Friday, March 09, 2007 

Scum-watch: The Scum fights cyber abuse!

THE Sun today became the first newspaper in the UK to officially join the fight to protect the country's internet surfers and help combat abusive images of children found in cyberspace.

It follows the launch of our fantastic MySun community service where readers can publish their own stories and pictures as well as having their say on the big news of the day.

And just what sort of pictures are readers being encouraged to post on the fantastic MySun community service?

PAGE 3 idol might be long gone but wannabe models are still posting sexy snaps on The Sun website.

Dozens have been showing off their hottest pics in blogs on our discussions section MySun.

Thousands of fellas log on every day to see the latest shots and chat about them.

Over on MyScum itself, 3 of the 4 popular blogs are of women in various stages of undress. The top discussion is "CCTV mother changes epilepsy story" (she hasn't), the first post of which is an all-caps diatribe against council estate scum, while the third story down is "Confessions of real desperate housewives".

The Sun might be against cyber abuse, but it certainly isn't against mental or self abuse.

Elsewhere, today's Scum leader predictably attacks the "PC-inspired witch-hunt" against PC Mulhall:

Footage of Ms Comer wrestled to the ground lasts just a few seconds.

Moments earlier she’d left a nightclub drunk and vandalised cars.

When PC Anthony Mulhall arrived, she resisted arrest and attacked him.

Err, she resisted arrest, but attacking him is a bit strong. Attacking someone is launching into them, which she did not.

He wasn’t to know if Ms Comer had a knife or anything worse.

But she didn't, and one would expect that if she had a weapon of some sort she would have produced it before he tried to arrest her, no? Please keep up Rebekah.

Punching the top of her flailing arm so she could be handcuffed, was perfectly reasonable.

Those quick to criticise the police have never faced the terror of confronting and detaining a violent drunk in the middle of the night.

PC Mulhall’s job is to protect the public. By detaining Ms Comer safely and quickly he was doing his duty to the best of his ability.

She suffered no injuries and needed no medical attention as a result of the arrest.

Comer was hardly the atypical burly drunk whom the police usually have to subdue on Saturday night. As for suffering no injuries, today's Grauniad shows at least one gash on her back. Notice that there's no reference to the fact that Comer may have suffered an epileptic fit anywhere in this leader.

How depressing a copper has been taken off front-line duty and put in charge of paperclips because of a few inconclusive seconds of video.

South Yorkshire Police should not bow to a PC-inspired witch-hunt which has rushed to judgment and played the race card.

Police Constable Mulhall should be put back where he belongs.

On the beat protecting the public.

The Sun obviously hasn't bothered actually reviewing the whole of the Guardian tape. It lasts a lot longer than a few seconds.

As I wrote yesterday, my own feelings are mixed, and Mulhall probably doesn't deserve having this being blown up into a national news story, but the IPCC should still investigate. Mulhall will most likely be completely exonerated, and be able to put all of this behind him. Sometimes "PC-inspired witch-hunts", if they start a national debate help show what is and what is not acceptable. If it leads to better police training, that can only be a good thing.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007 

Taking on all Comers?

It's difficult to know on the surface just entirely what to make of the CCTV footage of Toni Comer apparently being punched five times by a police officer, with a boot being placed against her throat while three other men hold her down.

We have to keep in mind that Comer, after being ejected from a nightclub for being what the police would describe as drunk and disorderly, took it upon herself to damage the bouncer's car. What's more, she was quite clearly resisting arrest, and endangered both herself and the police officer by the way she was acting on the metal staircase. Whether she was responsible for the two of them falling down the lower section is unclear, but she certainly wasn't helping.

What certainly isn't clear is whether Comer was continuing to resist arrest when the punches were thrown. We also don't know where she was hit; it could have been the arm, in line with police procedure for those on the ground who are continuing to resist arrest and who can't be handcuffed, or it could have been her face. The fact that this has only come to light nearly 9 months on from the incident means that the bruising and cuts resulting from the arrest have long healed, making getting to the truth far more difficult that it could and perhaps should have been.

There are other things we have to consider. Anthony Mulhall, the officer in question, in his statement seems to make clear that there were considerable gaps between the blows he delivered. This is contradicted by the video, which shows Mulhall striking her five times in very quick succession. He admits to using brute force and striking her as hard as he physically could. Comer herself believes that she suffered an epileptic fit: Mulhall admits that he saw her foaming at the mouth, and that she was spitting at him, which is consistent with someone having a fit. It would also explain how she was spasming, and seemingly, resisting arrest. The question is whether Mulhall simply thought that she was continuing to resist arrest, which appears on the surface to be the case.

As Lenin points out
, when someone is having a fit, it's a bad idea to punch them and restrict their breathing, as placing a boot against their throat would. Whether the officer should have recognised that she was having a fit rather than resisting may turn out to be the defining point of the investigation that the IPCC has now announced.

I have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. From my own experience, and that of my friends and family, the police are certainly not always above reproach. The method of handcuffing someone with their arms behind their back can be incredibly painful on its own. My brother, who was minding his own business in his car late one night, found two police officers shining a light in, who then demanded to search the car. On finding a miniscule amount of cannabis, they proceeded to kick his shins (leaving bruises that took weeks to heal), later excusing their behaviour by saying he was resisting arrest, when all he was doing was complaining about the fact that they'd be better spending their time on real criminals than on someone alone who just happened to have a tiny amount of a Class C drug in their possession.

On the surface, it appears that Comer has at the least been roughly treated, and that the officers should perhaps have recognised that she was having a fit rather than continuing to resist. Beneath that however, you can't help but have sympathy for officers who are spending their own weekend having to deal with idiots who get drunk and then can't control themselves. Mulhall's statement does appear to be at odds with the footage, but he seems also to have been following standard police procedure, whether Comer was nine stone or otherwise. It appears that he may well have made a mistake, but it's worth remembering exactly what these officers do sometimes have to put up with, facing leering pissheads making comments and having to break them apart when they start fighting. Even though she was struck five times, no lasting damage has been done to Comer. Indeed, she can't remember what happened, and was only made aware of what exactly did occur when she herself saw the tape.

Then there's the Guardian's leader on the tape, which for an unfathomable reason brings Rodney King into the equation. There is no suggestion that racism was in any way responsible for the treatment dealt out to Comer, and I much suspect that anyone else who had been resisting in the same way would have experienced the same reaction from the officers. The beating which Comer took was also far removed from that meted out to King. The other sentiments in the leader are decent, suggesting that what happened needs to be investigated, and it now will be.

I estimate however that Mulhall will at most be given a talking to, or a warning, which is probably all the incident really merited. The police do probably need better training to recognise the symptoms of someone suffering from a fit, and that will also now hopefully happen. Whether all of this would have been better settled within the force itself, without the need for Mulhall's actions to be splashed all over the TV and papers is a question worth asking, but it's also worth wondering whether without said coverage if any good would have come out of an incident that all involved would most likely just want to forget.

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