Black Lives Matter

The story below of James Brown and his non violent protests and bravery when facing persecution and prosecution for standing up for his beliefs in the face of racism and an establishment determined to silence criticism.

I make no apologies for publishing this article from the Isle of Man Today newspaper website. Read the article and I will explain more about why I have chosen to publicise the story.

James Brown – a pioneer for many reasons

The scenes in the House of Keys in 1864 were worthy of a big-budget historical drama.

On March 16 that year, a certain James Brown, the mixed-race grandson of an American slave, stood before the House charged with contempt for a series of ’scandalous and libellous’ articles.

The defendant – a newspaper editor, activist and soon-to-be political prisoner – offered absolute defiance.

’Who, may I ask, do you represent?’, Brown asked the unelected clique of landowners.

’Not the people. No, you represent yourselves.’

Contempt, the members discovered, didn’t cover it.

Brown did everything he could to aggravate his audience. He dared the court to hang him from the top of Castle Rushen.

’You may imprison me,’ he said, ’but I tell you fearlessly that I will never retract one iota of what I have said or published.’ He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

Last week UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak lent his support to the ’Banknotes of Colour’ campaign, which will see non-white figures appear on British banknotes and coins for the first time.

The news arrived in the same week as the 205th anniversary of the birth of James Brown – if his story was better known, perhaps he might find a place on the shortlist.

Despite the Isle of Man’s claim to the ’oldest continuous parliament the world’, its members were not elected by the people until 1867.

Brown’s imprisonment began a series of events which saw the old order crumble. By the time the dust had settled, the House of Keys was finally elected by public vote.

It was a watershed moment in the road to democracy in the Isle of Man and an extraordinary event in black British history.

Even without the climactic events of 1864, Brown was a rare example of black social mobility in Victorian Britain.

Born into the black and mixed-race community in Liverpool in 1815, he moved to the Isle of Man with his Manx-born wife Eleanor in 1846 and eked out a living as a jobbing printer.

He went on to make his reputation – and a good living – as a newspaper proprietor.

When the first issue of the Isle of Man Times was published in 1861, he was living with his extended family in a large townhouse in Upper Douglas.

The colour of his skin might have set him apart but Brown fitted perfectly into a Manx tradition of radical journalists campaigning for political reform.

The Times made its intentions clear from the outset by demanding a democratically elected House of Keys: ’How much longer will [the Manx people] be content to have no voice in the working of those laws which are to bind them and their children after them?’

He stood on the shoulders of campaigners like Robert Fargher (pictured), founder of rival newspaper Mona’s Herald, who was imprisoned three times in his campaigns for popular elections.

When Fargher died in August 1863, the reform movement needed a champion. It was James Brown who stood up when the moment came.

On paper it was a simple thing. Douglas Town Commissioners needed new powers to manage the infrastructure of a town which was rising to become the de facto capital.

But it cut to the heart of the democratic problem in the Isle of Man: the directly elected Commissioners were overruled by the unelected House of Keys, whose members refused to ’invest individuals, who are merely tradesmen, with royal authority’.

The Times didn’t hold back in its reporting: ’The Town Commissioners and the inhabitants of Douglas should at once represent to the British Government the tyranny exercised by the House of Keys, and apply henceforth that the members of that house shall be elected by the people, so that taxation and representation may go together.’

This was one of the articles which saw Brown summoned to the House of Keys.

Brown’s ’Diary of a Political Prisoner’, which he wrote while incarcerated, was rediscovered by chance in 2008.

It is reprinted in full in the fascinating book ’The Struggle for Manx Democracy’ by Dr Robert Fyson, which deserves a place on every Manx bookshelf.

One of the highlights of the diary is Brown’s first-hand account of his day in court: he insisted that the members had no right to put him on trial and spent more than an hour reading out the offending articles, one of which ended with a call to arms: ’Let the people at once, this very day, meet and protest against the despotic power exercised by these self-elected noodles’.

Brown was the right man in the right place. You get the sense that he knew what he was doing – provoking the members into making a fatal mistake. They took the bait and sent him to Castle Rushen.

Brown’s advocate appealed to the British courts, which ruled that the House of Keys, sitting in its legislative capacity, had no powers to commit Brown for contempt.

He was triumphantly released from Castle Rushen having served seven weeks of his six-month sentence. When he sued for damages for wrongful imprisonment, the members who had convicted him were forced to pay their share of his compensation.

They were out of pocket and out of time. The pressure for an elected House of Keys had been building for decades from the British Government and the Manx public.

The rotten system had no defenders left after this humiliation. The self-selecting clique of legislators finally submitted to democratic elections. The first took place in 1867, with roughly 40 percent of the adult male population eligible to vote.

Despite his key role in the campaign for reform, Brown was never a hugely popular figure.

His position as a newspaper proprietor left him exposed to the petty jealousies and rivalries of the trade; other papers didn’t celebrate his victories to avoid endorsing one of their competitors.

He also faced racist abuse, with some of the worst examples coming from an unlikely source: Mona’s Herald published outrageous attacks on Brown in the aftermath of his triumph.

There was a deeper story underneath: Brown wasn’t the only editor put on trial by the Keys on that fateful day in 1864.

Also charged with contempt was the son of the pioneering campaigner Robert Fargher, who struck a very different note before the House: after apologising and promising to retract his stories, he was released with a warning.

In hindsight, Fargher had missed the chance to fulfil his father’s life’s work. So when Mona’s Herald attacked Brown, it seems that the owners weren’t so much reflecting public opinion as stoking a family feud.

For his part Brown toasted the shining example of Robert Fargher for the rest of his life. Fargher’s descendants, however, didn’t always show Brown the same courtesy.

Profound democratic change is never instantaneous; in this case it was decades in the making. But between March 1864 and June 1865, Brown struck an irrevocable blow against the unelected House of Keys and set the island on the road to democracy.

But when the crucial moment arrived, it took James Brown to fearlessly speak truth to power

He wasn’t the first editor to be imprisoned in the Isle of Man, nor would he be the last – that distinction went to Samuel Norris in 1916, at least as the Examiner went to press. There were many more battles to come in the fight for reform.

http://www.iomtoday.co.im/article.cfm?id=57074&headline=James%20Brown%20-%20a%20pioneer%20for%20many%20reasons&sectionIs=news&searchyear=2020&cat=Local%20People

Right, hopefully you have read the story of James Brown, a man who was prepared to and did go to prison for his beliefs.

Despite all the unfair treatment he suffered , he never resorted to violence or physically destroying property.

Unlike other more violent protestors, James Brown actually succeeded in changing the law. Very rapidly after his stand, the Isle of Man introduced proper free and fair elections with universal suffrage.

As a lawyer, I admire his bravery in the face of a kangaroo court in reading all the “offending” articles out so the court had to hear them again, and they were entered verbatim into the court record.

“Stand Firm Brave Defender”

There is another reason for my publishing this story….James Brown is a direct ancestor of mine. It is an honour to be a descendant of such a brave and honourable man who effected change by peaceful meand

Headless Chickens and Pointless Hate

So, its been over 12 months since the Referendum on leaving the European Union. Its been a momentous time. In the time since then we have had the prime minister ( Cameron) resign and a new prime minister in May installed. A Labour party that seemed in meltdown after the local elections. A Snap general election a few weeks later that saw Labour run the Tories a close second leaving the loser Corbyn feeling powerful and the winner May trying to survive like a boxer on the ropes.

However, put that to one side and lets look at what the vote to leave the EU has meant to each of us in practice. During the referendum campaign we were told that a vote to leave would be disastrous and we would need an emergency budget, businesses would leave Britain immediately and basically the world as we Bits know it would end.

So, what has happened? Well the FTSE has risen, showing there is confidence in  British businesses still.

What businesses have fled Britain as a result of the Brexit vote? To date, none have .  It is true that we have not left yet, but no business has said it is leaving the UK. There is a lot of sabre rattling, but so far no action.

What  about the exchange rate? It is correct that it has fallen against the dollar and the Euro. Is this a problem? It means it is cheaper for our businesses to export goods, so should mean our businesses are able to sell more abroad. It also means that imported goods will be more expensive, thus encouraging British consumers to buy British, Another win for the UK economy. Obviously, it means your holiday money doesn’t go as far, so holidays abroad are dearer. Again, there may be a positive in this in that it may encourage more spending in the UK as people have staycations either by choice or forced by financial issues.

So, despite the headless chickens and the scare stories, it seems that in practice little has changed so far. We still travel to and from Europe and despite what some people have you think, we still will after Brexit is complete. We travelled to and  from Europe before the EU was formed. The only practical difference is that we may walk through a different channel at passport control.

So despite all the rhetoric and hate speech by people on both sides, no one has taken anyone’s future away and in practice little has happened. The whole EU issue is the biggest red herring out there. It is sad to read peoples hate filled posts on social media, in the papers and listen to hate filled rants on the radio about this topic.

So, let me now turn to the “negotiations” to leave the EU. There seems to be a lot of media posturing on both sides. Both sides seem to be trying to debate in the media rather than with each other face to face.

Whether you are a Remainer or a Brexiteer, it is in the interests  of Great Britain to support the negotiators on behalf of the UK. Why I hear the Remainers ask? You want Britain to be part of the EU ( I am not going to re hash those arguments). 

Let us assume for a minute that at some time in the future Britain decides it wants to change its view and remain/ re-join the EU. If Britain does not leave the EU now, then our negotiating position with EU in any future matters becomes very weak. The strength of our hand ( and that of every other country) in any negotiations is they will leave the EU. If we now do not leave the EU, then the rest of the EU will know our threats are idle ones as we had the chance to leave and bottled it. We become a neutered party at any EU negotiations.

If we do leave the EU and then choose at a later time to re-join, there will be negotiations to re-join. If we negotiate a weak position  on Brexit, then we have no hand with which to negotiate in future and as such we will end up with a poor deal.

If however we negotiate a strong deal on Brexit, then when negotiating to re-join we will be in a strong position and have a good hand to renegotiate the terms of our re-entry.

It therefore seems to me that the best interests of Brexiteers and Remainers are served at this stage by a strong negotiation on Brexit and getting the best possible deal.

Why Are The Toys Thrown Out of the Pram?

 

So, we have had a referendum and the population have decided they want to leave the EU. A straight forward question was asked, do you want to remain in the EU or to Leave the EU. The options on the ballot paper were remain or leave. There was no other options and like all elections in this country, the voter does not have to give a reason.

In this country we generally run our elections (and referendums) on a first past the post system. We did have a referendum about changing the voting system a few years ago and the current system was the the preferred choice.

In an election with only 2 choices, there is no question of other voting systems, one option will get more votes than the other. So, you would have thought that it was simple in a democracy that one outcome is chosen by a majority of the voters. Sadly the reaction of some of the remain voters (and I make it clear, it is only some of them) is so anti democratic it is incredible.

Reading on social media, it is mainly younger people who have reacted in this way, perhaps goaded on by some senior politicians and commentators.

Those who voted leave have been called many abusive terms, including:

Racist

Bigoted

Low Life

Scum

Ill Informed

Thick

Disgusting

Anti Democratic

Neanderthal

It has been said that the older generation:

Have Destroyed the Country

Have Destroyed the future for young people

Have Destroyed Europe

Have Acted selfishly

Know nothing about Europe or the EU

Are Stupid

Are out of touch

What those making such allegations and throwing such abuse have failed to grasp is that the majority of those who voted did so to leave the EU.

Now democracy means that you accept the majority decision whether that is for you or against you. You do not have to like the decision of the majority, but it is the decision of the majority.

As well as the abuse and insults we also have a petition calling for the government to hold another referendum, and then presumably another one ad nauseum until the majority vote to remain. Now, ignoring the decision of the majority in a 2 option election is not democracy, but this seems to have passed by those remain supporters. Many of them talk about the EU having protected democracy and our rights, but then they ignore democracy and the rights of the majority!

Another thing that intrigues me about this is the fact that it is predominantly younger people acting in this way. I have many friends young and old who voted remain and who accepted the decision reluctantly.

I think it is significant and a reflection on older generations that the younger element of voters have behaved in a way that can only be described as throwing their toys out of the pram. Why ?

Well for many years now, probably the last 30 years, it has been frowned on to discipline children ( no I do not mean corporal punishment). We have moved increasingly to a world where children are treated as little princes and princesses who can do no wrong. Children are not disciplined for doing wrong, or even for disobeying openly their parents. This results in children and young people growing up being used to getting their own way at every turn.

For many of the younger voters, it has come as a shock to realise they can’t get their own way this time. Hence the tantrums and the throwing of the toys out of the pram. The older generations have to take a lot of the blame for having raised a generation who think the world revolves around them and their desires.

As the dust settles on the referendum results, the more sensible people will realise the sun still rose and set on the United Kingdom on both Friday and on Saturday and that in reality very little has changed. In fact absolutely nothing has changed as Britian has not given the relevant Article 50 Notification to the EU and even after it does there will be a period of at least 2 years  ( extendable by agreement) before things change in reality, if at all.

Britain will still be trading with the EU and vice versa. Britains will still travel to the EU and vice versa. In reality the only difference will be you go through the opposite channel at passport control. This used to happen, and will still happen. There are no border controls within the EU, so once you have entered the EU you will not notice any difference. Indeed now when you enter the EU you have to show your passport , as you will after the UK leave the EU. We never needed visas to travel to EU countries before the open border policy was introduced and there is no reason to think we will afterwards.

There were so many scare stories (and lies / false information) spread during the referendum campaign that it was hard to find what was true. Some of those supporting Brexit for example suggested that leaving the EU would mean we were no longer bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and would no longer be subject to adverse rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. Both are nonsense as the Convention and the Court are nothing to do with the EU. Indeed the Convention was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War and Britain was a driving force behind this. The Convention came into effect before even the European Coal and Steel Community, which was the forerunner to the EU. So its nonsense to suggest Brexit would stop Britain being subject to the Convention or the Court. We would have to withdraw our signature to the Convention for that to happen, and it will not happen.

I know I have criticised young people in this thread, as well as the older generation. Well, one member of the younger generation posted this on Facebook today. A gesture of

Pooh

reconciliation towards those who voted on different sides. Only to be told by a member of the older generation and a practicing Christian that it was too early! This was posted on the younger person’s wall and not in anyway directed at any one person. The said member of the older generation took it on himself to post the response prolonging divide and hatred. Someone who has clearly forgotten the teachings of his religion about loving thy neighbour and about turning the other cheek. Another example of the older generation making the situation we find ourselves in worse.

Whilst I am on my soapbox ( again), let me mention the opinion polls. In both the last General Election and this referendum, the opinion polls generally called the result the opposite way to the outcome. You may wonder why that is. Is it because the polls are  conducted in a defective way? It may be, but I think there is another reason for it. The way the election and referendum campaigns were conducted by many on the left of the political spectrum has been to harass and bully and shout down those who hold views they disagree with.

For many years for example, many people have been concerned about the rising tide of immigration. However the reaction of many on the left ( not all I hasten to add) has been to  shout down those concerns as being those of “racists” or “little Englanders”. Very often those concerns have not been racist at all, but borne out of a concern for the effect it is having on the country and the lives of the individuals. Sometimes the views were borne out of racism, but sometimes they weren’t. Instead of their being a sensible debate about the issues, people were silenced by bullying, name calling and insults.

This silences any form of sensible debate about people’s concerns. Whether right or wrong, people are concerned about issues. To bully people into silence does not solve the problem, it just stifles debate. The writing has been on the wall for many years as the rise of UKIP has shown. The more those on the left tried to stifle debate, the stronger and more popular parties like UKIP became. Nigel Farage for all his faults (and there are many) at least gave a voice to the immigration issue and to the EU questions. Foolishly those on the left and indeed many in the Conservative Party as well failed to heed this warning and continued to shout down anyone who raised concerns re EU or immigration.

It was the same with anyone who professed support for the Conservative Party as opposed to the Labour Party. They were shouted down. Rather than deal with the issues people raised about why for example they did not support the Labour Party, the left preferred to bully and insult those who did not agree with them.

No where was this more evident than in the run up to the last election when opinion poll after opinion poll suggested a Labour majority, but on election day the Conservatives won with a majority of seats. Why? I would venture to suggest those who were voting Conservative simply kept quiet and voted Conservative for fear of being heckled and shouted down by the bullying behaviour of many on the left. People would not say they were going to vote Conservative for fear of the abuse they would get. Debate is one thing, but the abuse is something different. The accusations of the Conservative party as being bullying, the party of hate, the nasty party etc simply silences their supporters in the debate, but the election is a secret ballot and those conservative supporters ensured their voices were heard.

Exactly the same thing happened in the referendum campaign. The majority were heckled and abused for their views, so kept their heads down and did their business where it matters, at the polling station.

Unless and until there is a realisation that the tactics of the Unions in the early 1970s at mass meetings where votes were by a show of hands will not work when there is a secret ballot then there is I would suggest going to be an increasing swing away from the left which is a shame. In particular, the lack of public debate allows the growth of extreme ideology because it is not challenged by debate. Bullying people to keep out of a debate only pushes those views underground. If your opponent is wrong, then this should be exposed by debate and argument, not by bullying and intimidation in public.

So, it may be that some of the younger generation have thrown their toys out of the pram and behaved in a very undemocratic way, but a large part of the blame for this situation must come from the generations that brought them up and treated them like spoiled individuals who expect always to get their own way.

 

Final thought, one of the things we have heard since the result is announced is some people claiming to regret voting Leave, one person for example said they voted leave but never thought it would happen so they voted leave when actually they wanted to remain in the EU. Whether this is genuine or not I do not know, but if it is it beggars belief at the intelligence of some people. What do they think a vote is for?

Autoglass : An Apology For The Title of My Previous Post

Stop the Cowboy

You may recall that I made another post about the continuing saga of the cowboys at Autoglass and their totally inept and incompetent staff. Their inability to replace a window in a mainstream car because they are incapable of ordering the right parts and are unable to send technicians who are competent to do the job.

Last night I made a post entitled Autoglass – The No Service Cowboys . Following events today and communication from Autoglass I realise the post I made was totally wrong and unfair on Autoglass. I should have entitled my post last night

Autoglass – The Lying No Service Cowboys

After posting my blog last night, I posted a link to it on twitter and also made a post on the Autoglass Facebook page linking to the blog post.

This morning I received a Facebook message purportedly from a CHLOE at Autoglass, apologising for the situation and promising to look into it and get back to me today.

Guess what then happened? Yes….. absolutely nothing at all. No contact whatsoever from Chloe or anyone else at Autoglass. They have my 2 twitter account details, they have my Facebook details and they have my personal email address. They therefore have numerous different ways of making contact.

Sadly Autoglass tell lies – repeatedly. Given the history of their being strangers to the truth, their staff signing documents as the customer despite the customer being present and available to sign the documents, their false promises etc.…I have to say I was not surprised that Autoglass promise something and then do not deliver it. They have an excellent track record in this.

What puzzles me is why the lying cowboys at Autoglass bothered to contact me to make promises they do not intend to honour.

If you read the previous blog posts about Autoglass I have made,

Autoglass Better at Forgery Than Car Window Repairs

Autoglass: An Apology (They are an apology for a reputable company)

Autoglass the no service cowboys

You will recall that I received communications via their twitter account @autoglass that contradicted the advice I was given by Legal Counsel  from Autoglass and which was repeated despite my pointing out that Legal Counsel had given contradictory advice. The advice from Legal Counsel was correct and that from the social media operative was completely wrong in every respect. The person operating the twitter account claimed to be called…CHLOE.

Yes, that is right , the same name that the person sending the Facebook message used.  I wonder if there is such a person as can anyone be so incompetent and dishonest and remain in a job…..unless of course their being dishonest and telling lies is the purpose of their employment at Autoglass.

It seems to me that perhaps the name CHLOE is a generic name for their customer responses and it is an acronym standing for

Communicating

Huge

Lies

Only

Everytime

So Autoglass, why did you go out of your way to contact me this morning promising to give me a response today and then not deliver on your promise?

You have lied yet again

I also note that Autoglass have deleted my post off their Facebook page. Seems like they want to hide the truth. A bit like previously when they tried to communicate via twitter direct message because they have something to hid from public scrutiny perhaps?

I have no doubt that some of you may think I am being unfair on Autoglass. When I spoke recently with my insurers about the saga with Autoglass, they told me that they have a dedicated team dealing with the problems arising from Autoglass!

The respected BBC Watchdog programme have even produced an episode dealing with the lying cowboys at Autoglass. You can watch the programme online here It is a most illuminating programme and one that shows I am not the only one that thinks that Autoglass are lying cowboys.

That episode of Watchdog was broadcast on 25 June 2015, some 11 months ago. In response to the programme, the lying cowboys at Autoglass issued a statement that said

“…we take any customer complaint extremely seriously and always try to learn from any mistakes we make. We have made contact with the customers you have brought to our attention to apologise to them personally and to resolve any outstanding issues…”

It seems that Autoglass do not learn from any mistakes they make. They continue to lie and to deceive their customers and say they will do things then fail to do what they say.

I wonder what the excuse Autoglass will come out with for todays broken promise?

Given they still have not responded to any of the previous complaints, I am guessing they wont provide any explanation. Still, I am sure the Financial Ombudsman Service will be interested in the fact that not only do Autoglass not respond to complaints at all, but they do not follow their own complaints procedure and they tell lies to complainants in response to complaints posted online.

Perhaps I should run a sweepstake as to what the next lie the cowboys at Autoglass will tell?

A quick google search reveals the following reviews for Autoglass

Wrong glass twice and 5 weeks wait.

I went to autoglass as my insurance company referred me to them. I described to the technician which glass was broken and heard nothing for 5 days. I rang again the week after no reply to my query. The third week they attended, wrong glass they took a photo of the shattered glass. OK these things happen 2 weeks later they ring me to arrange appointment. I discussed with them the glass which is broken and guess what!!! Wrong glass again.
I am now in week 5 and ask the technician to get a manager to phone me, he said they would but they did not. I rang Kia directly in the afternoon and picked up the glass the next day, got independent glass fitter to install. So within 2 days I got the glass and had it installed independently. Autoglass need to get some customer liaison

 

Sounds familiar?

Ignored

After querying why the operative apparently deliberately cracked my windscreen my email was ignored. I have had no further contact despite sending another email.
The chat line operator also offered no help.

There are so many to choose from

Ignored

After querying why the operative apparently deliberately cracked my windscreen my email was ignored. I have had no further contact despite sending another email.
The chat line operator also offered no help.

More?

Poor Communication, Service and Customer Care

My Passenger Window was Smashed and I was placed in contact with Autoglass through my Insurance. The First available appointment was in Nine days time. This was an Unacceptable time to wait as the use of the Car was critical.
A complaint was placed and I was informed I was a Priority and that the waiting time would be reduced to Six days. I was also offered a Temporary fit of a Plastic Glass which would allow the Car to be used.I was informed that I would be contacted asap with an appointment time. There was no further contact from Autoglass at this point.
I contacted my Insurance Company to complain and they offered to contact Autoglass on my behalf to investigate.
Soon after this call Autoglass confirmed to my Insurance Company that a Fitter would be around to fit the Temporary glass prior to correct glass being fitted on the original appointment date, being Nine days from the first contact from Autoglass.A day and time was verbally corresponded to me via my Insurance Company however no email confirmation was sent by Autoglass. Due to the appointment conflicting with my Business opening hours I was forced to close my premises in order to ensure that I was available for the Temporary fit appointment.
On the day prior to the Temporary fit appointment I contacted Autoglass as I was concerned that I had not received any official confirmation of the appointment for the following day.
Autoglass responded that there was no appointment scheduled other that the original appointment and that they could not explain for the lack of notes attached to my complaint put forward by my Insurance Company.
I again complained to Autoglass directly and it was at this point the Excess Fee charge was removed to acknowledge the Nine day delay.
Finally the day came for the fitting and the Autoglass fitter was prompt and fitted the glass quickly.
The Glass fitted was not like for like as my care has privacy glass. This had been something I had asked about prior to the appointment as I wanted confirmation that it would be the same a before the incident. The Autoglass Operator I discussed this with assured they had placed my requirement on my appointment notes. It was explained by the fitter that this was ‘an after sales product’ and was not part of the arrangement the service Autoglass offered.
I made my Insurance company aware and they immediately looked to rectify this with an alternative supplier.
I am still awaiting contact from Autoglass with a compensation offer for all the failings that have been acknowledged by Autoglass on my final contact with them. Guess what…. this was over a week from writing this Review.
Autoglass fail with the Co-ordinating of their Service process along with their Customer Care so Badly that I would be Embarrassed to be associated with them

Still more?

Terrible

Cancelled appointments, lack of communication, problems with billing…just a nightmare from start to finish. Trying to communicate via email seems impossible as they don’t respond.
This should of been quick, simple and pain free. Far from it.

The list is seemingly endless

Bad service

Two home visits broken tags on windscreen.Two visits to Croydon depot. Still had problems. Head office never reply to my complaint .Had to do it twice. 16 April till 5 May

 

Those are just a sample selection of reviews posted in the last 8 days. There seems to be a pattern here. It also seems to confirm what my Insurance company told me about the problems there were having with the cowboys at Autoglass.

One really can only come to the conclusion that Autoglass really do not care at all about their customers and that the customer complaints procedure they post on their website saying the following is merely window dressing and meant to tick boxes rather than being something Autoglass subscribe to

Make a complaint

Did we get it wrong?

You should receive excellent service from Autoglass® as we always aim
to do our best; however there are times when things go wrong.

If you have a complaint, we will take it seriously, work hard to resolve the
problem and do everything possible to make any necessary improvements
to our policies, processes and procedures.

Please make us aware of your complaint using one of the ways listed below and an experienced Customer Service Specialist will be happy to help you.

Here’s how to get in touch:

By phone

Call us on 0800 011 3896. (We’re open Monday to Friday, 8:30am-5pm, and on Saturday 8:30am-12pm)

Email

Our email address is customer.services@autoglass.co.uk

Letter

Send your letter to our Customer Service Management team at:
Autoglass®
1 Priory Business Park
Cardington
Bedford
MK44 3US

Fax

Send your fax to the Customer Service Management team on 01234 279494

What will happen with your complaint?

Autoglass® operates a single step complaint process. This means that once we’ve provided a decision to you, if you are unhappy with our decision you can choose to refer your complaint directly to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

As part of our complaints promise we will:

  • Treat you fairly.
  • Have a dedicated expert to take responsibility and deal with your complaint.
  • Use your experience and feedback to make our service and products better.

If you’re unhappy with the outcome or we’ve been unable to resolve your complaint within 8 weeks you may ask the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to carry out an independent review.

You can contact the FOS in these ways:
Financial Ombudsman Service
South Quay Plaza
183 March Wall
London
E14 9SR

0300 123 9123 (free from most mobiles)
0800 023 4567 (free from landlines)

You can send an email to:
complaint.info@financial-ombudsman.org.uk

Or you can log on to their website:
www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk

 

I think this complaints process was written by Hans Christian Andersen with fairy tales like

You should receive excellent service from Autoglass® as we always aim
to do our best

Clearly Autoglass’ s best is not good enough. It is a million miles away from being even an acceptable service.

an experienced Customer Service Specialist will be happy to help you.

That will be the Customer Service Specialists that do not contact you I presume.

As part of our complaints promise we will:

  • Treat you fairly.
  • Have a dedicated expert to take responsibility and deal with your complaint.
  • Use your experience and feedback to make our service and products better.

Words fail me. Even a politician seeking election would be ashamed to tell lies like this.

Elsewhere on their website they state:

Our complaints promise

At Autoglass® we strive to deliver an outstanding service to all our customers. We always aim to do our best; however there are times when things go wrong.

If you have a complaint, we will take it seriously, work hard to resolve the problem and do our very best to make any necessary improvements to our policies, processes and procedures.

Please make us aware of your complaint using one of the ways listed below and an experienced customer service specialist will be happy to help you.

I presume this is a comedy website, as this is a complete joke of a statement and couldn’t be further from my experience of these cowboys

So Autoglass, what are you going to do next? The ball is in your court.

Freedom Fighter or Terrorist or Both

For those who have been living incommunicado, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died on 5th December. Ironically his death was announced during the London premiere of the film about Nelson Mandela, the Long Walk to Freedom.

The World’s media and politicians have done what they do at the death of any famous person. Yes, the overdone hype and hysterical grief has been nauseating. Irrespective of who dies, the media seem unable to do anything other than go overboard about the death. This is even more so when one considers that the death of a 95 year old is not unexpected. The death of someone like Diana, Princess of Wales, was more shocking and newsworthy in that it was unexpected.

The out pouring of grief and tributes to Nelson Mandela portray a rather distorted view of his life and his achievements. There has been a large degree of airbrushing and manipulation of the truth.

He was released from prison in South Africa in 1990 after 27 years in prison. At the time of his release, South Africa was on the brink of a civil war on racial grounds. The Apartheid government was on the brink of being overthrown. The black movement was both powerful and divided. Powerful in that the apartheid government was clinging to power, and divided in that there was a lot of horrible infighting. Remember the Necklace murders?

Prior to and following his release from Prison, Mandela led the ANC in their negotiations towards free , fair elections in South Africa. He achieved the seemingly impossible in that between his release from prison in 1990 and his death in 2013 civil war did not break out in South Africa. To my mind that is an incredible achievement and that peaceful transition to majority rule in South Africa post 1990 is to be remembered.

His words of forgiveness and reconciliation after his release from prison are remembered by many

“Great anger and violence can never build a nation. We are striving to proceed in a manner and towards a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge as victors.” (Speech to European Parliament, 1990)

“Without democracy there cannot be peace.” (South Africa, May 9, 1992)

“Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.”  (December 16, 1995)

“I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” (From Long Walk to Freedom, 1995)

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” (From Long Walk to Freedom, 1995)

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” (From Long Walk to Freedom, 1995

NELSON MANDELA QUOTES

However, to remember him only for  these sound bites and his actions post 1990 is to airbrush out important parts of history.

ANTI APARTHEID MOVEMENT

Whilst Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for terrorism offences, others carried on the anti apartheid struggle. It is to underplay the work they all did if we give all the credit to Nelson Mandela. He himself never claimed the praise or the glory for the struggle against apartheid. He recognised the limited role he was able to play.

In the UK for example, we had the continuous protest outside South Africa House. (Incidentally a protest that would not be able to happen now under the latest legislation passed by recent Labour and Tory governments!), the trade unions, student unions etc. with their boycotting of companies that traded with South Africa – e.g. student boycotts of Barclay’s Bank. The sporting ban on teams going to South Africa or on musicians playing Sun City in South Africa.

Perhaps one of the things that did the most to raise awareness in the UK was the song by the Special AKA, “Free Nelson Mandela”. This song perhaps did more than anything in the previous 20 years to make the public aware of Nelson Mandela.

This of course is not to suggest that it was only because of those in the UK that Nelson Mandela was released.  The ending of apartheid was as a result of the efforts of people across the world and in particular in South Africa.

By the time Mandela was released from prison the tide had turned against the South African Government, and Mandela was effectively a charismatic figure head for the anti apartheid movement.

He was however, either shrewd enough or magnanimous to realise that bitterness and armed struggle was not the way to get black majority rule in South Africa. It is to his credit that he managed to prevent a civil war and bring about peaceful change. Virtually no other African country has undergone such a peaceful change to black majority rule / independence

TERRORIST

What cannot be ignored is the fact that Nelson Mandela remained to his death a convicted terrorist. Now of course one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Mandela as part of his campaign against apartheid supported the use of violence and terrorism to achieve that end. It is clear that he was a thorn in the side of the authorities and they tried everything they could to stop him.

However, terrorism is not the appropriate response in my view. Ghandi in India brought about change by totally peaceful  methods. Mandela was not content to take peaceful action. He wanted to use violence and terrorism to force his will on others. There is nothing democratic about terrorism.

Mandela played a key role in bringing the ANC to the view that force had to be met with force if black liberation were ever to come to South Africa.  After calling for a general strike in May 1960, Mandela had vanished underground.  The strike attracted less support than Mandela hoped, and he began telling friends “the days of nonviolent struggle were over.”  In June 1960, Mandela proposed to the ANC executive the undertaking of an armed effort against the South African government: “The attacks of the the wild beast cannot be averted with only bare hands,” he said.  The ANC executive initially decided, however, that the time was not ripe to take up arms.
Eventually, Mandela’s arguments won over the ANC, which voted to establish a separate and independent military organ,

Umkhonto we Sizwe, or “Spear of the Nation” (or MK, for short).  In June 1961, Mandela sent to South African newspapers a letter warning that a new campaign would be launched unless the government agreed to call for a national constitutional convention.  Knowing that no such call would be forthcoming, Mandela retreated to the Rivonia hideout to began planning, with other supporters, a sabotage campaign.  The campaign began on December 16, 1961 when Umkhonto we Sizwe saboteurs lit explosives at an electricity sub-station.  Dozens of other acts of sabotage followed over the next eighteen months.  (Indeed, the government would allege the defendants committed 235 separate acts of sabotage.)  The sabotage included attacks on government posts, machines, and power facilities, as well as deliberate crop burning.

Mandela spent much of the early months of the sabotage campaign at the Rivonia safe-house, where he went by the name of “David.”  At Rivonia, Mandela met with other leaders to shape strategy and plan a possible future guerrilla war against the South African government.  His goal, he always said, was not to establish a government ruled by blacks, but to move to a multi-racial democracy that would abolish repressive laws that separated African families, restricted their travel, imposed curfews, and denied other basic human rights.  In February 1962, Mandela left South Africa to garner support from foreign governments for the goals of the ANC and to receive six months of military training is Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mandela/mandelaaccount.html

 

It should not be forgotten that Nelson Mandela admitted to the acts of sabotage at his trial. It was therefore by his own words that he is a terrorist, not by the words of an unjust government.

The aims of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues to establish a multi racial democracy is one that today we would say is an honourable one. Back in the 1970s or early 1980s for example, the majority view regarding racism was very different.

One of the undoubted facts of history is that it is always written by the winners. Have you never thought how come the good guys always seem to win? So it is with Nelson Mandela, the history is written by those who opposed apartheid and so he is feted as some sort of saint and his past is airbrushed from history.

Indeed the quote I used earlier from his speech in 1990 to the European Parliament should be looked at again.

“Great anger and violence can never build a nation. We are striving to proceed in a manner and towards a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge as victors.” (Speech to European Parliament, 1990)”

Now, ask yourself how that sits with his acts of terrorism for which he was jailed?

 

History often distorts the truth. The reality is that Mandela had many great qualities, but he also had other less pleasant qualities.

The same is true of everyone. Indeed, the person I and many people regard as the greatest ever Britain, Winston Churchill is remembered as a great wartime leader and the man who saved Britain from Hitler and the Nazis. He was indeed a great wartime leader and it is his leadership that did help defeat Nazi Germany.

However, Churchill was also a person with some very unpleasant views.

For example, this on the use of chemical weapons. Something that would result in War Crime charges being brought today. Indeed it was partially the use of chemical weapons that resulted in the invasion of Iraq

I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes.
Writing as president of the Air Council, 1919

Or how about his views on Ghandi and on India itself:

It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a campaign of civil disobedience, to parlay on equal terms with the representative of the Emperor-King.
Commenting on Gandhi’s meeting with the Viceroy of India, 1931

(India is) a godless land of snobs and bores.
In a letter to his mother, 1896

Or how about his views on Racism in particular in the USA and Australia

I do not admit… that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia… by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race… has come in and taken its place.
Churchill to Palestine Royal Commission, 1937

On Hitler in 1937:

One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as admirable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.”
From his Great Contemporaries, 1937

From the Guardian

Then there was his decision as home secretary to use troops against unarmed striking civilian miners at Tonypanddy in Wales.

These quotes/ views/ actions are like those of Nelson Mandela airbrushed out of history because they do not portray the image of the subject those who write the history want us to have.

All history is subjective and the truth is rarely fully told by any one party. Most people have a less pleasant side as well as the pleasant one people want you to remember- similarly with those portrayed as evil in history, there is usually a more palatable side to them as well.

 

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter is a common statement.

Last night someone said to me

Mandela was a courageous freedom fighter who inspired South Africans to overthrow the evil Apartheid system.…..

Now, try changing a couple of names there

Osama Bin Laden was a courageous freedom fighter who inspired Muslims to (attempt to) overthrow the evil Western system….

Why is one deemed to be acceptable and one not to be? I would suggest it is because of your view on the “Evil” system, not because of your views on the actions.

You oppose the latter view and support the former? Why? Both used terrorism to support their views.  Thus you are not condemning terrorism because you think it was fine for Mandela to use terrorism to achieve his ends.

What you are doing is condemning Osama Bin Laden because his views were not the same as yours. If terrorism was fine for Mandela to use, then surely it is fine for Bin Laden to use as well?

Alternatively, terrorism was not an appropriate action for either party to use. We should be condemning terrorism no matter who uses it, irrespective of the cause behind it. As someone once said:

“Great anger and violence can never build a nation.”

Is Murder really Murder?

The high profile case involving several marines who were involved in an incident where a Taliban fighter was shot ha provoked lots of attention. I am a little concerned at the approach taken by some of the commentators.

Let me start by saying I am not brave enough to have been a soldier in a combat zone (war zone). I cannot begin to imagine the thoughts and emotions that go through a soldier’s mind when engaged in combat with an enemy fighter.

My comments in this thread are not based on any view I have about the legitimacy of the British Army’s involvement in Afghanistan. I am looking at things from a purely legal point of view.

A Royal Marine Sergeant known as Marine A was convicted of murder following his actions in 2011 when he shot and killed an injured Taliban fighter. It would appear that the Sergeant and 2 others came across an injured Taliban fighter and had detained him. He was in effect now a prisoner of war. There was video footage (helmet camera) that was found on a laptop and reported to the police. It appears that one of the 3 retained the footage of the killing.

The Taliban fighter (prisoner) was, as I understand posing no threat to the Marines at this point (no doubt he had previously been trying to kill British soldiers.). The video footage shows Marine A shooting the Afghan prisoner with a 9mm pistol, and saying: “There, shuffle off this mortal coil… It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.”

He adds: “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention,” to which Marine B replies: “Yeah, roger mate.”

The comments of Marine A make it clear that he knew what he was doing was illegal.

The Geneva Convention

This international agreement concerning the treatment of captured and wounded prisoners of war was first signed in Geneva in 1864. It was later revised in 1949 and consists of four treaties.

Article three of the third convention rules that members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms or who cannot fight due to sickness, wounds or detention should be “treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria”.

To this end, it is prohibited to pass sentences on prisoners or carry out executions without a constituted court judgement. Prisoners may not be harmed, degraded, humiliated or taken hostage.

Under the convention, the wounded and sick should be collected and cared for by an impartial humanitarian body, such as the Red Cross

This was a cold blooded killing on an injured fighter. It was not an act of mercy. It was an extra judicial killing done knowingly in contravention of the Geneva Convention. This was not an act done in the heat of battle. It was from the video footage something done cynically, and Marine A knew when he did the act he was acting in breach of the Geneva Convention.

It is no good complaining about the Geneva Convention. Soldiers know at the time they sign up that their actions in the combat zone are governed by the Geneva Convention whether they like it or not. The Convention has to be obeyed whether the soldiers like it or not.

Once a court or tribunal has convicted  someone of murder ( not manslaughter) then there  is only one sentence available to that body – namely life imprisonment. The body have to set a “tariff” period i.e. the minimum period before that person can be considered for release. However for the rest of their life after release, the murderer will be on licence and liable to recall to prison if they breach the terms of the licence.

It is worth repeating that Marine A was convicted of murder, not manslaughter. The court martial after hearing all the evidence decided that Marine A was guilty of the cold blooded killing of the victim – in short he was guilty of murder.

Retired Major General Julian Thompson has suggested that the court martial should show clemency to Marine A and he should be sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. I wonder if he would be suggesting a lenient sentence for someone convicted of murdering one of his family? What is interesting is that he appears to accept that the killing was indeed murder and was “a totally unforgiveable act”.

Displaying some perverse logic, he suggests that the more experienced a soldier is, the more lenient a court martial should be on sentencing.

Maj Gen Thompson told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “I understand that he’s quite an experienced guy. People are talking about him being battle hardened and therefore there is no excuse.

“Well actually it’s the other way round, the more times you do tours in that filthy war, the more pressure there is on you.

I wonder if he thinks that should apply elsewhere? Perhaps he thinks repeat burglars should be treated more leniently than first time offenders.? The experience Marine A has gained should have made him more aware of the serious consequences of his actions. With experience comes additional responsibility, except in the perverse world of Major General Julian Thompson.

Major General Thompson says this was an unforgiveable act and then suggests we should not treat it for sentencing purposes as such.

One of the things we expect of our armed forces, and one of the things they have come to represent is discipline. Sadly Marine A let down his colleagues and his cold blooded summary execution of a wounded prisoner is a stain on the reputation of Britain and its armed forces. It is only right that criminals are punished in accordance with the law. The only sentence available for murder is life imprisonment.

If Major Thompson and others have issues with Marine A being convicted of murder, then they should be campaigning for a re trial, not for a sentence that does not reflect the crime that he is convicted of.

As I said at the start of this post, I am commenting on the legality of the sentencing issues, not the morals of the actions of Marine A.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

 
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam

some

What Price Justice? – Part 2

You may recall my recent post “What Price Justice? Part 1” when I looked at the potential  consequences of cutting legal aid funding.

The Government are trying to avoid having to pay to allow you to have a proper defence if facing a criminal prosecution. Even if you can afford to defend yourself, the Government have change the rules to make it so that you will almost certainly recover only a small percentage of you legal costs despite being wrongly prosecuted.

The risk to your liberty is enormous. I know that most of you think it won’t happen to you, but anyone of us can find ourselves under arrest and facing charges.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking if you are innocent, you will never find yourself facing court on criminal charges. Remember its innocent until proven guilty, not innocent until charged with an offence. Being charged with a criminal offence is only the start of the legal process and means nothing at all. A person charged with an offence has not been proven guilty and many people are charged with an offence and later acquitted.

Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are eye opening. In 2011/12, a total of 95930 cases did not result in the conviction of the defendant. That means nearly 100,000 people who were not guilty of the offence alleged were brought before the courts in a single year. That figure should make you realise how easily you could find yourself before a court despite having done nothing wrong.

Let me refer you to a couple of cases where the outcome was even worse. In these cases an innocent person was convicted by a court and spent many years in prison for a crime they did not commit. There are many such cases, and the cases I mention are selected as examples.

STEPHEN KISZKO

Convicted of the (sexual) murder of a young girl in 1976, Stefan Kiszko spent 16 years in prison until he was released in 1992. He died of a heart attack the following year at his mother’s home aged 44; his mother, who had waged a long campaign to prove her son’s innocence, died six months later.

Stefan Kiszko suffered from XYY syndrome, a condition in which the human male has an extra Y chromosome. Such males are normal except for – sometimes slight – growth abnormalities and minor behavioural abnormalities. (Another victim of a miscarriage of justice supported by Innocent also has this condition – Howard Hughes). One of Stefan Kiszko’s “behavioural abnormalities” was jotting down the registration numbers of a car if he had been annoyed by the driver. This led, in part, to his wrongful conviction – he had at some point prior to the murder unwittingly jotted down the number of a car seen near the scene of the crime. It was argued that only someone at the scene could have known the number of this car… As part of his condition Stefan Kiszko would have been physically incapable of the sex crime of which he was convicted. Something which was never disclosed to his defence…

Thanks to www.innocent.org.uk for this summary

Murder of Lynette White

This case you may know as the Cardiff Three case.

Lynette White was murdered on 14 February 1988 in Cardiff, Wales. White, a 20 year old prostitute, was stabbed and slashed 69 times in a flat above a bookmaker‘s at 7 James Street, Butetown. South Wales Police issued a photo fit image of a white male seen in the vicinity at the time of the murder but were unable to trace the man. In November 1988 the police charged five mixed-race men (the ‘Cardiff Five’) with White’s murder, although none of the scientific evidence discovered at the crime scene could be linked to them. On conclusion of the longest murder trial in British history, in November 1990 three of the men were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In early 1991 a number of journalists began to question the safety of the convictions and public-service television broadcaster Channel 4 transmitted their own investigation of the case in Butetown: The Bridge And The Boys, part of their Black Bag magazine and documentary series aimed at Black and Asian viewers. In May 1991 two of the convicted men were granted leave to appeal their convictions, but the third, Stephen Miller, was refused. Satish Sekar, an investigative journalist specialising in crime and justice issues, had tracked down two witnesses not called at the trial who could provide an alibi for Miller’s whereabouts at the time of the murder. Miller asked him if he would organise a new legal team to prepare his appeal. Sekar persuaded renowned solicitor Gareth Peirce to take on the case and handle the renewed application to appeal, and Pierce instructed Michael Mansfield QC to represent Miller in court. A public campaign to overturn the convictions, started by families and friends of the three men, began to receive high-profile support, including that of American community leader Reverend Al Sharpton and recently-exonerated member of the “Guildford Four”, Gerry Conlon. Further television documentaries followed in 1992, including Unsafe Convictions as part of the BBC documentary series Panorama.

In December 1992 the convictions were ruled unsafe and quashed by the Court of Appeal after it was decided that the police investigating the murder had acted improperly. The wrongful conviction of the three men has been called one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in recent times. The police claimed that they had done nothing wrong, that the men had been released purely on a technicality of law, and resisted all calls for the case to be reopened.

In 2003 the DNA testing allowed the police to identify the real killer as Jeffrey Gafoor, who confessed to White’s murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

[There is so much more to this case, involving police misconduct trials, evidence disappearing and reappearing – at present there are currently several investigations into the handling of the whole case.]

So in just two cases we have four people wrongly convicted of murder and who between them served nearly 30 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

Try to think of what those wrongly convicted people have suffered as a result of their incarceration by the state. They will have probably had to endure: loss of employment, loss of homes, loss of family life, perhaps even losing contact with their offspring. Not to mention the pecuniary loss, both past and future. Imagine the effect that losing 16 years of pension contributions would make to your final pension?

Now, given that the European Convention on Human Rights provides in Article Five for the right to Liberty & Security and

ARTICLE 5
Right to liberty and security

1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No
one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and
in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
(a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a
competent court;
(b) the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non–
compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to
secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law;

(c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for
the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal
authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed
an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary
to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after
having done so;
(d) the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose
of educational supervision or his lawful detention for
the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal
authority;
(e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the
spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound
mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants;
(f) the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his
effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a
person against whom action is being taken with a view
to deportation or extradition.
2. Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a
language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and
of any charge against him.
3. Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the
provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be brought
promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to
exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a
reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be
conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.
4. Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention
shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of
his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release
ordered if the detention is not lawful.
5. Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention
in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an
enforceable right to compensation.

It has always been accepted that those people wrongly imprisoned and later freed on appeal, often many years later were entitled to compensation under Article 5.5. Indeed, the UK government has paid compensation in many high profile case, including the Guildford 4, the Maguire Seven.

This is enshrined in legislation e.g. s133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. So, if you are wrongly imprisoned, you should be entitled to compensation then. No amount of compensation can bring back the lost time.

Well, don’t be too sure, in 2006 the government capped compensation – even in cases where a defendant was demonstrably innocent – at £500,000 (£1m where imprisonment exceeds a decade). Then in 2011 the Supreme Court in a ruling that is chilling to those concerned with the freedom of the individual, ruled that it wasn’t enough that a court quashed someone’s conviction to entitle them to compensation. (Convictions are only quashed where the Appellate Court rules a conviction is unsafe).

Now to prove they are entitled to compensation, the wrongly convicted person must prove that no court could have convicted them on the evidence available. In other words we have now created a category of people who are said to be not guilty by an Appellate Court, but are not sufficiently not “not guilty to be entitled to compensation. It.s not just the denial of compensation, but it also casts a shadow over the innocence of a man who was cleared by a court. That cannot be right notr can the fact it is in essence a reversing of the burden of guilt ie the claimant has to prove there was no evidence on which a court could have convicted rather than showing simply he was wrongly convicted. If there was evidence upon which the claimant could be convicted, then surely he would not have been freed by the Appellate Courts?

Sounds strange? well if you are such a person, it is surely denying you the maxim of innocent until proven guilty. The court are saying you are not guilty, but are not innocent enough to be entitled to compensation for wrongful conviction. How does that fit in with Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (see above)?

You may think that this is just a theoretical situation and compensation will be awarded as before. Well, sadly it is not. The case of Barry George, aka Barry Bulsara who was wrongfully convicted of the murder of Jill Dando. He spent approximately 8 years in prison on remand and after conviction before he was freed after a re trial was ordered.

Part of the evidence at his original trial was forensic evidence which was later shown to be so unreliable it was not admissible at the retrial. Then there was an ID witness who purported to put George at the scene of the murder, but was unable to identify him at an identity parade! This is hardly reliable ID evidence.

Despite all this, the courts have refused Barry George the right to any compensation for the 8 years he spent in prison despite being an innocent man.

 

So, the state of justice in this country seems to be that:

  1. The Government won’t honour its obligations to ensure that if you are charged with an offence you can have suitably experienced/ qualified representation despite facing lengthy prison sentences.
  2. Even if you can pay to represent yourself and are found not guilty you are unlikely to recover all of your legal costs
  3. If wrongly convicted and imprisoned, the Government will wriggle out of its European Convention obligation to compensate you by claiming you are not innocent enough.

 

What a sad situation from the so called home of democracy. We’ll charge you, deny you proper representation and if despite these and being wrongfully convicted, we won’t compensate you.

It must be nice to be able to ignore all your obligations with impunity. Lets hope Barry George can take his case to the European Court of Justice and at least overturn point 3.

I’m ashamed of the British Legal System at the present time. (It can’t be called a Justice System)

What Price Justice?– Part 1

We have politicians repeatedly telling us that the Human Rights Act is a criminal’s charter and should be repealed. We are told that it does nothing more than prevent the guilty being punished.

The reality is rather different though. A couple of recent events have brought this to my attention again.

The current Lord Chancellor and the legal adviser to the Government is Chris Grayling. He is in actual fact neither a Lord, nor even a lawyer. He is the first Lord Chancellor since 1588 to be a non lawyer. His full title is Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. Quite why we have politicians with no legal experience at all in charge of the legal system is incredible. We do not allow a plumber without the appropriate gas safe qualification to touch any gas appliances, but we allow politicians with no legal experience whatsoever, let alone training or qualifications to be responsible for the whole criminal legal system.

The stupidity of this has been shown gain with a recent article in the Sunday Times by Chris Grayling  in which he:

felt it necessary to decry the daily fees paid to leading criminal defence silks (Queen’s Counsel). The standard rationale was trotted out, namely why should the public purse pick up the tab for defending criminals?

This short-sighted statement of course pre-supposes a number of things:

1) That everyone is guilty, and that the whole trial process is some charade concocted by lawyers;

2) If everyone is guilty then they don’t need access to expensive, excellent quality advocates, because it’s sufficient to just make it look like a fair trial is being conducted; 

Mr Grayling would do well to have these five principles of the legal system in this country in mind the next time he formulates policy:

  • In this country you are innocent until proven guilty.
  • You have a right to a fair trial.
  • You are entitled to a legal representative for which the state will foot the bill if it is accusing you of committing a crime.
  • The defendant bears no evidential burden and may remain silent throughout if he wishes.
  • The prosecution must prove the case so that a jury/court are sure of his guilt.

Or to put it bluntly just because you have been charged with a criminal offence, it doesn’t mean you are guilty.

I have previously defended many people who were charged with serious offences who were completely innocent in that they had done nothing to bring any suspicion on themselves:, victims of mistaken identity, victims of a malicious complainant, or in some case victims of falsified police evidence.

If everyone is innocent until proven guilty, the surely everyone has the right to a proper defence by a suitably qualified lawyer, not just a lawyer who is cheap. If the state deem it important enough to bring a prosecution against someone, then the suspect has the same right to defend the case.

3) If it can be done cheaper, then that is necessarily better.

(thanks for this to the author of http://youngrumpole.blogspot.co.uk/)

Market forces being what they are, then generally, you have to pay more for better quality work. For example if you cut your arm and require stitches in it, you’d be happy with it being stitched up by a junior doctor at A&E. Would you be so happy with said junior doctor performing a heart transplant because they are cheaper than a suitably qualified heart surgeon? Probably not.

So why would you deem it appropriate to insist that the defence of someone (who may well not have committed a crime at all) no a serious criminal charge (which may well result in a prison sentence of many years)?

Would you be happy to spend the next 20 years in prison for a crime you have not committed simply because legal aid saved a few pounds by appointing a lawyer who was not suitably experienced to defend you? That is the risk you face.

It doesn’t happen like that you say? Well, in the recent past, I was witness to someone being arrested and subsequently being charged with 2 offences that  could have resulted in his being sent to prison for many years. These offences related to allegations of committing serious violence . The person arrested had not ever been arrested before. There was no apparent reason for the police to lie, but that is what they did. Not content with lying, they destroyed or failed to disclose any of the CCTV evidence they had of the incident, both their own and that from several other premises.

How do I know this? Well, I was with this person at the time he was allegedly in other locations committing offences. There was CCTV showing where the arrested person was at the time of the alleged offences. This was seized by the police and then suppressed and never disclosed to the defence.

I also had camera footage  taken by me of the arrest, showing the police allegations were false, and even that the arrested person was not wearing the clothing the police alleged. The footage was taken by me at the time without me realising the person had been arrested for anything. I was actually filming for a different reason.

This footage also shows the arrested person was in custody (and had been for at least 10 minutes) at the time the police in their statements allege he was involved in a violent incident. This is not a mistake in timing as the alleged victims of the violence were not present at the scene until after the arrest had taken place!

A simple case that would not be proceeded with? Well that’s what the arrested person thought. When this became apparent he got himself a very good firm of lawyers to represent him. Despite their best endeavours, and the clear abuse of the system by the police, and evidence of their lies, the case rumbled on for nearly a year, and was only discontinued when the arrested person was able to instruct a QC. Without the involvement of the QC, that case would at the very least proceeded to an expensive trial, and possibly resulting in an innocent man going to prison.

The instruction of a QC resulted in the case being brought to an end BEFORE a trial, thus saving money in the long run. It being cheaper to pay the QC for what he did than paying the costs of a lengthy trial. However, more significantly, the instruction of the QC prevented an innocent man going to prison.

What price do you put on liberty? Well, let me refer you to some figures from the USA courtesy of http://www.deathpenalty.org/article.php?id=83

Inadequate Legal Representation

Perhaps the most important factor in determining whether a defendant will receive the death penalty is the quality of the representation he or she is provided.

Almost all defendants in capital cases cannot afford their own attorneys. In many cases, the appointed attorneys are overworked, underpaid, or lacking the trial experience required for death penalty cases.

There have even been instances in which lawyers appointed to a death case were so inexperienced that they were completely unprepared for the sentencing phase of the trial. Other appointed attorneys have slept through parts of the trial, or arrived at the court under the influence of alcohol.

In 2001, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg commented: “People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty . . . I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial.”

Facts

  • Almost all defendants who face capital charges cannot afford an attorney and rely on the state to appoint one for them. However, often times appointed attorneys are overworked, underpaid, lack critical resources, and are either incompetent or inexperienced. As a result when death sentences are set aside by the federal courts, it is often because among other reasons the trial attorney was so incompetent that the accused’s constitutional right to effective counsel was violated. (See ACLU Report: Slamming the Courthouse Doors: Denial of Access to Justice and Remedy in America“)
  • In 2009, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions conducted an official visit to the United States to examine the administration of the death penalty in Alabama and Texas. Alabama has the highest per capita rate of executions in the United States, while Texas has the largest total number of executions and one of the largest death row populations after California and Florida. The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about deficiencies in the administration of the death penalty in Alabama and Texas, including “the lack of adequate counsel for indigent defendants.” He called for the two states “to establish well-funded, state-wide public defender services” and recommended that “[o]versight of these should be independent of the executive and judicial branches.” The state of Alabama has no state-wide public defender system even though its death row occupants are overwhelmingly poor with 95% indigent. (See ACLU Report above)
  • An examination of 461 capital cases by The Dallas Morning News found that nearly one in four condemned inmates has been represented at trial or on appeal by court-appointed attorneys who have been disciplined for professional misconduct at some point in their careers. (“Quality Of Justice“Dallas Morning News, September 10, 2000).
  • In Washington state, one-fifth of the 84 people who have faced execution in the past 20 years were represented by lawyers who had been, or were later, disbarred, suspended or arrested. (Overall, the state’s disbarment rate for attorneys is less than 1%.) (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Aug. 6-8, 2001).
  • According to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune, 12% of those sentenced to death from 1976-1999 were represented by, “an attorney who had been, or was later, disbarred or suspended–disciplinary sanctions reserved for conduct so incompetent, unethical or even criminal that the state believes an attorney’s license should be taken away.” An additional 9.5% inmates, “have received a new trial or sentencing because their attorneys’ incompetence rendered the verdict or sentence unfair, court records show.” (Ken Armstrong and Steve Mills, Inept Defenses Cloud Verdict,” Chicago Tribune, November 15, 1999)
  • In North Carolina, at least 16 death row inmates, including 3 who were executed, were represented by lawyers who have been disbarred or disciplined for unethical or criminal conduct. (Charlotte Observer, Sept. 9, 2000).

DPIC Report: “With Justice for Few: The Growing Crisis in Death Penalty Representation (1995)

 

From http://www.eji.org/deathpenalty/inadequatecounsel

Alabama is the only state in the country without a state-funded program to provide legal assistance to death row prisoners. There is no state-wide public defender program in the state and, in some counties, defendants have been sentenced to death after trials where they were represented by a lawyer who did not meet even the minimum requirement of five years of criminal defense experience. Nearly half of the people on Alabama’s death row were represented at trial by appointed lawyers whose compensation for out-of-court preparation was capped at $1000.

This political obsession with cutting costs to the minimum level possible will lead to the same sort of issues of inadequate representation. If this is discovered, it will result in increased legal costs as appeals will inevitably follow. If the inadequate representation is not discovered, then innocent people will inevitably be convicted and many sentenced to prison sentences, losing homes, careers and families as a result

In criminal law, Blackstone’s formulation (also known as Blackstone’s ratio or the Blackstone ratio) is the principle:

better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“,

…expressed by the English jurist William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 1760s.

This political obsession with cost cutting will inevitably destroy this principle that has helped protect your freedoms.

I’ll leave the final word on the subject of suitable legal representation to the author of the Young Rumpole blog:

One of the best parts about his pronouncement was that some of the cases being undertaken by silks could be undertaken by junior barristers (in this context anyone who is NOT a silk), who might be about to take silk in a couple of months. They already have the skills but don’t command the same rates. This really is excellent stuff, as many of my colleagues are looking forward to the Ministry producing the list of “People Who Will Be Silks In A Couple Of Months” list to see if their names are on it.

One wonders what we were expecting really. Mr Grayling is not a qualified Solicitor or Barrister. He has no law degree, but a background in television.

I will be coming back to this topic in another blog post and looking at what happens to those innocent people who are wrongly convicted.