…and the taxpayer with a £20,000 bill.
As reported in the Daily Telegraph:
Beryl Welch, 61, was charged with affray after scolding four scouts aged 11 to 13 who were clambering up trees at a scout camp next to her garden in Cosgrove, Bucks.
After her pleas were ignored and fearing the trees were being vandalised, she got a claw hammer from her house and angrily waved it at the youngsters.
But following a two-day trial, a jury of six men and six women cleared Mrs Welch of affray and found her guilty of the lesser charge of threatening behaviour.
Judge Charles Wide QC gave Mrs Welch a 12-month conditional discharge and criticised the prosecution and the CPS for bringing the case to trial.
He said: ''To have the Crown Court and the taxpayer dealing with a case like this is quite beyond me.
''How could anyone have thought it appropriate to charge affray in a case like this? How could anyone have thought a jury trial was appropriate, whether or not a woman threatened a scout with a hammer?"
It is no surprise that the court has thrown this case out. This woman is not a criminal and should never have been treated like one.
Waving the hammer was a mistake; but the time and money spent on this case, as well as the anguish no doubt felt by the woman involved, are a sad indictment of our legal system.
By Dylan Sharpe
Alex has written extensively on the cost, legality, functionality and inherent invasion of privacy that are part and parcel of body scanners and gleefully we can today report that the Pope has spoken out against the use of the unscrupulous devices.
Addressing an audience with aerospace industry employees, Pope Benedict's appeal 'to protect and value the human person' has been widely interpreted as a reference to the fast expanding intrusive technology. His comments come as a timely incursion with the radiant potential to accentuate the importance of protecting our basic civil liberties. Big Brother Watch hopes that the speech will increase public awareness of, and opposition to, these wholly unethical machines. After all, it's nice to have God on our side…
A plethora of arguments can be used against body scanners but few are more apt than a statement made later in his address:
the primary asset to be safeguarded and treasured is the person, in his or her integrity
By James Stannard
As we mentioned before, Alex was interviewed by Ken Livingstone recently about Dominic Raab's book The Assault on Liberty. All three parts of that extended interview are now online:
A nudge from a supporter reminds me that I have failed to comment on an important development in Europe about our sharing the private data of people in the EU with authorities in the USA.
The European Parliament recently rejected an agreement with the United States on sharing bank data, effectively snubbing appeals from Washington for help in counter-terrorism investigations.
A nine-month interim agreement with the USA to share data went into force provisionally at the start of the month, but some in the EU Parliament opposed it on the grounds that it failed to protect the privacy of EU citizens and Washington will now have to seek other ways to access information on money transfers in Europe.
This is great news. Details of our financial transactions are private and should never be shared with other countries. Finally someone is standing up to the disproportionate invasions of privacy and freedom which bureaucrats try to justify in the name of counter-terrorism.
I also note that this is not the first occasion in recent times that British people have been dependant on Europe to defend our liberties. The British government and courts were wrong on defendants being convicted on the evidence of absent witnesses, and the European Court was right. The British government and courts were wrong on the retention of DNA samples from innocent people, and the European Court was right. The British government and courts were wrong on random stop and search, and the European Court was right.
I for one despair of us being dependent on a Court and a Parliament which have grown from a very different jurisprudential and cultural tradition to protect our rights, and for those with a sense of British liberty and freedom it feels rather shameful, doesn't it?
By Alex Deane
Hat tip: SS
This one needs to be taken with a good pinch of the proverbial for the time being as it's based on the hitherto unsubstantiated claims made by students seeking compensation, but a remarkable story – laptops issued to students by a Philadelphia high school have webcams which can apparently be covertly activated by the schools' administrators.
It is believed that said administrators have used this facility to spy on students and even their families. The issue came to light when the claimant's child was apparently disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence against him.
Here are the court papers filed by the claimants – they make quite remarkable reading.
If these claims are true, the ramifications for privacy everywhere are huge – and very bad.
By Alex Deane
Hat tip: Marchamont
A headteacher has bizarrely used the smoking ban to send fines to the parents of pupils caught smoking in the school playground.
As reported today by the Evening Standard:
Margaret Peacock, head of Elliot School in Putney, wrongly claimed powers under the 2007 smoking ban to issue the £50 penalties.
Ms Peacock sent letters to the parents demanding the £50 and warned them that if they did not pay, the school's governors would face a £2,500 fine. In the letter, she wrote: “The law, which came into force on 1 July 2007, prohibits smoking on public property.
“Your child was part of a group of girls seen on CCTV who were involved in smoking on the school site and therefore a fixed penalty fine of £50 has been imposed.”
In what should be considered a victory for commonsense, Wandsworth local education authority has admitted the school was wrong and has demanded it refund the fines.
The children are damaging their health and shouldn't be smoking on school property, but equally the school had no right to start dishing out fines to their parents.
The school might need more money, but this is not the way to do it.
By Dylan Sharpe
Our Canadian friends are suffering from the blight of body scanners as much as we are. Over at the Calgary Herald, a perhaps predictable development – a furore over plans to charge passengers for the privilege of going through body scanners.
I have already outlined my objections to scanners on privacy and freedom grounds. But it may be that arguments on functionality, the health risks, costs and charges to passengers may be the things that kill them off.
By Alex Deane
Dylan has covered the police trial of remote controlled, unmanned CCTV spy drones (and the illegality of some such usage) previously. But have a look at this – just one example of similar hardware available to the public at low cost online. Not a fantastic battery life with current models, to be sure – but certainly enough to see over the neighbour's property, or the girl sunbathing at the end of the street.
By Alex Deane
Hat tip: WA
Great timing – on the day that the Ipswich Evening Star reports plans for a costly extension of Felixstowe's CCTV network, Australia's Tweed Daily News reports that their costly new system, installed with great fanfare a year ago, had a glitch in it which the supervisors knew about, but kept secret, which meant that footage couldn't be retained after a very short period of time had elapsed.
First time that emerged? When some poor chap's car was nicked – whilst parked right in front of said cameras.
As I have said several times before – the false sense of security created by this frequently failing technology should be considered whenever applications for more CCTV are made.
By Alex Deane
The headline says it all really. For more vein-poppingly irritating reportage, check out the Daily Mail's story about a council which bans swimming goggles because they're "dangerous".
If a parent wants their child to wear goggles whilst swimming, and the child wants to wear goggles whilst swimming, why on earth would some council minion think it’s his place to interfere?
I don’t really care if goggles help kids to swim or not. They should be able to decide for themselves. It’s the smug sense of self-importance these splashocrats exhibit in thinking they’ve got the right to blanket ban things and confiscate property from customers that gets me. The saddest feature of the nanny state is that it breeds jobsworths who think that everything’s their business; they think that they should play the role of parents and they think it's fine to deny individual choice in more and more ways. On all counts, they’re wrong.
By Alex Deane