Rant

The Scheme – a second series?

In May 2010 BBC Scotland began to broadcast a four part series called The Scheme.  The programme followed six families on the Onthank Estate in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire and pulled in hundreds of Thousands of viewers for the first two parts of the series.

On 28 May 2010 I published on this very blog a critical look at the Television programme.  Having watched it on BBC iPlayer to see what all the fuss was about I took the step of contacting Strathclyde Police in an attempt to discover whether any criminal investigations had been launched following its broadcast.  This decision came from the confessions made by some of the shows “stars” to what were serious criminal offences.  We saw people helping others out of the house who were wanted by the police with the police downstairs and we heard a confession from a mother about how they had provided a false alibi to the police, we saw an assault take place on National television and these are just a few examples of the offences broadcast on national television.

At the time I felt, and still do feel, it was an irresponsible decision taken by BBC Scotland to not only film such a programme, but to then broadcast it.  Aside from the potential criminal implications there were scenes of an individual preparing what appeared to be (and was presented as) heroin.  This was shown as pure entertainment, and in my view, did not adequately represent the significant and very real dangers of heroin usage.  I felt that it was a waste of licence payers’ money and should not have been commissioned.

Episode 3 and 4 of series one have yet to be broadcast for legal reasons, but the BBC still appear hopeful that they will be able to broadcast these episodes in the near future.  In my round-up of 2010 I suggested that the delay may be a permanent one, but it appears that it probably will not.

It was to my despair this morning that I read on The Scotsman website (having had it brought to my attention on Twitter by @EccyThumperoo) that the BBC were in the early stages of filming and producing a second series of the programme.

At the time some people around me suggested that maybe Shameless (on Channel 4) is also irresponsible.  While the events of Shameless are somewhat a true representation of some housing estates in the United Kingdom it is entirely fictional.  It is not broadcasting real people committing what appear to be real criminal offences and is written in such a way that it is quite clear that the events are fictional.  The Scheme is entirely different in that respect, it cannot be suggested to be fictional as it is “real life”, the alleged offences being committed are not scripted and being carried out by actors playing a part, but by real people based on their own decisions, choices and free will.  The two programmes cannot really be compared.

I am entirely opposed to not only a second series of the programme, but the first series being broadcast again, in full or in part.

Of course it is for the police to investigate any alleged criminality, the Procurator Fiscal to decide whether any action is to be taken and for the courts to decide upon a person’s guilt or innocence.  Much of what was shown on The Scheme may well have been for the camera, but that does not detract from the, in my view, irresponsible decision to broadcast it.
Rant

Managed Anoerxia and the Size Zero Pill

I’ve posted a theological outlook on the problem that is @MrKennethTong here, but now I wish to look at it in a more legalistic way using the Scottish legal system as  a basis for my post.

The wonderful Jack of Kent blog has already raised the matter of this series of tweets:


I don’t propose to say anything on the matter of what these tweets could mean as I do not think I could add anything to what has already been said in the blog post linked to above.

Tong has mentioned his wealth on several occasions, but while doing some research on him in preparation for the blog posts I intended to write I have found numerous stories suggesting that he may not be as well off as he suggests (or once was).

I’m not much of a fan of the tabloid newspapers, but when it comes to finding out about minor celebrities and former reality television “stars” they really do come into their own.  In July 2005 The Sun carried an article that contained two interesting things:

1)      That Tong owed money to a charity from a charity auction (I have been unable to discover whether Tong has in fact paid this now or whether the money is still outstanding to the charity)

2)      That his friends claim he had fallen on some harder times

Now, I am under no illusions, these stories were post almost 18 months ago and in that time he could have built up some form of wealth, especially off the back of his brief appearance on Big Brother in 2009.

However, as interesting as it is looking into the public life of Kenneth Tong, this was not the purpose of this post.

As you will all know, if you read my blog regularly, I am a huge supporter of freedom of speech and will defend anyone’s right to express their views and ideas and that goes for Kenneth Tong.  He has a right to express his ideas and views about the size of people and his desire for everyone to be thin.  No matter how offensive someone is that is no reason for censoring them.

However, I do have great concern about the actual product and service which he is marketing.  Both, on the face of things, appear to fly in the face of all known scientific and medical knowledge based upon evidence gained from controlled experiments and I do wonder if this would be an avenue that could be used to prevent him from doing huge damage to the health of many people.  This is no lose a few pounds and drop a dress size…this is suggesting and helping adults to take their bodies down to the size and weight of an EIGHT YEAR OLD!

Civil Law, Criminal Justice, Criminal Law, English Law, Human Rights, Legal System, News, Politics, Rant, Scots Law

The Media and Police Investigations

Before I begin I will make a couple of things clear.  Firstly, I am not and do not claim to be an expert on police investigation techniques or process.  Secondly, I am not making any specific accusations against any particular journalist or media outlet.

Last week the Attorney General in England took the unusual step of effectively reminding journalists of their obligations under the Contempt of Court Act in relation to their coverage of the investigation into the death of Jo Yates.

I am all for the press having the freedom to report on such cases and indeed anything that they feel is worthy of being printed or broadcast (even if I disagree with their editorial decisions and policies).  It is an important right in a democratic society and one that I will vigorously defend.  Curtailment of this right should only go so far as is absolutely necessary in a free and democratic society (and that goes for any other fundamental freedoms, rights and liberties).

However, with all rights comes responsibility, and of late (not just with the Jo Yates murder inquiry, but indeed in many other stories featured in the media over the last few years) the media seem to have forgotten about the responsibilities that come with such rights.  They must make sure that everything they present is balanced, fair and does not in any way prejudice a person, group of persons or a process.  They must also respect the privacy of private individuals.

A prime example of the privacy issue can be seen in the Jo Yates case.  The effective media scrum to get the best footage or shot of the grieving relatives as they visited the site where Jo Yates’ body was discovered.  In my view, respect for the privacy of those grieving the loss of Jo Yates demanded that this very difficult and emotional moment was a private one not broadcast on the national television news.  Indeed, I’m not really all that interested in how the family are grieving and what they are doing in order to help themselves come to terms with the loss of Jo Yates.  I’m more interested in the capturing and prosecution of the person responsible for such a heinous crime.

A further responsibility that the media have is to respect the privacy of police investigations and not comment critically on the investigation.  The fact remains that the media are only aware of what the police tell them and that will comprise of so little that it is fair to say the media don’t have a clue what’s going on.  It’s unhelpful and not really in the public interest for them to do these things: indeed it may even hamper a police investigation as they spend time countering accusations of ineffective investigations made against them by the media.

I have enough confidence in our police forces that they will conduct investigations into such serious and heinous crimes to the best of their ability with the knowledge and resources available to them.  It is up to the police to decide what is significant enough for them at that time to follow up.  Resources are limited (as much as we would like the opposite to be true, it is not) and as such the police cannot possibly follow up on every single possible lead received.  They must assess how each lead fits into what they already know and decide from there which leads are important enough for them to follow-up at any particular stage of the investigation.

Further to that, it is for the police alone to decide what should be released into the public domain through the media and for them to decide when and how the media can assist their investigation.  It is highly irresponsible for the media to get “experts” in who have no direct knowledge or involvement with the case in hand to discuss what should or might be happening.  This is pure speculation and does nothing to assist the police and their investigation.

Part of the problem may stem from the 24 hour news provision.  The various news stations have this need to fill every single second with what they consider to be news and can end up digging into a story so much that what they end up reporting is so far removed from the situation in hand it’s laughable.

Character assassination of those arrested on suspicion of these high profile crimes is utterly unnecessary and potentially very dangerous for the media outlets.  I’m not normally in favour of censorship of the media, but I really see no reason for the name of people arrested during the course of an investigation to be named in the media and would be in support of legislation to prevent the naming of suspects in all cases until they have at least been charged, and in some cases until conviction.  What if, and here’s an idea, the person arrested is in fact innocent.  What use has the media served by digging up people who knew X 2 or 3 decades earlier talking about their hair colour or how they found them to be “strange”? That of course, is merely conjecture by one or two individuals, but it suits the media in this country down to the ground.  It gives them something to report (rather than reporting on worthwhile things).   Of course they find the worst photograph of the suspect and together with their gutter investigations and reporting make it look like they are probably guilty.  On some occasions reports by the media during investigations appear to be more like trials by the media of each individual who happens to be arrested or interview in the course of an investigation.

There is also an arrogance surrounding the media generally in such cases.  In a news item I watched on TV today I heard the reporter say the following (or something almost exactly similar):

“There has been no reason or explanation for the delay in giving us this information”

This quote was in relation to the information released by the police today that Jo Yates was wearing only one sock, not boots and no jacket when she was found dead on a road near a quarry.  I’m sorry, but the police are not answerable to the media as to why they have chosen to release information when they have (and not later or earlier).  In fact, the police are under no obligation to give the media any information in relation to cases they are investigating.  The police release information to the media when they feel that to do so may assist their inquiries.

We have a system in this country to bring people to justice.  The police investigate a crime, any case against a person is then put before a court and the court then decides upon the guilt or innocence of an individual based on the evidence put before them.  The media can play an important part in helping to obtain information that can help the police find the right individual to put before the court but they must not in anyway, act in a way that is reckless or irresponsible.

I heard an argument, on TV, over this matter during one of the many reports on Jo Yates saying that they way in which the British press have conducted themselves is nothing compared to the way in which the press conduct themselves in the USA.  This was an apparent defence of the British media, but I’m sorry just because the media in the USA is worse doesn’t mean that either are acting correctly.

I’m sure by now that you will have got the point I am trying to make.  If you haven’t in short it is this: the media must act responsibly when exercising its right to freedom of the press and that I am rather annoyed with the way in which the media have been conducting themselves over the last few years.

Criminal Justice, Criminal Law, Legal System, Rant, Scots Law

The Scheme

One television programme shown by BBC Scotland has been an instant success with many around Scotland. The programme has also come in for some criticism due to some of the content. A facebook campaign has started to encourage the BBC to air the final two episodes, but this won’t happen because of outstanding criminal proceedings that could potentially be prejudiced by the show. The programme in question is “The Scheme”.

BBC Scotland spent one year filming six families on a tough estate in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. This filming has been turned into a programme looking at the lives of those families. However, scenes of drug taking, assaults and attempts to defeat the ends of justice have all caused some condemnation.

The final two episodes in the four part series have been postponed indefinatley as someone who has not yet featured in the programme, but is due to during the final two episodes, has outstanding criminal proceedings. The series has been postponed in order to prevent prejudice in the proceedings.

In the first episode aired on Tuesday 18 May one of those featured in the show admits to providing a false alibi to officers from Strathclyde Police. This of course amounts to a very serious offence and her admission had been broadcast on national TV.

During the start of the first episode there were scenes of someone injecting what appeared to be heroin. While it would be impossible to prosecute for posession as the substance cannot be confirmed as being heroin, this was highly inappropriate.

We have also seen scenes of persons being assisted out of a property in order to avoid the police as they have outstanding arrest warrants and also what clearly constitutes an assault having taken place. All of this and more has been broadcast on National TV.

It concerns me greatly that the BBC thought it appropriate to film, produce and air the series.

When I contacted Strathclyde Police in relation to the series a spokesperson said “Strathclyde Police has an obligation to investigate any allegation of criminality” and added that “there is no further comment available at this time.”

I have also contacted the BBC to try and ascertain whether they have passed any footage recorded in the making of “The Scheme” to Strathclyde Police.  However, they are yet to respond.  I shall of course publish any response I received from them here.

In addition to this I have contacted East Ayrshire Council in relation to the programme, but have yet to recieve a response.  Once again I shall publish any statement or comment they make.

Criminal Justice, Human Rights, International Law, Legal System, Rant

China’s Penal System

At approximately 02:30 (UK time) on Tuesday 29 December 2009 China executed a British Citizen convicted of smuggling 4kg of Heroin into China.  It is a widely known fact that China executes for drugs offences and as little as 50g of Heroin in your possession is enough to see you executed.  There has been a lot of media attention surrounding this case and the British Government have made an astonishing number of approaches to China and its officials here in the UK over this case.

There are a number of main issues surrounding this case, but all are linked by one common theme:  Mr Shaikh’s alleged Mental Illness.  This post is likely to turn into (in fact it is intended to turn into) a complete condemnation of China over its penal system and record on Human Rights.

Mr Shaikh reportedly suffered from Bipolar Disorder and delusional psychosis.   The charity Reprieve have come out and said that a Consultant psychologist’s report had made such a diagnosis.  Whether this report had been seen by a Court in China or had been passed to authorities in China we will probably never know given how secretive the Chinese are over their penal system – especially where the death penalty is involved.  Even had this report not been seen there was certainly enough evidence provided by Mr Sheikh’s family and the British Government for Chinese authorities to have conducted their own psychiatric examination of Mr Sheikh – indeed where no formal diagnosis has been made, but questions surrounding a person’s mental state in a criminal trial are raised this would be standard in pretty much every civilised country in the world.

It is also widely reported that the Chinese Government has great involvement in its judicial system with reports suggesting that decisions are frequently reached over a persons guilt before the trial has even began.  People have been executed in China following trials lasting half a day or less.

China is a signatory to many human rights treaties and blatantly ignores the obligations it has placed upon itself by signing these treaties.

China executes more people than the rest of the world combined and has the death penalty attached to at least 68 crimes including economic and other non-violent related crimes.

The exact number of people executed in China is not known due to its secrecy surrounding executions, in contravention of both its own domestic law and the obligations it has as part of being a member of the UN.  China is a committee member of the United Nation’s Economic and Social Committee and is a signatory to treaties which place an obligation upon China to publish full and frank information on the use of the Death Penalty and executions as well as banning the execution of those who are suffering from mental retardation or extremely limited mental competence, whether at the stage of sentence or execution.  China’s own criminal law require sit to publicly publish all executions (Article 212(5) of the 1996 Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China) – this is something we know it does not.

The People’s Republic of China, whether we like it or not, is part of the International Community.  It is too big and economically advanced for us to ignore this, but the rest of the International Community, as a whole, must place pressure on China to start living up to its obligations under International Law to which it is a signatory.

China is known to use torture as part of its penal system and uses evidence extracted under torture at court and frequently people are found guilty and executed on evidence extracted under torture.  Such evidence is internationally regarded as unsafe and problematic for a number of reasons.

China is a central part of an international community and law making body and does not itself abide by the rules laid out within that community.  No country within that system is perfect and all breach parts of the Law, what makes China so different is its blatant disregard for treaties which it has voluntarily signed up to and accepted the obligations that signing that treaty place upon it.

While China is moving towards the use of the Lethal Injection as its method of execution (a method widely seen as a humane form of execution, but causes many problems in the USA) the most commonly used method of execution is death by a single gunshot to the back of the head from close range – families of condemned prisoners are often forced to pay for the bullet used to execute their loved ones themselves.

Lawyers in China have reported to the International Media that it is impossible to defend s person on a Capital charge in China and that almost 100% of those tried are convicted.  Having a near 100% conviction rate would normally be something to be pleased about, but looking at it in China it is deeply worrisome.  The fact that it is impossible to determine that each person convicted has been tried fairly means that we can have little or no confidence in China’s justice system.

Those accused of crimes in China often get no immediate access to legal representation, which places them at a significant disadvantage.

There is evidence of China’s courts convicting and upholding death sentences of evidence which has clearly and knowingly been fabricated and there are people whose convictions and sentences been overturned a number of times sitting on Death Row or have been executed after being convicted again and again and again on the same fabricated evidence.

Following revelations a few years ago on China’s booming organ transplantation services one does wonder how many executions are driven purely by the need for organs.   Personally I’d probably rather die than have an organ transplanted into me from a person executed in a system like China’s.

How can anyone have confidence in a justice system which is so obviously devoid of internationally accepted minimum standards on justice?  The answer is that one cannot.  Any country that has such a system and tries as hard as it can to

This blog entry has become rather lengthy and I don’t want to go on much longer.  All I really want to say is that I am disgusted (but not surprised) by the way China has handled this case.

Personal, Rant

Back to Work

Well, I’m back to work tomorrow after nearly three weeks off sick.  I’m going back to a new job in a new department with a new manager.  I have worked in this department before, but not as a Team Leader.  This could be interesting, but I really don’t want to go to work tomorrow.  I need to find a new job in a new company!

Personal, Rant

Abuse

Almost a year ago I wrote a post on abuse from customers.  I’d forgotten I’d written this post until it appeared on the blog’s statistics as one of the most read posts in the last 24 hours.  I re-read it and thought I’d look at the situation a year on now that I’m a trainee manager as opposed to a Customer Assistant.

I must say taking the step up to trainee manager has meant the customers get more abusive and more frequent.  The customers that I used to pass onto the manager now come to me (what a stupid move that was).

I’m going to recall a couple of recent stories.  The first happened about a week before I hurt my knee.  I was called to the returns desk because a customer was unhappy (more to the point the was acting in a totally unacceptable manner by threatening the staff that work on the desk).  The story was that he wanted to return his kettle, but the receipt for it showed that it had been purchased some 14 months earlier.  I got to the desk and looked at the kettle, it was in an utterly disgusting state with limescale and rust everywhere (not what you’d expect for a kettle that was only 14 months old).  Our products are only guaranteed for 12 months, and anyway even if it had been within the 12 months he still wouldn’t have been getting the refund as the kettle wasn’t faulty or broken…it had just been abused.  I communicated all this to the customer and he started to become verbally abusive towards me.  I wasn’t in the mood for it and asked him to stop otherwise he would be asked to leave the store.  At that point the decided it would be wise to throw the kettle at me!  That was the final straw Security and the police were called and he left in handcuffs (he was charged twice with causing a breach of the peace – once in relation to his threats to the Desk staff and once in relation to his throwing the kettle at me).

Another one was for a customer who believed they had been overcharged for a product.  Here is the situation:  the customer had picked up a set of electronic kitchen scales that cost £19.97.  The product to the right of this one had sold out and the shelf edge label was still in place showing a reduced price of £9.79.  The customer assumed (wrongly) that the £9.79 label was for the £19.97 product.  When I arrived he marched me along to the shelf and just pointed to it, to which I responded “Yes, what can I do for you?”.  This seemed to send him off more (as if I am meant to be able to read his mind or something stupid like that).  He started ranting and raving and the conversation went something like this:

Customer:  It’s confusing having the two labels there.  I want it for that price there.

Me:  Why is it confusing sir?

Customer:  How are we meant to know which one it is?

Me:  Well sir, we generally read from left to right in this country (probably a huge mistake on my part as this sent him of more)

Customer:  Don’t you in this country me, do I look foreign to you?

Me:  No sir, that’s not what I meant

Customer:  I’m going to trading standards about this.

Me: (confidently, as while he was ranting I did my checks) You can go to trading standards if you want, but the shelf is perfectly legal and they will back the store up

Customer:  What do you mean it’s perfectly legal

Me:  Well the description and bar codes match the product and the price displayed matches what the product is scanning for at the checkouts.  We have a label to the right of the product because another product will have been sitting there which has now sold out.  This label would have therefore been on the left-hand side of the product that
has now sold out.

Customer:  What’s all this bullshit about barcodes and descriptions, all I look at is the price and nothing else.

Me:  Well sir, that might be how this mistake has happened.  The label contains a lot more detail than just the price.  What I am going to do is remove the label to the right of the product to avoid anymore confusion.

Customer:  Why would you do that if its legal?

Me:  because the shelf is actually part of a discontinued/deranged mod and we do not have anymore of the product left.  Unfortunately we cannot be there every time a product sells out so remove the label at the first available opportunity, which this is.

Customer:  I don’t believe you.  You’re just trying to cover your arse you prick.

Me:  Sir, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t use that language and no I’m not covering it up.  You already have a photograph of the shelf on your mobile phone so me removing the label will make no difference what so ever if you decide to take it to trading standards.

It went on and on like this until the Senior Manager on duty that day came past and saw I was in desperate need of help, but sadly his help was to give the customer a £10 refund…how infuriating!

I have many more such stories, but these are two of the most recent that stick in my mind the most.  Abuse is sadly a daily occurrence for those who work in retail and it really is quite unacceptable.

Legal System, Rant

Go and deal with some proper criminals!

Nightjack raised a very interesting issue in his blog.  He said:

The comment so often thrown at Police as we haul the latest public order / minor assault arrestee away from their loved ones is “Why don’t you go out and arrest some proper criminals like murderers and rapists.”

Nightjack then went on to make a very interesting entry on the National Crime Recording Standard and it is worth reading (and can be read here).  I want to take the above quote and look at it from a different angle – be warned this is going to be a rant.  I nearly went into this in the comment I left on NJ’s blog, but decided it was going to be rather long and that I wanted to post about it on my blog.

The question “Why don’t you go out and arrest some proper criminals like murderers and rapists?” really bugs me.  It is essentially the criminal trying to ditch their responsibility (in my opinion).  Anyone who breaks a law is a real criminal whether that be a breach of the peace, a minor traffic offence or something more serious such as murder or rape.  If you get caught then you should just accept that you broke a law of the land and as such that has consequences for you.  When you drank 4 pints of beer putting you over the drink drive limit and got into your car to drive home from the pub you knew that it was against the law to drink and drive when you started drinking in the pub and when you got into the car.  Why are you then so shocked when the police pull you over and arrest you when you fail the breath test?  Why is it you only think about your job when the Sheriff is about to ban you from driving?  Yes, there are some stupid laws in the books, but that doe snot detract from the fact that while they are still law there are consequences for you should you break that law.  Ignoring a “bad” law (whether that be your own opinion or an opinion shared by many) is not the way to go about changing it!

It’s the motorists who annoy me most, especially when on the subject of Speed Cameras.  Yes, Speed cameras are annoying, but if you don’t break the speed limit then YOU DON’T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THEM. They only generate a large revenue for the government because people break the speed limit and therefore break the law.  As a driver, i don’t particulalry like speed cameras, but I don’t worry about them because I drive within the speed limit at all times!  When I was learning to drive my driving instructor (who was a recently retired police driving instructor at the Scottish Police College) it was drilled into me that driving within the speed limit means you still get to your destination – often just as quick (or sometimes quicker) than those who speed.  Also, there is less of a chance of me being killed or killing someone else (the risk isn’t wiped out, but is greatly reduced).

That’s a tangent for another day I think.  So, back to the original point.  Regardless of what crime you comit, you are a criminal and all criminals are real criminals.  The police don’t necessarily target motorists because they are easy targets (in fact given the massive reductions in spending on Roads Policing in many areas around the country I’d suggest that the police are doing anything but targeting motorists) and the same goes for the drunks at the weekend fighting, breaking windows and destroying other parts of the centre of town.  If you commit a crime you should expect the police to deal with you appropriately, not to let you off just in case someone decides to break into a strangers house and rape them before knifing them to death!

I did warn you that it would be a bit of a rant, if you’ve managed to get the point of the blog entry then good for you.  I tend to go off on tangents and loose my point when I start ranting.

Rant

Train Journey

This evening I suffered a train journey from Home City to Anytown. It was a nightmare (as late Friday evening train journeys usually are). There were a lot of drunks. Drunks of all types.

For the first part of the journey I was entertained by a drunk couple in their early 40s. They were actually quite funny and made good conversation (for drunks).

During the second part of the journey we were blessed with a group of violent and abusive drunks. All male and all over 30. They were loud, their language was horrible and they physically threatened the train conductor and other passengers (on approach to Anytown so as to avoid having to make their own way home from some random town en-route (this being the last train of the night)). We arrived at Anytown and were graced with the presence of the British Transport Police who arrested the ring leader (the one who also threatened train staff). Off to spend the weekend in the cells and face a sheriff at Anytown Sheriff Court on Monday morning (along with the other drunks rounded up over the weekend)

Criminal Justice, Criminal Law, English Law, Politics, Rant

Football Violence

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7402702.stm

What you can see above is a minutes worth of C.C.T.V footage that has been released by Greater Manchester Police disgracing fans of Rangers Football Club, who brought utter shame on themselves last night.

I’m not a football fan, but I do know that this was the first time this particular club made it into a European cup final in a very long time, and when they last (2-0) they rioted.

The scenes above are nothing other than disgusting. It has been reported that 15 police officers and two paramedics were among those inured, one fan was stabbed. A number of arrests were made by Greater Manchester Police for offences including Assault, affray and violent disorder.

This sort of violence is unacceptable and not on. The fans should be utterly ashamed of themselves.