Thursday, 7 July 2011

The News International Affair Gathers Pace.

Listening to Radio 4 news coverage on the phone hacking affair on the way to work and on the way back home today, the game seemed to move on from phone hacking to stopping News International from owning BSkyB.

There has been very vehement opposition to the NotW and News International in general on the BBC over the past few days, with the ramping up of allegations (and they are only allegations, based on names found in the possession of the private investigator employed by the News of the World to listen to people's voice mails) from celebs we don't really care about, to murder victims, soldiers killed in action and victims of terrorism.

Robert Peston's piece on the closure of the NotW on this evening's Radio 4 news was especially discomforting. He puts a strange emphasis on words at the best of times, but this evening was excruciating to listen to.

Not surprisingly, this evening's Question Time lead with the cynical question if the closure of the NotW was a ploy to insulate it from the rest of News International. How about the rest of the news media? I'm convinced that the culture of listening in to personal messages is not restricted to just News International owned newspapers.

Autonomous Mind has a view about the baying for Murdoch blood by the BBC and other newspapers. Its an interesting viewpoint and he's once again eloquently stated something that was in the back of my mind as I listened to the news today.

Its interesting that in the eyes of the BBC Rupert Murdoch can do no good. Having announced the closure of the NotW he's now being castigated for ending the jobs of the hundreds of people employed to produce the newspaper.

One final note is that it seems to have gone very quiet about the ineffectiveness of the original Police enquiry into phone hacking. It needs to be investigated how on earth that enquiry couldn't probe deeply enough to find the reams of evidence that now appears to be available. People must have perjured themselves or the Police must have been incompetent, or both. Or possibly political pressure was put on the investigators to do as little as possible. If that's the case, its very much in the public interest to also investigate the relationship between the press and politicians.


I just had the thought: what effect would having hundreds of disgruntled ex-NotW employees have on the flow of information about the culture in the newspaper? If I was a soon to be ex employee, I'd be lining up a deal with a competitor to blow the whistle on what went on behind the scenes and how culpable senior figures  in the management are in the illegal activities.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

More on the Police (Detention and Bail) bill

Details of the bill are now public.

Currently it doesn't seek to expand on restoring the status quo that the Police had unlawfully established, but there's time during its passage through Parliament.

The first interesting aspect is that it explicitly states "The amendments made by subsections (1) and (2) are deemed always to have had effect." which makes the change retrospective. I assume this is to stop many thousands of claims for compensation due to unlawful detention and the rest of the can of worms opened last week.

Second, it restores the ability to arrest people, interrogate them and then spend months trawling for evidence while keeping them on a short leash, forced to report regularly to Police stations. All before the Police have enough evidence to press charges. They can be arrested, released and re-arrested over and over: several times if necessary as long as the periods of detention don't add up to the maximum.

One final point is that when the so-called crisis broke last week, government went straight to ACPO to ask what they should do. In effect, Parliament ceeded creation of the law to those that enforce the law, something that really, really, should not be happening. I've said before its up to Parliament to create the laws and for the Police to enforce them. Its especially not right that ACPO, an unaccountable limited company should dictate laws to be created by Parliament.

I'll also wager that during what limited debates are allowed on this bill that not one MP asks the questions why was the Police interpretation of the law on bail so wrong, why did it continue for so long and why we need to change back to the old system. I'd have thought it was quite obvious that it would be fairer to arrest people once there was enough evidence against them to charge them, rather than arrest them and then keep them in limbo for many months while the evidence is gathered.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

"Emergency" Legislation (the worst kind) coming on Police Bail.

It looks as though the police will get their way as always and MPs will bend over backwards to reinforce an age old bending of the rules.

The Police (Detention and Bail) bill is due to be rushed through Parliament ASAP.

I've yet to look at it as I haven't seen a copy online, but rest assured it won't just re-establish the staus quo, I'm sure there will be an extension of Police powers over and above those they were (ab)using before the court decision last week. Its always the way that the Police draught a wish-list and it gets put on the statute books and what better time, when supposedly chaos reigns and MPs will do very little scrutiny of the bill and rubber stamp it because they need to be seen to support the Police and the political establishment.

The bill needs careful looking at and I implore bloggers everywhere to give it the scrutiny it deserves. After all this is about the restriction of people's liberty before being charged and if not carefully crafted, could have people harassed by the Police and be required by law to report to them for interrogation time and time again ad infinitum without any time limit and without any new evidence to answer to, which is tantamount to state-sponsored harassment. Its that point the judge was acting on last week.

I may be wrong, but the nature of the beast and previous form by the establishment says we need to be vigilant.