somewhat gives the lie to the notion that London is a safe city.
Whatever the explanation, a cover-up is outrageous. Mr Gorbuntsov’s neighbours were kept in the dark, and therefore incapable of estimating the danger they were in. And the wider public were not told that a Russian mafia-style attempted killing had taken place on British soil.
Moreover, it was not until last Saturday — after our media had taken up the Kommersant story — that Scotland Yard confirmed the victim’s name and on Sunday and Monday put out two press releases setting out in fuller detail what had happened, and appealing for witnesses. In other words, the proper administration of justice had been delayed for several days. If it were not for the Russian newspaper, it might have been delayed indefinitely.
The new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, should make a statement explaining why his officers appear to have concealed from the media an extremely serious incident about which it was undoubtedly in the public’s interest to know.
If we hear nothing from him, we can only assume that Scotland Yard is less convinced than it used to be that it has to account for its actions — and that Mr Hogan-Howe thinks it acceptable to brush the attempted assassination of a Russian oligarch under the carpet.
I believe that what has happened in this case owes a great deal to the changed relations between the police and the media as a result of the Leveson Inquiry. A number of statements by senior officers including Mr Hogan-Howe himself, as well as a preposterous review by former parliamentary commissioner for standards Elizabeth Filkin, have insisted that police officers should be extremely wary of ever talking to the media.
Of course, no one doubts that a few years ago senior journalists at News International got far too intimate with some senior police officers, and there may have been criminal collusion. If so, prosecutions must follow.
But in one fell swoop we have gone to the opposite extreme, so that police officers are now terrified of talking confidentially even to journalists whom they used to trust. Crime correspondents have testified to the Leveson Inquiry that their police sources have all but dried up.
A year ago, before the current state of affairs, well-placed police officers would have informed their contacts in the Press if a serious crime was being covered up, as the attempted murder of German Gorbuntsov was. Nor, in those days of greater openness, is it likely that Scotland Yard would have issued the kind of statement it did last Wednesday, which misled the media.
There is another case in which the Metropolitan Police appear to be pushing their luck, and taking refuge in the new more secretive world in which they like to operate. The inquest into the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting by police in Tottenham was the spark that ignited last summer’s riots, may be partly held behind closed doors.
This follows an application from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which says it has findings which should not be disclosed even to the coroner, but there is no doubt the Metropolitan Police would agree. Secret justice is seldom justice.
A killing sets off the worst riots in modern times, and it is seriously suggested by the authorities that people should be kept in the dark. It is a matter of overwhelming public interest that the truth should be ascertained so that the lessons can be learnt.
We don’t want a police force that hides its blunders and conceals important crimes. It is certainly not in the interests of justice, but nor is it in the interests of the police themselves to lose trust as a result of concealment, as Mr Hogan-Howe should have the gumption to realise.
Covering up the attempted murder of a Russian oligarch on a London street is undesirable from every point of view. And the worst of it is that it inevitably engenders the suspicion that there are other cover-ups, other important stories being withheld from the media.
In this case we are indebted to a Russian newspaper, which has sources not controlled by Scotland Yard. But how much more illuminating information is being kept from us of which we are wholly ignorant?
That is the deadly, unanswered question. The less journalists talk to police officers in the know, the more likely it is that we will have a secretive, unaccountable police force.
Racist British Social workers "snatched me from the white parents I loved to make me live with a black family": How the colour-obsessed foster care system sentenced Dawn to a life of regret
Dawn Cousins was taken from her foster parents in Oxfordshire when she was seven years old. They had fostered her from birth, and wanted to adopt her, but social services told them not to pursue their application because they were white and Dawn would be better off with a black family. Here she tells how this decision affected her...
Her earliest childhood memories are as cherished as they are vivid. There were Saturday mornings digging potatoes in the allotment with her father, and the smell of sausages wafting from the barbecue during family holidays in Cornwall.
Lazy summer afternoons were spent playing in the garden with her three older siblings; family dinners were boisterous affairs; and birthday parties were celebrated with homemade cake. Dawn Cousins grew up feeling loved and secure, and that her future was full of hope. At least she did until she was seven.
At that point, her idyllic life was snatched away when a social worker took her away from her picturesque Oxfordshire home. Dawn was informed that despite the fact her parents Gina and Pete had fostered her from birth, they were unsuitable for raising her.
She spent the next six months in a children’s home before being adopted by a couple who lived 50 miles away. She had to adapt to her different family, start a new school, and make new friends.
So what was the reason behind social services’ drastic decision? Dawn’s parents were not abusing her nor were they embroiled in a life of crime. They were doing nothing to jeopardise their little girl’s well-being.
They were a decent, middle-class couple who desperately wanted to adopt Dawn, and had attempted to do so. However, social services told them not to pursue their application because they were white. Since Dawn was mixed race she would be better off with a black family, they said.
Until recently, local authorities made it incredibly difficult for white couples to adopt a mixed-race child.
And although Education Secretary Michael Gove issued new guidelines last year relaxing the rules on inter-racial adoption, it is still more difficult for cases to be approved than same-race ones — resulting in growing numbers of children left in care.
Recent figures show that only 3,050 children were adopted from the 65,000 in care in 2010 — many of whom could have found happy homes with parents of a different race.
Much has been made of the devastating effect such antiquated rulings have had on prospective parents. But what of the impact they have had on children — especially when they carry both black and white genes? In Dawn’s case it led to years of confusion and squandered opportunities. As an adolescent, she went off the rails, had a breakdown and was put back into care.
It is only now, at 38, that she feels able to reflect on a system she believes badly let her down.
Dawn’s British biological mother, Linda, gave her up for adoption when she was born in June 1973, after Linda’s Jamaican immigrant husband, Owen, walked out on her. Dawn’s foster parents Pete — now 70 and a retired civil servant — and Gina, 69, had two daughters and a son of their own but were overjoyed that they were able to look after Dawn, too. She says: ‘They were generous people who wanted to help others less fortunate.
‘Mum and Dad, as I called them, treated me the same as their other children. I was their first foster child — and from the start they made me feel welcome.’ A bright girl, Dawn excelled at school. She claims her skin colour was never questioned by anyone, not even herself.
‘I never asked my parents why my skin was darker, and my hair curly and black,’ she says. ‘I would have loved my sister’s long blonde hair but it didn’t occur to me to ask why mine was so different.
She says she only discovered Gina and Pete weren’t her real parents when the official from Slough social services called on the family one afternoon in July 1980.
Dawn was told then that she could no longer live with the people she loved. Her belongings were packed in a bag and she was driven away while Gina looked on in tears. ‘I howled as I looked at Mum out of the car window,’ Dawn says. ‘I remember clutching my cuddly dolphin for comfort, feeling frightened and confused.’
On her arrival at Bramerton Children’s Home in Maidenhead, Berkshire, the social worker told Dawn that because she was mixed-race, it was better for her to be looked after by a black family.
‘She showed me pictures of my biological parents in my file, explaining that my mother had been white and my father from Jamaica. Apparently they’d got back together after I was born and had another baby. ‘I was shocked. I’d never heard the word mixed-race before nor contemplated the fact that my real parents weren’t Gina and Pete. I was hurt. All I wanted was to be home with the adults I knew as my mum and dad.’
Dawn’s memories are grim of the children’s home, which closed down in 1988. She caught head lice and her diet was so poor that she lost a lot of weight. ‘I cried myself to sleep most nights,’ she says. ‘I couldn’t understand why Gina and Pete hadn’t visited or phoned me.’ Only later did she find out that Gina had arrived at the home with a cake she’d made for Dawn’s eighth birthday — but was turned away. She and Pete were told they had to sever all contact with the little girl.
It was revealed last year that children from ethnic-minority backgrounds wait three times longer on average than white children to be placed with families.
However, in Dawn’s case she was told less than a year after being moved to the home that a black couple in the London Borough of Harrow wanted to adopt her. They were Berna and Glen, now 69 and 79, who moved from Grenada to Britain as teenagers. Berna was a nurse, Glen a housing officer, and they had a daughter three years older than Dawn but were unable to have another child.
‘The social workers made me parade around in front of them while they stared at me,’ recalls Dawn. ‘It wasn’t Berna and Glen’s fault – they probably felt as awkward as I did. But I felt like a commodity. The only thing I could see we had in common was the colour of our skin.’
That visit was followed by several others until Berna and Glen were given permission to adopt Dawn, late in 1981. ‘By then I’d got used to being in care and at my new school,’ she says. ‘As miserable as my surroundings were, I’d made friends and was reluctant to leave.’
She was subjected to even more swingeing change after she moved to Berna and Glen’s three-bedroom terrace house to begin the latest chapter in her life. Her new mum served rice and chicken instead of the shepherd’s pie and burgers she was used to, and started greasing and plaiting Dawn’s Afro hair which had always hung loose. There were no holidays, and the only occasional outings were to the local shopping centre.
And Dawn’s relationship with her elder sister was often tense. ‘Until I arrived, she’d had her parents’ attention all to herself.‘Race had never been an issue with my white siblings but it seemed to be an issue with her. ‘She would comment on the fact that my skin was lighter, and my hair not pure Afro.’
Dawn’s new parents were stricter, too. She wasn’t allowed on the bus on her own, and she had to stay in her room until she’d finished her times tables.
‘Everything seemed more formal,’ she recalls. ‘Berna and Glen, who I called Mum and Dad, kept telling me how grateful I should be to have these opportunities. I loved them and they were kind but I missed Gina and Pete.’
As the years passed, Dawn became increasingly unhappy. ‘I gravitated towards a white teacher at school because she reminded me of my old mum,’ she recalls.
‘The area we lived in was multi-cultural, so school was a mixture of black, white and Asian children. At break times and in the canteen, they’d divide into groups. ‘The black children said I should play with them but I mainly bonded with the white children because they reminded me of my childhood. I felt torn.
‘I had one mixed-race friend and I was so envious that she lived at home with her white mum. I wanted the same for myself. I felt totally confused about who I was and where I belonged.’
By the time she was 15, Dawn was so desperately unhappy that she had started skipping school and shoplifting. ‘At home I would lock myself in my room and lash out if Berna and Glen tried to comfort me,’ Dawn admits.
‘We never talked about my time in care or being fostered. ‘I didn’t want to confide in anyone, and felt too guilty to tell them how unsettled I felt after everything they’d done for me.’
That year, Berna and Glen separated and social workers decided Dawn should be taken back into care. She moved into Haslem House children’s home in Harrow, and lived there for a few months until she was 16. ‘There was nothing to rebel against when I was back in care,’ she says.
‘I realised for the first time that I was responsible for my own behaviour. Instead of self-destructing, I actually wanted to make something of my life.’
Although the high grades Dawn had been predicted to achieve in her early childhood were no longer possible, she did manage to get five GCSEs.
Afterwards she moved into a nearby council flat on her own. This further change sparked Dawn’s desire to track down her biological parents. She says: ‘I’d often wondered what my birth mother was like, and at 16 I was old enough to find out.’
In 1990, social workers agreed to put her in contact with Linda, who is now 58. She was still living in Slough and had kept the two sons she’d had with Dawn’s father Owen, 64 — Paul, 41, and David, 36.
Dawn says about her first visit to Linda: ‘I was so nervous that I vomited on the way there. When I arrived, Linda seemed fragile. She’d had epilepsy and been in poor health when my father left her. She seemed more vulnerable than me. ‘Any anger I had towards her dissolved, and I was left feeling a mixture of relief and happiness that we’d made contact.’
Two years later, when Dawn was 18, she fell in love with a Jamaican driver and had two daughters with him — Sapphia, now 18, and Yasmin, 16. 'Perhaps subconsciously I was trying to recreate the mixed-race family environment I longed for'
The couple split up shortly after Yasmin’s birth, and Dawn embarked on a romance with a white electrician who became the father of her twins, Amber and Ryan, now 13. The couple were together for six years, until 2006.
Dawn is now single, and says: ‘Perhaps subconsciously I was trying to recreate the mixed-race family environment I longed for.’
When she was 31, Dawn decided to read her case files, which had been kept in Slough social services’ archives. ‘I thought they’d help me find closure and make me better able to understand my childhood,’ she explains. For the first time she saw how social workers had considered it best to uproot Dawn and place her with a black family. ‘Seeing it written down made me cry with anger and regret,’ she says. ‘All the happy years of childhood I could have had were wasted.’
Understanding for the first time that Gina and Pete had not wanted to give her up, Dawn decided to contact them. Incredibly, their contact details on her files were still valid nearly 25 years later. Dawn says: ‘They invited me for dinner and cried as they explained how distraught they had been to give me up.
‘They said they had tried to adopt me but couldn’t because I was mixed race. They were then forbidden to send cards or presents to me, and had no right to contact me. I felt relieved and sad that they had missed me as much as I had missed them.’
Dawn, who now works as a counsellor for a charity, meets Gina and Pete several times a year — and they have become a welcome presence in her life and her children’s lives too.
She has also built bridges with her ‘second’ mum Berna.
Dawn says: ‘I made contact when I became a mother myself. Since then we have worked on our relationship and become friends.’
But Dawn can’t help feeling that her life would have worked out rather differently had Gina and Pete been able to adopt her in the first place. ‘It is absurd that social services thought they were acting in my best interests,’ says Dawn. ‘I think I would have a good case against them in court, given the stress I have suffered.
‘A white couple should be able to adopt a mixed-race child. ‘It’s their love that counts — not the colour of their skin.’
Atheist Leader Calls Contraception a ‘Constitutional Right’ & Dubs the Bible a ‘Grim Fairy Tale’
One of the main forces behind last weekend’s atheist gathering, the Reason Rally, was the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist group headed by husband and wife duo Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker.
This organization, which describes itself as “an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church,” is familiar to Blaze readers, as we’ve regularly highlighted its legal battles and harsh rhetoric against religious symbols on public property.
During the massive secularist rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Gaylor and Barker addressed the crowd, using language that both invigorated their non-believing audience and poked fun at people of faith.
During Barker’s speech, the FFRF leader engaged in a bizarre performance of atheism-fueled songs he‘d like to see performed on children’s television shows. Gaylor, though, delved into some starker, more controversial commentary.
“God fixation won’t fix our nation, because nothing fails like prayer,” Gaylor proclaimed during her address. “And we like to tell pious politicians that it’s time to get off your knees.”
Gaylor took particular aim at the Catholic Church in both her speech and during an exclusive interview with The Blaze.
“It is disgraceful that our health care reform is being held hostage by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and our message to liberal and nominal Catholics is that it’s time to quit the Catholic Church,” she said.
Among her organization’s accomplishments, she highlighted a full-page ad in The New York Times that, much like her rhetoric, encourages Catholics to abandon their faith. She called it a “speak truth to power” moment and claims that it wasn’t meant to be offensive.
“Are we going to choose women and their rights or Bishops and their wrongs?,” Gaylor asked. “And we are choosing women and we are choosing secular government. We choose the doctrine of immaculate contraception.”
She also called contraception a “Constitutional right” and took aim at Christianity’s holiest book — the Bible.
“We work diligently to ensure religion and the Bible — that grim fairy tale — are not invoked in our secular lives,” Gaylor continued.
As we’ve already highlighted, a FAQ section on the Reason Rally web site reads, “Are we just going to use this opportunity to trash religion?”
“No,” the web site promised. “This will be a positive experience, focusing on all non-theists have achieved in the past several years (and beyond) and motivating those in attendance to become more active.”
However, both Gaylor and Barker had plenty to say that most certainly fell under the umbrella of “trashing religion.”
Australia: Catholic Church marshalls anti-gay marriage army
SIX Catholic bishops in Victoria will circulate 80,000 letters this weekend asking their parishioners to show the federal government their opposition to same sex marriage.
There are currently three gay marriage private member's bills before Federal Parliament, aimed at changing the legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The bishops want all Catholics to contact their MPs and respond to an online survey being conducted by the Federal Parliament Standing Committee of Social Policy and Legal Affairs.
The Bishop of Sale, Christopher Prowse, said it would be a grave mistake with implications for the future of society should the legal definition of marriage be changed.
"We have asked Catholics to seriously reflect and pray about the ramifications for current and future generations of legislation which completely redefines marriage," Bishop Prowse said.
One bishop said the push was about protecting traditional marriage, and while today's discussion was on same-sex laws, "next it might be polygamy", reported the Herald Sun.
Marriage equality supporters have described the church's campaign as "alarmist" and rejected claims gay marriage would undermine family life or damage society.
"Families and societies are only strengthened when couples are allowed to commit to each other through marriage," national convenor of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich said.
"So to hear Archbishop Hart discouraging any recognition of this commitment is extraordinary and heartless."
A private bill, amending the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples, has been introduced to federal parliament by Labor MP Stephen Jones.
Another bill is being jointly proposed by Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent Andrew Wilkie.
Both bills have been referred to parliamentary committees for detailed examination.
A third bill, proposed by the Greens, will be considered in the Senate.
Former NSW premier Kristina Keneally, a devout Catholic, said people of her faith should look at a range of information sources to formulate their views.
"I've come to a position, with a fully-formed conscience, that I support gay marriage," she told ABC Television.
"I would encourage all Catholics to apply critical thinking to this issue."
Ms Keneally said the teachings of the church were not infallible although it was important people take heed of what their parish priest or bishop was saying.
"But it's equally important for them to consider how they in good conscience must act."
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.