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Archive for July 8th, 2010

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Why the Supreme Court ruled against the deportation of gay asylum-seekers

The Independent reports: “Gay and lesbian asylum-seekers have won the right to live in Britain after the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Government was wrong to return refugees to countries where people had to choose between homophobic persecution or hiding their true sexual identity. The ruling by Britain’s highest court ends the Home Office’s controversial policy of refusing asylum to gay refugees on the grounds that they could avoid persecution abroad by pretending to be heterosexual.

Supreme Court judge Lord Rodger said gay people’s right to live freely must be protected.

He said: “Just as male hetero­sexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically-coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates.”

The penalty for homosexuality in Iran is flogging or, in more severe cases, death by hanging.  In many countries in Africa punishment for homosexuality if not meted out by the Courts is often dealt with by vigilantes.

Halt stoning of Iran ‘adulterer’ – Human Rights Watch

In The Times today – the entire story was about the impending execution of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a mother of two, who faces imminent death by stoning after her appeals for clemency were denied.  I can’t give you a link because of the new Times Paywall.  The BBC covered the story.

Bloggers and twitter users covered this some time ago.  Indeed, there was a flurry of activity in which I played a very small part by asking my friends on twitter to re-tweet information about this. They did and in large numbers.  We may not be able to persuade the authorities in Iran to stop executing people by this barbaric method – but at least mainstream media in this country and elsewhere can bring pressure to bear on Iran.    I’m not going to publish the grisly pictures available on the net, nor links to videos of actual executions by stoning.  Suffice it to say that men are buried in a shroud up to their waists, women to their breasts.  If they are able to wriggle free – almost impossible given the shrouds used to bind the body – the more so with women because they are buried deeper – they are pardoned.  The victims are then stoned to death by men throwing stones – neither too large to kill at the first stones nor ‘too small to be stones’.  The Quran does not prescribe this method of punishment, I am told.  Iran’s penal code does.  Many muslims are disgusted and outraged by this cruel punishment and are vocal.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to be as vocal in Iran as here.  It can take 20-30 minutes of blows to the head and body from the stones for the victim to die.

There are many petitions around the world about this.  Here is the Amnesty US petition

The impending execution of British citizen, Linda Carty, in Texas.

Above is a short piece I wrote earlier in the week about the impending execution in Texas of Linda Carty. The method may be less barbaric – but the result is the same. It would appear that standards of justice were roughly on a par in Texas and Iran in relation to the conduct of the trials.

PCSO unlawfully deleted photographers images

The NUJ reports: “Branch member photojournalist, James Mackay, represented by Chez Cotton, head of the Police Misconduct Department, at leading civil rights law firm Bindmans LLP, has succeeded in a complaint against the British Transport Police after he was unlawfully ordered by one of their officers to delete photographs he had taken on the basis that he “was not allowed to photograph the police.”

Mr Mackay’s solicitor Chez Cotton said:
The incident highlights only too clearly the difficulties faced by journalists and photographers working in Britain today, where increasingly the police are attempting to use legislation for dealing with terrorism and serious public order incidents to prevent reporting on events of legitimate public interest, such as civil unrest, protest and, where it occurs, police wrong-doing. Working in Burma where there is no free press or freedom of speech; the value of ensuring these fundamental rights are protected in this country is of paramount importance to my client by way of complaint or legal action as necessary.

Complaint upheld

Mr Mackay, through the NUJ, instructed Chez Cotton of law firm Bindmans to make a formal complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. An investigation carried out by the British Transport Police confirmed:
That it was not disputed that PCSO Juneja requested Mr Mackay to cease taking photographs and delete the images from his camera, since this was corroborated by the pocket note book of the officer and the statement of the journalist.
The report states: “…it is clear from legislation and subsequent guidance that PCSO Juneja was acting outside of his powers without justification….complaint upheld.”
….it is clear that Mr Mackay was detained for a period, albeit a short time and this was against his will to leave. It is not in dispute that the PCSO had no power to detain Mr Mackay in these circumstances therefore it must be considered that the period of detention was unwarranted….complaint upheld.

Police officers get a rough deal sometimes from the press – deservedly when they break the rules and they get support –  and praise when they put their lives on the line as many are doing in the manhunt for Raoul Moat.  Police who act outside the rules – and these photography rules are not very difficult to understand – should be asked to leave the force. Frankly, I would go further and suggest that they should be prosecuted or sued in a civil court for exceeding powers.  They are abusing their authority and position.  This is not ‘heat of the moment’ policing where we accept a degree of latitude in the decision making process and have to give support to Police particularly in dangerous or tense violent situations. Not every person confronted by a police officer or PCSO will know the law on photography.

Solicitors vie for judicial office

And finally…. solicitors are queuing up to be judges. Can it be due to a downturn in work or a (mini) collective  Damascene moment – an urge to serve – among the side of the profession under represented in the judiciary for reasons of legal history ?

The Law Society Gazette has the story: Law Society president Robert Heslett said Chancery Lane had worked closely with the JAC to inform and encourage the profession, and the appointments were encouraging.

I haven’t seen the demographics for these solicitor applications.  I wonder how many applications have been put in by partners at successful law firms where the PEP is £400k – £1.2 million?  That would be an interesting statistic.

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