On Saturday morning I received a personal message (addressed ‘Dear Resident’) from Emma Moore, my local Conservative candidate for Ogmore. In this personal message she outlines ‘why we need change in Britain today’, and I was immediately struck by a a series of tabloid lies being wheeled out by Emma in an attempt to gain my support. I therefore decided to take some action and post on it. So here we go, tabloid lie number one:
The Conservatives would review the effects of Labour’s misguided laws – such as those which results in a grandmother being tagged for selling Goldfish to an underage customer
Oh dear. Emma Moore is using a story about a grandmother being tagged for ‘admitting causing suffering to a cockatiel’ and for selling goldfish to a person under 161. So of course the tabloids like the Daily Express and Daily Mail used this as ‘proof’ that Britain had gone mad because they buried the animal cruelty bits and tried to pretend the punishment was just for selling a fish to an underage child – which, we should not forget is still a crime and I thought the Conservatives were traditionally tough on criminals?
Unfortunately for Emma Moore an ‘and’ follows the above quotation and she continues:
terrorists not being deported as it would be against their ‘rights’
Ah yes, the tabloid obsession with ‘rights’, notice the use of inverted commas around ‘rights’, making it clear that Emma doesn’t believe terrorists have any ‘rights’. Presumably she is happy to have extraordinary rendition and torture because people we label terrorists shouldn’t have ‘rights’.
As has been pointed out before, the tabloids have an agenda to discredit the human rights act, the very thing that attempts to guarantee every individual basic human rights irrespective of the colour of their skin, the religion they may or may not follow, whatever crimes they may have been accused of, their sexuality and so forth. It is the basis of trying to create a world in which everyone is guaranteed not to be abused by any state that signs up to the charter. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but here we are being told that ‘rights’ for certain groups are bad.
However, as the Guardian reported in 2009 the majority of tabloid scare stories blaming the lack of deportation of a criminal in most cases has nothing to do with human rights and more to do with legal loopholes and other complicated aspects of international law. Rarely does human rights have any impact on deportation, and if it does it is because the country to which they may be deported is likely to kill or cause unnecessary suffering to the deportee. We are supposed to be a civilised country, we have no form of capital punishment, so should we really deport criminals or ‘terrorists’ to a certain death sentence? To do so undermines the morality of us all, it would appeal only to the basest instincts of a minority of people in Britain – the dark instincts which the Human Rights Act is designed to keep in check2.
So far from Emma Moore we’ve had two tabloid myths repeated, but she’s happy to keep ploughing the ‘aren’t you outraged’ furrow and moves onto bail:
Simple things have been overlooked. Can you believe it is not illegal to breach bail?
Now, I’m moving outside of my comfort zone here, but from what I have read bail – like most aspects of law – is quite a complex subject and Emma is trying to oversimplify it. From what I have read it is true that the ‘breach of bail conditions is not an offence as such’, but a ‘constable may arrest a person who is believed to be likely to breach or has breached any condition of their bail’3. Furthermore, there are two aspects to breaching bail: firstly, the breaching of bail conditions (moving house, breaching a curfew, moving within areas that are off limits, approaching witnesses etc); and secondly the failure to attend court at the set time without a reasonable excuse – this is a separate criminal offence under the Bail Act 19764.
I’m not going to pretend to fully understand the intricacies of bail, but I know that the subject is far more complex than Emma is suggesting and that because breaching bail conditions normally results in arrest and the reconsideration of whether bail will be granted a second time I’m not overly sure what making it a criminal offence will actually achieve. Sadly, Emma doesn’t make any attempt to inform me.
Emma Moore isn’t finished with bail yet though:
In most cases bail is offered automatically, even for relatively serious crimes, only for some people to commit more crime whilst awaiting trial.
Here is where the tabloid world of crime starts to contradict itself, for only a couple of paragraphs earlier we were being shocked at the harsh sentence handed out when a goldfish is sold to an underage customer, now we’re being told that ‘relatively serious’ crimes allow the accused to get automatic bail. Well, which is it? Do we have a system that penalises even the most petty offence harshly, or a system that is too weak to deal with those accused of ‘relatively serious’ offences? You cannot have both Emma, unless your paranoia makes you imagine that the criminal justice system is more interested in persecuting goldfish selling grandmothers than hardened criminals. Considering the justice system remains independent from the government I’m not sure you’d be able to argue this point5.
Furthermore, bail is normally granted unless:
Once charged, the police must release you on bail unless the custody officer reasonably believes that:
- There is doubt about your name or address; or
- Detention is necessary to protect you or somebody else; or
- You will fail to attend court or will interfere with witnesses or the administration of justice.
That seems to leave a significant level of discretion for those involved with the case to refuse bail. Whilst it is true that bail is granted in the majority of cases, it must be remembered that the majority of alledged crimes are not actually serious. If the allegded crime was serious and any member of the public was in danger, then bail could easily be refused. I understand that sometimes this system isn’t perfect, because a certain element of human judgement is involved and human beings are not perfect, nor can the behaviour of other human beings be predicted accurately. However, as far as I am aware no-one else seems to be putting the bail system at the heart of their election manifesto, presumably because their are real problems to tackle. Emma seems more concerned with scaring me into voting for her, rather than winning my support by tackling the real issues. At least she is clearly on-message with the rest of the Conservative Party and the Tory press.
Next up, a very predictable and depressing attack:
We would scrap the European Human Rights Act… stopping ridiculous compensation claims like prisoners getting money for not having heroin supplied to them in jail and being ‘forced’ to go cold turkey.
Wow, you’re selling me the Conservative dream Emma! A vote for the Conservatives, is a vote to scrap your basic, fundamental human rights. I know, a vote for the Conservatives has always meant this, but at least they used to be subtle about it. Now they actually think it should be a policy they can show off. As for the heroin story, yes, you guessed it, it is taken from the Daily Mail: ‘Drug addicted prisoners receive compensation for being forced to go cold turkey’ (I suspect that Emma is a Daily Mail reader).
Like most stories in the Daily Mail, it is also palpably untrue, as a serving prisoner points out on his blog in a post about prison myths:
One such lie, a myth in the making, is that hundreds of prisoners were awarded compensation after being refused heroin. It speaks to the sanity of Mail readers that they could ever think this could be true, but there you are. The case in question was actually about de-toxing from heroin. In the community, detox via the NHS is supported with a regimen of drugs which lessen the pains of the process. But in prisons, this support was absent, forcing the detoxers to suffer. The compensation came about because of this inexplicable disparity in treatment, which led to their being caused unnecessary suffering. Feel free to object to that, as you please, but it had bugger all to do with being refused heroin.
It is terribly depressing to think that the Daily Mail is not just directly attempting to force a Conservative government on us for the next four years, but also that their lies are indirectly being fed to people in my constituency. People who will not have immediately spotted the lies because they don’t spend their spare time writing or reading this blog and others. That there is little more to her opening statement than the above tabloid lies says a lot about the Conservative tactic of scaring people into voting for them. I can understand this from their point of view because their policies are directed at maintaining and increasing the wealth of the richest 6% of the country, and these policies are hardly likely to convince many in this area of Wales to vote for them.
And one final point, Emma Moore, if I may direct this at you personally. Under the heading ‘Safer Communities’ you have three bullet points; I have serious issues with two of them.
Firstly, you state that you want to ‘Have a dedicated border police to crack down on immigration and visa offences’. How exactly is this point related to ‘Safer communities’ unless you’re trying to link the idea that immigrants make a community inherently unsafe? I find you wedging immigrants between serious crime and drug-related crime, under the heading you have chosen, deeply offensive and it smacks of racism. You actually seem to be stating that our communities would be safer if we cracked down ‘on immigration and visa offences’. Do you seriously not understand how racist that sounds? Immigrants are human beings who seek a different way of life in a different country for a huge variety of reasons, they are human beings, the same as us all9. Yet here you are stating that they make our communities unsafe. I wonder how safe immigrants will be if you do scrap the European Bill of Human Rights.
Secondly, you state you want to ‘increase drug treatment programmes to tackle addiction-driven crime’. Sounds like a good idea, in fact this is exactly the kind of programme that the prisoners were refused when they sought compensation for being denied this treatment. You know, the story you used as an example of the UK’s crazy compensation culture. You manage to completely contradict yourself in the space of a few paragraphs and if you actually spent an hour looking into your ‘evidence’ you probably would have spotted just how stupid you were being here.
It staggers me that you would not even conduct the most basic research before publishing a leaflet and posting presumably thousands of them through doors all around this constituency. You have so little respect for your prospective voters that you feed us this tabloid drivel as ‘evidence’ of why we should vote for you, yet even your own pamphlet inadvertently undermines your own arguments.
I have emailed you a link to this article and offer you the right of reply, I will publish it underneath this post. So, if you want to argue any of your points further then I will publish them here. I am still considering printing this on leaflets and doing my own mailshot because I am that disgusted with your leaflet.
UPDATE 1 – 25th April, 2pm
I appreciate the early comments and take on board my perhaps simplistic idealism with regards to the Human Rights Act, however, I stand by my assertion that to alter or scrap the act requires judgements to be made about who deserves and who doesn’t deserve human rights. If history has taught us one thing, it is that governments and human beings in general are not the right people to make these judgements. It is only safe and fair to ensure that everyone has basic human rights, irrespective of how testing that can be at times.
Secondly, in response to how long this took me, well, under 2 hours with Google at my side. I would like to spend more time tidying up what I have written, considering my points a little more and attempting to write something better but as a one-man-band with other commitments I have to be satisfied with off-the-cuff posts like this. Still, I think I have demonstrated that it wouldn’t have taken Emma Moore long to research her stories and consider her prospective voters.
With regards to Emma Moore, I am still awaiting a response. I have passed this post to the local Liberal Democrats, but am still awaiting a Labour leaflet to get contact details of who their candidate is.
2, See Guardian: ‘Bad Press: human rights myths exposed‘.
3, See wikicrimeline: ‘Breach of bail conditions‘.
4, See Your Rights: ‘The rights of defendants‘.
5, See Wikipedia: ‘Separation of powers‘.
6, See Your Rights: ‘The rights of defendants‘.
7, See The Daily Mail: ‘Drug addicted prisoners receive compensation for being forced to go cold turkey‘.
8, See Ben’s Prison Blog (written through sending written blog posts via the Royal Mail to a friend on the outside who uploads them to his blog): ‘Myths in the making’.