Wednesday, 17 November 2010

I am spartacus

Very quick post; two things of note happening online at the moment. The first thing is the ruling that the following text:
"Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!"
sent via twitter constitutes a menacing and dangerous message to send (Paul Chambers lost his appeal), here's Index on Censorship's post on it and my thoughts at the start of all this. This lead to a lot of people retweeting Paul's original message with the tag "#IamSpartacus' in a show of solidarity and to point out the stupidity of the ruling (BBC coverage here). In essence this ruling could be interpreted as the outlawing of humour in public forums, well certainly the sort of humour that some could misinterpret. In fact there was a second case of this on the same day when Councillor Gareth Compton was arrested under section 128 of the 2003 communications act (I think) for making an ill conceived attempt at humour when asking:
"Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really"
to put this in context Yasmin Alibhai-Brown had just just complained that politicians (other than the likes of Nelson Mandela) weren't morally allowed to comment on human rights issues. While neither of these jokes are very good it's pretty obvious that they're not serious incitements or threats so quite why they're treated (and apparently tried) as such is beyond me (and worrying me).

Second item is shorter (for my part at least) the Met Police apparently have the "authority" to take down websites, without a court order, or any judgement, if they are found in "contempt of court" (well if they Met think they're in contempt of court at least). Here's there second Spartacus moment: Fitwatch is removed at the request of the Met, so they get reposted everywhere what were they posting? how not to pulled up by the police if you've been in a demo. There's a very good analysis of why this whole story is wrong at Heresy Corner and here's the offending blog post from FitWatch (I don't condone violence etc but posting this is not illegal):
"If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

DON'T panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn't mean they know who you are.

DON'T hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to 'come forward'. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.

DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.

DON'T assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. "That isn't me" has got many a person off before now.

DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their 'wanted' list. Keep a low profile.

DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn't a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.

DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts / photos on your phone. Don't make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.

DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.

DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage / disorder ONLY to people you really trust.

DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal. Otherwise you'll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested."