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WAKE UP! WAKE UP! IT'S YER OLD BILL...

SchNEWS

Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective

Issue 107, Friday 14th February 1997

Valentine Issue! Radio Aktive Bold: 106.6 FM from 2pm Valentine's Day, and all weekend

As new police powers see even Lords and Bishops complaining of a "police state", SchNEWS asks:

WHATíS ALL THIS THEN?

"Imagine living in a country where the police can legally break into your home, rummage through your most personal belongings, and plant a bugging device ... to monitor every word you say."
- The Big Issue

The police's search for ever more control over everyone's lives has reached such proportions with the new Police Bill that even the House of Lords has been up in arms against some of its nastier sections. If you thought it was bad enough being videoed for going on a demo or getting your name on some file for trying to save the planet - you ain't seen nothing yet. The police now want powers that your average third world dictator of old would have given his right arm for. New technology and the police's never-ending quest for complete control of everything has resulted in Howard's latest horror - a Police Bill that will give them powers to legally break into your home and plant bugging devices and videos anywhere in your house so they can keep an eye and ear on everything you do.

This week the Police Bill got its second reading in parliament. Not since the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, has a piece of legislation inspired such fervent opposition - but unlike the huge street demonstrations and direct actions involved in the campaign against the CJA, this time it's lawyers, lords and the media that are up in arms. The proposed new police powers go so far that elder statesmen who still believe that the police should have at least some restraint on their powers are up against a Tory/Labour conspiracy to give the police powers going well beyond what police forces in Europe or the States would dream of asking for. Here's what's coming your way soon:

  • Chief Constables will be able to issue warrants allowing police officers to "interfere with property" and plant bugs in your home.
  • They will be able to issue a warrant when they think it will be likely to be of žsubstantial value in the prevention or detection of serious crime..
  • Serious crime is handily defined as offences including those involving "conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose" - that's YOU if you're trying to organise a march or demo or are thinking of getting involved in any activity they don't like, and in the case of your fun-loving totally disclaimer'd SchNEWS, it's US!
  • There will be no exemptions to protect the long upheld right of lawyer-client confidentiality - making it easier for the cops to fit people up in court - or for journalists investigating, for instance, police corruption.
  • A National Crime Squad will be set up covering Customs Officers and the National Criminal Intelligence Service whose functions are described as to "gather store and analyse information..."
  • A Criminal Records Agency will carry out vetting checks on 8 million job applicants a year.

Anyone who might provide information 'significant' to a criminal investigation could find their home or business under surveillance. The Bill is alarmingly unspecific, with legal advisers, investigative journalists, medical professionals and peaceful protesters amongst those who could be targeted.

The Bill is reputed to be aimed at rapists and drug dealers, but quite how the legislation will help catch the former is not made clear (always good for getting tabloid support for draconian laws though) and there are surely other ways of dealing with the latter without such jackboot powers. Peter Noorlander, spokesperson for lawyer's association Justice (without the ?) has said "Bugging would be justifiable to combat serious crime like terrorism but this Bill describes the term so broadly that it could affect almost anyone". Legal Action for Women argue that the "Bill continues the trend of invoking the pain of victims to drastically undermine everyone's civil rights."

Michael Howard and his Labour lookalike Jack Straw are both agreed on the need for these new powers - whoever is running the country after the election wants all the powers they can to stop effective protests against their rule. Jack Straw has even justified Labour's support for the Bill by saying it will "put current police activity on a legal basis" - admitting, in other words, that the police have been breaking the law for years so we ought to change the law to make their criminal activities legal! Not exactly the attitude they take to the rest of us...

A lot of hot air has been spouted about whether a commissioner (a senior judge) should have to give the police the go ahead before they are allowed to raid our homes instead of just allowing the police to go ahead on their own. Given that these commissioners will be picked by the same people that are introducing this law, and that they're probably members of the same golfing clubs as the Chief Constables anyway, it's not exactly a big victory that they will in some circumstances have to be told about the police actions beforehand. Once a commissioner has decided it's OK for the cops to bug you there is no appeal and you won't know it's happening anyway.

In some ways it's a bit of a compliment to the direct action movement and others that the police want these powers to stop protest - and make no mistake that that's largely what it's all about. According to Lord Hutchinson, "The protesters involved in the miners' strike, the protesters against the poll tax and those at Greenham Common and Newbury would all be criminals [under this law]". Stopping any effective opposition to an increasingly repressive state machine is what this Bill's all about. Of course, they won't succeed.

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Next Justice? Meeting

Tuesday 18th February, 7:30 p.m. - Solicitor Mike Schwarz on the implications of the Police Bill at the Albert Pub, Trafalgar Street, Brighton

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Crap Arrest of the Week

For living at home. Police approached two Christchurch men coming out of a pub, and asked them where they lived. When one replied "at home" he was arrested and held over night in the cells!

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(Anti-) Party Time!

The Liverpool dockers, still on strike against their scumbag bosses and getting precious little support from the official labour movement, have called for everyone involved in different actions across the country to get together in London on Saturday 12th April for a full-on demo in support of social justice. Plans are still being worked out, but since the day is likely to be a couple of weeks before the general election (or just after the new government gets in) it should be a good opportunity to show the politicians what we think of their rather amusing suggestion that we actually vote for them. The usual road-stopping-party-pooping dodgy geezers and social outcasts are expected to turn up for a very lively and fun- filled time - could be the social event of '97!

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Itís good to walk...

The mobile telephone is the most widespread tracking device ever to be introduced. Police can pinpoint the whereabouts of a mobile carrier to the accuracy of a few hundred feet (or better) anywhere in the world, whether or not you are using the phone for a call. And on many phones, conversations are easily picked up too, with a "scanner" anyone can buy. More sophisticated systems can pick up numbers dialled during your call, such as PIN numbers. Mobile phones are known to have mysteriously disconnected while organising free parties.

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Persecuted Masons cry foul!

SchNEWS extends a big dodgy handshake in support of the Association of Chief Police Officers and their claim that introducing a register of trouser-leg lifting cops would infringe on civil liberties. Martin Short, author of the acclaimed book Inside the Brotherhood, has claimed that 20% of police are Masons and that membership in certain sectors of the force is "substantially higher". Of course it's perfectly reasonable that the police should expect the highest levels of secrecy and integrity. It's also obvious that the Masons would find the compilation of such a register as being quite a pointless ritual, when others such as sacrificing goats and drinking their blood is far more fun.

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Alarming Email of the Week...

(This news just in...)

Highway Agency officials have warned road protestors that if they dig any more tunnels to prolong evictions they will be faced with a weapon too horrible to contemplate - an inflatable Michael Howard. "The further they go downwards, the higher we will go upwards", said one official, who declined to comment on a rumour that the Agency also had a 500 foot high Michael Portillo ready to be deployed if the situation became more serious. Labour front-bench spokesman Gordon Brown called the Government tactic "too little, too late", adding that if his party were to be elected, their first act in power would be to commission an inflatable Cherie Blair the size of Africa. Yuk.

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Inside SchNEWS

John Perotti was originally sent to jail for petty crimes. Twenty years later he is still there. Why? Because he has been "fighting injustices within the system" for himself and other prisoners, incurring the wrath of the authorities including an extra 10-15 years for a stabbing that took place in the block he was in - despite the prisoner who did it confessing to the crime. Much of his time has been spent in Control Units which are specifically designed to control people through enforced isolation and behavioural control. "Down to the Wire", an account of his time inside, is £3.50 from JPDF, c/o 29 Sterlochy St., Findochty, Buckie, Banffshire, AB56, Scotland. Or write to him at 167712, SOCF, PO Box 45699, Lucasville, Ohio 45699, USA.
  • There's a benefit gig for John on the 21st of this month at the Acton Arms, 296 Kingsland High Rd., Hackney featuring the Living Legends with Ian Bone, Astronauts and Cuckooland.
  • Today Jackie Abbott will deliver a Valentines card to the Home Office, with the words "Have a heart, Mr. Howard" asking for him to look at the situation of Ronnie Easterbrook who has been on hunger-strike at Belmarsh Prison since 1st January, and move him to a special unit for prisoners of retirement age. He is serving four discretionary life sentences following an armed robbery, which he has always maintained was "set up" by the police. He is 65 years old, has only one lung and suffers from claustrophobia and panic attacks. Since he was sentenced in 1987 he has moved between prisons 26 times around the top security dispersal system. Belmarsh Prison, Western Way, Thamesmead, London SE28.
  • "Prisons within Prisons - long-term administrative segregation", an account of the brutalisation of the prison system, available for £1 from Larkin Publications, BCM Box 5909, London WC1N 3XX.

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SchNEWS in Brief

  • The Freedom Network is broke and need donations to help keep their action line open. If you're feeling flushed send donations to POBox 9384, London, SW9 7ZB. For an update of the latest (direct) action dates ring 0171 793 7343
  • We don't believe it! Yes for the second week running SchNEWS can report on... a successful strike! Yay! 100 engineer workers at Glaciers in Glasgow occupied their factory after the announcement of redundancies, pay cuts, and all the usual. 55 days later, the bosses backed down after negioations and everythings more-or-less back to normal..
  • 'Aving it hospital workers in Hamburg have occupied their local hospital in the St. Pauli district on Feb 3rd, after it was threatened with closure by Hamburg Council. Weekly demonstrations of up to 1000 people were started at the end of last year in response to increasing cuts in health services as the council intends to sack 1800 hospital workers to save money. They are planning to stay until the Council gives in, and would appreciate faxes of Solidarity: 0049 40 31102 327
  • The world's first nuclear hostage, Mordechai Vanunu, has been held in solitary confinement in Israel for around fifteen years. President Weizmann of Israel is coming to have tea with the Queen on Tues Feb 25th, at Horseguards Parade. Meet at noon, at Central Hall, Westminster. Go along and curdle the milk. 0171 378 9324.
  • "Frankenstein's Food: Is it Safe?" Public meeting with speakers held by Brighton Green Party. Tues 25th Feb. 7:45 @ St. John's Church Hall, Palmeira Sq. Hove. Free/Donation.

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The + files

(Always look on the bright side of life...)

The Eco-village Network UK is being set up to provide a guide to involvement in sustainable settlement. A dabatbase 'matching service' for people and projects of eco-villages, urban regeneration, co-op housing etc. More info: CREATE, 'B' Bond Warehouse, Smeaton Rd., Bristol, BS1 6XN. Tel: 0117 925 0505, email: CREATE1@Cityscape.co.uk

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and finally

Snoops, spys and other sneaks are coming at us from all angles. Last year, 10,000 vehicles were stopped by police on routine checks. Drivers and passangers however were then handed over to Benefits Agency inspectors who asked whether they were claiming benefits! 'Operation Tinstar' is reputed to have saved £800,000 in one day in November. (Yeah right, next they'll be saying Income Support is enough to live on.) Meanwhile, back in the JobCentres, work in massage parlours, escort agencies and strip clubs have been banned after unemployed people expressed fears they could lose their Jobseekers' Allowance if they turned down such jobs. Some claimants were said to be relieved, but those of you less than impressed should vote in the Erotic Oscars of 1997 Awards. The 10th Anniversary Sex Maniacs Ball is on Thursday 20th March - 0171 460 0044.

Elsewhere in the world of (non)-work, an intinerant called the Darlington Job Centre offering people Workfare positions in a company called Protestor UK. The application mentioned "Hours: flexible", but pay was not discussed. An hour later the centre phoned back and said that unfortunately they couldn't use it. The Oxford Groundswell Group have also placed an ad for job placements for Urban Insurrectionists! (01865 723750).

Meanwhile, in Bristol beggars are now on the move thanks to a new police iniative. Because they are being nicked for sitting and begging, they now walk the streets asking for cash. And in Hastings farsighted magistrates fined a man £120 for begging. Rumour has it the said "criminal" is now begging at night in order to pay for his daytime misdemeanours!

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disclaimer

The SchNEWS advises all readers not to mind being tapped, trapped or taped by the police for acting in a common purpose. Never have any purpose (though being common is optional). Always make your monitored phone calls interesting, (we don't want the cops being bored now do we?) and conduct any important campaign business from inside a Catholic confessional box. Then you will feel secure. Honest.

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disclaimer disclaimer

No, really. Just don't make a nuisance of yourself.

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Smoochy-smoochy snog-snog, from anonymous scribes to secret loves everywhere. Happy Valentine's Day! xx


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Last updated 17 October 1997
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SchNEWS Web Team (schnews-web@brighton.co.uk)