Why there should be no Cliff’s Law following the chilling judgement by Mr Justice Mann

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High Court decision on Sir Cliff Richard should not mean a new law

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The scathing judgement by Mr Justice Mann condemning the BBC for the invasion of  Sir Cliff Richard’s privacy has profound implications for crime reporting.

The BBC is condemned  for reporting the raid on his home following allegations of child sexual abuse which did not stand up- not just for the sensational way they did it – but for reporting it at all.

This is a double edged judgement. True the freedom of the press to do this has led to innocent people like  DJ Paul Gambaccini and Sir Cliff suffering enormous traumatic stress and having their reputations trashed over unproven child sex abuse allegations.

But in other cases noticeably broadcaster Stuart Hall, the entertainer Rolf Harris ( both child sexual abuse allegations) and for that matter ( on perverting the course of justice)  ex Liberal  Democrat  Cabinet minister and former colleague on the Guardian, Chris Huhne, press publicity helped the police to pursue the cases to a successful conclusion. The publicity before anybody was charged led to more people coming forward or to new evidence being discovered.

That is why I would like to see the decision challenged  because of its profound implications for reporting and would certainly not want a new law giving anonymity to suspects in criminal cases.

Thankfully Theresa May seems to have ruled out the latter and so have ministers and  some MPs.

  On BBC Radio 5 Live last week  Treasury minister Robert  Jenrick said that he didn’t believe that the law should be changed to give anonymity to people accused of certain offences.

He said:“There’s been a long debate, as you know, about whether that should be the case for particular types of crime – crimes which have such a serious effect on individuals’ personal reputations, like sexual offences for example.  And at the moment we’ve chosen not to proceed on that basis.  We don’t think we should discriminate between different offences.  And I think that that’s probably the right approach.  But I do feel that both the police and the media need to proceed with great caution when they’re reporting.”

His point is where you draw the line. A limited law saying only those accused of child sex abuse should be protected could be seen  by victims and survivors as ” a protect paedos” law. And if there is discrimination between offences it won’t be long before some famous personality brings a case – saying their reputation was damaged by a police raid on their home in say, a fraud case.

Also do you protect alleged murderers or low life drug dealers from the press reporting raids on their homes until they are charged. After all until a drug dealer is charged  reporting a police raid on his or her home is breaching their privacy. It could also have implications for some of the popular reality  TV crime programmes.

Why I also don’t want the law to change is that it is a matter of judgement for the police and the press to come to a conclusion. The police need to be able to judge whether publicity is necessary – even Mr Justice Mann admits in his judgement that if people’s lives are at risk there is a case for naming a suspect.

The media also need to show some judgement on how they report the issue as well – and sometimes investigations can be published without naming the suspect  or giving too much of  the suspect’s identity away. In other cases the suspect’s name is part of the story.

Finally I see that the  BBC reporter Dan Johnson  who broke the story gets some criticism from the judge. He is described as honest and over enthusiastic. The judge says:

“I do not believe that he is a fundamentally dishonest man, but he was capable of letting his enthusiasm get the better of him in pursuit of what he thought was a good story so that he could twist matters in a way that could be described as dishonest in order to pursue his story.”

Some ten years ago Dan Johnson was our principal researcher for a book I wrote jointly with author and journalist Francis Beckett, on the miner’s strike of 1984. Called Marching to the Fault Line.

This is what we said about Dan in the book:

” A talented young journalist, Dan Johnson, was our principal researcher, conducting some of our most important interviews. Because of his deep knowledge of mining communities, and because he was brought up in Arthur Scargill’s village of Worsbrough, he turned into a great deal more than our researcher: he was also also a thoughtful and knowledgeable guide to what it all meant.”

In my view enthusiasm is vital if you are to be a good journalist. Journalists who are not enthusiastic about their job aren’t real journalists.

 

Revealed: The £271 billion rape of the National Insurance Fund that deprived 50s women of their state pension

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Guy Opperman – the current pension minister who says it is too expensive to pay the 50s women.

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The fact that 50s women  were robbed of their pensions  by raising the pension age is undeniable. But the biggest argument against putting this right has been the cost – a fact perpetually used by the present pensions minister, Guy Oppenman, who quotes the £70 billion plus figure.

Recently I discovered that successive governments had taken a decision  NOT to top up the fund as originally proposed by William Beveridge when the welfare state was set up in 1948.

What I did not know was how much money was lost. Now thanks to an extraordinary paper prepared for the National Pensioners Convention by a social security expert Tony Lynes,and still on the web, I now know. And it is staggering. You can read it here.

The paper written 12 years ago by a man I personally knew as a fount of all knowledge on the benefit system  when I was social services correspondent on the Guardian. He sadly died, aged 85, in a car accident in 2014. There is an appreciation of him in The Guardian here.

His calculation from beyond the grave is that for every year that the government decided not to contribute to the fund it was deprived of £11.3 billion. As he says: “Restoring the supplement at its pre-1981 level would bring an extra £11.3 billion a year into the Fund, enough to meet the gross cost of a £109 per week basic pension.”

We now know that virtually no money was paid into the fund by the Treasury for around 24 years from 1990 to 2014. I calculate – and this will be a conservative estimate – because it doesn’t count the reduced contributions post 1981 – that an amazing £271 billion  yes billion  extra would have been in the fund.

This would pay  more than three times over the money due to the women – and even allowed higher  state pensions for everybody else now.

Why this didn’t happen is because politicians of all three major parties took a decision not to do this. They took the decision knowing that their Parliamentary and ministerial pension pot would mean they would be some of the wealthiest pensioners in the land when they came to retire. And the taxpayer would foot their bills.

They decided the pain should fall on the electorate instead. In 1995 they knew  all the arguments about people living longer and that money paid out in state pensions would go up.

They  could have changed the rules and informed the Government Actuary  Department that they would deliberately build up a surplus in the fund – so it could pay out as people lived longer without changing the pension age.

Instead they chose the cheapest  route – raise the pension age so they won’t have to subsidise the fund- but try and keep mum so the women wouldn’t realise what they were doing.

The villains are the late Lady Thatcher, John Moore, Kenneth Clarke, Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Steve Webb and Guy Opperman. There are many others who stood by and did nothing. That is why 50s women have been left in this situation today.

 

 

Race equality groups seek big changes to the mental health act to end stereotyping and over-medication

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Sir Simon Wesseley, planning to report on reviewing the mental health act later this year

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While Theresa May is battling to hold her line on Brexit her almost unreported initiative to reform the mental health act is leading to demands for the government to introduce radical reforms for treatment and new rights for patients.

A submission from Race on the  Agenda and the Race Equality Foundation to the review  by Sir Simon Wesseley, set up by Theresa May to look into why so many black Afro Caribbean people were being detained in mental hospitals and the need for changes to the Act. It also comes against a disturbing background of deaths in police custody.

The submission has been backed by the Runnymede Trust;Patrick Vernon OBE, Chair of the Labour Party’s Race Equality Advisory Group, writer Amy Kenyon and Professor Rachel Tribe, of the School of Psychology at the University of East London among others.

NEED FOR BIG CHANGES

The Downing Street interim report  contained many warm words but not a lot of action. It stated: “Experience of people from black African and Caribbean heritage are particularly poor and they are detained more than any other group. Too often this can result in police becoming involved at time of crisis. The causes of this disparity are complex.” The  full report  and details of its members  and terms of reference is available here.

Now the submission to the inquiry proposes major changes to tackle the problem. The link to it is here. The main proposals are:

1. The Mental Health Act (the Act) should set out principles that define human rights, anti-discriminatory practice and a commitment to combat institutional racism.
2. The Act should be amended to include a clause that states explicitly that a diagnosis for a ‘mental disorder’ must take account of the patient’s social and cultural background. And the Act should allow for appeals against diagnoses via a Tribunal, with a panel that includes experts from BAME backgrounds.
3. Patients detained under the Act should be empowered to choose which carers or family members have a say in their care and can support them during an appeals process.
4. A new system of appeal whenever a new diagnosis is applied and/or continued, to a tribunal-like body, with the right of the patient concerned to have legal representation at the hearing.
5. All mental health service providers should be set targets to reduce the use of Community Treatment Orders and minimize racial inequalities in their use. This should be monitored by the Care Quality Commission  during inspections. Specific amendments in relation to supervised treatment in the community should be made to ensure this is statutory.
6. Statutory bodies should be regularly inspected by the CQC or other appropriate body to ensure that training of professionals working in mental health services addresses issues of racial bias and cultural competence.

The  submission  says: “:We were glad to see an emphasis on the urgent need to address the disproportionate number of people from black African and Caribbean backgrounds being detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA).

Equally, we were unsurprised that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) focus group participants highlighted a lack of cultural awareness in staff and a need for culturally appropriate care as paramount. We would express concerns about racism, stigma, stereotyping and overmedication. We hope that these findings will guide and underpin the recommendations made in the final report ”

It is to be hoped that Sir Simon and Theresa May do take action to remedy these many faults in the system. Otherwise it will be another case of political posturing  like help for the ” just about managing” which has so far amounted to warm words and little else.

There were concerns expressed at the recent conference organised by Rota at the University of East London that little would really be done to tackle this. If little happens it will only make matters worse and there is a need for strong campaign to make sure Downing Street does really listen.

Exaro News back from the dead

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The old Exaro News is dead but not buried

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The new Exaro logo

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The British companies, Exaronews Ltd and Exaro Holdings Ltd were both dissolved by June 21 this year ending the existence of Exaro News as an entity in the UK.

However the website was put up for auction and is now owned by a Brit living in North America.

As a result the news site has been relaunched under new management outside UK jurisdiction. The current site is running with a standard newsfeed.

The good news for readers of this blog is that almost the entire archive of Exaro from 2011 to 2016 has been put back on the internet by the new owner. If you want to find any of the articles written by me go to https://www.exaronews.com/  and look under UK News. Scroll down to  news archive, click on it and then click on my name to retrieve any story  I have written in the past five years.

This is the only place you can find the archive of Exaro News as the site has been excluded from the Wayback Machine and is no longer available.

At the same time my blogs which are normally cross posted on https://www.byline.com/  are now  -using new machine technology –  automatically appearing on the exaronews site. Those wanting to read the full blog rather than excepts  from exaro are redirected back to byline.com  or to my site.

The first blog covered by this  ( and put up yesterday) is the Crown Prosecution Service  statement which says without comment that ” Nick” is now facing  multiple charges of perverting the course of justice for all the allegations he made against prominent politicians and senior military officers in an alleged Westminster paedophile ring. So until the trial is over the old  archived stories should be treated with caution.

The new arrangement  should enhance the capacity of this blog to reach many more readers particularly in North America . Since some of the issues raised – such as the raising of the pension age particularly for women , child sexual abuse, politics,  Whitehall waste and various health and social security scandals- are international.

In the case of the 50s women  who have to wait up to six years for a pension this is  an issue across Europe and is also to be raised at the United Nations.

 

50s women injustice doubles site hits

The appalling injustice 3.9 million  50s women have had in facing up to seven years in not getting a pension is reflected in the doubling of hits I have had on my small site.

So far this year I have had more hits on the site than the whole of last year with  the top ten blogs all on the campaign for justice for the 50s women. The most popular blog with now over 28,000 hits is how angry 50s women deprived of a pension can boot out their MP. And the link to the House of Commons library on the  constituency breakdown of where the  50s women are has had over 4,200 hits.

The second most popular blog is The Downing Street state pension robbery with over 12,000 – which shows how the national insurance fund was underfunded and raided by successive governments of all political hues.

The rest of the blogs vary between over 2,600 and 7,600.

Thank you for all this interest and it shows how angry you are about the way successive governments have treated you.

Other blogs which have attracted  a lot of interest include Whitehall investigations into universal credit, the national citizen service and the continuing saga over the treatment of child sex abuser survivor Esther Baker.

 

Nick and allegations of the Westminster paedophile ring: The perversion of justice charge sheet

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Sign outside old Scotland Yard building Pic Credit: Wikipedia

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The Crown Prosecution Service has decided  there is sufficient evidence to charge “Nick ” the  50 year old man whose allegations led to Operation Midland – the Met Police investigation into  allegations that prominent politicians and military figures were involved in the sexual abuse and murder of children -with perverting the course of justice.

Details of the charges are:

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he made a false allegation of witnessing the child homicide of an unnamed boy committed by Mr Harvey Proctor

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he made a false allegation of witnessing the child homicide of a boy called Scott

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he made a false allegation of witnessing the child homicide of an unnamed boy, other than the unnamed boy in charge

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he falsely alleged that he had been sexually and physically abused by a paedophile ring, with senior ranking officers within the military, military intelligence, a TV presenter and other unidentified men accused as members

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he falsely alleged that he had been sexually and physically abused by a paedophile ring, with politicians, a TV presenter, and other unidentified men accused as members

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he provided a list of sexual abusers and locations falsely alleging that he had been subjected to physical and sexual abuse by the said sexual abusers at the said locations

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he provided sketches of locations at which he had been physically and sexually abused, falsely claiming that he had produced them from memory

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he provided and repeated the name of Aubrey, falsely alleging that Aubrey had been present and subjected to physical and sexual abuse when with him

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he provided a pen knife and two military epaulettes falsely alleging that he had retained them from when he was abused as a child

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he falsely claimed that he had suffered serious injuries as a result of having been sexually and physically abused as a child

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he falsified a ‘Proton’ email account, and provided false information purportedly sent from ‘Fred’, an individual who he had named as present when he was abused by a paedophile ring

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he went together with investigators on site visits and falsely alleged that it was at locations identified by him during those visits that he had been subjected to physical and sexual abuse by a paedophile ring

Fraud, contrary to the Fraud Act 2006, section 1, in that on or about the day of day of 26 September 2013, dishonestly made representations to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, namely that he was subjected to abuse by a paedophile ring, knowing this to be untrue and intending thereby to make a gain for himself.

Following a  highly critical report  on the Met Police investigation by  retired judge Sir Richard Henriques, which has never been fully published,  Northumbria Police were asked to investigate Nick.

Frank Ferguson, CPS Head of Special Crime, said: “The CPS has considered a file of evidence from Northumbria Police relating to allegations of perverting the course of justice and fraud by a 50-year-old man.

“The police investigation provided evidence that the man had made a number of false allegations alleging multiple homicides and sexual abuse said to have been carried out in the 1970s and 1980s….

“He has today been charged with 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud and will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court in due course.

Criminal proceedings in relation to this matter are now active and it is extremely important there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”

In order to ensure that ” Nick” has a fair trial as  the moderator of my site I will not be allowing any comments to be published  on this blog entry.

Whitehall’s shameful database of women’s pathetic state pensions

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Department for Work and Pensions – still misleading  the public on the huge gap between men and women pensioners

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In May this year  Which? Money published the  results of access the consumer organisation had  to the entire  Department for Work and Pension database on pensions. The headline result press released by Which ? Money here  was that women  are worse off now than men  by a staggering  £29,000 over a 20 year old period.

The disclosure led Harry Rose, Which? Money editor, to warn : “Our evidence shows how variable people’s state pension payments still are. Many pensioners will be shocked by the differences in average payouts to men and women and those qualifying under the old and new systems.”

The issue is worth raising because just last week the Department of Work and Pensions published its annual report ( more to come in a future blog) which despite Which? Money findings  from the DWP’s own database perpetuates the myth that some how today’s pensioners are living the high life with little or no housing costs and longer and longer life expectancy.

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The agenda is clear – paving the way in five years time for yet another rise in the pension age – and totally ignoring the present plight of 50s women denied pensions for up to six years . Add the fact that it could take decades now before men and women receive an equal pension. The average , despite the new state pension, is still 18 per cent, below a typical male pension.

The figures revealed by the Which? Money from the DWP are extremely  alarming if you are a woman. If you are a man you can be complacent – not only did you get a  good deal under the old system you are the main beneficiary of the new one.

The biggest  group of beneficiaries (8.4 million) – getting on average £142 a week- are today’s pensioners who have a long national insurance contributions and qualified for an earnings related pension. Of these 4,958,000 are men and  3,417,000 are women.

Above this on an average of  £174 a week are the spouses of these recipients who died. and they inherited their spouses NI contributions to top up their pension They are 1,454,040 women and 276,960 men – the only category where women  do better. Sadly  they have to lose a partner  to achieve it.

Much lower at £145 a week are those whose spouses died but they themselves did not have a pension  – again most are women –  679,995 to just 2045 men.

Those unfortunate enough not to be entitled to get a pension get just an average of £63 a week  based on their partner’s NI contributions – again there are 545,905 women to 1095 men.

The best off are the new state pensioners – after changes came into force in 2016  and they also had protected money to top up the new pension. They get £181 a week. But 79 per cent of these are men – 142,080 to 17,920 women. The reason for this is directly due to the plight of the 50s women who ceased to qualify for pensions at 60 and many are still waiting for one.

As anyone can see this is woefully unfair to women.  It suggests there is a long way to go to get equality  with men even when women eventually get their pension.

There is also a divide where the money is paid out – highest state pensions – between £153 and £154 a week – are paid out in East Hertfordshire, High Wycombe and Aberdeen. Lowest ( between £128 and £140 a week) – are paid in the London borough of Newham, Leicester, Manchester and Cornwall.

And there are huge differentials if you go abroad. Expatriats living now in Australia, Canada and New Zealand get frozen pensions averaging between £41 and £44 a week.

Those in Europe get pension increases every year  – bringing Spain to an average of £107.76 a week and France to £104.39 a week.

Curiously 10 UK nationals who retired  to Azerbaijan – part of the old Soviet bloc – get  an average of £127 a week.

Don’t ask me why but I did discover this website which tells you how to avoid pension  taxes by putting your money into an Azerbajiani off shore fund. According to the article 2400 British expats have done this and they don’t have to live there and participate in traditional Azerri sports such as ox wrestling or javelin throwing either. They can live in Malta and have the money paid into Azerbaijan to avoid tax. My guess is these must be high rollers who qualify for  a state pension.

Perhaps the government  should investigate this instead.