Feb 202015

If you are arrested in the UK, surely that means you’ve committed a crime. The stigma of being arrested can negatively impact your career prospects, your family and your social standing. The police only arrest those who are committing a crime, who have broken the law, and need to be stopped. Terrorism laws are there only for people intent on committing terrorist acts.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Suzanne Kelly reports as part of a continuing series.

PoliceLinePicfeatGuilty Until Proven Innocent – If You Step Out Of Line

This year is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, which was meant to enshrine rights for all. Most of its principles are long since forgotten.

Tony Blair created a raft of legislation when in office, and arguably British citizens lost even more rights. Blair’s mania for media manipulation had many dire consequences, not least the ‘dodgy dossier.’

Not many remember the story of Walter Wolfgang. But we should.

“Walter Wolfgang age 82, was ejected from the hall [Labour Party Conference] after shouting “nonsense” as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended Iraq policy. How did New Labour treat a long-standing member who disagreed with the serpentine Straw? The fairly new terrorism laws were used to intimidate Wolfgang.

“Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang’s re-entry [to the conference], but he was not arrested… Mr Wolfgang, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1937, is a member of the Stop the War Coalition.”

If a pensioner who heckles a speech supporting Blair’s attack on Iraq can be prevented from heckling because he might be a terrorist, how safe are we? Not safe at all is the answer. Can the threat of being arrested hinder legal, legitimate activities? Absolutely.

Arrest and Protest: A Case Study

It is not surprising that more and more people are turning to peaceful protest – we are losing our rights at the same time the 1% have widened the wealth gap, while in some instances avoiding tax, breaking banking laws and doing so with complete impunity. Many people consider the police to be an out-of-control, unilaterally-acting and capricious force. Facebook groups are documenting police brutality.

Just this week the chief constable Stephen House was accused of lying – the stop and search of children (with some 91% of the thousands searched being searched without any contraband found) is indeed continuing despite his assurances to the contrary. If protest is on the increase, perhaps the police should look to their actions as being causal.

This is an account from a peaceful protestor, Donnachadh McCarthy, who attended an Occupy Democracy event in London in early February.

“Just a quick note to say that the police have informed my solicitor that no charges will be laid against me after their aggressive over the top mauling of me at the Occupy Democracy peaceful protest in Tarpaulin Square on Saturday evening.”

“The outrageous accusation that my standing peacefully beside Boris Johnson’s private security corporation guard (AOS), as they were seeking to evict peaceful pro-democracy protesters from Tarpaulin Square, with a cardboard placard shaped like a coffin, with the inscription “UK Democracy RIP – killed by corporate billionaires”, was seeking to “intimidate a court witness and deter them from giving evidence”, never had any substance whatsoever in fact.”

“As I said in my police statement “I gently, resolutely but firmly deny that I did anything to intimidate anyone at the peaceful protest in Parliament Square”.

“Yet about 12 police officers swarmed me, took me to the ground and threw me in a police van and then held me in solitary confinement for 16 hours, whilst they futilely tried to find non-existent evidence.”

“This FOURTH arrest whilst peacefully protesting in Tarpaulin Square over the last 5 months, will not deter me from being there for the next pro-democracy protest by Occupy Democracy on March 7th.”

“This leaves me still facing 6 other trumped up charges, including one trumped up charge of “common assault” for bumping into a private security guard whilst trying to protect a peaceful protester from being attacked by the guards. This trial is on June 18th. Four other charges relate to my standing peacefully with a folded tarpaulin under my arm.”

McCarthy sums it up rather succinctly when he writes:

“The capture of our democracy by The Prostitute State continues to destroy our planet and facilitate a criminal concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1%.”

Journalists Are Not Immune Either – Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney

Award-winning film maker, journalist, documentary maker – and police suspects: Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney’s arrest at the Menie Estate was rightly condemned by the National Union of Journalists. Was the arrest intended to intimidate or stop them? You could be forgiven for thinking so:

“Shortly after the bulldozers moved in to destroy the Menie Estate dunes, we discovered Mr Trump’s workers had cut off the water supply to 86-year-old Molly Forbes – Michael’s elderly mother – for nearly a week, and so my Producer Richard Phinney and I went to interview Mr Trump’s chief greenkeeper who also doubled as head of building works.

“After the interview, Richard and I were both suddenly arrested on the property of another local resident – Susan Munro. We were then driven miles to Aberdeen, banged up in separate prison cells for several hours and stripped of our possessions. DNA, fingerprints and photos were all taken and camera equipment and footage impounded. We were both charged with ‘a breach of the peace’ a criminal offence which you can go to jail for in Scotland.

“The National Union of Journalists was furious and called our arrest ‘a blatant example of police interference stopping bona fide journalists from doing their job.’ The criminal charges were eventually thrown out by the Crown Office. But my arrest was a turning point, in what had become an extraordinary journey. I was now unwittingly part of a deeply disturbing and troubling story. And what had begun as an exercise to purely document what was happening, had now become a feature film – and I was in it.”

The way in which they were treated is virtually without precedent for journalists in the UK – let’s hope it stays that way.

The very broad-brush charge ‘breach of the peace’ can mean almost anything – no one is immune from being taken into custody on this charge in Scotland.

The two were released with a caution – this meant they never got their day in court –which would have allowed their legal team scope to clear their names completely. It also leaves a sword of Damocles over their heads – if they get into any further dealings with the police, this caution is on their record.

An abuse of power? A police intervention into journalism? It seems so.

Protect yourself – from the police

What do you do if you find yourself arrested? What should you do? Who do you call? What are your rights?

Here are some excellent resources:


Some basic principles to keep aware of include:

  • the police must tell you that  are under arrest as soon as is reasonably practicable.
  • “You do not have to say anything. However, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence” – unless it is otherwise impractical to do so.
  • the police should inform the suspect of their rights, which are as follows:
  • to notify someone of their arrest
  • to legal advice and assistance
  • to access the police Codes of Practice.
  • The police should also advise the suspect that their right to legal advice can be exercised at any time during the period of arrest (called ‘detention’).
  • All suspects have the right to receive free legal advice from a solicitor – either over the phone or in person – regardless of their financial status http://www.findlaw.co.uk/law/criminal/your_rights/7975.html

“Making a complaint

There are different courses of action you can take if you feel the police have treated you unfairly and you want to complain:-

  • use the police complaints procedure, which can result in an officer being disciplined, or in exceptional circumstances, prosecuted. This procedure cannot provide you with compensation
  • sue the police for damages. You will need to use a solicitor to do this
  • claim compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
  • ask for help from an MP, MSP or local councillor
  • contact the Procurator Fiscal if you think the police officer has broken the law

take collective action by joining or starting a campaign to monitor and change police practices.”  http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/scotland/law_s/law_legal_system_s/law_police_s/police_powers_scotland.htm

Anyone with mental health issues is meant to have an appropriate responsible adult help them through the arrest procedure.

The state of the wider world today is no reason for UK citizens to surrender more of their privacy, their freedom and their basic rights. It is worthwhile making sure you know what legal protection you are entitled to.

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Jul 052013

2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Scotland autumn tour for the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie tragedy. Contributed by Duncan Harley, and reproduced with permission.

The play gives voice to six hypothetical characters grappling with their conflict between accepting the unacceptable and having the courage to stand up for their personal truth.

Their conflicts unfold on board Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988: a mother and her stepdaughter engage in a power struggle and a retired couple disagree on priorities – family versus personal dreams.

The third couple, a USA intelligence agent and a Scottish investigative journalist, face their profound fear of the consequences in speaking truth to power. With humour, love and courage each couple discovers a surprising insight into their relationship.

In the last of three scenes, “A Chorus of Angels,” the six dead passengers join together in presiding over their own funeral. They speak from the neutrality of death in bearing witness to the investigation unfolding on the ground — the care and effort of not only those trying to uncover the truth, but also those deliberately trying to hide and manipulate it.

In poetic language and original choral music, they shed new light on the worst terrorist attack in the UK.

Directed by Corinne Harris

with James Bryce (pictured).

Source: http://www.the-elements.org.uk/productions/lockerbie-lost-voices/

Mar 072013

Voice’s Andrew Watson writes about some of his very unusual and disturbing past experiences which warranted  intervention from mental health services.

I thought I got www.MxTabs.net hauled off the web, in June 2006, because I made an entry about what had – just – happened to me.  I really want to elaborate, partly because I never really talk about it/get the opportunity:

By all accounts, it was, in comparison to a second episode, a minor psychotic episode.

I was on Beta Blockers, and my mum, to aid my sleep, got herbal remedy sleeping pills, which apparently don’t mix.

I’ve been obsessed with aliens ever since I watched a disturbing documentary on the Discovery Channel, when I was a kid. The one image etched upon my brain, seemingly, was that of a stained glass window (Scientology?!) of a man holding an alien (Grey) baby.

Put it this way, I saw/heard things that didn’t seem possible, through the blinds in my bedroom, looking out onto the back garden. I never saw anything (Grey) eye to eye, and I was relatively brave, but I dared not fucking contemplate going in that back garden.

It started with, basically, my room being untidy.  I wonder if, and I fully embrace both literal/lateral-cum-of-the-brain/of-the-mind, this was the catalyst.  Distress, or whatever.   I’m normally very tidy, and when I went for counselling as an outpatient at Aberdeen’s psychiatric hospital not long after (surprise, surprise.  I felt sorry for my parents, though), I narrowly avoided being diagnosed with OCD!

The bed was strewn with magazines, ‘Record Collector’ and ‘Leopard’ (which I love) and other titles that mean nothing to me, these days!  Anyway, I thought I’d, somehow, get this mess sorted in the morning; and just sleep on the floor.  So I got my sleeping bag out my wardrobe.

Basically, my white coat morphed into a Grey.  It seemed unreal and like a mirage, but unsettled me big time.  One thing led to another, and I found myself glued to my swivel chair.  Not through paralysis, which I would experience years later, but just fear.  I could’ve fought it, conceivably, but didn’t.

I had bamboo wick blinds, or whatever your call them.  The gaps probably cover up just under 75% of all you see outside.  Suddenly the tree I was staring at, a bare one with many twigs, seemed to spring to life.  I later developed a distinct hatred of that tree, and would always tell my parents I wanted to clip it – from the top!

Many nights converge into one at this point.

This is because an antennae-esque thing appeared to fly from outwith my peripheral vision and into plain sight.  It nestled on top of the dainty twig on top, probably the main ‘vein’ of the tree’s root, if you like.

I suppose it was a bush more than anything else, but it was quite tall.

It seemed like a ‘drone’, and I cannot shake, albeit a vague feeling that that’s exactly what it was.  It went on to project Game Boy-esque graphics, largely derivative of ‘Donkey Kong’ (Mario before ‘Super Mario Brothers’).

I traded telekinetic thoughts.  I say ‘thoughts’ because it wasn’t a typical schizophrenic experience with voices – just thought patterns that seemed ‘external’.  There’s no other way I can put it.

Many nights converge into one at this point.  I can’t remember if the stampeding feet – no voices – were heard before or after that night.  There was a low-slung mist right through the house when I eventually plucked up the courage to go upstairs, to my parents’ bedroom.

I can’t go into too much detail about my second major episode because it was far more convoluted than the above.  I ended up, because the first period left no lasting effect (‘affectation’?!), being heavily medicated for my problems.   I had a massive ‘Word’ file, upwards of about 69,000 words detailing all this, but conveniently lost it.  No conspiracy, mind.  I categorically do NOT say that ‘sarcastically’, rather more in a forlorn manner.

The thought patterns, prompted by footsteps and ticking clocks, etc have persisted, as I say, but have been suppressed in the long run.  It’s now jibberish and random, rather than posing any sort of intimidation or threat.

It took THREE changes of medication, during which I attempted suicide TWICE, before things were resolved.  Thinking about it, I’m furious I took an overdose then subsequently tried to hang myself.  Not because I think it’s selfish.  You think you’re doing people (my family, primarily) a massive favour; but you aren’t, in reality.

I’m annoyed at the incompetence and irresponsibility of professional people, many – but not all, I hasten to add – earning salaries upwards of £50,000.

I’m up in the early hours writing this – and I’m a tad scared

The overall word I would use to describe how I felt throughout that time would be DREAD.  It’s a horrible fucking feeling that not many people know the definition of; and I can’t say I’m proud to know its meaning, either.

The thing is, and I apologise profusely if I sound like a horror writer (Whitley Strieber and his ‘Communion’, anyone?) but I’m up in the early hours writing this – and I’m a tad scared.  More so half an hour ago, though.  I say this because my sister now sleeps in the bedroom downstairs, which used to be mine.

Though I just jumped when, most likely/literally/’brainy’ I heard a noise, earlier on, I was thinking about ‘me’, not my sister.  If anything were to happen, at the very least I’d probably end up in Cornhill, again.  I’ve been there three times, once as outpatient twice as inpatient.  I’ve got no fucking intention of going back, any time soon.  My faculties are in order; I just get restless and find it hard to sleep, sometimes.

*MxTabs was actually shut down for copyright issues; though I do sometimes wonder, to be honest.*