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Posts Tagged ‘Big Brother

Your new ID Card awaits you

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ID Cards This is how it will look

According to Computer Weekly

The ID card was unveiled by home secretary Alan Johnson Thursday in Manchester and London.

Strange how all of these plans, schemes, and announcements, were in the pipeline for something he tells us is now voluntary, don’t you think?

Alan Johnson said,

“Given the growing problem of identity fraud and the inconvenience of having to carry passports, coupled with gas bills or six months’ worth of bank statements to prove identity, I believe the ID card will be welcomed as an important addition to the many plastic cards that most people already carry.

He added that its use for travel in Europe is also an advantage. (Surely he meant a necessity?)

This little piece of plastic will voluntarily cost you around £30 at the outset, and we know how that price will rise in time, and once the government has all of your details on the database you can be damned sure you won’t be able to have them removed in the future. You could also face hefty fines for failure to inform the authorities of changes in your circumstances (such as marrying, moving home, etc.) nice of them huh?

I can hear the voices in the middle of the night “your papers please”

Say No2ID

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Written by curly

August 1, 2009 at 11:32 am

Big Brother Britain

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Big Brother Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith

Be afraid, be very afraid, the NuLabour Project must be completed before it’s term comes to an end – click picture for story

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Written by curly

April 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm

£34bn estimated cost of surveillance

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There must be a cheaper way

Instead of this estimated £34bn, why not set up a quick mail shot to every household in the UK asking us

  • Where we shop?
  • What web sites do we surf?
  • Who do we email?
  • What is your phone number?
  • What is your car registration?
  • What is your bank account number?
  • What is your NI number?
  • Who is your GP?
  • Which countries have you travelled to in the past twenty years?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Are you overweight?
  • What is your religion?

Then threaten everyone with a £5000 fine or six months in prison for failing to send the survey back (sorry no free pens).

Would save a lot of money and time.

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Written by curly

February 18, 2009 at 11:33 am

Why I took a stand

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[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKl2sEN4yNM]

Hat Tip – Old Holborn

(Warning, extreme language)

After watching the video, perhaps you can see why some photographers and ordinary people in the street are getting quite worried about the level of paranoia being shown by some authorities about photography. Once local councils, like South Tyneside, start to take a lead in finding ways to remedy the problem, then perhaps we will see other authorities enlightening their staff and retraining them too.

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Written by curly

August 22, 2008 at 10:30 am

Erase DNA profiles

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dna profileCall to protect innocent people

A government funded enquiry has concluded that the DNA profiles of a million innocent people stored on the National Database should be destroyed along with the DNA profiles of 50,000 children. The study also criticised “lax security measures” around which organisations had access to the database.

There is a growing public unease and displeasure at the way that this Labour government treats the most private information of it’s citizens and the news last weekthat DNA profiles have been sold on to private companies only adds to the feeling that little is safe or secure about the data that they hold about us. It should be viewed as intrinsically wrong that they continue to hold on to DNA samples of innocent people and children on the wild presumption that one day they will become a criminal. It reinforces the view that we are all seen as suspects with our guilt assumed rather than proven.

A “citizen’s inquiry” of 30 people appointed by the Commission to look at the forensic use of the database found widespread unease at the level of information contained on it. Most of the panel’s members were opposed to setting up a universal database. It said: “By putting everyone on the database you are naming them as a possible suspect.”

The Tories said ministers should “take heed of these findings”. Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: “Currently the DNA database targets the innocent but not all the guilty.

“We have called for the database to be put on a statutory footing and properly debated in parliament . All serious offenders should be put on the database – and there must be safeguards to protect the innocent.”

David Howarth, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, added: “Public confidence has been shattered by the Government’s Orwellian attempts to create a national DNA database by stealth.”

A Home Office spokesman commits tham to considering the report rather than being brave enough to take any actions on it’s recommendations. All the while even more innocent people and children will continue to be added with the growing risk that their samples will be sold on.

Remember the innocent sales girl from South Shields?

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Written by curly

July 30, 2008 at 9:46 am

Bob Geldof on freedom

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Bob GeldofSir, (or is it saint) Bob Geldof speaks for freedom in David Davis campaign

Via – David Davis for Freedom

Former Boomtown Rat and Live Aid founder Sir Bob Geldof (pictured) has made an immensely telling and powerful contribution to the website of David Davis set up for his campaign in the Haltemprice and Howden. I never thought that he had this sort of inspirational quality, but it’s brilliant!

Geldof writes;

This is a fight about the legal boundaries of the state and how much that state can and should remove of our liberties before it fundamentally changes the nature of who and what we are….. This time there will be no debate about the standard of living but rather but rather standards we choose to live by Maybe you accept the official panicky newspaper and political establishment line that its all a nonsense, a hopelessly quixotic or principled or opportunistic waste of time.  That would be a terrible mistake.

I will argue that this time you must come out in more numbers than ever because this time the issue is more vital than even our immediate food bills. This time uniquely you are being asked to decide about what kind of people we are and what kind of country we wish to live in. You’re being asked to vote about us and you may never get to vote on something so profoundly fundamental again.

So what great existential threat does this country now face that did not face our forefathers of the past 1000 years. What is so grave the emergency now that neither civil war nor world war nor various terrorisms were considered so dangerous to our security that our oldest statutes -and few have lasted the 400 years relevance of habeas corpus – could be upended for such a ha’pnworth of momentary contemporary panic. If authority is to be respected it must be just. When it is not, then the greatest threat to that authority is its own instinct to authoritarianism.

These new security measures, these new limitations on our liberties are not the thin end of the wedge We’re way past that now. This is now, already, the bulkier mid way point of that authoritarian block. For we have in the past few years so mauled our ancient defended rights, rights for which bloody battles were fought and heroes lived and died for, as to seriously consider whether the constitution is today much more than a cartoon of its essential meaning. And what moral authority resides any longer in a lawmaking body that acts against the liberties of its own people? Is it not true that the willingness to use intolerable means to achieve impossible ends shows the political mind at its most deluded?

Meanwhile our supine press gulled by political complicity, lull the population to apathy by banging on with their trivial irrelevancies while the constitution is quietly turned aside. Shame on them. Alas they are shameless.

What terrorizes the terrorists is our civilization. What those unthinking fools of fundamentalism fear most are the very freedoms our representatives strip from us. Essentially this “war on terror” is a conflict waged against Islamist forces that claim to reject the Enlightenment. If that is so, then how can we ever succeed if we side with our opponents in rejecting those same ideals? Every moment we are spied on by the invisible watchers. Every time that we are recorded and monitored at every turn, on every purchase. Every time we are mandatorially logged, noted, tagged and followed on databanks and files because “it is in our best interest” They win. And every time we accept it, we lose. We must not hold this attitude of passive acceptance to these restraints on justice, rights and liberties that ultimately amounts to nothing more than complicity with intolerance.

Why should I carry an ID card? I own my identity – not them.  Why should I have to identify myself to the state? How dare they demand I identify myself? To whom am I identifying myself and for what? Spain, France and Germany have had identity cards for decades and have more or less the same levels of crime as us. So why insist on them. The war on terror is no answer. Indeed there will soon be a brisk business in false British cards and more seriously they didn’t stop the bombers in Germany or Spain.

I have paraphrased so far, taking small parts of his text, but it is such a powerful written statement that it really deserves to be spoken, delivered, filmed and broadcast far and wide to as large an audience as possible. It is one of the great libertarian pieces of our age and ought to be recited and taught to scholars now and for ever after, so with your forbearance here is the rest of it.

It is of course almost comically Orwellian to trot out that comprehensively stupid, complacent and absurd excuse of the natural authoritarian The classic “Only the guilty need be afraid” line. And how sickening to hear it in England. “Only the guilty need be afraid”. Really? This repulsive expression beloved of tabloid and home secretary alike has at least got the virtue that it is demonstrably false.

Shall we say it to the innocent men of Forest Gate, already shot then banged up and subsequently released without charge.

Shall we say it to the demonstrators going about their legally permitted democratic business who are roughed up, abused and put away.

Say it to me that when you are lifted from the street, incarcerated for 42 days without knowing why, while your boss considers his and your position, your family cower in fear and dismay and your friends and community shun you.

Tell them that when you are released, as innocent as when you went in and try vainly to return to the life stripped from you.

Tell that to the Gestapo-like anonymous, faceless accuser whom you well never have to encounter or challenge.

Tell that to the judge, for that other ancient right of been judged by your peers in jury is gradually removed

No ladies and gentlemen in this world of spies, snitches, cameras, files and databanks the state knows all our sad, shameful little private secrets. Like threatening gangsters they know who we are and they know where we live. Not Big Brother, this is Big Britain. It is not simply about the big issues. This is also about the liberty of the ordinary person to have an ordinary life and not feel oppressed – the everyday small liberties that affect us all. When RIPA, the law that allows councils to authorise surveillance and to get hold of your phone records, e-mails and website usage was enacted 8 years ago, 9 organisations including the police, security and revenue services were allowed to use it. Today there are 786 more agencies added – including all local authorities, police forces and bodies, the Financial Services Authority and the Ambulance service. In 2006 these bodies made 1000 applications A DAY to use these powers! They will say “If you don’t do anything wrong why worry?” Rather you should worry precisely because you do nothing wrong. They must have no right to spy on your ability to live a good life. And when we finally become afraid to say what we think, it is one step nearer to that most awful condition of all – being afraid of what TO think!. “Only the guilty need be afraid” Afraid not. In this world it is only the innocent need be afraid. For the state has assumed our guilt already. We have all become suspects. We have become guilty till proven innocent.

What lies behind all of this, this perversion of the British idea?

From 2000 to today, incarceration without charge and without recourse to justice has gone from 5 days to 7 to 28 to 42. Foreigners may be imprisoned indefinitely on national sercurity grounds. Detention is based on secret intelligence and suspicion. There is no criminal charge and no trial. Our very own Guantanamo. Terrorism stop and search powers are used widely and routinely including against that elderly man who had the temerity to heckle Jack Straw. Local councils snoop and spy and threaten old people and others over litter and wheelie bins. Why? It is true that most people want security rather than liberty. But then as that unlikely sage Dick Cheney (and he should know) said “It is easy to take Liberty for granted when you have never had it taken from you”.

It is our complacency that let’s them get away with it. It is our apathy that we must fear.

But are we really so threatened in the UK, that we must uniquely introduce the most swingeing and illiberal precautions.

The United States, which unlike us, genuinely feels itself at war, under siege and attack has an absolute limit of 2 days before detainess are brought before a judge and that judge being presented with evidence. Last week the supreme court held the government to be in contempt for suspending the rights of the Guantanamo. residents to fair justice.

In Ireland even at the height of the IRA terror campaign the limit was 7 days

Australia only 60 miles from the most populous Muslim nation and the victim of its own bomb horrors has a maximum of 12 days.

Spain with its huge north African Muslim population and the victim of the worst European bombing outrage is 5 days maximum. Yet all the bombers were cught and tried or killed themselves.

Italy with its 1970’s red brigade terror and its large African population has a maximum of 4 days.

Germany with its giant millions strong Turkish population and during its murderous Baader Meinhof rampage has 2 days.

Russia with its Islamic Chechnyan rebels, its war and outrages has 5 days maximum.

It goes on. What is wrong with us. Have we lost our confidence, our stoicism, our bravery and dignity, sang-froid and upper lip. No, I don’t think so, not if the great awful dignity of the victims families are anything to go by. Or the magnificent and traditional response of the capitol with that very British attribute of “getting on with it’. Not us then. Is Parliament afraid? Apparently not. MI5? They say not. So why imprison people on suspicion, without charge, without evidence or trial for 42 days? How very, very unBritish.

Let me be clear. I am not complacent by the threat or the scale of it facing us. But the government has presented no case that is even remotely convincing for the consequent and growing loss of civil liberty. As Burke said ‘The people never give up their liberty but under some delusion” These measures are simply political and designed to make the government seem strong on terrorism and the opposition weak. But even their most senior members have spoken out against this law. The Home Affairs committee came out against the proposal in December. The former Attorney General and the former Lord Chancellor are against it. John Major is against it. Even Jacqui Smith has had to admit that MI bloody5 didn’t ask for it!

Detention without trial is constitutionally repulsive. It is almost an oxymoron. A legal illegality. A form of legal bullying. It is to view justice through the wrong end of the telescope. It is portrayed as a necessary weapon in the states anti-terror armoury but in what new capacity? Perhaps they believe it has some merit in being an ill-conceived, criminally stupid and clumsily inept attempt to cow or scare the fantastically deluded and unreasonable who are therefore, by definition, incapable of that sort of fear anyway. If you are intent on blowing yourself up, a spell at her majesty’s pleasure probably constitutes an irritating delay in the inevitable, rather than a panicked repudiation of jihadist ambition.

What it most definitely is however is counter productive. Because it is unjust the law simply becomes more grist to the terrorist mill. Indeed it becomes their success, for they have succeeded in taking from us part of the very freedom they so despise. Add to that the rather alarming fact that the experts have already told us these measures can never prevent another 9/11, 7/11, Spanish train or Bali disco bombing. If anything it will simply fuel the flames of resentment.

What the terrorists are bewildered by and truly frightened of is the very thing this law rejects – reason, values, logic, liberty and law that enshrines, encapsulates and articulates our freedom. That is the Britishness that John Major, Gordon Brown and others find so hard to define. It is the coherent idea that constitutes itself into an inchoate feeling and sense of pride in place. It is what that great defender of Justice Rumpole of the Bailey called the Golden Thread that runs through British justice.This war on terror is a conflict waged against Islamist forces that claim to reject the Enlightenment. If that is so then how can we ever succeed if we side with our opponents in rejecting those same ideals.

Let us be clear then. This is not security we are being offered, this is government demanding freedom from the constraints that have developed over many centuries to curb the exercise of power. This is a type of illiberal democracy where elections take place against a background of diminished freedom. Ben Franklin said that “they who can give up liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

I was told that David Davis was out on a limb on this one. Shamefully that is true. But it is the right limb to be out on. And it is a limb I am proud to join him on. It is also the limb that William Wilberforce climbed out and perched himself upon in this very town. When I think of this area therefore I think of this mans and this areas struggle against injustice, the rights of the unlawfully chained and those denied their liberty. This is not the grotesquerie of slavery and it would be wrong to conflate the two. But it is about justice, it is about liberty, it is about your rights. It is about Magna Carta, and what Britain is, was and must continue to be. It is against the whole flabby, conforming, brainwashed, gullible, witless crap of it all.

This is the only place that uniquely in this election has been given the chance and honour to speak out again for all of us. To speak out on behalf of justice versus intolerance. To whistleblow. To firewatch against unthinking power .To speak about an idea of right and liberty under the law. To vote for an idea of life itself. THE idea of Britain. Tory, Lib Dem, Labour who cares – clamber out on this limb with us, for its where we all belong. Turn out hugely and thank God that you are in a country that is still free to do so.

Ladies and Gentlemen. Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have.

I hope and pray that when David Cameron and other Shadow ministers visited Haltemprice and Howden that they took on board these lessons and understood full well  why David Davis decided to make a stand based upon these and his own principles, against a government that takes away a little at a time. The Conservative Party needs to re-engage with it’s libertarian wing and be prepared to roll back the covers of the state when it returns to government . One hopes that Davis will be given a role to play in what should be a high priority in the next government’s agenda.

Davis’ campaign is as relevant to the people of South Shields just as much as it is to the people of Haltemprice and Howden, and even more so to the people of the UK.

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Written by curly

July 7, 2008 at 12:18 pm

Taking just a little at a time

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“Big Brother” costs us £20bn.

“The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions.

In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”

Adolf Hitler,
maximus otter

The cost of our “surveillance society” is now around £20bn according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, equivalent to £800 per household, this cost icludes £19,000m for the propose ID Card Scheme, £500m spent on CCTV cameras, £300m for the DNA database, and £68m spent by local councils on the use of RIPA and chip and bin schemes. In addition to these costs the government has spent £5.5m protecting and looking after terrorists who ought to have been deported long ago! Glyn Gaskarth Policy Analyst for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“The Government’s £20 billion Big Brother measures are a costly way of making us less free but no more secure.  The Government should target the real extremists rather than eroding the civil liberties of ordinary, law-abiding people, and in the process, wasting billions of pounds of our money.”

With such expenditure on such a grand scale to build such  grand schemes that chip away a little of our personal freedom and privacy every day, it is little wonder that David Davis is finding it difficult to persuade government ministers to debate the issues with him. They are running scared and don’t wish to face public scrutiny of their plans to extend “database Britain”, or defend the inability of the “surveillance state” to prevent crime or materially increase our security. The ability to snoop into our lives, track our movements, compile dossiers on every citizen, hold our most personal information (even that of innocent children), know the state of our individual health or ailments, charge us per mile for our movements, weigh and identify the debris and detritus of our lives, is all together too high a price to pay for the limited amount of confirmed successful prosecutions that are meant to secure our safety.

Money could easily be transferred away from these schemes to provide real tangible benefits that would increase security without destroying our traditional freedoms.

“Taking just a little at a time” has been the way of the current Labour administration and it is slowly but surely eroding the values of a British society that was long held as a beacon for other nations to follow, our traditional freedoms, rights, and responsibilities as individuals are being chipped away in favour of more and more state intrusion. Shami Chakrabarti the director of campaign group Liberty had a very insightful question and answer session with The Telegraph back in April which you can read here, it encapsulates much of what I believe in and worth fighting to retain.

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Written by curly

July 7, 2008 at 11:22 am

Posted in Freedom, Labour, liberty, News, politics

Tagged with

Big Brother database worry

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Dizzy debunks the theory

I have to admit that I was extremely worried and annoyed when I read this story in The Times about further moves by New Labour to create yet another huge massive database that intends to peer into our private lives by snooping on our phone calls and emails. People in South Shields should worry over the intent and application of these “Big Brother” tactics and the direction that Gordon Brown’s government is taking as it steadily chips away at our privacy and civil liberties.

However it didn’t take Dizzy long to debunk the whole theory and to rubbish the achievements of Labour’s previous attempts to create working databases, what’s more he does it as a guest commenter in The Times, the boy has done well, showing that there is a role for the new media bloggers sitting comfortably within the mainstream media. Dizzy (Phil Hendron) describes it as “selling out”, I prefer to think of it more as “selling up” and making his views available to a much wider and possibly more discerning audience. Lets hope that we see more of Dizzy in The Times, and perhaps see other newspapers taking the opportunity to widen their appeal by adding a few bloggers to their writing resource 9Iain Dale is a regular with the Daily Telegraph and Paul Linford is a regular with the Newcastle Journal, although in reality he is a blogging journalist rather than a blogger per se.

Whilst we are on the subject of “Big Brother” and the “surveillance society” It is good to see that the Conservative Party is considering moves to restrict and regulate the role of CCTV cameras. Shadow Home Secretary David Davies that of the four million CCTV systems in Britain 90% of them are not fit for purpose and cannot provide images that are of evidence quality.

“There is no argument for having CCTV which both infringes on our civil liberty but is of such poor quality it does nothing to protect us or provide evidence to bring perpetrators of crime to justice – as happens now. Conservatives would ensure any CCTV has to be maintained at sufficiently high standard to provide evidence admissible in court. We would also strictly limit access to these images to the police and other relevant agencies until they get to court, and set a mandatory punishment for breaches of these rules that infringe the privacy of the individual.”

What he is not committing the party to, yet, is to restrict the number of new CCTV systems being added to the plethora that we already see in our streets, shops, buses, taxis etc. Money saved on some of these schemes could be diverted towards improved neighbourhood policing, which in my view will always be a better deterrent and investigative tool that a poorly maintained camera giving a grainy image.

One day, just for the hell of it, I’m going to walk from South Shields Market Place to the Ship and Royal on the corner of Mile End Road and count how many CCTV cameras I can see on the street and in the shops .

It could prove enlightening.

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Written by curly

May 22, 2008 at 9:31 am

CCTV isn’t working!

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Big Brother“Big Brother” cannot save us from crime

Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe.

Well, no surprises here then.

I’ve been beating this drum for two years at least now and my opposition is based on the same perceptions as those revealed by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, the officer in charge of the Metropolitan police unit, with a few other points to add.

CCTV cameras are all around us, there are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands in South Shields alone, on streets, in buses, on Metro trains, in the train stations, in shops and offices and public buildings, they were put there by some over officious clowns who thought that they would make us feel safer as went about our lives. They thought that the cameras would be a great deterrent against crime, something in which they have singularly failed. They are the apparatus of the Big Brother state a tool that will eventually develop into the creation of another great database, this time collating our images as our lives are recorded for the greater safety of mankind.

Criminals have no fear of CCTV cameras, we see pictures almost daily on television screens and in newspapers asking if we “recognise these faces”, the camera did no prevent the execution of the crime, the deterrent failed, it’s only use now is as a (fairly poor) investigative tool. Hence the calls now for the development and building of yet another dangerous piece in the surveillance society’s armoury, the digital image database.

It’s time for our politicians to wake up to the dangers in these calls, building bigger databases is not the answer to crime, neither is the greater proliferation of more technically proficient CCTV cameras and operations rooms filled with extremely bored personnel monitoring the screens. Criminals will only be deterred when they see more uniformed policemen and women on our streets (not in stations filling out triplicate forms), communities will begin to feel safer when individuals have the courage to pick up the telephone and tell the police that they’ve just seen Johnny daubing on a wall, or running out of the corner shop with the takings stuffed into his pockets! When society starts to favour and value the important individuals who make the whole, then we may start to see results.

Community policing is part of the answer to crime, reducing the wastage of police time is another great step forward, the role of the CPS and it’s bureaucratic straight jacket needs to be re-assessed. Once the police have some of their restrictive administrative tasks removed they will feel less encumbered and be able to integrate more effectively with their community neighbourhoods, we might even get back to the days when the policeman was seen as our friend! The greatest steps forward in the fight against crime will come when we feel sure that the telephone call to the police will be responded to quickly, and when both sides feel sure that the giving and taking of a statement and/or the identification of a suspect will lead to satisfactory results. This human intelligence is worth far more to the police and the courts than the poorly lit grainy image from a CCTV camera.

The other deterrent has to be sentencing, and again the philosophy here has to be that it values the rights, the sensitivities, and the strengths of the individuals who make up society, and more importantly when sentencing is seen to mean something to the victims of crime will we all feel that something is being achieved. The present perception is that sentencing is seen as something that favours the criminal with Labour’s policies of early release schemes and under investment in the Prison Service devaluing the efforts of the police.

Back to Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville;

It’s been an utter fiasco: only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. There’s no fear of CCTV. Why don’t people fear it? [They think] the cameras are not working.”

More training was needed for officers. Often they do not want to find CCTV images “because it’s hard work”. Sometimes the police did not bother inquiring beyond local councils to find out whether CCTV cameras monitored a particular street incident.

Sounds like a very familiar story, right on the first point, right on the second point, but utterly wrong about his proposed solution;

“We are [beginning] to collate images from across London. This has got to be balanced against any Big Brother concerns, with safeguards. The images are from thefts, robberies and more serious crimes. Possibly the [database] could be national in future.”

The right solution lies in the education of children, and the willingness of families and communities to accept responsibility for their actions and the consequences, when criminal behaviour is seen and accepted as totally wrong, repugnant, and socially destructive, then society as a whole will move towards better self policing and gain a more cooperative strategy with it’s local neighbourhood police. Greater intrusive incursions into our privacy and the collating of more personal information is unlikely to increase our cooperation with the state!

We don’t need “Big Brother” just better mums, dads, teachers, and role models, and a willingness to supply information about criminal activity without fearing being labelled “a grass”.

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Written by curly

May 6, 2008 at 10:03 am

Posted in Crime, Culture, I.T., News, privacy

Tagged with , ,

Sex pictures shock!

with 150 comments

Fairground, South ShieldsCurly taken for a ride

Did I mention something about being taken for ride in my last post?

Well I was, but I never imagined that a trip to the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park in South Shields would result in a ride in the back of a police car, being questioned about taking pictures of a sexual nature (and we are not talking of someone of Britney Spears age either!)

Have I ever mentioned CCTV cameras in the past?

Yes on numerous occasions.

Have I ever stated that we are becoming a nation of suspects in the past?

Yes, on numerous occasions.

Have I ever voiced the fear that we may quietly lurch towards a police state in the past?

Yes, on numerous occasions.

So let me start at the beginning – I parked my car at the Littlehaven Hotel, South Shields, this afternoon and walked across the beach with two intentions in mind (a) recording the extent of the damage to the sea wall on Harbour Drive for a post in this blog tomorrow, and (b) taking some pictures in the fairground for use in South Shields Daily Photo, as an illustration of the sort of things that South Shields folks get up to on an Easter Bank Holiday weekend. Please bear in mind that presenting a site such as this requires a lot of photographs with regular fresh input, nothing is worse than repetition.

I was well wrapped up, as usual, wearing my normal photographic kit which has many large deep pockets suited for carrying lens, spare batteries, flash gun etc. I also had my normal heavy bag with me just in case I decided to use any other filters or a third lens. I spent some time at both locations but at one stage had to take shelter in the waltzer as hailstones beat down, stinging the face and battering against the camera. Whilst under shelter I continued to shoot scenes (I found it fascinating that people still wanted to wander around the park and have fun, despite the atrocious weather.)

After an hour and a half I made my way back to the car satisfied that I have gained enough new material over the past couple of days to keep the site running for the next week or so. I drove through another hailstorm towards the South Marine Park and then along Ocean Road to check the size of the queue at Colmans, from there I proceeded towards Anderson Street and see a police car coming towards me from the direction of the Town Hall, blue lights flashing, siren wailing, in an obvious hurry to get somewhere. It did a U turn and came up behind me, by now I had slowed to a stop along with a couple of other cars, as we all assumed the police car wanted to get past. It appeared that he didn’t, perhaps he wanted to turn left just in front of the Voyager, so we all moved off again to give him room. But no, he’s still behind me, now flashing his headlights too, good God, he wants me!

My mind runs around thinking of things like tax disc, lights, body damage, and satisfied myself that all was in order, so I turned into Beach Road, parked up and approached the police officer. He wants me to go back to my car switch everything off, lock it and get into the back of the police car!

Crikey, what the hell do they think I’ve been up to? If, like me, you have never been in this situation in your life before perhaps you can imagine the slightly panicked state of mind.

“You wish to speak to me?”

“Yes sir, if you don’t mind stepping into the rear of my car”

“Is there something wrong with my car or my driving?”

“No, no sir, nothing like that at all, we are responding to an emergency call from someone in The Sundial who has reported you as taking pictures of children in the play park”

“Play park? I haven’t been near any play park! I’ve been on the beach and in the fairground, and I’ve never been anywhere near The Sundial either, surely you must have the wrong person?”

“Sorry sir, but we tracked you on the CCTV cameras, got your registration number and that’s why I need to talk to you, you are exactly as described”

After confirming name and address, date of birth, electoral roll, and telephone number, I offered to get my camera and show the officer all of the pictures that I’d taken this afternoon (click the thumbnail above, for an example).

“Dodgem cars, fairground rides, beach, is that all sir?

“Yes, help yourself, view them all”

Whilst he was viewing, I gave him one of my cards confirming that I have an occasional monetary interest in taking photographs, and whilst he was getting interested, news came through on his radio that I was a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator and had reported a number of crimes and leads in my area (not that it’s the most crime ridden street in South Shields) and it became clear that an innocent individual had been lifted off the street at the behest of some illiberal busy body who thinks the man with a camera is obviously a dangerous paedophile.

“I’m sorry sir, this is obviously a terrible misunderstanding, but I suppose you realise that we get more and more of these calls every week these days. I was looking at a bloke’s camera recently, and I can tell you the pictures weren’t the sort that you have taken”

“What I cannot understand is, you said someone in The Sundial rang 999 and reported me, I haven’t been anywhere near The Sundial, I haven’t been anywhere near the park, you said I was tracked by the CCTV cameras, so you should have known that I’d been in the fairground!”

“So sorry sir, we have to follow these calls, and may I thank you for being so co-operative. Have a good day sir”

Have good day sir, hmph! Well to be fair he was extremely courteous and easy to deal with, but it has left a bad taste in the mouth I can tell you. Any idea how many people I saw taking pictures in the fairground with their nice shiny digital cameras today? Any idea how many Motorola V8 type camera phones I’ve seen pointed at smiling faces in the fairground today?

Yes – many!

Thing is, if you are wearing a shell suit, baseball cap, and rockies, you don’t look the least suspicious in this day and age, but if you have a digital SLR with a large zoom lens you really have it for a nasty purpose in mind! Yes, we are becoming a nation of suspects, we are also becoming a nation of ninnies and nincompoops wrapped in the cotton wool of the nanny state, too bothered with our own little suspicions and personal foibles to be able to talk to the bloke with the camera, why worry they’ll see him on the CCTV cameras surely?

I write now, with the person who dialled 999 in mind. (If he/she ever gets round to reading this.)
Do you know, if you had came up to me and asked “what the hell I was doing?” You might have found out that, on the whole I’m a pretty straight kinda guy (as some former Prime Minister professed) , you might have discovered that I am actually personable (when I’m not ranting), you might have found out about some interesting websites that portray South Shields to the world, you might have found out that I’m a family guy too with a wife and two lovely children, you might have had a rewarding experience.

You know, it’s what we used to call “being neighbourly.”

Instead you have demonstrated a typical and ignorant knee jerk reaction, taken not a blind bit of notice of all the other cameras being used around you, without realising that under British law there is virtually no such thing as privacy in a public place, and wasted a considerable amount of police time and mine into the bargain. Have a nice day!

Right that’s got that off of my chest!

If you would like to see more of the pictures that I took this afternoon check back with this blog tomorrow, or South Shields Daily Photo any time after midnight.

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Written by curly

March 24, 2008 at 7:43 pm