Archive for October 2012

A quick thought on Corporation Tax ‘avoidance’

There is a (largely constructed by people ignorant of the very basics of tax laws) furore building up around the fact that various (usually American) multinational companies have been ‘dodging’ UK Corporation Tax (CT). Firms such as eBay, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Starbucks have, amongst others, all been ‘outed’ as part of this wave of silliness.

Leaving aside the convenient fiction that companies pay tax, the reason why the UK government has seen (thankfully – they’d only waste it) little money in CT is because these companies do not have their EU headquarters in this country. Under the Single Market (one of the few things about the EU which is actually sensible) only one HQ is necessary to do business in the EU and so any CT on profits made in the EU is paid to the national government in country where it resides.

Why do firms have their EU HQ in other countries? Simple: because CT rates are lower.

How could we get those companies to place their HQ in the UK? Simple: cut CT. Whilst ideally I’d say scrap it, anything in the 10% – 15% range would make the UK more competitive.

The problem (of course) is that those currently foaming at the mouth about so-called CT ‘avoidance’ are those who hate the idea of lower CT rates.

As Spock would say, ‘Illogical, Captain’.

Magazines don’t kill people…

The latest organisation to apparently succumb to the march of the bansturbators was the high street newsagent WH Smith (SMWH) when it announced a change of policy with regards to shooting magazines:

“As part of our commitment to operate our business responsibly, we have a till prompt on shooting titles.

“It asks our store teams to check that the customer is 14 years old or over, based on this being the legal age at which someone can possess a firearms certificate.”

Being a private company they are, of course, entitled to do such barmy things – as is so often demonstrated when it comes to supermarkets and alcohol – and customers are perfectly entitled to take their custom elsewhere.

Strictly speaking the spokesdroid was correct when they said a firearms licence is restricted to those over 14. What they failed however to mention was that it is perfectly legal for under-14s to be in possession of a shotgun licence and to use firearms whilst supervised.

Whilst that should amply demonstrate the stupidity of this rule change, the obvious problem which springs to mind is that what proof of age can a 14 year-old produce? The only ones I can think of are a birth certificate and a passport (children now having to have their own for international travel whereas back in the day they could travel on a parents’ passport pre-16). National Insurance cards aren’t issued until your 16th year, 17th for driving licences and proof of age cards are only for those over 18.

So what then prompted this silliness?

The answer is not government but the animal rights organisation Animal Aid. A poll conducted on their behalf of 1,000 members of the public (less than 1 in 60,000) found that 74% wanted such magazines moved to the ‘top-shelf’ and that 84% thought that they should only be sold to over-18s.

Whilst the sample size is certainly small, those asked demonstrate a worrying level of hoplophobia and illiberalism. Retailers should be allowed to organise their magazine shelves as they like and sell publications to whoever wants them. If you don’t like something then don’t buy it. What someone else buys is none of your business.

Animal Aid appears to be claiming that the glossy covers of these magazines, which allegedly feature pictures of shooters (yes, including children) with the creatures that they have shot, will attract children to shooting. That sounds remarkably like the argument that the tobacco control lobby are using over plain packaging to me…

Why target SMWH for their campaign though?

A major focus of Animal Aid’s ‘top shelf’ campaign will be high street newsagent WHSmith, which has so far rejected the national campaign group’s written request for a ban on gun magazine sales to under-18s. The company claims it operates an ‘age prompt of 14 years or over on our tills for shooting titles’. After receiving that assurance on July 30, Animal Aid sent five young researchers – aged 11 and 12 – into WHSmith branches in different parts of the country. Each bought a copy of Shooting Times without difficulty.

So it appears that SMWH may have already had this policy in place, albeit rather ineffectually. Is their announcement then just a reaffirmation of existing foolishness or statement that they intent to take the matter more seriously?

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler: ‘Since launching our call for a ban on the sale of gun magazines to children, shooting lobbyists have characterised us as “crazy” and “extremists”. They can see now that the vast majority of the public back our call, and that it is they who are out of touch with rational mainstream opinion.’

Sorry Andy but I think you are a bunch of crazy extremists as well and yet I’ve only once in my life fired a gun and have never been a member of the Countryside Alliance or the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. I’m also not keen on the tyranny of the majority and see nothing wrong with gun ownership, let alone the purchasing of magazines about the subject by people of any age. A bit less hoplophobia is a good thing as the sooner more people realise that a gun is just a tool the better we will all be as a society.

And another nail…

Barry Thew

Meet Barry Thew. Or not – unless you happen to have shared a cell with him last night. Barry it seems doesn’t like cops – not a surprise really for someone who a string of convictions for offences going back to his pre-teen years. Whilst Barry is hardly alone in this feeling though, he was the only one wandering around a town centre not far from Manchester wearing a white t-shirt with the hand-written slogan ‘One less pig. Perfect justice‘ on the front mere hours after two police officers had been murdered.

I think we can all agree that that was not Barry’s finest hour.

For this rather tasteless piece of fashion he was charged under the s4A of the Public Order Act (1986). He pled guilty and has now been gaoled for 4 months for this ‘crime’.

At the risk of repeating myself so quickly, I have to ask why. That the slogan is deeply unpleasant and was no doubt considered upsetting and offensive by the officers of Manchester police is a given but none of that should land you in court, let alone gaol.

If Barry – or anyone else – wants to walk around with that on their t-shirt then so be it. It lets the rest of us know who to avoid.

Not everyone agrees of course, as evidenced by this quote from Inspector Bryn Williams of the Radcliffe Neighbourhood Policing Team:

To mock or joke about the tragic events of that morning is morally reprehensible and Thew has rightly been convicted and sentenced for his actions.

Newsflash Bryn… people have made tasteless jokes about things since time immemorial – and will continue to do so. Some of the worst offenders when it comes to mortuary humour are those in the armed forces and the emergency services. It is a coping mechanism. Are you going to report yourself and your fellow officers next time a ‘morally reprehensible’ joke goes around the nick?

Being morally reprehensible is not a crime and locking Barry Thew up for a distasteful remark is not going to bring back those murdered officers.

Yet another nail in the coffin

When the CPS declined to prosecute Daniel Thomas for comments made about the diver Tom Daley last month, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued a statement saying he planned to review guidelines for prosecuting comments made on social media:

“Against that background, the CPS has the task of balancing the fundamental right of free speech and the need to prosecute serious wrongdoing on a case by case basis. That often involves very difficult judgment calls and, in the largely unchartered territory of social media, the CPS is proceeding on a case by case basis. In some cases it is clear that a criminal prosecution is the appropriate response to conduct which is complained about, for example where there is a sustained campaign of harassment of an individual, where court orders are flouted or where grossly offensive or threatening remarks are made and maintained. But in many other cases a criminal prosecution will not be the appropriate response. If the fundamental right to free speech is to be respected, the threshold for criminal prosecution has to be a high one and a prosecution has to be required in the public interest.

“To ensure that CPS decision-making in these difficult cases is clear and consistent, I intend to issue guidelines on social media cases for prosecutors. These will assist them in deciding whether criminal charges should be brought in the cases that arise for their consideration. In the first instance, the CPS will draft interim guidelines. There will then be a wide public consultation before final guidelines are published. As part of that process, I intend to hold a series of roundtable meetings with campaigners, media lawyers, academics, social media experts and law enforcement bodies to ensure that the guidelines are as fully informed as possible.

As we all know the CPS suffered two defeats in quick succession over the summer when Paul Chambers and John Kerlen (better know to many as @Sir_Olly_C) had their convictions under s127 of the Communications Act (2003) quashed and the (hopeful) thought was that after Thomas they would call a halt to prosecutions until they had finished their review.

It is ironic then that on the day that the first discussion took place, Matthew Woods was prosecuted for offensive comments about the missing girl, April Jones.

Having read some of the comments he made, I wouldn’t recommend he takes up a career in comedy but they are certainly no more distasteful or offensive than any I heard (and no doubt repeated) after Hillsborough back when I was a pre-teen.

Woods pled guilty to this ‘crime’ – on whose advice I know not as I would have thought that a competent brief would have dug the Chambers and Kerlen verdicts out – and has been sentenced to a total of 12 weeks in a young offenders institution. The presiding magistrate had this to say on passing sentence:

“The reason for the sentence is the seriousness of the offence, the public outrage that has been caused and we felt there was no other sentence this court could have passed which conveys to you the abhorrence that many in society feel this crime should receive.”

Sorry Mr. Hudson but the public being outraged is not a reason to hand a young man, however stupid he is, a criminal record and to waste taxpayers money by sending him to a secure institution for what will be no longer than 6 weeks just for typing words into a box on a social media platform.

I am regularly outraged by a lot stupid things that go on in the world but as abhorrent as I find them, I’m not going to call for the people involved to gaoled simply to fulfil my need to have them punished for their idiotic behaviour.

For the purposes of comparison it is worth noting, as I saw elsewhere, that 12 weeks is what Lord Ahmed got for dangerous driving, and I certainly can’t see how anyone could say that Woods’ actions were in any way dangerous to anyone’s life but his own.

No, the sickest joke of this entire affair is not the behaviour of Woods but that of the justice system. From the decision by the Police to arrest him ‘for his own safety’, to that of the CPS for prosecuting him and finally Mr. Hudson (who gives the impression of accepting the rule of the mob), each step has been an exercise in craven stupidity.

I hope that Matthew Woods appeals this appalling decision and wins.

Who to believe?

A minor bout of swearing erupted on Sunday after seeing reports in the MSM that the Isambard Community School in Swindon had insisted that all parents must obtain a CRB check before watching sporting events at the school:

A spokesman said: “It is with regret that from now on we will be unable to accommodate parents wishing to spectate at our sports fixtures unless they are in possession of an up-to-date Swindon Council CRB check.

“At Isambard we take safeguarding very seriously and because of this we are unable to leave gates open for access to sporting venues at anytime during the school day.

“The current access arrangements are frustrating for both Isambard staff and parents and have recently resulted in reception staff and PE staff being on the receiving end of verbal abuse from parents who have become frustrated trying to get into or out of the school.”

Taken at face value this sounds like a very stupid idea. It is the preceding paragraph to this however which begins to shine some light on matters:

The school introduced the new measure at the start of the term to prevent strangers from accessing other parts of the school from the playing fields.

That the school is hardly keen on random people wandering the halls is fair enough. Can’t blame them for that but CRB checks are hardly the way to do it and parents don’t exactly count as strangers.

What I can’t work out though is whether the press release which the school issued on Monday morning is aimed at correcting what it sees as inaccurate media coverage or if it is a total climb-down on a massive over-reaction:

In light of the recent press coverage regarding CRB checks on parents wishing to watch their children play in sports fixtures we would like to issue the following statement:

“Parents are more than welcome to attend to watch sports fixtures at Isambard Community School. However, there is no access to the sports pitches through the main school building. Parents are requested to use the Tadpole Lane entrance where there is ample parking. There have previously been issues with parents and other visitors arriving at the Isambard Way entrance and being annoyed to be asked to drive to Tadpole Lane. However, we are unable to allow visitors access through the school during the normal school day, which includes the enrichment time between 3:15pm and 6pm. We hope this clarifies the school’s position.”

We apologise for the fact that the Advertiser were given out-dated information regarding this issue prior to the article going to press.

Given the state of the MSM in this country and the knee-jerk “Won’t somebody please think of the children” reaction of the unthinking section of the populace, it could be one, t’other or both!