Sick Priorities

Today, News International agreed to pay to singer Charlotte Church an alleged £600,000 compensation for hacking into her mobile phone( s ) and listening to message on her mobile phone’s answerphone.

Now, I am no advocate for Rupert Murdoch or News International. I certainly do not condone their actions in hacking into people’s mobile phones. Their way of doing business is anathema to me. I would describe News International ( and Sky) as epitomising all that is wrong with society today.

So, what am I writing about this payment to Charlotte Church by News International? Well, her case is not unique. Max Clifford received £1million as did Gordon Taylor, the chairman of the Professional Footballers Association

These payments are basically for upset or inconvenience as a result of their phone calls being listened to.

Now compare these with payments made to those who suffer injury in say a road accident or a work accident or that received by soldiers injured fighting for their country. It is rare to get a significant sum for personal injury. These figures are fixed by the courts as being the appropriate levels of compensation to recompense the victim for his injuries.

I make no secret that as a result of my cycling accident 2 1/2 years ago, my left knee is permanently damaged. I am unable to kick a football or twist and turn on that knee. I was unable to work for around 3 months and even today the knee causes problems. The compensation I got for pain and suffering was around 1% of that Charlotte Church got. This I was happy with and whilst no amount of money can fully compensate for injuries, it was an adequate  settlement.

Under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, a rape victim will get up to £11,000, and  someone suffering “Seriously disabling

disorder where the symptoms and disability are permanent” gets £28,000 There are numerous other examples, e.g. permanent loss of sight – £44,000

So, can you explain to me why its deemed to be worth £600,000 or £1million to have someone listen to your phone calls? From a surprising source, came a call for these celebrities to give their payments to charity. In the Daily Telegraph last December, Neil Hamilton the disgraced former MP and his wife made such a call. Its a little ironic them making such a claim as they did not give the libel compensation they got to charity.

It says a lot about how greedy these celebrities are when that money, which is a windfall for them, could have been given to a deserving charitable cause such as Help for Heroes. however, they keep it for themselves, despite in most cases being extremely wealthy already.

It is sick that so much money is being paid out for hurt feelings and so little for permanent life changing physical injuries

If you are reading this Rupert, my mobile number is 07……….,

Racism, Humour & Police Oppression–An Update

Back on February 12th, I posted on my blog, a post entitled Racism, Humour & Police Oppression when I expressed my views on the actions of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in seizing all copies of a fanzine on sale at Old Trafford before the Man U v Liverpool game on 11th February.

The police chief in charge of the operation was quoted as saying

Match commander Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts said: “Shortly before kick-off we were made aware that a Manchester United supporters’ fanzine being sold outside Old Trafford featured a potentially offensive image.

“Officers are now seizing the fanzines and in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service we will take appropriate action against anyone either found selling this particular fanzine or provocatively displaying the image in public.

“Officers have also been made aware of a t-shirt on sale outside the ground that is also deemed to be offensive.

“We are also seizing these items and anyone found wearing one will be required to remove it and hand it to police.

“At this stage we have arrested one man in relation to the t-shirts on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offence and we will be continuing to work with the clubs to minimise the impact of the image, which we consider to be offensive.

“I have taken this cause of action as both items are potentially offensive and we cannot be in a situation where hundreds or thousands of people were displaying offensive images at a football match.

Well today, the head of the CPS for Greater Manchester, Lancashire & Cumbria,  issued the following statement:

24/02/2012

CPS decides no further action in ‘Red Issue’ fanzine matter

Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor, CPS North West Area said:

“I have decided that no further action will be taken in relation to allegations surrounding the publication and distribution of the ‘Red Issue’ fanzine at Old Trafford football ground on 11 February 2012.

“During the investigation into the matter by Greater Manchester Police, the issue of potential incitement to racial hatred was raised. As result I consulted the CPS’s Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, who are responsible for advising on suspected cases of incitement.

“Following this consultation I have received advice from a senior lawyer in that Division that although the fanzine distributed may have been offensive to some people, there was insufficient evidence to prove that the content was intended to stir up racial hatred, or that it was or likely to do so. I have therefore concluded there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for incitement to racial hatred against any person.

“It is not a crime to possess material that is threatening, abusive or insulting, or hold views which others may find unpleasant and obnoxious. It is a crime to distribute this sort of material to the public, if it is intended to stir up racial hatred, or in circumstances where it is likely to have that effect.

“In the file sent to us by the police we were also asked to give advice in relation to slogans on t-shirts seized at Old Trafford on the same day. I have decided also that no further action should be taken in relation to that material.”

The statement makes it very clear to me that the CPS wanted nothing to do with any prosecution because there were no offences there and that this material was neither offensive nor likely to stir up racial hatred. It was in fact a strong anti racist point that was being made. Oh and the “mask” might have fitted a Gerbil, but nothing larger than that. it was on the back of a small A5 size magazine.

So, where does that leave Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts? Acting in a manner that is way outside his powers it seems. At the time of those fanzines being seized, Private Eye, which was also on sale at stores around Old Trafford where Red Issue was being sold had a similar picture in of people in Klu Klux Klan outfits and described them as Chelsea  Captain John Terry & friends.  As the current Private Eye stated ( before today’s announcement)

“No charge has been brought so far [against Red Issue] and nor has Inspector Knacker seized any copies of EYE 1307 with a similar gag featuring white hooded “football –fans” backing John Terry.”

I hope the publishers of Red Issue now sue GMP and its legally incompetent and freedom restricting Chief Superintendent Mick Roberts who clearly does not understand he has to act within the law and is not judge and jury.

 

RED ISSUE 1 GMP 0 (Own goal by Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts)

 

 

Stand up for Freedom – its time us football fans stood up for our rights. We do not lose our legal rights simply because we want to attend football matches despite what the police may like to think.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

I have posted on here about problem cyclists and those who irritate me. I intend to do the same about motorists and other road users when I get round to it.

However, today I want to have a rant about those cyclists who seem determined to get everyone else to hate us.

 

Firstly, there was a debate in Parliament on Wednesday night about a “Flashride” which was to start at 18:30 on the Mall and go round the West End (or part of it) ending up in Parliament Square. Apparently 2000 or so cyclists attended and generally brought even more problems to London traffic at rush hour. Was this a sensible idea?

Well firstly, let me start by saying that cyclists ARE part of the traffic and have the same right as motor vehicle drivers to be on the roads. If all the cyclists in London switched to other forms of transport, then the overcrowding on the roads and trains would increase massively. At morning and evening rush hour, I am often one of 20-30 people on bikes waiting at each set of traffic lights.

So, if it is accepted that cyclists are part of the traffic, then what could be the objection to this ride? Well the ride was to highlight the debate on the Times’ newspapers Cities Fit for Cyclists campaign. A laudable effort by the newspaper to improve safety for cyclists. Some of its ideas I support, others I don’t, but overall I do support the idea of improving road safety for cyclists (and indeed for all road users).

My problem comes with deliberately staging a “protest” (some say celebration) ride at rush hour, designed or intended to cause the maximum disruption to motorists. As cyclists we share the roads with motorists and we want them to show us consideration. So is being as inconsiderate and obstructive as possible for motorists the way to encourage them to show us consideration?

 

You think that is unhelpful to cyclists causes, then try the following

https://www.facebook.com/CyclistsForRightOfWayUK

This is a facebook page/ group entitled  “Cyclists for Right of Way”. So what are they campaigning for?

This page is set up to campaign for the UK government to implement Right of way for cyclists in the UK.
An increase in cycling and safe conditions to cycle in could solve a multitude of problems from,
improving public health,
reducing obesity,
reducing congestion on streets,
lightening the burden on public transport,
less wear on roads,
making our streets and cities more pleasant places,
providing independence for children.

Now forgive me for pointing out something rather fundamental, but cyclists do have a right of way on the roads in the UK already (excluding special roads – eg motorways). On a cycling message board, the founder of this group says (to other cyclists)

This page is set up to campaign for the UK government to implement Right of way for cyclists in the UK

When pressed on how this page is going to help and what he is aiming to do, said campaigner states

quite simple..a Facebook page setup to make UK roads more safer to cycle on.

Well that clarifies everything then. Start a facebook page and the roads are now safe. No need to have clear aims goals or targets. Just need a facebook page. Wonder if George Osborne has thought about this to takle the budget deficit – just set up a facebook page George.

Incidentally, how do you make something “more safer”. Not “safe” or more safe” but “more safer”. What is that when it is at home?

So is the person wanting the government to implement that which has always been implemented or are they suggesting that cyclists should have right of way (priority) over other road users. Are they really suggesting other road users should have to screech to a halt so cyclists and turn across their path, ride through red lights etc. Not the most thought out idea.

What that campaign does suggest to many people is that somehow cyclists do not already have the right to use the roads in the UK. In other words, it is going to have the effect of reducing the belief in the rights cyclists already have.

Not a well thought out campaign whichever idea it is trying to promote. At the time of writing this blog, there are around 50 or more posts on one message board from cyclists who appear as perplexed as me as to what the founder wants.

Cyclists who are demanding what already exists are showing they have no understanding of current position. Cyclists demanding to have the right of way are simply living in cloud cuckoo land, it cannot work in practice and shows a lack of consideration for other road users.

 

The person behind that Facebook page may be a bit of an idiot, but more worrying is the person behind Cyclists SOS, a blog which has as its title

Waging war on dangerous drivers…A Revolution is born out of the cyclist constant war against nudgers, drink drivers, make-up applying drivers, non-signallers and all other forms of motorists who share the ambition of harming cyclists who just want to ride! The war will also focus on the drivers ally – the half asleep pedestrian and the pothole Local Authorities. So we’re taking the war to the roads…….

Now do we really want to talk about war? Isn’t aggression, violence might is right etc behind so many of the problems on the roads?

It also claims:

However we will provide evidence of dangerous driving and take action!

I am intrigued/ worried by what this means. The CPS (usually) prosecute criminal cases in the UK. To bring a private prosecution usually costs £000s as well as many hours of time. I have visions of mobs of angry cyclists going round in their lycra to terrorise drivers and meet out summary justice

On a different level, last night, the person behind this blog claimed it was generating lots of interest. Yet despite plugging it on loads of cycling websites and elsewhere  it has had only 232 hits in over 24 hours. Hardly ground-breaking or lots of interest.

I’m Spen666 and I’m an Addict

Tonight finally brought me to the realisation that I have an addiction. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Well in the last couple of weeks, my cycling has not been as far as I wanted, but there is reason for this. The weekend of 11/12th February, my son came down to visit me. I had high hopes of lots of cycling, but the weather was against us. We had planned to ride to LVYCC meeting on the Saturday morning and then ride around Redbridge Cycle Centre during the club session. We also had plans to go out with some of the club committee on the Sunday Morning for a ride into Central London. Unfortunately, the weather meant the circuit at the cycle centre was closed as it was too icy.

Tom and I rode to/ from the cycle centre and did around 9 miles getting there and back. That was the only riding we did. It was decided to cancel the Sunday ride as it was likely to be too icy.

As any good parent would do with his student son, Tom and I hit the alcohol. A Stella Cidre session on the Friday night and then on the Saturday afternoon and night we had a jar or ten around Liverpool Street Station with some of the lads who had come down for the Newcastle game at Spurs.

We met them before the game and drank then and again after the game. In fact if truth be known, Newcastle were so bad that we were back in the bar during the second half of the game. Friday night we had 12 cans of Stella Cidre for £9 from the supermarket. On Saturday, 2 bottles of inferior cider cost £10. Is it any wonder that so many pubs are closing down. Ten bottles of cider in a pub would cost £50 but only £7.50 from the Supermarket. Hmmmm had to figure it out as to why people are not going to the pubs as often as they used to.

Tom left on the Sunday to head back to Sheffield for his University course in alcohol and women studies. I expect him to get a first in alcohol, but like most males, he’ll be luck to get a third in women studies. It was good to see Tom and spend some time with him. No longer do I need to be looking after him. It has moved from a father son to a friendship . But if you are reading this Tom, I’m still the boss.

On the Monday (13th Feb) I was only working a 1/2 day and had the Tuesday and Wednesday morning off work as well. Why you ask? Well, I had arrange with Michelle’s parents to surprise her for Valentine’s Day. I got the train to Newcastle on the Monday afternoon and then cycled the 10 or so miles to Michelle’s house. Her parents had arranged to visit Marks & Spencer for me and get their Valentine’s Dine at Home meal deal. Elizabeth had even cooked a meal for us on the Monday night so ensuring their was enough food for everyone.

Michelle’s face was a picture when she came downstairs in her house to answer the phone and heard my voice, eventually realising it was coming from the kitchen, not from London! A very pleasant Valentine’s Day was spent with Michelle, involving, visiting the rubbish dump oh and lunch at a lovely little coffee shop in Hexham.

(Still not the Hearth though is it Michelle? For around 18 months Michelle has been promising to take me for coffee in the Arts Centre in the Village she lives in, but not delivered yet!)

Then on Tuesday night we had the M&S meal which was fantastic value. It was good to spend time with both Michelle & Josh for dinner. Whether by design or by accident, Josh had arranged to be with one of his friends during the day on Tuesday, thus allowing Michelle and I time alone.

It was great to travel to Newcastle to surprise someone very special for Valentine’s Day.

Wednesday brought an early  start and a bike ride back to Newcastle Central Station for my train back to work. Sadly, I never got to work.

Despite feeling good on my ride to the station, as the train headed to London, I felt distinctly ill. I felt completely drained, so instead of heading to work I headed home to bed. Thursday was even worse and I never got out of bed. I felt a little better on Friday, but in the morning was not well enough to go to work. Fortunately, I continued to improve during the day as Michelle was coming down for the weekend.

We had a great weekend, spending  time in the pub and then a romantic meal for two from Dixy Chicken – actually I cooked a meal for us and surprisingly for Michelle it was edible. On Saturday, I treated Michelle by taking her to the greasy spoon cafe at Leyton before a no expense trip to see Orient lose at home to Scunthorpe.

“No expense?” I hear you say. Well that’s right as I got a free ticket for Michelle from my friends Tony & Lisa.

Saturday night we had a night in, just Michelle and I and three bottles of vodka. Admittedly not all the bottles were full at the commencement of the night. By the end of the night none of them were full. Once again, I had cooked a meal that was edible. Is there no end to my culinary talents

Sunday sadly meant Michelle had to go home, but before she did we spent a pleasant couple of hours in Greenwich. If you ever get the chance to go to Greenwich, I can recommend the food stalls there for your lunch. Its fantastic fare and so varied as well.

Monday was another day off the bike. This time because I was waiting for a plumber to arrive to fix the boiler. Did I say it wasn’t working over the weekend. Not sure how Michelle and I kept warm! The plumber arrived mid morning, but was unable to fix the heating as he needed to get a part for the boiler. So I took public transport into work as plumber was to return on Monday evening. It saved a bit of time to get public transport. The plumber returned on Monday night, fitted the new switch, but that did not fix the problem. So I have to wait until Friday to get the job finished. This is partly my fault as I was not available today, Wednesday or Thursday.

Still today I did manage to cycle to work and back Smile

So what about this addiction? Well if I said it was alcohol or football, then you’d all groan and say you knew that. No, at 11pm tonight I was out in the back garden cleaning my bike chain and washing my bike. As I was doing that, it dawned on me that these were not the actions of a reasonable sane man. These were the actions of a man with an addiction to cycling.

So in the style of Alcoholics Anonymous, My name is Spen666 and I am an alcoholic, sorry I’m a cycling addict.

Well Michelle, you were  wrong, I’ve managed to do a whole post without complaining or whinging on this blog about my repeated problems with Virgin Media and their doubling of my broadband speed from 10mbs to 20mbs which means I am now generally getting between 0.15mbs and 9mbs. Before they doubled my broadband speed ( at additional cost to me), I was generally getting nearly 10mbs.

Damn you Michelle, you made me mention this, and so I lose the bet.

Racism, Humour & Police Oppression

The affairs at Old Trafford yesterday between Manchester United and Liverpool have made many headlines, mainly for things that did not happen as part of the football match. The media have focussed on incidents involving, Patrick Evra ( Man U), Luis Suarez (Liverpool) and the interview between Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool Manager) and Geoff Shreeve ( Sky TV). These however, whilst of some interest are as nothing compared to the incredible actions of Greater Manchester Police in oppressing legitimate expression of free speech.

Before I go any further, let me state that I am not a fan of Manchester United, nor am I a fan of Liverpool, nor despite what some may think am I connected with the Klu Klux Klan.

The whole situation goes back to 15th October 2011 when  the 2 sides met at Anfield (home of Liverpool) in a league game. These are normally high profile games with no love lost. During the game Suarez repeatedly racially abused Evra. Suarez was charged by the FA over his behaviour and was convicted and given an 8 game suspension. The judgement of the FA was rather lengthy at 115 pages long. Hardly a knee jerk finding of guilt by a kangaroo tribunal.

Immediately after the original incident and before the FA disciplinary hearing, the Liverpool players all wore t shirts whilst warming up for their next match proclaiming Suarez is innocent. This is interesting as Liverpool and Suarez chose not to appeal against this decision.

BBC Report on Judgement of Disciplinary Case

Judgement of FA Disciplinary Commission

The behaviour of Liverpool FC, and especially Luis Suarez & Kenny Dalglish was very unsporting and despite not appealing the decision repeatedly claimed Suarez was innocent and should not have been punished. The reputation of Liverpool FC has been diminished by this behaviour.

Ironically, the first game for which Suarez was able to play for Liverpool again was away at Old Trafford in the return fixture. Given the usual animosity between the 2 clubs and their followers, this game was going to be high profile and very tense.

Before the game the 2 teams lined up for the traditional handshakes. For whatever reason Suarez chose not to shake the hand of Evra. This was a deliberate snub. It was not a sporting gesture and I do not condone Suarez for this. Evra however behaves like a spoilt petulant child.

Enter video caption here

It is noticeable that all the subsequent media criticism is of Suarez, but no one seems to have mentioned Evra’s reaction.

There were subsequent incidents at half time. I did not see these and cannot comment on those. I am not aware if these clips are available on YouTube or elsewhere. Evra celebrate the man U win rather exuberantly, especially in front of Suarez. He has been criticised in some quarters for this.

Enter video caption here

Having seen the footage, including this above clip, it seems to me that the celebration was not aimed at Suarez, but was a reaction to a win that clearly mattered to Evra, perhaps because of the handshake incident. Evra does not do much to approach Suarez. Suarez perhaps should be looking at his own earlier action that clearly spurred on Evra in the game.

Then after the game there was an incredible interview between Kenny Dalglish and Geoff Shreeve of Sky Sports. This is here thanks to the Daily Telegraph

Daily Telegraph

Today, obviously after pressure from the club’s US owner, the club, Kenny Dalglish and Luis Suarez have been forced, clearly grudgingly, to apologise for their behaviour yesterday.

SUAREZ APOLOGY

“I have spoken with the manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong.

“I’ve not only let him down, but also the Club and what it stands for and I’m sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened.

“I should have shaken Patrice Evra’s hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions.

“I would like to put this whole issue behind me and concentrate on playing football.”

LIVERPOOL FC STATEMENT

“We are extremely disappointed Luis Suarez did not shake hands with Patrice Evra before yesterday’s game. The player had told us beforehand that he would, but then chose not to do so.

“He was wrong to mislead us and wrong not to offer his hand to Patrice Evra. He has not only let himself down, but also Kenny Dalglish, his teammates and the Club. It has been made absolutely clear to Luis Suarez that his behaviour was not acceptable.

“Luis Suarez has now apologised for his actions which was the right thing to do. However, all of us have a duty to behave in a responsible manner and we hope that he now understands what is expected of anyone representing Liverpool Football Club.”

DALGLISH APOLOGY

“Ian Ayre has made the Club’s position absolutely clear and it is right that Luis Suarez has now apologised for what happened at Old Trafford,” said Dalglish.

“To be honest, I was shocked to hear that the player had not shaken hands having been told earlier in the week that he would do.

“But as Ian said earlier, all of us have a responsibility to represent this Club in a fit and proper manner and that applies equally to me as Liverpool Manager.

“When I went on TV after yesterday’s game I hadn’t seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool Manager during that interview and I’d like to apologise for that.”

However, the above is the minor issue about what happened yesterday. What is the really worrying thing is the behaviour of Greater Manchester Police (GMP)

Police seize Manchester United fanzine Red Issue for printing ‘offensive’ Ku Klux Klan mask

February 11, 2012

Police seized ‘offensive’ fanzines bearing Ku Klux Klan-style masks ahead of this afternoon’s clash between Manchester United and Liverpool.

All copies of Red Issue magazine – which was distributed outside Old Trafford before the match – were confiscated just before kick-off.

One man was also arrested for selling T-shirts with a similar image.

Tensions were running high before the match, the first between the two clubs at Old Trafford since Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing United defender Patrice Evra.

Police swooped after finding the fanzines contained a cut-out of a spoof Ku Klux Klan-style mask bearing the slogan ‘Suarez is innocent’.

Officers feared the images would stir up violence at an already-tense match.

However, the decision to seize the magazines provoked an angry reaction from some fans, with many posting messages on Twitter to point out that the use of the image was intended to be satirical.

The fanzines and T-shirts are unofficial fans’ products which are not endorsed by Manchester United Football Club.

Match commander Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts said: “Shortly before kick-off we were made aware that a Manchester United supporters’ fanzine being sold outside Old Trafford featured a potentially offensive image.

“Officers are now seizing the fanzines and in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service we will take appropriate action against anyone either found selling this particular fanzine or provocatively displaying the image in public.

“Officers have also been made aware of a t-shirt on sale outside the ground that is also deemed to be offensive.

“We are also seizing these items and anyone found wearing one will be required to remove it and hand it to police.

“At this stage we have arrested one man in relation to the t-shirts on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offence and we will be continuing to work with the clubs to minimise the impact of the image, which we consider to be offensive.

“I have taken this cause of action as both items are potentially offensive and we cannot be in a situation where hundreds or thousands of people were displaying offensive images at a football match.

“The consequences of taking no action could have resulted in public order incidents inside or outside the ground.”

A United spokesman said the club had co-operated fully with police

Manchester Evening News Report

Now, why am I getting so worked up over this story? Well, firstly, Red Issue ( the fanzine) in question is a long established magazine. To quote from Wikipedia

Red Issue is a fanzine aimed at Manchester United supporters. The fanzine has been published monthly during the domestic football season since February 1989. The content of the fanzine is satirical – featuring jokes at the expense of Manchester United’s own players in addition to their rival clubs.

So, its being going for 23 years and is on sale outside the ground every game. Fanzines are published by the fans for the fans and are wildly satirical and very partisan.  They traditionally take the mickey and poke fun at their rivals.

Since the Suarez incident arose last October, there have been numerous images circulating on the internet and in print, such as

klanfield

lfc team kit

lfc team picture

Now, I don’t know about you, but since October, I have not noticed mass violence caused by people from Liverpool as a  result of these pictures. In fact some of these pictures were sent to me by Liverpool fans. There have not been mass arrests or seizure of computer equipment by GMP (or any police force) since these pictures were produced.

 

So, what prompted GMP to act to seize all copies of Red Issue on sale at Old Trafford on Saturday? Were they inciting people to murder Liverpool fans? Perhaps they were issuing weapons with every copy sold?

 

Well, the answer is that on the back page of the fanzine sold to a target audience of Man U fans, they published the picture below

 

suarez

Yes, a spoof of a cut out KKK mask poking fun at the attitude of Liverpool FC towards Suarez’s racist behaviour. Now look closely at the picture. see the thumb, it gives you an idea of the size of the mask. Its not even as if the mask could be worn. However, civilisation ( so far as it even exists at all ) in the North West would collapse if these pictures were allowed to be distributed.

 

According to GMP

Match commander Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts said: “Shortly before kick-off at today’s (Saturday, 11 February 2012) match between Manchester United and Liverpool, we were made aware that a Manchester United supporters’ fanzine being sold outside Old Trafford featured a potentially offensive image.

“Officers are now seizing the fanzines and in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service we will take appropriate action against anyone either found selling this particular fanzine or provocatively displaying the image in public.

“Officers have also been made aware of a t-shirt on sale outside the ground that is also deemed to be offensive. We are also seizing these items and anyone found wearing one will be required to remove it and hand it to police.

“At this stage we have arrested one man in relation to the t-shirts on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offence and we will be continuing to work with the clubs to minimise the impact of the image, which we consider to be offensive.

“I have taken this cause of action as both items are potentially offensive and we cannot be in a situation where hundreds or thousands of people were displaying offensive images at a football match. The consequences of taking no action could have resulted in public order incidents inside or outside the ground.”

 

Are we at the stage where banter and humour between football fans is a crime per se? Should we all sit like at the theatre and applaud politely whenever the opposition score. Perhaps not applauding their goal is potentially offensive as well?

 

If Northumbria Police follow the lead of GMP, then on 5th March, I’m confidentially expecting 3500 S*nderland fans to be arrested or their red & white striped shirts to be seized at the derby game at St James’ Park as they are “potentially offensive” to the 50,000 Newcastle fans at the game and the thousands in the pubs around Newcastle that afternoon.

Interestingly, in their on line report of the story, the Guardian prints a link to the picture – Guardian link to picture

 

Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts is the dangerous individual at GMP who wants to supress the right to freedom of speech. His actions meant that all copies of the magazine were seized, causing considerable loss to the publishers. GMP claim they are in consultation with the CPS. I’m willing to bet money that no conviction will ever result if indeed any charges are ever brought.

 

Lets consider the evidence, a photo taking the mickey out of a footballer and his club? What offence is made  out? Perhaps under S4 or S5 of the Public Order Act 1986

 

4A Intentional harassment, alarm or distress.E+W

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he—

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the person who is harassed, alarmed or distressed is also inside that or another dwelling.

(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—

(a)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or

(b)that his conduct was reasonable.

5 Harassment, alarm or distress.E+W

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.

(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—

(a)that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or

(b)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or

(c)that his conduct was reasonable.

 

So, the Prosecution would have to prove (amongst other things):

 

Red Issue or its publishers/ distributors etc.  intended to cause a person harassment alarm or distress – probably not easy , if possible to prove, given the intended audience and the things fans expect to see/ hear at such a high profile game. However, it is a defence by subsection 3 if the defence prove ( on balance of probabilities) that his conduct was reasonable. Given the history of fanzines, this is a very easy thing to show.

 

The above is not meant to be a detailed legal analysis of the law but a brief look at some issues.

 

This action by the police is a serious affront to freedom of speech. By its very nature all humour is poking fun at someone or some group. If we allow this action by GMP to stand unprotested, then it is the death knell for all humour as it is always offensive to someone.

 

In this particular case however, it was not just simply gratuitous hatred aimed at Liverpool fans or the club, but it was a very cutting satire at the racism of Luis Suarez and its seeming condoning by Liverpool FC. It could be argued by some that the actions of GMP are a condoning of racism.

 

Back in the early 2000s, there were numerous protests from comedians against a bill introduced by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary. That bill was worded so widely that comedians telling jokes, especially re religion or race could be arrested and prosecuted. The government of the day made it clear that comedians were not covered by the aims of the legislation. Yet GMP are arresting people for humorous publications.

 

Could I end by reminding GMP of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides  at Article 10

    ARTICLE 10

     

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

  • The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

  •  

    Where this story apparently gets even worse is that GMP and or Manchester United were refusing admission to the game is people were in possession of this fanzine and refused to hand it over to the police!

     

    Saturday was a sad day for civil liberties in England. This is an issue that may just seem to affect a few Manchester United fans and the publishers of Red Issue, but it is far more important for each and everyone of us. Do you want to be arrested for telling a joke in the pub or forwarding on a text message?

     

    Fight for freedom – the freedom of us to express ourselves, by humour.

     

    Road Safety–My Pet Hates about Cyclists

    After my recent post on the subject of road safety, I was thinking of what irritates me on the road as I cycled to work today. In that good old British tradition (well I say its a tradition), I decide to make a list

    Things That Irritate me About Cyclists

    1. Cyclists who ignore Red Lights – I’m thinking here of those who just ride straight across cross roads irrespective of what is happening. They will bimble round the queues of traffic, determined that nothing will stop their slow progress. They seem unable to stop. Perhaps they don’t have brakes on their bikes? Perhaps they are suicidal as they do not seem to wear helmets and often have headphones on. They also get us cyclists a bad name.

    2. Cyclists who change road position without signalling or even looking – they will change from riding next to the kerb in the gutter, to the right hand of 3 lanes of busy rush hour traffic without so much as a glance behind let alone a signal. They are a danger to themselves and other road users. They also get us cyclists a bad name.

    3. Cyclists who wear Headphones – its a potentially hazardous environment on the roads and you need your wits about you. Being able to hear the traffic is essential to help you keep safe on a bike. So why do people insist on wearing headphones? Some people claim it doesn’t affect their hearing, other claim it helps improve their concentration. Those of us who have even half a brain cell realise this is simply nonsense. They also get us cyclists a bad name.

    4. Cyclists who Ride on the Pavement – its illegal, its a nuisance and danger to pedestrians. Its often done because the individual is too lazy to ride round a pedestrianized area or too scared to ride on the road. There is no excuse for it. They also get us cyclists a bad name.

    5. Cyclists without lights – a cheap set of lights can be bought for £20 or so.  Do they not value their lives at this sum? My biggest concern is for any motorist who hits such an idiot or who sees them at the last minute and swerves to avoid them, causing an accident with someone else. The cyclists deserve to have their bikes confiscated. They also get us cyclists a bad name.

    6. Cyclists who have red lights at the front and/ or white lights at the rear – These are clearly related to the cyclists in the preceding point. I’m not really sure what they are trying to prove, apart from their stupidity by showing a red light. They also get us cyclists a bad name.

    7. Cyclists Wearing Face Masks, but no Helmet – Now this seems a strange risk assessment to me. Firstly, I am not in favour of compulsory helmet wearing even though I do wear one. I however would think you are far more at risk from a head injury than from breathing in pollutants. Actually passengers in cars in urban environments get more pollutants than cyclists owing to their relative positions in relation to car exhausts and car heating/ ventilation systems. There is a striking connection between those cyclists in this category and those in point 1. They also get us cyclists a bad name.

    8. Cyclists who stop in front of Stop Line at Traffic Lights & Can’t see the Lights – What is the point of stopping where you are unable to tell when it is safe to proceed. These Muppets have to wait until the traffic behind them has moved off from the lights and caught them up before knowing it is safe to set off. So as the traffic is passing them at speed, they are just setting off. They also get us cyclists a bad name.

    9. Cyclists riding wrong way up street –Do I need to say much about these people? Why do they do it? too lazy to go down the next street? A failure to appreciate the risk & or inconvenience they cause others? Whatever the cause, its no excuse. They also get us cyclists a bad name.

    and my 10th and biggest hate about cyclists is

    10. Grannies on Heavy Shopping Bikes who breeze past me – you know the feeling, you are riding as fast as you can and someone breezes past you. Its not too upsetting if it is a lithe young Lance Armstrong or Bradley Wiggins type sprinting to the next lights. When it is someone your grandmother’s age on a heavy shopping style bike making their way home from church, then that is embarrassing!

    Road Safety

     

    The Times last week launched its Cities fit for Cycling campaign to increase the safety of cyclists (which can be found at http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/contact/ )

    Some may say it is a cynical ploy by News International to try to divert attention from the phone hacking or that it has only started a campaign after one of its staff was injured in a serious accident.

    I’m not going to get into that debate. It is for others. I’m more interested in our safety on the roads.

    The Times has launched a public campaign and 8-point manifesto calling for cities to be made fit for cyclists:

    1. Lorries entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.
    2. The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.
    3. A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.
    4. Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.
    5. The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.
    6. 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.
    7. Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycle ways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.
    8. Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms

    Over recent months, I have travelled a lot in cars, on foot and of course as a cyclist. I have had a chance to experience all three in rush hour and out of it. It has given me food for thought as to how we improve road safety.

    The first thing to realise is that the problems that manifest itself on our roads are symptoms of a wider society and its problems.

    I would start by saying that in order to improve road safety we need to reverse current trends and prosecute more rather than less. At present, unless someone is killed in an accident, it is very unlikely that someone will be prosecuted for their driving.

    Too many people when using the roads are too selfish or self-centred. It is a reflection of a wider society issue. People talk about their rights, but few think about their responsibilities. People these days seem to have only a limited understanding of how their actions affect others.

    If we are all honest, we would admit that we have used the roads without giving it 100% attention. There is little in the way of consequences for drivers for several reasons, including but not limited to:

    1. Cars are safe so in general driving, the risk of harm to drivers or passengers is limited (obviously high speed driving is different)
    2. Without a prosecution, the only loss to a driver is a potential increase in insurance costs

    The consequences for the victims of accidents, especially if they are vulnerable as cyclists or pedestrians are can often be fatal.

    Drivers are too insulated from the consequences of their actions. I have to confess that today whilst driving back from court, I ran a red light. Why? Because I was not paying sufficient attention to the lights and my speed on its approach. Fortunately, I did not cause an accident. Should I be prosecuted for this action? Then I would say yes I should if the police had evidence of the same.

    Another reason why I would prosecute more offences of bad driving is to aid society at large. In the car with parents, whether on the way to/from school, activities or shopping is where many children spend the most quality time with their parents.

    What example is being set to children seeing their parents driving aggressively or without consideration for other road users, let alone the foul and threatening language they are exposed to? Improving the behaviour of drivers would improve, hopefully, the example being set to our children about life in general and behaviour towards others.

    I should also make it clear that I favour more prosecution for all miscreant road users. The increased risk of prosecution will help concentrate the mind of road users when driving/ riding. This will hopefully mean people driving with more care.

    We do not need lots of new laws to improve road safety, or lots of additional expenditure. I personally am not in favour of spending fortunes on segregated facilities. These tend to be expensive and fail to provide satisfactory solutions. Cyclists have to give way at every junction, including driveways. The facilities do not get swept or cleaned and become filled with debris and broken glass etc. While away a few minutes looking at the Warrington Cycle Campaign Facility of the Month section for some incredible cycle facilities .

    Warrington Cycle Campaign

    doughiska_galway

    These are why I do not want money wasted on useless facilities

    What we do need is for existing laws to be enforced and prosecutions where laws are broken.

    We need to change attitudes to driving offences. Today on Radio 5 Lord Ahmed was being interviewed about a number of things. When the issue of peers being allowed to sit in the Lords despite having criminal convictions, he said that he had only been convicted of a driving offence as though this somehow was not a criminal offence.

    Lord Ahmed was convicted of causing Death by Dangerous driving as he was texting whilst driving! Only a driving offence? Driving a powerful heavy weapon at speed whilst not paying proper attention to where he was going.

    Driving is not a right; it’s a privilege that has to be earned and can as easily be removed. People need to remember this or be reminded of it.

    SPECIFIC LAW CHANGES – to assist in road safety

    1. All lorries to be fitted with skirts to prevent cyclists being dragged under the wheels if hit by a turning vehicle. This is not to say that lorry drivers are the problem in such accidents, but it is a simple design change that could save lives.

    2. I would remove the 56 mph speed limit from lorries. It is often the case that lorries overtaking each other at 56mph are responsible for congestion and delay on motorways and dual carriageways. There is not this problem in the USA, where lorries are not so restricted. This change would speed up all traffic, and hopefully prevent motorist driving at excess speed because they have been delayed by congestion.

    3. I would ban HGVs from urban roads, and effectively limit them to motorways and trunk roads. Companies would have to build distribution depots next to such locations and from there transfer the goods to smaller vehicles. Why do Tesco need to bring a 40 ton HGV into a little town or village to deliver to a Tesco express? These loads block roads, cause damage to road surfaces and fear to other road users. Why? To increase Tesco’s profits seems to be the sole reason. Yes, if there are smaller vehicles used, then there may be more vehicles on the road, but incentives could be given to use electric or other zero emission vehicles as the journeys will only be local ones. Exceptions would need to be made for those deliveries to for example building sites where it is not possible to use smaller vehicles owing to the size of items being transferred, e.g. steel girders etc..

    A study found that despite making only 4% of road trips HGVs were involved in 43% of London’s cycling deaths. This startling figure shows something is sadly going wrong on our streets. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) analysed police road casualty data over a 15-year period from 1992 to 2006. During that period there were 242 deaths in London, or an average of 16 a year. Heavy goods vehicles were involved in 103 out of 242 of these incidents.

    4. I would ban vehicles from parking on the opposite side of the road to the direction they are travelling in. This is the law in New Zealand. It would aid road safety by reducing the amount of traffic crossing the road and reduce the number of drivers pulling out from places where they cannot see the road ahead or behind them.

    Comings & Goings

    Well, its been a busy couple of weeks off the bike. Lots of travelling and things to do.

    January 26th  – Out with the Old

    Today was a trip up to our York office for a legal training session provided to HMCPSI and the Northern Lawyers Network. The training was delivered by Andrew Keogh who runs Crime Line which is an invaluable update service for lawyers in relation to criminal law matters. It was not the usual training session where the lecturers blasts through important cases in the last 12 months at break neck speed. Andrew provided an interesting insight into how the cases and changes in Legal Aid law affect the bigger picture. It ended with a rousing remark about how passion is needed to prosecute or defend cases successfully.

    The afternoon would normally be a train ride back to London, but this would be the last time the office was together before our Deputy Chief Inspector (SH) left. She is based in the York office, so there was a rather painful lunchtime get together when the Chief Inspector said a public farewell to her.

    • Painful as he just read out a speech written for him by another member of staff
    • Painful as he put no warmth into his speech
    • Painful as he paid no public personal thanks to the DCI
    • Painful as he was the sole cause of the DCI leaving

    Still, that evening we went out in York for an early evening meal with the DCI, all the inspectors , the York administration team and some recent former members of staff, including the former Chief Inspector (SW) who set up HMCPSI and ran it for many years before retiring in 2010.

    SH kindly paid for all the drinks both before the meal and afterwards. It was I have to say a very good evening with people able to relax and enjoy themselves knowing the “cuckoo in the nest” was not there at the function. SW gave a valedictory speech to SH. This was the sort of speech the CI should have made. It was delivered with warmth and passion and paid tribute to SH for the undoubted hard work she has done for HMCPSI. The meal had been chosen by SH and was excellent. I’d give the restaurant a name check if I could remember its name!

    Sadly the London based inspectors had to leave early for the train back to London. This in itself was rather a lively journey as the usually staid inspectors were fortified by the alcohol from earlier. It was good to see people in a more informal state than normal and was a good team building exercise.

    BTW – the night out was not paid for out of the public purse, so no story here Daily Mail – sorry.

    January 27th – Not quite Madness

    Well after last night’s late arrival back home (midnight!), I didn’t cycle to work and took the luxury of public transport to work. I did however leave work early as I had to get the train to Newcastle to see Michelle. However, it was not just a train trip to see Michelle as we were going to the theatre tonight.

    “The theatre” I hear you say “Is it pantomime season?”

    “Oh no it’s not”

    No, it wasn’t a pantomime, it was a trip to the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle to see SUGG’S MY LIFE STORY IN WORDS AND MUSIC. This was exactly what it said on the tin. It was Suggs the lead singer of Madness telling the story of his life whilst telling of his attempts to find the father who he thought had died when he was 3 years old.

    Although Michelle had purchased the tickets only a week or so before the event, we had the best seats in the house- front row, adjacent to the centre aisle.

    On stage was just Suggs, a chair, a piano and a pianist.  Suggs is a consummate entertainer. He performed a routine that puts many so-called comedians to shame. He has the timing of a good comic, and the ability to play an audience. The night was a positive pleasure and I recommend it the night to anyone who was into Madness, Two Tone or Ska in the 1980s. In particular, his take offs  on The Specials and Jerry Dammers was good.

    Great choice Michelle – getting the tickets I mean, not choosing me, although that too was one of your better choices.

    January 28th – Happy Birthday Ma’am (belated greetings)

    Today was a family get together for my mother’s birthday the previous evening. My parents, my sister, her partner, my brother, my son Tom, Michelle, Josh and I met at my sister’s house before heading to the Red Lion Pub in Plasworth for a meal. It’s a pub convenient for all of us, and does fantastic food. The quality of the food never ceases to amaze.

    It was a good meal and good company. A thoroughly enjoyable time had by all. Hope you enjoyed it mum.

    February 1st & 2nd – Looking for Lorraine Chase

    Wednesday and Thursday saw me at that most beautiful of locations – Luton [can take tongue out of cheek now!]. I was there to observe a trial involving a Disability Hate Crime as part of my work. As I type this blog, I do not know the outcome of the trial. It may well be the defendant was acquitted, but what is heartening is that the criminal justice system treated the complaint of someone with mental health issues seriously and the case reached a trial. Sadly, in the past such cases would not be prosecuted, even if they had been investigated. This change has to be a positive, except for those who target disabled people for criminal purposes.

    Looking for Lorraine Chase?

    February 3rd – Driving in My Car

    No, not a Madness gig, although I have this week booked to see Madness at Doncaster Racecourse on 30th June. Today, after work, I drove up to Michelle’s . yes, I set off at around 19:30 to drive the 290 miles to Michelle’s house. Come to think of it, it’s not driving in my car, its more a case of “It Must Be Love.” Fortunately the traffic wasn’t too heavy, but my right foot was”! A brief stop for fuel was all I need and I managed to get to Michelle’s whilst it was still Friday night. Hopefully no speeding tickets are in the post.

    February 4th – Happy Birthday Monty

    The weather took a turn for the worse today, but even the snow was not going to stop us from going to Berwick for Monty’s 50th birthday bash in Berwick-upon-Tweed. (not least because I had booked and paid for a hotel in Berwick). Now before I go much further, I need to quash the rumour that Berwick is still at war with Russia. Apparently a “peace treaty” was signed in 1966 ending the 213 year “war”

    Anyway, Monty is a good friend from many years of watching Newcastle United and he arranged a bash at his local football club. It was a great reunion of Toon lads from years gone by, with people travelling from all over, including Spain, Cyprus and various other locations. It was great to see so many familiar faces and some that have changed rather a lot. A great night was had by all and not a hint of any trouble. It’s hard to reconcile that so many of those there were once ( in some cases still are) classed as “risk supporters” by Northumbria Police. So many so-called risk supporters in one place and not a hint of trouble! Says a lot about the so-called football intelligence unit at Northumbria Police.

    Anyway, a great night was had by all. Lots of alcohol was drunk and lots of laughs and tales told.  It was funny when Michelle was telling one of the lads where she was from and he said he knew 2 lads from there, R &P. His face when Michelle said R was her (ex) husband and P her brother-in-law. It was even funnier when he was told Michelle and I were a couple now.

    Now, I know I said a lot of alcohol was drunk, possibly 4 bottles of wine by Michelle alone! I am sure this had nothing to do with her falling over in the street near our hotel. It clearly was not the heels on her shoes as these were in her pocket at that stage & she was wearing pumps!

    Pizza in bed to round off the night for Michelle

    February 5th – The morning after – well the whole day after the night before

    Waking up in the hotel in Berwick, we managed to surprise ourselves and made it down to breakfast. Indeed e were checked out of the hotel by 10am and took the coastal route back to the Tyne Valley, going via Bamburgh, Seahouses, Craster and numerous other places. Passing Amble we stopped for the obligatory chips and a stroll around the breakwater.

    I have to report that yesterday has taken its toll on one of us. I’m feeling good and was drinking wine at the meal table and not falling asleep in my food or on the sofa. Obviously being a gentleman I will not name and shame the young lady struggling to cope with last night’s alcohol and lack of sleep.

    She did manage to rouse herself long enough to eat the Sunday dinner her mother had lovingly prepared. Thanks Mrs G, another great meal and more than your daughter would have been capable of managing today.

    Now I must report one other thing that happened today. Michelle has 2 dogs, the eldest one is 5 years old and barks like mad when anyone comes to the door. This afternoon we were watching TV when the doorbell rang on the TV. Charlie ( the dog) ran barking to the front door and was jumping up at the same. What is wrong with that you ask? Well Michelle does not have a doorbell and has never had one in all the time she has Charlie. Quite why the dog thinks Michelle has acquired a doorbell is not clear.

    As I type this, it’s a scene of domestic bliss here: the dogs & Michelle are snoring in front of the TV! Wild at Heart is so good isn’t it?

    Still another win today for Newcastle and goals for Demba 1 & Demba 2 on the latter’s debut. Still 5th in the Premiership and 9 points ahead of the SMBs. More importantly the Toon finally passed through the 40 point safety target and are now theoretically safe from relegation this season.