Friday, October 31, 2008

Australia: Systematic bashings by police squad

But only a slap on the wrist as punishment

A high-level probe has found many former members of the armed offenders squad believed bashing criminals was a "community service". The Office of Police Integrity director, Michael Strong, said members of the scrapped squad had a disproportionate number of complaints compared with all other Victoria Police squads.

In a report tabled in State Parliament today, Mr Strong also said some squad members believed they were a "force within the force" and that they considered themselves above the law. "The armed offenders squad should be regarded as a cultural relic within Victoria Police," he said. "Too many of its members believed that 'the end justified the means' and that bashing a 'crook', was a community service. "The squad, through a lack of appropriate monitoring and accountability within Victoria Police, was allowed to develop its own culture, out of step with the organisation's direction. "Its members drew comfort from the strong support they received from the Police Association."

The OPI secretly bugged an armed offenders squad interview room in 2006 and filmed squad members committing assaults. Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon scrapped the elite squad within weeks of a July 2007 OPI raid on the squad. Disgraced ex-squad members Robert Dabb, Mark Butterfield and Matthew Franc initially denied it was them caught on the secret OPI camera bashing a suspect. But each of the former detectives this year pleaded guilty to assault and misleading the OPI director. They were sentenced to intensive corrections orders involving community work, education and training of between 17 weeks and 22 weeks.

Mr Strong said the OPI's investigation into the armed offenders squad exposed wider problems than just the assaults committed by three members. "Lack of a stable and strong middle management clearly contributed to the fact that an unhealthy squad culture was able to continue unchecked," he said. "The absence of a stable leadership and lack of diligent supervisors gave squad members 'free rein' to use whatever policing methods they liked. "There are indications that the informal squad culture had gained such strength and impenetrability that the chain of command was effectively reversed, to the point where some squad members considered themselves immune from managerial accountability or authority."

Mr Strong said the OPI investigation exposed a flagrant disregard by some squad members for suspects' rights. "Covert audiovisual footage obtained in the course of the investigation depicts a brutal and sustained physical assault by three former members of Victoria Police as well as a purported welfare check by a squad inspector that failed to protect the suspect," he said.

"The report explores how the absence of effective management can create an environment where some police feel justified in acting outside the law in a so-called 'noble cause', to get a 'result'. "It highlights the alarming willingness of some police to lie on oath or turn a blind eye to protect themselves or colleagues.

"Victoria Police acted swiftly to disband the armed offenders squad once evidence that appeared to substantiate allegations of assault emerged. "Replacing the squad with a task force model has produced positive outcomes. "Not only has there been a significant reduction in complaints against detectives working in the area, but arrest and conviction rates have also improved."

The OPI report reveals the old armed offenders squad only solved 47 per cent of cases between July 2003 and September 2006 whereas the new armed crime task force has a clean-up rate of 80 per cent. There were 31 complaints lodged against armed offenders squad detectives in that 39-month period, compared with only two against task force detectives in the 18 months from September 2006.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another trigger-happy cop

A CALIFORNIA policeman is under investigation after he fatally shot an apparently innocent young man outside his home while chasing down some robbery suspects. The deadly shooting took place yesterday in Anaheim, 50km south-east of Los Angeles.

Police said Julian Alexander, 20, was drawn outside his house by some street noise and was standing on his doorstep when a local police officer shot him in the chest. The young man, who had been married for a week and whose wife was seven months pregnant, died later from his gunshot wound, America's ABC News reported.

Anaheim Chief of Police John Welter said three investigations were under way into the shooting, including one by the FBI. He said the officer involved in the deadly shooting was 32 years old and a 10-year veteran in the police force, and that he was pursuing some robbery suspects at the time. The officer reported that Alexander was holding a stick as he stood at his door.

"I certainly can't ever guess what's in the mind of a police officer, so I'm not going to speculate as to what he saw or what he didn't see or what he thought was in Mr Alexander's hands,'' Chief Welter said. "The man who was shot, Julian Alexander, was innocent of anything that the officer suspected was going on in that neighbourhood,'' Chief Welter added. "To the family of Mr Alexander, we extend our deepest sympathies.''

Original report here

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Prominent Chicago Businessman/Former City Official Speaks Out Against Department of Justice Abuses

Prominent businessman, retired Chicago Elections Commissioner and former Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) board member Howard Medley, today lashed out against the alarming number of false arrests resulting from malicious prosecutions. He said that this is a troubling trend being perpetrated in our country against innocent Americans by unscrupulous "lawmakers" driven by:

* a bloodthirsty desire to close a high-profile case -- even when evidence is "suspect" or non-existent
* a vindictive craving to exact revenge or settle a score
* a quest for fame -- at the expense of justice

Medley declared that he has remained quiet as he's seen case after case of such judicial deception result in a steady stream of innocents being hauled off to jail. He said this constant spectacle finally forced him to speak out. He said that the Department of Justice's failure to stem the tide of false arrests, stop the incidents of law enforcement manufacturing evidence, and the inability of the Department to effectively address this means that the agency no longer serves the "best interests" of the public it professes to serve. He said the institution of a more uniform and a check-and-balance system to allay such miscarriages of justice is long overdue.

"It's inconceivable that in the 200 years since its inception, the American justice system remains virtually unimproved," said Medley. "Surely this country -- one of the richest and technologically advanced in the world -- possesses the ability to deploy technology that improves our dilapidated justice system."

Medley characterized as "utterly ridiculous" the notion that there is no recourse to correct this injustice, which has plagued America for too long. He said that the discovery of DNA analysis is a tool being used by tenacious college students and advocacy agencies like the Innocence Project. However, he lamented that governmental agents "charged with protecting, guaranteeing and safeguarding the constitutional rights of American citizens," do not turn to these instruments in their prosecutorial duties. "This failure, in effect," said Medley, "makes the Department of Justice an enemy of the people."

Medley suggested several measures that could rectify the situation including enhancing polygraphs technology to make it more reliable and admissible in court. Medley added that jurors need to be better educated to process complicated cases that would confound scientists, geniuses and even authorities on the subject. He said "everyday jurors" often do not have the capacity to sift through facts, theories and empirical concepts. Absent a grasp of such complex methodologies, jurors are often swayed by legal theatrics and contrived evidence made to appear authentic.

When coupled with an inept legal defense, or non-defense, the innocent victim of this malicious prosecution "has no chance" to beat the odds and is "shackled and hauled off to prison" only to be exonerated years later by independents using the latest technology. Medley speculated that these latest crime-exonerating resources appear to not be in the Department of Justice's crime-fighting arsenal.

Medley noted that by statute, law enforcement officials do not incur any liability if they are "guilty" of false arrests because they are shielded through a process known as "qualified immunity." He characterized this protection as "outrageous" and a practice that must be reversed. "Someone must be held accountable when government officials clearly act out of the boundaries of the law," declared Medley.

He postulated that a deterrent is to hold prosecutors accountable for frivolous actions like knowingly pursuing prosecuting and convicting innocent persons. "If prosecutors are levied fines, sanctions and even meted out punishment like incarceration for maliciously using their authority to haul innocent people to prison, this trend would cease -- immediately!!"

He said one of the worst-case scenarios of this type of prosecutorial malfeasance is in cases like Alton Logan who was released from prison 25 years after being convicted of a crime he did not commit. He said a deadly mixture of news media sensationalism, a frenzied atmosphere demanding an arrest, and inept and lazy prosecutors resulted in this atrocity. He said Logan languished in prison while his case disappeared from the news cycle. He said the Logan case, and that of hundreds of thousands who have been exonerated, are examples of "tragedies perpetrated by the Department of Justice and other municipal law enforcement agencies.

Medley lamented that often an innocent person is unable to clear his name because the "doors of the court" become closed to him. He cites the incongruence between the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He said the Seventh Circuit prohibits a wrongfully convicted person from challenging his conviction while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals makes provision for those wrongfully convicted to have their case overturned. Even in cases where a person has subsequently obtained unjust sentencing and irrefutable evidence proves his innocence and clears his name, he is denied the right of appeal to clear his name. This prohibits that innocent citizen from returning to society without the stigma of a conviction barring his re-entry.

Medley acknowledges that the task of fixing this situation is daunting. Because it can only be overturned at the highest corridors of power, he admonishes the victor of the 2008 presidential elections to make the need for overhauling the justice department a major priority during his administration. He suggested remedies like the establishment of A Presidential Task Force charged with investigating the existing system, the creation of a vetting procedure for persons appointed to prosecutorial positions, an aggressive effort to introduce technology to the Department, and a revamping of the culture that has given tacit approval to this judicial misbehavior. "Something must be done to reverse the lack of accountability for wrong convictions," he decried.

"The worst crimes being perpetrated in the country are by the U.S. prosecutors," he asserted. "The only difference between them and criminals with a mask is that they wear a suit and carry a badge."

Medley's outspokenness on the Justice system is spurred by a personal interest in championing this cause. He bears painful witness to the havoc that can be wreaked on an innocent person. His ordeal with the justice system came in 1990 when he was wrongfully indicted and convicted of bribery -- at the height of his business and political career and while he was a member of the Chicago Transit Authority Board and a Commissioner with the Board of Elections. A close confidante of the late Mayor Harold Washington, Medley said that "within weeks" after the Mayor died, an overzealous, vindictive federal prosecutor indicted him for what Medley characterizes as a "political vendetta." He said the prosecutor deployed theatrics to an inept jury who failed to distinguish theory versus fact. Medley acknowledged that he failed to grasp the depth and scope of the prosecutor's vindictiveness and, figuring the case was "of no merit," retained a defense team that was ill prepared to counter the venomous offense. Therefore, they, in turn, failed to mount a quality offense.

The first trial ended in a hung jury with even the jury conceding that the case against him was a weak one. Bristling from that outcome and still motivated by a "get-him" mentality, the U.S. prosecutors retried the case.

He said the public couldn't possibly fathom the pain that such an ordeal inflicts. "Take your worst nightmare, multiply by three and you don't come close to how devastating the experience was and how it shattered my life."

Medley concedes that his only wrong was in failing to gauge the lengths to which the U.S. Attorney's office would go to prosecute him for something he did not, nor would ever do. So, feeling his ordeal was over and that the second jury would hand down a similar verdict, he selected a less-experienced lawyer when the government announced it would retry him.

Medley acknowledges that the mistake cost him 10 months of unjust incarceration, saddled him with an exorbitant financial burden, and burdened him and his family with a lifetime of anguish. Medley continues to fight for the right to clear his name. Stressing his right to speak for other innocents who have suffered, he states he has evidence that would clear him but was not permitted that opportunity by the American justice system He specifically wanted to be grated an appeal hearing of his case by the Seventh Circuit Court.

Despite the fact that Medley served the undeserved time, returned to the business world and has for the past two decades enjoyed the benefits of having lived a model, highly-respected life, he's still considered a felon. This is a painful stigma that has prohibited him from being completely accepted by society. He is limited from playing " a highly-significant role in his church because of that wrongful conviction." Now his motivation to clear his name has turned to a crusade, not only for himself but also for every other innocent citizen who may not have the means to fight.

Medley lamented that he has exhausted the gamut of the complete judicial system. He has appealed to the Supreme Court, the Congress, the Senate and the President. However, he lamented that the doors of the judicial system are closed to restoring his reputation in the community at large. He said he was encouraged by Senator Barack Obama's statement that he was going to look into the justice system. He urged the next president -- whether it is Senator Obama or Senator McCain -- to make this a "first priority."

Original report here

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lying British killer cop

A police marksman who shot dead Jean Charles de Menezes "embellished" and "grossly exaggerated" his account of what happened on the Tube train because he realised that he had killed an innocent man, an inquest heard today. The officer, known as Charlie 12, claims he shouted "armed police" before he shot Mr de Menezes at close range even though Tube passengers did not to hear the warning.

He was "so consumed" with what had happened the day before on July 21 2005, when four suicide bombers had failed to detonate bombs on the London transport system, that the only thought in his mind as he chased Mr de Menezes was to deliver a critical shot to his head, it was claimed.

Michael Mansfield, QC, for the family, said that the officer, a member of Scotland Yard’s elite CO19 specialist firearms unit, never really properly assessed the situation. Anti-terror police were trying to find the failed suicide bombers and Mr de Menezes, 27, who was shot seven times in the head at point-blank range, was mistaken for one of the would-be suicide bombers, Hussain Osman.

Mr Mansfield put it that as soon as the officer believed that as he was dealing with a failed suicide bomber his mind had been made up as to what he was going to do. "Once you knew he was identified as a potential mass killer from the day before, that was it - do you follow? You are down the escalators and in the carriage and he is dead."

The officer replied that all he wanted to do was to get to the suspect. "I did not have any preconceived ideas about what I was going to do. I didn't even know where he was at that stage, let alone a delivery of a critical shot. I just didn't have that in my mind, I just wanted to know where he was and wanted to find him."

Mr Mansfield said: "I'm going to make it plain that what you did when it came to making a statement the following day was to grossly exaggerate what you saw in order to, as it were, convince people that he had been a terrorist about to explode a bomb in your mind. Is there any possibility you did that?"

Charlie 12 answered: "Absolutely none whatsoever, no."

Mr Mansfield: "I suggest you went straight to the delivery of a critical shot which you have been trained to do."

Charlie 12:"That just didn't happen sir, that just didn't happen

More here

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Another trigger-happy cop

CCTV footage of a policeman shooting a dog is being used in a lawsuit by a woman claiming her pet was killed without provocation.

Oklahoma resident Tammy Christopher has filed a $US25,000 ($40,000) claim against the local county, the state and deputy Sean Knight for the wrongful shooting of her dog, The Express-Star reports.

Deputy Knight got out of his car at Ms Christopher’s property to ask directions and her dog Bruiser came running at him. The officer drew his weapon and shot the dog in the head, the video dated August 25 shows. A letter from Ms Christopher's lawyer to Grady County last week said the deputy “grossly over reacted and did not attempt to get back in his car or utilise any less than lethal methods.”

It also said that statements provided to the lawyer “contain several glaring discrepancies compared to the security video of the shooting. It is clear the Grady County Sheriff’s office is attempting to justify the shooting of the dog.”

The lawsuit was not about money but was about holding the police to account, Ms Christopher told the KFOR television station. "I feel like Bruiser has to have a voice," she said. Ms Christopher said she had been told the deputy believed he was in danger and acted in self defence. "(The deputy) could have easily gotten into his car if he was in fear of his life as he said," she said.

Original report here

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

NYC to Pay $3.5 Million to Wrongfully Imprisoned Asian Man

Testimony bought and paid for again. Any prosecutor or other officer found to have done this should be jailed

In one of the largest wrongful-conviction payouts in state history, New York City has agreed to pay $3.5 million to a Queens man imprisoned for 12 years after being found guilty of attempted murder. The man, Shih-Wei Su, was convicted by a jury in 1992 after Queens prosecutors knowingly presented false testimony from the star witness, according to a ruling in 2003 by the United States Court of Appeals, which overturned Mr. Su's conviction and condemned the Queens district attorney's office.

But even after the settlement was finalized in federal court on Thursday, Mr. Su said he was still angry. "The settlement doesn't buy back the time I lost and doesn't do real justice, but the amount shows the public something is very wrong here," said Mr. Su, now 35 and a financial consultant in Manhattan. "I did 12 years on a wrongful conviction, and no one was punished for it." In a statement, a spokeswoman for the city's corporation counsel called the settlement "in the best interest of all parties."

Joel B. Rudin, Mr. Su's lawyer, said that his research showed that about 80 Queens convictions over a 15-year period ending in 2003 had been reversed because of prosecutorial wrongdoing, but that those prosecutors had never been disciplined.

A spokesman for the district attorney, Richard A. Brown, declined to comment on the case or Mr. Rudin's research. He referred to a letter from Mr. Brown published in The New York Times in 2007 that said most of the cases dated from before his time as district attorney, and that altogether they represented "less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the hundreds of thousands of cases prosecuted during the two-decade span that the list encompasses, and many ultimately resulted in conviction after retrial or by guilty plea."

In 2003, Mr. Rudin helped get a $5 million settlement for a man who had served seven years on a conviction of raping a girl at a Bronx day care center. A judge threw out the conviction, saying that the prosecutor had withheld evidence that could have acquitted the man.

In Mr. Su's case, prosecutors argued at trial that Mr. Su ordered fellow members of a youth gang, the White Tigers, to shoot a member of a rival gang, the Green Dragons, in a Bayside pool hall in 1991. He was convicted with the help of testimony from a key witness who agreed to testify against him after being promised by prosecutors leniency regarding his own crimes. On the stand, the witness denied having made such a deal.

Mr. Su was sentenced to 16 to 50 years in prison. He was released in 2003 after a federal appeals court ruled that the lead prosecutor in the case, Linda Rosero, elicited false testimony from the witness and misled jury members, telling them there was "technically no agreement" regarding the witness's testimony. "A conviction that is obtained through testimony the prosecutor knows to be false is repugnant to the Constitution," the panel said. "The prosecutor is an officer of the court whose duty is to present a forceful and truthful case to the jury, not to win at any cost." Reached at home on Friday, Ms. Rosero, who is no longer with the district attorney's office, declined to comment.

Original report here

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Illinois victim writes book about his wrongful conviction

Convicted by way of illegal police behavior and a lying jailhouse snitch. Fuller details of the case here

Gary Gauger begins his book with information he wouldn’t learn until years after he had been sentenced to die by lethal injection for his parents’ 1993 double murder. Without sparing some chilling details, Gauger tells readers how he dozed on and off, unaware that two motorcycle gang members had slit his parents throats and gathered about $15 off the floor of his dad’s motorcycle-shop floor. They had hoped to walk away with at least $30,000, but instead used the meager proceeds to buy breakfast in Lake Geneva.

Gauger, 56, recently self-published his story of wrongful conviction with help from Lake Geneva-based reporter Julie Von Bergen. He is beginning a round of book-signings to promote the book and the dangers of lifting the death-penalty moratorium. “I just want [readers] to see what happens and hopefully put more pressure on the police and prosecutors to do the job right,” Gauger said, sitting at the kitchen table in a farmhouse where he lives next to the Richmond area farm where the murders occurred.

His story is told over 190 pages, including his memories of a long interrogation that ended with police considering his hypothetical account of how he might have committed the murders in an alcoholic blackout a confession. Then, there’s his disbelief that a McHenry County jury would convict him without any physical evidence connecting him to the crime, letters he wrote from death row, and details on how a law professor and his students exonerated him.

He tried to commit his story to writing a few times while in prison, but the emotions were too raw. Instead, he tried to pass his 20 months in Stateville Correctional Center making cheese and sewing with a contraband needle left by another inmate and thread from unraveled clothing and sheets.

About half of Gauger’s cellmates were convicted murderers, and nine inmates died while he was there – five by execution and four at the hands of other inmates. Prison officials dealt with the pall that executions brought by locking prisoners down early and passing out boxes of cookies.

Rival gang members fought each other and the guards, which meant other prisoners on their way to the “chow hall” sometimes walked past gang members beating their enemies in the stairwell, Gauger said. But some prisoners struggled to build a life beyond monotony and television. “They’re just like other people,” Gauger said. “It reminded me of a large apartment complex where the doors don’t open.”

The doors opened for Gauger through law professor Larry Marshall and Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. Sixty students signed up to work on his appeal after Marshall agreed to take on the case.

After Gauger's release, federal authorities charged and later secured convictions against Outlaw gang members Randall Miller and James Schneider for the murders of Ruth and Morris Gauger.

Gauger hypothesized in his book that Marshall was drawn to his case partially because he’s a white Midwestern guy who illustrates that “these things didn’t just happen in the ghetto.” But Marshall said recently that he was impressed with how Gauger’s twin sister, Ginger, stood by him so steadfastly. “When I read about the case, it had all the earmarks of a wrongful conviction in that it was a case where there was no physical evidence that supported the guilty [finding],” Marshall said. “It all boiled down to what was said during an unrecorded conversation.” Marshall said Gauger ultimately became “one of the poster children” for why officers should tape entire interviews, not just confessions made toward the end of long interrogations.

All that remains of the legal ordeal is a malicious prosecution lawsuit pending against the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, which is next due in court Friday. Gauger returned to farming full-time – before the murders he also spent part of his time helping his dad in his motorcycle shop – but the work serves a new purpose. “I like the work because it’s hard enough and dangerous enough that I have to focus on what I’m doing,” Gauger said. “It keeps my mind off what happened to me.”

Original report here. Book details here

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Man seeks $18M in damages for wrongful conviction

It sure takes a lot for a black man to be freed in Mississippi. Cleared by DNA in 2002 he was not released until 2007 -- and only then because another man confessed. More on the judical chicanery here

A Brooksville man who spent 15 years in jail and served time on death row for a crime he was cleared of is suing two of the men he claims put him behind bars.

Kennedy Brewer has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West. Brewer is seeking $18 million in compulsory damages, plus punitive damages from both defendants.

In 1995, Brewer was convicted of the 1992 rape and murder of his former girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter. The lawsuit says Brewer’s ordeal was the result of the wrongful actions by both doctors, who submitted false bite mark evidence.

In 2002, his conviction was overturned after DNA evidence proved Brewer’s did not match what was found in the victim. On Aug. 31, 2007, Brewer became a free man after another man confessed to the murder.

Original report here

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Timothy Masters sues over wrongful conviction

My previous post on this case was on July 17, 2007. Police actually BURNED evidence in the case!

Tim Masters, whose murder conviction was overturned earlier this year, is suing several current and former Fort Collins police officers and Larimer County prosecutors for wrongful arrest, conviction and imprisonment. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

On Feb. 11, 1987, a bicyclist on his way to work discovered the body of Peggy Hettrick, a 37- year-old Fashion Bar manager in a south Fort Collins field. Investigators immediately focused on Masters, then a 15- year-old who lived with his father in a mobile home overlooking the field. On Aug. 10, 1998, Masters was arrested for Hettrick's murder, based on a forensic psychologist's interpretation of his drawings and writings. He was convicted the following spring.

In 2003, his case was taken up by two new attorneys, Maria Liu and David Wymore, who pushed for a new trial after finding hundreds of pages of documents that were not turned over to Masters' original defense team. DNA found on Hettrick's clothing was also sent to a Netherlands lab last year, which concluded that it did not match Masters,' but was linked to Hettrick's former boyfriend.

A judge tossed out Masters' conviction in January and dropped the charges against him. On Jan. 22, Masters, 36, was a free man after spending 91/2 years in prison.

The defendants include two former Larimer County prosecutors, Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, now judges in the Eighth Judicial district, along with former Larimer County District Attorney Stuart VanMeveren, and current District Attorney Larry Abrahamson. Also named were police Lt. Jim Broderick, former detective Marsha Reed and police Chief Dennis Harrison with Fort Collins police. David Lane, Masters' attorney, did not return calls Tuesday.

Original report here

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Illegal use of sandwich wrappings (!) in Britain

Today's edition of Warden Hodges' Britain comes from Liverpool, where war has been declared on the illegal disposal of industrial waste. Every firm in the city is getting a visit from enforcement officers working for a public-private agency set up by the council. Last week it was the turn of Frank Hughes, who runs a small scaffolding hire company. The inspector asked him how he disposes of his waste.

Frank said he doesn't. He explained that scaffolding is a relatively simple business which doesn't generate waste. But you must eat lunch, the inspector retaliated. I bring sandwiches, Frank told him. And before you ask, I take the wrapping home with me. In which case, you're breaking the law, the jobsworth informed him. Sandwich wrappings are classified as industrial waste within the meaning of the Act. You need a licence to dispose of them.

And since you don't have one, you are committing a criminal offence. Frank would be hearing from the litigation department in connection with this heinous crime and could expect a minimum fine of $600. With that, the official ticked all the relevant boxes and goose-stepped his way out, another job well-done. Frank wrote to me in despair. 'I am not making this up,' he assures me.

I don't think you are for a moment, guv. It wouldn't have surprised me if the inspector had produced a roll of CSI-style crime scene tape, cordoned off the building, declared the whole business off-limits, called for armed police back-up and ordered Frank to cease trading immediately. 'Enviro-crime' is the new 'hate crime'. All must be punished, all the time.

Many councils have already hired teams of environmental crime enforcers. In Salford, they have started patrolling the streets looking for any emptied dustbins still on the pavement at 11am. Offenders are issued with fixed-penalty fines. This is particularly distressing for pensioners and for mothers with young children who return from shopping trips to discover they have been nicked. How are people out at work expected to bring in their bins before 11am? Has that occurred to the morons at the Town Hall?

I shouldn't have thought so for a moment. And even if it did, it would be considered a bonus, increasing the potential for punishment and revenue-raising. These are just two, tiny examples of the perverted manner in which those we pay to perform straightforward duties go out of their way to persecute us. By tonight, my inbox will be full of dozens more.

Prevention of illegal dumping is a noble pursuit. No one wants chemicals poured away in suburban gutters, or asbestos casually chucked over the fence of the local children's playground. Too many country hedgerows and city side-streets are besmirched by fly-tipping, an unpleasant but inevitable side-effect of scrapping weekly rubbish collections in the name of saving the polar bears.

But that's no excuse for the Sandwich Stasi. It takes a pedantry bordering on extreme mental illness to define greaseproof paper used for wrapping a round of cheese and pickle as 'industrial waste' - let alone demanding that someone has to possess a licence to dispose of it. Similarly, having the pavements cluttered with empty dustbins isn't particularly desirable. But fining people for not bringing them in by mid-morning is outrageous. What are they supposed to do - take an hour off work or stay at home until the dustmen have been?

Of course, none of this would be necessary if councils hadn't ended the traditional method of rubbish collection. Some of us can remember when dustmen came round to the back of your house, carried your bin to the cart, emptied it and then returned it to whence it came. Now you are expected to wheel your own bin to the front gate - and woe betide you if you don't leave it in exactly the place designated by the council. Even a few inches out and they'll refuse to empty it. Then the 'environmental crime' wardens will come along and issue you with a fine.

Those charged with waste disposal in Britain have taken leave of their senses. They have forgotten that they are public servants. They see themselves as evangelical environmental warriors and the rest of us are their enemy. They now exist purely to bully, fine and punish us.

It is nothing short of monstrous that hard-working, law-abiding small businessmen like Frank Hughes - the backbone of the nation - can be treated in this fashion. While he is doing everything he can to battle through a recession not of his making, his taxes are going towards paying the salary and pension of a jumped-up, otherwise-unemployable twerp who proposes to fine him $600 for 'illegal disposal' of a sandwich wrapping.

For two decades, this column has made a career out of exposing the unbending lunacy and sheer bloody-mindedness of British bureaucrats, but the monster marches ravenously on. At a time when we can least afford it, we are being bled white to finance the Sandwich Stasi and hundreds of thousands of index-linked, spiteful, self-righteous parasites. In another life, these are the very people who would have been loading the cattle trucks to the concentration camps. To the scaffold with the lot of them.

Original report here. (Via PC Watch)

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scottish fingerprint enquiry

See previous comments here on July 21, 2008 and Feb 18, 2007. There is no doubt that Scottish fingerprint evidence has been discredited but why, how and by whom remains open. My best guess is that there was an attempt by senior male police to get rid of an unwanted female cop. But why they would go to the length of exposing her to a long jail term is a mystery

The Lord Advocate, Scotland's most senior law officer, is to take the unprecedented step of appearing before a public inquiry. Elish Angiolini will give evidence voluntarily at a judicial inquiry into the Shirley McKie fingerprint case. The Crown Office confirmed that it was believed to be the first time that a Lord Advocate would appear at a public inquiry.

Critics claim that the Shirley McKie affair, which has been one of the most enduring controversies of devolution, has cast a shadow over the Scottish justice system. Ms McKie, a former policewoman from Troon in Ayrshire, was accused of leaving her fingerprint at the Kilmarnock home of the murder victim Marion Ross in 1997. At the murder trial of David Asbury she denied leaving a print at the scene, even though fingerprint experts working for the Scottish Criminal Record Office maintained that it was hers.

After the trial was concluded — Mr Asbury was convicted of Ms Ross's murder but later acquitted — Ms McKie was charged with perjury. She was put on trial in 1999 and found not guilty.

In February 2006, following a long battle to clear her name, Ms McKie was awarded an out-of-court settlement of 750,000 pounds by the then Labour-led Scottish Executive. Although Ms Angiolini was not Lord Advocate at the time, her predecessor, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, QC, came under attack for failing to prosecute the fingerprint experts who insisted that the print belonged to Ms McKie.

Ms Angiolini's role in the public inquiry was revealed yesterday during an initial hearing. Sir Anthony Campbell, who is chairman of the inquiry, named the Lord Advocate as one of 15 core participants who will give evidence at the inquiry. Core participants, who may represent themselves or be represented by a lawyer, are eligible to have a wide role in the inquiry, including applying to examine oral witnesses. Ms Angiolini will be represented by the Crown Agent, Norman McFadyen.

Stephen House, the chief constable of Strathclyde Police, has also been designated a core participant, along with Ms McKie, her father Iain McKie, and Mr Asbury. Others include the fingerprint expert Peter Swann, who was consulted originally by Ms McKie's defence lawyers but became convinced that the print belonged to her, and Pat Wertheim, one of the two US fingerprint experts who helped to clear Ms McKie of perjury by proving in court that the mark — known as “Y7” — did not belong to her.

The inquiry will look at the steps taken to identify and verify the fingerprints associated with the perjury trial. It will also make recommendations as to what measures may be introduced to ensure that any shortcomings are avoided in the future. Mr McKie called on Sir Anthony to use his powers to put all the witnesses under oath, and urged Lord Boyd and the former justice ministers, Cathy Jamieson and Jim Wallace, who were in office during the scandal, to give evidence.

Ken McIntosh, the Labour MSP for Eastwood, who has long defended the four fingerprint experts who lost their jobs following the misidentification, said that the hearings would provide an opportunity to show they have been the “real victims” of the affair. “Despite all the inquiries saying they have done a professional job they continue to be portrayed as responsible for the fate of Ms McKie,” he said.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Britain: More open justice for families in the courts. Minister to curb secret hearings at last

Family courts are to be opened up to public scrutiny in response to mounting criticism from parents whose children are taken into care that they are victims of "secret justice". Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, plans to announce the change next month to create more transparency in the family justice system while seeking to protect the welfare of the child, The Times has learnt.

The move to open family courts to the media, which is supported by most judges but opposed by many social workers who present applications for care proceedings to courts, follows growing controversy over their decisions and the way that they operate. Earlier this year The Times launched a campaign to reform the family justice system and open up the courts amid accusations that they were operating in a "conspiracy of silence".

Details of how far the reforms will go are still being finalised. But the move towards greater openness will amount to a U-turn from the policy of the last Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who changed his mind about admitting the media after consultations with children and children's groups.

Britain's most senior family judge backs the reforms today in an interview with The Times. Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division, favours opening to the media all care cases involving the removal of children from home other than for adoption, a highly sensitive area that ministers and judges agree is a special case. In private disputes between divorcing couples over money or children, judges should have discretion to exclude the press, Sir Mark says.

Greater openness would help to dispel the "myths and inaccuracies" that have grown up around the workings of the family courts. "It is my firm belief that when people see these cases in action, and the extreme care with which they are dealt - and the fact that so much of what is said comes from interested and disgruntled parties not reporting the matter objectively - it can do nothing but good for the system," he says.

Ian Johnson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, was unconvinced that opening up care proceedings in court would lead to improvements. "Social workers are very concerned that children's fundamental rights to privacy are preserved," he said. "The nature of some of the information dealt with in family courts should just not be in the public domain. I just don't agree with this argument that having the press there will result in better social services."

But John Coughlan, spokesman for the Association of Directors of Children's Services which represents senior social workers, said the organisation would back more openness provided it was done carefully. "We believe that, as long as we can guarantee absolutely confidentiality and the press can be reasonable and do not report in a way that affects the outcome of a case, there is a public interest issue," he said. Mr Coughlan said that these are some of the most draconian powers the state holds and that "the public wants to see how they are exercised".

NSPCC, the children's charity, opposed openness but suggested more judgments from family courts should be given in public and then made anonymous, but only where children's interests were protected.

Original report here

A secret state is operating in Britain in which families are being torn apart

I began writing about parents whose children were being removed by social workers after two chance meetings. One was with a couple who had taken their daughter to A&E with a leg injury, only to have both their children forcibly removed into care and returned only after a legal battle. The other was with a mother whose daughter had said that Daddy, who never lived with them, was touching her in bad places. A psychiatrist who never met them, and was not cross-examined in court, said that she had coached her daughter to lie. She was sent to live with a man her mother thinks is a paedophile.

As I spoke to more parents, patterns emerged which convinced me that these two cases were not aberrations. England and Wales are operating a secret state, where almost any discussion of your case is prevented to protect the "privacy of the child". Where courts only need the word of an "expert" to remove your child. And where some social workers are jumping to wholly erroneous conclusions which tear families apart.

Court of Appeal judges played an important role. Judges such as Justice Judge, Ryder and McFarlane all chose to make public their scathing indictments of local authorities, social workers and/or expert witnesses in individual cases. They made it possible for me to write about those cases.

Sir Mark Potter presided over the High Court this summer, where The Times challenged some reporting restrictions in the case of a man who was jailed for helping his wife to help her son escape from foster care. Sir Mark, in a spirit of openness, released more documents to The Times than we had hoped for - documents that reinforce my belief that that case is a gross miscarriage of justice.

Sir Mark's call for the opening of the family courts to the media is significant. He believes that greater scrutiny will show that the courts generally work well. The argument I have always made is that we should put that to the test. I believe that some social services departments and experts are consistently seeing abuse, especially "emotional harm", where there is none. And that some local authorities are flagrantly ignoring the legal requirement that there should be minimum intervention in family life. We cannot prove that until the courts are opened up.

There is a powerful lobby against openness, made up of those with a vested interest in avoiding scrutiny. Sir Mark's comments today will surely help to shift the power towards those who want to open up the secret state and let the public judge for themselves.

Original report here

Media must be allowed into family courts, says Sir Mark Potter

Britain's most senior family judge has said that family courts should be opened to the media to dispel the "myths and inaccuracies" surrounding the system. Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division, told The Times that he favoured allowing the media into children's care cases, where there was "the strongest case" for greater transparency. He supports allowing similar access to private family disputes over money and children, subject to the discretion of the judge. In all cases the anonymity of the children involved, and where appropriate the parties, must be protected, he said.

Judges should be able to exclude the media in certain disputes between couples where there may be "prurient" interest because of their "sensational" nature but where the facts were of no concern of the public, he said. In a rare interview, Sir Mark also called for pre-nuptial agreements to become all but binding; deplored the Government's policy of charging big fees to litigants in civil and family cases; and backed greater legal rights for unmarried couples.

Sir Mark, 71, said that "often tendentious and misleading descriptions in the media have distorted the public perception of the legal process and inhibited its understanding of how that process works". But the balance, he said, "now seems to me to have come down in favour of increased openness by permitting the attendance of the media, subject to provisions to protect the anonymity of children, or indeed the parties in appropriate cases". He admitted that there were concerns among some judges who dealt with these cases daily. The likelihood was that the identity of people involved would emerge, even if local press reports preserved their anonymity, because within communities it would "become fairly widely known who was involved".

There was a case, Sir Mark said, for saying that couples should not have to "wash their dirty linen in public" when they came to court to settle matrimonial disputes. "They might have a number of embarrassing issues to air that are of no interest whatever to the public ... save for sensationalism and prurience." That was why, in such cases, judges should have discretion to hold hearings in private, he said.

But he added: "In an age of transparency and amidst largely misplaced criticisms of `secret justice', it is clear that the public ... should have confidence in the judiciary." Laying to rest some of the "myths" about family justice, he said that it was "simply untrue" that parties were unaware of the case against them (for instance, when children were being removed into care) or that they were denied seeing the evidence before the courts. They had a right to see all the evidence, he said. They also had the right to appeal and were entitled to legal representation and legal aid.

Citing another area of reform, he said that he did not favour legislation to make pre-nuptial contracts binding - at present they are only "persuasive" in disputes over assets between divorcing couples. He favoured strengthening the authority of such contracts between couples, however, "as a sensible means of dealing with the fortunes of the rich". Sir Mark said: "I consider that great weight should be accorded to any such contract where the parties were legally advised at the time. It should usually be decisive."

He said that he would retain a "long-stop" judicial discretion for the prevention of injustice, so that judges would not have to follow such contracts where, for instance, one side had not disclosed all their assets at the time; or circumstances had radically changed during a marriage in an unforeseen way.

Sir Mark also made clear his strong opposition to government policy to recoup the costs of running the civil and family courts through charging high fees to litigants. The "dramatically large increase" for cases over whether a child should be removed from its home had already led to a drop in the number of care cases brought by local authorities, which gave rise to "considerable concern", he said. Councils were under a statutory duty to take proceedings to protect children. "It is not a question of a voluntary taking advantage of the system in the way that can be said of ordinary citizens going to law," he said.

Although 40 million pounds had been provided to compensate councils over court fees, this funding was not "ring-fenced". He anticipated that there would be a similar damaging impact in the realm of private matrimonial disputes where it would "bear heavily upon those who, though above the exemption level [for paying fees] are of modest means and will not be able to stand the expense".

The result, he said, would be that they would not be able to come to court to sort out problems over contact or access to children, for instance, or, "what concerns as a judge, they will proceed as litigants in person [without a lawyer]". That caused "enormous problems" both in procedure and the process of a case resulting in delays, because of the judges' need to give them full opportunity to express their points which counsel would express more succinctly, he said.

In another area of potential reform to family justice - the law on unmarried couples - Sir Mark made clear that they should have greater legal rights as proposed recently by the Law Commission, the law reform body. The Government has shelved the proposals for the time being, which was a "surprise and disappointment", but the Law Commission had made a "totally convincing case", Sir Mark said.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

British war hero's fiancee finally cleared of illegally claiming his Army pension

A diamond engagement ring sits on Janine Fearick's kitchen table. When she is on her own, in her flat, she wears it. But she will never be seen with it in public. For Janine, the questions it raises are too painful. She cannot bear to explain that it was bought by her fiance, Andrew, but that he died two years ago. At 19, Andrew Cutts became the youngest British soldier to be killed fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was heralded as 'brave and exemplary' by his commanding officer, and the former pit village of Blidworth, Nottinghamshire, where both Andrew and Janine grew up, came to a standstill for his funeral. Leading the 500 mourners, Janine hoped the funeral would give her some much-needed closure.

But it was only the beginning of what has been an unimaginably gruelling ordeal - an intimidating whispering campaign in the village that she had lied about her relationship with Andrew to qualify for a Government payout. She was jostled in the street, ignored by friends and her mother's car tyres were let down every night. A severed chicken's head was even pushed through her letterbox. Rendered a recluse, Janine lost her job as a legal secretary, moved house and relied on sleeping pills and antidepressants to maintain her sanity.

Finally she was interviewed by officers from the Ministry of Defence Police, who accused her of falsely claiming she met the criteria for compensation - that she was married, engaged or living as a partner with Andrew. She was arrested and charged with obtaining property by deception, facing up to 16 years in prison. To make matters worse, her mother Jeannie was accused of helping her.

Last Monday - 16 months after her arrest - Janine's nightmare finally ended when both she and her mother walked free from Nottingham Crown Court after the MoD was unable to offer a shred of evidence against them. The prosecution, whose lawyers were so resigned to defeat that they did not even turn up in court, was forced to concede that Janine transferred the entire 63,000 pounds compensation to Andrew's family as soon as she received it - a full five months before she was charged.

Judge Michael Stokes QC cleared them absolutely. 'It is a tragedy that this prosecution was ever started,' he said. 'You can both leave court without a stain on your characters. You are both owed an apology.'

But Janine, now 22, is still angry. 'I cannot believe I was accused of profiting from Andrew's death,' she says. 'The Army bullied me into accepting the compensation in the first place. I didn't want the money. It felt as if I was putting a price on my fiance's life. 'There are hundreds of troops in Afghanistan whose lives could be saved by better body armour. 'But instead they wasted taxpayers' money pursuing a non-existent case against me. 'An apology wouldn't bring Andrew back, but it would help me come to terms with what has happened. I don't think I've had a chance to grieve properly. 'Even now, when I see something about the Army on television, I find myself crying. Andrew would have been horrified at the way I've been treated.'

It is hard to imagine quite why the villagers of Blidworth turned against Janine. It is not as if her relationship with Andrew was a flash in the pan. 'They had been neighbours since the age of seven and became boyfriend and girlfriend in the summer of 2004 when they were both 17. 'He'd just learned to drive through his Army training and would wave at me from his Astra,' remembers Janine, who now lives in nearby Mansfield.

With Andrew spending his working week at Colchester Barracks, they made the most of weekends. 'He bought me flowers and wine gums, my favourite sweets,' she says. 'He was a lad's lad, but kind and caring too.'

They had been going out for just over a year when Andrew proposed on Janine's 19th birthday in September 2005. He had told her he would be away on a training weekend, but turned up by surprise and suggested they go for a drive. 'We started bickering because it was hot and he wouldn't let me wind down the car windows,' recalls Janine. 'Then he told me I had something on my face and to look in the mirror. When I pulled the visor down, an engagement ring fell out.

'I never thought in a million years that he'd propose, but we were both laughing when I said yes. I knew he was the man I wanted to marry. 'Even though we were both young, it felt right. I felt settled and happy and so excited. I'd never been the broody type but I knew I wanted to have children with him.'

Although Andrew's aspiration to serve abroad prevented them setting a date, they began to plan the wedding. Janine says: 'We looked at menus and venues. Planning our life together was exciting and both our families were thrilled.' Janine's mother moved out of her three-bedroom home and rented it to Andrew and his fiancee. 'It was the first time I'd lived with a boyfriend and I threw myself into it,' says Janine. 'I redecorated our bedroom in deep purples and blues and bought new bedding so the place would be ours.'

In May 2006, Andrew - a private in the Royal Logistic Corps - was posted to Afghanistan for six months. 'He was so excited to be in the Army and wanted to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan,' says Janine. 'His twin brother James was also a soldier. We all got on well together. 'I told Andrew to be careful, but I knew he'd never put himself in unnecessary danger. I stood with his mum as we waved him off.'

Janine wrote to him twice a day. Initially Andrew found life in the war zone tough. 'He called me in tears,' she says. 'It was horrible. I felt powerless. I reminded him of the boxer dog he wanted when he came home. 'Gradually, though, he grew up out there. He said he wanted to start a family when he came home.'

Janine was in the village pub with Andrew's mother when an Army officer walked in on August 6, 2006. 'He took his mother outside and I heard her scream. I knew what had happened,' she says. 'When he told me I was too stunned to react. It was two days before I could cry. When I did I roared. 'For a while I couldn't eat or sleep. I took time off work and shut myself in the house. I didn't want to talk to anyone and I isolated myself.'

Andrew had been shot in the head during an operation codenamed Snakebite, an attack on the village of Musa Qaleh in Helmand Province which was known to shelter Taliban commanders. He had chosen to act as a Jeep gunner, knowing that the position was the most exposed. An inquest later revealed he was probably killed by 'friendly fire'. His body was flown home a week later. Janine wrote a speech for the funeral. 'I talked about how he had to be the first and last at any party.' She smiles shyly at the memory. 'I told everyone he was my sunshine. I couldn't sleep after he died. I don't think I've had a full night's sleep since.'

In October 2006, an Army officer called at Janine's house to tell her she was entitled to compensation. 'I said I wasn't bothered, that money wouldn't make me feel better,' she says. 'I didn't want the hassle and said that Andrew's family should get it. My mum told the officer to leave me to grieve. But he called back an hour later.' Janine says she was then bombarded with calls, letters and visits from the Army's pension department. 'When I ignored them they started calling my mum. In the end she said I might as well go along with it.'

Janine was scrupulously honest throughout, confirming that they had lived together, but only for a few months; that they were getting married, but hadn't set a date. 'As proof that we were living together, Mum sent in the notebook in which she kept a record of our rent payments,' she says.

That month, Janine was invited on a Mediterranean cruise by Andrew's family, to whom she had turned for solace. But she sensed they were becoming hostile towards her. 'I felt isolated and pushed out,' she says. 'I called my mum every day, in tears.' The family, she claims, accused her of flirting with Andrew's brother James and with one of the waiters. 'I still don't know what I did wrong,' she says. 'They stopped speaking to me when we got home.'

The day she returned from the cruise, Janine received a letter saying she had been awarded not only a 63,000 lump sum but a pension of 10,000 a year until she remarried. 'I was shocked,' she says. 'I thought at most I would get 2,000. It confused me and made me feel guilty. I didn't want to feel I was benefiting from Andrew's death.' A week later she received an angry call from a member of Andrew's family. 'They accused me of stealing his money,' she reveals. 'I hadn't been told that only one person could claim. I called my Army liaison officer and told him what had happened. 'He denied encouraging me to claim and all the discussions we'd had. But his emails later proved that we'd had the meetings.'

Almost immediately, her neighbours in the village scented the feud between Janine and Andrew's family. 'People I'd been friends with stopped talking to me,' she recalls.

In November 2006, she persuaded Andrew's father Karl, a painter and decorator, to meet her. 'I said how sorry I was, that I had never intended to hurt them or take their money,' she says. 'He was in tears and said he loved me. I told him, as I'd told the Army, that his family could have the money.' Indeed, the day the 63,000 arrived in her account a few weeks later, she wrote a cheque for Karl. She has since heard nothing more from the Cutts.

Five months later the MoD Police phoned to say she had to turn herself in or be arrested. They refused to discuss the allegations and she agreed to meet them at Mansfield police station. When she arrived, two MoD Police officers handcuffed her and told her she was under arrest for conspiracy to defraud. 'They tried to explain the charges, but I couldn't take it in,' she says. 'They said they would drop the charges if I accepted a caution but I refused. I knew I was innocent.'

The police also arrested Janine's mother. The rent book she had given the Army pensions office was the sole evidence against her. It was only after they were charged - and told that Janine faced up to 16 years in prison - that they learned what lay behind the case. A member of Andrew's family had complained.

Shortly after the arrests, the Army liaison officer Janine had dealt with - the MoD's witness against her --was posted to Afghanistan. The trial was delayed for a year. Janine lost her job, was prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping tablets and was treated in hospital for stress-related stomach pains.

She protested to the MoD Police that she was innocent. 'But they insisted my engagement ring had been just a Christmas present,' she says. Such was the flimsy nature of the prosecution that the judge told both sides at a pre-trial hearing ten days ago that he could not believe the case had gone this far....

An MoD Police spokesman said: 'We will study the judgment to see if it can further inform our investigative strategy.' Ian Cunningham, Crown Advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: 'Having considered the evidence given to us by the MoD Police, we decided it was in the public interest to prosecute the Fearicks. 'It was only after a witness in the case, an Army officer, returned from Afghanistan that we were given further evidence, which meant we were no longer in a position to proceed.' [A good thing their "witness" survived Afghanistan!]

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Batty Britain: Thug who killed a bus passenger for asking him to stop swearing jailed for just 27 months

A drunken yob who killed a man by pushing him off a bus has been jailed for just 27 months. Gary Robson admitted the manslaughter of former soldier Stan Dixon, 60, who had ticked him off for swearing. The judge in his case told Newcastle Crown Court the sentence he had to give was governed by rules 'laid down by higher courts'. To add insult to injury, under current rules the 23-year-old is likely to serve only half his time and should be out by next August at the latest.

Mr Dixon's partner Anne Fisher, 41, was too upset to comment immediately after the hearing and many of his friends were stunned by the length of the jail term. Later, Mrs Fisher said: 'Stan was a good man with a great sense of humour who would do anything for anybody and wouldn't hurt anyone. 'He was standing up for what he believed in and was protecting me at the time. Since he died it's been like a bad dream and I can't imagine life without him.'

Mr Dixon intervened after Mrs Fisher had challenged Robson for using obscene language as they travelled home to Peterlee, County Durham, on a late night bus from Hartlepool last June. Robson, a call- centre worker, was upsetting passengers with his foul-mouthed tirade and when he began to verbally abuse his girlfriend Mrs Fisher 'remonstrated' with him. Prosecutor Ewan Duff said she asked the defendant to stop swearing as there were young girls on the bus.

Robson swore at Mrs Fisher, saying something to her like 'what the **** has it got to do with you'. Mr Dixon then stepped in and told the burly yob: 'That's my girlfriend you're talking to.' The pair continued to argue as the bus moved along, and Robson tried to attack the older man, but was held back by his friend and partner. Mrs Fisher appealed to the driver to stop the bus and told Mr Dixon, a divorced father of three, to get off. He momentarily got back on the bus to pass on his name and address to the driver.

At that point, Robson pushed past Mrs Fisher, knocking off her glasses, and 'quite deliberately' shoved his victim 'forcefully' in the chest with two hands. Mr Dixon fell backwards on to the pavement, smashing his head on the ground, and suffered a catastrophic brain injury. He died four days later in hospital. The court heard that after the attack Robson went home and bought himself a pizza.

He was arrested the next day and initially denied any involvement, before pleading guilty at court. Defence barrister Richard Bloomfield said he was ' genuinely remorseful'. He said: 'He will always have to carry with him the knowledge he was responsible for the death of another person, albeit unintended.'

Judge David Hodson said such cases were among the most difficult any court has to deal with. He said: 'I hope it can be clearly understood that the sentence this court will pass is not and can never ever be a valuation of the life that has been lost. 'I hope it can be understood the court has to proceed in accordance with sentencing principles and authorities laid down by the higher courts. 'The court must have in mind the unlawful act was done without any intention to kill or cause really serious harm.'

Mr Dixon, who divorced the mother of his three grown-up children in 1999, had met Mrs Fisher in 2002. His daughter June, 31, issued a statement on behalf of herself, sister Louise, 25, and brother Paul, 34. She said: 'My father Stanley Edward Dixon was an oldfashioned, traditional man, who will never be able to see his grandson grow up. 'He didn't deserve to die like this but he can now rest in peace and we can all move on.'

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Girl Texts Boy Her Naked Photo, Boy Gets Arrested, Held in Juvenile Detention

A 13-year-old boy was arrested and held in juvenile detention overnight because a female classmate sent him (and other boys) a naked picture of herself. The best line of the story--"So far only the 13-year-old boy has been arrested."

Beyond the prudery and overreaction, the most outrageous thing about the story is that this boy and only this boy is being punished for something only the girl did. She sent the photo, he gets punished.

From Student faces porn charge over text message sent by classmate (WFAA-TV, 10/-8/08):
SANGER - A controversy has arisen out of Denton County involving a 13-year-old boy, a cell phone and a text message. That message has landed the middle schooler in juvenile detention on child pornography charges.
Text messaging has become part of our everyday lives.

But at Sanger Middle School, it has become a problem and in some cases, pornographic. “He doesn’t know what a felony means. He doesn’t understand what pornography means,” said one parent. She is a mother of a 13-year-old boy arrested Monday and suspended from school and spent the night in a juvenile detention center after an eighth grade female student texted him a naked picture of herself...

“I know some girl was taking pictures of herself and sending it to multiple guys. Obviously, they’ve still got their picture on their phone because they are now getting in trouble,” said Bethany Mitchell, a classmate.

So far only the 13-year-old boy has been arrested. Police and the school district are not discussing actions against any of the other students.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

One in three recent Atlanta Police Academy graduates have criminal records

This is inexcusable. No wonder there are so many police goons

Keovongsa Siharath was arrested in Henry County on charges he punched his stepfather. Jeffrey Churchill was charged with assault in an altercation with a woman in a mall parking lot. Calvin Thomas was taken into custody in DeKalb County on a concealed weapons charge. All three are now officers with the Atlanta Police Department.

More than one-third of recent Atlanta Police Academy graduates have been arrested or cited for a crime, according to a review of their job applications. The arrests ranged from minor offenses such as shoplifting to violent charges including assault. More than one-third of the officers had been rejected by other law enforcement agencies, and more than half of the recruits admitted using marijuana. “On its face, it’s troubling and disturbing,” said Vincent Fort, a state senator from Atlanta. “It would be very troubling that people might be hitting the streets to serve and protect and they have histories that have made them unqualified to serve on other departments.”

But Atlanta police say it’s not so simple. Officials have been trying without success for more than a decade to grow the department to 2,000 officers, an effort hurt by this year’s budget crisis. With competition for recruits intense among law enforcement agencies, Atlanta has had to make concessions. “We would like, in an ideal world, to see every applicant with a clean record, but obviously that’s not reality,” said Atlanta police Lt. Elder Dancy, who runs the department’s recruitment unit. “I don’t think you’ll find any departments who hire only applicants with squeaky-clean records.”

Three decades ago, a police officer with a criminal record was much less common than it is now, said Robert Friedmann, a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University. But times have changed and many agencies have had to relax their hiring policies, Friedmann said.

Other local police agencies have hiring guidelines similar to Atlanta’s. Police departments for Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties don’t hire recruits with felony convictions but do hire those with misdemeanor arrests, on a case-by-case basis.

Dancy would not divulge all of Atlanta’s restrictions but said the department won’t hire anyone with felony convictions, or those with convictions for obstruction of justice, sex or domestic crimes. Even so, police documents show that many of their recruits have blemishes on their records.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, through an Open Records Act request, asked in mid-August for the job applications of the Atlanta Police Department’s two most recent graduating classes. The department provided 36 applications for police recruits who graduated June 10 and Aug. 4. All the graduates are currently Atlanta police officers. The most revealing portion of the application is a questionnaire that includes some probing questions:

Have you ever used marijuana?

Have you ever been with a prostitute?

Have you ever driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

And: Have you ever been physically arrested or cited with criminal charges?

Twelve out of 33 officers — 36 percent — said they have been arrested or cited with a criminal offense.

“It does not mean they’re not a quality candidate,” Dancy said, adding that the department runs criminal background checks on all recruits. “It just means they made a mistake in their past.” ....

Fenton, a former Cobb County police officer, said he was more concerned with the AJC’s next finding: Twelve out of 33 graduates — 36 percent — acknowledged that they had been rejected by other law enforcement agencies, including some in metro Atlanta. “That, frankly, is more troubling to me — especially when these people have been rejected by multiple agencies,” he said.

Three officers’ rejections stemmed from failing the psychiatric or psychological portion of police agencies’ screening processes. Others were turned away because they failed lie-detector tests or offered conflicting statements about issues such as drug use.

More here

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Girl arrested for exploiting herself and other lunacies

In Newark, Ohio a 15-year-old girl has been arrested by police on charges of child pornography. Both the girl and her victim have not been identified but they are one in the same person. Yes, police arrested the girl for sexually exploiting herself because she took a nude photograph of herself.

She has been charged with the “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material and possession of criminal tools.” I assume the tool was the phone camera used to take the photo. The girl could be imprisoned and force to register as a sex offender. If she is forced to register the on-line listings will simply show that she had produced child pornography leading public readers to assume she had sexually exploited young children. Since being listed on these registries have lead to the murder of various individuals this arrest could eventually put the girl’s life at risk. All because she took a nude photo of herself.

Prosecutors are not finished by any means. The girl in question sent the photo to the phone of a few friends and prosecutors are now considering arresting the other teens for receiving “child pornography”.

Meanwhile the sex hysteria in the UK continues. The school governors of Rokesly Junior School are attempting to prevent nine homes from being built near the school. They argue that the homes will have balconies from which the school playground can be viewed. And therefore the children are at risk from child pornographers.

I quote the insane chairman of the school governors, Nigel Leskin:
We’ve all read of cases where there have been examples of parents, families, fathers who are involved with child pornography regardless of whether they have got their own children or not. It’s not acceptable. In particular these days where you’ve got increased zoom lenses on mobile phones that people can take pictures.

Sure Mr. Leskin has some sort of brain lesion or mental deficiency. Let us assume that some child pornographer actually did move into one of the houses. Let us also assume he owned a zoom lens. But how precisely would his taken photos from his balcony create child pornography? The only explanation I can find is if the school has their children running around the playground naked. If that is the case then Mr. Leskin should be answering a few questions.

The obvious absurdity in this is that he equates being able to see a playground with encouraging child pornography. So apparently he thinks all children playing in public are a risk. I presume children should be forced to play behind high walls but with Google satellite photos that could still present a problem. So perhaps they should be play in the dark or be all forced to wear burkas.

The risk posed to children in this case is so minimal as to be almost non-existent. And if some “child pornographer” wanted to look at children he could do so from a public sidewalk. The idea of banning houses from being built on this pretext is daft. Either Mr. Leskin has other reasons for wanting to prevent the building, and is using this as a false pretext, or the man is totally bonkers. His risk assessment is so faulty that it would justify wearing a helmet to protect one from falling space debris.

One of the great problems with panic-induced policy-making is that is foists stupid solutions on the public. Often it does so by imposing policies that either do no good whatsoever, or inflict harm far in excess of any good they may do. The environmental movement loves panic-induced policies because they are keen on proposing lots of bad solutions But this is true for many issues, the panic induced financial bailout that Bush rushed into law is another recent example. We could argue that the drug laws, the Patriot Act, the Iraq war, sex offender registration laws, and a host of other measures are all examples of the sort of bad legislation that comes out fear politics. This is precisely why authoritarians on the Left and the Right love to promote fear campaigns. A panicky populice will sign away precious freedoms without giving it much thought. And what the Left and the Right have in common is they don't want people to think -- just react.

Original report here

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

British cop deletes shooting evidence to protect the dickless one

There has been a huge effort to protect the open Lesbian -- Cressida Dick -- who was in charge of the killing. Now we know that the British police will even destroy evidence to that end.

A SENIOR police surveillance officer is under investigation after he admitted yesterday that he deleted evidence relating to the shooting in July 2005 of Jean Charles de Menezes. The officer, based in the Metropolitan Police special operations squad, told the Brazilian electrician’s inquest that he deleted a line in his computer notes only last week. The line in his notes claimed Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick initially said that Mr de Menezes could “run on to Tube as not carrying anything”.

Although it was brought to public attention yesterday, The Times understands that the matter involving the officer was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission last Thursday. After looking at the allegation the IPCC decided to launch its “highest level of investigation” into the matter. The officer has been taken off front-line duty.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said she wanted the IPCC to report “as quickly as possible”. She said: “This is a very serious matter, which clearly must be investigated and the facts established. We are in close contact with the Metropolitan Police Service. It is right that they have referred the matter to the IPCC. Once the facts are established we will decide, in consultation with the Metropolitan Police Authority, what further action may be necessary.”

At the inquest, being held in a conference room at the Oval cricket ground in South London, the officer, named only to the hearing as Owen, said: “On reflection, I looked at that and thought I cannot actually say that.” He told the inquest he removed the line from his notes on October 7 – more than two weeks into the hearing – because he “didn’t see it as relevant”.

He deleted more than he had intended because he was in a rush to get to an appointment, he claimed. Saying that he was now not sure who had actually said that Mr de Menezes should be allowed to “run”, he added: “All I can say was that one of the options was letting him run because he was not carrying anything and that there’s a disagreement between management. “I believe it was the commander but when I reflected I couldn’t be sure, or whether she was saying this is what we are going to do or this is one of the options. It was a woman’s voice.”

Minutes later Ms Dick effectively directed the shooting of Mr de Menezes by ordering a “hard stop”, Owen added. He said: “A hard stop is an aggressive stop. It’s not an official term but it is an aggressive stop.”

Owen said he mentioned the changes he made to a Metropolitan Police solicitor the day after he submitted his evidence, on October 8. When asked if he was aware that what he had done was very serious, he added: “I have removed a line I believed was wrong and gave a totally false impression.” When asked if management had asked him to make that amendment, he replied: “No. I am sure of that, sir.”

Ms Dick claimed previously that she believed Mr de Menezes posed a “great threat” as officers pursued him on July 22, 2005. The full deleted line read: “CD - can run on to tube as not carrying anything. Persuaded by U/I male amongst management.”

Owen went on to claim the line was omitted because the computer note may have been “misleading”. Owen said he “flicked through” his notes and saw there were a “few mistakes”. He explained: “The other thing I have done is delete the line I had identified as wrong and misleading when I did the statement.” When asked why, he replied: “The detail changes do not materially affect the statement.”

Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot seven times in the head by Metropolitan Police firearms officers at Stockwell Underground station on July 22, 2005. He had been mistaken for one of four would-be suicide bombers, who were on the run after the attempted attacks on the London transport network the previous day. He was followed by police surveillance teams from a block of flats linked to one of the bombers.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: “Once we were notified of an issue relating to a witness, an officer based in specialist operations, the MPS voluntarily referred this matter to the IPCC on October 9.” A source at the IPCC told The Times that it understood the officer allegedly made changes to an aide memoire on October 7 because what he had written originally was inaccurate. “This is the highest level of investigation”, the source added.

Original report here

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Inverted justice in Britain

'Next time, walk away' - what magistrate told a husband who stood up to yob threatening his wife

A husband who stood up to a yob who shouted vile abuse at his wife has been convicted of assault and told by a magistrate: 'Next time, walk away.' Stephan Toth acted after the 13-year-old threatened his wife Selina, who has cancer. Mr Toth put his hands on the boy's shoulders and guided him to his mother's house, where he explained to her what her son had done. He then went home, only for the police to call at his flat and arrest him.

The 34-year-old father of one was kept in a dirty cell for eight hours and interviewed for two hours before being charged with common assault. After a three-month wait he was convicted and given an absolute discharge, leaving him with a criminal record.

And he was stunned when chairman of the bench Tony Pomeroy told him to 'just walk away' next time. Mr Toth said: 'Am I supposed to just walk away when some yob screams such awful things at my wife? No way. 'I did what any reasonable person would do yet the law is behind him, not me. I'm the victim here but somehow I've ended up becoming the criminal. Meanwhile that boy feels like he's above the law.'

As he waited for the trial, Mr Toth, from Margate in Kent, lost his job as a carer and has been unable to find work since. He was hauled before Margate magistrates over the incident in front of his flat on June 1. His 46-year-old wife, who is suffering from cervical cancer, was becoming upset by the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, screaming abuse through her open window.

Mr Toth said: 'I went up to him and said, "Enough is enough". He said, "You can't touch me, I'll get you sacked". I thought his mum should hear this so with open palms I coaxed him towards her house, which is a few doors down. 'My job is providing support and care at a school for children with learning and physical disabilities, so I've been trained on how to handle youths properly and barely even touched his shoulders. 'I got him most of the way then he ran off, so I went and spoke to his mum. She refused to accept he had said anything and shouted at me so I called the police to let them deal with it.'

Officers arrived at Mr Toth's flat half an hour later. The boy's family claimed Mr Toth grabbed him in a bear hug and tried to pick him up, causing six scratches to his chest. Mr Pomeroy said: 'There is insufficient evidence that there was a bear hug causing injuries but the defendant has admitted that he took hold of him by his shoulders and that constitutes an assault in our opinion. 'We think however that there was some degree of provocation in this.' He added: 'It would be an idea next time just to walk away.'

Mr Toth, who also had to pay 85 pounds costs, is planning to appeal. He added: 'I've been treated appallingly. My career is looking like it's going to be crushed, we have bills to pay and my wife's already fragile health is worse because of this.'

Kent Crown Prosecution Service defended its decision to take Mr Toth to court. A spokesman said: 'The CPS only brings a prosecution if there is enough evidence to provide a reasonable chance of conviction and if the prosecution is in the public interest.' [Really?]

Original report here

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

A State of Corruption in Australia

Lives put at risk by corrupt police who leak information to crooks

LIVES are being put at risk by "festering" cells of corrupt police leaking information on confidential investigations to criminals, Victoria's police corruption watchdog has warned. Officers in the corrupt cells are "culturally influential" in the force and can exploit the common practice of police sharing inside information on investigations to big-note themselves to their mates. Information traded by corrupt police to criminal associates damaged investigations, and "in extreme cases lives can be, and have been, put in jeopardy", the Office of Police Integrity warned.

In the OPI's annual report, tabled in parliament yesterday, director Michael Strong said that in some instances inside information about investigations was being sold to criminals or traded in return for favours. "At other times, the information-sharing arises between individuals who have a longstanding relationship in which loyalty to the individual appears to replace loyalty to Victoria Police and to the police officer's oath to uphold the law," Mr Strong says.

Victoria Police was rocked late last year when it was revealed in sensational OPI public hearings that details about a top-secret underworld murder investigation were allegedly leaked from senior levels within the force to the main suspect. Confidential information was also leaked about police informer Terrence Hodson shortly before he and his wife, Christine, were murdered in a cold-blooded underworld execution in 2004.

Mr Strong said corrupt police often promoted the image they were high achievers, but actually did little productive work. "They regularly flout organisational rules and regulations and avoid accountability because of their cultural influence," he said.

But attempts to clean out the force were being hampered by a "code of silence" and a tendency for police to close ranks or turn a blind eye, including lying to OPI corruption hearings. "Too many police witnesses required to answer questions under oath in OPI hearings seem willing to sacrifice their credibility rather than break the code," Mr Strong said. "I am gravely concerned at the apparent disregard some police have for the oath or affirmation to tell the truth when they give evidence. "Perjury is a serious crime."

A growing awareness within the force of the investigative techniques used by the OPI, including telephone intercepts and other electronic surveillance, was making it more difficult to catch corrupt officers. As a result, OPI operations were becoming more complex and increasingly required the use of covert investigative tools.

Mr Strong said the improper handling of criminal informers by police was a potential opening for corruption, with officers failing to register their sources of information, as required. "Streetwise criminals may be adept at manipulating some police," Mr Strong said. "Access to a piece of the action may pose too great a temptation for unethical police."

Overuse of physical force on suspects was a problem, with an estimated 70 per cent of such cases not reported. Twenty per cent of complaints against police involved assault allegations.

Mr Strong recommended that a criminal offence of misconduct in public office be introduced. Assistant Commissioner for ethical standards Luke Cornelius acknowledged corruption was a problem, but said it was restricted to a small minority of officers. "The critical point for us is that we have to break the code of silence," he said.

Corrupt police clinging to the "old ways" needed to realise it was only a matter of time before they were caught and prosecuted. "There's nowhere to run, there's nowhere to hide," Mr Cornelius said.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Australia: No penalty for huge police negligence leading to death

The mother of a murder victim says an internal investigation into police negligence leading up to the shooting was nothing more than a "whitewash". Julie Wilson has vowed not to rest until there is an independent process for complaints against police, after a Police Complaints Authority investigation ended yesterday with a series of reprimands against six officers. None of the officers, who were found to have failed in their duty in the days before the murder of Christopher Wilson, have been stood down or had their pay reduced.

The Holden Hill officers were found to have failed to properly investigate the initial incident in which Mr Wilson, 23, was shot in the leg in February, 2004. Three days later, Mr Wilson was shot dead by the same man – Hootan Beigzadeh – who is now serving a minimum 16 1/2-year prison term for murder.

The police inaction was the subject of a coronial inquest, which heard police had dismissed Mr Wilson's complaints and failed to make any effort to track down Beigzadeh. The coroner identified 49 mistakes by police investigating the shooting. The authority also investigated the matter after Mrs Wilson lodged a complaint in 2004.

Yesterday, Senior Constable Michael Redden accepted a "recorded reprimand" from the complaints authority for "negligence in carrying out his duties". Snr Constable Redding interviewed Mr Wilson when he and his four friends went to the police station. Mrs Wilson said she was "unimpressed" by the outcome.

Five other officers also received "unrecorded reprimands" or internal "counselling" over their failures. "It is hardly an impressive penalty for failure to carry out a duty as a police officer and it is hardly procedural change . . . It's a whitewash," Mrs Wilson said. "The triumph will be when police complaints are investigated by people who are independent of police and when victims of crime are treated with some dignity. "We need an end to this secrecy and South Australians have got to demand it."

Mrs Wilson said there were many unanswered questions in the case, including the fate of police notes that went missing after the murder. She called for the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate such incidents, saying she had "no confidence" in "police investigating other police".

Original report here

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Friday, October 10, 2008

CA: The DeWayne McKinney case

More "coaching" of witnesses by lazy police

On Dec. 11, 1980, a robber entered a Burger King in Orange, leapt over the counter and told the 19-year-old manager to open the safe. After the manager did so, the gunman shot him in the head, execution style. When shown a photo of McKinney, four witnesses stated he was the robber, but only after coercion from police investigators, said Orange County Assistant Public Defender Denise Gragg. Gragg was the attorney who built the case for McKinney's freedom.

Police investigators at the time told the witnesses about McKinney's past criminal history and involvement with gangs, and that they had sufficient evidence against him, Gragg said. "All lies," Gragg said. "But none of the witnesses disclosed this to the defense at the time, so there was no way to find that out." McKinney was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Prosecutor Tony Rackauckas pushed for the death penalty, but the jury was hung on that decision.

In the late '90s, fellow inmates told McKinney that they knew who the real killer was, and gave statements identifying that man. When the original trial witnesses were approached with a photo of the real killer, the witnesses said they had picked the wrong man. Other witnesses at the time also said a car seen during the robbery matched the new suspect's car.

The evidence was brought to Rackauckas, who is now the Orange County district attorney. Rackauckas' own investigation concluded that McKinney was innocent of the murder. The new suspect in the 1980 case has been in and out of prison for other offenses, but has not been prosecuted for the murder.

McKinney was released in 2000 with nothing but the clothes on his back. He worked for the audio/visual program of the University of California Irvine campus. He became a speaker for youth groups, crime victims, police departments and prosecutors. He eventually won a $1.7 million wrongful conviction lawsuit against the Orange Police Department. He then began investing in automated-teller machines, profiting off convenience fees. He moved with his then-wife, Jeanine, to Hawaii, where he established more ATMs. His business is called Island ATMs and he owned 48 machines statewide.

His attorney, Los Angeles-based Jeff Rawitz, said moving to Hawaii was a lifelong dream of his. McKinney kept a picture of Hawaii on his cell wall. While he served his time, McKinney was assaulted, stabbed and threatened. Gragg said despite the abuse, McKinney bore no grudges, not even against the man who had him convicted, Rackauckas.

Original report here

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