Category: News

Scotland’s Police on standby over riots in England

Scotland’s eight police forces are on standby to provide support to officers in England should they be required to tackle the civil disorder that has been witnessed over the past three nights.  As riots spread beyond London to Birmingham, Bristol, Nottingham and Liverpool the Prime Minister has cut his holiday short to chair an emergency COBRA meeting and Parliament is to be recalled over the issue.

It is understood that no formal request has been made to any of Scotland’s Police forces to provide support, however, the Chief Constables in Scotland have been in touch with their colleagues in England pledging support if it is required.

It has also been confirmed that Strathclyde Police have arrested a 16-year-old in relation to Glasgow riot Facebook page.  It is understood that Strathclyde Police have no intelligence that there is planned civil disorder in the city.

Police in Glasgow are said to be ready for any event that might occur and are monitoring the situation.

Battle of London

On Thursday 4 August 2011 officers from the Metropolitan Police shot and killed a 29-year-old man, Mark Duggan.  Those who knew Mr Duggan felt that the Police had questions to answer over the shooting and gathered peacefully outside Tottenham Police Station on Saturday 6 August 2011.  Later that evening violence broke out in Tottenham which saw vehicles and property destroyed as well as widespread looting.  At the time the incident was attributed to the shooting of Mr Duggan by the Metropolitan Police and the anger towards the Metropolitan Police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.  While this would have been no excuse for the violence it at least provided what could be considered as an understandable explanation for the events seen in Tottenham throughout that evening.

On Sunday 7 August 2011 violence broke out in other London boroughs, mainly concentrated in Enfield, but was also to be found in Wood Green and Ponders End.  Similar scenes were seen in these areas as had been witnessed in Tottenham the previous night with police vehicles and busses being damaged, buildings being broken into and items stolen from shops and buildings being set alight.  General civil disorder was notable in London.  Initially these incidents were also linked to the shooting of Mr Duggan on Thursday 4 August 2011.

Further civil disorder broke out during the late afternoon and early evening of Tuesday 8 August 2011 and began to spread beyond London with scenes of disorder and looting reported in Birmingham.  News channels were still reporting the shooting of Mark Duggan as being a cause of the violence seen on Sunday and Monday evening, however, this would not appear to be a credible position to hold.

Certainly an argument could be made that the violence that erupted in Tottenham on Saturday was linked, even if only a tenuous link, to the shooting of Mr Duggan.  However, the scenes on Sunday and Monday were taking place nowhere near the shooting of Mr Duggan and certainly reports suggested that many involved in these incidents did not even know who Mr Duggan was or that he had been shot by Police.  It would appear that those intent on acting in a criminal way had spotted an opportunity to behave in a way society simply will not tolerate.  The wide-spread nature of these incidents, and indeed the lack of any real planning, makes the situation very difficult for the police to deal with.  The police have limited resources and with these incidents happening simultaneously in three or even more London boroughs at any one time means that the police are instantly on the back foot.  They cannot hope to contain the violence and take control of the streets once again when the riots are happening in pockets around the city.

Further to that there is the events taking place in Birmingham.  These cannot possibly be linked to the shooting of Mr Duggan in London.  Again these incidents can only be being perpetrated by those intent on causing damage to property and stealing goods from shops.

These incidents must be divorced from the shooting of Mr Duggan, which is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.  There may very well be, and there probably is, a lot of anger surrounding that shooting.  Reports suggest that the shots allegedly fired by Mr Duggan resulting in Metropolitan Police Officers killing him were in fact fired by police officers.  If true, this would be another shooting by the Metropolitan Police in circumstances which are less than satisfactory and possibly even criminal.  The investigation into what happened prior to the shooting of Mr Duggan must not be compromised in anyway.  The IPCC must be allowed to conduct that investigation properly and fully in order that the friends and family of Mr Duggan get the answers they need and deserve and to ensure that anyone who has acted criminally in that incident are brought to justice.  Regardless of whether Mr Duggan had been involved in criminal activity or not he has been killed and his death deserves proper investigation, his family deserve answers and the memory of this man must not be tarnished by behaviour that is quite simply unacceptable.

There can be no proper reason for the mindless destruction of property, especially when those intent on causing that destruction are also placing the lives of others in danger.  Many of the commercial premises that have been set alight are either below or in close proximity to residential premises.  While the commercial premises may well be empty it is very likely that people will be in the residential property above or around the locus and if they become trapped they will most probably be killed.

Many have tried to pass these events off as a form of protest.  This it is not, what is being witnessed in London and laterally in Birmingham is organised rioting.  It’s criminality of a very serious nature and criminality that the police are going to struggle to deal with as it unfolds.  There will undoubtedly be a significant investigation to identify those involved in this behaviour with the view of identifying those involved and prosecuting as many of them as is possible.  It is guaranteed that the Courts will come down very hard on individuals who have been involved in these riots.  There have been a huge number of very serious offences committed and it really is only a matter of time before someone is killed as a direct result of these riots.  Lengthy prison sentences should be expected by anyone convicted of offences relating to these riots.  If the local prisons are full then those convicted will just have to be moved to prisons outside of London and the South of England.

It is understandable that many in the areas affected are angry with Government cuts that are closing their local services or with the assault on the welfare state or any other Government policy that is negatively impacting upon them.  It is understandable that many in these areas are angry with the police.  However, it is highly unlikely that when these people decided to take to the streets or even while they are out there that they are even thinking about the youth centre that has closed, will close or is under threat or about their local library or any other local service that has been cut or is under threat.  They are criminals seizing an opportunity to act violently, cause damage and bring mayhem to the streets in the belief that they are acting with impunity.  No doubt many involved will never be detected, arrested and convicted.  It is a fact of like that when so many people are involved in such large scale disorder that some will slip through the net and the police will fail to identify them and bring them to justice.  However, a significant proportion of them will be detected and will be put through due process over the coming months as the police investigate these offences.  Those involved may feel as though they are getting away with it and that they are beating the police.

Hundreds have already been arrested following the first two episodes of violence and scores of people have been charged with offences.  Shockingly an eleven year old was charged with burglary following one of these incidents.  It is disturbing to know that children as young as eleven are involved in these riots.  However, it is not surprising.

Much more can be said on this issue and these are just some initial thoughts and views.  More will be written here and elsewhere over the coming months on these incidents.  However, it is important that the lawlessness being witnessed now and the shooting of Mark Duggan are not confused.  They are unrelated and should not be presented as being related.

Man in court over sectarian website

Today a 24 year old man appeared on petition at Stirling Sheriff Court in relation to the creating of websites which carried sectarian hate messages about Celtic manager Neil Lennon.  Iain Rooney, 24, from Callander, appeared in private at Stirling Sheriff Court facing three charges:

  1. Breach of the Peace
  2. Breach of the Peace with religious aggravation
  3.  Breach of Section 38(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2002

Sheriff William Gilchrist released Mr Rooney on Bail and no further dates have been scheduled in the matter.

The Scottish Government is planning on passing the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill after the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess.  The basic argument being put forward by the Government for this legislation is that the current law is not sufficient.  Many have been arguing quite the opposite and stating that the current law is indeed sufficient pointing to Breach of the Peace, the religious aggravation provisions within the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 and Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.

Today we can see the law in action with a man having appeared before a Sheriff as criminal proceedings begin against him for sectarian offences and that is without the Government’s fancy new piece of legislation.

I made a Freedom of Information Request to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service regarding Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.  The information disclosed by COPFS can be read here.

The case for the proposed legislation does not appear to be proved by the Government.  It appears to be more of a headline grabbing stunt to show that the Government is taking the issue of sectarianism in Scotland seriously.  The issue of sectarianism is a real and significant one in Scotland, but simply changing the criminal law to give the police yet more powers is not anywhere near enough.

Police Station Duty Scheme in Cahos

Following the decision of the UK Supreme Court in the case of Cadder v HM Advocate which held that the process in Scotland of detaining people for up to 6 hours in police custody without giving them access to a Solicitor was in contravention of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights the law was changed to provide those held in custody with a right to consult a solicitor if they wish.  The rushed manner in which the Scottish Government responded to the judgment of the Supreme Court has resulted in a significant number of problems, concerns and questions which were simply not dealt with in the legislation passed.

Over recent months problems have arisen in the provision of Solicitors to those detained in police custody.  The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) is responsible for providing legal aid funding in Scotland for Civil and Criminal matters.  The legal profession in Scotland has overwhelmingly refused to join the duty scheme brought into place by SLAB to provide sufficient coverage to ensure suspects can have access to a Solcitor.  This has come amidst accusations that the SLAB system is “unfair” and “unreasonable”.  Figures suggest that as many as 90% of the private criminal bar have refused to enter into the scheme.  It has also been alleged that th eonly incentive to join the scheme is the threat that if not part of the scheme Solicitors would be unable to provide state funded legal advice at a police station for their client.

If a scheme is not in place that ensures that solicitors are readily availble to provide advice to suspects who request it then there could be a situation whereby Scotland is still failing to comply with its obligations under the ECHR.  It is time that the Government got involved in the resolving of this row to ensure that anyone in custody who wants access to a solicitor can access one whether they can afford to pay for one or not.

Other problems that have been highlighted with the emergency legislation relate to the way in which the system works for children and vulnerable adults as well as if, when and how suspects can waive their right to having a solicitor.  Some enormous issues that were not addressed as Parliament rushed the legislation through in one day in October 2010.

The Cadder debacle is likely to rumble on for months to come as the police station duty row continues and while we await the publication of Lord Carloway’s review into criminal procedure and evidence in Scotland.

The Information Commissioner is still considering an application for a decision over a Freedom of Information request sent to the Scottish Government looking at how the Government handled the drafting and passing of the emergency legislation last year.  It has been just over two months since that application was made and hopefully a decision will be reached in the near future.

Crown Office announces investigation into Phone hacking and police corruption in Scotland

It has been reported that there is to be an investigation into phone hacking and police corruption in Scotland.  This follows the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the reports suggesting corruption within the Metropolitan Police.  There is to be an investigation into those matters in England and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has been asked to investigate the matter in the remaining 43 forces in England and Wales.

The judge-led inquiry announced by the Prime Minister will cover Scotland it was confirmed earlier this week.

The investigation announced by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service today will look at 4 areas:

1. Allegations that witnesses gave perjured evidence in the trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan.

2. Allegations that, in respect of persons resident in Scotland, there are breaches of data protection legislation or other offences in relation to unlawful access to personal data.

3. Alleged offences determined from material held by the Metropolitan Police in respect of ‘phone hacking’ (Contraventions of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) and breaches of data protection legislation in Scotland.

4. Alleged instances of police corruption linked to items 2 and 3 above, in respect of the unlawful provision of information or other personal data to journalists or persons acting on their behalf.

This is a major investigation and addresses serious concerns arising out of the almost daily revelations in England in relation to the News of the World.  There have been calls in recent days for such an investigation to be held in Scotland.  With all the different inquiries taking place the truth should be uncovered as to just what has been going on and how wide-spread the corruption has been.  They will certainly mean that this issue remains in the headlines for quite some time and it will, without doubt, result in some significant changes.

Chaos at Culture Committee hearing

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee was today hearing evidence from James and Rupert Murdoch over the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World.  The committee meeting was briefly suspended following the actions of a member of the public who had lunged towards Rupert Murdoch with what has transpired to be shaving foam.

Reports from Westminster suggest that Rupert Murdoch took a hit from the shaving foam.  The scenes were quite spectacular as others from the public benches of the committee room, including Wendi Murdoch, came to the aid of Rupert Murdoch.  The audio suggests that the attacker was slapped by Wendi Murdoch as she jumped into the role of bodyguard.

The police and parliamentary security were quickly seen running in and detaining a male who visibly had some form of substance over his face and shirt.  It was quickly circulated on the social media site Twitter that the alleged attacker was Jonnie Marbles although this has yet to be confirmed.

Serious questions arise about parliamentary security over this issue.  How was a member of the public able to gain access to the committee room with the equipment necessary to create this plate of shaving foam.  The security in and around parliament is not all that different to the security found at airports around the United Kingdom.  Parliamentary security officials and the police will be asking questions, I’m sure.


Phone-hacking whistleblower found dead

It is being reported that Sean Hoare has bene found dead at his house.  Mr Hoare worked as a journalist at the News of the World and was the first named individual to directly allege Andy Coulson knew of the practice within the News of the World while he was editor.

Mr Coulson went on to resign from his post following the convictions of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire and later worked for David Cameron within the Conservative Party and then as his Director of Communications in Downing Street, a post that Mr Coulson resigned from over the News of the World debacle.  Hertfordshire Police issued a statement saying that at 10:40am on Monday 18 July 2011 they “were called to Langley Road, Watford, following the concerns for the welfare of a man who lives at an address on the street. Upon police and ambulance arrival at a property, the body of a man was found. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after.”

Mr Hoare alleged in an interview given to the BBC that he had been personally asked by Andy Coulson, who was at the time Editor of the News of the World, to tap into phones.

In an interview given to the Guardian last week Mr Hoare said that it was his hope that the hacking scandal would result in a general clean-up of journalism in the UK.

Police are treating the death as unexplained, but not as suspicious. Police investigations into the death continue.

MPs to be recalled to Parliament on Wednesday

It has been announced that Parliament is to be “recalled” on the first day of its summer recess to debate the rapidly changing situation over the News of the World phone hacking scandal.  Parliament was due to be on recess from Wednesday, but MPs will instead be in the Commons debating this subject of great national importance.

The wider impact of this continually unfolding story cannot yet be assessed, indeed it is likely that it will be many months before the full ramifications of this disgraceful situation will be known, the results of which will be felt for years to come.  There is little doubt that following these revelations, that continue to come, that the political landscape will change in the UK forever.  There will be ramifications for the press and press freedom, for MPs both present and future and for the police both present and future.

Each new development that comes brings with it more concern and more questions.  Two senior Metropolitan Police Officers have resigned over the scandal, the latest being Paul Yates who was Assistant Commissioner with responsibility for counter-terrorism policing.  Reports suggest that he faced investigation into the employment by the Metropolitan Police Service of Neil Wallis.  Mr Wallis was last week arrested as part of operation Weeting, the latest investigation into phone hacking.  Mr Yates checked the credentials of Mr Wallis prior to the Met employing him.

Mr Yates had decided in 2009 that no further investigation was required after fresh revelations by the Guardian Newspaper suggested that more was to be uncovered in relation to phone hacking following the police investigation in 2005 and 2006 that resulted in the convictions of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire.

Mr Yates said that his resignation was with “deep regret” and that his “conscience is clear’”.  His resignation follows that of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Sir Paul Stevenson who resigned yesterday.  Sir Paul said that questions around his integrity would be detramanetal to the Met as a whole.  It was announced that Tim Goodwin would take on the role of Acting Commissioner and that Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick would take on Mr Yates role.

Police corruption in Scotland?

The continuing revelations in the News of the World Phone hacking scandal are uncovering a relationship between the media and the police which is most undesirable.  Allegations of corruption within the police is a serious matter and it is one that rightly needs to be thoroughly investigated to establish exactly who was involved and whether this is a case of a few police officers acting in a corrupt way or whether this a more endemic problem within the police.  It must be established just how senior the officers involved in this were and indeed how high up the police chain of command there was knowledge of these corrupt practices.

Inquiries are going to be made into the relationship between the police and the media.  However some have expressed concern that the inquiries already announced will not look at the situation in Scotland.  Questions have already been raised over this issue in Scotland.  A practicing Solicitor, Aamer Anwar, handed over to Strathclyde Police a dossier containing more potential victims of voicemail interception and this is currently being investigated by Strathclyde Police.  This leaves people wondering whether Scottish police officers have also been involved in the corrupt practices that officers in the Metropolitan Police Service have allegedly been committing.  There also remains the question as to how the media obtained a copy of Gail Sheridan’s interview by the Police over alleged perjury at her husband’s successful defamation case against the News of the World.  Lothian and Borders police still have not explicitly stated that they were not the source of the leak.  Gail Sheridan was cleared of perjury after the Crown no longer sought a conviction against her, but her husband, Tommy Sheridan, was convicted and is currently serving three years in Castle Huntly Prison.

Tom Greatrex MP called for the Cabinet Secretary for Justice in the Scottish Government, Kenny MacAskill MSP to consider setting up an inquiry looking at the relationship between the police and media in similar terms to the one announced by the Home Secretary.  It has been announced that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary are to investigate the situation across all police forces in England and Wales, extending the focus beyond the Metropolitan Police Service in London.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice in the Scottish Government, Kenny MacAskill MSP, must instigate a review in Scotland of police practices around the media.  It is essential that the people of Scotland can have confidence in the police and the work that they carry out.  The questions raised by the situation in England and Wales are ones that equally apply to Scotland.  It is highly unlikely that any of the many inquiries into this issue in England will cover Scotland in any great depth, if at all.  Some sort of independent inquiry in Scotland must be conducted, whether that be a judicial inquiry or one conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland.

Scottish Government drops FOI Court of Session appeal

It has been reported that the Scottish Government has discontinued its case before the Court of Session in relation to a requirement placed upon it by the Scottish Information Commissioner to release information withheld by it which had been requested by Mr Simon Johnson, the Scottish Political Editor at the Daily Telegraph.

On 17 February 2009 a request for information was sent by Mr Johnson to the Scottish Ministers requesting information regarding the revised local income tax plan and the Ministers refused to disclose the information citing the exemption covering information gathered for the formation of Scottish Administration policy.  Mr Johnson appealed to the commissioner following the Scottish Government maintaining the exemption following a review.  The Commissioner found that the public interest of maintaining the exemption was outweighed by the public interest in releasing the information and ordered its disclosure.  The Scottish Government appealed to the Court of Session.

The contents of the documents the Scottish Government were seeking to keep secret were leaked which meant that the appeal was no longer required.  The appeal has cost the taxpayer £100,000 which is not an insignificant amount of money, especially in a time of Government cuts and could have probably been better spent on other things, but instead the Scottish Government decided to spend it on keeping information secret from the public.

The Commissioner has in the past commented on the performance of the Scottish Ministers in complying with the requirements of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) and frequently when looking through the recent decisions of the Commissioner there can be decisions found where the Scottish Ministers are party.  Personal experience coupled with this leads me to believe that the Scottish Government actively seek to keep information from the public and prefer to operate the business of government in private.

This looks to have been a complete waste of taxpayer’s money to prevent potentially embarrassing details from being released to the public.  The Commissioner has been very clear that exemptions are not to be used to prevent potentially embarrassing information from being disclosed.

It’s time that the Scottish Government is more open and more transparent rather than only releasing the information that benefits them and shows them in a good light.  The people of Scotland have a right to know what is going on inside Government.

The Scottish Information Commissioner is still considering an application regarding information withheld by the Scottish Government in relation to the post-Cadder debacle and readers of Avizandum Times will be the first to know what the Commissioners decision is when that is released.

Decision 025/2011 Mr Simon Johnson of the Daily Telegraph and the Scottish Ministers