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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grace before dying

Grace before dying

A hospice programme for prison inmates

"Grace Before Dying is an award-winning photographic documentary by Lori Waselchuk that chronicles the prisoner-run hospice program at Angola State Penitentiary, Louisiana's maximum-security prison. Through a Distribution Grant from the Documentary Photography Project of the Open Society Institute, Grace Before Dying is now a traveling exhibition that is touring correctional facilities, museums and conferences".


Hat-Tip to Charles Cowling.

'Oldest' burglar is jailed again

'Oldest' burglar is jailed again

A man thought to be Britain's oldest burglar has been sentenced to 28 months in prison - after being caught thieving on his push bike in Cumbria.

Richard Blaylock, 77, stole cash, cufflinks and a watch after cycling to a village five miles from his home in Carlisle, a court heard on Tuesday.

He pleaded guilty at Carlisle Crown Court to two charges of burglary.

The court heard that he has more than 70 previous convictions and has been sent to prison 26 times.

The great-grandfather, of Prescott Road, Longsowerby, was arrested after targeting a house and a cow shed in Great Orton.

Admittedly it does not say how much cash was stolen, but I suspect it was not a great amount. Certainly nowhere near the £80,000 it will cost to house him in prison for 2 years. In my view, a slap on the wrists and £10 out of the poor box would have sufficed!

Nazi PoW leaves his fortune to villagers

Nazi PoW leaves his fortune to villagers

Former SS soldier leaves £400,000 to community where he was held captive

A former German prisoner of war plans to leave a six-figure fortune to the Scottish community where he was held captive by the British during the Second World War.

Heinrich Steinmeyer, 85, said he wanted to thank the village of Comrie in Perthshire for the kindness he was shown during his time in Cultybraggan Camp.

Reports have suggested the total donation may be as much as £400,000 but villagers said yesterday they had not had the amount confirmed.

Mr Steinmeyer was a member of the SS 12th Panzer Division [Hitler Youth] when he was captured of August 1944 near Caen in Normandy during the Allied invasion . He wants the money to be administered through a trust fund for elderly residents.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brown: Labour will imprison single mothers

Brown: Labour will imprison single mothers

Teenage single mothers will be “placed in a network of supervised homes,” shared homes where they will be taught parenting skills and given other skills. Mr Brown said: “It cannot be right for a girl of sixteen to get pregnant, be given the keys to a council flat, and be left on her own.”

The age of consent is 16. Let's say a girl of that age decides to have Birthday Sex. It was a one night stand. Nine months later baby comes along. What is wrong with offering support in her own home, albeit a council flat?

This sounds too much like supervision orders, probation, and Approved Premises like Bail Hostels. The supervised homes used by the Youth Justice System are but child prisons with another name.

What on earth could Brown have been thinking? Is he mentally unwell? Or, his speech writer for that matter?

Remind me again which party Gordon Brown is in. If this is Nanny State it's at its worst!

UPDATE: Teenage single mothers are parasites - Daily Express

Now it's beginning to make sense. Knee-jerkism to tabloid headlines!

UPDATED UPDATE: Gulags for slags

Let's talk turkey: Gobble gobble

Let's talk turkey: Gobble gobble

Angela Merkel win ends Turkey's EU hopes

Turkish hopes of joining the EU appeared to be all but over after Germany gave warning it was ready to join France and Italy in outright opposition to the country's membership.

"Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Free Democrats (FDP) are both hostile to the accession of the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 71 million".

Related content...

Christmas will be a turkey

Monday, September 28, 2009

Scenes from the Labour party conference in Brighton

Scenes from the Labour party conference in Brighton

There's one of "Gordon" looking the worse for wear...

Killer boasts on Facebook from prison cell

Killer boasts on Facebook from prison cell

The killer of a father-of three has sparked outrage after boasting on Facebook how cushy life is in jail – from his prison cell.

Mark Elliott, 22, was one of three gang members jailed for life for their part in the murder of Mark Witherall outside his home in Whitstable, Kent, in 2007.

But Elliott managed to get hold of a mobile inside HMP Swaleside, in Sheerness, Kent, and used it to post messages on the social network site.

Mr Witherall's family said it makes a mockery of the justice system.

Writing under his street name Hackman Hack, he tells friends he spends his days working out in the gym and describes how prisoners while away the time on computer games.

He adds: "U would love jail u could play ya computer all day long."

He has even posted photos of himself in his cell. In one he smiles with a fellow inmate and in another he adopts a gangster pose while he wraps a scarf around his face.

He has not done himself or any other prisoners a service. There is a saying "You can do it the easy way or the hard way". I suspect that he will now be finding it harder. The authorities will crack down on him. And it is possible that his actions might bring heat upon other prisoners, and if so, they might just be keen to teach him a lesson.

A classic example of the actions of one spoiling it for others.

Smellie pig to be charged with G20 assault

Smellie pig to be charged with G20 assault

A Metropolitan Police officer is to be charged with assault after he was filmed apparently striking protestor Nicola Fisher during the G20 summit in London in April.

Sergeant Delroy Smellie, known as Tony, was issued with a court summons following an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Miss Fisher, 35, lodged a complaint with the IPCC after she was struck by a policeman during protests outside the ExCel Centre in the Docklands area on April 2.

Royal Navy seizes record cocaine haul worth £240m

Royal Navy seizes record cocaine haul worth £240m

Rusty trawler had five and a half tonnes of illicit drug under false concrete deck

When the crew of a Royal Navy helicopter spotted the MV Cristal off South America, their suspicions were aroused as the rusty trawler, with no nets in sight, ploughed through an area notorious for drug traffickers. Within hours, HMS Iron Duke had made the largest haul of cocaine in British naval history.

Interception of the 138-ft boat off Brazil led to the discovery of more than five and a half tonnes of the narcotic, with a street value of £240m. The previous largest haul was 4.7 tonnes of cocaine, discovered in 1999 by HMS Marlborough. The latest consignment was discovered on 15 September, hidden beneath tonnes of fishing supplies and a false concrete deck in the hold, which had to be broken up by sledge hammers; then metal panels were pried open, revealing bales of drugs. A boarding party of British sailors and the US Coastguard took 24 hours to search the vessel and unload the drugs.

I am not sure if it is called the High Seas because of the buzz from cocaine or high seize given the amount discovered...

Should the Brown band play on or launch the lifeboats?

Should the Brown band play on or launch the lifeboats?

Support for the Conservative Party is so flimsy that Labour could head off a general election defeat by ousting Gordon Brown, according to a survey for The Independent.

If people believe that Gordon Brown is good with figures but not as Prime Minister, then perhaps one of the Magnificent Seven should take over on a dream ticket with Gordon Brown as Chancellor?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fugitive Polanski arrested

Fugitive Polanski arrested

"Roman Polanski, the Oscar-winning director, faces extradition to the US after being arrested in Zurich on a 31-year-old arrest warrant for having sex with an under-age girl".

Polanski was arrested in the late 1970s and charged with giving drugs and alcohol to a 13-year-old girl and having unlawful sex with her at Jack Nicholson’s Hollywood home. He maintained that the girl was sexually experienced and had consented.

Consented under the influence of drink and drugs?

I remember the Olympics in Atlanta and a commentator pointing out that Jack Nicholson was in the audience, a camera zoomed in on Jack Nicholson and he was watching the young girls doing gymnastics through a pair of binoculars! Just saying...

Shouldn't this war criminal be the other side of the bars?

Shouldn't this war criminal be the other side of the bars?

He authorised the CIA flights of extra-ordinary rendition from British soil.

Animal pictures of the week: 25 September 2009

Animal pictures of the week: 25 September 2009

Eye, eye: A sorry looking thing...

This is Lucy the cross-eyed Western Screech Owl. She was discovered under her nest site in Santa Barbara, California. Both her eyes had been punctured by a predator, possibly a small hawk or a corvid Picture: REX FEATURES

Anything that squirrel can do I can do better...

A chipmunk is seen eating on a dwarf stone pine at Mount Asahi, the tallest mountain in Japan's nothern island of Hokkaido Picture: REUTERS

Say cheese!

A cheeky wild leopard cub who made off with a wildlife photgrapher's camera during a fashion shoot at the Ranthambhore national park, India Picture: CATERS NEWS

Three-month-old tiger cub Kinwah with German shepherd dog Rumble who has taken on the role of protective older brother. They are pictured at Mogo Zoo in Australia where Kinwah was born Picture: DEAN MARZOLLA / NEWSPIX / REX FEATURES

A keeper holds a caracal baby named Lilly in her enclosure in an animal park in Berlin Picture: AFP/GETTY

High of the Tiger

Tanvir, a two-year-old tiger, refuses to come down from the top platform of an activity tower at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm in Wraxall near Bristol. It is thought he is too frightened to come back down Picture: PA


A driver pulled over when he heard loud miaowing coming from the rear of his motor as he drove to work in Sankt Poelten, Austria. Mechanics spent three hours dismantling the car and found Gussie, a neighbour's kitten, in the engine Picture: EUROPICS[CEN]

Sand artist

Sand artist

If you have got eight and a half minutes to spare, this is absolutely bloody brilliant!

Feel free to use our library facilities in Camden

Feel free to use our library facilities in Camden

When we say we are a lending library it means we lend books. We do not lend our scissors in case you stab me with them, nor will we lend you a guillotine in case you hit me over the head with it because it is heavy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A walk on the beautiful side

A walk on the beautiful side

Fifteen walks in Britain worth a weekend away

Killiecrankie Pass is known as one of the most impressive sites for an autumnal walk in Scotland

Great British pub walks

Arundel Castle, Sussex

Britain's finest half-day and day walks, with maps

Owl in the New Forest

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Dirty Baker's Dozen:Tories in cash for representation scandal

The Dirty Baker's Dozen: Tories in cash for representation scandal

MPs are paid are salary from the public purse to represent the public interests of the electorate.

There is a clash of interests if MPs are also being paid by the private sector to represent their private interests.

The Times has uncovered a scandal involving a mafia of Tory party parliamentary candidates who have already sold out to the private sector even before they have become MPs! They cannot represent the public while at the same time represent private companies. If they want a career in the private sector why are they even trying to become MPs? It is not to serve the public. Obviously, it is to line their own pockets. It is snouts in the trough all over again. They are obtaining their salaries by deception. This is a crime. MPs should only serve the public interest, not their own or business interests.

Below is a black list of Tory PPCs who should be avoided like the plague.

1. Margot James, the Conservative candidate for Stourbridge and a party vice-chairman
2. Priti Patel, the Conservative candidate for Witham
3. George Eustice, candidate for Camborne, Redruth & Hayle
4. Charlotte Leslie, candidate in Bristol North-West
5. Ben Jeffreys, the Tory candidate for Cheadle
6. Conor Burns, candidate for Bournemouth West
7. Penny Mordaunt, the candidate for Portsmouth North
8. Chris Heaton-Harris, candidate for Daventry
9. Oliver Colville, the candidate for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport
10. Tracey Crouch, the candidate for Chatham & Aylesford
11. Damian Collins, the candidate in Folkestone & Hythe,
12. Mark Clarke, the candidate for Tooting
13. Karl McCartney, the candidate for Lincoln

The McCann Way

The McCann Way

And now, the end is near;
And so we face the final curtain.
Our friends, We'll say it clear,
We'll state our case, of which we're uncertain.

We've lived a life thats full.
We've travelled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
We did it the McCann way.

Donations, we've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
We did what we had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

We planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
We did it the McCann way.

Yes, there were times, we're sure you knew
When we bit off more than we could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
We couldn't wait from Portugal to get out.
We couldn't face it all and we stood small;
And did it the McCann way.

We've run, we're daft, we cannot hide.
We've had our fill; our share of the fund.
And now, as the cash goes dry,
We find it all so distressing.

To think we did all that;
And may we say - not in a shy way,
No, oh no not us,
We did it the McCann way.

For what are we, what have we got?
If not Madeleine, then the next best thing.
To say the things we don't truly feel;
And not the words of those who are guilty.
The record shows we dodged the blows -
And did it the McCann way!

Mark Hollingsworth investigates the McCannfiles

Mark Hollingsworth investigates the McCannfiles

[Because Joana Morais is under a bit of legal pressure at the moment and has at least temporarily censored this post following a legal letter, I thought I would visit Google's cached result and post this before it disappears altogether]

Disillusioned with the Portuguese police, Gerry and Kate McCann turned to private detectives to find their missing daughter. Instead the efforts of the private eyes served only to scare off witnesses, waste funds and raise false hopes. Mark Hollingsworth investigates the investigators.

by Mark Hollingsworth*

It was billed as a ‘significant development’ in the exhaustive search for Madeleine McCann. At a recent dramatic press conference in London, the lead private investigator David Edgar, a retired Cheshire detective inspector, brandished an E-FIT image of an Australian woman, described her as ‘a bit of a Victoria Beckham lookalike’, and appealed for help in tracing her. The woman was seen ‘looking agitated’ outside a restaurant in Barcelona three days after Madeleine’s disappearance. ‘It is a strong lead’, said Edgar, wearing a pin-stripe suit in front of a bank of cameras and microphones. ‘Madeleine could have been in Barcelona by that point. The fact the conversation took place near the marina could be significant.’

But within days reporters discovered that the private detectives had failed to make the most basic enquiries before announcing their potential breakthrough. Members of Edgar’s team who visited Barcelona had failed to speak to anyone working at the restaurant near where the agitated woman was seen that night, neglected to ask if the mystery woman had been filmed on CCTV cameras and knew nothing about the arrival of an Australian luxury yacht just after Madeleine vanished.

The apparent flaws in this latest development were another salutary lesson for Kate and Gerry McCann, who have relied on private investigators after the Portuguese police spent more time falsely suspecting the parents than searching for their daughter. For their relations with private detectives have been frustrating, unhappy and controversial ever since their daughter’s disappearance in May 2007.

The search has been overseen by the millionaire business Brian Kennedy, 49, who set up Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned, which aimed ‘to procure that Madeleine’s abduction is thoroughly investigated’. A straight-talking, tough, burly self-made entrepreneur and rugby fanatic, he grew up in a council flat near Tynecastle in Scotland and was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness. He started his working life as a window cleaner and by 2007 had acquired a £350 million fortune from double-glazing and home-improvement ventures. Kennedy was outraged by the police insinuations against the McCanns and, though a stranger, worked tirelessly on their behalf. ‘His motivation was sincere,’ said someone who worked closely with him. ‘He was appalled by the Portuguese police, but he also had visions of flying in by helicopter to rescue Madeleine.’

Kennedy commissioned private detectives to conduct an investigation parallel to the one run by the Portuguese police. But his choice showed how dangerous it is when powerful and wealthy businessmen try to play detective. In September 2007, he hired Metodo 3, an agency based in Barcelona, on a six-month contract and paid it an estimated £50,000 a month. Metodo 3 was hired because of Spain’s ‘language and cultural connection’ with Portugal. ‘If we’d had big-booted Brits or, heaven forbid, Americans, we would have had doors slammed in our faces’ said Clarence Mitchell, spokesperson for the McCann’s at the time. ‘And it’s quite likely that we could have been charged with hindering the investigation as technically it’s illegal in Portugal to undertake a secondary investigation.

The agency had 35 investigators working on the case in Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. A hotline was set up for the public to report sightings and suspicions, and the search focussed on Morocco. But the investigation was dogged by over-confidence and braggadocio. ‘We know who took Madeleine and hope she will be home by Christmas,’ boasted Metodo 3’s flamboyant boss Francisco Marco. But no Madeleine materialised and their contract was not renewed.

Until now, few details have emerged about the private investigation during those crucial early months, but an investigation by ES shows that key mistakes were made, which in turn made later enquiries far more challenging.

ES has spoken to several sources close to the private investigations that took place in the first year and discovered that:

* The involvement of Brian Kennedy and his son Patrick in the operation was counter-productive, notably when they were questioned by the local police for acting suspiciously while attempting a 24-hour ‘stake out’.
* The relationship between Metodo 3 and the Portuguese police had completely broken down.
* Key witnesses were questioned far too aggressively, so much so that some of them later refused to talk to the police.
* Many of the investigators had little experience of the required painstaking forensic detective work.

By April 2008, nearing the first anniversary of the disappearance, Kennedy and the McCanns were desperate. And so when Henri Exton, a former undercover police officer who worked on M15 operations, and Kevin Halligen, a smooth-talking Irishman who claimed to have worked for covert British government intelligence agency GCHQ, walked through the door, their timing was perfect. Their sales pitch was classic James Bond spook-talk: everything had to be ‘top secret’ and ‘on a need to know basis’. The operation would involve 24-hour alert systems, undercover units, satellite imagery and round-the-clock surveillance teams that would fly in at short notice. This sounded very exiting but, as one source close to the investigation told ES, it was also very expensive and ultimately unsuccessful. ‘The real job at hand was old-fashioned, tedious, forensic police work rather than these boy’s own, glory boy antic,’ he said.

But Kennedy was impressed by the license-to-spy presentation and Exton and Halligen were hire for a fee of £100,000 per month plus expenses. Ostensibly, the contract was with Halligen’s UK security company, Red Defence International Ltd, and an office was set up in Jermyn Street, in St James’s. Only a tiny group of employees did the painstaking investigative work of dealing with thousands of emails and phone calls. Instead, resources were channelled into undercover operations in paedophile rings and among gypsies throughout Europe, encouraged by Kennedy. A five-man surveillance team was dispatched in Portugal, overseen by the experienced Exton, for six weeks.

Born in Belgium in 1951, Exton had been a highly effective undercover officer for the Manchester police. A maverick and dynamic figure, he successfully infiltrated gangs of football hooligans in the 1980’s. While not popular among his colleagues, in 1991 he was seconded to work on MI5 undercover operations against drug dealers, gangsters and terrorists, and was later awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for ‘outstanding bravery’. By all accounts, the charismatic Exton was a dedicated officer. But in November 2002, the stress appeared to have overcome his judgement when he was arrested for shoplifting.

While working on an MI5 surveillance, Exton was caught leaving a tax-free shopping area at Manchester airport with a bottle of perfume he had not paid for. The police were called and he was given the option of the offence being dealt with under caution or to face prosecution. He chose a police caution and so in effect admitted his guilt. Exton was sacked, but was furious about the way he had been treated and threatened to sue MI5. He later set up his own consulting company and moved to Bury in Lancashire.

While Exton, however flawed, was the genuine article as an investigator, Halligen was a very different character. Born in Dublin in 1961, he has been described as a ‘Walter Mitty figure’. He used false names to collect prospective clients at airports in order to preserve secrecy, and he called himself ‘Kevin’ or ‘Richard’ or ‘Patrick’ at different times to describe himself to business contacts. There appears to be no reason for all this subterfuge except that he thought this was what agents did. A conspiracy theorist and lover of the secret world, he is obsessed by surveillance gadgets and even installed a covert camera to spy on his own employees. He claimed to have worked for GCHQ, but in fact he was employed by the Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) as head of defence systems in the rather less glamorous field of new information technology, researching the use of ‘special batteries’. He told former colleagues and potential girlfriends that he used to work for MI5, MI6 and the CIA. He also claimed that he was nearly kidnapped by the IRA, was involved in the first Gulf War and had been a freefall parachutist.

Very little of this is true. What is true is that Halligen has a degree in electronics, worked on the fringes of the intelligence community while at AEA and does understand government communications. He could also be an astonishingly persuasive, engaging and charming individual. Strikingly self-confident and articulate, he could be generous and clubbable. ‘He was very good company but only when it suited him’ says one friend. He kept people in compartments.’

After leaving the AEA, Halligen set up Red Defence International Ltd as an international security and political risk company, advising clients on the risks involved in investing and doing business in unstable, war-torn and corrupt countries. He worked closely with political risk companies and was a persuasive advocate of IT security. In 2006, he struck gold when hired by Trafigura, the Dutch commodities trading company. Executives were imprisoned in the Ivory Coast after toxic waste was dumped in landfills near its biggest city Abidjan. Trafigura was blamed and hired Red Defence International at vast expense to help with the negotiations to release its executives. A Falcon business jet was rented for several months during the operation and it was Halligen’s first taste of the good life. The case only ended when Trafigura paid $197 million to the government of the Ivory Coast to secure the release of the prisoners.

Halligen made a fortune from Trafigura and was suddenly flying everywhere first-class, staying at the Lansborough and Stafford hotels in London and The Willard hotel in Washington DC for months at a time. In 2007 he set up Oakley International Group and registered at the offices of the prestigious law firm Patton Boggs, in Washington DC, as an international security company. He was now strutting the stage as a self-proclaimed international spy expert and joined the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge, where he met Exton.

During the Madeleine investigation, Halligen spent vast amounts of time in the HeyJo bar in the basement of the Abracadabra Club near his Jermyn Street office. Armed with a clutch of unregistered mobile phones and a Blackberry, the bar was in effect his office. ‘He was there virtually the whole day,’ a former colleague told ES. ‘He had an amazing tolerance for alcohol and a prodigious memory and so occasionally he would have amazing bursts of intelligence, lucidity and insights. They were very rare but they did happen.’

When not imbibing in St James’s, Halligen was in the United States, trying to drum up investors for Oakley International. On 15 August 2008, at the height of the McCann investigation crisis, he persuaded Andre Hollis, a former US Drug enforcement agency official, to write out an $80.000 cheque to Oakley in return for a ten per cent share-holding. The money was then transferred into the private accounts of Halligen and his girlfriend Shirin Trachiotis to finance a holiday in Italy, according to Hollis. In a $6 million lawsuit filed in Fairfax County, Virginia, Hollis alleges that Halligen ‘received monies for Oakley’s services rendered and deposited the same into his personal accounts’ and ‘repeatedly and systematically depleted funds from Oakley’s bank accounts for inappropriate personal expenses’.

Hollis was not the only victim. Mark Aspinall, a respected lawyer who worked closely with Halligen, invested £500,000 in Oakley and lost the lot. Earlier this year he filed a lawsuit in Washington DC against Halligen claiming $1.4 million in damages. The finances of Oakley International are in chaos and numerous employees, specialist consultants and contractors have not been paid. Some of them now face financial ruin.

Meanwhile, Exton was running the surveillance teams in Portugal and often paying his operatives upfront, so would occasionally be out-of-pocket because Halligen had not transferred funds. Exton genuinely believed that progress was being made and substantial and credible reports on child trafficking were submitted. But by mid-August 2008, Kennedy and Gerry McCann were increasingly concerned by an absence of details of how the money was being spent. At one meeting, Halligen was asked how many men constituted a surveillance team and he produced a piece of paper on which he wrote ‘between one and ten’. But he then refused to say how many were working and how much they were being paid.

While Kennedy and Gerry McCann accepted that the mission was extremely difficult and some secrecy was necessary, Halligen was charging very high rates and expenses. And eyebrows were raised when all the money was paid to Oakley International, solely owned and managed by Halligen. One invoice, seen by ES, shows that for ‘accrued expenses to May 5, 2008’ (just one month into the contract), Oakley charged $74,155. The ‘point of contact’ was Halligen who provided a UK mobile telephone number.

While Kennedy was ready to accept Halligen at face value, Gerry McCann – sharp, focused and intelligent – was more sceptical. The contract with Oakley International and Halligen was terminated by the end of September 2008, after £500,000-plus expenses had been spent.

For the McCanns it was a bitter experience, Exton has returned to Cheshire and, like so many people, is owed money by Halligen. As for Halligen, he has gone into hiding, leaving a trail of debt and numerous former business associates and creditors looking for him. He was last seen in January of this year in Rome, drinking and spending prodigiously at the Hilton Cavalieri and Excelsior hotels. He is now believed by private investigators, who have been searching for him to serve papers on behalf of creditors, to be in the UK and watching his back. Meanwhile, in the eye of the storm, the McCanns continue the search for their lost daughter.

in ES Magazine (London Evening Standard)– Paper edition only, 28 August 2009

*Mark Hollingsworth is best known for his investigations into Mark Thatcher and also MI5. He worked for Granada TV’s ‘World In Action’ programme for five years. He is the author of nine books, notably ‘Thatcher’s Fortunes: The Life and Times of Mark Thatcher’, ‘Defending the Realm: MI5 and International Terrorism’ and ‘Saudi Babylon: Torture, Corruption and Cover-Up Inside the House of Saud’. His new book, ‘Londongrad: From Russia with Cash, The Inside Story of the Oligarchs’, will be published in July 2009. He also contributes regularly to the London Evening Standard and most national newspapers.

Many thanks to the one who send us this article.

by Joana Morais

Read more:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

Law chief: too many people are locked up

Law chief: too many people are locked up

New head of Supreme Court blames Government for overcrowded prisons

"Controversial public protection sentences and inadequate penal funding have combined to drive up the record numbers of people being kept in prisons, the president of the new Supreme Court has warned.

Lord Phillips, who next month leads a panel hearing the first case to go before the court, said under-resourcing was "a very serious problem" facing prisons in England and Wales and he renewed his call for a greater use of community alternatives to jail.

This month the prison population hit a record high of 84,442, despite more than 60,000 inmates benefiting from an early release scheme introduced in June 2007".

More ex-servicemen in jail than soldiers in Afghanistan

More ex-servicemen in jail than soldiers in Afghanistan

Number of military veterans in jail ‘has more than doubled in six years’

The proportion of veterans in the prison population has more than doubled in six years, according to a report published today highlighting the hidden cost of recent military action.

About 12,000 veterans are on probation or parole, representing 6 per cent of the total, while 8,500 are in prison, representing 8.5 per cent of the jail population, according to the report by the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo).

The figures suggest that more ex-servicemen and women are in the criminal justice system of England and Wales than there are troops serving in Afghanistan.

It used to be the case that ex-servicemen would be offered jobs in the Prison Service, Fire Service or Police Service or other security related work. Something has definitely gone wrong if they are now ending up as criminals and prisoners.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Canada's Federal Prison System under attack

Canada's Federal Prison System under attack

OTTAWA — Canada's blueprint for overhauling federal prisons is an amateur and "alarming" document that ignores human rights, gives the false impression that crime is rising, and provides no costs for flawed policies that would flood penitentiaries with more inmates, says a new report.

Servant of Baroness Scotland arrested

Servant of Baroness Scotland arrested

Attorney General Baroness Scotland: illegal immigrant cleaner arrested

Detectives have arrested and questioned Loloahi Tapui-Zivancevic, the former housekeeper of Attorney General Baroness Scotland.

Under vicarious liability an employer is legally responsible for the acts of a servant...


Baroness Scotland braced as housekeeper prepares to sell story

The Tongan housekeeper accused of working illegally for Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, is preparing to sell her story to the media.

Imates drunk on hand gel start brawl at Portland's Verne prison

Hat-Tip for photo Prisoners Families Voices

Imates drunk on hand gel start brawl at Portland's Verne prison

PRISONERS sparked a drunken fight after getting high on alcoholic hand gel meant to combat swine flu.

Inmates at Portland’s Verne Prison have been drinking the gel, say officers.

The allegation follows reports that inmates at the island jail have been taking part in bouts of bare-knuckle boxing for cash.

A source at the prison said the gels were similar to those removed from the entrances Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.

It was claimed that vagrants had been drinking from the dispensers placed at the hospital’s entrances.

Hat-Tip to Charles Cowling for alerting me to this story.

Hat-Tip to Prisoners Families Voices for this photo...


More here...

Prisoners get drunk on swine flu hand gel

Alcohol hand gel meant to combat swine flu has been banned from a prison after inmates started eating it and became embroiled in a drunken brawl.

Dinner lady case 'bully' is school governor's son

Dinner lady case 'bully' is school governor's son

No wonder the school board of governors decided to sack the dinner lady for speaking out about bullying at her school. Especially, now it has emerged that one of the bullies is the son of a school governor! I blame the parents!

McCanns: As simple as 123

McCanns: As simple as 123

It is being claimed in some Mainstream Media outlets that the McCanns return to Portugal was a search for Madeleine. However, the only searching the McCanns did in Portugal was to try and get £1.2m from Gonçalo Amaral and an improved PR image from a Portuguese PR firm. The vast majority of Portuguese are suspicious of the claims by the McCanns that they are innocent in the disappearance of Madeleine.

From the outset the McCanns have sought to control what message goes out to the media, and have insisted that only their version of events is the true version of events. However, several flaws in the McCanns version of events have yet to be explained by the McCanns. Therefore, it is only reasonable that legitimate questions are asked by those other than the McCanns.

For example;

1. What child abduction?

2. Why did you lie about the fake break in?

3. Why did you claim it was safe to leave 3 children under 4 years of age unsupervised when nobody else in the world believes it was safe?

Control Orders in tatters as yet another is revoked

Control Orders in tatters as yet another is revoked

Government forced to revoke second control order against terror suspect

Policy of using virtual house arrest under fire once more as home secretary refuses to reveal 'secret' evidence against imam

"The government's controversial regime of using virtual house arrest against terror suspects has suffered a fresh blow with a decision by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, to revoke a second control order rather than disclose the "secret" evidence in the case.

Johnson has written to the lawyers of a former imam to the Iraqi community in Britain, known for legal reasons only as AE, telling them that he made the decision after considering the impact of a law lords ruling in June that he was obliged to disclose the detail of the allegations against him".

Sea eagles could be released in England

Sea eagles could be released in England

Suffolk has been chosen by conservationists as the best place for sea eagles to be reintroduced to England, causing concern among landowners and farmers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Madeleine speaks from the grave

Madeleine speaks from the grave

She says she is not a happy bunny with mummy and daddy...

Carter Ruck Libel Lawyers

Pope forgets he is no longer in Hitler's Nazi Youth

Pope forgets he is no longer in Hitler's Nazi Youth

Related content...

WTF! Boy, 9, 'accused of racism for German army remarks while playing soldiers’ I would argue that the school is authoritarian just like the Nazi regime! I hope the kid takes the school to the European Court of Human Rights...

Clegg and Tory blue picture paints a thousand words

Clegg and Tory blue picture paints a thousand words

Nick Clegg sings I did it the Tory Way

Cokehead Dave

Say no to broadband tax

Say no to broadband tax

We already have too many taxes in this country, and too many people like Lord Ashcroft being a tax dodger and yet benefitting from loopholes allowing the rich to get richer.

This will start off at £6 per year like the TV Licence Fee, and then be raised on a regular basis until that also reaches about £150 per year. In my view, the government should take the £6 per year from the existing TV Licence fee.

This talk about super fast broadband is nonsense, my YouTube is forever stopping and starting whilst it buffers.

Besides, this is another corrupt offering from the corrupt Lord Carter of privatising prison fame and supporter of Titan Prisons. He should be in jail himself!

Speaking of which Mr Timms said that the tax should be made law in the next few months. What about the prisoners votes being made law this has been waiting 5 years now?

Dead inmate's 'appalling' ordeal

Dead inmate's 'appalling' ordeal

The treatment of a Ukrainian man who died while on suicide watch in jail was "appalling and at times unacceptable", a coroner has said.

"Aleksey Baranovsky, 33, died while on suicide watch at HMP Rye Hill, Warwickshire, in June 2006.

He had been eligible for parole but was due to be deported upon his release and had been self-harming in protest.

A jury found there were serious failures and inadequacies that contributed to the death.

Assistant deputy coroner for Northamptonshire Tom Osbourne made his comments as the jury returned its verdict".

McCanns return to the scene of the crime

McCanns return to the scene of the crime

The parents of missing toddler Madeleine McCann have returned to Portugal for the first time in over two years, their spokesman has confirmed.

The McCanns plan to hold a press conference later today.

Why are the Mainstream Media going to flock to hear what a child killer and her partner who disposed of Madeleine's body have got to say? It is unlikely that the McCanns are going to make a public confession. Rather, I suspect that they will be seeking to damage limitation The Truth of the Lies which exposesed them for what they are.

I don't suppose any of the MSM have got the guts to ask the McCanns "What child abduction?", and "Why did you lie about the fake break in?", and "Why did you think it was safe to leave 3 children under 4 years of age unsupervised whilst you went out binge drinking, when not a single authority supports your view that it was safe?".

Court caught bullying attempting to protect companies which bully

Court caught bullying attempting to protect companies which bully

Sorry, we can't tell you. And we can't tell you that we can't

A Kafkaesque form of media gagging order is becoming a troublingly frequent weapon in the legal battlefield

Shame upon judge twice arrested for drink driving

Shame upon judge twice arrested for drink driving

A Crown Court judge charged with drink driving resigned today after being arrested for the second time.

His Honour Bruce Macmillan, 63, was held in Toxteth, Liverpool, on Thursday last week for allegedly being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle.

The judge, who sits at Liverpool's Crown Court, was already due to appear before magistrates charged with drink driving.

He was first arrested on August 27 after police spotted him driving erratically in his Vauxhall Signum on the M6 in Lancashire.

The Ministry of Justice said today he had resigned as a circuit judge with immediate effect.

By stepping down he loses his £128,000-a-year salary, but avoids the shame of being disrobed by the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor.

I suppose he will keep his big fat pension? He should be throughly ashamed of himself. I can sympathise with somebody having a drink problem, but no sympathy for anyone who endangers others by drink driving. I cannot think of any excuses. He is rich enough to afford a taxi or private hire car.

Prisoner’s blog rattles Ministry of Justice

Prisoner’s blog rattles Ministry of Justice

Shepton Mallet prisoner Ben Gunn’s blog has got the Ministry of (In)Justice all in a tizzy, and his blog is only 23 days old.

"Note to right-wing hang em and flog em crackpots – yes we know Ben Gunn is a murderer, he admits it himself quite openly, that he committed an awful crime when he was 14 years old. He has now been inside for 30 years, on a sentence with an original 10 year tariff, largely because he has stood up for himself against the powers that be".

More here...

They're trying to shut down Ben's Blog

And here...

This latest post by Ben is a blinder. Even if by putting the cat among the pidgeons it is bound to ruffle a few feathers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Memo to the Ministry of Justice

Memo to the Ministry of Justice


From: Jailhouselawyer

To: Ministry of Justice press office

Re: Prisoner bloggers

Please study the images below and see if you can tell the difference?


I would like to take this opportunity to point out that there is a discrepancy between this version as understood by Prisoner Ben, the Governor of H.M. Prison Shepton Mallet, and Director General of NOMS, Phil Wheatley, and indeed the Treasury Solicitor:

"As you may recall last Wednesday I told you that I had spoken to the policy lead who had given the Head of Operations here the original policy line on your use of a blog which has resulted in the Head of Performance stopping this letter after discussing it with me. On the advice we had at the time from the policy lead that was the appropriate action. I have since spoken at length with the policy leads on both PSO 4411 and 4470. I am now advised that their original advice is withdrawn and you may send material out for your blog".

And your version by Peter Huntingford sent to Viking FM:

A Prison Service spokesperson said:

"Prisoners cannot personally contribute to websites. They are not allowed to access the internet, except in exceptional circumstances and under strict supervision.

"We are unable to prevent third parties from publishing information on other people's behalf , but prison rules state that a prisoner may not ask another person to make a communication on their behalf which they would not be allowed to make themselves.

"It is a criminal offence to bring a mobile phone into prison. We are committed to enforcing this, and to finding and disrupting any phones which are smuggled in. The seizures we make demonstrate our commitment, as well as the effectiveness of prison security and intelligence work.

"We have a range of new technology to bolster prisons' ability to find mobile phones and SIM cards, including body scanning chairs, in line with the recommendations of the Blakey report.

"In addition, the Government has strengthened the law around this, meaning that someone convicted of bringing in a mobile phone or its components to a prison now faces up to two years in jail."

In the light of these mixed messages emanating from the same department, is it possible that you just stick to one version?

UPDATE: @ 16.56

Please see below clarification, further to our discussion this morning.

Many thanks


A Prison Service spokesperson said:

"Prisoners cannot personally contribute to websites. They are not allowed to access the internet, except in exceptional circumstances and under strict supervision.

"We are unable to prevent third parties from publishing information on other people's behalf."

Erm...? I thought the whole point of clarification was to make things clearer? Shortening the original message does not address the issue of mixed messages.

Marks out of 10/0. Could do a lot better...

A tale of survival

A tale of survival

Car crash victim survives five-day ordeal by drinking water from her hair

The remarkable tale of human endurance began on the evening of 10 September, when Hoover swerved to avoid a herd of deer on a road high in the mountains. Her car ran off the road and plunged down the hillside, landing on its top.

Suffering from a dozen broken ribs, fractured vertebrae, a punctured lung and severely bruised face, Hoover escaped from the car. It was then that she discovered she was more than 350ft from the road, in a spot where her vehicle could not be seen by passing cars.

Monday, September 21, 2009

School bullies dinner lady for speaking out about bullying

School bullies dinner lady for speaking out about bullying

A dinner lady who told a parent his seven-year-old daughter had been attacked at school in Essex has lost her job after a disciplinary hearing.

"The school said it would not comment on the detail of the hearing but reiterated their priority is to provide the "best possible education" for its pupils".

How does keeping quiet about bullying provide the best possible education? I would have thought that this is an example of the worst possible education.

Turn up for the books

Turn up for the books

Well, I turned up for court by 9.30am. Had a conference with my barrister Duncan Heath. We had a bit of a fight over my instructions to introduce the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Mental Health Act 1985. I asked him to bring out my past, because it is relevant to how both the park rangers and police have treated me. Also to refer to my Aspergers Syndrome. He said that the judge would say that it is not relevant. I explained it was relevant and why. He then checked Archbold's and said that because of my condition that there was a defence of being reasonable to say "fuck off" in the circumstances. The penny had dropped.

The prosecutor wanted to try both the public order offence, and the civil offence of being in control of a dangerous dog within one trial. We would not allow this.

My barrister and the Crown lawyer went and had a chat in chambers with District Judge Rutherford. The judge said that he thought most of this would not have happened if the dog was on a lead. He added that he did not want to make a destruction order, if the case was found to be proved. Nor did he favour a muzzle and lead. He suggested that the Crown lawyer contact the CPS to see if they were willing to accept a bind over to keep the peace, and a Consent Order to keep the dog on a lead in a public place. He also was made aware of the Aspergers Syndrome, and how it afforded a defence.

I told my barrister I was not happy with either. However if the Section 5 Public Order Offence was dropped, and the civil matter also dropped then I would agree. The judge asked if I was taking any medication. I replied "eye drops for my glaucoma and ointment for my piles". Had he not burst out laughing and saying "thank you for that", I would have added that there is no treatment for Aspergers Syndrome. So we walked out of court yet again.

As Rocky and I walked through the park, I stooped to pick up a fallen conker. Rocky likes me to throw them and he run after them and crush them. He sat expectantly wagging his tail. I said "Poor old Rocky, you cannot chase conkers anymore".

Rocky One

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blogging going to be light or non existent

Blogging going to be light or non existent

I am in the magistrates court on Monday and Tuesday in relation to a public order offence and being in charge of a dangerous dog.

In addition, I have a couple of articles to write. They are past their deadlines and I must crack on.

Britain brought to its knees by 3 year old criminal

Britain brought to its knees by 3 year old criminal

Britain's youngest known crime suspect – aged three

A three-year-old boy has become the youngest known suspect in a British criminal inquiry after he was investigated by police over alleged disorder and vandalism.

Were it not for coming back from a walk with Rocky yesterday, and seeing a little bastard swinging Tarzan-like on the bar going across the top of my gate posts, and the broken coping stone from the wall lying on my path I would have pooh poohed this story.

The annoying thing is that the council has recently created a children's adventure playground only 100 yards away, but will the little bastards play on it no!

The final nail in Mark Leech's coffin

The final nail in Mark Leech's coffin

"Coming very soon….. Inside Information, the comprehensive guidebook for prisons and prison related services

The book is free to prison libraries and the advertising is free to our newspaper advertisers".

Inside Information is published by Inside Time - The National Newspaper for Prisoners.

On the other hand, previously prison libraries had to pay £80 plus. And the advertisers paid.

Mark Leech is the editor and publisher of the PRISONS HANDBOOK 2009 £79.99 + p&p

Mark Leech had his chance to be a prison reformer, instead he chose to make a profit out of prisoners.

I wish Inside Time well in its new venture.

And, Mark Leech you are the weakest link. Good bye!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Butter fingers...

Butter fingers...

This morning as I got the 2kg Summer County magarine tub out of the fridge it slipped through my fingers and landed on the floor upside down...

Inmates 'take £1m worth of drugs'

Inmates 'take £1m worth of drugs'

The drugs problem in Britain's largest prison is at its worst ever, according to a new report.

The Independent Monitoring Board said illegal drugs with a street value of about £1m were used at south-west London's Wandsworth Prison each year.

It blamed corrupt staff, volunteers and contractors for smuggling it in.

If prisoners were allowed mobile phones, and punishments for possession of cannabis much reduced then these problems would not be such a big issue.

Courts hit by jail diarrhoea bug

An outbreak of sickness and diarrhoea at Wandsworth prison has led to severe disruption to court cases in London.

Some 370 inmates and "a small number of prison officers" have been laid low by the bug, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed.

MoJ in no comment why it's breaking the law

MoJ in no comment why it's breaking the law

Wacko Jacko

I am a part of the new media. Yesterday, I phoned the MoJ press office for a comment as to why they are breaking the law in relation to Ben's Prison Blog.

"No comment".

It really is just not good enough. I voted Labour at the last General Election. My vote was counted then, and it counts now. Was the press office left out of the loop or, if briefed is so far behind in mentality not to realise the power of the new media? Behind the scenes something went on. This comes from the top. And the bottom.

Later today Ben has an article on Comment is Free on the Guardian online.

And there's other news. The new media is 24/7, whilst the MSM sleeps then rubs the sleep out of the eyes and belatedly sees the story under their noses from the very beginning!

Watch this space...

Photo: Hat-Tip to Prisoners Families Voices

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Besides these bars I can still talk. Listen

Besides these bars I can still talk. Listen

Continue the debate in England on the rights of detainees, particularly on-the-one-in law to keep a blog. The Guardian online "without talking directly to one another. He does so by publishing a post, what he long ago predicted perspective might even be his last chance to speak on the network

There's something stronger than the walls of a cell. Is there anything more dangerous and more socially useful to the guards that guard the bars. Thought. To those who live there Blog inside. One can not always put a bolt. It happens that it is stories in the pages of a blog without the blackmail of the "convenient" to complain sometimes that of those outside, believed to be free. This is scary, or simply undermines the prejudices of the masses. Requires reflections, raises the exchange of perspectives. In England it is developing a debate about the rights of prisoners, especially against the opportunity that is still allowed them to keep a blog. So far it is possible, while respecting certain rules, but it is not to be so in the future. The Guardian online yesterday published the post by Ben Gunn, author of the site "prisonerben" 30 years in prison for killing his friend when he was only 14.

Italian to English more here.

Free Ben's Prison Blog From Being Silenced

"According to the most recent post at Ben’s Prison Blog, the Ministry of Justice and Prison Service of United Kingdom is trying to silence Ben Gunn’s blog, the only one being updated in Britain by serving British prisoner.

In “My Last Post?” Gunn writes that “In 2008, the justice minister, Maria Eagle, told MP Sion Simon that prisoners could blog, subject to the rules of correspondence. Yet despite my complying with the law and ministerial pronouncements, the prison service is now reverting to its old habits – attempting to squash the vocal dissenter.”

Gunn, whose situation was recently noticed by the Guardian, has served 30 years of a prison sentenced for a murder he committed at the age of 14.

John Hirst points out correctly that “The MoJ has clearly failed to take into account the human right to freedom of expression guaranteed under article 10 of the European convention, and prisoners’ rights to contact the media “on matters of legitimate public interest“.

The MoJ’s leading argument is that it “has no clear ruling” on blogs. It doesn’t need one. The rights of free expression do not require specific forms of technology. They are out of line. It is that simple".

Prison Blogger Under Fire

"Longterm British prisoner Ben Gunn started sharing thoughts and criticism of the prison system on a blog in August. It's been just one month and he's already getting shut down.

Her Majesty's Prison Service apparently told Gunn that he can't post because prisoners "may not ask, in writing or otherwise, another person to make on his behalf a communication which he would not be allowed to make direct." Therefore, since prisoners are not allowed access to the internet, he can't ask someone else to post articles on his behalf.

This is absurd. Not only is the logic tortured, but this move to stifle open communication is flat out wrong. Gunn has been critical of HM Prison Service, but he should have the right to speak his mind. The web creates possibilities for the voiceless to be heard, and we shouldn't stand by and allow this threat to speech.

Michael Santos has written here regularly from a U.S. federal prison, and we're grateful that he has been able to speak his mind from his cell. He contributes to the dialogue around prison reform, he does it peacefully and nobody should stand in the way of that. (He's taking a break from posting right now to focus on other priorities, but expects to be back soon)

Blogger Jailhouselawyer has been following this controversy closely in the U.K. and corresponding with Gunn. Pete Brook at Prison Photography wrote about the value of prison blogs:

My question “How do we feel about Prison Bloggers?” is largely rhetorical. How we feel about them makes no impingement on their lawful right to write and publish from prison.Let’s be absolutely clear here. Gunn is breaking NO LAW.

The only law that may pertain is that Gunn may receive no compensation for his writing while a ward of the prison service. But this was never the issue at stake. Gunn’s free speech was deliberately quashed by the administration of a system that stood to face criticism through his words.

A while back I wrote 'Let Our Inmates Blog' - not just advocating for prisoners to be allowed to send handwritten post to friends on the outside, but to allow access to the internet inside prison. Until correctional systems start training prisoners in modern technology, we will continue releasing people without job skills. And until prisoners are allowed to express themselves and publish online, we'll have a silenced prison population unable to play a role in reforming the system.

Let Ben Gunn blog".

Photo by timsamoff

More on Ben...

Ben's Blog: Prisoner reform and the internet From Left Outside

And there's Ben left inside.

WTF is the World Cup final doing going to South Africa where the police have a shoot to kill policy of suspects?

WTF is the World Cup final doing going to South Africa where the police have a shoot to kill policy of suspects?

South African police plan 'shoot to kill' policy ahead of 2010 World Cup

Police in South Africa are planning a zero tolerance policy which could include issuing orders to 'shoot to kill' suspected criminals in time for the World Cup finals next year.

The new police commissioner in one of the world's most crime-ridden countries is pushing for a return to the apartheid-era policy which would allow his officers to shoot criminals in the back.

Bheki Cele, who has won support for his plan from the government, said the poice should be allowed to open fire without fear of "what happens after that".

Bald eagles captured fighting for fish mid-air

Bald eagles captured fighting for fish mid-air

The moment three hungry bald eagles locked talons in a vicious mid-air battle for a fish has been captured on camera.

The Interesting Mr Ben

The Interesting Mr Ben

According to the Ministry of Justice, bloggers are not the media they are just ordinary members of the public. Therefore, when I rang the MoJ press office for a comment in relation to why the MoJ attempted to censor Ben's Prison Blog all I received was "No comment".

This is not good enough. According to Guido Fawkes: "It is a fundamental rule of politics that law makers can not be law breakers – particularly when they are the highest law officer in the land". I agree with him. However, does he blog this story? No. You would think that an important issue like denial of freedom of speech would be right up his street. Apparently not. He makes boasts on Newsnight about making stories that others follow. It is pure bullshit. Micheal White proved that.

So, what we have here is no comment from the MoJ and no comment from the so-called number one political blogger!

I think it is important that the MoJ, at least, is forced to make a comment.

The Governor and some Prison Officers at H.M.P. Shepton Mallet stopped Ben Gunn from sending out a letter, containing 4 articles for publication on Ben's Prison Blog. The letter was placed in Ben's stored property to be given back to him upon release from prison. These 4 articles have found their way into my hands. And, it is my intention to see that they are published and see the light of day.

World's tallest man dwarfs Tower Bridge

World's tallest man dwarfs Tower Bridge

Wednesday, September 16, 2009