Thursday, 23 October 2014

Context and Crime



Janice Turner gets to grips with a difficult subject with this piece in The Times about consent and rape, but in doing so she also nails a few issues to do with this Ched Evans case which is all over the news headlines just now, as the former footballer seeks to resume his playing career.

I suppose the first thing to say about Ched Evans is that a man who has been convicted of rape and denied the right of appeal, was nonetheless released halfway through his five year jail sentence, despite protesting his innocence and showing no remorse for his crime.

But Janice Turner also sets out the background to this terrible event which involved a trap, with a friend of the footballer going out to 'procure' a drunken young girl for sex whom Ched Evans then joined along with another two 'low lives' who were there to film the proceedings, uninvited and unknown to the young woman, of course, who was by that time completely vulnerable and powerless.    

So the whole business was an ugly, premeditated affair and the only thing I find surprising is that Clayton McDonald wasn't convicted as well, although that may be down to the lack of DNA evidence rather than anything else. 

But in any event Ched Evans should be thoroughly ashamed of his behaviour and if you ask me, his girlfriend needs her head examined for standing 'loyally' by her man.

Let’s be crystal clear what we mean by rape

By Janice Turner - The Times

Unless we teach boys and girls exactly what consent entails our soaring rape figures are going to get worse

Ched Evans said he could have had any woman he wanted. “Footballers are rich, they have money,” he told police. “That’s what girls like.” And yet wealth and prestige didn’t get him laid in Rhyl that night. Rather Evans relied upon his friend Clayton McDonald to procure a stumbling 19-year-old lone drunk in a kebab shop. McDonald took the girl to a hotel and was already having sex when Evans arrived and joined in. Two of his mates came along to film it.

It is a sordid affair, made messier by apparently capricious trial verdicts. The woman, who woke alone, naked and confused the next morning, claimed she was raped by both men since she was too intoxicated to give consent. Yet the jury acquitted McDonald while Evans received a five-year sentence.

And thus the Evans case became a bile-bank for misogynist anger, giving rise to some of the ugliest behaviour ever witnessed online. The victim was named, berated as a drunken slag and hounded out of town.

Later, for saying that Evans should be allowed to resume his football career since the assault was “not violent”, Judy Finnigan and her daughter were threatened with rape by — bizarrely — supporters of his victim.

Yet the rape statistics published this week, just before Evans was released yesterday, having served half his sentence, are a timely warning against simplistic assumptions. That rapists are either lurking strangers in alleyways with knives (what Whoopi Goldberg termed “rape-rape”) or little more than lousy dates was refuted by Professor Liz Kelly, an expert in sexual violence. The most vicious rapes, she said, are often committed by former partners. And predatory men have numerous modi operandi. McDonald and Evans had previously shared women they’d picked up. The cheap hotel room booked in advance, McDonald’s text to Evans that he’d got a girl, Evans’s hurried back-stairs exit, all had a swaggering, practised air.

The guy who deliberately gets a woman drunk or abuses her vulnerable state is a timeless figure. It was known as “taking advantage” back when women kept silent because they feared being blamed and shamed. The increased rape rate — up to 60 a day — is in part because women who once took a shower, dried their tears, called a friend and put the hideous business down to experience, are now filing reports.

Are such rapes less traumatic? Unlike Ken Clarke, George Galloway or the supporters of Julian Assange, I would not tell a woman that being sexually assaulted by a man you trusted ranks lower in the rape league table.

That consent must now be conscious; that if you penetrate a sleeping, comatose, drunken woman it amounts to rape is a major step forward. But what the Evans case and the furore surrounding it demonstrates is how little consent is truly understood.

A criminal law solicitor friend who often defends men accused of rape told me of a client who had been smoking skunk with a teenager in her bedroom. They started kissing, then, with no further ado, he had sex with her. Later, she filed a rape complaint. How did he know she’d given consent, my friend asked? The man looked baffled. Well, they’d been kissing, of course. It hadn’t crossed his mind that any indication of enthusiasm or further permission was required between the first act and the last.

And change to legal definitions of consent have not been accompanied by a sexual education programme to inform young men that what may occur drunkenly after the pub is not just sleazebag behaviour but a serious crime. Meanwhile many have absorbed the cold mechanical script of internet porn in which women are rough-housed and up for anything.

As the mother of sons, my heart is not only with female victims, but with young men who might come round, hung over, to accusations that will ruin their lives. As my 16-year-old said, reading the paper yesterday morning: “What if you were both drunk?” Indeed.

And herein lies a vast grey area. A former circuit judge, Mary Jane Mowat, was pilloried for saying that rape conviction rates would not improve until women stopped “getting so drunk”. But it was an observation not a moral point: juries rarely convict if the victim was blasted because they can’t trust her testimony.

Of course we could load responsibility on to women as usual: don’t make yourself vulnerable, don’t walk home drunk, maybe it’s best you don’t go out at all. Or we could start talking to young men. During the drunken frenzy of freshers’ week at Cambridge University, every first year attends a “consent workshop”. Students of both sexes discuss where lines might be drawn. Can consent be non-verbal? Is it best to ask if you’re not sure?

This Cambridge innovation has been widely mocked but why not give young people a few signposts as they fumble through the sexual maze. Certainly these discussions should be had in schools and I wonder why football clubs do not sit down their brilliant, cocky, ridiculously rich young players and apprise them, if not how to be decent men, at least of the law.

As to whether Ched Evans should play again, the rehabilitation of offenders seems a principle too precious to break over some grubby footballer. And besides, every Saturday Evans will face a stadium of chanting opposition fans, who will never let him forget his shame.

Scotsman Says No!



Gordon Brown’s Guardian essay on ‘home rule’ for Scotland is really just a re-working of his recent speech which I heard delivered 'live' in the House of Commons the other day.

Now while the words were spoken in the inimitable style of the 'great clunking fist', if you ask me what Gordon had to say really comes down to what Gordon sees as being in the best interests of the Labour Party, north and south of the border. 

Because Gordon’s key point is designed to meet with a predetermined political objective which is to prevent the forward march towards independence and the increasing dominance of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

In essence it all comes down to a manufactured argument about income tax which Gordon says must remain a shared UK tax, as if this were some immutable law of physics such as the speed of light or the way in which gravity behaves.  

Yet the reasons for Gordon's insistence that income tax should remain a UK wide tax is a nakedly partisan argument and has little to do with effective management of the economy or political accountability to the electorate. 

So Gordon's real concern is that if Scotland has fiscal autonomy and contour over its own tax and spending policies, there is no basis for Scottish MPs exercising and influence over tax and spending in the House of Commons and for the rest of the UK (rUK).

Now other than potentially harming the Labour Party's ability to control the House of Commons in future, I down't real sees any big objection to devolving 100% of income tax spending to the Scottish Parliament?

And there are sound reasons for giving the Scottish Parliament control over tax and spending such as the benefit of a more competitive rate of corporation tax in Scotland which would help attract investment and balance the distorting effect of London on the rest of the UK economy.

So if you ask me, the issue comes down to political will, along with sound fiscal and economic management, rather than any inherent impossibilism of having differential tax and spending levels in different parts of the UK. 

Sure there will be challenges in managing these new relationships between different parliaments in a federal UK, but in the recent independence referendum even committed  nationalists agreed on the need for considerable co-operation with the UK central bank (the Bank of England) if Scotland had voted Yes on 18 September 2014.   

And in a new 'home rule' Scotland there is no reason to believe that fiscal autonomy is anything other a good thing for the Scottish Parliament, unless you happen to be a tribal Labour politician like Gordon Brown who wants to have his political cake and eat it at the same time, of course. 

Which is not about what's best for Scotland, but instead is all about trying to preserve Labour's influence in the House of Commons and House of Lords.

If you want to kill off the United Kingdom, there is no better way

English votes for English laws is a kneejerk response to Ukip which shows a disregard for smaller nations

By Gordon Brown - The Guardian

Illustration by Simon Pemberton

There is no democratic country in the world whose main lawmaking body is made up of a first and second class of elected representatives. And there is no state in the world, federal or otherwise, in which one part of the country pays national income tax while the other part is exempt. Yet these are the two principal constitutional proposals that have come from the Conservative party in its kneejerk response to Ukip’s English nationalism and an ill-thought-out drive to impose what is commonly called “English votes for English laws” (Evel).

Under their plans, “the mother of parliaments”, once lauded as a beacon for fairness and equality before the law, would become home to the first elected body in the world to decree one of its constituent parts – Scotland – half in, half out of its lawmaking process. Second-class status for Welsh and Northern Irish representatives might soon follow.

But this is not simply a Westminster insiders’ issue, relevant only to the sensitivities of MPs; it is about the status of each nation in what has hitherto been one United Kingdom. By according a first-class status to England within Westminster and a second-class status to the rest, the constitution would be changed for ever. And the government of the day would become a servant of two masters, with its ability to govern depending one day on the votes of the whole of the UK and the next day on English votes only.

Taken alongside the Conservative proposal to devolve all income tax decisions to the Scottish parliament, Scottish MPs would find themselves excluded not just from ordinary English lawmaking but from some of the most controversial and sensitive decisions a parliament can make – on income tax and the budget.

Chaos would follow: for, once Scotland and then Wales and Ireland became exempt from contributing to UK income tax – but still benefiting from it through Barnett formula allocations – English consent for pooling and sharing across the UK would quickly dissipate. Whether by malice or by mistake, the Conservatives would have done the Scottish nationalists’ job for them.

If you had wanted to kill off the UK, you could not have devised a more lethal way. “A nation divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln famously said, quoting Mark’s Gospel. He could have added the rest of that text: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation.”

The starting gun for this developing constitutional crisis was fired the morning after the Scottish independence referendum, with the prime minister’s announcement of Evel. When carefully analysed, his was not a proposal for greater English rights but for fewer Scottish rights. Everything that has been said since that fateful morning has confirmed that the central Tory proposition is the reduction of Scots’ voting rights in the Commons – an issue material to the referendum that should have been announced before, rather than after, the vote. The failure to do so has fuelled the demonstrations, petitions and allegations of betrayal, bad faith and breach of promise, which have dominated the Scottish debate ever since.

What can end this constitutional impasse? It requires us to recognise that the fundamental problem of our UK constitution is not that English MPs can’t vote on Scottish issues – that is merely a symptom of the problem – but a basic imbalance in the size of the four nations. England is 84% of the union, Scotland 8%, Wales 5% and Northern Ireland 3%. When translated into representation at Westminster, the 533 English MPs can, at any time they choose, easily outvote the 117 parliamentarians from the rest of the UK.

Recognising this permanent dominance in numbers, every generation has had to find a way to balance the power of the majority nation to impose its will with some protection for the minority nations. This is not a problem unique to Britain. The US, Australia and many other countries have had to find ways of managing the gross inequalities in the size of their constituent parts. Their constitutional protections for minorities show that a blanket uniformity of provision – such as Evel mimicking Scottish votes for Scottish laws – does not ensure fairness of treatment.

So, as the price for keeping the American union together, California accepts that it has just two members of the US Senate to represent its 38 million citizens, the same as Wyoming has to represent its 583,000 people. Similarly, the price New South Wales pays for Australian unity is one senator for every 580,000 people, in contrast to Tasmania’s one senator for every 40,000.

And nor is fair treatment for minorities in the Spanish senate, the Swiss council of states, the South African national council of provinces, and the Brazilian, Nigerian and Mexican senates achieved by the crude uniformity of the Evel approach, but through special arrangements that recognise minority needs in their states or provinces.

So there is a way forward that can keep the UK together, one that recognises the sizes of each nation and region and is founded on both a sensitivity to minorities and self-restraint by the majority. It involves retaining income tax as a shared tax, and ensuring the Scottish parliament is accountable for the majority of its spending. But it could also involve changes in Commons committee procedures that would recognise an English voice on English issues without undermining the equal status of MPs – while enthusiastically supporting more powers for Wales, Northern Ireland and forms of devolution that meet the distinctive needs of English cities, counties and regions.

No longer should we see Britain as a centralised, unitary state founded on an undiluted Westminster sovereignty, but as a diverse partnership of nations, cities and regions that pool and share risk, rewards and resources as part of one United Kingdom. Ironically, under the logic of the Conservative proposals, London MPs could be excluded from voting on matters devolved to the London assembly. But there is a bigger truth: that the most powerful part of England – London – has secured the greatest devolution of decision-making in England. It is time we supported greater devolution to empower England’s other great cities and regions.

By embracing every nation and region, and every interested civic group, in a 2015 constitutional convention, the voice of England would be heard – and not in angry opposition to the voices of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but alongside them.

Double Acts



The most surprising thing to me about this report from The Telegraph is not that people are cheating the welfare system, but that their accomplices are not charged as well for participating in a 'joint enterprise' to defraud and steal from the public purse.

Because there's no way that Helen Knight wasn't up to her neck in the various scams being perpetrated by her husband, but Alan Knight appears to be the only member of this 'double act' who has gone on trial in court.

Yet surely Mrs Knight is every bit as guilty as her old man.

Conman pretended to be quadriplegic for two years but was caught walking around Tesco
 


Alan Knight, 47, insisted for two years that he was too ill to stand trial for conning his elderly neighbour out of £40,000, a court hears

Alan Knight in a posed-for picture with his wife Helen Photo: Wales News Service

By Keith Perry - The Telegraph

A fraudster who pretended to be a quadriplegic who would slip into a coma was caught taking shopping trips and holidays with his family.

Alan Knight, 47, insisted for two years that he was too ill to stand trial for conning his elderly neighbour out of £40,000, a court heard.

He was living on benefits having claimed to have suffered a massive neck injury. But police found CCTV footage of him walking around Tesco stores and driving his car back from Dorset.

Knight finally appeared in court on Tuesday and admitted cheating the pensioner, 85, who has dementia and is now being cared for in a home.

Knight was living at home in Swansea after claiming to have snapped his neck falling backwards as he pulled down a garage door. His wife Helen, 33, claimed she had to care for her husband.

But he had been targeting neighbour Ivor Richards’s life savings and shares over a three-year period.

He “systematically” funnelled £41,570 out of the pensioner’s bank account which he used to pay for holidays and to buy a caravan in Dorset, Swansea Crown Court heard.

When prosecutors attempted to bring him to justice, Knight repeatedly claimed to be too ill to stand trial, even having himself hooked up to oxygen.

But the father-of-three was caught on CCTV at the Severn bridge toll on the M4 as he travelled back from the south coast. He was also spotted on film in Tesco stores close to his home and in Dorset after police traced the use of the family’s loyalty club card.

Officers tried “at least twice” to bring him to court but each time he admitted himself to hospital claiming his condition had worsened. The court was told he had “pulled the wool” over his GP’s eyes but he was unable to fool doctors at the hospital. While he was there for observation they spotted him eating, wiping his face and writing.

Knight was told he would stand trial with or without his attendance and finally appeared in court in a wheelchair and neck brace.

He admitted theft and forgery, relating to writing a new will for Mr Richards making himself a beneficiary, and was remanded in custody. He was told he is “likely” to be jailed.

Judge Paul Thomas said: “His appearance in court now is at variance with his appearance in CCTV footage. Aspects of this case in my experience are unique, and a strong message needs to be sent out to anyone who seeks to adopt similar tactics.

“Having seen the CCTV evidence from Tesco and driving the car, I have come to the conclusion he is putting it on. Attempts to make progress have been thwarted by Mr Knight pretending to be ill.

“Although a very accomplished and determined actor, he is in nothing like the condition he claims to be, and the conditions he claims to be suffering from are simply non-existent.

“His illnesses coincide with impending court appearances. I do not believe the symptoms are genuine.

“He has been monitored, despite attempts to maintain the fiction. He was seen wiping his face and writing things down, which are inconsistent with being paraplegic or in a coma.”

Knight is due to be sentenced next month.

School Janitors



One of the latest groups to come to the fore in terms of holiday pay is school janitors which is not surprising really because like many other council workers, janitors often work in the evenings and do overtime hours which can also include the weekends.

And apparently lots of councils in Scotland have not been including these extra elements of people's pay during holiday pay calculations.

So school janitors (and lots of other workers as well) have been getting much less than their average pay during periods of annual leave which is what the holiday pay campaign is seeking to put right.  

I'm told, for example, that North Lanarkshire Council was making the correct payments up to 2009, but for some reason this stopped suddenly and lots of workers have been getting paid less than their average pay for the past five years.

A quick way to tell is someone has a valid claim is to carry out this little test and if so, HBPC will do the rest.  

Simple HBPC Test 



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066 

Calling Glasgow



Letters are going out to A4ES clients in Glasgow this week regarding holiday pay claims and I've had lots of enquiries already from people in Glasgow asking whether they might have a claim.

Just like any other part of Scotland, the issue comes down to whether you regularly earn 'additions' to your basic pay.

So lots of Home Carers employed by Cordia these days work overtime and do shifts - so if these payments have not been included when people take holidays and annual leave, then it's very likely you have a valid claim.

What kind of jobs are involved? 

All kinds of public sector jobs potentially, both male and female dominated jobs, as well as workers in the private sector - people who receive various additions and 'top ups' to their pay via overtime, shift allowances etc. 

Here's a simple test from the blog site that can help you to work things out.  

Simple HBPC Test (12 September 2014)



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066

Lorry Drivers



I hadn't really thought about lorry drivers as a group of workers who would have a holiday back pay claim, but there's been an enquiry from a big distribution centre just off the M8 and it seems, indeed, as if these workers do have a case.

Because they regularly work overtime hours and are often on the road the weekend as well, which is obvious when you think about it, and apparently these additional pay elements are not included when the drivers take their annual leave.

So it looks as if they are another significant group and as word begins to spread and no doubt others will follow.  

Simple HBPC Test 



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066 

Construction Workers



The latest new group to get in touch over holiday back pay claims are Construction Workers and a chap from Edinburgh has been in touch to request information packs for himself and 15 others.

Now this category of workers is a pretty obvious one when you think about it because they obviously work long hours, overtime, shifts (including night shift) and weekends when required.

I think it's fair to say that construction companies are not always famed for being the best employers in the world and this latest enquiry has opened up a whole new potential area for HBPC. 

So if you know anyone who works in the construction industry, spread the word on and let them know that they can use a simple HBPC test to determine whether or not they have a claim.

Simple HBPC Test



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066