Councillor entitled to free speech

Councillor Louisa Mills complained that articles posted to discredit her links with Llantrisant amounted to 'harassment'
COMPLAINER: Councillor Louisa Mills complained that articles posted to discredit her links with Llantrisant amounted to “harassment”.

The Public Service Ombudsman for Wales has ruled that a councillor who faced a complaint of “harassment” from another councillor he wrote articles about online was entitled to free speech.

Councillor Jonathan Bishop, who is the parish councillor for Cam East, was accused of harassment by Councillor Louisa Mills, who is the community councillor for Llantrisant on Llantrisant Community Council.

Councillor Bishop was accused by Councillor Mills of harassment when he posted articles on the Internet to discredit her links with Llantrisant when both were contesting a by-election to Llantrisant Community Council.

Councillor Mills completed her compulsory education in Carmarthen, but had studied in Llantrisant as part of her primary education. Louisa Mills complained that Councillor Bishop’s attempt to discredit her amounted to harassment.

Councillor Jonathan Bishop would not have breached the Code of Conduct in Wales by posting articles about Councillor Louisa Mills.
FREEDOM TO SPEAK: Councillor Jonathan Bishop would not have breached the Code of Conduct in Wales by posting articles about Councillor Louisa Mills. Courtesy: Jonathan Bishop Limited.

Annie Ginwalla, the Acting Review Manager at the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales, responded to an appeal by Councillor Bishop. “You are correct in your assertion and citation of relevant case law that as an elected member you are entitled to enhanced protection of your Article 10 right to the freedom of expression and in such circumstances your comments would not be considered to be a breach of the Code if you were bound by the Model Code as an elected member here in Wales,” she said in a letter to Councillor Bishop.

Councillor Louisa Mills has been informed of the decision of the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.

Police ‘harassed’ journalist

Award-winning local newspaper journalist Gareth Davies has been served with a “police harassment letter” after investigating a con-woman where he tried to question her at her home address.

Gareth Davies doorstepped Neelam Desai on one occasion and emailed her two other in order to put allegations to her. Even though Davies acted in a polite and courteous manner that did not stop him being harassed by the Metropolitan Police.

Gareth Davies has now placed the “police harassment letter” online for public scrutiny. This document sometimes called a “police information notice” by other forces, has no legal weight and no basis in law. It is not known whether con-woman Neelam Desai has tried to have this taken down to avoid being held to account for her actions, but it is reproduced on this page for reference.

HARASSED: Metropolitan Police harass a journalist for scrutinising a con-woman. Courtesy: Gareth Davies.
HARASSED: Metropolitan Police harass a journalist for scrutinising a con-woman. Courtesy: Gareth Davies.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson attempted to defend the force’s actions. “The letter was issued by one of our local safer neighbourhood team officers in response to a number of reports from the woman who felt she was being harassed,” they said. “The officer did this to ensure the reporter was fully aware the allegations of harassment were being made against him.
The first contact by the police was on 5 March, the most recent was 1 April.

In May 2013 controversial councillor Joan McTigue was targeted by ex-MP candidate Mark Heslehurst who has been described “conman,” who had used the Cleveland Police to persecute McTigue. It is known that other police forces have misused the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to prevent legitimate criticism of public figures of a journalistic and political nature. The extent of the problem is not known, however, meaning there are likely to be other opportunists like Neelam Desai and Mark Heslehurst that misuse the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to escape public scrutiny or silence their critics.

YouTube if you want to – The lady’s not for blogging: Using ‘bleasures’ and ‘motifs’ to support multimedia forensic analyses of harassment by social media

YouTube if you want to – The lady’s not for blogging: Using ‘bleasures’ and ‘motifs’ to support multimedia forensic analyses of harassment by social media

Jonathan Bishop

Abstract

The year 2013 will be known in the Internet trolling community as the one where the dark sides of the phenomena were most present. Public figures like Caroline Criado-Perez were targeted with some of the most abusive comments, including threats of rape, many which might have seemed credible at the time. This presentation looks through some of the posts on Twitter and YouTube to find out why such verminous attacks were made. Though using the French legal concepts of Bleasure and Motif as part of a multimedia forensics approach the talk concludes that the most passionate and vile forms of Internet trolling arise out of a contempt trolls have for bias and hypocrisy. Caroline Criado-Perez was abused because she was a woman calling for more women on banknotes and therefore less men. Had she been a Black person calling for more Black people on banknotes she would have received racist comments and not sexist ones – probably from the same people. By looking at other women, namely Salma Yaqoob, Sally Bercow and Esther McVey, the talk concludes that the best way to not be trolled is to advocate rights for a group one does not belong to. It equally concludes that the concepts of Bleasure and Motif can be helping in providing evidence of trolling and the effect it has on others.

Full Text

References

Jonathan Bishop (2014). YouTube if you want to – The lady’s not for blogging: Using ‘bleasures’ and ‘motifs’ to support multimedia forensic analyses of harassment by social media. Presentation to the Oxford Cyber Harassment Symposium. 27-28 March 2014. St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford University. Available online at: http://resources.crocels.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/youtube-if-you-want-to-the-ladys-not-for-blogging.pdf

Police have ‘lost the plot’

A Tory MP has hit out at Sussex Police following receiving a harassment warning after sending a constituent a letter.

Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, said a constituent of his had been “harassing, bullying, stalking, trolling and abusing” him, yet it was him that had been served with a harassment warning by corrupt coppers at Sussex Police.

Loughton said his constituent “creatively doctored photographs” on his blog – including one depicting the ex-minister “toting a smoking gun in a playground full of screaming, fleeing children.

Jonathan Bishop is an Internet trolling expert. “Sussex Police clearly have their priorities mixed up,” he said. “Last year they did nothing to help  Nicola Brookes who suffered Magnitude 4 trolling and she had to go to court to get an order for her trolls to be unmasked.
“It turns out it was one of their own that had been trolling her – PC Lee Rimmell from Birmingham – but he faced no charges.
The police in this country are a disgrace. We are supposed to have a common law system where crimes with the same facts get the same penalties, but it seems to be the police do as they please and whenever someone complains against them they put defending their own above what it is in the interests of justice.

Police Information Notices, which say to a person that whilst the police are not commenting on the ‘accuracy’ of an allegation made against the person they are serving it on that if they ‘continue’ with what they are being accused of the police will take action. In the last week South Wales Police had egg on their face when a judge at Cardiff Magistrates Court threw out a case where they served a such notice on a politician resulting in the Crown Prosecution Service refusing to submit evidence.

A freedom of information request by Crocels News to the Crown Prosecution Service found that between 2012 and 2013 a total of 79,466 cases were dropped as a result of the CPS discontinuing, withdrawing, or offering no evidence in prosecutions. It is unclear how many of these relate to harassment, but it is clear that the police services forces across the UK have a lot to answer in terms of how they deal with harassment cases.

Petition calls for fair and public hearings

An Internet trolling expert has started a petition calling on the UK Government to make it a right for people accused of harassment to have a fair and public hearing in relation to the claims made against them. The petition also calls for the same right for people who have made complaints of harassment for which a caution or warning wouldn’t be enough for them.

Jonathan Bishop, who has been researching Internet trolling since the start of the 21st century said that the situation with regards to harassment in having a chilling effect on free speech. “Research I am currently preparing based on a document analysis of South Wales Police records shows a chivalry by the police to be protective of women and apply the rules differently to men,” he said. “At the same time evidence shows that those who have been genuinely harassed, like Bridget Agar, a woman also, are not getting the justice they deserve, as the rules are applied differently in different parts of the country.

Bishop’s petition on the UK Government’s website is addressed to the Ministry of Justice. “The UK Government is taking steps to reform ASBOs so that their issue is considered by the civil courts. This may ensure a fair and public hearing for the person they may be issued on and the people who want them issued,” it says. “At present the police are issuing fixed penalties, cautions and harassment warnings for claims that may be tenuous against the recipient and not enough for the complainant, thus denying both their rights to a fair and public hearing under the Human Rights Act 1998. 
We therefore call for the UK Government to review fixed penalties, harassment warnings and other cautions, as they have done with ASBOs, to provide a way for both complainants and recipients to have a fair and public hearing, as is their right under the Human Rights Act 1998. This may include making greater use of the civil courts or similar tribunals.

People wishing to sign the petition should visit: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/52040

Sex shop copper ‘humiliated’ customer

A South Wales Police Officer has come under fire for psychologically traumatising a member of the public following a brawl in a Cardiff massage parlour when a prostitute refused to honour a contract with a customer.

PC Andrew Randell arrived at the Top Class Gentleman’s Retreat massage parlour at 2.30am on New Year’s Day after one of the hookers refused to have sex with paying customer, Rahman Mustafaye, accusing him of harassment.

Rahman Mustafaye called the police for help, yet the court heard how when PC Andrew Randell arrived at Top Class Gentleman’s Retreat,  Mustafaye “tried explaining what had happened but says the police were laughing at him,” said Probation officer Kerry Williams.

Following PC Andrew Randell mocking Rahman Mustafaye, a struggle occurred at Top Class Gentleman’s Retreat massage parlour, resulting in Randall being whacked Mustafaye. The court heard how Randall knocked off Mustafaye’s glasses leaving him disorientated. Kerry Williams said that the actions Rahman Mustafaye, who had no previous convictions, were out of character.

The case is yet another example of police in Wales becoming abusive to members of the public when they are called for help. In December 2012 a man from Carmarthen feared for his life when he was arrested and detained by Dyfed-Powys Police following calling them for help when he was in difficulties due to his mental health. Police charged the man, but the case was later dropped when the man presented evidence recorded on his mobile phone of being harassed by the coppers.

PC Andrew Randell, was totally out of order said cybersex expert Jonathan Bishop, who has conducted research on the treatment of sex offenders using computer technology. “The people who go to sex shops can often be some of the most vulnerable people in society,” he said. “People in such positions should not be humiliated the way he (Mustafaye) was, as it is likely they already have underlying psychological issues.

In the United Kingdom, prostitution on is own is not a criminal offence. But it is a crime in certain instances including soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing a brothel, and pimping and pandering. Massage parlours like Top Class Gentleman’s Retreat often carry an assumption of being available for sex, but the lack of certainty in the law often allows claims of harassment by sex professionals.  Mustafaye, who paid £40 expecting sex, got more than he bargained for. Magistrates sentenced him to a community order of 12 months, forcing him to complete 120 hours of unpaid work as well and £250 costs. He even had to pay thug copper, PC Andrew Randell, £200 compensation. The court made no order for psychological treatment for Mustafaye, who is likely to have been left traumatised by the events.

Bishop says that without such support, the actions of the prostitute and PC Andrew Randell at Top Class Gentleman’s Retreat could have long term impacts on Mustafaye and society as a whole. “Traumatic events like he (Mustafaye) experienced can lead on to even worse offences,” he said. “Without proper treatment it is possible he could go on to commit some of the worst sexual acts imaginable, simply because of an altercation where a person in authority and a perceived powerful person of the opposite sex exist in a part of his mind that is normally reserved for pleasurable acts.

Bishop presented a research paper, “Taming the Chatroom Bob: The role of brain-computer interfaces that manipulate prefrontal cortex optimization for increasing participation of victims of traumatic sex and other abuse online” to the 13th International Conference on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in July 2012. The early-stage research proposes a system that can reverse the effects of traumatic memories, like those PC Andrew Randell and the prostitute caused Mustafaye at Top Class Gentleman’s Retreat, so people who may become sex offenders can live normal lives where they and others can be safe from harm.

Government Minister: What is illegal offline is illegal online

A UK Government Minister, grappling with a surge in complaints in relation to electronic message faults, popularly called Internet trolling, has declared that future government policy will be unlikely to separate the offences that occur online from those that occur offline.

Crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne thinks that virtual environments are no different to organic environments, “What is illegal offline is illegal online,” he said, “People should not be able to use social media to post anonymous abusive or threatening comments without facing any consequences.

Some Members of Parliament, notably Steve Rotheram MP, are calling for tougher laws on Internet trolling, claiming the current ones are not tough enough. Jeremy Browne disagrees, “We have robust legislation in place to deal with internet trolls, cyber-stalking and harassment but we recognise that having these laws is not enough on its own,” he said, “That is why we are working with the Crown Prosecution Service and the police to improve guidance and training for police and prosecutors.

 

Pressure mounts on Peter Vaughan over ‘human rights abuses’

The chief constable of South Wales Police is facing mounting pressure to resign or be sacked following a string of human rights abuses in the police force area against equality activists.

In the last two months a Cardiff woman had her house raided by police for criticising the IT firm ATOS and the UK Government on Facebook over disability discrimination, and a Pontypridd man has been threatened with being charged with harassment if he did not remove pictures from articles on his website that promoted racial equality, which were of his former partner, who is a well known and well publicised singer-songwriter.

Alun Michael with Chief Constable, Peter Vaughan. Vaughan has come under fire for human rights abuses against South Wales equality activists.

A petition has been set up calling for the newly elected Police Crime Commissioner, Alun Michael, to sack Peter Vaughan for these and other abuses that have happened under his leadership. A freedom of information request found that in the last year over 1,700 harassment warnings had been issued by South Wales Police. It is unclear how many of these related to bribes or unethical inducements, like those threatened against the equality activist from Pontypridd.

Sergeant Simon Morgan, who was responsible for the two officers who threatened the Pontypridd man, said he would not be investigating their actions following the equality activist making a complaint. He also said he did not care about the impact of his actions on Peter Vaughan, “I will not be investigating the criminal complaint against my officers,” he said, “I will wait to see what the IPCC says about my officers before doing anything.

Challenged whether his actions were having a chilling effect on free speech when the person complaining against the activist is a public figure with hundreds of photographs of her online he said, “A complaint of harassment has been made and I will be building a case to give to the Crown Prosecution Service if the photographs and videos are not removed.

People who want action to be taken against Peter Vaughan for the human rights abuses he has presided over are being invited to sign the petition.

The petition is viewable at: http://www.louder.org.uk/sackpetervaughan

Justin Lee Collins

Justin Lee Collins, who was 38 at the time of his offence of harassment, avoided a jail sentence following tormenting his ex-girlfriend, Anna Larke, in a nine-month campaign of abuse, known as cyberhickery. The comedian was ordered to do 140 hours of unpaid community work and pay £3,500 costs.

Anna Larke, said she was “absolutely ecstatic” that she had won her case against Collins, where he was found guilty of harassment causing fear of violence.

Whilst Collins’ case did not involving him misusing a public communications, he made claims during it about Larke, which were not upheld. Collins said that recovering alcoholic Ms Larke was “a fantasist who bombarded (him) with jealous texts.

The testimony of Anna Larke, who works in public relations, was questioned by Justin Lee Collins’s estranged wife. “I think the verdict is ridiculous. I don’t believe it for even one second,” she said.

But some commentators on Internet trolling were disgusted. “If Justin Lee Collins had tweeted or Facebooked that abuse, he’d probably be in prison. Be horrible in person, not online,” they said.

Police threaten equality activist with ‘unethical inducement’

South Wales Police visited a Pontypridd man for the second time in as many weeks, and threatened to issue a harassment warning if he did not take down content from his website simply mentioning the name of a Cardiff-based Latino singer who used to be his partner.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said being forced to take the content down made him feel violated, “It says in my professional code of conduct I must reject and will not make any offer of bribery or unethical inducement,” he said. “By South Wales Police in effect telling me I have to either give up my right to free speech or receive a caution which would mean I could no longer be a teacher, I feel like I’ve let my profession down.

Cathay’s Police threatened a Pontypridd man they’d build a case for harassment against him if he did not remove this photograph from his website. Courtesy: Steve Powderhill Photography.

The two Cathays police officers, whom know his ex partner, said they were acting on their Sergeants advice. The man, who suffers from autism, said the police’s actions could be considered to be discrimination arising out of disability. “When I reported people for posting content I didn’t like online when I was in my 20s the police said it did not meet the thresholds for a harassment or communication offence,” he said. “How are autistic people like me, who need consistency and clarity, suppose to cope if the police say that an act against us is not illegal, but then if we do the same thing it is illegal?

The man has now made an official complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and has removed the content pending its ruling. He has also lodged a complaint for harrassment against the two officers under Section 1A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, because he believes they made him remove content he was under no legal obligation to remove.

In the last year alone, South Wales Police has issued over 1700 harassment warnings to members of the public, meaning people will be unlikely to be able to work with children after a police check by the Criminal Records Bureau. David Wacks is the legal director of CRB Problems Ltd, “Minor incidents or pranks which in the past may have merited a ‘good talking to’ by a policeman often end up in cautions which may ruin a person’s job prospects,” he said.