Tuesday, April 09, 2013
'Secret arrests' fear as police seek ban on naming suspects: Plan threatens to turn Britain into a 'banana republic'
Fears were growing last night that a draconian crackdown on the public’s right to know who the police are arresting was close to being finalised.
Police chiefs are looking to ban the Press and public from being told the identity of a crime suspect who has been arrested.
The Association of Chief Police Officers is drawing up the plans as it considers implementing a recommendation by Lord Justice Leveson in which all police forces would be banned from confirming the names of suspects to journalists.
Critics yesterday called the plan an assault on open justice and said it threatened to turn Britain into a ‘banana republic’.
They suggested that such a move could, in theory, lead to people being arrested and locked up in secret as is the case in brutal totalitarian regimes.
The plan for ‘secret arrests’ is being opposed by the Law Commission, the Government’s own adviser on law reform. It believes that it is in the interests of justice that the police release the names of everyone who is arrested, except in very exceptional circumstances.
It argues that there are cases of clear public interest in which arrests should be reported, and it opposes a blanket ban on releasing names.
Trevor Sterling, the lawyer representing Jimmy Savile’s victims, said the publication of a suspect’s name helps to encourage other potential victims to come forward. ‘It is difficult to strike a balance, but if someone like Savile’s name is not published, victims of sexual abuse would not have the confidence to come forward,’ he said.
Padraig Reidy, of Index On Censorship, a civil liberties organisation, said: ‘You can very quickly find yourself in a situation where you have secret arrests. We have a concept of open justice.
‘What is being proposed is very scary because if you do not know who has been arrested or why, people can be taken off the streets without anyone knowing and the police would not be accountable or properly scrutinised.
‘This sort of thing happens in other countries. People are arrested, they disappear and no one ever knows why.’ Under current arrangements, police release basic details of a person arrested. In some cases police will confirm a name to journalists, but this practice varies from force to force.
Some forces have effectively introduced the new practice in the aftermath of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.
It has led to a situation where a well-known celebrity arrested as part of Operation Yewtree, the investigation into the Savile scandal, cannot be named by the media, although he has been widely identified on the internet.
The 83-year-old was arrested on March 28 in Berkshire on suspicion of sexual offences, but the Metropolitan Police refused to release his name to the Press.
By contrast, the names of other suspects accused of historical sexual offences have been published in the Press after their names were confirmed by other forces or by lawyers.
Members of the Law Commission and ACPO will meet in the coming weeks in an attempt to find common ground.
Yesterday Law Commissioner David Ormerod, QC, said: ‘It is imperative that we have confidence that our legal process is transparent.
‘In drafting our provisional proposals, we considered freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act, which covers the Press’s right to report and the public’s right to know.
‘Clearly this has to be balanced with an individual’s right to privacy. But it is not hard to imagine cases of clear public interest in which arrests should be reported.’
Andy Trotter, chief constable of British Transport Police and the lead officer on media policy for ACPO, disagrees with the Law Commission’s position because it does not take account of the circumstances of a suspect whose reputation was damaged by identification but who was later found to be innocent.
He said: ‘It is not correct to say police are looking to keep arrests secret, but rather protect the public in line with Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.
‘A member of the public could be arrested and then have no further action taken against them. ‘An arrest does not mean someone is guilty and their release might not achieve the same publicity.
‘There will most likely be exceptions to this in the interests of justice and to prevent and detect crime. We are still in the process of drafting guidance and we are still talking to a range of parties and any decision will have to be approved with the College of Policing.’
A chilling new threat to the right to know
The old East Germany will always live while there's an England. Not quite the England of old, however
In the latest disturbing example of the State’s ruthless assault on the public’s right to know, it yesterday emerged that police could soon be banned from identifying people they have arrested.
Chief constables have been driven down this secretive route by a recommendation of the Leveson Inquiry, supposedly designed to protect the innocent from publicity.
Yet isn’t it the innocent who will suffer most from this chilling plan, which is opposed by both the Index on Censorship campaign group and the Law Commission?
If the public are not allowed to know a person is being held in custody, how are they supposed to come forward with any information they hold which could clear them, such as a cast-iron alibi?
Sweeping people off the street and secretly throwing them in a cell is the terrifying hallmark of totalitarian regimes – not mature democracies like Britain.
However, the brutal truth is that, post-Leveson, such secrecy is becoming the norm in the state sector.
Consider the Home Office edict – certain to deter officers from speaking to the Press – which says that senior police should record all their contacts with journalists in an official log.
Or the plan to change the law to make it easier for police to seize confidential material given to reporters and force them to reveal the identity of whistleblowers.
Or the demand by Lord Justice Leveson that public sector whistleblowers should report their concerns only to their employers – and NOT the media.
Steadily, the State is assuming the power to crush all dissent, cover up wrongdoing and corruption, carry out arrests in secret and even convene secret courts. The implications for democracy, accountability and our open society could not be more grave.
Migrants get jobs because Britons are not prepared to work as hard
By Boris Johnson (Trust Boris to tell it like it is)
Do you know what, I think the longest, coldest winter I can remember is finally on the verge of packing it in. I can see a pretty little vixen gambolling in the garden. Some pigeons are doing heavy petting in the tree. And the pedestrians of London are getting more talkative as I pass by on my bike.
For months they have had their noses in their scarves, heads down, eyes weeping. Now they are shouting at the traffic lights again, and revealing the most interesting things. The other day a woman came up to me, as I waited religiously for green, and gave me a clear insight into why Labour doesn’t deserve to win the next election — and why, indeed, it almost certainly won’t.
She was called Katie and she was a recruitment consultant for a group of swish restaurants. In other words, she was on the lookout for people to be chefs, waiters, sommeliers, hat-check people: that kind of thing. The restaurant business is one of many in which London now leads the planet, and I was keen to know how things were going. If the tables at London’s top-end eateries are full of people chomping through foie gras, then that is good news for many hundreds of thousands of families, on modest incomes, who depend on a thriving catering industry.
As the top chef Raymond Blanc pointed out the other day, the catering world has amazing opportunities for young people to get started on good careers, and Raymond is helping, with Tim Campbell, to lead our campaign to create 250,000 new apprenticeships. A booming restaurant trade is potentially very good news for the 100,000 16 to 24-year-olds who are currently out of work and on benefits. So I was agog to hear from Katie. “How’s business?” I asked.
Katie said that things were very good — never better, in fact. She had 20 vacancies in just five restaurants, and her services as a talent-spotter were much in demand. “Fantastic!” I said, and made a mental note that this chimed with recent statistics showing that employment in London was now at 70.3 per cent, an all-time high.
Then a thought occurred. “Er, tell me,” I said, “what proportion of the people you employ are, you know, from London? I mean, how many of them are, ahem, British?”
Katie looked embarrassed. She knew exactly what I was driving at.
“To be honest, about 10 per cent,” she said. “But why?” I asked. “Why is it that these jobs are not being done by London kids? What can I do about it?” The restaurant recruitment consultant looked thoughtful. “It’s the schools, I think,” she said. “They teach the kids that they can earn all this money but they don’t explain that they will have to work hard. The people I recruit — they have a different work ethic.”
Now we all know that what Katie is saying is true, and we all know that it isn’t enough to blame the immigrants. For starters, we can’t kick people out when they are legally entitled to be here under EU rules. Second, and much more important, it is economically illiterate to blame Eastern Europeans for getting up early and working hard and being polite and helpful and therefore enabling the London catering trade to flourish.
There isn’t some fixed “lump of labour” that means these jobs would otherwise be done by native Britons. The chances are that there would be fewer restaurants, since the costs would be higher and the service less good and the reputation of London as the world capital of posh tucker would be less exalted than it is today.
The failing lies with the last Labour government, which did not do enough to reform our education system and to make sure that young people were prepared for the jobs market.
London schools have been getting better — and it is a fact that even in some of the poorest parts of the city, schools are now performing better than those in many other parts of the country. Some good work was done by Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis in trying to free up education — and yet they were blocked at every turn by Gordon Brown and the teaching unions. As Blair once said, he had the scars on his back to prove it.
The result is that huge numbers still leave primary school — about one in four — unable to read or write properly or to do basic maths. No wonder they will lose out, in the jobs market, to industrious people from Eastern Europe who can take down a telephone message correctly.
Labour spent its time in government — a long period of economic plenty made possible by the Thatcherian supply-side reforms — on a protracted borrowing binge.
They borrowed people from other countries to fill this country’s skills gap and to keep costs down — and did nothing like enough to reform our education system to enable young people to cope with that competition. They borrowed astronomic sums to maintain the welfare state and all its bureaucratic appurtenances — and did absolutely nothing to reform the system so that we could cope when money was scarcer.
All these reforms must now be carried out, by Conservatives, against a tough economic backdrop. It is not easy, and it means saying some hard things. We need to explain to young people that there can be glory and interest in any job, and that you can begin as a waiter and end as a zillionaire. And it is time, frankly, that London government — boroughs and City Hall — had a greater strategic role in skills, so that we can work with business to make sure that (for instance) catering gets the home-grown talent it needs.
Above all, we must support Michael Gove in driving up standards in schools — and what does Labour have to say? Nothing, except to join the chorus of union-led obstructionism. What does Labour have to say about welfare? Nothing, except apparently to support every detail of the system that gave Mick Philpott the equivalent of £100,000 a year. Well, nothing will come of nothing.
Why would anyone give the Treasury back to the people who wrote these vast blank cheques against the future? Why give the key back to the guys who crashed the car?
The mutinous anger of Labour voters over benefit scroungers: A disturbing dispatch from a Manchester estate
Let me introduce you to two women I met on Friday. The first is Kathy Barratt, 33, a jobless hairdresser.
She looked tired as she told me of her tough life, perhaps unsurprisingly as she is bringing up alone six children aged three to 17; the fathers are not around.
She ran up £2,000 debts buying the children games consoles and televisions at Christmas and says she struggles to get by on benefits of £300 a week.
'I would love to work,' she insisted. But she then revealed she was recently offered a job in a supermarket – and turned it down as she would have been £10 a week worse off.
'I would have been pleased to take the job but there's no point working if you lose money.'
So what if it had been £50 more than her benefits, I asked. 'Maybe if you make it £100,' she replied with a smile.
Then there was a friendly woman a decade or so older who I will call Mary. I met her just down the road in the market at Wythenshawe, a sprawling suburb of Manchester.
A mother of two, she lives on her own after fleeing an abusive relationship three years ago. Mary also looked tired, again unsurprisingly given she gets up every day before dawn for her part-time post with the city council.
For this, she earns £440 a month – of which £50 goes on getting to and from work.
'It's all bloody wrong,' she said. 'I have to get up at three in the morning to get to work, my bus fare has just gone up, and there are all these scroungers around the place who do nothing and get more than me.
'The bloke living in the flat above me lies in bed all day, yet his girlfriend can afford a car.'
She has a point. Indeed, in a perverse way both women have a point – for the pair perfectly illustrate the way our benefits system has spun out of control.
This week we learned that Mick Philpott, the depraved man who killed six of his children in a house fire, was receiving so much in benefits for his brood of 17 kids by five women that he would have been in the top two per cent of earners if his cash came from a taxed salary.
This revelation exploded like a bomb on the political frontline, coming in the week the Left was raging over a range of benefit cuts introduced by the Coalition.
Chancellor George Osborne said that the case raised issues for society over why taxpayers were subsidising this workshy man's lifestyle – a fair question that provoked a furious response from Labour, accusing him of cynically exploiting a terrible tragedy.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls launched a bitter attack on Osborne yesterday on Radio 4's Today programme, spluttering with rage yet again over Tory welfare reforms and accusing the Chancellor of 'nasty, divisive, sectional politics'.
Yet the truth is that Labour has been flailing around on this issue. Indeed, it has looked so timid and out of touch that it is possible we may look back at this week as when the party failed to win the Election.
For one thing is clear from my trip to Wythenshawe – those angriest with the iniquities of the welfare system are the working people who have traditionally been the bedrock of Labour support. People such as Brenton Thomas, a greengrocer whose earnings have fallen to £120 a week – yet sees others on the dole drinking all day in the pub.
Or Paul Brooks, a firefighter who earns only slightly more than the £26,000-a-year benefit cap despite his risky job and long hours. Or Lianne Burns, a young mum who puts in 15-hour shifts at a care home to provide for her only child – but who sees other women having endless babies at the State's expense.
Perhaps most dispirited of all was a shaven-headed taxi driver out shopping with his son. 'My friends ask me who is the fool: them doing nothing and getting all the cash they need or me working 60 hours a week? They might earn a little less, but they have a very good life and ask why they should ever work.'
Wythenshawe was the place where David Cameron urged us to hug hoodies, but it is far from Tory terrain. A garden city filled with two- storey semi-detached houses, it is home to 70,000 people – with more than half on benefits in the most deprived areas – and is rock-solid Labour.
Yet there was no sympathy for the party's complaint that benefits are rising only one per cent, well below the inflation rate. Indeed, most people thought the Coalition was still too soft, suggesting those who refuse to work should get all benefits stopped – an idea that would make a Guardian leader writer blanche.
Even some of those on benefits took a tough line. Sarah, a jobless veterinary nurse, supported the Government's stance, saying: 'It would be so easy to have more babies, but I have two kids and no work so I should not have any more. I don't go out, have cut out Sky TV and spend everything on the kids.'
One other point was made repeatedly: the failure of politicians to set a decent example. As one tracksuited man put it: 'If they are stupid enough to let us have all this money, we'd be stupid not to take it – as they did with their duck houses.'
In many ways the rhetoric of some on the Right belittling everyone on benefits is almost as absurd as the Left's refusal to face the reality of a country with a bloated welfare system that has tripled in cost in 35 years.
The key message from Wythenshawe is the need to put pressure on those who will not work – while protecting people with disabilities and genuine job seekers.
This is essential to restore faith in a fair welfare system.
And this is where the Coalition is getting it wrong. Not just by protecting wealthy pensioners from giving up their bus passes and free TV licences – while hitting impoverished people on disabilities keen to work and failing to tackle the feckless.
But also with the new bedroom tax that penalises people on benefits with spare bedrooms.
In an area such as Wythenshawe, where most homes are much the same, it is difficult to downsize.
Go back to those two women at the start of this story. Which one of the pair has been hit by the Coalition's benefits clampdown?
It is not the single mother of six who turned down decent work to stay on the dole. Instead it is Mary, the council worker, who is being stripped of £10.50 a week from her housing benefit as officials deemed a room in her flat used for her younger son's weekend visits a spare room, surplus to her requirement.
As she says, it's all bloody wrong.
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, 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.