Friday, April 02, 2010

Big Brother in the United Kingdom! (Part 1)

The police van that traps motorists with speed cameras on the front, back AND sides
By Daily Mail Reporter
22nd May 2010
If you're one of those drivers who just can't keep it under the limit, consider yourself warned.
This sophisticated machine uses no fewer than four cameras to snare every speeding motorist it sees - and at a range of more than half a mile.
The vehicle is converted from a traditional speed camera van at a cost of £28,000.
The older vans could catch speeding cars from one direction but they would struggle to identify drivers who contested tickets and motorbikes without front number plates.
The latest vehicle can register a vehicle as it approaches from either direction. It then records front, rear and side images as it passes by.
A police officer sits in the back manning a laser gun and monitors feeds from the cameras.
Bedfordshire Police is believed to be the first force to use the 'Commander Vans' and claims they will help reduce 'hazardous driving'.
But motoring organisations said the police were only interested in making speed cameras more lucrative
Roger Lawson, for the Association of British Drivers, said: 'As an organisation we would like to see these kinds of camera prosecutions done away with altogether.
'Statistically the idea that speed cameras stop speeding is a load of cobblers, they are just a way of raising revenue.
'This kind of investment is a waste of money. They should be scrapping vans rather than improving them.
'In the economic climate when cuts are likely to be made police and politicians should be concentrating on major crime issues, not motorists.'
The Bedfordshire force now has four Commander Vans, which began to be introduced last year as vans were replaced.
The cameras are the latest digital technology and the vans are equipped with LTI UltraLyte 1000 laser guns.
They are made out of aluminium and steel and can catch drivers travelling at up to 200mph at a range of 3,280ft.
A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said: 'It's all about keeping our roads safe.
'We don't want to catch people, we want people to slow down.'
Dog DNA 'to be used to find owners not cleaning up after pets'
The residents of a smart apartment building are considering testing DNA of their dogs to discover which owners are not clearing up after their pets.
By Tom Leonard in New York
20 May 2010
Leaders of the residents' association at Scarlett Place, a development in Baltimore's expensive Inner Harbour district, have proposed that the dozens of dog-owning residents submit their animals to a compulsory cheek swab.
Dog owners would then have to pay $50 (£35) per dog to cover the cost of the test, as well as $10 (£7) each month for building staff to collect uncleared dog mess and send it to a laboratory for testing. Any negligent dog owner could be fined $500 (£350).
"We pay all this money and we're walking around stepping in dog poop," said Steve Frans, a member of the building's board and dog owner.
He told the Baltimore Sun: "Some people think it's funny. But you know, this seems to be a reasonable, objective way to say, 'This is your poop, you're responsible."
Dog mess has even been discovered in the building's lifts and hallways. Mr Frans, who is blind, said some neighbours suspect his guide dog is responsible for some of it.
At a meeting on Wednesday, many residents scorned the idea but the company that would test the DNA insists its "PooPrints" service has been successful.
Jim Simpson, president of BioPet Vet Lab, a Tennessee company, said that uncollected dog waste had declined in the handful of communities that had signed up for its service since it was launched last year.
Richard Hopp, a dog-owning lawyer who lives in Scarlett Place, said: "It's absolutely ridiculous. I feel like I'm living in a 'Seinfeld' episode."
Internet Police: London Signs Warn Against Accessing “Extremist” Material
Threat of criminal charges for viewing “inappropriate” material
Steve Watson
Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
Police signs have begun springing up in internet cafes in London warning users that they could be reported to the police and face criminal charges if they access “extremist”, “offensive” or “inappropriate” material.
The signs, which state that the owners of the premises are actively working with the Metropolitan police, have drawn criticism due to their vagueness and questionable legality.
“Downloading or accessing certain material could constitute a criminal offence” states the bright pink sign (pictured below).
Comments concerning the signs on both flickr and popular blog site Boing Boing encapsulate the threat such policies pose:
‘Offensive’ according to what criteria? Could that include political satire or making fun of religions? Also, if it also lists ‘pornographic’, what is meant by ‘inappropriate’? Another term so widely interpretable that it’s effectively meaningless.
Not just illegal, please note, but “offensive or inappropriate”. Offensive to whom? Inappropriate to what? These are the sort of catch-all weasel-words you might expect in China.
You might as well just have a notice that says: “We reserve the right to terminate your connection and report you to the police whenever we feel like it”.
Who’s monitoring personal emails for “inappropriate” material? Is the monitoring covered by RIPA? What’s the legal basis or indeed definition of “inappropriate”? Saddened and shocked on a weekly basis as we slip/get boiled into a police state.
There is an interesting legal angle here: since when, and on what authority, have the police been given the power to prevent the accessing of violent or pornographic images other than occasions where these are criminal – which they often aren’t.
Equally, by what authority do they co-opt, whether by persuasion, bullying (“You aren’t refusing to cooperate with the police are you Mr Internet Cafe Owner, are you?”) Internet cafes into joining such a self defined and vague scheme?
I think the Internet cafe should be asked by its users for Data Subject Access records, just to be sure.
I (don’t) like the extreme vagueness of the last sentence: downloading certain materials could possibly be illegal… but we’re not telling you what certain materials. Breaking some laws could be against the law! It’s possible! Be warned!
“Extremist” Sounds like your Magna Carta to me. Or our Bill Of Rights. Good luck living under the (jack)boots.
gosh – i hope there’s a bobby looking over my shoulder at all times to make sure i don’t download anything inappropriate or offensive. there’s a list of that sort of thing isn’t there? because if they stop me before i read anything bad, then i won’t be a criminal will i? i want to be certain.
or upload, access, transmit or store…. btw, would it be okay if i brought my own computer in to look at bad stuff? then it wouldn’t be on your system right? then i’d be safe, wouldn’t i?
I’m glad that Londoners are still free to think what they want them to think.
We have previously reported on filtering and blocking of all kinds of political websites including in public domains in both the UK and the US. This type of catch all censorship creep is part of an ongoing agenda to use legitimate concerns such child pornography to regulate and control the internet as a whole.
Christian preacher arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin
A Christian street preacher was arrested and locked in a cell for telling a passer-by that homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God.
By Heidi Blake
02 May 2010
Dale McAlpine was charged with causing “harassment, alarm or distress” after a homosexual police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of “sins” referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships.
The 42-year-old Baptist, who has preached Christianity in Workington, Cumbria for years, said he did not mention homosexuality while delivering a sermon from the top of a stepladder, but admitted telling a passing shopper that he believed it went against the word of God.
Police officers are alleging that he made the remark in a voice loud enough to be overheard by others and have charged him with using abusive or insulting language, contrary to the Public Order Act.
Mr McAlpine, who was taken to the police station in the back of a marked van and locked in a cell for seven hours on April 20, said the incident was among the worst experiences of his life.
“I felt deeply shocked and humiliated that I had been arrested in my own town and treated like a common criminal in front of people I know," he said.
“My freedom was taken away on the hearsay of someone who disliked what I said, and I was charged under a law that doesn't apply.”
Christian campaigners have expressed alarm that the Public Order Act, introduced in 1986 to tackle violent rioters and football hooligans, is being used to curb religious free speech.
Sam Webster, a solicitor-advocate for the Christian Institute, which is supporting Mr McAlpine, said it is not a crime to express the belief that homosexual conduct is a sin.
“The police have a duty to maintain public order but they also have a duty to defend the lawful free speech of citizens,” he said.
“Case law has ruled that the orthodox Christian belief that homosexual conduct is sinful is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society."
Mr McAlpine was handing out leaflets explaining the Ten Commandments or offering a “ticket to heaven” with a church colleague on April 20, when a woman came up and engaged him in a debate about his faith.
During the exchange, he says he quietly listed homosexuality among a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians, including blasphemy, fornication, adultery and drunkenness.
After the woman walked away, she was approached by a PCSO who spoke with her briefly and then walked over to Mr McAlpine and told him a complaint had been made, and that he could be arrested for using racist or homophobic language.
The street preacher said he told the PCSO: “I am not homophobic but sometimes I do say that the Bible says homosexuality is a crime against the Creator”.
He claims that the PCSO then said he was homosexual and identified himself as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison officer for Cumbria police. Mr McAlpine replied: “It’s still a sin.”
The preacher then began a 20 minute sermon, in which he says he mentioned drunkenness and adultery, but not homosexuality. Three regular uniformed police officers arrived during the address, arrested Mr McAlpine and put him in the back of a police van.
At the station, he was told to empty his pockets and his mobile telephone, belt and shoes were confiscated. Police took fingerprints, a palm print, a retina scan and a DNA swab.
He was later interviewed, charged under Sections 5 (1) and (6) of the Public Order Act and released on bail on the condition that he did not preach in public.
Mr McAlpine pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing on Friday at Workington magistrates court and is now awaiting a trial date.
The Public Order Act, which outlaws the unreasonable use of abusive language likely to cause distress, has been used to arrest religious people in a number of similar cases.
Harry Hammond, a pensioner, was convicted under Section 5 of the Act in 2002 for holding up a sign saying “Stop immorality. Stop Homosexuality. Stop Lesbianism. Jesus is Lord” while preaching in Bournemouth.
Stephen Green, a Christian campaigner, was arrested and charged in 2006 for handing out religious leaflets at a Gay Pride festival in Cardiff. The case against him was later dropped.
Cumbria police said last night that no one was available to comment on Mr McAlpine’s case.
Stop and search UK: A Briton is interrogated by police every 20 seconds. 90% aren't even arrested
By James Slack
16 April 2010
Somebody is stopped and searched by the police every 20 seconds in 'Big Brother' Britain, it was revealed last night.
More than nine out of every ten of those interrogated by officers are not even subsequently arrested, let alone charged.
Opposition parties say the revelation is yet more evidence of the Government's disregard for civil liberties and 'state knows best' attitude.
According to figures released by the Home Office yesterday, the use of each of the three main types of police stop and search powers is rocketing.
The statistics follow warnings that police are making unjustified stops to give the figures 'racial balance' and that suspects are being searched even though there is no evidence against them.
The biggest rise was in searches carried out because an officer believed a suspect may be about to commit an act of violence - up 182 per cent in a year, to 150,174.
Use of the controversial Section 44 anti-terrorism power - which allows police to search people without any reasonable grounds they suspect wrongdoing - leapt by 66 per cent, to 210,013 cases.
The police's long-standing stop and search power, which dates back to 1984 and requires an officer to at least suspect a person could be involved in crime, was up ten per cent, to 1,153,572 cases.
In total some 1,513,759 people were interrogated on the streets or in their car by an officer in 2008/09 - an overall increase of 24 per cent.
That is the equivalent of three every minute.
Yet the searches led to only 118,118 arrests. In the remaining cases, an entirely innocent person had been put through the humiliation - often in public - of a lengthy search for no reason.
The most controversial aspect will be the steep rise in the use of the Section 44 anti-terror powers. It led to the arrest of only nine people for terrorism offences - or 0.004 per cent of those who were stopped.
The power has already been ruled unlawful by the European courts.
Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terror laws, has also said he knows of cases where suspects were stopped by officers even though there was no evidence against them.
But, pending a final appeal, the Home Office has decided to allow officers to continue to use the power.
Conservative Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'Gordon Brown and Labour have trampled our civil liberties for far too long. Whether they're trying to impose ID cards, or allowing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to be stopped and searched under Terrorism powers, they always seem to think the state knows best. We can't go on like this.
'Conservatives will end the abuse of stop and search powers as part of a full review of all Labour's counterterrorism laws.'
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'Stop and search powers are being over-used and abused.
'When trainspotters, photographers and Japanese tourists are all up in arms, it should be clear even to Labour that this law needs to be tightened up.
'Random and indiscriminate use of stop and search is an infringement of liberty and alienates the communities we rely on most for the intelligence and witnesses to fight terrorism.'
He spoke as the campaign group Big Brother Watch called on the three main parties to make the scrapping of Section 44 powers an election promise.
Anti-terrorism chiefs ordered an escalation in the use of the powers after the failed bomb attack against the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London's West End in 2007.
Section 44 of the Terrorism Act allows officers to stop anyone in a specified area without the need for reasonable suspicion. From last year, the powers were limited to specific parts of London, including Westminster.
Photographers and protesters have claimed the powers are used excessively against them.
Critics also say that the alleged unjustified stopping of white people to balance racial profiling figures is 'almost certainly illegal'.
The Home Office said the increase use of the stop and search power in 'anticipation of violence' was a result of the tackling knives action plan.
BBC photographer who was treated as a terror suspect
By Luke Sakeld

Left: Singled out: Innocent BBC photographer Jeff Overs was stopped on suspicion of being a terrorist

Of the hundreds of thousands of innocent members of the public who have been victims of Labour's stop and search legislation, many have been photographers - be they amateurs, professionals or even tourists .
One of them was BBC photographer Jeff Overs who was stopped by police in November on suspicion of being a terrorist as he took pictures outside the Tate Modern gallery in London
The 48-year-old was focusing on a sunset over St Paul's Cathedral when a policewoman, with a community support officer, told him she was 'stopping people who were taking photographs as a counter-terrorism measure' and demanded his name, address and date of birth.
The photographer said it so enraged him he sent the policewoman away with a 'flea in her ear' but not before he had been issued with a stop and search form.
He said: 'I was outraged at such an infringement of my liberty.'
'I pointed out that nearly every other person walking along the South Bank was taking pictures of the view using their mobile phones and we had drawn her attention because we were using cameras.
'Did these officers seriously believe two people with cameras around their necks photographing the sunset were a danger to national security? Foreign tourists must think Britain has become a police state.'
Other cases include trainspotter Stephen White, who was enjoying a family camping holiday in Wales when he was confronted by officers who had 'evidence' of him taking pictures of some railway engines.
Using CCTV images and car registration plates, they tracked Mr White, his sister and her two children to the campsite and demanded he handed over his pictures.
When he refused, police followed their car the next day and stopped him in the road, with blue lights flashing, and repeated their demand.
He said: 'This has totally ruined the holiday, just because I'm a bit of a train geek who took pictures of some engines.'
Last April, two Austrians were stopped at an east London bus station and told to delete their photos of red buses.
Pet shop owner fined £1,000 and told to wear an electronic tag ... for selling a GOLDFISH to a boy aged 14
By Jaya Narain
01 April 2010
Her offence was to unwittingly sell a goldfish to a 14-year-old boy taking part in a trading standards 'sting'.
At most, pet shop owner Joan Higgins, 66, expected a slap on the wrist for breaking new animal welfare laws which ban the sale of pets to under-16s.
Instead, the great-grandmother was taken to court, fined £1,000, placed under curfew - and ordered to wear an electronic tag for two months.
Seven-week curfew: Joan Higgins has to wear an electronic tag
The punishment is normally handed out to violent thugs and repeat offenders.
The prosecution of Mrs Higgins and her son Mark is estimated to have cost taxpayers £20,000 and has left her with a criminal record.
Mark, 47, was also fined and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work in the community.
Last night, as an MP criticised the magistrates, Mrs Higgins - who has run the pet shop for 28 years - said the family's eight-month ordeal had left them traumatised.
She added: 'It's ridiculous. I mean, what danger am I that I have to wear an electronic tag? These last few months have been a very stressful time.'
The seven-week curfew imposed by the court means she is unable to babysit her great-grandson at his home or go to bingo sessions with her sister, and will be unable to attend a Rod Stewart concert after tickets were bought for her by her nephew, actor Will Mellor.
Joan Higgins, 66, and her son Mark, 47, have both been ordered to pay fines after selling a goldfish to a 14-year-old boy
Her son said: 'I think it's a farce. What gets me so cross is that they put my Mum on a tag - she's nearly 70, for goodness' sake.
'She's a great-grandma so she won't be able to babysit a newborn baby. You would think they have better things to do with their time and money.'
Mr Higgins claimed the undercover operation was a clear case of entrapment - when a person is encouraged by someone in some official capacity to commit a crime - and said the case should never have gone to court.
He said: 'The council sent the 14-year-old in to us. It is hard to tell how old a lad is these days. He looked much older than 14.'
He added that his mother almost fainted in the dock when magistrates told her she could go to prison for the offence.
'I told her they wouldn't send her to prison but she was still worried,' he said. 'The only other time she has been in court is when she did jury service.'
Majors Pet shop in Sale, Greater Manchester, owned by Joan and Mark Higgins
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is illegal to sell pets - including goldfish - to children under the age of 16 unless they are accompanied by an adult. Pet shops must also provide advice on animal welfare to buyers.
The maximum penalty is imprisonment for up to 12 months, or a fine of up to £20,000, or both.
The Higgins family's ordeal began when council officials heard that Majors Pet Shop in Sale, Greater Manchester, was selling animals to children.
They sent the 14-year-old schoolboy into the shop to carry out a test purchase and Mr Higgins sold him the goldfish without questioning his age or providing any information about the care of the fish.
A council officer in the shop at the time also noticed a cockatiel in a cage that appeared to be in a poor state of health. A vet found the bird had a broken leg and eye problems. It was later put down.
Mrs Higgins and her son were charged with selling the fish to a person aged under 16 and with causing unnecessary suffering to a cockatiel by failing to provide appropriate care and treatment.
Pleading guilty, Mrs Higgins told Trafford magistrates the cockatiel had not been for sale and she had been bathing its eye daily.
New EU Gestapo Spies on Britons
By Mary Reynolds
Friday March 26,2010
MILLIONS of Britons face being snooped on by a new European intelligence agency which has been handed frightening powers to pry into our lives.
Europol can access personal information on anyone – including their political opinions and sexual preferences – if it suspects, rightly or wrongly, that they may be involved in any “preparatory act” which could lead to criminal activity.
The vagueness of the Hague-based force’s remit sparked furious protests yesterday with critics warning that the EU snoopers threaten our right to free speech.
It is understood the agency will concentrate on anyone thought “xenophobic” or likely to commit a crime involving the environment, computers or motor vehicles.
This could include covert monitoring of people who deny the existence of climate change or speak out on controversial issues.
Paul Nuttall, chairman of the UK Independence Party, said: “I am horrified. We thought Gordon Brown’s Big Brother state was bad enough but at least we are going to kick him out in May. These guys we cannot sack until we leave the EU.”
James Welch, legal director of campaign group Liberty, said: “We have huge concerns that Europol appears to have been given powers to hold very sensitive information and to investigate matters that aren’t even crimes in this country. Any extension of police powers at any level needs to be properly debated and scrutinised.”
Until January 1, Europol was a police office funded by various states to help tackle international organised crime. But it has been reborn as the official criminal intelligence-gathering arm of the EU and Brussels has vastly increased its powers.
It can now target more than simply organised crime and the burden of proof required to begin monitoring an individual has been downgraded.
Europol has also been absorbed into the EU superstructure, so it will be centrally funded, sweeping away a key check on its independence.
Campaigners last night expressed concern over the vague list of “serious crimes” which the agency can help investigate, which include racism and xenophobia, environmental crime and corruption. Among personal details that can be gathered and stored are “behavioural data” including “lifestyle and routine; movements; places frequented”, tax position and profiles of DNA and voice.
Where relevant, Europol will also be able to keep data on a person’s “political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs or trade union membership and data concerning health or sex life”.
Sean Gabb, director of the Libertarian Alliance, warned that it threatened our right to free speech.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Europol has been handed these rather frightening powers,” he said. “We now live in a pan-European state so it was to be expected that it would have a federal police force with powers over us.
“There is a real danger that opposition to EU policies could make an individual liable to arrest.
“For example, if Brussels adopts a hard-line stance on climate change, it’s conceivable that someone who broadcasts their scepticism of climate change may be accused of committing an environmental crime because they have undermined the EU’s efforts to save mankind.”
Timothy Kirkhope, Conservative leader in the European Parliament, said: “Europol’s new mandate has significantly expanded its powers.
“There is a real chance that the vague mandate will enable it to gradually extend its areas of intervention even further.”
The Home Office insisted the changes were in Britain’s interests.
A spokesman said: “Europol is now in a much stronger position to better support our fight against serious and organised crime and terrorism.”
Britain faces losing power over its own Budget under new plans for an 'economic Government of the EU'
By Jason Groves
26th March 2010
Britain could be forced to have its Budget signed off by European leaders under plans to impose an 'economic government of the EU', it emerged yesterday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pressing for 'oversight' of national economies to be included in controversial arrangements that were agreed by EU leaders yesterday.
She wants to introduce financial penalties for states with persistently high budget deficits, giving the EU a high degree of control.
'Sign off': Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are paving the way for a single economic policy
This could see Britain forfeiting the £2billion annual 'structural funds' paid out to some of the nation's poorer areas by Brussels.
Critics said the Prime Minister was the victim of 'another Franco-German stitch-up' that would lead to unprecedented interference in Britain's economic affairs.
British sources yesterday insisted any new powers would apply only to the 16 countries that use the euro. But Brussels insiders said the possibility of applying sanctions to all EU states remained open.
The idea of creating a single economic policy for the EU has long been a French dream.
Mrs Merkel has warmed to the idea - bringing her politically closer to French president Nicolas Sarkozy - in the wake of Greece's economic meltdown.
She believes her plan would prevent a repeat of the Greek crisis by imposing sanctions on nations that manage their economies badly.
Any move along these lines could ultimately affect the UK, which has a budget deficit of 13 per cent, according to EU figures - higher even than Greece's 12.5 per cent.
Gordon Brown holds a news conference at the end of a European Union leaders' summit in Brussels
It emerged yesterday that Britain could have to pay £650million towards a Greek bailout if the International Monetary Fund steps in to stop the euro collapsing.
Diplomatic sources said the possible £20billion bailout of Greece would involve a 'substantial' contribution from the IMF of up to £13billion, with the rest coming from countries in the eurozone.
Britain is not a member of the eurozone but the IMF's £13billion would include around £650million from the UK.
Mrs Merkel acknowledged that her plans could require renegotiation of existing EU treaties - which would spark fresh calls in the UK for a referendum on any new pact.
But diplomats said the changes could be 'tacked on' to next year's treaty paving the way for the accession of Croatia to the EU.
Gordon Brown chats with Nicolas Sarkozy and Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor prior to the second working session of the summit in Brussels
EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who has already called for the EU to be given sweeping economic powers, will lead a task force to flesh out plans for economic government by the end of this year.
Mr Brown said there was 'no suggestion that Britain is being in any way bypassed by this'.
But he admitted Britain would be just one voice among 27 on the task force. He sought to play down the plans, insisting Britain had ceded no new economic powers to Brussels.
But Tory MP Bill Cash said he had been out-manoeuvred, adding: 'We have fallen victim to another Franco-German stitch-up. We have to fight this drive for political union, which is what this idea of economic government is all about.'
Greek prime minister George Papandreou, who said that his country would press ahead with painful austerity measures
Mats Persson, of the think-tank Open Europe, said the proposals were potentially more significant than the Lisbon Treaty, which was pushed through last year without a referendum in Britain.
He added: 'Merkel's vision is quite clear - countries which run persistently high deficits should face heavy sanctions.
'These would be imposed by the European Council in a vote in which there would be no veto and the member state concerned would be excluded.
'It is a massive step, giving the EU powers over a country's economy, which has been a no-go zone until now.
'It would effectively give the European Council the power to sign off national budgets.'