Posts tagged ‘civil disturbances’


David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, has aroused the ire of many by suggesting that one of the reasons behind last summer’s riots is that parents are afraid to smack their children.

In an interview with LBC Radio to publicise his book (Out Of The Ashes: After The Riots) Lammy said:

“Many of my constituents came up to me after the riots and blamed the Labour Government, saying: ‘You guys stopped us being able to smack our children’.

“I have to say when this was first raised with me I was pretty disparaging. But I started to listen. These parents are scared to smack their children and paranoid that social workers will get involved and take their children away.”

Whilst smacking has not yet be outlawed in the UK, the smacker must not leave a mark (including reddening of the skin) on the body of the child and the decision on whether or not the smacking is reasonable can be up to a social worker if someone complains.

Putting my amusement of Mr Lammy squirming as his constituents attacked legislation passed by a governing party of which he was a member to one side, as a Libertarian the use of smacking is an issue where I find myself slightly confused.

At first glance, it certainly seems to violate the ‘harm’ principle as when you are dealing with children the action cannot be consensual*. However as parent you are responsible for looking after your children and doing what is best for them.

As no decent parent particularly wishes to harm their children, smacking is not a first response to misbehaviour but the last one. If you are dealing with a repeat offence and other approaches have already been tried, a few smacks on the bottom to associate – in the mind of the child – certain unwanted behaviour with pain has to be an option.

If the end result is a better behaved child then is it a entirely bad thing?

Given my personal dislike of children it is unlikely that I will ever be put in the position to have to smack any of my own but if I was then I think I would, but only as the option of last resort.

It is probable though that my views on the matter are clouded by my own childhood experiences. Both my brother and I found ourselves turned over dad’s knee occasionally whilst we were growing up and, with the benefit of hindsight, we probably deserved it each and every time. Yes, it bloody well hurt (dad used either his hand or the slipper) but I doubt we found ourselves in that position more than once every 6 months and only then because we had well and truly crossed an already defined line.

Did it do either of us any harm? Well we both got to 18 without getting into trouble with the police so in the long run I’d say that somehow my parents managed to do an ok job.

* Adults are, of course, a different matter but that is entirely between you and your partner(s) ;-)

Guardian press release regurgitation fail

On Tuesday the security firm Unisys released the latest results of what they call their bi-annual global Unisys Security Index, a ‘global study that provides insights into the attitudes of consumers on a wide range of security related issues‘.

Of the two questions that the survey asked, it was the second one about social media, which caught the attention of the MSM – or the Guardian anyway.

What did they ask?

During recent unrest in major UK cities, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter were used to coordinate criminal activity. Do you agree with these statements?

  • The authorities are playing catch up and need more resources to monitor online behaviour?
  • During outbreaks of unrest, providers should temporarily shut down social networks to prevent coordinated criminal activity?
  • The authorities should have open access to data about social network users in order to prevent coordinated criminal activity>
  • Providers of social networks should get more information on the people using their services before they allow use?

The Gruniad’s article on the matter says:

More than two-thirds of adults support the shutdown of social networks during periods of social unrest such as the riots in England this summer, new research has revealed.

A poll of 973 adults carried out for the online security firm Unisys found 70% of adults supported the shutdown of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), while only 27% disagreed.

Which, after reading the report proper, only goes to confirm (as if confirmation were needed) that one should never take anything in the press at face value these days (if indeed one ever could).

The report says that the following percentages agreed with the four statements above: 49%, 48%, 46% and 42%.

Almost half I’ll grant you but hardly a majority, let alone 70%. Helpfully the report also gives some idea of how the responses breakdown by age. Not fully but enough to give us more of an idea of the views of each age group. It found that:

[The] desire to take strong measures rises with age:

  • More resources for police: 41% of those 18-24 to 52% of those 50-64 (seniors: 44%)
  • Temporary shut-downs during social unrest: from 28% of those 18-24 to 60% of seniors
  • Police monitoring: from 36% of those 18-24 to 52% of seniors
  • Background checks of new users: from 28% of those 18-24 to 49% of seniors.

Which shows us that a majority only exists as you go up the age scale. No surprises there. As for the 70% figure? The closest we get is for one age group on one statement.

Indeed the figure ’70’ doesn’t feature anywhere in the report, or assuming that the reporter James Ball (whose bio says that he ‘is a data journalist working for the Guardian investigations team. He joined the Guardian from Wikileaks, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’) didn’t get beyond it, the press release either.

About the only useful bit of the Guardian article therefore is the space filling rent-a-quote:

“It’s very worrying that people would believe shutting down social networks would be in any way desirable,” said Padraig Reidy, news editor of Index on Censorship. “The vast majority of social network use during the unrest was people spreading information and helping each other get home safely. These kinds of actions would weaken the UK’s position against authoritarian regimes who censor internet access. As we live more of our lives online, people should be conscious of the amount of power they’re potentially handing over to government.”

None of which I can disagree with at all.

Fight – Update

Now that the 1st September has been and gone I thought I’d see what happened, if anything, to the young man whom the Essex Police Foarce had arrested and the CPS charged over encouraging people to join in a water fight.

In an attempt to refresh my memory on the details I looked at the original webpage, only to discover that some silent amendments have taken place and that the paragraph in question now has no reference to the water fight. Indeed it now reads (changes highlighted):

A 20-year-old man from Colchester who allegedly sent messages from a Blackberry encouraging violent disorder been charged with encouraging or assisting in the commission of an indictable only offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007. He has been conditionally bailed to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on September 1.

Have they changed it because of the mockery? Let’s look at the report in the local paper and see what happened:

In a separate case Tommy Tucker, 20, was remanded in custody after being accused of encouraging the commission of an indictable offence.

The court heard he is accused of sending two messages on Blackberry messenger between August 7 and 10 which were intercepted by police.

Tucker did not enter a plea and will appear before Chelmsford Crown Court on November 7.

Essex Police had originally said his offences were linked to an attempt to start a water fight.

The force now says it was a different person who encouraged the water fight and that suspect has now been released without charge.

Well, well. It appears that someone either relayed the whole information to the publicity public relations department or that said department got their knickers in a twist.

The one piece of good news to come out of this is that the individual who was trying to organise the water fight wasn’t charged. Perhaps some common sense does exist?


In the light of last week’s stupidities in London, Essex Police Foarce took great delight earlier this week informing the public what they are doing to stop such silliness breaking out in the county.

Sadly for them, much mockery was directed their way when it turned out that their preventative actions included such gems as this:

A 20-year-old man from Colchester who allegedly sent messages from a Blackberry encouraging people to join in a water fight has been charged with encouraging or assisting in the commission of an indictable only offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007. He has been conditionally bailed to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on September 1.

Indeed, so mocked were they on twitter that they issued this follow-up:

Re water fight comments – police believe there may be more involved in light of recent disorder

Which rather sounds like someone went ‘Oh heck, this isn’t playing well. Better come up with something to make it sound more ominous.’

The Telegraph reports a spokesman as saying:

A spokesman for Essex Police indicated the BlackBerry Messenger network was under surveillance by police, saying: “I’m sure we are making efforts to monitor such correspondence, wherever they are,” he said.

He said the plans for a ‘water fight’ may have been a cover for rioting. “In the light of recent events, we would have to be careful that [the planned water fight] is not all that it seems,” he said.

As I doubt that Essex Police have the manpower to monitor everything on BBM, I’m going to assume that the ‘monitoring’ is, at best, someone flagging up key words and phrases and then asking RiM to match telephone numbers to names.

It will be interesting to see what happens come September 1st. Will the Police back this up with evidence, drop it or have the Magistrate laugh them out of court?

The unseen costs of the London riots

The civil unrest of the last four nights has left a lot of people, businesses and insurance companies counting the cost in lives, earnings and property as the mess left by the crowds of stupid people intent on destroying or looting property is dealt with.

But those are just the initial costs, the up-front visible ones that catch the eye immediately.

There are others.

For the areas affected by the violence the local communities face the prospect of inward investment from the private sector drying up, the prices of houses in the area falling further and insurance costs rising sharply. And all of that is without wondering what further local services will be cut in order to repair damage to public property.

For the UK, a country for whom tourism is an industry, according to Visit Britain, worth approximately £115bn a year and responsible for about 2.6m jobs, the disturbances such as we have seen will no doubt result in a dip of some description as some potential visitors to stay away. Indeed various governments have already issued travel advice for anyone thinking for travelling to the UK in the very near future.

All these costs however pale into insignificance when one realises the damage caused to the famous British sense of irony by this particular statement:

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast urged the British government to order the police to stop their violent confrontation with the people, IRNA reported in the early hours of Tuesday.

Mehmanparast asked the British government to start dialogue with the protesters and to listen to their demands in order to calm the situation down.

The Iranian official also asked independent human rights organizations to investigate the killing in order to protect the civil rights and civil liberties.

Ladies and gentleman I give you the Iranian foreign ministry, the winners of the award for the most ironic statement of 2011.