Category Archives: police

Land of the sheep, tormenter of the brave

Private Bradley Manning, the whistleblower who is being held in cruel conditions barely distinguishable from torture for allegedly releasing classified US documents such as the Collateral Murder video, has now been charged with 26 counts, including one punishable by execution.

And yet his fellow countrymen, for whom he released the material – so that they would know what is being done in their name – are not rising up in anger about his treatment. Far from declaring him a national hero and a brave fighter against the abuse of government power, they are contentedly sitting by while their government uses its immense power to crush him in a solitary prison cell. Even those who claim opposition to government tyranny as their most important principle, seem to have little problem with how this man is being treated – being treated, mind you, before even being tried.

Apparently Americans would rather not know in future what is going on. They’d rather whistleblowers were bullied in to keeping their bloody mouths shut, so the rest of the country could continue not to care what goes on around them.

The price of liberty is eternal what? Quiet, we’re watching TV to check that our politicians are wearing flag pins.

UPDATE: And now Manning’s being stripped every night because he made a sarcastic remark. They’ve decided he’s a risk of suicide – but they haven’t placed him on “Suicide Risk Watch”, probably because that would require an actual assessment by a mental health professional.

It’s punishment before trial, clear as day.

Now you see them, now you don’t

Peter Ryan, Deputy Premier of Victoria and Minister Police and Emergency Services, reveals his government’s priority on matters of road safety:

Cameras save lives. The Coalition Government is going to do all it can to instil (sic) that belief in the minds of Victorian motorists.

I’d have thought they might concentrate on a message to positively effect driver behaviour on the road, like “speed kills” or “concentrate while driving” or something like that, but advocating for voters to think more kindly of cameras is, you know, interesting too.

So unappreciated.

Meanwhile, there appears to be some confusion over what precisely Ryan is going to do about revealing the location of hidden cameras. The Herald Sun seems to think it’s going to be allowed to reveal all of them:

One measure of openness Mr Ryan is introducing today is to honour an election campaign pledge to allow the Herald Sun to reveal the location of previously secret mobile speed camera sites.

This welcome transparency about the siting of speed cameras will help ensure they are not placed in inappropriate areas. And if any motorist thinks any of the sites is inappropriate, they can take their concerns to the independent traffic camera commissioner.

Whereas Ryan seems to be saying that he sees a role for hidden cameras, too:

In the case of the detection of speeding motorists, police presence needs to be combined with a degree of covert police activity so that those who persistently flout the law are rightly caught.

So… that would be a no then? Even though the Herald Sun is convinced it’s a yes?

Look, are there going to be hidden cameras or not? If so, then how will motorists be able to object to “inappropriately” placed ones? If not, then how will police stop motorists “who persistently flout the law” in any area they know has no cameras?

Something there just doesn’t add up.

Pakistan, 2011, seriously

Confessed murderer given a garland of roses by barristers, and a platform to incite the mob by police – the “law” apparently being represented in Islamabad by people so filled with religious extremism that they think homicide is something to celebrate.

If Pakistan doesn’t want to be regarded as a miserable, dangerous backwater filled with nutcases, the sane parts of the country had better stage a counter-protest damned quickly:

More than 20,000 people rallied in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi on Sunday, police said, to protest against proposed amendments to blasphemy laws…

The blasphemy law allows the death penalty for defamation of the Prophet Mohammed and was used recently to sentence a Christian woman to death.

Banners at the event included some supporting Mr Taseer’s presumed killer, police commando Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who has been praised by religious conservatives for shooting his boss outside an Islamabad coffee shop.

“Mumtaz Qadri is not a murderer, he is a hero,” said one banner in the national Urdu language.

What goes on in a person’s head that they could think someone should be executed for blasphemy? And there were 20,000 such people at that rally? What year do these fanatics think it is?

UPDATE: Perhaps it’s fortunate that, if they’re going to sentence someone to death for blasphemy, they’ve picked a victim who’ll inspire sympathy in parts of the rest of the world that wouldn’t have cared otherwise: a young Christian woman. Does anyone seriously think the same pressure would be being brought to bear by the West if she was an atheist?

ELSEWHERE: In the other nutcase-shooting-politician story, Fox News works hard to protect Sarah Palin from any criticism arising from the fact she called for the attacked politician to be “put in the crosshairs” before she was shot.

On Boing Boing – Why the [shootings] Mean That We Must Support My Politics.

ELSEWHERE #2: In moderate religious people standing up against the extremists news – Muslims in Egypt act as a human shield to protect Christians from the bombs of the fanatics.

BACK ON PAKISTAN: They’ve been unable to find a lawyer to prosecute the murder of Taseer. With the police openly supporting the murderer, I’m not surprised few are lining up to be put in the quite literal firing line – but isn’t it the state’s job to prosecute murder? How is “not prosecuting it” even an option? Why don’t they have a state prosecutor whose job it is to enforce the law? What kind of legal tradition do they have in that country, anyway?

Imagine if that were your experience of the police

Be thankful Victoria Police have changed since 1928:

According to Bob Haldane’s seminal text on the Victoria Police, The People’s Force, ”[Chief Commissioner Tom] Blamey was quick to side with capital against labour and quick to crush public protest. He issued a direction that any unemployed people marching through Melbourne and causing a breach of the peace were to be ‘hit over the head’.

It’s just a shame it’s taken eighty years for some of the more outrageous and disturbing consequences – like unionists shot at close range from behind – to be held up to the light.

Relief, and anger: it should never have gotten this far

As you’ve probably heard, there was a glorious victory for common sense in today’s – “today” in the sense of when it was given, but obviously not “today” in the sense of the law under which the case was prosecuted – abortion trial verdict:

A Cairns District Court jury took less than an hour to find Tegan Simone Leach, 21, and her partner Sergie Brennan not guilty of charges of procuring an abortion and supplying drugs to procure an abortion following a three-day trial.

We don’t have many of the formal human rights protections that people in other modern countries enjoy, so it’s a wonderful thing that juries are able to step in and save defendants from massively unjust results when the rest of the system fails.

Not that everyone agrees with that aspect of their role:

the Crown prosecutor sternly reminding the jury “you are not sitting in a court of morals”.

Prosecutor Michael Byrne, SC, told the jury he would be foolish to think the jurors did not hold personal views about abortion, but their job was to uphold the law and if they disagreed with it they should “make their views known at the ballot box”.

Yeah, ‘cos there’s been a recent referendum on abortion (and if there wasn’t, Ms Leach should’ve started a campaign for one before she dared make her decision), and because if the majority decided so, there’d be no problem with the state taking over a woman’s body.

Let’s all be thankful they rejected that submission. I wonder if even Mr Byrne is really all that regretful that they did, although his use of the term “lifestyle choice” makes me suspect, sadly, that perhaps he would.

If they’d returned a verdict of “guilty”, I wonder if Judge Everson would’ve had the power in Queensland to simply find the charges proven – and then dismiss them. If not, if that discretion does not exist in that jurisdiction, then that’s another reason to be thankful for juries.

But that’s not the only emotion many Australians, particularly women, will be feeling now – the other is anger. Anger that this young woman and her partner were put through these two years of hell in the first place. Anger that the law is still on the books; anger that the police investigated it and the prosecutors chose to pursue it; anger that the matter could not be struck out earlier. Let’s hope the law is changed urgently, and that in the meantime Queensland police and prosecutors recognise the futility of putting these charges before the courts. This must not happen again.

Relief and anger. Let’s make sure they don’t dissipate before they achieve a lasting change to this destructive Queensland law.

UPDATE: Check out the “lock this young woman up” side trying to pretend that they’re trying to protect women!

Keeping abortion in the criminal code she says, “Provides a thin veneer of protection for women who are being pressured into abortion and that would be gone if the pro-abortion lobby got their way.”

The only way to keep them safe is to put them on trial and send them to prison. Of course.

UPDATE #2: And John Birmingham eviscerates the Bligh government for its cowardice in the matter.

Some legal developments

See, after that heading, I could write anything I like under here and it wouldn’t matter, because everyone’s already clicked to the next post in their RSS reader. Well, screw those people. They’re missing out on some pretty darn interesting and important revelations, and what will undoubtedly be one of the most amusing, thrilling and also informative comment threads this site has ever seen.

Three things.

  • Another note about VLA’s new flawed “whole of job” proposal: the threshold below which a contested matter will not be aidable will be raised from a $750 fine to a 200 hour CBO. If you’re innocent but have been charged with a fairly serious matter at about the 150 hour CBO level, and you can’t afford a lawyer? Stiff, Legal Aid can’t help you. The point is to save $475,000, but the effect will be to increase the number of unrepresented cases being run to hearing, chewing up court time and resources (unrepresented litigants take more time because they don’t know what they’re doing), increase the number of appeals being run, and basically just condemn more people, poorer people, to a very one-sided hearing before the courts. Next time you see $475k being wasted by the State Government, remember that they could’ve spent that cash not throwing people to the wolves.

  • Crikey reports on the devastating situation in NSW (and it’s not much different here) with respect to the way the prison system simply does not know how to cope properly with mentally-ill people:

    Nearly half of all inmates in New South Wales have a mental illness, but there is a desperate shortage of beds in prison mental health units and decisions about their care are left in the hands of prison guards with little or no training in mental health.

    The result, according to a former senior assistant commissioner for Corrective Services NSW, is a punitive prison system and a growing population of unreformable criminals.

    Even those found not guilty of offences by reason of mental illness find themselves being put into the care of the prisons rather than receiving appropriate treatment.

  • Victoria’s looking at expanding the DNA database by taking samples from anyone found guilty of an indictable offence. What’s the problem? Well, there’s already a list of offences for which that power exists, covering all the relevant ones, so the question is – why are we adding to it? Which offences that the parliament originally felt could not be justified adding to the list are now being snuck in – and at a time when forensic services are already overstretched?

See? Devastatingly interesting. Those people who nicked off at the heading don’t know what they’re missing.

Scott Rush’s blood is partly on our hands

I agree with Terry Wright that this is appalling:

Indonesian prosecutors in the Scott Rush case have finally gone too far. Their fanatical insistence on sending Scott Rush to his death, is so inhumane, so completely unreasonable and so cruel that I am almost lost for words.

There’s very little that we as Australian citizens can do about Indonesia’s barbarous approach to criminal justice – the death penalty is bad enough, but applying it to non-violent crimes is obscene, let alone to offenders at the very bottom of the ladder – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make noise. And in this case there’s a very clear point to be made, locally, because it was our police, the police representing us, the Australian community, who handed Mr Rush over to the Indonesians to be subject to this perversion of justice.

And there is something we can usefully agitate for (or, more precisely, against) there. The Commonwealth Government should make it clear to Indonesia that it will not co-operate with them (or any nation with a similar approach) on drug-related matters while they apply the death penalty. Full stop. I don’t think we should co-operate with them while they impose extreme terms of imprisonment, either – that 20 years for Corby for cannabis importation is ridiculous – but at the very least, the death penalty is something that is opposed by all (or almost all) our representatives in parliament. Its agents, the AFP, should not be involved with something so contrary to our democratically-expressed values.

And it is worth making noise about this. If we don’t, we’re complicit when the next AFP investigation hands some poor stupid young Australian over for this brutality. We might not be able to save Scott Rush, but we can certainly demand assurances that we won’t be party to such a travesty again.