A woman is suing the US Government over an incident in which
airport staff allegedly pulled down her top and joked about her breasts in public view.The 23-year-old traveller, from Amarillo, US, is suing the US Government for the emotional distressed she says the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents caused.
'The woman says she was singled out for "extended search procedures" while preparing to board a plane to Amarillo in May 2008.“As the TSA agent was frisking plaintiff, the agent pulled the plaintiff’s blouse completely down, exposing plaintiffs’ breasts to everyone in the area,” the lawsuit said.
Turns out I don't want to know the way to Amarillo. And it wasn't just one or two bad eggs, it seems. The lawsuit claims that
other employees laughed and made jokes about the incident "for an extended period of time".The distraught woman left the screening area to be consoled but when she re-entered the boarding area employees allegedly started joking about the matter."One male TSA employee expressed to the plaintiff that he wished he would have been there when she came through the first time and that 'he would just have to watch the video."
We'll watch what happens with the case with interest, and report back.
By Alex Deane
Louise Casey, the Government's victims' commissioner, has called for the scrapping of the right to trial by jury trial for lesser offences that "clog up the courts", to save money. She also points out that victims of serious crime have to wait for longer to give evidence in the Crown Court as a result.
She is no doubt right in her claim that almost 70,000 cases which could be heard by magistrates makes up more than 40% of the crown court's business every year, which costs more money than trials in the lower court. But she apparently fails to appreciate that hearing such cases isn't just a "nuisance" for the Crown Court – it's part of our system's essential functions.
The right to trial by a jury of one's peers is one of the cornerstones of the British criminal justice system and it has been the basis for fair and transparent justice for hundreds of years. Any attempt to limit jury trials must be resisted.
Calls to limit trial by jury are really made for two reasons – trials by Magistrates are cheaper, and conviction is more likely. Neither is a good reason to change the trial process.
Her alternative, superficially more attractive argument, is also totally false:
"We should not view the right to a jury trial as being so sacrosanct that its exercise should be at the cost of victims of serious crimes."
It's a false dichotomy. This is actually an argument for greater resources in the court system, and is no argument against jury trials at all. And ultimately, even if her parallel is right, a fair trial is sacrosanct. Once you start tinkering with it, it will prove very hard to stop.
By Alex Deane
The Information Commissioner's office has just issued a statement confirming they will not be taking (what they term as) "knee jerk" action against Google for their harvesting of the personal data of thousands of people.
According to the Press Association, the ICO is "waiting for the result of overseas inquiries before deciding whether to consider using its enforcement powers" and could yet issue a "stop notice" forbidding Google from collecting such data in the future.
This lack of action from the ICO follows the regrettable decision of the Metropolitan Police last week not to pursue a criminal case against Google.
Their failure to take decisive is nothing short of a disgrace. If they're going to wait until results from abroad, then what is the point of having an ICO of our own? The Commissioner has been an apologist for the worst offender in his sphere of responsibility, not a policeman of it.
What kind of a message does it send out about the effectiveness of the ICO and their commitment to personal privacy when a company like Google is able to harvest the personal information of thousands of people and get off scot-free?
By Daniel Hamilton
This evening will see the launch of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch’s new publication, ‘Fight Terror, Defend Freedom’ by Dominic Raab MP.
The launch of the book will take place between 5:00pm and 6:00pm today in the Thatcher Room in Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament.
Mr Raab, who was an international lawyer prior to his election to Parliament, will introduce his publication, followed by a panel discussion including former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis MP, Centre for Technology Policy Research Jerry Fishenden and Big Brother Watch Director Alex Deane.
Commenting on the launch of the publication Raab said:
“Today’s publication of the National Security Strategy, highlights the flaws in the last government’s approach to counter-terrorism. Too much time, money and effort was wasted on ‘sound byte’ security. Too many of Labour’s measures, like ID cards and prolonged detention without charge, were unnecessary or irrelevant to our security.
“The government has a golden opportunity to break with this flawed approach. We should be defending our freedoms, like free speech and the presumption of innocence. At the same time, the justice system is an underused weapon in the fight against terrorism. We should be strengthening our capacity to prosecute terrorists – not least by lifting the ban on using intercept as evidence.”
Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch said:
“The case for action is now irresistible. Dominic Raab’s publication shows the injustices being done every day in this country. Stop and search and control orders are being reviewed – why? Why review something when you know it’s wrong?“
Click here to download a copy of the booklet.
Extraordinary stuff emerging this morning about Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He wants to make it harder for members of the public to bring legal action against the police force.
The power to bring legal action against the police is an important tool in the arsenal of the citizenry, protecting us from the abuse of power by those entrusted with it and ensuring that the state does not overstep its bounds. It stands, furthermore, as an important symbol of the nature of the relationship we have with those who police us: we are not solely accountable to them; they are also accountable to us.
Furthermore, I think that there's a pretty obvious problem with his logic. If you think that legal action is being brought against you too often, perhaps the problem isn't with the system, but rather with…. (*drumroll*)… you.
Let us hope that Theresa May tells Sir Paul where to shove it.
There is a broader issue behind the suggestion, which I think is important. This was once a country in which it was felt, broadly, that the policeman is your friend. I don't think that that's true any more.
By Alex Deane
Related post over at Conservative Home: do you trust the police?
The Big Brother Watch team is well used to receiving reports of odd and extraordinary rulings from education-establishment busybodies but this one, quite literally, takes the biscuit.
Kathleen Lavery, a married mother of three, has been forced to quit her job as a primary school dinner lady in the Northern Ireland town of Enniskillen following the stress of an internal disciplinary procedure instigated after she gave a young child a biscuit.
Mrs Lavery was informed by the school that “her actions could be interpreted by some as grooming a child for sexual purposes”, a preposterous allegation which has led to rumours and innuendo about her personal life.
The Chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Education committee Mervyn Storey commented the investigation was "political correctness gone too far". He’s right.
Read the full story, c/o of the Telegraph, here.
Update: A BBW supporter has informed us that common sense has now prevailed and Mrs Lavery has been reinstated to her post.
By Daniel Hamilton
With levels of both government and personal debt at dangerous levels, one would have thought that the Child Support Agency – a body which prides itself on bringing “financial stability” to the homes of children whose parents live apart – would do all it could to encourage parents to behave in a fiscally responsible manner.
This emphasis on fiscal responsibility does not, however, extend as the sleepy south-coast town of Poole.
Following a reassessment of the level of child support payments he must make, 49 year old father Stephen Bailey has been ordered to make an additional contribution of £300 towards his daughter’s upkeep.
While willing to make the additional payment at the earliest opportunity, Bailey lacked the sufficient funds in his current account to do so.
“No problem”, a representative of the CSA informed him, “you have £617 left on your credit card. Pay up!".
Bailey later discovered that the CSA has an established policy of using credit referencing agencies in order to delve into the financial matters of absent parents.
Nobody would argue that steps must be taken to ensure delinquent parents must pay their fair share for their children’s upbringing. What is, however, profoundly wrong is for the CSA to abuse their privileged access to personal financial data in order to bully individuals into racking up irresponsible credit card debts.
The CSA, of course, has form in this area having been criticised by a thirteen year old girl late last year for bankrupting her far-from-absent father. Read Mr Bailey’s full story on the Bournemouth Daily Echo website.
By Daniel Hamilton
Francis Hoar is a barrister specialising in criminal law
The recent, sad and untimely death of Lord Bingham, KG, one of this country's finest jurists, calls for a reflection on the importance of the rule of law, about which he wrote so recently. Most importantly, what lessons can we learn from three decades in which Lord Bingham sat as a judge?
It is right to speak with pride of the legacy of Britain's common law system. Its principles are the foundation of legal system throughout the world protecting the individual against the State. The common law experience shows the merit of laws derived not from the codification of abstract principles but through the resolution of real conflicts and disputes. Yet anyone who watched the BBC's brilliant Garrow's Law will have had an insight into how little protection was trial by jury in a world without a fair police force, thorough investigation and strict rules of evidence and disclosure. As we all know, the experiences of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four demonstrated how inadequate protection against such abuses lived on into the late 20th century.
The recent general election again brought into the fore debate about the effects of the Human Rights Act 1998 ('the HRA') and the European Convention on Human Rights ('the ECHR') it incorporated. As a criminal barrister, though, I would rather start with one of the finest pieces of legislation of the 20th century, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 ('PACE'). It is through this Act that suspects' interviews must be tape recorded, identification parades held and evidence obtained through oppression excluded. These parts of the criminal justice process may not appear particularly important to a layman but they are critical. Fine principles are toothless without carefully drafted rules (whether from statute or case law) to ensure a process that appears fair isn't corrupted at critical stages, leading to injustice at best but at worst the imprisonment of the innocent for years, even decades.
Back in early May, I did a lot of media work about attempts to impose an ASBO on a boy (coincidentally, represented by my old firm) who liked to wear his trousers around the mid-thigh area, exposing his pants.
I viewed that story like this:
1) he's an idiot
2) but the state shouldn't have anything to do with punishing him
3) the correct response is simply for us to form our own views about him (see (1)).
My take on Luke Angel, the boy who e-mailed the President and called him a Pr*ck and is now banned from entering the USA, is just the same.
Plainly it's a walloping overreaction. What does it really say about the USA that their Commander in Chief is so thin-skinned that a foreigner who insults him gets barred from the country? What does it say about a country when its migration laws are used to dole out punitive punishments for naughty boys?
The correct response would have been to ignore him. But if they simply couldn't hold themselves back, and the remarkable and shocking thing that this young man did simply had to be responded to, they should have said, "he's a bit of an idiot". Because he is. But they shouldn't have banned him from the country, a response normally reserved for those who are likely to commit serious crimes or constitute a grave threat to national security. Because he's neither.
By Alex Deane
The man charged with a criminal offence for posting "I am going to blow up Robin Hood airport" on Twitter has been convicted.
The judgement lacks common sense. Someone joking about terrorism on Twitter might be an idiot but he’s clearly not a terrorist, and treating him like one undermines faith in the law; it's a wildly over the top, authoritarian response to the current situation.
This absurd judgement is enough to make me want to blow up Robin Hood airport.
By Alex Deane