Archive for December 12th, 2009

Dear Reader,

I really did not expect to meet God ever… but I did…earlier today… I was reading an article in The Guardian – after pulling a most enjoyable allnighter –  and there he was, staring out,the  familiar messianic grin…. it was Tony Blair explaining that he would have found an argument to justify invading Iraq even if there had been no weapons of mass destruction, which there weren’t as we now know (and some say, was known to Blair et al at the time).

The trouble with politicans, not all of them, is that they start to get a bit of a ‘self-importance complex’ and it just gets worse the further up the ladder they go.  The latest nonsense – but VERY SERIOUS nonsense  – concerns a new section 124H Communications Act 2003 (Clause 11 Digital Economy Bill) which would, if passed, give sweeping powers to the Secretary of State. I quote, unashamedly, from Francis Davey’s EXCELLENT analysis because he puts it so well and the full piece is worth reading for anyone even casually concerned with freedom of speech and a free internet.

It begins:

(1) The Secretary of State may at any time by order impose a technical obligation on internet service providers if the Secretary of State considers it appropriate in view of—Pausing there. Note that this says nothing at all about copyright infringement. For example the power could be used to:

  • order ISP’s to block any web page found on the Internet Watch Foundation’s list
  • block specific undesireable sites (such as wikileaks)
  • block specific kinds of traffic or protocols, such as any form of peer-to-peer
  • throttle the bandwidth for particular kinds of serivce or to or from particular websites.

In short, pretty much anything.

Tiger Woods is a great golfer.  He has a few ‘issues’ with his wife and his personal conduct – which, frankly, I believe should be a private matter, BUT should not impact on everyone else through the use of superinjunctions. What I do not want to see in our country is libel (and privacy) lawyers threatening all and sundry with ‘hell and damnation, contempt of court, prison, seizure of assets et al’ because some golfer fucks up and people want to to ‘extract the Michael’ .  Life is rather more serious, valuable and important than that.  We need to get a grip on superinjunctions, libel and freedom of the press.  Guido does what Guido does – and well done.

We have a lot of MPs in our country who are not government ministers…. I would like some of these MPs to do something really valuable for us (and in doing so get back some respect)  and stand up for our law, reform it, so that our judges and our laws are not made to look ridiculous by people on Twitter, by people in other countries (where English High Court writs  do not run) publicising the very things we should – as people who live on Earth, FREE, be entitled to know.  I have no problem with high level terrorist and security of the realm issues being kept ‘secret’ if in the national security interest (few would object)…  but I do object to being told by an English judge that I can’t read a celeb  or MP story in England, where I live,  but can do so simply by flicking onto a good Scots Law website or American website and read what the celebs / MPs want to suppress.  English Law deserves better than that?…Surely?  There are more important issues?  Surely? I really do hope so.

I am, thankfully, a moderate atheist (apropos of other mumbo jumbery going on in our ‘wonderful’  world)  – believe what you want to believe – but let us, at least, keep law for the really serious issues of our time and not the absurdities of celebrities and others who fuck up and want to protect their brand.

We really do need to get a grip on freedom now that that the internet is here.  Yes… there are lots of loonies on the internet… but there are also a lot of sensible people on the net and on twitter… I think that most people can sort out the wheat from the chaff… and  what are you so frightened of when you do fuck up?.. fucking up?.. or people finding out that you did?  That is not what law is there to protect… there are higher values.  Law needs to get back to protecting real values… Sorry…. but that is what I believe…and if I get turned over by people who don’t like this sentiment…so be it…

Best, as always… but I have a feeling it won’t be


PS.. I don’t have any money… I have a few assets… if you want a few unfinished Fuckerflies paintings  and I did go to a Scottish public school (Not with Tony but there was a future Lord Chancellor at mine at the same time)  so prison won’t be so bad…. Come on… we really need to get a grip on the core value of life and our law… don’t we deserve that?

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Channel 4 covers Paul Clarke shotgun case

Channel 4 news tonight covered the Paul Clarke shotgun case.

Shotgun man faces years in jail

A man who handed a shotgun that he found into a police station may face up to five years in jail for possession of a firearm.

Paul Clarke says it started with what looked like a bag of rubbish dumped at the end of his garden Clarke said: “I saw a black bag here, looked inside, and there was a shotgun.”

He was prosecuted and a jury found him guilty of possession of a firearm. He is now facing five years in jail. He says he was simply doing his civic duty – handing the shotgun in at his local police station. He has been advised not to discuss his case in detail until sentencing next month.

Jack of Kent was the reason I appeared on the news briefly to comment as he suggested to Channel 4 that they do a short interview with me.  Jack of Kent did the heavy spade work on this with a very good blog post on the issue which may be read here.

It is a pretty shocking story and, for my part, I think the Police and CPS have made the wrong decision here and I very much hope the judge will discharge Clarke under the ‘exceptional circumstances’ provision which he is fully entitled to do.  As I say on Channel 4 News – this case illustrates the absurdity and dangers of strict liability offences and minimum sentences.  I am not a fan of minimum sentences. While I am not over bothered about ‘maximum sentences’ being prescribed by Parliament,  I take the view that the matter of sentence should be left to judges and that parliament should be very careful when introducing ‘minimum sentences’… or better… parliament should not  introduce minimum sentences at all into any statute. Do, please, read Jack of Kent’s review of this case.  Hopefully we will not have a miscarriage of justice when Clarke comes to be sentenced before Christmas.

While Surrey Police seem reluctant to comment on this case because the judge has yet to sentence (Clarke has been convicted so not ‘sub judice’), The CPS representative was not reluctant, nor am I or others.  One thing I am reasonably confident of is that Crown Court judges make their own decisions and are not swayed by news, bloggers or anyone else – and that… is as it should be. So we are free to express a view here given that Paul Clarke has been convicted.

Jack of Kent’s blog post

Channel 4 News film (short 3.42 mins)

And… well done to Channel 4 News (few mainstream tv/newspapers did) for taking a lot of time to cover this important issue…. and to a young journalist Holly Thompson at a local Surrey newspaper for breaking the story in the first place.


UPDATE 21 December 2009

The judge gave Clarke a 12 month suspended sentence – applying the exceptional circumstances rule.  It was a very unusual case.  For my part, not that it matters what I think – the judge applied common sense all round.  Good judgment.

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