Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Hopping back on board ...
The rabbit is still in the land of the living and as usual full of good intentions as regards more regular blogging but has been busy of late, principally trying to sort out publishing his crime novel on amazon. For those of you who haven't seen it on my facebook page here is a preliminary sketch for the cover illustration. the final version will be slightly different and will have title and byline obviously. Watch this space - much promotional spamming will follow!
Forgive the rabbit introducing a serious - and specifically British - topic. Indeed one which is not fresh news (the campaign arose during the period of rabbit blogsilence) but merits a mention in any event: the campaign to repeal (or at least amend) section 5 Public Order Act 1986, which provides as follows:
Harassment, alarm or distress.
1. A person is guilty of an offence if he-
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
Which may sound a reasonable enough provision in the abstract but in practice is being used as a gag on free speech in the most ludicrous ways. A number of oddities arise: verbal abuse or insult is no doubt unattractive and a thoroughly bad thing but why should it be criminal (it will be noted that there are no qualifications as to intent) Similarly all that has to be shown by sub-section (b) is that 'harassment, alarm or distrsss' is 'likely'. Not that it actually resulted or anything quite so specific. A few illustrations of stupid, oppressive ways in which this stupid, oppressive provision has been used:
In 2010 A Christian street evangelist named Dale McAlpine was arrested and charged with this offence after expressing his belief that homosexuality was sinful. He expressed this view to a passer-by and a gay police community support officer while handing out leaflets to shoppers. There is no credible suggestion that the tone - if not content - of his expression of views was anything other than moderate. Now Mr McAlpine appears to have a number of odd views but so what? Why should his expression of this particular odd view result in his arrest and charge with a section 5 offence? What the hell (a subject close to Mr McAlpine's heart) has the criminal law to do with this expression of a mistaken belief of his on any sensible view.
Fortunately the charge was later dropped.
If anything even more grotesquely in 2008 a 15 year old was served the summons in respect of a section 5 offence by City of London police when he took part in a peaceful demonstration opposite the London headquarters of the Church of Scientology. The rabbit has blogged on this one before but it merits repetition. The boy had a placard confiscated which said that Scientology was a 'cult'.
OF COURSE IT'S A CULT!!!
Here are some of the core beliefs of Scientology ...
"75 million years ago, there was an alien galactic ruler named Xenu who was in charge of 76 planets in our sector of the galaxy, including planet Earth, whose name at that time was Teegeeack.
All of the planets Xenu controlled were over-populated by, on average, 178 billion people. Social problems dictated that Xenu rid his sector of the galaxy of this overpopulation problem, so he developed a plan.
Xenu sent out Tax Audit demands to all these billions of people.
As each one entered the audit centers for the income tax inspections, the people were seized, held down and injected with a mixture of alcohol and glycol, and frozen. Then, all 13.5 trillion of these frozen people were put into spaceships that looked exactly like DC8 airplanes, except that the spaceships had rocket engines instead of propellers.
Xenu's entire fleet of DC8-like spaceships then flew to planet Earth, where the frozen people were dumped in and around volcanoes in the Canary Islands and the Hawaiian Islands. When Xenu's Air Force had finished dumping the bodies into the volcanoes, hydrogen bombs were dropped into the volcanoes and the frozen space aliens were destroyed.
However, Xenu's plan involved setting up electronic traps in Teegeeack's atmosphere which were designed to trap the souls or spirits of the dead space aliens. When the 13.5 trillion spirits were being blown around on the nuclear winds, the electronic traps worked like a charm and captured all the souls in the electronic, sticky fly-paper like traps ..."
It goes on but the rabbit is losing the will to live.
If people want to believe the above then that is their privilege. If they want to be suckered in to spending startling sums of money on quack remedies until they have been bled dry and are discarded by the Scientologists as of no further interest then that is their privilege too.
But people are entitled to peacefully assemble to describe Scientology as a cult without fear of arrest or of having their placards confiscated.
In 2005 one Sam Brown, 21, a student at Balliol College Oxford, was arrested for causing harassment, alarm or distress and fined £80 after asking a mounted police officer if he knew that his horse was 'gay'.
Words fail me.
A comment by Peter Tatchell: ' ... any controversial or dissenting viewpoint has the potential to upset someone and result in them complaining that they felt insulted, alarmed or distressed. Liberal Muslims offend traditionalists, gay pride marches alarm homophobes, mixed race couples distress racists and gender equality is an affront to sexist men'. Giving insult and causing distress ought not - or at the very least ought not ordinarily - result in criminalisation. The criminal law should not be used as a vehicle for attempting to suppress ideas you don't like (and that includes don't like with good reason). The test is too low. There are stirrings afoot to repeal or at least amend section 5. Good idea.
Some music is in order as a parting shot. The rabbit keeps hearing the above as he hops around the equipment in his local gym. Good stuff and it has bored its way into his ear.
And finally - ever at the cutting edge of legal blogging - the rabbit presents for the edification of the public a most informative transcript from the Supreme Court of Queensland. Hat Tip to Charon QC