Monthly Archives: November 2013

On the first anniversary of the publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s report, following the Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press, The Guardian on Friday featured a full page advertisement by Hacked Off with a 100 public personalities who have signed the Leveson Royal Charter Declaration.

The declaration states:

“We believe that a free press is a cornerstone of democracy. It should be fearless in exposing corruption, holding the powerful to account and championing the powerless. It has nothing to lose, and can only be enhanced, by acknowledging unethical practice in its midst and acting firmly to ensure it is not repeated.

We also believe that editors and journalists will rise in public esteem when they accept a form of self-regulation that is independently audited on the lines recommended by Lord Justice Leveson and laid down in the Royal Charter of 30 October 2013.

It is our view that this Charter safeguards the press from political interference while also giving vital protection to the vulnerable. That is why we support it and that is why we urge newspaper publishers to embrace it.”

Among the signatories are Professor Julian Petley, Professor Greg Philo, Richard Peppiatt, Sir Geoffery Bindman QC and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

To add your name to the list of supporters, click here.

BBC News reports that a man charged with aiding and abetting an arson attack on a mosque in Grimsby, in retaliation for the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, has been found guilty.

Daniel Cressey, 25, drove two ex-soldiers, Stuart Harness, 33, and Gavin Humphries, 37, to the Islamic Cultural Centre in Grimsby in May to carry out the attack. Harness, who is Cressey’s cousin, and Humphries had already admitted to throwing petrol bombs at the mosque.

Grimsby Crown Court was told Harness and Humphries prepared their petrol bombs at Harness’s house before Cressey arrived in his car to drive them to the mosque. The pair were later seen captured on CCTV throwing the bombs at the Islamic centre.

Worshippers at the mosque were alerted by the smoke alarms and were able to put fire out before any serious damage was caused.

The attack took place four days after Fusilier Rigby died outside Woolwich Barracks in London.

The jury was told that the two former soldiers unwittingly recorded themselves making the bombs, burning off excess petrol from a garden table and carrying the makeshift devices towards Cressey’s car on cameras set up in Harness’s home.

The mosque had been attacked earlier in that same week when eleven teenagers smashed all the windows at mosque and damaged nearby cars.

The court was told that following this attack police set up extra patrols and it was when one of these patrols passed by the mosque that Harness and Humphries were spotted throwing the petrol bombs.

Addressing Cressey, Judge Mark Bury said:

“You’ve been convicted on plain evidence of aiding and abetting your cousin Stuart Harness and another man, Gavin Humphries, to fire-bomb the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre.

“That’s a serious offence.

“You went into this knowing full well what was going on. A prison sentence is inevitable.”

Cressey, Harness and Humphries have been remanded in custody. All three men will be sentenced at Hull Crown Court on 20 December.

Luton North MP, Kelvin Hopkins, has tabled an Early Day Motion (786) in support of Interpal urging that the US administration remove the charity from its list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) after a New York court ruled earlier this year that the charity had never funded any Hamas-supporting charities.

Interpal has previously been cleared of any wrongdoing by a number of Charity Commission investigations yet the designation still remains. In the past, allegations against Interpal has led to banking difficulties with Royal Bank of Scotland, Natwest and the Islamic Bank of Britain, under instruction from Lloyds TSB, all refusing to handle Interpal’s banking needs.

Now MPs are calling for the designation to be lifted so that the charity can freely operate like any other legally bound UK charity.

The EDM (786) reads:

“That this House acknowledges the humanitarian work carried out for the people of Palestine by the British charity Interpal; commends the generosity of British donors to the charity; regrets that it has been denied full access to the banking system as a result of an unfounded designation by the US administration in 2003; notes that a US district court in New York saw no evidence that Interpal funded Hamas-supporting charities; further notes that the court threw out a case against NatWest Bank claiming it had knowingly facilitated Interpal’s alleged provision of money to these charities; further notes that the Treasury successfully intervened in this case; and calls on the Government to press the US administration to rescind its damaging designation of Interpal.”

So far, the EDM has been signed by 24 MPs. To increase this number and the chances of getting Interpal removed from the US list of Specially Designated Nationals, the charity is asking people to write to their MPs urging them to support the EDM.

You can find details on how to contact your MP and send a letter via email here.

A 21-year-old man who scrawled the words “Lee Rigby’s killers should hang” on the RAF Bomber Command War Memorial in London has been jailed for 12 weeks, BBC News reports.

Daniel Smith admitted two counts of causing criminal damage on 5 June, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Smith also daubed the letters “EDL” and a swear word on the memorial in Green Park.

The memorial was vandalised twice in just over a week following the death of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May.

Following the sentencing Baljit Ubhey, CPS London Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: “This was an appalling act of vandalism which defaced the memorial to the thousands of men who lost their lives in the Second World War flying for RAF Bomber Command.

“I hope that this prosecution will serve as a warning that such behaviour will not be tolerated in our city.”

At an earlier hearing, Smith also pleaded guilty to causing £510 of criminal damage to the wall of a commercial property in Knightsbridge. The damage to the war memorial amounted to £850.

The Ministry of Justice has released annual statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2012 which provides information about how members of all ethnic groups, including those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, were represented in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in England and Wales in the most recent years for which data is available, and, wherever possible, in the preceding four years.

A recent paper by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission found that Black and Asian people are still far more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by police in England and Wales.  

The discriminatory, disproportionate and unlawful use of stop and search powers was called into question by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, earlier this year when she called for a review of the powers.

One striking statistic in the MoJ report is that people who self-identify themselves as Mixed, Black and Asian ethnic groups (11%, 7% and 6%, respectively) were more at risk of being a victim of personal crime than adults from the White ethnic group (5%).

Using the 2012/13 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) the report found that nearly three times as many adults from BAME groups worry or think they are likely to be a victim of violent crime than White adults.

On racist incidents and offences, the reports notes that there were 47,678 racist incidents recorded in 2011/12 and 30,234 racially or religiously aggravated offences recorded by the police in 2012/13.

Although this figure has fallen by 21% since 2008/09, across England and Wales, six Police Force Areas (PFAs) have seen an increase in the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences.

Racially or religiously aggravated offences are categorised as: harassment; assault with injury; assault without injury; and criminal damage.

In 2012/13, of all harassment offences, 14% were racially or religiously aggravated. The proportion of racially or religiously aggravated offences for the other offence groups was much smaller (1% for assault with injury, 2% for assault without injury and less than 1% for criminal damage).

In 2012/13, just under 50% of racially and religiously aggravated harassment and assault offences (with and without injury), were detected, compared with 31% of racially and religiously aggravated criminal damage offences.

However, detection rates for racially and religiously aggravated criminal damage are twice those of non-racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage (16%). These trends have been consistent with previous years but the detection rate for racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage offences has increased from 23% in 2009/10 to 31% in the latest period.

On the use of stop and search and arrests resulting from the powers, the main findings of the report are:

Between 2007/08 and 2011/12, there was a 7% increase in the number of stops and searches conducted under the most common stop and search powers used by the police (section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and other legislation). The increase was consistent across all ethnic groups, with the proportions of stops and searches for each ethnic group remaining relatively stable throughout the period.

Per 1,000 population aged 10 or older (the age of criminal responsibility), a person from the Black ethnic group was six times more likely to be stopped and searched in 2011/12 under section 1 powers than a person from the White ethnic group, while someone from the Asian ethnic group was approximately twice as likely to be stopped and searched than a White person.

The proportion of arrests resulting from stops and searches under section 1 powers was relatively stable overall at just over 9% since 2008/09 (down from over 11% in 2007/08). Across ethnic groups, 10% of stops and searches of persons from the White ethnic group resulted in arrests, similar to the proportion for persons from the Black ethnic group (10% or just under) and higher than for individuals from the Asian ethnic group (at 7% or just above).

Per 1,000 population aged 10 or older, a Black person was nearly three times more likely to be arrested than a White person and a person from the Mixed ethnic group was twice as likely. There was no difference in the rate of arrests between Asian and White individuals.

The report concentrates on the three main methods by which the police stop and search suspects i.e. section 1 (s1) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), section 60 (s60) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and section 47A (s47A) of the Terrorism Act 2000, which replaced powers of stop and search under section 44 (s44) of the same act.

Looking at the data for stops and searches conducted under s1 PACE and other legislation between 2007/08 and 2011/12. The main points are:

In 2011/12, there were 1,120,084 s1 stops and searches. This represents a 7% increase from 1,042,425 stops and searches in 2007/08, but a decrease of 7% from a peak of 1,203,725 stops and searches in 2010/11.

Section 1 stops and searches increased for all ethnic groups between 2007/08 and 2011/12. In that period, the largest percentage increase was for the Asian ethnic group (37%), whilst the smallest percentage increase was for the White ethnic group (6%).

Looking at the data for stops and searches conducted under Section 60 (s60) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the report finds:

In 2011/12, there were 45,601 stops and searches under s60, the lowest number between 2007/08 and 2011/12. Section 60 stops and searches peaked in 2008/09, (nearly three times as much as the previous financial year), which coincided with two initiatives aimed at reducing knife crime. They have since been decreasing each year. Despite the overall decrease between 2007/08 and 2011/12, there were substantially more s60 stops and searches for all the BAME groups in 2011/12 than in 2007/08.

The ethnic breakdown of s60 stops and searches changed between 2007/08 and 2011/12, with the most notable change between 2007/08 and 2008/09; 65% of s60 stops and searches in 2007/08 were of White persons. This fell to a low of 31% in 2010/11 and rose to 35% in 2011/12.

By contrast, there was an increase in the proportion of s60 stops and searches of persons from the Black, Asian, Chinese or Other (all peaking in 2010/11) and Mixed ethnic groups (which peaked in 2011/12). 18% of stops and searches under s60 in 2007/08 were of Black persons. This rose to 36% in 2011/12.

In respect of arrests resulting from a stop and search there is a huge disparity between the races.

For example, the report shows that rates of arrests per 1,000 of the population by Police Force Area for 2011/12, was:

Persons from the Black ethnic group were nearly three times more likely to be arrested compared with White persons.

Persons from the Mixed ethnic group were twice as likely to be arrested compared with White persons.

Persons from the Asian or from the Chinese or other ethnic group were arrested at the same or similar rate to persons from the White ethnic group.

The MoJ report can be found here.

Muslim women in Rochdale who wear the face-veil attended a public forum held at the town hall in an attempt to dispel myths surrounding the niqab, ITV News reports. 

Mamoona, a 24 year-old teacher, spoke of how she adopted the face-veil of her own volition and how it conforms to her interpretation of religion. When asked if she removes it, Mamoona said she removes it when required e.g. at airport security. She also said she removes it for work. She told the reporter:

“I feel happy wearing it and it makes me feel like a stronger person.

“It’s not being imposed on me by anyone. I’m not married and it’s not something where my father has said ‘you have to wear it,” she said.

Community leaders, police officers and local residents all attended the public forum for the chance to talk to women who wear the face veil and addressing questions about why they do so, how society feels about it in public places and whether it signifies female oppression.

One man said: “the myth that it’s a male oppression has been completely exploded”. Another local in attendance, said “you don’t tend to greet them because they are hidden” but added “now I understand much more about why they wear it”.

The public forum organized at Rochdale town hall follows other debates that have been much more fractious.

Empirical research on the anti-burqa and niqab movement in Western Europe shows a marked hostility towards women who wear the veil and a consequent rise in female victims of anti-Muslim hate crime. Forums such as these are an important contribution to public debate and awareness about Islam and Muslim women.

Regional paper, the Yorkshire Post, reports on the outcome of an FOI on the cost of policing English Defence League demonstrations in West Yorkshire. The local force has policed seven EDL protests in the county since October 2009 at a total cost of £3 million.

The Police and Crime Commissioner for the region, Mark Burns-Williamson, has called for increased powers to ban protests by right-wing groups after a further protest by the EDL in Bradford last month cost in excess of £1 million.

The local paper reports:

“A demonstration in Bradford in August 2010 which saw the EDL and Unite Against Fascism hold separate protests cost the force £995,000 and required 1,281 officers. West Yorkshire Police were supported by 13 other forces to help keep the groups apart. Thirteen protesters were arrested after several skirmishes broke out.

“In October 2009, some 900 EDL supporters joined a rally in City Square, Leeds, and were penned in by a ring of officers. A total of 672 officers were required policing cost £310,000.

“After last month’s protest in Bradford, which saw 700 EDL supporters visit the city and involved more than 1,000 officers from several forces, politicians called for greater powers to ban demonstrations by far-right groups. At present, static protests cannot be banned.”

MPs George Galloway and Gerry Sutcliffe were among those who called on Burns-Williamson to ban the EDL demonstration in Bradford in October.

The Daily Mirror reported earlier this month on the £2 million bill faced by Tower Hamlets for policing an EDL demonstration in the borough in September. The Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, was joined by a host of local leaders and councillors in calling on the Home Secretary to invoke a ban on the march.

The cost and disruption of EDL demos across the country has been raised in local councils and in Parliament in the past. Hull Council tabled a motion to discuss banning the EDL form holding demonstrations in Hull on grounds of their “deliberately provocative nature…with participants engaging in crude and racist behaviour clearly intended to elicit a response from local residents in a typical display of fascist street thuggery.”

The MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, Jonathan Reynolds, raised the issue in Parliament in March asking “whether such protests – which [cause] inevitable disruption for shoppers and [prompt] a significant policing operation – are really appropriate.”

Local paper, Dudley News, reports on the community engagement activities and increased patrols by the Cradley Heath and Old Hill Neighbourhood Policing Team following a spate of racist and anti-Muslim attacks in Cradley Heath.

A group of teenagers were arrested last week on suspicion of racially aggravated assault and criminal damage after a number of attacks on Asians and Muslims in the area.

Local police officers have stepped up patrols in the area and are visiting schools to enhance public awareness about anti-social behaviour. A spokesperson for the NPT told the local paper:

“We will attend local schools and give inputs regarding anti-social behaviour and also introduce local surgeries to improve local community contact and re-assurance.”

“There have been a number of racially motivated crimes in the area around Bearmore playing fields.

“We continue to patrol both Bearmore and its surrounding area on a regular basis as well as Haden Hill.

“Regular surgeries are being held at the nearby mosque.”

Hundreds of people have visited a mosque in Maidenhead after it opened its doors to the public, the Maidenhead Advertiser reports.

As part of Inter Faith Week, the Islamic Trust Mosque held an open day inviting locals to learn more about Islam and dispel myths.

Zia Mahiudin, spokesperson for the Trust, told the local paper:

“It’s an opportunity for us to come together and open up the mosque and work together and promote the partnerships we have.

“We want to promote the work we have been doing in the community.”

Visitors to the mosque in Holmanleaze included the Mayor of Windsor and Maidenhead, Cllr Andrew Jenner, and the Home Secretary and Maidenhead MP, Theresa May.

Prayer demonstrations, tours and the opportunity to ask questions of a scholar also provided insight into the Holmanleaze centre and its work in the community.

Two men charged with racially aggravated criminal damage for attacks on the mosque in Holmanleaze earlier this year, have both been sentenced. Lee Hunt was sentenced after being found guilty last week. Gary Nuth, an accomplice, was sentenced earlier this month for his part in spraying racist graffiti on the mosque and a public road.

Jurors have been shown CCTV footage in which two former soldiers are seen throwing petrol bombs at a mosque in Grimsby in an alleged ‘revenge attack’ for the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.

The Daily Mail, BBC News, Daily Mirror and ITV News all report on the case of a third man, Daniel Cressey, who is accused of driving the two men to the mosque to carry out the attack.

Cressey, 24, denies one charge of aiding and abetting arson.

In footage shown to the jury, Stuart Harness, 33, and Gavin Humphries, 37, can each be seen carrying two home-made petrol bombs from Harness’s home. Cameras also capture the pair launching the bombs at the doors of the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre.

Footage shows the petrol bombs being made in the garden of Harness’s home. In one section, shown to the jury, Cressey is seen arriving at the house as a metal table is on fire.

At the start of the trial Judge Mark Bury explained to the jury how the case related to an arson attack on a mosque in Grimsby on May 22. Both Harness and Humphries pleaded guilty charges of arson with intent to endanger life in connection with the attack.

Cressey, who is Harness’s cousin, affirms that he was at Harness’s house on the night of the attack and that he drove the two arsonists to the mosque but he claims he was unaware of their intention to bomb it.

Returning to Cressey’s alleged role, prosecutor, Jeremy Evans said: “This was a team effort, members of the jury.”

“He [Cressey] could not have missed the fact that there were homemade petrol bombs being constructed or had been constructed in the property.”

The Grimsby Islamic centre was attacked twice in the first few days following the killing of Drummer Rigby. Eleven teenagers were arrested after the windows of the mosque were smashed in.