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Friday, April 30, 2010

Wild Wonders of Europe

Wild Wonders of Europe

Click photo to enlarge
A bee-eater (Merops apiaster) tossing a bumble bee in Hungary. The bee-eater is a specialist in bumble bees, wasps, bees and other larger flying insects. One of Europe's most colourful and exotic-looking birds, the bee-eater lives in colonies in sand banks. That is why this species has benefited from human construction and roadbuilding, where gravel pits and excavation sites provide many more artificial sandbanks than untouched nature. On the other hand, widespread pesticide use in farming reduces the numbers of large insects that the bee-eater needs to survive. Sometimes they are persecuted by bee-keepers, who are not so enthusiastic about their choice of diet
Picture: Markus Varesvuo/Wild Wonders of Europe

The 4,478 m Matterhorn mirrored in the Riffel Lake at Zermatt. Climate change is enabling lower-altitude species conquer higher and higher ground, out-competing the high altitude species, many of which have their last refuges high up in the mountains of Central and Eastern Europe
Picture: Verena Popp Hackner/Wild Wonders of Europe

A white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) catching a mackerel in Flatanger, Norway. The Sea Eagle is another real comeback species in Europe. Persecuted for centuries and finally almost lost to chemical pollutants in the 1970s, it is quickly reclaiming most of its former territories across Europe. Germany hosted 530 pairs in 2009, Sweden 600, Finland 300 and Norway an estimated 4,000 pairs. It was re-introduced to Scotland in 1975 and by 2009 the UK had about 50 pairs
Picture: Staffan Widstrand/Wild Wonders of Europe

I apologise to the Daily Telegraph for having got around their blocker preventing the lifting of these photos from their site.

See the other fascinating photos here.

Russian Bear speaks to Europe

Russian Bear speaks to Europe

Address by


Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Eastern Airways discriminates against disabled athlete

Eastern Airways discriminates against disabled athlete

Richie Powell, 39, was booked on a flight to Scotland to take part in a wheelchair race.

But as he tried to board the plane at Bristol airport he was told: "You can only fly if you can walk up the aircraft steps."

Mr Powell has not walked since he broke his back in a motorcycle accident when he was 18.

Maguire Seven: Fighting for freedom from wrongful conviction

Maguire Seven: Fighting for freedom from wrongful conviction

Patrick Maguire has struggled to deal with adult life after he was arrested for terrorist offences aged 13.

Patrick is 48 and a grandfather. Beneath the grey hair, he has the air of an oversized child. He is powerfully built and hardened by years of brutality, but he bounces into the room with a puppy-like enthusiasm.

"I loved being a child, the innocence of it all. At 13 I was very much a little kid. I didn't even learn to tell the time til I was sat in the Old Bailey."

Patrick grew up in north-west London, the son of parents Paddy and Anne, childhood sweethearts from Belfast.

Anne Maguire's nephew, Gerry Conlon, had been wrongly accused of carrying out the 1974 IRA bombing of a pub in Guildford that left five people dead. He and three others, who became known as the Guildford Four, were later imprisoned in one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in English legal history.

The four were all convicted on the basis of false confessions extracted after physical abuse and threats by Surrey police while detained under anti-terrorism laws. Among the coerced confessions was the assertion that the Maguire household was a bomb factory.

Police found no evidence of bomb-making, but they took swabs from under the fingernails of the family. Using later discredited forensic tests they said the family had handled the explosive nitroglycerine.

Seven people were jailed: Patrick, by then aged 14; his brother Vincent, 17; both their parents; Anne Maguire's brother William Smyth; her brother in law Guiseppe Conlon (Gerry's father) and a family friend, Patrick O'Neill. Patrick and Vincent were given sentences of four and five years respectively; their parents 14 years; their uncles and Patrick O'Neill 12 years.

The Maguire Seven all served their sentences apart from Guiseppe Conlon, who died in prison in 1980. In 1991 the Court of Appeal quashed their convictions after it ruled the evidence was unsafe.

When Patrick was arrested, a policeman turned to him and whispered: "By the time you get out of prison, you'll be an old man. And you'll not see your mum and dad again."

"That was the moment my childhood ended," Patrick says.

He was told over and over that he was guilty and that it would be better if he just admitted it. He was bewildered and barely understood the charges against him.

After his arrest he was out on bail for over a year, while his parents were remanded in custody until the trial. During this time, presumed to be guilty, he was under the constant attention of the police.

"If they beat me up three times a week, I considered it a good week.

"I was getting told: '---- off back to Belfast, you IRA bastard.' But I'm from here. I've lived all my life in London."

Patrick served most of his time in adult prisons, a frightened boy locked up with dangerous men. But he proved remarkably resilient, refusing to bow to the system.

"When my parole came up they gave me a form and told me to write down that I was sorry and I wouldn't do it again.

"'But I haven't done anything', I told them. 'And I'm not going to say I have just to get out of here quicker.'"

So he served his full sentence. And that's when his resolve started to break.

"I wish I was guilty, it would've been a lot ----ing easier. If you're guilty you deal with it and move on.

"The worst sentence I got was when I was released," he says. "In prison, you know where you are."

He was still pursued by the police, who were angry he hadn't got a longer sentence. He tried to bury the seething anger and resentment and get on with his life. But he kept getting in trouble for things he hadn't done, and increasingly for things he had done.

"[The police] slaughtered me, to the point where I was so messed up that I became a bank robber - a getaway driver. I had access to guns, and every time I passed that police station I wanted to go in and shoot them all."

He managed to resist the killing spree but over the years became increasingly isolated from those around him and reliant on drink and drugs.

"I just couldn't take it any more so I just hit the cocaine. Used to take it with brandy. Just tore the arse out of it. One morning I woke up - line of coke, brandy, and I just hit the floor.

"I ended up in the Priory. They told me I had about a month to live."

In the six months he spent in rehab, the frustration surged out of him in a way he had never expected. Hidden away in his room he began furiously drawing sketch after sketch as ideas tumbled onto the page. He would do the charcoal drawings so quickly that he wouldn't think what they were about, he just felt he had to get them onto paper.

Now, six years since Patrick left the Priory, he describes himself as an artist. He has produced critically acclaimed work and has sold a number of pieces, some for charity to help other victims of miscarriages of justice. He is currently supporting Sam Hallam, a Londoner whose murder sentence is under review after several witnesses put him elsewhere at the time of the crime.

He has also written a book, My Father's Watch, named after the gift handed over as he was taken away to prison. He found a great outlet for his emotions in this wonderfully frank and tenderly told story of a lost childhood.

But he is still having therapy and taking a lot of prescription drugs to cope with the flashbacks and the panic attacks. During our interview, he has to leave the room several times to sit and alone before he can come back out and face talking to me.

"It's taken me a long time to be able to control this," he says. "Living with that prison madness all around in Brixton and the Scrubs doesn't just go away. I'll be on the medication for the rest of my life."

* The Miscarriages of Justice Organisation

Prison officers vote to reject pay deal

Prison officers vote to reject pay deal

The Prison Officers' Association has voted to recommend to its members a rejection of the public sector pay and reform agreement.

Delegates at the association's annual conference in Killarney, this afternoon voted against accepting the agreement by 103 votes to 17.

During a four-hour heated debate, many of the delegates said they did not trust the Government.

Paul Staines/ Guido Fawkes commits electoral offence

Paul Staines/ Guido Fawkes commits electoral offence

Police informant Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes, the man with a history of being linked to the National Front and a twice convicted drink driver without insurance, has now committed an electoral offence.

I hope the police now investigate his activity!

It is illegal to reveal the votes cast before the end of polling day because it may influence the outcome of the election.

She said the returning officer had advised her that it would not be lawful for anyone else to publish the information, for example by re-posting her tweet.

Paul Staines/Guido Fawkes republishes electoral result here.

Confessions of a Colombian drug assassin

Confessions of a Colombian drug assassin

'Gustavo' is 26, supports Wigan Athletic and one day hopes to become a police detective. He also earns £350 a month performing contract kills for the Colombian mafia

Gustavo, a Colombian assassin, spends his spare time watching Premier League football Photo: Oliver Schmieg

In a sparsely furnished but tidy flat in a pleasant, middle-class neighbourhood in the city of Medellin, Colombia, a 24 year-old called Gustavo is telling me how he likes to spend his hard-won earnings.

Along with designer clothes and hi-tech Japanese motorbikes, he is a big fan of English Premiership football and he subscribes to cable television to watch all the matches he can.

‘I support Wigan because they have Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega,’ he says. ‘I appreciate that Manchester United play good football too. But I don’t like Arsenal.’

His dream job, he adds, would be ‘to be a police detective investigating murders’.

This last ambition could prove tricky. For when Gustavo isn’t dancing to salsa music – or politely offering his guests drinks – he is a paid assassin for one of Colombia’s most notorious cocaine traffickers.

In his homeland, he is known as a sicario – or a drug cartel hit man.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Televised Debate (Round 3)

Televised Debate (Round 3)

I had Nick Clegg a clear winner early on in the debate, and saw nothing which followed to make me change my mind.

So, 2 out of 3 ain't bad...

Growing 'gang culture' in prisons

Growing 'gang culture' in prisons

CONOR LALLY Crime Correspondent in Killarney

Gang culture in prisons is growing at a faster rate than at any time in the past decade with over 1,000 inmates now being held in segregation to keep rival gang members apart, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has said.

The gang culture has become so acute it has spread into St Patrick’s Institution for juveniles in Dublin. A new prison specifically for gang members was badly needed.

The POA also wants the introduction of mace spray so that officers can deal more effectively with the growing “vicious” gang violence.

POA president Jim Mitchell said not only is the prisons gang problem spreading, but individual gang members are now more violent than ever.

The need to keep inmates safe and minimise conflict between gang rivals meant over 1,000 of the 4,000 plus prison population were now in protective segregation, Mr Mitchell said at the POA annual conference in Killarney, Co Kerry.

“(They are in protection) out of fear, because they owe money to gangs or because they are part of the wrong gang,” Mr Mitchell said.

The prison environment had also become a “proving ground” for criminals, where their ability to “protect their drugs patch” was honed and tested.

He believed more prison officers were needed to cope with the gang violence and said overcrowding could be alleviated if fewer fine defaulters were jailed.

Many people sent to prison for fine defaulting were being processed into the system and then released immediately because there was no room for them in the jails.

The processing of such inmates was taking up a huge amount of staff time at a time when staff numbers were being reduced.

Fine Gael’s justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan today claimed the prison system was on the verge of collapse and called for the “dangerous and inhumane” overcrowding problem to be addressed.

“There are clear indications from within the prison system that unless decisive action is taken immediately, death and serious injury inside prison walls will be inevitable,” he said.

Jail guard injured in prisoner attack

Jail guard injured in prisoner attack

By Lucy Bogustawski, Press Association

A prison officer was seriously injured after he was attacked by an inmate, it was revealed today.

It is understood the guard at Armley Prison in Leeds was assaulted on Tuesday evening.

He was taken to Leeds General Infirmary, where he is being treated for a head injury.

Police said two men have been arrested in connection with the attack.

West Yorkshire Police said in a statement: "It happened at 5.30pm on April 27.

"Police received a report of an assault on a prison officer at HMP Leeds.

"A 49-year-old man was taken to Leeds General Infirmary where he was treated for his injuries. He is in a stable condition.

"Two men, aged 39 and 25, have been arrested in connection with the incident and remain in police custody."

A spokesman for the Prison Service said: "Violence in prisons is not tolerated in any form.

"Assaults on prison staff are taken very seriously and the incident is now subject to a police investigation."

Election row in Britain over prisoners barred from voting

Election row in Britain over prisoners barred from voting

Posted: 29 April 2010 1054 hrs

HULL, England - "The whole thing stinks". John Hirst, who spent 25 years in jail for an axe killing, says Britain is wrongly denying prisoners a vote in May's general election -- and a top European court agrees.

Hirst is sitting in his dirty, dog hair-strewn house in Hull, northeast England, explaining his disgust at the government's failure to implement a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in a landmark case he brought.

"This isn't a balancing exercise between the victims' rights and the prisoners' right to vote," he told AFP, puffing on a roll-up cigarette.

"It's the individual versus the state, not whether someone has committed an offence and left a victim, or say in my case where I killed someone."

He and other campaigners argue that British politicians -- tainted by a recent scandal over lavish expense claims by members of parliament (MPs) -- do not want to risk losing votes by addressing the sensitive issue.

"It's a bit rich these people turning around and saying prisoners have lost their moral authority when MPs are fiddling the expenses," added Hirst -- who was put behind bars in 1980 for killing his landlady -- with a high cackle.

Around 70,000 sentenced prisoners will be denied the vote in Britain's May 6 general election, despite the ECHR ruling in Hirst's case -- which concluded in 2005 -- that the blanket ban breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Council of Europe voiced "serious concern" in March that the ECHR ruling would not be implemented before the closely-fought poll and "strongly urged" the government to address the situation.

Britain's rights watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has spoken out against the blanket ban, as have several members of Britain's unelected upper chamber the House of Lords.

This month, the former chief inspector of prisons David Ramsbotham said it was a "wholly unnecessary blot" on Britain's image, while Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, a retired senior judge, said the situation was "a disgrace".

The Prison Reform Trust, a charity campaigning against the ban, says Britain is one of only a limited number of European countries including Romania and Estonia which automatically strip sentenced prisoners of the vote.

In other European states like France, the loss of voting rights can be imposed as an additional punishment.

The government insists it is addressing the issue. Following the ECHR ruling, it set up a consultation in 2006 which has now closed.

"It remains the government's view that the right to vote goes to the essence of the offender's relationship with democratic society and the removal of the right to vote in the case of some convicted prisoners can be a proportionate and proper response," said a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice.

He added that officials were now analysing responses to the consultation and that "the issue of voting rights for prisoners is one that the government takes very seriously".

The situation has barely featured in the general election campaign, in which Prime Minister Gordon Brown's ruling Labour is trailing David Cameron's Conservatives and Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats in opinion polls.

But when asked about the issue, the Liberal Democrats said there has been an "unacceptable delay" in the government's response to the Hirst case.

"We would not enfranchise all prisoners but we have proposed giving judges the right to decide whether the person they are sentencing should be denied the right to vote or not," a spokesman said.

The Conservatives went further -- a spokeswoman told AFP they "don't think there's a public appetite for prisoners to get the vote".

They believe that the government misinterpreted the court ruling and want to hold a free vote in parliament to determine whether British prisoners should be allowed to vote or not.

- AFP/ir

Trying to fill in the missing holes of Europe is not easy

Trying to fill in the missing holes of Europe is not easy

Interview with: Jean-Louis Laurens
7 June 2009 - Issue : 837

When Georgia went into its would-be breakaway province of South Ossetia last year, and Russia swiftly counter-attacked in a rout that left the Georgian forces decimated and the province – along with its Georgia neighbor, Abkhazia, now in Russian hands – it caused more than concern at the Council of Europe, because both are members and it was the first time two had gone to war. The Council, Europe’s low-keyed and quiet campaigner for human rights, was left with the vexing problem of how to handle the aftermath, although insisting it supports territorial integrity and backs Georgia’s claim to still have a right to the provinces.

It wasn’t the only example of how the European Union and its other neighbours in Europe who are members of the council have left a lot of holes in the map: there’s the question of what to do about Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia and declared its independence, riling Russia and creating a dilemma of whether the new country should be recognised, a delicate affair indeed for the Council, which keeps an arms-length distance from intrusive politics.

And there’s Cyprus, where the Turkish army still occupies the northern third of that European Union member, even while Turkey wants to join the club, but won’t recognize Cyprus or allow its ships or planes to enter Turkey. And there’s Belarus, ruled by a repressive leader whose authority is so heavy-handed, it’s the only Council member to be suspended, but where entreaties are always being made to push for democracy and to meet the Council’s standards.

The Council is based in Strasbourg, France, but has an office in Brussels, and it was there last week that its top troubleshooter, Jean-Louis Laurens, Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs, had an on-the-record sit-down lunch with journalists from several news organisations, including New Europe, and then was interviewed on our television arm, NEtv. Laurens, comfortable and freely-speaking with his suit jacket off, was frank and open and didn’t shy away from tough questions, making him a remarkable diplomat indeed, one who sought out thoughts and opinions and didn’t shy away or hide in his office.

He said of Europe that, “If you look at the map, there are still missing pieces, one is Belarus and the other is Kosovo,” two countries the Council would like to see included under its aegis, even as he acknowledged their problems were different and said, “Of course, they are not at the same level.” The problem for the Council is that Serbia is already a member and, while it can’t block recognition or bar entry by itself, can make the issue very thorny indeed, as the Council doesn’t want to inflame feelings. That’s why the Council hasn’t officially taken a position on Kosovo’s independence, but he noted it was able to work with Kosovo and Serbia to help restore Orthodox religious structures that were destroyed in riots. “It was giving a signal we don’t accept a monolithic situation,” and can be an important mediator, he said, even as he acknowledged, “There is clearly a deficit of human rights protection in Kosovo.”

He said the Russia-Georgia case was even more troublesome and that the Council is still pushing the right of people displaced from their homes to return. But, he lamented, “We have no access to South Ossetia, it’s impossible for us to go there.” Instead, he said, it is working with non-governmental organizations and said, “We’re preparing the ground for dialogue and solutions,” a tactic the Council prefers to confrontation and badgering.

In Moldova, where riots ensued over elections, Laurens said there was a lot of misinformation and said the international community wasn’t paying enough attention to the country, one of Europe’s poorest. “Clearly, there were peaceful demonstrations that turned violent,” he said, adding that he knows because he went to the capital of Chisinau and found there had been many arrests and many people injured in violent incidents, which dissidents claim was the result of beatings from the authorities. “What I saw was real violence,” he said.

But he said as a result of the visit and intervention by the Council that many of those arrested had been released and there is now more scrutiny over what is happening in the country. “The political situation is very complex,” he said, because a three-fifths majority is required to elect a president and the ruling body is one vote short, which will mean new elections this summer, not giving enough time for the Council to effectively monitor the polls. He said he found evidence the last election was not fair and said, “There is very little time to correct shortcomings in the last election … voting lists where some people voted twice,” and where the opposition has no access to the media.

“We need to make sure voter lists are being checked by the international community. This is one of the poorest countries in Europe and it’s in a very difficult situation,” he said. In the end, he said, the Council will continue to use diplomacy and negotiation because, he said, “Most decisions can be made by a majority, but we practically never vote. We look for consensus,” even if that’s hard to find in the jigsaw puzzle that is Europe.

Making it clear
Later, in the NEtv interview, he elucidated on what he said at the luncheon.

We’ve heard a lot today about, what you called, some of the holes in Europe, some of the missing pieces. I am particularly interested in Belarus, do you feel that Belarus is slowly inching closer to democracy and the standards of Europe? Or have they been forced to that by the economic situation in which they find themselves?
Our assessment is that recently there’ve been timid moves in more positive, European-oriented policy in Belarus. One positive step definitely was liberation of some key figures of the opposition, some political prisoners. That of course was of the most welcome development because there cannot be a notion of political prisoner and democracy. They’re totally alien. You can’t be a democracy if you have political prisoners. Also there have been a registration of some movements including political opposition, some NGOs were registered. But not everything goes in the same right direction. There are also signals of still difficulties, for example people being arrested for taking part in activities on democracy outside of Belarus. However our assessment is to try to give encouragement in positive developments. That’s why we are now creating an information office in Minsk, and the Assembly is considering re-establishing institutional links with the parliament of Belarus.

When you imagine Kosovo as well, you explained that it’s not at the UN Security Council where Serbia can block any progress on that. Yet, has Serbia been inching closer to a position … beginning to see the value of what the Council is talking about having some more openness in terms of recognising Kosovo?

I have to be clear. Serbia has always favoured the Council of Europe working in Kosovo. It has always been supportive of the Council work to promote standards and values in Kosovo. Because they do realise that this is also for the benefit of the minority population living still in Kosovo. And this is provided by status-neutral. The Council of Europe is not in the situation of recognition, not recognition. Our work is to promote normal European values in Kosovo.

The political landscape is changing

The political landscape is changing

Call a bigot a bigot and it is big news.

Call homosexuality abnormal and it is big news.

Deny 75,000 potential voters their human right to vote and where is the MSM?

Why is Frodl v Austria, 8 April 2010, not being reported?

Notes for editors:

The political landscape is changing.

The Lisbon Treaty has entered into force which opened up for EU accession to the Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of European Rights.

Frodl v Austria explains what the Hirst v UK(No2) decision means for the UK and other Member States in the Council of Europe. When the Court has to explain in another judgment what the first judgment is saying, it means that the UK has got the wrong end of the stick.

Charles Falconer, formerly Lord Chancellor, misinterpreted Hirst v UK(No2) either because he was totally incompetent or because he wished to mislead the people and Parliament. He claimed that the judgment did not mean that all convicted prisoners would get the vote in future. On the contrary said the Court in Frodl v Austria, it does mean that all convicted prisoners must get the vote. Therefore, whichever party gets into power (even allowing for a hung Parliament) this subject must be addressed promptly.

Subliminally hidden within the Hirst v UK(No2) case, picked up by Europe but missed by the UK State, was the accusation that within the UK there existed a totalitarian state. Our prisons are not democratic institutions, prisoners are not politically equal to citizens in the community being subject to the total control of the Secretary of State for Justice. In effect, it is claimed that he has extra-legal powers, i.e. he is above the law. This flies in the face of Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights.

"George F. Kennan once said that there is a little bit of totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and everyone of us.

The Council of Europe must confront any resurgence of such totalitarian tendencies. The Council of Europe must be the lighthouse of Europe, a house for early warning.

I should also like to remind you of the words of the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr who said that man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary".

Europe makes it quite plain that the UK has failed to pass the Hirst test. The relevant law being Article 3 of the First Protocol of the Convention. The Court tested s.3 of RPA 1983 and found it could not withstand the challenge set by John Hirst. Wriggle as the UK did for 5 years, it failed to successfully evade being in his sights. Incoming missile. Countdown to impact on 1 June 2010. On that day the new powers given under the Lisbon Treaty come into force.

Mr Thorbjørn Jagland is Secretary General of the Council of Europe "We now have a unique opportunity to create a continent-wide area of human rights, in which 47 governments and the institutions of the European Union will be bound by the same set of human rights standards and scrutinised by the same human rights court".

The UK was dragged screaming and shouting into the European arena. The UK brought its rule book in an attempt to lay down the UK law to Europe. Only thing is, in Europe its European law which is supreme. And Europe judges with European law. With the Lisbon Treaty the EU accedes to the Convention and thereby makes it higher law. It gives the Council of Europe and the Court supremacy over the EU and ECJ in relation to matters relating to the Convention. National statutes must comply with the Convention and Court case law. The Executive must comply with the Convention. Parliament must comply with the Convention. In other words, "A united Europe". In this context, the United Kingdom is rendered powerless. A limp State in a willy waving contest where the European Union flag pole stands to attention.

The UK has the option of not playing and taking its political football home. Isolated in Europe. A bleak prospect. The playing field is in Europe and not Eton. Europe does not need the UK's ball. If a new player is needed there is always Turkey stood on the sidelines waiting for the referee to indicate to come and play. Russia realised its future stability lay within Europe. Isolating the UK even more. Perhaps, the UK would prefer to join the United States of America than remain a part of the United States of Europe?

In Europe and internationally, this country is a laughing stock. The toothless British Bulldog reduced to nodding on the rear shelf "Oh, yes!". Rule Britannia is shipwrecked on the rocks of the lighthouse of Europe.

The UK lacks legitimacy in Europe. A pariah or rogue State. An outlaw. The UK can of course, subject to close supervision from Europe, decide to accept the reforms demanded by Europe. Democracy must be in keeping with the principle of universal suffrage. Rule of Law as laid down by Europe, and the UK interpretation if it offends against the European standard will not prevail. For example, if the Tory party came into power on 6 May 2010 and Dominic Grieve became the Secretary of State for Justice his idea for dealing with Hirst v UK(No2) is for Parliament to have a free vote. He still thinks that Parliament is supreme. However, it has been taken hostage by John Hirst. So, the idea that Parliament can decide not to give all convicted prisoners the vote is a non starter because it fails the Hirst test founded on Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights. Europe has already decided this issue of Hirst v the UK(No2) in Europe, all that remains for Parliament to do is pass the necessary primary legislation to comply with the judgment and Convention. This is Blair's Legacy.

Rule of Law also means that the Human Rights Act 1998 must be amended to comply with the European Convention, for example, Article 1 and 13 of the Convention must be incorporated into domestic law. It also means that for the first time there will have to be a written constitution, and a true separation of powers between the Executive, Judiciary and Parliament. It also means that the Judiciary must have the jurisdiction to strike down offending sections within or whole statutes which are not Convention compliant. Charles Falconer, Jack Straw and David Miliband have left this legacy. Misleading the public and Parliament. It would be interesting to hear what David Davis has to say about all this?

Human Rights in the UK are not in accordance with the Convention. Europe sees the UK as Sir Humphrey in "Yes Minister". Europe has moved forward and whilst Yes Minister is a source of amusement, if the UK is to be taken seriously by Europe hen it must understand international and European law. How international and European law are interpreted is not by traditional UK law teaching methods. In Europe there is the principle of subsidiarity. And direct application. The Court case law must be followed by the Supreme Court, precedent is dictated by Europe. In Europe, citizens come first and their human rights override any national law or policy which is not Convention compatible. Europe gives Member States a wide margin of appreciation, like a shark in a fish tank, and the principles of legitimate aim and proportionality fetter this discretion even further. Hobson's choice.

On the bright side, it's a future fair for all. Not Labour's ideal which excludes prisoners within the all. In Europe the prisoner is a political equal. The Actius Popularis principle is designed to protect vulnerable groups within society from society as a whole, or the State. Prisoners are entitled to the same protection as Roma, homosexuals, etc.

The Lib Dems are more Europe orientated, but even there things have moved on since Nick Clegg was in Europe. It is no good him just saying the words Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights in his last televised debate speech. Under European law, they must be fully respected. There is no scope for a government view which does not accord with the Council of Europe. Whereas Labour said one thing in Europe and then did another thing in the UK, this kind of approach cannot satisfy the Treaty of Lisbon, in particular, Proyocol 14.

Europe then, is for pro-Europeans. Those who still think there is a British Empire can reflect on history. Europe invaded without even stepping a foot on Hastings beach. The European sceptics can mumble and grumble all they like as they eat humble pie made in Europe with ingredients supplied by the UK. I am not Labour, Tory or Lib Dem, English or British, I am European and will leave the UK if the UK decides to leave Europe.

UPDATE: It goes without saying that Labour, Conservative, and Lib Dem policies and manifestos are incompatible with the European Convention.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The things they say...

The things they say...

"It has been said that the drafters of the Convention were determined not to allow any more governments to shelter behind the argument that what a state does to its own people is within its own exclusive jurisdiction and beyond the reach of the international community"(Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe).

"I believe that voting is a privilege and it's a privilege extended to good citizens. Is the ECtHR, you know, are they right or wrong? I mean they're wrong. It's brand new. We've had a system in this country, you know, which has grown over 600 or 700 years. A constitutional monarchy, a democracy. We actually know what we are doing in this country, I'm not quite sure that Europe does" (Godfrey Bloom, MEP, UKIP).

"The Court observes that, while this might not be obvious from its wording, Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 enshrines a characteristic principle of an effective democracy and is accordingly of prime importance in the Convention system. Democracy constitutes a fundamental element of the “European public order”, and the rights guaranteed under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 are crucial to establishing and maintaining the foundations of an effective and meaningful democracy governed by the rule of law" (Hirst v UK(No2) and Frodl v Austria).

Comment: Godfrey Bloom is clearly a Bigot!

Portuguese and UK police believe McCanns guilty

Portuguese and UK police believe McCanns guilty

"It might just be time. There could be a group of people out there who are sitting with this on their conscience,
" Kate McCann said.

You mean like the Tapas 9?

Iraqis tortured at secret Baghdad prison, says watchdog

Iraqis tortured at secret Baghdad prison, says watchdog

Beatings, electric shocks and rape commonplace according to Human Rights Watch interviews with detainees

So, this is the result of the US and UK invading Iraq? Teaching them how to torture civilians?

Who's talking about torture in Iraq?

Not the Foreign Office – it wants to gloss over evidence of human rights abuses as much as it hyped them with Saddam

Only a hung Parliament can save this country from totalitarianism

Only a hung Parliament can save this country from totalitarianism

General Election 2010: The worst thing that can happen is a second general election

A hung parliament would allow all the parties to think again, argues Simon Heffer.

"The worst thing that can happen is a second general election", not if you are one of 75,000 convicted prisoners being denied the human right to vote! A second general election allows time for Parliament to pass the necessary legislation.

Local news on the Home Front and Pearson Park

Local news on the Home Front and Pearson Park

Last night, at 11.30pm, 4 yobs decided to disturb the peace outside my house. They were threatening and abusive towards me. One was claiming that his sister had phoned him and said that she was with me. It was a lie. I don't care whether she lied to him or he was lying to me. I certainly was not going to unlock the front door to confront them, despite them kicking the door and threatening to throw a wheelie bin through my window. I simply called the police.

Twenty minutes later the police decided to respond!

I suggested that their Scientific Investigation Branch came and fingerprinted the overturned wheelie bins. The Department has taken over our local police station, leaving us at the mercy of such yobs, whilst the police come from the otherside of town! I can walk into town in 20 minutes!

The police said that they would not come out just for a wheelie bin. I said that the crime was not the wheelie bin, it is innocent, the crime is disturbing the peace!

It is clear to me that because of turning our local police station into just a Scientific Investigation Branch, we do not have effective policing in my area. It is mob rule.

Had the yobs managed to kill me, or I kill one or more of the yobs, no doubt the Scientific Investigation Brance would have attended the scene of the crime. Why wait for somebody to be killed before adequately responding to a 999 emergency call?

Other news.

This morning I met a lady in Pearson Park with 3 dogs, 1 a Lurcher, who was playing with Rocky. She asked whether Rocky had got over the dog bite. I must have looked at her puzzled, because she added "My husband reads your blog". It is nice to know that my blog is actually read by some locals!

Squirrel shakes man's hand

Squirrel shakes man's hand

A squirrel appears to shake hands with a walker after he coaxed it to take a hazelnut from his hand.

I imagine the conversation went something like this...

"Hi, I'm Cyril the Squirrel, how do you do?"

Danger of election result declared null and void in Europe

Danger of election result declared null and void in Europe

Inside Europe

Listen to British prisoners demand to vote

Audio link

Godfrey Bloom UKIP MEP, what a blooming twit!

Observers denounce 6 May 2010 general election

Observers denounce 6 May 2010 general election

Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights



"In anticipation of an invitation from the authorities of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to observe the 2010 general election and in line with its standard methodology, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)undertook a Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) from 19 to 22 January 2010.
The purpose of the OSCE/ODIHR NAM was to assess the pre-electoral environment and the
preparations for the elections, and to make recommendations regarding a possible
OSCE/ODIHR activity for this election. The OSCE/ODIHR NAM included Mr. Konrad
Olszewski, Deputy Head of Election Department, and Ms. Tatyana Bogussevich,
OSCE/ODIHR Election Adviser".

"The disenfranchisement of prisoners, which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
ruled in 2005 was disproportionate and incompatible with the right to participate in elections, is an issue under consideration by the government.6 The MoJ completed public consultations on the matter; however, changes are unlikely to be introduced before the general election. In an Interim Resolution of 3 December 2009, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe expressed serious concern with regard to the substantial delay in implementing the ECHR judgment and urged that corresponding measures be rapidly introduced.7 According to OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors, some 63,000 potential voters are affected".

In the UK there is a need to seek and receive justice

In the UK there is a need to seek and receive justice

CM Documents

CM/AS(2010)3 22 April 2010

Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers

Report by the Swiss Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(February – April 2010)

Execution of judgments

"13. In the case of Hirst No. 2 against the United Kingdom, which concerns the denial of electoral rights to convicted prisoners, the Committee among other things reiterated their serious concern that a failure to implement the Court’s judgment before the forthcoming general election in the United Kingdom and the increasing number of persons affected by the restriction could result in similar violations affecting a significant category of persons, giving rise to a substantial risk of repetitive applications to the European Court and strongly urged the authorities rapidly to adopt measures, even of an interim nature, to ensure the execution of the Court’s judgment before the election".

Paxo gets stuffed by a sheep shagger!

Paxo gets stuffed by a sheep shagger!

A timely reminder for the UK in relation to the Hirst test

A timely reminder for the UK in relation to the Hirst test

"Above all, we need a better and more systematic use of the principle of subsidiarity. State Parties have the primary responsibility to respect human rights, to prevent violations and to remedy them when they occur.

All States parties have now incorporated the Convention into their national legal systems, but not all have done so with satisfactory effect.

What we need to achieve is a genuine structural integration of the Convention into national systems, in order to secure its direct application; we need a better implementation of its provisions, including, above all, the obligation to provide effective domestic remedies for alleged violations.

The Convention cannot be fully and effectively implemented at national level unless the authority of the Court’s case-law is properly recognised in the national legal order.

Most obviously, States must promptly and fully execute judgments in cases to which they are party, including any general measures that may be required.

But that is not all. National authorities must also take sufficient account of the general principles in the Court’s case-law that may have consequences for their own law and practice. There is much room for improvement here in many countries

Related content:

Hirst test

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thorbjørn Jagland: Greater coherence, cohesion and consolidation through reform

Thorbjørn Jagland: Greater coherence, cohesion and consolidation through reform

Reforming the Council of Europe would make it ''more politically relevant and influential,'' Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has declared. The organisation would focus ''on what we can do best, in areas where we can make a real impact'' he told the Parliamentary Assembly on 27 April. The Secretary General urged greater coordination and cooperation on all parts of the organisation as vital to ensuring that new dividing lines in Europe did not emerge. A failure to reform could impede the''main goal'' of the European Union’s accession to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. This could lead to the development of separate case law and standards in Europe.

Comment: The Council of Europe needs to firmly deal with the UK on 1 June 2010, when the Committee of Ministers meet to discuss execution of the judgment of Hirst v UK(No2). Particularly, in the light of the UK's continued violation of Article 3 of the First Protocol of the Convention, the Court decision and the warnings issued by the Committee of Ministers, and the latest decion of Frodl v Austria.

Thorbjørn Jagland meets President of European Council Herman Van Rompuy, 2 March 2010

The Council of Europe Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, met with the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy on 2 March in Brussels.

The meeting focused on the relationship between the Council of Europe and the European Union in the perspective of strengthening multilateral co-operation in the larger European area and the future EU accession to the European Convention on Human rights.

Thorbjørn Jagland stressed that he and the President Van Rompuy agreed that it was crucial to provide a clear political guidance in order to ensure the accession of the European Union to the Convention. Mr Jagland also met key members of the European Parliament dealing with issues of human rights and justice.

Zambia's TB-ridden prisons

Zambia's TB-ridden prisons

Multi-drug-resistant TB is being incubated in Zambia's prisons, amid conditions that violate international human rights law

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said that human rights begin in "small places"– places not found on any map. Choma prison, about 300km from Zambia's capital of Lusaka, may be on the map, but it is not easy to find. Once found, it's harder still to find respect for human rights.

Monday, April 26, 2010

RIP in a totalitarian state

RIP in a totalitarian state

Click image to enlarge, to see the full picture!

Spectator: You must be joking?

Spectator: You must be joking?

A Human Rights Minister?

Britain’s role in protecting the downtrodden and protecting the weak has significant historical pedigree.

Jack Straw as the Secretary of State for Justice had the legal and moral responsibility for ensuring that human rights were given to all citizens in the UK. However, like Hitler before him who dehumanized the jews to justify the Final Solution, Jack Straw dehumanized convicted prisoners to deny them their human right to vote. That Jack Straw is a Jew makes his conduct all the more reprehensible!

A Human Rights Act which the UK ignores when it is politically convenient, to get a Human Rights Minister?

Isn't the Spectator forgetting that the UK in the eyes of Europe is a pariah or rogue state?

No wonder Jack Straw knows the price of bananas in this Banana Republic!

Hello My Spectator

Hello My Spectator

"Hello John Hirst (
If you verify your email address your comments will go up automatically.

Your comment will not be published immediately".

So, if I verify my email address, which I did, my comment will go up automatically.

Only, it didn't go up automatically. Rather, I was informed that it must first be passed by an administrator.

Isn't there a mixed message here saying you will publish automatically but will not publish immediately?

Sort it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Quote of the Day: Iain Dale is a cunt

Quote of the Day: Iain Dale is a cunt

"Has anybody read anything in the Tory manifesto specifically ruling out stealing my bicycle?
Do I need a new lock?

Has anybody read anything specifically in the Tory manifesto relating to convicted prisoners and their human right to the vote?

Finger on the political pulse? Finger up his or some other bloke's arse more like!

Paedophile supporting Pope may cancel State visit

Paedophile supporting Pope may cancel State visit

Pope 'could cancel UK visit' over 'offensive' Foreign Office memo

The Pope could cancel his planned visit to Britain because of a “hugely offensive” Foreign Office memo mocking his stance on abortion and birth control, sources in the Vatican said.

Do I care that the Pope might be offended?

Do I fuck!

I think support of and covering up for paedophile priest takes the biscuit! The Pope should be totally ashamed of his and those guilty priests conduct of sexually abusing kids!

The Pope cares for nonce priests, but not the kids they nonce!

A view from Middle England

A view from Middle England

Bob Piper says Brilliant and I have to agree.

Rejoinder: Why voting by prisoners? Supreme Court is wrong

Rejoinder: Why voting by prisoners? Supreme Court is wrong

I wish to comment on an article that appeared on titled “Why Voting by Prisoners? Supreme Court is Wrong”, an article credited to I. K. Gyasi. The writer lamented the depravation in the country’s prisons and acknowledged that our treatment of prisoners is not the best. He however contested the propriety of the Supreme Court’s land mark decision declaring section 7(5) of the Representation of the People Law, 1992 (PNDCL 284) void and the consequent ordering of the Electoral Commission to put measures in place to allow prisoners to vote in all national elections.

The writer contended that the Supreme Court’s decision is likely to open the floodgates for “self-appointed human rights do-gooders” to advocate for all manner of privileges to be extended to prisoners, including demanding for better food and shelter, freedom of movement and access to counselors. He agrees that not all prisoners deserved to be treated with disdain, admitting that not all prisoners are guilty of the offences for which they were jailed. He maintains nevertheless that those who go to prison are only temporarily taken out of society and that no injury is done to them when their rights to vote are only temporarily taken from them.

We have to admit that morality and law are mutually exclusive and that we will be doing our prisoners, and of course ourselves a great deal of disservice if we discourse in matters pertaining to prisoners’ rights as if law and morality were identical. The right which entitles the prisoner to vote, as implied in the Supreme Court’s decision is conferred by the 1992 Constitution and no “inferior” law to the Constitution or moral injunction can take away that right. To argue that the prisoner does not deserve to enjoy his constitutional right to vote merely because it will lead human rights advocates to demand the enjoyment of other arguably undeserving rights is untenable. Imprisonment per se is not a violation of the prisoner’s right. But the conditions in a prison and the treatment meted to a prisoner may violate the prisoner’s rights. There is no doubt that the state has a responsibility towards the prisoner with regard to the food he is fed, the shelter in which he is housed and his access to health, to counsel, etc. As to whether the state is well endowed to discharge this responsibility to the prisoner and whether the Supreme Court will enforce a prisoner’s claim for these rights where the state is not rich enough to discharge those rights is another thing. If the fear of the writer really is the opening of the floodgates for rights claims, he can rest assured that the Supreme Court will only grant the request of a human rights advocate if that request will not infringe on the rights of other persons, or if that request is in the national interest. Even with those of us who may call ourselves freemen the state is constantly infringing on certain of our rights. But we cannot enforce those rights in court because the court knows the state cannot comply if it orders it given the country’s economic situation, or that it will not be in the interest of national security to order that the state upholds all our rights. But for those rights of the prisoner that can be granted without any stress to state and people, like voting rights, the court as in this particular case should order their enforcement.

The writer mentions some of the reasons for the state imprisoning offenders to include the need to for justice to be dispensed, reformation and deterrence. It appears to me that the ruling of the Supreme Court is in consonance with this observation of the writer. The justice system needs to motivate the reformed or deterred prisoner as the prisoner strives to overcome his mistakes and assume his role in society. The stress involved in our trial process and the stigma that comes with it are enough to deter or reform an offender, not to mention spending just one night in our prisons. I don’t dispute that some people never get reformed. The fact however remains that we are unable to measure, between his trial and imprisonment when deterrence or the reformation of a genuinely repentant prisoner actually takes place. Do prisoners who come out of prison deterred or reformed achieve reformation two or three or four days, weeks, months, into their imprisonment? Do they achieve it half way through their prison term, or do they only achieve reformation after leaving prison?

If the essence of imprisonment is anything to go by, and given the conditions in our prisons, it stands to reason that many of our prisoners might have been deterred or reformed long before their sentencing was pronounced, or before their prison terms were completed. Do they not deserve to vote therefore, as they may have truly repented even while in prison? I concede that some of the hardened criminals never repent. But those are not the majority among our prisoners or even if they were, the Constitution as the supreme law says they may vote.

Many of our prisoners are in prison for simple mistakes you and I make everyday but with which we manage to escape the law. For some of them they are there because they were too poor to get a good lawyer, or that their lawyer was not up to his task when it mattered most. For others they are there because a policeman or some other powerful authority conspired to consign them to prison. Yet still some screwed up their evidence, or their witnesses screwed them up. But there are still some who were never tried at all before they attained the title ‘prisoner’. We should not treat all of these people as if they were armed robbers and murderers who were tried and convicted with the best legal facilities at their disposal.

It may be true to assert that every robber, murderer or rapist is unsound in the mind and so should not be allowed to vote. However, such offenders are not known to the law as mad men. To the law, an unsound person is one who upon examination has been declared mad by a certified doctor. The same law that gives sound persons the right to vote also says that the armed robber, the rapist and the murderer that has been convicted is sound in mind. Ironically, if the law were to regard these offenders as unsound in mind, the law would not punish them with the same severity for committing those offences. The very fact of their imprisonment for committing those offences is also proof of their soundness in mind. If we could judge the soundness of human beings by their acts, many of us, particularly our politicians would not vote. Even then, the truth also is that infirmity of mind may only be temporary and may cease after an unintended offence has been committed. In fact, we all become temporarily mad once in a while and regret our actions when we become lucid. Some of us even become mad on election day before we go to the polling centre to vote and remain so till our party loses when we become lucid, or degenerate for some days if our party wins. All the same we vote because we have not been officially certified as mad. People may temporarily lose their senses when they are extremely provoked, or when they defend themselves or loved ones against attack, or even when they are stressed. Prisoners, in my view cannot be disqualified from voting merely on ground of madness because it is “legal madness”, not “moral madness” that takes away the right to vote.

I stand to be corrected but I think prisoners should vote if the law as it is does not disqualify them from voting. Some prisoners do not deserve to be in prison in the first place because they never actually committed the offence for which they were convicted, or if they did commit the offence their action was legally defensible. For others who may actually have been deservedly convicted, the nature of the crime may not have been such as to entitle us to deny them the right to vote. In fact, the prisoner has the right to determine who comes to power just as the free man does because they both need better prison facilities; the former so as to survive his conviction and prove to society that he has reformed; the latter so as to ensure that he lives in dignity when he is convicted after failing to prove his innocence. The prisoner has the right to determine who comes to power because a Ghana free from corruption will ensure an appeal against his conviction to a higher court succeeds; that he will be tried and convicted before he is made to “sleep” with convicted criminals. I am always happy when an armed robber or a rapist is convicted. But I know also that there are so many people in there who should not be there. We should think about them too and not add to their woes by treating them as if they deserved to be there, or as if we were perfect and they were not. Let us extend to them all those rights and curtsies which we can extend to them without losing anything as a nation. Let us not deny them rights that are due them just because they happen to be sharing residence with others who do not morally deserve those rights. Legally, and to a great extent morally, the Supreme Court’s decision extending voting rights to prisoners is right.

Credit: Adams A. Alhassan
E. P. College of Education
P. O. Box 16

Independent View: votes for prisoners

Independent View: votes for prisoners

At the last general election, I voted for the first time, and gave it to Diana Johnson Labour MP for Hull North. When it came to the local election I voted for the Lib Dem candidate. Notwithstanding Dizzy Thinks posting this on the 1st of April, I just had to have a go at it: “For anyone confused about how they might vote at the General Election, Vote Match 2010 has now been launched. It’s pretty straight forward multiple choice survey that will match what you think against what the political parties have told Vote Match they think”. My score came out 75% in support of the Lib Dems, 52% Labour party, and 36% Conservative party. Result: “Best Match Liberal Democrats”.

Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems fail the Hirst test

Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems fail the Hirst test

What are human rights?

Human rights are rights and freedoms that belong to all individuals regardless of their nationality and citizenship. They are fundamentally important in maintaining a fair and civilised society.

The Council of Europe was founded to defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.

Article 3 of Protocol 1: Right to free elections

Elections for members of the legislative body (e.g. Parliament) must be free and fair and take place by secret ballot. Some qualifications may be imposed on who is eligible to vote (e.g. a minimum age).

In Frodl v Austria: “The Court (applying the Hirst test) observes that, while this might not be obvious from its wording, Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 enshrines a characteristic principle of an effective democracy and is accordingly of prime importance in the Convention system. Democracy constitutes a fundamental element of the “European public order”, and the rights guaranteed under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 are crucial to establishing and maintaining the foundations of an effective and meaningful democracy governed by the rule of law”.

“Free elections and freedom of expression, and particularly the freedom of political debate, form the foundation of any democracy”.

“The rights bestowed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 are not absolute. There is room for implied limitations and Contracting States must be allowed a wide margin of appreciation in this sphere since there are numerous ways of organising and running electoral systems and a wealth of differences, inter alia, in historical development, cultural diversity and political thought within Europe which it is for each Contracting State to mould into their own democratic vision”.

“It is, however, for the Court to determine in the last resort whether the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 have been complied with; it has to satisfy itself that the conditions do not curtail the rights in question to such an extent as to impair their very essence and deprive them of their effectiveness; that they are imposed in pursuit of a legitimate aim; and that the means employed are not disproportionate”.

“In particular, any conditions imposed must not thwart the free expression of the people in the choice of the legislature – in other words, they must reflect, or not run counter to, the concern to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of an electoral procedure aimed at identifying the will of the people through universal suffrage. Any departure from the principle of universal suffrage risks undermining the democratic validity of the legislature thus elected and the laws it promulgates. Exclusion of any groups or categories of the general population must accordingly be reconcilable with the underlying purposes of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1”.

“As regards the status of the right to vote of convicted prisoners who are detained, the Court reiterates that prisoners in general continue to enjoy all the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Convention save for the right to liberty, where lawfully imposed detention expressly falls within the scope of Article 5 of the Convention. It is inconceivable, therefore, that a prisoner should forfeit his Convention rights merely because of his status as a person detained following conviction. Nor is there any place under the Convention system, where tolerance and broadmindedness are the acknowledged hallmarks of democratic society, for automatic disenfranchisement based purely on what might offend public opinion”.

“This standard of tolerance does not prevent a democratic society from taking steps to protect itself against activities intended to destroy the rights or freedoms set forth in the Convention. Article 3 of Protocol No. 1, which enshrines the individual's capacity to influence the composition of the legislature, does not therefore exclude the possibility of restrictions on electoral rights being imposed on an individual who has, for example, seriously abused a public position or whose conduct has threatened to undermine the rule of law or democratic foundations”.

“The severe measure of disenfranchisement must not, however, be resorted to lightly and the principle of proportionality requires a discernible and sufficient link between the sanction and the conduct and circumstances of the individual concerned”.

“Disenfranchisement may only be envisaged for a rather narrowly defined group of offenders serving a lengthy term of imprisonment; there should be a direct link between the facts on which a conviction is based and the sanction of disenfranchisement; and such a measure should preferably be imposed not by operation of a law but by the decision of a judge following judicial proceedings”.

“Under the Hirst test, besides ruling out automatic and blanket restrictions it is an essential element that the decision on disenfranchisement should be taken by a judge, taking into account the particular circumstances, and that there must be a link between the offence committed and issues relating to elections and democratic institutions”.

“The essential purpose of these criteria is to establish disenfranchisement as an exception even in the case of convicted prisoners, ensuring that such a measure is accompanied by specific reasoning given in an individual decision explaining why in the circumstances of the specific case disenfranchisement was necessary, taking the above elements into account. The principle of proportionality requires a discernible and sufficient link between the sanction and the conduct and circumstances of the individual concerned”.

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Hey you Cameron leave our kids alone

Hey you Cameron leave our kids alone

Cameron's new poster referred to restoring discipline in schools. Perhaps, politicians should lead by example? Lead by good example and not bad example!

Keep Rupert Murdoch out of UK politics

Keep Rupert Murdoch out of UK politics

Photo: Hat-Tip to White Rabbit

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The root of all evil

The root of all evil

With this glorious weather, I thought I would do a spot of gardening. I donned my boots and took out my spade and fork, and tackled the root in my front garden. It went under the concrete in front of my house, and under the walls at the front and side, and under the path.

I broke the fork.

Having chipped away at the clump, it eventually started to give way.


Only, the two others one behind a pipe and the other at the corner of the house and side wall will have to wait for another day.

Update: I have now got the root behind the pipe!

Police ban men with enlarged genitals

Police ban men with enlarged genitals

Forget about getting a job as a police officer in the Papua region of Indonesia if you have had your penis enlarged.

You won't get it.

An applicant "will be asked whether or not his vital organ has been enlarged", said Papua police chief Bekto Suprapto, quoted on "If he has, he will be considered unfit to join the police or the military." This is because having an enlarged penis can hinder training, according to police spokesman Zainuri Lubis, on

Indonesia's remote easternmost province is home to Papuan tribes, many of whom wear penis gourds. To achieve enlargement, they wrap the penis in leaves from the gatal-gatal (itchy) tree so that it swells up "like it has been stung by a bee", a local sexologist said.

Woman charged in France for driving in full burka

A French Muslim woman has been fined for wearing a burka at the wheel of her car – weeks before the proposed introduction of a total ban on the full-body veil.

The 31-year-old was stopped by two policemen in Nantes in western France earlier this month as she drove wearing a burka, or niqab, covering all but her eyes. She was given a €22 (£19) fine for "driving in uncomfortable conditions", because her vision was allegedly reduced. Her lawyer lodged an appeal this week, claiming that her human rights had been infringed.

Atheist given Asbo for leaflets mocking Jesus

An atheist who left leaflets mocking Jesus Christ, Islam and the Pope in an airport's prayer room has been given an Asbo.

Harry Taylor, 59, from Higher Broughton, Salford, left the anti-religious posters in prayer rooms at Liverpool John Lennon Airport in November and December 2008.

Friday, April 23, 2010

LibCon conned by Lib Dem over cons

LibCon conned by Lib Dem over cons

Liberal Conspiracy misses the point.

The gutter press is as guilty as Clegg when it came to the conspiracy against convicted prisoners and the franchise.

I'm not patriotic. I'm European

I'm not patriotic. I'm European

This morning I went to the cashpoint to pick up my dole money, as I took Rocky for his walk, and in the queue in front of me were 10 Polish people.

Coming back from Pearson Park, I went to the local Paki shop (I shop there because Tesco banned me because they claimed I am a racist!), and saw 3 Saint Georges stood at the junction of Beverley Road (A1079) and Queen's Road and Sculcoats Lane waiting to cross. Many vehicles tooted their horns.

On Adderbury Grove, a local resident came out of his house and put St. Gerorge's either side of his Land Rover. At a house bedroom window in the same street another St George blew out in the slight breeze. I thought 'It must be St. George's Day'.

I'm not patriotic. I'm European!

Rainbow bridging USA with the Mother Country

Rainbow bridging USA with the Mother Country

Photo: Hat-Tip to Gingersnaps

'Violent dance' of the tiger

'Violent dance' of the tiger

Tiger fights for its food

An Indian tiger that has been creditied with raising $10 million from tourism revenues nevertheless has to fight for her dinner.

A male Tiger called T28 (back to camera) and a female called Machali (R) fighting in Ranthambhore national park in Rajasthan, India Photo: ADITYA SINGH/BARCROFT

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can you Adam and Eve it?

Can you Adam and Eve it?

Pot noodle in a mug*

*Mug not included

Then it is pot noodle in a packet!

Dear John, Fuck Off, we're too busy signed the Lib Dems

Dear John, Fuck Off, we're too busy, signed the Lib Dems

Dear John,

My apologies for the delay in getting back to you – I am sure you can appreciate just how busy we are at the moment.

This email is not intended for publication, it is intended to give you an idea about where we stand on the issue.

We have always said that a blanket ban on prisoners voting is not appropriate. We first said this in 2002, before your case came before the European Court. We also think it is unacceptable that the Government have spent the last five years avoiding the European Court decision and kicking the issue into the long grass with consultations.

In contrast, we have made clear what our position is:

The decision on whether prisoners can vote should be taken out of the hands of politicians and put in the hands of judges. There are strong arguments in favour of denying some people the vote but the illegal blanket ban on prisoners voting cannot continue. The Liberal Democrats would give Crown Court judges the right to decide whether the person they are sentencing should be denied the right to vote. This is what happens in France and Germany, among other countries.

This is a position we made clear when the issue was last in the news in April last year:

Hope that helps,


James McGrory
Liberal Democrat Press Office
T: 0207 340 4989
M: 07949 530 449

I was up all night doing the research and putting in my points in an email which McGrory had asked me to do, only to be told by him that he had not even bothered to read my email because he was too busy fighting an election.

What about the prisoners who have a human right to the vote and are denied this by Brown, Cameron and Clegg?

They are only interested in getting into power so that they can abuse that power once in office.

They have time to do TV debates, but in 5 years, a whole Parliamentary term, they have no time to debate the issue of prisoners human rights?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Burglars break in to Dutch prison to steal televisions from inmates

Burglars break in to Dutch prison to steal televisions from inmates

Burglars broke in to a Dutch prison to steal televisions from inmates' rooms.

Twice in the past six weeks, burglars broke into a minimum-security prison and stole televisions from cells while prisoners were on weekend furlough, a spokesman for the justice ministry said on Wednesday.

The prison, in the town of Hoorn 26 miles north-east of Amsterdam, is for inmates near the end of their sentences.

The facility is what the Dutch government calls a "very modestly protected environment", where prisoners transition back into society. They are typically allowed weekend leave.

The thefts happened on two separate weekends about a month apart in March and April. The ministry spokesman said it has still not been able to confirm how the burglars gained access.

A spokesman for the public prosecutor's office in the region confirmed only that a break-in at the prison had been reported to police and added that no arrests had yet been made.

What a bloody diabolical liberty!

Norwich inmate's legal challenge to vote

Norwich inmate's legal challenge to vote

An inmate serving an 18-month sentence at HMP Norwich is planning to sue the government for blocking him from voting in the 2010 general election, a law firm has revealed.

Leon Punchard, 19, has filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), said solicitors Leigh Day and Co.

The law firm said Punchard was seeking a "declaration and compensation from the UK government for its failure to take the necessary steps to allow him to vote".

Five years ago the European Court of Human Rights ruled it was illegal for ministers to deny voting rights to all prisoners.

Since then the Government has held two public consultations on the issue but has not changed the law.



Apr 21, 2010 3:30:38 PM
Press Association

Page 1

A prisoner is threatening to sue the Government for blocking him from
voting in the General Election, a law firm said today.

Leon Punchard, 19, who is currently serving an 18-month jail term at HMP
Norwich, filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights

Solicitors Leigh Day & Co said Punchard was seeking a "declaration and
compensation from the UK government for its failure to take the
necessary steps to allow him to vote".

Five years ago the European Court of Human Rights ruled it was illegal
for ministers to deny voting rights to all prisoners.

Since then the Government has held two public consultations on the issue
but has not changed the law.

A spokesman for the law firm said a letter was sent to Justice Secretary
Jack Straw earlier this year "requesting immediate steps" be taken to
allow Punchard to vote.

"No such steps have been taken and, with the date for registering to
vote having now come and gone, Mr Punchard is barred from voting," the
spokesman said.

"With no other remedies available to him under the domestic legal
system, Mr Punchard has no alternative but return to the ECtHR seeking a
declaration and compensation from the UK Government for their breach of
one of his most fundamental convention rights."

Punchard, who was convicted in December 2009, is due to be released in
July - two months after the election.

The law firm's spokesman said Punchard was jailed for an offence
committed in Norfolk in October last year.

But he would not confirm the nature of the crime.


Page 2

A spokesman for Norwich Crown Court said Punchard, of Motum Road,
Norwich, was handed an 18-month term in a young offenders' institution
on December 1 last year.

He said Punchard was convicted of burglary and had a further 68
offences, including theft, taken into account by the judge sentencing at
the court.

A Norfolk Police spokeswoman said Punchard was arrested over a dwelling
burglary in Norwich which happened on October 3 last year.

She said a television was stolen from the property.


Page 3

Last year, Justice Minister Michael Wills confirmed it was "unavoidable"
that some inmates would be given voting rights.

A policy paper published in April last year suggested prisoners serving
sentences of up to four years could be allowed to vote.

That would mean giving voting rights to around a third of the 84,000
currently in custody.

In February, the Association of Prisoners said it was pursuing a
compensation claim against the Government for blocking prisoners from

It said it wanted at least GBP1,000 for every offender in England.

Ben Gunn, general secretary of the Association of Prisoners, said the
Government had defied the court for too long.

Speaking in February, he said the Government had acted in "bad faith in
defiance of implementing the court's judgment".


Page 4

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "A two stage consultation process
on prisoner voting rights took place. The second stage consultation has

"The Human Rights Act does not limit Parliament's freedom to pass
legislation. If primary legislation is incompatible with the ECHR, the
domestic courts may make a declaration of incompatibility but the
provisions remain in force.

"It is for Parliament to decide how to respond to that declaration,
taking into account the UK's international obligations."


Page 5


Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Sentenced
prisoners' voting should be a right, and a civic duty, as it is in
almost all other Council of Europe countries.

"Picking and choosing which laws to obey and which to disregard is a
terrible message for any government to give to its citizens.

"When 70,000 people are unlawfully barred from voting you can expect


Prisoner voting rights

Prisoner voting rights

21 April 2010

Leigh Day & Co has today filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on behalf of Leon Punchard, a serving prisoner at HMP Norwich, seeking a declaration and compensation from the UK government for its failure to take the necessary steps to allow him to vote at the upcoming General Election.

Following an announcement by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, on 6th April 2010, the date for the next General Election has been fixed for 6th May 2010. The deadline for registering to vote in this upcoming General Election passed yesterday, on 20th April 2010.

Mr Punchard, who was convicted and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment in December 2009, is not due to be released until July 2010 and will therefore still be a serving prisoner when the General Election is held. Under section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, Mr Punchard and all other sentenced prisoners in the UK will be barred from voting in the upcoming General Election.

This is despite a decision by the ECtHR as far back as October 2005 in Hirst v United Kingdom, which determined that the ban on all sentenced prisoners in the UK from voting was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Since this decision, the Government has had nearly a full parliamentary term to legislate to rectify this breach of the ECHR but has failed to do so. Instead, the Government has simply embarked upon two lengthy public consultations, which many commentators see as a delaying tactic in taking the necessary steps to rectify the breach. The tactic has to some extent succeeded and, on the eve of the General Election, there is still no response from the Government to the second public consultation, let alone a fixed timetable for taking the necessary steps to legislate.

It is extremely unusual for the UK government to not take the necessary steps to rectify a breach of the ECHR which has been identified by the ECtHR. This seeming prevarication by the Government has drawn intense criticism from both domestic and international quarters, with the Council of Europe going as far as passing an interim resolution in December 2009 stating that, unless the Government acted quickly, there was a significant risk that the upcoming General Election would be performed in a way that breached the ECHR.

Leigh Day & Co has responded to both of the public consultations in this matter, arguing that all sentenced prisoners should be allowed the right to vote. However, in the second consultation, the Government has made it clear that, if and when they do take steps to legislate, the automatic right to vote will not be extended to all sentenced prisoners. Instead, the Government has stated that its intention is to determine which prisoners will be allowed the right to vote by the duration of their sentence.

Specifically, the Government has proposed four categories of sentenced prisoners who could be granted the automatic right to vote, with the categories ranging from prisoners serving one year to four years in prison. However, the Government has already stated that they are inclined towards setting the threshold, for those sentenced prisoners automatically granted the right to vote, at the lower end of the spectrum. Mr Punchard is one such of the still thousands of sentenced prisoners who, if these proposals had been introduced, would have been able to vote in the upcoming General Election.

Earlier this year, Leigh Day & Co wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, requesting that the Government take immediate steps to legislate to allow Mr Punchard to vote in the upcoming General Election. However, no such steps have been taken and, with the date for registering to vote having now come and gone, Mr Punchard is barred from voting.

With no other remedies available to him under the domestic legal system, Mr Punchard has no alternative but return to the ECtHR seeking a declaration and compensation from the UK government for their breach of one of his most fundamental Convention rights.

Leigh Day & Co has instructed David Lock, a leading human rights barrister at No5 Chambers, in this matter.

For further information, please contact Benjamin Burrows or Sean Humber at this office on 020 7650 1200.

What does Ian Dale know about prison policy?

What does Ian Dale know about prison policy?

You could write it on the back of a postage stamp!

No smutty jokes about licking the queen's arse!

Cameron's new poster backfires

Cameron's new poster backfires

Blank poster: Hat-Tip to Tim Ireland

Sex offenders win legal challenge over register

Sex offenders win legal challenge over register

Two convicted sex offenders have won the right to challenge their inclusion on the UK's sex offenders register.

The UK Supreme Court ruling paves the way for other offenders to seek to have their details removed.

The two offenders are a teenager who was convicted of rape aged 11 and a man in his 50s guilty of indecent assault.

They argued the register breached their human rights because they could not have their inclusion reviewed, even if they had evidence they had reformed.

Given that the James Bulger killers were released after 8 years for a killing when they were 10 years of age, it does appear to be OTT to keep someone on the sex offender register for an offence committed when he was 11 years of age.