Royal photographs!

Kate Middleton & Prince William in NYC. Symbols of a divided Britain

Symbols of a divided Britain

In every newspaper a positive story about Kate Middleton and Prince William’s trip to New York City. Why is this? Because the photographs are critical to maintaining readership numbers (if your paper doesn’t have them people will buy a different paper) and you can only have the rights to the photographs if you publish a positive story about the visit? If so, that would draw a parallel between the media’s relationship with the royal family and the way the United Kingdom and United States governments control the media’s reporting of their wars. Carne Ross, Foreign Office diplomat at the time of the 2003 Iraq War: “We would control access to the foreign secretary as a form of reward to journalists. If they were critical, we would not give them the goodies of trips around the world. We would feed them factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we’d freeze them out.

The Westminster Paedophile ring: Now a murder inquiry

Originally posted on David Hencke:

Over the weekend the inquiry into a Westminster paedophile ring took a dramatic turn with Met Police officially saying it had seconded  murder detectives to the investigation.

On Sunday thePeople newspaper and Exaro News disclosed the inquiry was related to the horrific revelations at Dolphin Square and  based on revelations from a  survivor called Nick (not his real name). It involved three murders including one boy being run over, another being strangled at a party where sadistic child sexual abuse seemed to be the norm. It also suggests that other premises in Central London were used as venues.

Some of the more sceptical MPs and commentators, some of whom are also incidentally  are opposed to an overarching child sexual abuse inquiry, have  expressed near disbelief that this could have happened anywhere near Westminster in the 1980s.

To those doubters I would say this has been a meticulous detailed investigation – by…

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Conspiracy or cock-up?

Leon Brittan by Nick SinclairWise people have told me in the past that contentious situations are more likely to be cock-up than conspiracy. I think they’re probably right, so I try not to join dots that aren’t necessarily there. But it’s difficult with the Government’s Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry. First the Home Office appoint Lady Butler-Sloss to lead the inquiry. Within a few days, diligent members of the public, press and parliament spot that her brother acted improperly as Attorney General over the Kincora Child Abuse Inquiry. After a build up of pressure Butler-Sloss finally quits as inquiry lead. Information and allegations emerge afterwards that suggest her brother may have actually committed abuse along with fellow members of the political elite. Lady Butler-Sloss may well end up feeling a sense of relief that she was forced to stand down. So the Home Office appoint Fiona Woolf as inquiry lead. Within a few days diligent members of the public, press and parliament spot that she has connections to Sir Leon Brittan who is pivotal to the allegations which have spurred the inquiry. A build up of pressure from these diligent individuals leads to Woolf being asked to clarify her connections with Lord Brittan before a select committee. She redrafts her written statement 7 times with the help of the Home Office to the shock of those dilegent members of the public, press and parliament. Meanwhile, those who were thinking Leon Brittan’s involvement was simply to make Geoffrey Dicken’s dossiers disappear are given a wake up call by Jim Hood MP who says in parliament that “The rumours that Sir Leon Brittan was involved with misconduct with children does not come as news to miners who were striking in 1984… miners were saying in the dock in magistrates’ courts throughout the strike that they objected to instructions coming from the home secretary when there were reports about child abuse being linked with that same home secretary.”

So, conspiracy or cock-up? Either way, I hope the Government has got the message that the public are paying close attention and neither will be tolerated.

The policing of sex work in West Yorkshire: An interview with Rosie Campbell OBE

Genesis logoThe following interview is with Rosie Campbell OBE who took up the Chief Executive Officer post at Leeds-based support agency Genesis in September 2013. Rosie has been heavily involved in researching, service development and sex work policy in the UK since 1995 and was one of the driving forces behind the ‘Merseyside Model’ which helped Merseyside Police achieve a 67% conviction rate for crimes of rape against sex workers compared to a national average conviction rate for rape of just 6.5% (2010 data).

Following academic work in Merseyside in the late 1990’s which drew on many different experiences connected to sex work to show that a one-dimensional policy approach would not work, Rosie went on to be involved in setting up the Linx Project and then to be coordinator at Armistead Street and Portside outreach and sex worker NHS support projects in Liverpool. Alongside that she was one of the founder members of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects in 1992 which she chaired for eight years. Rosie currently chairs the national advisory group for Ugly Mugs and is a director for Ugly Mugs in a voluntary capacity.

Genesis was set up 24 years ago and is the longest running support agency for sex workers in Leeds. Genesis offers street outreach services two nights a week in Leeds and outreach to indoor sex workers across the city, making contact with sex workers, offering health promotion and harm reduction interventions, and personal safety information, much of which has been developed in partnership with sex workers and expert organisations such as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Genesis also offers advice on a wide range of issues including sexual health, law on sex work, drug and alcohol issues, and housing and benefits which has been in particular demand following recent government policy changes. Genesis offers one to one support to sex workers in all sectors and can refer women and support them to access a wide range of agencies. Genesis works closely with West Yorkshire Police as part of the Genesis Leeds Ugly Mugs Scheme which helps to address crimes against sex workers.

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Q: What is your view of West Yorkshire Police’s strategy around sex work?

In general terms we can describe a policing approach towards prostitution as being on a sliding scale from enforcement-based at one end and protection-based at the other. Since joining Genesis in Leeds it became clear that the policing approach had for some years been predominantly enforcement-based, which meant the use of soliciting legislation and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders for street sex work. The use of ASBOs for street sex workers is something I’ve never supported because it is not in my view proportional. It doesn’t fit with the removal in the 1980’s of imprisonment as a penalty for soliciting – this was a critical step in acknowledging that this is a welfare issue and not one of criminal offending.

Enforcement-based approaches always make it more difficult to offer health and support services because, understandably, sex workers are more suspicious of anyone who they see as being from the authorities when an enforcement-based approach is being taken. Even if they do trust support projects they will be more wary of being identified and will want to move on from the area as soon as they see any police officers because they are fearful of arrest or other sanctions. This is a very difficult climate to deliver services in. There was a lot of shock at the Met’s raids on brothels last year. This kind of police tactic pushes sex workers into more danger.

It’s important to say that there will be marked differences in approach even between the towns and cities within a single police force’s area so I am only commenting on Leeds.

Q: Are there signs that West Yorkshire Police’s approach might be changing?

What is very encouraging is that with the new prostitution strategy in Leeds there is a move away from enforcement to a more proportionate response as recommended by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and there is a determination to improve the policing of crimes committed against sex workers and a real desire to build trust with sex workers.

A new strategic partnership framework on prostitution in Leeds which includes West Yorkshire Police, local authority and third sector agencies was agreed in April 2014. This was informed by consultation with a range of partners over many months and drafted following a scoping exercise led by Dr Kate Brown from York University which drew together existing data on sex work in Leeds, including the numbers of sex workers, the socio-demographic profile of sex workers in Leeds, what the main services were for them, criminal justice data and Ugly Mugs data. It established that the police approach was predominantly enforcement-based which is out of step with the national guidance that urges a staged approach with enforcement being reserved as the last recourse.

What I found when I arrived in Leeds was that the level of women reporting into our Ugly Mugs scheme wanting to make formal reports of crimes to the police was extremely low. That’s no surprise when there had been an enforcement-based approach for some years, it is difficult to build trust and enable reporting in such a context. When I first came to Leeds it reminded me of the culture in Liverpool in the late 1990’s. There was a very untrusting relationship between sex workers and the police. Sex workers thought they wouldn’t be believed when reporting a crime against them and may even be prosecuted themselves.

Fortunately, police officers taking a leading role in implementing the prostitution strategy have supported a more balanced approach in recent times and have been very committed to improving the policing of crimes committed against sex workers. The new strategy clearly states that crimes against sex workers will not be tolerated.

It is very challenging for police forces who are all working within a problematic legal framework. But despite this some are moving in the right direction and making real efforts to address crimes against sex workers, for example, Merseyside, Manchester and Lancashire.

Q: Are changes planned for how offender data is managed by West Yorkshire Police?

We re-launched Ugly Mugs across West Yorkshire in August this year. We know in the past that the information gathered has not always been recorded properly or has not always been processed effectively by West Yorkshire Police. WYP have reviewed and enhanced their intelligence pathways in response to this. Crimes against sex workers will have an Ugly Mugs flag added and West Yorkshire Police will actively interface with National Ugly Mugs to ensure intelligence is shared nationally to ensure mobile offenders are better managed and that mobile sex workers are better protected.

Q: It sounds like West Yorkshire Police are shifting in the right direction at a senior level, but it still seems down to individual officers as to whether victims get a good service or not as the BLAST interview showed?

In my view Leeds is in a period of change and there are some positive developments, but it’s still in the early stages of change. In my experience the changes in attitude towards sex workers and crimes against sex workers can take a long time. There was a long transition period in Merseyside for example, change did not happen overnight – it took over a decade. So we need to have some patience, but I’m certainly not trying to justify unacceptable policing or any poor conduct. When we think about the history of murders of sex workers in areas of West Yorkshire such as Bradford, and with Peter Sutcliffe’s crimes still casting a tragic shadow, I would have hoped to have seen the safety of sex workers as an absolute priority for many years.

Earlier in the year we delivered training to 200 police officers about the diversity among sex workers and their differing needs and experiences. It was clear from those sessions that officers had quite differing views about sex workers.

Q: Are you aware of any cases being referred to West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Division?

I’m not personally aware of any since I joined Genesis. It is vital that every police force has routes to not only deal with unprofessional behaviour but also incivility. We have had a sex worker raise an issue of inappropriate language with us and we have taken that to the police. I’m confident that the managers of those officers have thoroughly investigated and dealt with the problem. I want to encourage sex workers to raise those issues with Genesis should they occur – I will deal with them head on as I have done in the past in Merseyside. But we need to do a lot more to build relationships with more sex workers, let them know their rights and encourage them to report any problems they encounter.

Q: When I first spoke to West Yorkshire Police about the Merseyside Model they didn’t know what it was – now in a recent letter from Mark Burns-Williamson (West Yorkshire’s Police & Crime Commissioner) the police force seems to be suggesting it has adopted the model in all but name?

Any force cannot say they have adopted the Merseyside Model until they take a primarily protection-based approach, treat crimes against sex workers as hate crimes and utilise specialist Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and sex work liaison police officers to increase the reporting and conviction rates. Some forces may have adopted elements of this approach. Merseyside Police Force is still the only force to have adopted the hate crime policy itself. The Police & Crime Commissioner’s letter perhaps indicates there isn’t yet a full understanding of the Merseyside Model within West Yorkshire Police. He rightly points to specialist services, including the STAR project who we have referred sex worker victims to and who have provided quality support. But from the available evidence, having a dedicated Independent Sexual Violence Advisor for sex workers in place would – as clearly demonstrated in Merseyside – have increased the reporting of crimes by sex workers, improved victim support for sex workers and kept sex workers better engaged in the criminal justice system from report to court. I have met with people from the PCC’s office before and talked about Genesis’ work in Leeds but I haven’t had the chance to talk in detail about the different elements of the Merseyside Model. I think there is work to do to more clearly communicate the elements that make up the approach and explain the benefits that come from adopting it.

The hate crime policy which is part of the Merseyside Model is critical, but on its own it won’t get the results. You also need sex work liaison police officers which originally saw success in Edinburgh in the 1990’s and later in Manchester and Merseyside, and for a move away from an enforcement response. As of May this year we have a prostitution liaison officer in Leeds to offer a first point of contact with sex workers and to build trust. The officer who has taken on this role is specially trained to deal with rape and sexual assault victims. She specifically has a non-enforcement role. She works to get to know people on the streets and we are also promoting her role to indoor sex workers. She’ll be the first point of contact for projects like Genesis and BLAST. We can offer her support to victims of harassment, rape and sexual assault and other crimes, whether to just talk, or to make a formal report if they wish.

It’s about giving sex workers rights in the same way other groups do. And this would mean that managing crimes against them is done in a slightly enhanced way and that there is enhanced support for the victims.

Q: Is it more helpful to use the term ‘sex worker’ or the term ‘prostitute’?

I use the term sex worker. ‘Work’ is an activity to generate income – it takes place under a range of conditions from free labour to forced labour so I don’t see the phrase as being loaded or excluding any particular experience or circumstances. Some people use the word prostitute in a non-loaded, non-stigmatising way, but some people use it in a very stigmatising way. They spit out the word, or variations of the word. The word prostitution has neutrality, but prostitute doesn’t. It’s obviously up to individuals who work in the sex industry to choose the term they want for themselves, e.g. sex worker, escort, prostitute, but policy-makers need to be mindful of how their language is interpreted and use appropriate and responsible language. For me it is critical I don’t use language that would further stigmatise a person.

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Footnote

Rosie’s PhD research has examined the Merseyside Police’s approach to treating crimes against sex workers as hate crimes. She argues that the experience of sex workers fit several key established definitions of hate crime, they are victims of targeted violence and abuse generated by prejudice and that a hate crime approach can lead to practical improvements in responses to crimes against sex workers and recognises the rights of sex workers protection and justice. Her work has been recently published in the chapter ‘Not Getting Away With It: Linking Sex Work and Hate Crime in Merseyside’ in Chakroborti, N and Garland, J (eds), ‘Responding to Hate Crime: The Case for Connecting Policy and Research’, The Policy Press, Bristol.

Senior Labour politician accused of covering up Sir Peter Morrison child rape allegations

Originally posted on spotlight:

Peter McKelvie has given me permission to publish a letter he sent to a senior Labour politician on 3rd August. No reply has been received as of today (8th August). The politician’s name has been redacted for the time being.

Dear (name redacted)

I am a retired Child Protection professional and the person who contacted Tom Watson, MP, in September 2012, as a result of which he asked a PMQ on 24th October 2012 regarding a paedophile ring with links to No.10, a question which led to the Metropolitan Police setting up Operation Fairbank/Fernbridge, which I ‘m sure you will be aware is both ongoing and rapidly expanding following significant witnesses at long last coming forward to tell the truth about the alleged appalling collusion of senior politicians of all the main political parties in the alleged abuse carried out by their colleagues.

I was sickened to the stomache when…

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Liz Davies’ Open Letter to Margaret Hodge

Originally posted on Desiring Progress:

Last Friday (August 1st, 2014), Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, issued a statement on the poor treatment of whistleblowers, and how they are often victimised by managers (see Rayeev Syal, ‘Public service whistleblowers ‘treated shockingly’, report finds’, The Guardian, August 1st, 2014). Hodge was earlier Leader of Islington Council from 1982 to 1992, during which time the council was beset by a terrible child abuse scandal affecting most of the children’s homes in the borough. Liz Davies was a social worker for Islington Council who acted as the principal whistleblower about this scandal; she is now Reader in Social Work at London Metropolitan University. Below I reproduce, with permission from Dr Davies, an open letter from her to Margaret Hodge in response to Hodge’s recent comments.

See also Liz Davies’ website, in particular this page featuring videos of various…

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SECOND ANNIVERSARY STATEMENT FROM MEGAN, MICHAEL & GREG

jc:

“Our ‘crime’ was to draw attention to the criminality of the 70-year-old nuclear industry itself and to the unconscionable fact that the United States spends more on nuclear weapons than on education, health, transportation, and disaster relief combined.”

Originally posted on Transform Now Plowshares:

OPEN LETTER FROM THE BROOKLYN METROPOLITAN DETENTION CENTER

from Sr. Megan Rice, on behalf of the Transform Now Plowshares

July 28, 2014

Our Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We send warm greetings and many thanks to all who actively engage in the transformation of weapons of mass destruction to sustainable life-giving alternatives. Gregory Boertje-Obed (U.S. Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas) Michael Walli (Federal Correctional Institution McKean, Bradford, Pennsylvania) and I are sending you some of our observations and concerns on the 2nd anniversary of our Transform Now Plowshares action.

On July 28, 2012, after thorough study of nuclear issues, and because of our deepening commitment to nonviolence, we engaged in direct action by cutting through four fences at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the U.S. continues to overhaul and upgrade thermonuclear warheads.

On that day, two years ago, when we reached the building where all U.S. highly-enriched (bomb-grade)…

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