Man and children held under terror law

Two police officers are under investigation after using anti-terror stop-and-search powers against a man and two young children in a south London street.

The 43-year-old man had his mobile phones, USB sticks and a CD seized by the officers, who were in plain clothes, and was asked to stand in front of a CCTV camera in order to have his photograph taken. The undercover Metropolitan police officers also took the man’s photograph with their own camera and searched the two children he was walking with – his 11-year-old daughter and his neighbour’s daughter, aged six.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said today it would “manage” the investigation into the incident in July, meaning that an independent investigator will control the inquiry conducted by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards.

It is unusual for the IPCC to manage an investigation into an incident of this kind, and the decision comes amid mounting concern over police use of stop-and-search and surveillance powers. The commission has received dozens of complaints relating to the use of stop-and-search powers, but the nature of this complaint is understood to have concerned investigators.

In a statement today, the IPCC said: “The complainant states that, when he asked under what legislation his property was being seized, he was told it was under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He also complained that he was given no information as to when he could retrieve his goods or who to contact in order to do so, and that there was no communication from police despite assurances that he would be told when he could collect his things.”

The Met’s complaints bureau is known to have received a number of complaints relating to alleged misuse of anti-terror powers. Two months ago, Gemma Atkinson, 27, a film-maker from London, said she would challenge the Met at the high court after she claimed she was handcuffed, detained and threatened with arrest for filming officers on her mobile phone.

Lawyers for Atkinson said the Met’s complaints bureau has been slow to respond to their complaints. Atkinson was detained at Aldgate underground station one month after Section 58(a) – a controversial amendment to the Terrorism Act – came into force, making it illegal to photograph a police officer if the images are considered “likely to be useful” to a terrorist.

Speaking about the case of the 43-year-old man, the IPCC commissioner, Mike Franklin, who leads on the issue of stop and search, said: “The use of section 44 stop-and-search powers is a very sensitive issue and it is right that complaints of this nature are taken very seriously. It is particularly worrying that two young children were allegedly searched in this way. This investigation will look at whether the use of these powers in this case was lawful, reasonable and correctly carried out.”


I am a photographer, not a terrorist!

I have heard the stories of photographers being challenged by security guards and the police for simple shots of shopping centres or landscapes, but you never think it will every be you. . .

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“Photography is under attack. Across the country it that seems anyone with a camera is being targeted as a potential terrorist, whether amateur or professional, whether landscape, architectural or street photographer.Not only is it corrosive of press freedom but creation of the collective visual history of our country is extinguished by anti-terrorist legislation designed to protect the heritage it prevents us recording.This campaign is for everyone who values visual imagery, not just photographers.

We must work together now to stop this before photography becomes a part of history rather than a way of recording it.” –   photographernotaterrorist.org

I work on a normal business site but that has the likes of QinetiQ and BAE Systems. I leave one evening and start the drive home. A police car is suddenly behind me with lights on so I move over to let them past and am surprised when they remain behind me, so a quick check of car tax and insurance dates flash through my mind. I also put aside the desire to floor it and appear on ‘Cops with cameras’ and use the excuse “I was only trying to get to a good spot to stop as quickly as possible”. I stop and am out of the car quicker than pc1 and pc2 who quickly start questioning my business with at XXXXXX and the business park. As my first brush with the law on the ‘wrong’ side, I am surprised that what should be a simple question is layered with the tone that removes the presumption of innocence.

Despite explaining, answering questions and showing ID and an access card, I am told I have to return to my work to answer more questions. A short ride in the back of the police car and I’m at reception and let out after a pc1 has had a brief  chat with site security. I get out to a torrent of questions from the head of site ‘security’ about taking photos of the building and cctv cameras. Then follows a big to and through where I have no idea what they’re talking about until they inform me they spotted me taking pictures from last month. It all falls into place that I had brought in my good camera to take some good pics of my work and in the car park had taken some quick test shots and the cctv cameras (if they capture me, why can’t I capture them?). All the businesses in the area had been placed on alert and to look out for me driving around ‘surveying’ their security. It turns out that they are all expecting an eco-protest soon as another building had been subject to a roof sit in protest for a few weeks at the begining of the year.

I have a strange feeling this wasn’t a one off incidence and as a photographer I can look forward to more questions and police contact for ‘terrorist actions’


DNA fingerprinting 25 years old (but DNA databases are wrong)

The scientist behind DNA fingerprinting has called for a change to the law governing DNA databases on the 25th anniversary of his discovery.

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys uncovered the process by chance in his laboratory at Leicester University. The technique has since been used to solve crimes and identity cases. But it has also led to controversy over profiles kept on the national DNA database. “Innocent people do not belong on that database,” he said. The scientist stumbled across the groundbreaking development on 10 September, 1984. He realised that variable patterns in the structure of DNA could be used to distinguish one person from another.

‘Blue skies research’ It led to the development of DNA fingerprinting, which has been used to solve a range of crimes. Last year, 17,614 offences were solved using a DNA match, including 83 killings and 184 rapes. It has also been developed to help solve unanswered questions and disputes over personal identity, paternity, immigration, conservation and cloning.

In an interview to mark the anniversary of his discovery, Professor Jeffreys spoke of the importance of allowing academics freedom to research. Professor Jeffreys He said academics should be able to pursue “unfettered, fundamental, curiosity-driven” research. “Blue skies” research, which led to discoveries such as his own, was “the ultimate engine of all scientific and technological evolution,” he said, warning: “You lose that at your peril.”

He renewed his calls for the government to change the law governing the UK’s DNA databases – particularly the practice in England and Wales of keeping the DNA profiles of thousands of people who have neither been charged nor convicted. There are now more than five million profiles on the national DNA database, a rise of 40% in two years. He told the BBC: “My view is very, very simple, has been right from the outset. “Innocent people do not belong on that database. Branding them as future criminals is not proportionate response in the fight against crime. “And I’ve met a fair number of these people and some of these people are very, very upset and are distressed by the fact that their DNA is on that database. They cannot get it off and they feel as if they’re branded as criminals.


£48,000 Goes to the Muslim Brotherhood

BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS

The Tax Payer’s Alliance (TPA) has released figures today on every local authority that has received Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) funding and what organisations have benefited from it.  The PVE fund has so far given out £12 million in tax payer money to projects aimed at preventing radicalisation.

One organisation, the Muslim Welfare House (MWH), has received just under £50,000 in PVE funds over the last two years.  The MWH is a member of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), which represents the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Europe.  The FIOE has very close ties with Holocaust promoter and leading MB scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and his European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) was founded by the FIOE.  This year, the FOIE commissioned Qaradawi to author a report entitled ‘The Nation and Citizenship in Light of the Origins of Islamic Doctrine and the Intentions of Shari’ah’.   On their website, the FIOE claims that it wishes to ensure ‘an accurate introduction of Islam’ in Europe.  That the FIOE consider Qaradawi as the best candidate to represent an accurate picture of Islam is a testament to how the organisation itself sees the religion.

The MB connections with the MWH are strong and up until 2007, of the 5 registered owners of the MWH, 3 were also directors of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), the Brotherhood’s main presence in the United Kingdom.  Among them was Mohammed Sawalha, described by IslamOnline’s Arabic site as the “UK head of the Political Committee of the International Muslim Brotherhood organisation”, identified by the BBC as a “fugitive Hamas commander” and signatory to the now infamous Istanbul statement which called for continued support for Hamas and indirectly sanctioned attacks on the Royal Navy in the eastern Mediterranean.  Joining Sawalha at the MWH until 2007 was Abdel Shaheed el-Ashaal, who is referred to by the pro-Brotherhood magazine Islamism Digest as a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood and who until 2000 was the company secretary for a company called the Hassan el-Banna [MB founder] Foundation. One of the stated aims of the Foundation was “to give a correct image of the thoughts, ideology and life of Imam Shaheed Hassan el-Banna.”

Since 2007, the MWH has undergone something of a clean-up, with all of its MB connected trustees and owners replaced with ‘clean slates’.  However, its connection with the FIOE means that it continues to carry out the work of the MB in the UK.  Although the MB does not present a direct terrorist threat, it promotes an ideology which helped create modern jihadist terrorism and is fundamentally incompatible with western notions of statehood.  French MB expert and author of ‘The Muslim Brothers in Europe:  Roots and Discourses’, Brigitte Marechal, has written how the MB in Europe continues to promote Islam not simply as a religion, but an all-encompassing framework which “suggests that Islam should be understood as a complete system that concerns state and nation, beliefs and legislation, cult and behaviour, and the social, political and historical.”  This all-encompassing ideology, which MB founder Hasan al-Banna referred to as shumuliyyat al-Islam and 1 of the 10 pillars of the MB project, is one of the driving forces for the jihadist terrorists who are currently trying to enforce sharia in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia and numerous other fronts.  However, the problem with the MB ideology does not lie only in its deep connections with jihadism, but also in its subversive promotion of Islam as an actual alternative system of governance.

The intention of the MB in Europe, and particular in the UK, is not to recruit suicide bombers, but rather to peacefully promote the shumuliyyat al-Islam in the hope that it will gradually initiate a reform of society along Islamist lines.  Using front groups like the MWH and MAB, they disseminate their ideology among British Muslims by organising events and lectures, and have seen some success in creating ‘ummah centric’ mindsets, whereby young Muslims feel a greater affinity with fellow Muslims around the globe than with their non-Muslim next door neighbour.

Those who may still insist that promoting the ‘soft’ Islamists of the MB is the only effective way to counter the violence of al-Qaeda should ask themselves how a band of reactionaries who either deny the existence of the threat, or openly praise bin Laden, could possibly be of any use:

  • The Egyptian MB’s General Guide, Mahdi Akef, only last year refused to label bin Laden a terrorist, instead opting for the more cordial “jihad fighter” who battles against “oppression and corruption.”
  • In 2004, Ahmed al-Rawi, former president of the MAB and president of the FIOE until 2007, signed a declaration supporting jihad in Iraq.
  • Yusuf al-Qaradawi co-signed a letter earlier this year which claims “the events of the 11th of September 2001 were nothing but fabricated drama by some influential forces in America in co-ordination with Israeli Mossad.”
  • Upon the arrest of the recently convicted transatlantic terrorists, former MAB spokesman and Hamas cheerleader Azzam Tamimi (who was given an MWH platform last January) could only offer the pathetic suggestion that the entire episode was invented by the government so as to “smear the image of Islam and the Muslims”.

Of course, there should be no attempts at censoring or criminalising MB members, activists and supporters – giving them the right to speak freely and organise themselves is a price worth paying to preserve our liberal society.  However, this does not mean that people should ignore the detrimental effects that the MB belief system can have on national unity, integration, citizenship and security.  Rather than paying for its promotion, the government should be providing more robust arguments against the politicised Islam of the MB.


Should ‘alternative medicine’ be taught in universities?

The use of complementary therapies on the NHS will be explored in a More 4 documentary, which will reveal that £12m has been spent on homeopathy over the last three years.

Why does it matter? Homeopathy – where patients are treated with a diluted dose of the substance that caused their original symptoms – has been widely discredited as little more than “sugar pills” by scientists.

After a six-year campaign by Professor David Colquhoun at University College London, the last BSc in homeopathy was suspended by Westminster University in March after it failed to recruit enough students. Five homeopathy degrees have been scrapped since 2007.

But there are still plenty of complementary and alternative medicine (Cam) courses available in universities, and the NHS continues to offer a variety of therapies, including homeopathy, despite a lack of research evidence to show their effectiveness.

The Liberal Democrat science spokesman, Dr Evan Harris, says the NHS is wrong to spend money on unproven treatments and effectively to give them a “stamp of approval” by doing so.

But Dr Peter Fisher, of the Royal London Homeopathic hospital, argues that there is strong evidence that patients benefit in the long term.

What do you think? Should universities be allowed to run such courses, or the NHS to provide patients with these alternative therapies?


Priest Sex abuse victim told to ‘go to hell’

MELBOURNE Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart told a woman who had been sexually abused by a priest to “go to hell, bitch” in conduct labelled appalling by a Victorian magistrate.

Archbishop Hart later apologised to the woman in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for what magistrate Anne Goldsborough described as ”appalling words of abuse”.

But last night Archbishop Hart repeatedly claimed that he ”did not recall” his comments or the magistrate’s rebuke in mid-2004. ”It was a number of years ago, I don’t recall precisely,” he told The Age.

Abuse: A victim’s story

A nun who was abused by a Catholic priest tells her story.

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When put to him that he would surely recall the comment because it had become an issue in court, he again said: ”I don’t recall.”

Court documents confirm the archbishop’s outburst after he was granted an intervention order against the woman, who had pursued him over her abuse by priest Barry Whelan in 2001.

The magistrate said that a ”very, very angry” Archbishop Hart had told the woman to ”go to hell bitch” after she knocked on his door at 1.20am in March, 2004. The woman was the subject of an earlier intervention order after she had thrown stones through a window of the archbishop’s house and hassled him and his staff.

Delivering her findings in June 2004, Magistrate Goldsborough said: “Archbishop Hart has apologised for this appalling and ungracious act directly from the witness box in my presence.”

The magistrate said she “did not consider he [Archbishop Hart] was fearful or had any apprehension for himself or others” when he found the woman on his doorstep – but also described her conduct as unacceptable.

The magistrate found that the archbishop was angry that his privacy had been significantly breached as a result of the early morning visit.

But Ms Goldsborough rejected the archbishop’s lawyer’s claim that the victim’s abuse was not a relevant factor in the intervention order court case.

”I am assured … by the archbishop himself that [he] … has a good understanding of the complex set of circumstances in which [the victim] finds herself at least in part caused by her … abuse by former father Barry Whelan.”

In her findings, the magistrate also said that after attending the archbishop’s house, the woman had later asked for an apology from the archbishop over his comments and told his staff over the phone that she wanted to kill him. Ms Goldsborough found that the woman ”had no intention to carry out this threat”, but said it was ”threatening and alarming”.

”[The victim] says all of the behaviour illustrated in her phone conversations is borne out of her hurt and frustration,” Ms Goldsborough found.

”While that may be entirely understandable in one sense it is absolutely unacceptable behaviour in all other senses.” Whelan abused the woman in 2001 after his suspension as a priest in the 1990s for abusing another woman had been overturned.

Over several decades, five women have accused Whelan of sexually abusing them, including a woman who was 13 at the time of the alleged abuse and a woman who claims to have had Whelan’s son. The church reached a confidential settlement in 2006 with the woman involved in the 2004 court case.

While being unable to recall his comments to the woman and his dressing down by the magistrate, Archbishop Hart yesterday detailed some of the events that led to the court case. ”I put my cassock on, I went down to the door and I was very annoyed … [she was] ringing and ringing and ringing, I had just got to sleep, I was very tired, I was about to go off to Rome and I went down and I am sure I would have spoken strongly, but what I said I don’t recall.”

The Age reported yesterday that a St Patrick’s Cathedral newsletter last month named Barry Whelan as a ”living treasure”, despite the church’s own investigator finding that he had abused several woman. The archdiocese has said this was a mistake and has apologised.

The Age investigation into the Melbourne Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse claims has also reported:

? That a priest accused of abusing a minor was told by a church investigator that he was the subject of a covert police probe.

Archbishop Hart said yesterday he had accepted Peter O’Callaghan’s denial that he was told not to tell the priest about the police inquiry.

? Comments from Melbourne Vicar General Les Tomlinson that there is a church sex abuse ”victims’ industry” that seeks to exploit victims to make money – which the Archbishop yesterday said ”weren’t helpful”.

? Calls from a victims collective, who are backed by two interstate bishops, to review the Melbourne archdiocese’s handling of complaints. Archbishop Hart said there was no need to review the system. ”I would much rather concentrate on the compassion that we need to show to victims … They are people who should have expected more from priests and it is a tremendous suffering to be let down by people they trusted.”


Wandsworth Council endorses religious discrimination in education

By Community Correspondent Stephen Evans

The new Equality Bill may be working its way through Parliament, but Wandsworth Council is still wholeheartedly endorsing religious discrimination and segregation in education.

A recent edition of Brightside, the magazine of Wandsworth Council, proudly announced that a “New Catholic school comes a step closer”. The Council has announced that the Saint John Bosco school will be the only completely new school to be built in the borough as part of the government-funded ‘Building Schools for the Future’ project.

Unfortunately, for the non-Catholics amongst us, this will be yet another religious school in Wandsworth that discriminates against the children of non-religious parents and those of the ‘wrong’ faith.

Just take a look at some of the admissions criteria for Wandsworth’s new state school:

• Baptised Catholic students whose parent(s) and themselves are active committed Roman Catholics.

• Baptised Catholic students who are active committed Roman Catholics.

• Baptised Catholic students who are currently attending a Roman Catholic school.

• Baptised Catholic students for whom there is evidence that the Church (e.g. parent(s), priest, parish worker or godparent) is actively and prayerfully working for their Roman Catholic upbringing.

• Christians who are active in their churches which are in membership of Churches Together in England.

• Other students, subject to their numbers and/or attitudes not endangering the Catholic ethos of the school.

There’s a further warning on the Wandsworth Council website that the Governors will “request proof of baptism and evidence of practice from the relevant Parish Priest or Minister.

How on earth can such backward and antiquated discrimination against the non-religious be allowed in modern Britain?

The National Secular Society has consistently campaigned against faith schools, arguing that they are unjust, discriminatory and detrimental to community cohesion. Many experts seem to agree.

For example, research from London South Bank University demonstrates that the only way to achieve full integration in our communities is for all children to be educated together from primary stage. These findings are backed up by a new study carried out by Psychologists at the University of Ulster on the effects of integrated and segregated schooling in Northern Ireland. They found that sectarianism could be defused if more Catholic and Protestant children were sent to mixed-religion schools. Further recent research by the LSE and the Institute of Education demonstrates that religious schools not only fail to improve standards, but also create ‘social sorting’ of children along lines of class, ability and religion.

By endorsing faith schools, Wandsworth is colluding with religious organisations in segregating children by their parent’s faith – and often as an indirect result, by their race. Many areas of Wandsworth, like most other London boroughs, while being very multicultural remains heavily segregated. We desperately need less division in our communities, not more.

Faith schools are notorious for ‘cherry-picking’ the most promising children from the most affluent families, resulting in a version of ‘private schooling on the rates’. The effect is to deprive community schools of such pupils, making their already-difficult task nearly impossible. Religious schools may well be popular with parents lucky enough to get their children into them, but less so with the population as a whole who just want good schools, not religious schools. An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper found two thirds of the population said there should be no state funded faith schools at all.

So why is the Labour Government, and Tory opposition for that matter, so intent on handing over the education of children to religious organisations?

I put that question in a letter to local MP Sadiq Khan, but have yet to receive a response. Perhaps this is unsurprising. After all, the honourable member for Tooting is a well known advocate of mixing religion and politics and was the former Chairman of Tooting’s Gatton Primary, a state funded Muslim faith school which, in its own words, aims to: “inculcate in pupils the character and religion to live as a true Muslim.”

What makes the whole situation even more perverse is that there is little doubt that religious belief is in serious decline. Normal Sunday attendance at churches in England in 1980 exceeded 10% of the population. Today it’s around 6% and is projected by Christian Research to drop to 1.2% by 2050. The Government’s own latest Social Trends Survey revealed that 45.8% of British people now regard themselves as non-religious. In light of such findings how can anyone justify an expansion of religious schools?

The faith school system gives the religious, or those that pretend to be religious, greater choice while leaving the non-religious seriously disadvantaged. With state funded ‘minority’ faith schools on the increase, the situation is only going to get worse.