THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

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Free speech

Is this what our law has come to?

A Muslim extremist linked to Woolwich killer Michael Adebowale was jailed for five years and four months today (Weds) for glorifying the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in a series of YouTube videos. Royal Barnes, 23, was filmed by his veiled wife Rebekah Dawson, 22, laughing hysterically as he drove past the scene of the attack. Dawson, who has caused nationwide controversy by refusing to remove her niqab in court, was jailed for one year and eight months. The couple ridiculed the memorial flowers left by friends, family and members of the public for Drummer Rigby and Barnes described the murder as 'absolutely brilliant'. Dawson also boasted in a text to a friend: 'Did you watch it? It was really inciting and almost glorifying lol.'

Two young idiots upload stupid films to YouTube. They express primitive, ignorant, violent opinions. Opinions rather like those expressed by revolutionary socialists every single day (but with far less chance of influencing anyone).

Did their childish, ignorant words represent a threat? If so, then we are a feeble society too decadent to deserve survival. This is using the sledgehammer of the criminal law to crack something that merited the toffee hammer of an Anglo-Saxon imprecation at best.

These idiots are pathetic, yes. But so are we for having nothing better to do with the hard-earned money taken by force from decent people than to pay policemen, lawyers, judges and prison officers to deal with them. And for not understanding that it's better to hear dangerous opinions and know where threats may come from than to drive them underground.

Human rights from the wrong humans?

Tory plans to axe human rights laws will remove obligation on state to protect its citizens, says Keir Starmer - Telegraph.

Keir Starmer illustrates, all unwittingly, exactly what has gone wrong in Britain. Take his hilarious statement that:
In the pre-Human Rights Act days, a civil liberties approach and the common law (sic) struggled to achieve this.

Were Britons in any way at a disadvantage to those citizens of civil law countries whose "positive rights" were in the gift of their rulers? I think not. I don't think our grandfathers thought so. They would have regarded such a notion as both stupid and unpatriotic. I agree with them, unfashionable as patriotism now is. Stupidity, of course, is always in fashion.

Our rights as humans derive from our being human. They are not the gift of any state or inter-state agency. Particularly not the United Nations, which routinely has dictators and thugs chairing its "human rights" committees. As soon as they are shaped by politicians rather than moralists they will become instruments of control. 
As a side light on this subject, I looked up the etymology of the word politics to reinforce my point and found this wonderful quote;
Historically speaking, all political communities of the modern type owe their existence to successful warfare.[6]
So much for the moral inferiority of private property rights to those of the state, eh? The statists who seek to control more and more of our rights are the organisational heirs of our conquerors. Their whole argument - for all their camouflage of "social contracts" (show me a copy) and the "consent of the governed" (take away the state monopoly of violence and see if behaviours change) comes down to "might is right". Love the boot, even as it stamps on your face.
Our human rights are ours to defend. If anyone interferes with them, we are entitled to act. That right of self-defence is itself a moral human right. The only reason we have so many "victims" in our society for Starmer's fantastically benevolent state to "protect", is because that same state has removed that human right.
In general, our rights as free men and women should be to do anything to anyone or anything not specifically prohibited by a clear and unequivocal law of universal application (including, by virtue of the Rule of Law, of application to the State and its agents). All other laws are morally wrong.
In the sick minds of Starmer and Britain's other state-lovers they are not our servants but our masters. Like good little slaves we should look to the massas to keep us safe. The more power they have to do that, the more content we should be and the safer we should feel. To the extent that we think about it at all, of course. We shouldn't really trouble our little heads as it's a distraction from our working to keep them in style in the big house.

Even more insulting is his stupid observation that

Around the world, citizens have fought for years for basic rights from their governments. In the UK, having now got them, some want to hand them back.

We can't hand back what was never theirs. They have no rights to give us. They exist at our sufferance.

All we want (from a state so small and weak as to present no threat in itself) is a clear set of laws with broad agreement from all. Not laws that tell us who to be or how to think, but laws that leave us free men and women with full rights of thought, speech and self-defence. We don't want them by the thousand so that even a lawyer can't know them all. We want only necessary, obvious laws that derive from clear moral principle. If we can't find a nexus between a new law and the non-aggression principle then to hell with it and to hell with the deceivers who propose it.

Mr Starmer's vision of us as children in the arms of Mother State is insulting, demeaning and - most of all - immoral. The state's imagined "duty" to protect us has already transformed, predictably, into a raft of laws designed to shape us to its aims. Such a state will attract to the ranks of its thugs, cronies and - most of all - leaders, the lowest, most exploitative type of bully.

Of verbals and planted evidence

Downing Street police arrested over allegations of pornography exchange | UK news | The Guardian.

When I practised criminal law in my youth, I was sceptical of clients who said the police had made up false statements or 'verballed' them - giving false evidence of oral confessions or remarks suggesting guilt. As a nice young man brought up to respect the boys in blue, I did not believe they would descend to such dishonesty. I didn't want to believe it.
I presented the cases as best I could of course. I hope the magistrates didn't detect my scepticism.
The Metropolitan Police have finally convinced me that those long-ago clients were telling the truth. Its officers verballed Andrew Mitchell and made up false statements about the 'plebgate' incident so casually that it's obviously routine. They expected to get away with doing it to Mitchell because they had so many times before.
My clients also told me that the police routinely planted evidence. I didn't believe that either. Now we learn that evidence has been found on the smartphones of the very officers who embarrassed the Met.
It's easy to put damning materials on someone's computer or mobile phone. You can do it at your leisure and don't even need the sleight of hand required to put drugs in someone's pocket. There now almost always seems to be illegal content on hard drives seized by the Bill.
My scepticism is rather heightened when I read that the disciplinary proceedings against these officers have been suspended while the CPS decides what to do about their alleged 'extreme porn' habit. Suspended until the public loses interest perhaps?

The Raccoon's Return

Watch Out! There’s a Raccoon about!.

Many of us feared that - her blog having been taken down as she said would happen if she died - that Anna was no more. I am delighted to see that she's blogging again, though concerned to learn she is still very ill.  
She has returned bravely, or foolishly, to the theme of Yewtree and the alleged depravity of Jimmy Savile.  We will never know to what extent Mr Savile took criminal advantage of his fame. He is far too dead to stand trial. We do know that many an unprepossessing young man has became a DJ or musician for the enhanced sexual opportunities. Some of them have innocently taken jail bait. Some have overstepped the mark and should take the legal consequences. In this puritanical age, it seems many forget the atmosphere of jollier times. And no, I did not just equate jollity with depravity. If you made that connection, you did it on your own.
Go watch American Hustle, as I did last night, and you will see a lot of people having a raucously good time. It's a good portrayal of the 1970's, including the music and the appalling fashion, but also capturing the social atmosphere. Only some of the people in it are criminals. Only some of them are corrupt politicians. Only some of them are Feds engaged in despicable entrapment. Most of them are ordinary people having fun (although sadly I don't remember any girls dressing like Amy Adams' character, Edith).
There was a lot of ill-advised sex of the sort people pretend to regret all their mature lives but remember with delight on their death-beds. I suspect that statement is true of every era in human history. Even ours.
Common sense suggests it's logistically improbable Savile abused as many as now claimed. It seems vanishingly unlikely that ordinary decent BBC, NHS and charity employees covered for him on the scale that would have required. It also seems clear that wicked people seeking money and sad people seeking fame have piled in to take advantage. 
It happens Anna had some personal knowledge from her time at Duncroft School that enabled her to throw doubt on anti-Savile evidence given great prominence in the media. She published it on her now taken-down blog and there followed much abuse. As is traditional in such campaigns, to fail to cry "witch" is to risk the mob turning on you. She took it womanfully in her stride.

In her latest post she makes some observations that raise concerns about this affair;

Nobody, in so far as I am aware, has ever been the subject of a libel action as a result of walking into a police station and asking that a possible crime be investigated. All the media’s claims that ‘draconian libel laws’ (they do love that adjective) prevented ‘Savile’s victims’ from ‘obtaining justice’ are total nonsense. What the libel laws did do was prevent the media from publishing stories without the sort of evidence that would stand up in a court of law.

Even more controversially, she asks this question; 

The ‘accused’ fall into one of three categories; right wing comedians, disc jockeys and those who unwisely raised their heads above the parapet to comment on the Yewtree progress. Now the music business has since the 60s been a major employer of the black community – and yet they are strangely unrepresented in the crop of ‘he was a monster but I was too scared to speak out before’ arrests. What is it that unites them? Are we to believe that no left wing comic, or black disc jockey, or black musician come to that, has ever had any contact with a young girl that she feels in hindsight was abusive?

It may be rash of her to write it in modern Britain. She will now attract a different, larger, and more violent mob but does she not have a point?

I am not one for conspiracy theories. Most people are too incompetent to organise a conspiracy or, having pulled one off, to keep it secret. Yet is it really too cynical to suspect that, amid the genuine distress of real victims, the lies of the compensation-seekers and the histrionics of the attention-famished, some scores are being settled?

Who serves whom?

We don't call them police forces any more. That's too explicit an acknowledgement of their role as the enforcers of our all-powerful state. Policing, God help us, is now a 'service'.

The question is; whom do our policemen serve? Is it us, the public, or the political class that guarantees their unfunded pensions from the incomes of taxpayers yet unborn? If, as they claim, it's the public, why does it sometimes feel they are serving us in the agricultural sense; as a bull serves a heifer?

Ordinary people don't believe the official crime figures because they don't accord with our experience. For years the Establishment line has been that the figures are accurate but that our fear of crime is the problem. We are neurotic and should be more trusting of our benevolent masters. Yeah right.

PC James Patrick, an analyst with the Metropolitan Police 'service' recently gave evidence to a House of Commons committee that the figures are improperly manipulated by senior officers to make police performance look better. He said

Things were clearly being reported as burglaries and then you would rerun the same report after there had been a human intervention, a management intervention, and these burglaries effectively disappeared in a puff of smoke.

How embarrassing for the political class that has used the rigged numbers to assure us it's doing its job of public protection! It seems our 'neurotic' belief that they were feathering their own nests while not giving a flying expletive about us except as sources of feathers was well-founded.

I have been waiting with interest for the state's response to this revelation. And, the Alistair Campbell approved interval for the story to die down having elapsed, here it comes. The Times reports this morning that PC Patrick has been placed on 'restricted duties' and forbidden to speak to public or media. The whistleblower has received his usual reward.

So that's clear then. Lying to make the state look good is fine. The public has no right to know the truth about the performance of the police service it is forced to fund. The career of any public-spirited person with a sense of duty and honour is unlikely to advance in the Met. In marked contrast to that of an officer who heads a botched operation that blows the head off an innocent man, for example.

Nothing to see here folks. Move along now please or you might just find yourself being served.

Left, Right, Wrong

The traditional political division into 'left' and 'right' must be used with caution. For much of Europe 'right-wing' refers to nationalist authoritarians seeking to impose traditional values on society at large. I would be uncomfortable in such company. No right-winger on the Continent and few in America would share my stance on what they would call 'social issues' and I would call 'none of your damned business.'

The 'good guys' of Continental Europe are usually called Liberals. The bad guys of American politics have made that glorious name unusable in English. In their constant gee whizz quest for euphemism, our American cousins have made a cuss-word out of a formerly-useful term. They do that a lot. How little of a life would you have to have to keep up with American fashion on what to call a black man or a red indian, for example? 

These labels matter more than they should. Serious political debate is of interest only to a minority. Most voting decisions are made on impressions rapidly formed by the free use of labels as either praise or abuse. How many voters analysed what Tony Blair meant by 'New Labour' for example? They simply thought of themselves as left, hated the mess Old Labour had made and welcomed a new brand they weren't embarrassed to be associated with.

For my part, I hate the Labour Party as I hate the very devil. Indeed I suspect Old Nick would make better company than any socialist and might actually have better intentions. Yet I hate the fact that saying so makes most Brits label me as what I am emphatically not; a Tory. I am, in truth, a Liberal. I happen to know from personal experience that there are gallant members of the Liberal Democratic Party in Britain still clinging to the true meaning of the L word, but they are out-numbered by leftists too snobbish (and who can blame them) to be in the same party as John Prescott. So the label I use in my head is no use in the wider world.

The conversations in my primary school playground were conducted in a higher register and exchanged far more complex information than most political 'debates' that make a difference to voting intentions. In the Labour heartlands where I grew up, calling someone a "Tory [Anglo-Saxon expletive of choice]" was all it needed to win an argument. I have never lived in a Conservative constituency until recently, and judging by the copies of the Guardian in evidence around here, I doubt it will remain one long. Perhaps there are Tory Shires where one could similarly raise the tribal flag to end all discussion? I don't know.

It's pointless to be a purist about this and dismiss the use of 'left' and 'right' altogether. They carry an emotional weight that cannot be denied. Just as every Brit knows which side he would have been on in the Civil War, he knows if he is left or right, often with an unjustified prefix of 'Centre-" to make himself feel moderate. It would be great to have more accurate labels, but we don't.

The easy route to explain my position to my fellow citizens is to say that I am socially-liberal and fiscally-conservative, but that doesn't tell the truth either. 'Social liberals' in Britain are highly illiberal. They are more like authoritarian Continental Christian Democrats in seeking to impose moral orthodoxy. Why, for example, was I expected to pay tribute to a dead foreign Communist before Fulham FC's game against Aston Villa yesterday? No similar tribute was offered when Margaret Thatcher died and rightly so. But a darling of the 'social-liberals' must apparently be lauded, however disgusting his political views.

For another current example, it's not enough that you don't give a damn who shags Tom Daley. They expect you to 'be supportive;' to 'ooh' and 'aah' sympathetically and tell him how 'brave' he is. If someone in my immediate circle is gay and wants to introduce me to his or her partner, I will buy them both a drink. If I liked him or her before the news, I will after (and will try to like the partner too). It's my business because I am a relative or friend and I need to know their situation so as to welcome their new partner into our family or group of friends. The sexual preferences of people outside my circle, however, are properly a matter of indifference.

Genuine liberals don't give a public damn what you consider to be right or wrong as long as you don't impose it on others. We only want laws to limit physical or economic aggression. As to the rest, go to it with a will and take all the consequences yourself. We afford you the tolerance we expect of you, but we don't demand or offer approval of private choices. The clue is in the adjective, 'private.' So don't be so needy. Shut up and get on with it. We will think what we please, to the extent that we become aware, and will factor it in in deciding whom to drink with or give the time of day to. Feel free to do likewise.

The right-wing and left-wing in Britain share a disgusting desire to shape thoughts and private preferences by law. They seek to pull in different directions. It's the pull I mostly resent. If they are of the Right seeking to reinforce traditional Christian views of marriage, they insult their God by thinking He needs the feeble help of Earthly powers to enforce His Divine will. If they are of the Left seeking to suppress the expression of 'inappropriate' opinion on Twitter, then they should have more trust in the ability of 'the people' to deal with such matters informally. Both expose the feebleness of their views by doubting their eventual triumph without misuse of law. Law is a blunt, violent instrument. It is not a teaching aid.

If you have a need for approval from strangers, I suggest you get professional help. You may think that's harsh but on the other hand, if you leave me to make my own life choices, I will happily take no interest in yours. Furthermore, I am remarkably unlikely to preach to you. Most likely, I will offer you no opinions on any subject not affecting my family's interests unless you are my friend and you ask me.

Does that make me right-wing or left-wing? You choose.

Sticks and stones - again

BBC News - Football fans jailed for abusive Stephen Lawrence chants.

Some thick young men have been given sentences of twelve and eighteen months for uttering bad words. They now block six prison places that could more usefully have been occupied by people convicted of violent crimes or even such crimes against property as our socialist police force can be bothered to detect.

Do I really need to say that I disapprove of the words uttered? I would certainly never invite such people to dinner. However, now that criminal records render them even less employable, we will probably be buying their dinners for a long time after they have finished their porridge. Perhaps even when they are no longer young idiots with poor taste and worse judgement and could have been useful members of society.

Man the trains with burly bouncers and chuck people off if they make a nuisance - even in ways less odious than this. If someone is provoked to violence by nasty words, let him use that provocation as a defence or mitigation when charged with assault. But let's get the criminal law out of speech please.

Nudge nudge

BBC News - Can you persuade people not to buy stolen goods?

The British authorities now seem to have placed property criminals on the 'too difficult' pile. The authors of a new "report" say that those who steal take so little interest in the law that they don't even know the relevant punishments. Surprise, surprise.

Given the rates of recidivism in Britain, knowing the punishment seems to make little difference. Some might suggest that's because (a) the detection rate is so low as to make criminals think they were just unlucky to be caught and (b) the sentences are an inadequate deterrent for those without concern for reputation. However, the British state never chooses to do a job better if it can give itself a new job instead. 

What does a criminal do when faced with a tough potential victim? Look for a weaker one. Likewise, as the state can't (within the constraints of current ideology) influence criminals as it would wish, it turns its sights on the rest of us. Knowingly receiving stolen goods has, of course, been a crime for centuries but
The authors of the submission suggest, as a first step, the default position should be that anyone found in possession of stolen goods be prosecuted under the Theft Act.
If it turns out the laptop you bought on eBay was stolen by the seller, are you to be prosecuted for the new crime of "possession of stolen goods?" 

My criminal law tutor at university thought me odd for disliking crimes of "strict liability." I preferred (and still do) the traditional formula that a crime must involve both mens rea and actus reus (an intention as well as an act). Of course prosecutors prefer purely factual crimes - like having a stolen laptop in your house - to the hassle of having to prove you knew it was stolen. That's just one more good reason why the preferences of prosecutors should never be considered in creating criminal law.

This new proposal is presented as a trendy 'nudge' solution. It certainly isn't if it involves creating a new crime of 'possession'. That would be a bog-standard use of state violence. If the report's authors are proposing a change in prosecution policy so that everyone found in possession of stolen goods is taken to court, it's no better. That would be an extreme example of  'process as punishment' as well as a monumental waste of police and prosecution resources.

Would dragging people through the courts when even the police and Crown Prosecutors believe them innocent really be an effective way of winning hearts and minds? I doubt it. It would create a lot of public sector 'jobs' though and make more people more afraid of state power.

I wish I had said that...

Spare Me – and Walter Williams – Your Self-Serving and Insulting Sermonizing

...because I have often thought it.

I respect ordinary thieves much more than I respect politicians. Ordinary thieves take my money without pretense. Unlike typical politicians, these thieves don’t bore me with silly explanations of why their thievery is for the greater good. Nor do ordinary thieves insult my intelligence by proclaiming that they’ll use the money that they steal from me to make my life better than I would have made my life had my money not been swiped from me.
Don't get Professor Williams or me wrong. For my part, I hate criminals. I want fewer laws partly because the ones that matter - against violence and fraud - could then be enforced more vigorously. Criminals have stolen from us not just our property, but the sense of personal security I remember growing up. No-one locked their doors in our street, because no-one had to. How many of us feel as safe in our own homes today?

But at least, as Professor Williams points out (and as I experienced directly when I practised criminal law) thieves don't ask to be respected by their victims. In this respect, they are more honest than politicians.

It is possible to be a decent politician if you go into it to get the state off people's backs and are able - in the face of all the temptations on offer to the masters of a state spending half what its citizens earn, to remain true to that purpose. Margaret Thatcher was one such, but then look what a revealing rage she inspired in regular politicians.

h/t the most excellent Café Hayek

Thought-crime in Britain

BBC News - The hidden epidemic of hate crime

WarispeaceWhen I was asked, a year after my return to Britain, what was the biggest change I had noticed, I answered that the police now seem more interested in what you say than what you do. The notion of freedom of speech, thought and conscience has been replaced with an ill-thought-through and damaging idea of 'not causing offence' and not being a 'hater.'

In its worst form, this new doctrine is expressed in the notion of 'hate crime;' the Orwellian concept of 'thought crime' disguised with Orwellian euphemism. Read the BBC piece linked above and - if you are steeped in the new doctrine - you will be wondering if I want the right to attack the property and persons of people who are 'different.' That's the conventional response to any challenge to the new 'thinking', as well as being a prime example of it.

I claim no such right. Nor did I ever have one before the law was changed. Every assault, every item of damage described in the linked piece was always a crime under English Law. Even in less tolerant eras, when goths, gays and others who were 'different' by nature or choice could expect a hard time, it was a crime to kill them, assault them or destroy their property. The police might have needed to consider motivation in order to identify the accused and bring him to court, but the jury did not need to consider it in deciding his guilt nor the judge in determining his sentence.

The root of this doctrine is that certain motives make crimes worse. Yet, if I am being beaten to death, my suffering will be no worse if it's because my assailants are prejudiced against the heavy or tall 'communities'. Consider this thought experiment; you are gay and you are being beaten to death by a homophobe. You take some time to die from your wounds. With your dying breaths you convince him not to hate gays anymore. Are you less dead? The assault was the problem to you, not the thought behind it. 

It may not do so at the moment (ironically because the same 'intellectuals' who have given us the notion of 'hate crime' have found 'social' excuses for less 'misguided' criminals) the law is perfectly capable of dealing with violent crimes. It defines them clearly and could punish them vigorously. But the criminals' motives should always be irrelevant to guilt and sentencing because any other approach is unjust.

For once my argument is rooted in a concept dear to the hearts of the leftist 'intellectuals' behind this nonsense; equality. I believe in equality before the law and the 'hate crime' doctrine is inimical to that. If every man and woman (trans or cis) is equal before the law then this follows logically. If the same wrong is done to any of them, the legal consequence must be the same.

Kill me or kill my gay friend. Assault me or assault my goth friend. Be culpably negligent in the crowd control at a Fulham match or at a Liverpool match and the legal outcome should be the same. The law should be utterly blind to our sexual orientation, the way we present ourselves to the world and whether or not we are Scousers convinced that we hang on a unique cross of Liverpudlian suffering.

Nothing could be more obvious or more just, but this stupid doctrine of hate-crime is engineering the precise opposite. In terms of justice then, it makes no sense. That's because it is designed to achieve something quite different. It is designed to chill free speech. Before you utter a word, serious or in jest, you are now supposed to hesitate fearfully and consider whether you may be guilty of 'hate speech'. Because if you are, you can now expect this.

I know it's hard for many steeped in Fabian propaganda to grasp, but the monster in that Daily Mail story is not Old Holborn. I have had a couple of drinks with him and read his blog regularly. He goes too far sometimes by my standards of good taste and good manners, but I defend without reservation his right to express and publish his views, satirical or not. It is - or should be - shocking that in modern Britain his jokes about, and mockery of, Scousers should expose him to criminal sanctions. The only crimes in the story are those threatened by the totalitarian scum campaigning to silence him.

OH is a bad example because I support his views. I understand his desire to use shock tactics to expose and challenge the use of state force to chill freedom of expression. It's easy to support the free speech of those you mostly agree with. So let's be clear that I also support the rights of far nastier people too. Racists, anti-semites, homophobes, Fabians and self-pitying Liverpudlians* are also entitled to express their views, however odious they may be. Though not, of course, to act upon them in any violent way.

Hate-crime and political correctness (insofar as reflected in law) are two aspects of the same insidious doctrine. Together they make thought-crime, as predicted by George Orwell. For the sake of all of us - of whatever colour, creed or sexual inclination - that must be resisted.

*Me gran was a scouser and I have supported Liverpool FC all me life (though I have a Fulham season ticket now coz even in Chiswick me car's already parked too close to the 'Pool for my liking) so get over it.