Remember Shanni Taylor? She was the twelve-year-old who was viciously slashed across the face by another girl with a razor blade, requiring at least 30 stitches to her face. She will additionally be scarred for life. At the time the reporting was that Shanni had intervened when her assailant had been bullying another boy. It now appears that the opposite was the case.
A girl who slashed a classmate's face with a razor blade has avoided a custodial sentence after being cleared of wounding with intent, but convicted of unlawful wounding.An outrage then, you would imagine. A revenge attack for intervening to help another pupil, and only a supervision order? Is this a case for Tony Blair's vaunted rebalancing of the criminal justice system in favour of the victim? Err, no. Read on:
Yesterday the girl, who cannot be named, received a two-year supervision order for attacking Shanni Naylor during an English lesson at Myrtle Springs secondary school in Sheffield last October. Both girls were 12 at the time.
Judge Goldsack added that current legislation did not give him the power to hand down a custodial sentence. After the trial, the Naylor family expressed their disappointment that the jury had cleared the girl of the more serious charge and their solicitor said they had already started civil proceedings against the school, alleging breach of its duty of care towards their daughter.
During the three-day trial, jurors heard that Shanni assaulted the girl the day before the classroom attack, punching her and banging her head against a wall as more than 100 pupils looked on. Nobody came to the girl's aid.It appears that none of this has been denied by Shanni or her family. Rather than Shanni stopping bullying, she was the bully, a bully of a girl of extremely low intelligence, with possible racial connotations. As the Ministry of Truth notes, it appears that there was no action taken against Shanni, despite the original attack being seen by a teacher, as well as the 100 pupils that had gathered as often happens when there are fights at school.
The jury was told that the defendant was the only Somali girl in her year and had few friends. She lived in Somalia for the first 10 years of her life, without any formal education, and was orphaned when she was young.
Her isolation at school led to bullying - some of it racially motivated - at the hands of her peers. Teachers were aware of this problem and they also knew the girl had learning difficulties.
The judge heard evidence from two psychologists and two psychiatrists, with all four saying she was not fit to plead due to her extremely low intelligence and difficult background. One psychologist put her IQ at 45.
Not that this mitigates in any way what the Somalian girl did. It was an horrendous attack, but it appears to have come only after a sustained period of bullying of which there seems to have been little done to stop. In the circumstances, it appears quite appropriate that a custodial sentence was not passed, and just what benefit would have been brought from such a sentence also seems uncertain. That Shanni's parents are now considering suing the school for breach of duty seems highly ironic. Rather than failing to protect Shanni, it seems to have failed to protect a highly vulnerable girl who fled to this country.
How did the biggest selling tabloid in this country report the outcome of the case?
THE girl who slashed classmate Shanni Naylor with a razor blade escaped a jail term yesterday.No mention of what Shanni's assailant had to deal with then, except for the fact she was Somalian, and an obvious dig masquerading as news that there needs to a tightening of the law so that such assaults do result in custodial sentences. There's bad reporting, there's distorted reporting, and then there's the Sun.
The 13-year-old, originally from Somalia, was given a two-year supervision order by Judge Alan Goldsack QC at Sheffield Crown Court.
He told her: “Parliament has not given courts the powers to pass custodial sentences for this offence for a person of your age, without previous convictions.”
Shanni, also 13, needed 30 stitches in her face after the attack during an English lesson. She said yesterday: “I am just glad the whole thing is she is done and dusted.”
Her attacker was found guilty on Thursday of unlawful wounding.
Yesterday's by-elections were little more than humiliating for both of the main parties. Despite all the polls showing the Tories taking major leads over Labour, and Cameron gaining popularity all the time they haemorraged a massive 11,962 from their majority at the general election in Bromley. In Blaneau Gwent, the Labour candidate actually lost votes on the performance in the general election rather than gaining; the consolation was that Peter Law's successor, his former agent, lost nearly 8,000 votes.
The Liberal Democrats and UKIP gained in Bromley, with Ben Abbots for the Libs gaining 1,620 votes, with Nigel Farage, the easy to dislike foghorn voiced UKIP candidate gaining 872. This resulted in Labour being pushed into 4th place - losing an astonishing 8,316 votes. Plaid Cymru were the only real winners in Wales - gaining 912 votes on their 2005 performance.
The main winner, as it often is in by-elections, was apathy. While turnout was still a reasonably impressive 51.7% in Blaneau Gwent, it was down 14.4% on last year. There was an even bigger drop in Bromley, where turnout touched only 40.5%, down nearly 25% from May 2005. It seems that both Conservative and Labour voters stayed at home. Whether this was down in Bromley to the belief that the Tories were unassailable or to the position Cameron is taking is obviously uncertain, but the increase in UKIP support was certainly boosted by them throwing a quoted £75,000 into their campaign. Dai Davies' loss of nearly 8,000 votes will be put down to apathy, as Labour showed no sign of any recovery in the valley. Their performance was not helped by the continuing anger over the initial all-wimmin shortlist that imposed the Blairite Maggie Jones on the consitutency, or the fact that the selected candidate currently works for drug company Pfizer, well known for its socialist business practices. The allegation that Law had been offered a peerage by Peter Hain to stand down, vehemently denied by the Welsh secretary, must also have rankled.
Neither of the two parties has either been truly honest about what happened to their support. Hazel Blears cried that Blaneau Gwent was a "unique set of circumstances" and represented a "family feud", which seems rather insulting considering that it was the Labour's arrogance which resulted in Law standing as an independent in the first place. That his death encouraged his wife to stand for the Welsh assembly seat he has also held (she won) shows how deep the feeling against the current New Labour leadership is. David Cameron has unsportingly decried the result in Bromley as down to Lib Dem dirty tricks, even though the Tory candidate had been widely criticised for having "3 jobs" and making a false declaration on his nomination form.
Will it change anything? It's incredibly doubtful. The Blairites and Blair continue to be in complete denial about the way they are viewed, and Alan Johnson has continued the current theme of warning against a shift to the left. Gordon Brown, despite how he might view it as being a bloody nose against Blair and not him, will likely be concerned about how Labour is currently stuck in a downward spiral which they show no signs of getting out of. The way he continues to throw off any hint that he might do things majorly different to Blair seems more than anything to suggest that there is very little he can do to stop New Labour's apparently inexorable decline. As for the Tories, the result will no doubt have come as a shock, having had one of their safest seats turned into a marginal - but it will doubtless be dismissed as a blip or the result of apathy, as detailed above.
The most heartening thing about the results for the neutral is that it shows the parties other than the main two continuing to gain support. While the possibility of proportional representation being introduced by either Labour or the Tories is almost unthinkable, it shows just how badly such a system is needed. What should be encouraging is the way that a hung parliament, leading to a possible Tory-Lib Dem coalition could bring about just that. Until electoral reform is tackled, a large number of the British population will continue to be disenfranchised. It can't come soon enough.
The government knew full well that it was coming. It knew almost from the moment that the control orders were given royal assent that they would be found incompatible with the Human Rights Act. Liberty, the Tories and lawyers all warned them. They went ahead regardless, and then yesterday and today have the temerity to once again blame the judges.
John Reid went in at full pelt, as you might expect, "strongly disagreeing" with the decision of Mr Justice Sullivan. Control orders, according to Reid, "are necessary to protect the public and proportionate to the threat that these individuals pose." The normally sane Labour MP John Denham, who resigned from the a ministerial position over the Iraq war, said that judges have sparked a "constitutional crisis", and added that "we have got to have a serious discussion between lawmakers in parliament, ministers and judges about the way through here."
Yet you can imagine the cries of certain members of the media if the judges got a hand in deciding policy, especially as some already view them as "soft". There is no reason for judges to be involved if the government properly consults before-hand, takes on board the views of lawyers, which considering the fact that there's a fair number in the cabinet shouldn't be too hard, and then legislates accordingly. Yet this still doesn't happen.
The whole issue over control orders has still not even been properly discussed. In the case yesterday, it involved 6 men, 5 of whom were Iraqi and one of whom was of either Iranian or Iraqi origin. All the men were arrested under the anti-terrorism act, and then later released without charge, only to be then held immigrations laws, likely to be deported under the "not conducive to the public good rule". Once it was discovered that they could not be deported back to Iraq or Iran, they were placed under the control orders.
If these men are such a threat to society, why were they not initially charged when they were arrested? Was there a lack of evidence, or was that evidence obtained via wire tapping, something which MI5 is still refusing to allow to be used in court, despite the recent use of bugs and listening devices in the on-going case against the men who discussed bombing the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London. Such tapes were not only played in court, but also given to the media in full. Is the intelligence on these men so top secret that it can't be disclosed, or gathered in such a way that it would expose the person who did so? The problem with this now is that we've seen in the last month what poor intelligence can lead to - and it doesn't inspire confidence that these men may be being held on incredibly flimsy information.
I have yet to hear a convincing reason, or even a reason from a minister on why these men on control orders or waiting to be deported for alleged links to terrorist groups or acts of terrorism cannot be tried in this country. Is it because it's just easier to get rid of them rather than go through the whole possibility of a trial failing, as it did in the case of the so-called ricin plotters? The men accused who were acquitted are now set to be deported, although whether they will be or not remains to be seen. Is it because it would expose MI5 officers and suppliers of intelligence to do so? If that is the case, then why can't the whole trial be held in secret, if necessary with just a judge, with the outcome then being given to the media once the trial has finished, along with all the evidence and countering arguments made, some blanked-out and protected if it needs to be? That seems a much better option than the current system of making men prisoners in their own homes, with contact with the outside being as minimal as the authorities would allow, with all visitors having to provide exactly when they would be visiting and what for. Even then their conversations would no doubt be taped. Their families are under the same conditions.
There is no doubting that there are men in this country who are plotting further terrorist atrocities. Yet the response from the government has been out of all proportion from the beginning; the original holding of prisoners without charge in Belmarsh applied only to foreign nationals, when it was home-grown militants who attacked London on 7/7. It also put Britain in the unenviable position of being next to the United States in locking up terrorist suspects without charge or trial. When that was rightly struck down by the courts, control orders were the answer, despite everyone warning that they too would do more harm than good. So it has been proved. After 7/7 we returned to the draconian measure of 90 days possible detention without charge or trial, and even then the police said they'd like to have even longer. We're now threatening to deport those "who are not conducive to the public good" back to their home nation, whether they are likely to be tortured or not. A piece of paper that says the likes of Algeria or Jordan won't isn't worth the paper it's written on. Yet recently two detainees awaiting deportation gave up their fight and elected to take their chances back home. Doesn't that say something about British justice and the effect that this Kafkaesque system is having on anyone seen as a potential threat?
The government could still change all this. It could devise a way that these men could be brought to trial that all could agree on and that doesn't break the vital Human Rights Act. It could instead of appealing against Mr Justice Sullivan's verdict start doing this immediately with the help of the Tories, Lib Dems and eminent lawyers. Instead it's continuing with its sure to fail quick fixes, same as always. The tabloids will scream, the government will react, and we'll be back where we started. Just don't say we didn't warn you when it happens again.
I don't check the comments on old posts very often. Hence how I missed up to now this gem on an old post on a school putting a CCTV system in the toilet:
are u kidding? respect yer students and theyll respect u?
u ever taught in a skool?
our skool has cctv in the loos and no-one complains. weird comments u make, mate.
when yer daughter or son gets skull raped in a school toilet then set alight maybe you'll think different.
I'm not sure what skull rape involves, and I'm not sure I want to know, but thanks to Anonymous anyway.
The infamous lists of MI6 officers, long leaked onto the internet have been confirmed as real, in case anyone had any doubts. Richard Tomlinson, the ex-MI6 officer who was imprisoned for attempting to publish a biography on his career, was arrested in France yesterday and accused of publishing the lists, which he vehemently denies. He details the raid on his blog:
From 0627 until 1030, they thoroughly searched my house and confiscated my main computer, my laptop, my Psion organiser, my mobile phone, the brand new laptop of a friend who had unfortunately left it at my house for a few days, all my legal documents concerning my long battle with MI6, all my CDs (including software CDs), all my photographs, my camera, several books, and numerous other small items. They left my house as tidy as it was before they came - not like the Italian Police.The lists themselves are still freely available on Cryptome, itself visited by the FBI on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, and Private Eye mentioned them earlier this year in connection with the allegations made by some Greek citizens that they were beaten in the presence of British intelligence officers, one of whom is alleged to be Nicholas Langham, the MI6 station chief in Athens at the time.
They then escorted me to my boat, and searched that. This really was a bit ridiculous - if I wanted to hide something on my boat, they would not find it in a week of searching - there are so many places to hide stuff in a sailing boat.
I was then taken for interview, and learnt for the first time the charges against me. Apparently, MI6 believe that I am responsible for publishing three lists of MI6 agents on the Internet. These allegedly first appeared on the newsgroup uk.politics.misc in 2005, and then appeared again on www.cryptome.org. The police allowed me to take notes from the interrogation sheet, though I was not allowed to keep a copy.
The three lists were posted on uk.politics,misc:
1. 1322 on 21 August 2005, by "John J", email firstname.lastname@example.org
2. 0930 on 27 August 2005, by "Todor Velichkov" email@example.com
3. 1024 on 13 October 2005, by "Alan Bond", firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have absolutely nothing to do with the publication of these lists. The British police would not let me see the lists to discuss in detail, but they agreed that the lists were genuine. This in itself is a fairly astonishing admission - the only people who can verify that the lists are genuine are the British authorities themselves. They obviously think that this is worth doing, if it gives them a chance to harass me and take all my computers from me, knowing what difficulty and expense this will cause me.
Anyway, I was questioned until about 2130, then formally released from "garde en vue" at about 2200.
Tomlinson deserves support, although whether he's done exactly what those making accusations against him wanted by now commenting on the lists and tracking them down himself is worrying.
Update: Both Richard Norton-Taylor, the Guardian's excellent security affairs correspondent and Tomlinson himself are now casting doubt on the veracity of the lists.
Personally, I am not sure at all that they are genuine. For example, at the bottom of the "John Jo" list there is a section entitled "HM Ambassadors", followed by a list of more names. Now as far as I can see, all of those names are genuine members of the Foreign Office and not at all members of MI6. When I was in MI6, no MI6 officer was ever promoted to the rank of Ambassador (except on one very rare exception). So unless the rules were changed radically after I left, then this seems very odd.
There's a strange thing that happens when ministers resign or are fired from the government. They suddenly become human again. Instead of walking around bleating out slogans and the government line like daleks, they often turn into someone you might even not mind spending some time with. Watching the Daily Politics or Question Time, they often turn up and whether you agree with their politics or not, they seem amiable enough. If only the ministers themselves were like that.
Which brings us to Charles Clarke. Here was a man who entered the Home Office after the years of judge-baiting by David Blunkett, himself brought down by the tabloids who he had got into bed with. For a while he seemed like he was going to be different. After 7/7, he promised that he would keep in contact with his shadow home secretaries so that they could reach a consensus on any new laws following the attacks. This was thrown out of the window by Blair himself while Clarke was on holiday, with his "the rules of the game are changing" speech, itself a reaction to a campaign by the Sun which seemed to think that the whole country was going to collapse because the politicians were away on holiday. Throughout the battle over the 90 days detention issue, Clarke repeatedly held out on a olive branch to the opposition parties who opposed his plans, only for Blair to again bring him to heel. As a result, the government suffered its first loss. Clarke and the police rather than Blair got the blame.
It was the start of the slide. This year Clarke went from bad move to bad move, first being incredibly rude to Rachel North's father when he tried to speak to him, then making a speech attacking the Guardian and Independent for daring to suggest that the government was diluting ancient liberties and become more and more authoritarian. Within days the foreign prisoner scandal had broken, and while Clarke seemed to weather the storm and face the criticism, the Labour local election results were so bad that Blair sacked him. Embittered, Clarke refused any job other than foreign secretary, which wasn't offered. He went to the backbenches.
And from there he seems to have been quietly seething. Two months on, and he's emerged to give his first major interviews, as well as making a speech defending his stewardship of the Home Office. On Newsnight he seemed neither anxious to precipitate a "Geoffrey Howe" moment, the speech by Thatcher's ex-foreign secretary which brought about her downfall, but neither was he particularly praiseworthy. Rather, he seemed demoralisingly angry about the job done since his removal by his successor, John Reid, who he launched a number of attacks on.
INT When you left the Home Office, when you cleared your desk, did you think you were leaving a department that was unfit for purpose?In other words, Clarke seems to disagree with almost every major policy undertaking or action that Reid has decided upon since he has become Home Secretary. What's remarkable about the attack is that Clarke and Reid are, or were, ardent Blairites, dedicated to the cause of furthering New Labour. When Blair was thinking of throwing in the towel in 2004, it was the likes of Tessa Jowell, Hazel Blears, Reid and Clarke that persuaded him to stay on. For there to be such a major disagreement with the main running of the Home Office since Clarke's sacking is the first sign that the consensus between the Blairites themselves is beginning to break down. Of course, this might simply be Clarke trying to get some sympathy and recognition of the difficult job that he had. The Sun, which loves Reid's immediate capitulation to any campaign which they or their sister paper decides to run, has today described his attack as "sour". No doubt that reflects the mood in Downing Street, which has simply said that Clarke was "expressing his disappointment".
CC No I didn’t. I thought that was absolutely not the case.
INT John Reid was absolutely clear, wasn’t he, that this was a department that was unfit for purpose, your leadership was incoherent and there was a failure to ensure accountability. He was talking about what you'd done.
CC Er…. Let’s… I think John was wrong to say that.
INT Do you feel hurt about the way John Reid described the Department personally?
CC No, I don’t feel that. I think he came in as every incoming Secretary of State is entitled to do and said it as he saw it. It’s just that I don’t agree with his analysis of what he saw ...
The overall picture of a department not fit for purpose in any of the respects he described I think is and was fundamentally wrong, and I think John was wrong to use those descriptions as I told him before he gave evidence to the select committee.
INT The criticism is that you were unwilling to carry out that wholesale transformation.
CC Well if that was his criticism, and by the way I’m not sure that’s what he meant by it, but let’s assume it was, it certainly is not true.
INT He upset some members of the judiciary when he questioned the sentence of a paedophile by a judge. Is that something that you would have done?
CC Decisions are taken by parts of the Criminal Justice System which the Home Secretary of the day is routinely asked to comment on and either criticise or support. I made it my practice not to do that.
INT Having ruffled the feathers of the judiciary, Dr Reid then found himself criticised by the police - this time for appearing to respond to a News of the World campaign by asking for a new assessment of the law the tabloid demanded. The paper wanted legislation allowing public information on where convicted paedophiles live.
CC I don’t know if his timing was influenced by the News of the World campaign or not. I haven’t spoken to him about it so I can’t tell you. If it was then I would criticise it. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.
INT There’s always a pressure, isn’t there, from the media, the media will always be on the Home Secretary’s back.
CC ... the Home Secretary of the day should not simply be running on the band wagon of some particular media campaign...
INT Last week, John Reid announced that his predecessor’s carefully negotiated plans to restructure the police in England were being put on hold.
CC I regret that John has decided not to proceed with the orders before Parliament for four of the regions of the country forces that we propose.
Yet inside they must be cringing. While Clarke was much less harsh on Blair, who he still believes should serve until 2008, he didn't put his complete faith in him either.
Today if we look at the Labour Party generally there is a sense of uncertainty about the direction we are going to follow and we have to recover that. My preferred option has been and remains that Tony Blair stays as leader and Prime Minister to complete the execution of the manifesto upon which he was elected in 2005 and then hands over to a new leader who would prepare the manifesto for 2009-10. That is the logic of his statement before the last election.The horrible thing that must be worrying Blair's sycophants and acolytes is that Clarke is entirely right. Is there a more despicable sight than Blair, after almost 9 years in office, finally deciding that there should be a "open debate about where we go next"? Even then the open debate is false. Blair makes clear which way he believes that the party should go - and there's no chance that he'll let anyone alter that, or that when Gordon Brown takes over that he'll change direction. Blair lost his sense of direction when he decided to join the United States in a war which was unnecessary, illegal and which we had no need to participate in. His purpose went even earlier than that, when he dedicated the Labour party to further privatisation and the establishment of the mantra of "choice", which has become a hideous distraction which no one other than the Labour party and private companies profiting out of it are interested in. In riding the Murdoch and Rothermere tiger, he's removed central liberties, became even tougher on crime, only for the fear of it to continue rising with prisons full, and he still thinks he hasn't gone far enough. Only an extension of summary powers will sort out the mess of our streets, with all the ugly connotations that carries with it.
“The logic of him carrying through the manifesto would point to 2008, as I have always said. I do think there is a sense of Tony having lost his sense of purpose and direction, so my advice to him is to recover that sense of purpose and direction and that remains the best option. I intend between now and the party conference to say things about the future of the party, which would be about what I think that sense of purpose and direction should be.
The solution should be obvious to everyone, but hardly anyone in the Labour party wants to face up to it. No one can stand the main Blairites any longer. Most people when they hear the voice of Jowell, Hewitt, Reid or Blears reach for the sick bag. The public at large seem to have little more respect for Brown, especially as he seems determined to make himself a laughing stock with his attempts at appearing "with it", by watching the football and listening to the Arctic Monkeys, as Jackie Ashley wrote yesterday. All it does is make him look like he's going through a mid-life crisis. Brown needs time for him to establish himself as the next leader, if he does one day finally become prime minister. Yet before that there needs to be a debate, if not a contest over where Labour is going. The Blairites and their message has failed. They have to go, and very quickly if Labour is not to find itself out of power. Brown has to heed that message and come up with some decent alternative policies if he is not going to just be the PM until Cameron restores the Conservatives as the "natural party of government". It's often forgotten, but Labour under Brown would still be better than the Tories, especially when Cameron is dedicated to the same quick fix solutions that Blair has been, with his wheeze about a Bill of Rights designed purely to win support from the Sun. At the moment many seem to assume we're either heading for a Tory government or a hung parliament. Brown can still change that.
Well, who would have thought it? Despite the Daily Star apologising months back and no doubt saving itself a hefty amount in damages, the Sun and Screws decided against doing so, only to now have to pay Cole £100,000.
The difference with the case is that Cole was never actually directly named by the articles in the Screws and the Sun until he started legal proceedings. The original stories, over two weeks in the Screws, did however drop hints while coyly describing those involved as "two Premiership footballers and a well-known DJ", who had allegedly indulged in gay sex acts, using a mobile phone. The name of the other footballer supposedly involved has never come out. Cole's however did, especially when the Sun ran an obviously suggestive headline, "Ashley's got a good taste in rings", a non-story about his engagement to gorgeous pouting hideously tattooed wasp chewer Cheryl Tweedy, and when the website PinkNews.co.uk uncovered the un-digitally altered photograph, which clearly showed Cole and DJ Ian Thompson, aka Masterstepz.
At the time the printing of the articles seemed like an incredibly stupid decision, purely on the basis that England were in the World Cup and any stories about those who were going to play in it that were negative were unlikely to go down well with patriotic readers. That the Screws then only alluded to those involved when it obviously knew full well who it was was a typical piece of tabloid cowardice. There'd rather smear people who are entirely innocent of any of their allegations and worry about the consequences later, as has been evidenced over a number of years.
What remains to be seen now is whether Smears International try and recoup some of their losses by attempting a claim against PinkNews, which did the most "damage" to their stories, or rather, published what they were too cowardly to. They might try attempting to claim that the original reports were not about Cole, although proving that will for obvious reasons be difficult. The editors might instead have to live this one down, and no doubt face the wrath of Murdoch for wasting his money. That makes two footballers that the Sun has had to grovel to in recent months, after it wrongly claimed Rooney had hit his girlfriend. Whether Sven will have similar luck with his legal action against the Screws over his encounter with the fake sheikh remains to be seen.
A new reader writes: Who is this "fake sheikh", and do you happen to have any photographs of this clearly brilliant journalist who managed such a tremendous scoop?
Well, a new reader, his name is Mahzer Mahmood, although whether that's his real name or not is unclear. He also at times goes by the moniker Pervaiz Khan, and here are a couple of snaps from his otherwise threadbare family album:
In another tabloid triumph, the Observer reported yesterday that the removal of sex offenders and paedophiles from hostels close to schools was something approaching a disaster. John Reid acted, entirely of his own volition, after the News of the Screws told him it was about to go to print exposing 11 such hostels as containing paedophiles, as well as naming the locations. Reid instead groveled, had the offenders removed, and promised the Screws that he was going to have a good old think about introducing "Sarah's Law", honest guv. Apparently the offenders moved are now under far less supervision and some are being held in bed and breakfast accommodation, which is clearly a good idea. Many homeless families are usually put in the same places when there is nowhere else for them to go, so instead of looking over into the playground they'll be able to... well, it doesn't bear thinking about. Congratulations then to the fearless protectors of children at Wapping!