Saturday, February 15, 2014

Question Time?

What a Valentine's night that was. If my greenhouse hadn't already been blown away in the storm of Xmas Eve, there's little doubt that it would have imploded in the wind overnight. What was interesting was the short calm periods before the wind returned again like an express train, rattling the house. I'm sure it was much worse on the southern side of the island on the exposed coastline.

That the BBC chose to show the movie, 'An Enemy of the State' last evening, with Will Smith and Gene Hackman wasn't lost on me, as MP's ask questions about the GCHQ's role in the United States NSA surveillance programme. The movie appeared before 911 and the war on terror but the surveillance technology, which may have seemed like science fiction then, has been revealed as near science fact over the last twelve months and many people are deeply worried by the legal and privacy aspects and I've been doing some recent work around the subject.

The law and civil liberties is a subject close to my heart and so when I read elsewhere, that I'm reportedly 'sulking' having been interviewed by the police under caution - detailed in the last blog entry, it reveals an alarming lack of intelligence on the part of the person posting the comment.

Let me explain. When former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan was first questioned by the police, he was assisting them with their inquiries. Only when he was established as a suspect in the News International phone-hacking story, was he then interviewed under caution, as a prelude to the possibility of formal charges.

Once you grasp this example, then the recent actions of the police in my last story appear somewhat irregular, that is, asking to see three councillors and going straight to a caution and without any solid evidence to present. I could have insisted on a lawyer present but chose not to, having nothing to hide and being quite prepared to assist, caution or not.

This may explain why I'm a trifle exercised by the matter and over the last few days, more detail has been volunteered by several people. I've passed this over to a Sunday Newspaper, the BBC and my MP, who are all seeking greater clarity on the role of Ms Barnes in this story. The last I heard of the matter, yesterday afternoon, was that the Police Commissioner had 'gone to ground' and so those answers on her part in this were not yet forthcoming. This means that I won't see any impartial newspaper report on this matter on Sunday but may have to wait a little longer to understand how a complaint against a blogger named John Hamilton, expanded into a second allegation of criminal conspiracy involving three local councillors; a giant and very serious leap, requiring both senior police resources and a significant body of evidence to support such an inquiry.

So, what is exercising me is both the process and the evidence followed, in addition to the level and cost of police resource being thrown at the complaint. Something isn't quite right here and others appear to share my concern over process and proportionality. Who may have said what on one weblog or was allegedly cyber-bullied on another's blog, written in Arizona, is really quite irrelevant. You may notice that the Thanet Gazette made no mention of this at all yesterday, even though I did speak with the editor shortly after I published the last blog entry. I find that curious but I'm sure she has her reasons and is likely waiting on the result of the police inquiry. After three weeks since the interview already, it could take us up to Easter.

Because, some of the familiar trolls are making their presence felt again, i.e. 'Guilty as sin' and I should be hanged immediately for being a Conservative and for a vague but unspecified involvement with the Deal barracks bombings (poor Duncan had to take down his Facebook page to stop the flow of abuse) I have followed Michael Child's example and will no longer accept purely anonymous comment. I'm afraid it's too time consuming filtering out the looney and abusive element  trolling around with their own agenda in Thanet's crowded cyberspace.


Bemused of Birchington said...

I made John Hamilton's blog a favorite (sic) on my computer simply because he exposed people for what, in his opinion, they really were. I generally agreed with him though perhaps he could have been a bit more subtle, but of course some of his targets wouldn't understand subtle if they looked it up in the dictionary.

It would appear that JH was in Arizona, and of course with the internet being world wide it is much easier to get information about what is happening almost anywhere in the world if one is minded to do so. I do feel however that JH had access to more information than might appear on the web, or was able to add two and two together and reach his own conclusion.

Because JH usually attacked the left of the political divide it would seem obvious to seek his identity to the right of that divide, but it might have been a crafty ploy by the left. No hang on, crafty and left is surely an oxymoron.

Much has been made of the health of one person attacked, but whilst sympathising about the condition, that can't be allowed to prevent contradiction an argument, though the language of a contradiction should always fair, even if the response is robust.

Enough for now, Bemused of Birchington, sometimes known as anon.

Bemused of Birchington said...

I note that Duncan Smithson actually tweeted Ann Barnes to complain. I find this rather disconcerting in that surely there should be a formal path for any official complaint, and not through a social networking site restricted to 140 characters. Off course Smithson may have been directed to the correct path of complaint but the fact that one can go straight to the top is not the way things should be done. In the armed forces there is a path for grievances, surely such a path should be available to all and clearly signposted. Whatever next, texts/tweets to Hermann Van Rompuy because we don't like the language of David Cameron/Ed Miliband/Nick Clegg etc.?

Simon Moores said...

How do I explain this politely.. Nobody is ***** interested in more complaints about former councillors in 1991 or before, bombings and much more in Thanet's past. Go away you tedious conspiracy obsessive and don't come back.

Comment deleted.

William Epps said...

I am with Bemused on this issue except the bit about going to the top. The Police Commissioner is an elected civilian without a police warrant and the role is that of critical friend. I am alarmed here that the commissioner seems to have over ruled an earlier police decision or that people should see the appointment as a place to go with specific rather than general complaints.

If I were concerned that I had been the victim of a crime I report to the police. If, on the other hand, I am alarmed over the shortage of funds resulting in the closure on my local police office, then that I might take up with the commissioner.

Duncan Smithson said...

Well spotted bemused! I did - indeed - tweet Anne Barnes, with no response (understandable I suppose). A couple of weeks later I used the official "contact anne" channel and encouraged others to do the same. Again. This was ignored. Until the end of January when I got an email from an officer in Canterbury letting me know the situation. I had discussed the issue with the police and this was the recommended course of action.

Glad you felt that his ramblings were acceptable. I didnt. There is a fine line between banter and bulls##t and I think he went too far. It didnt bother me but I know others took him seriously. So I tried to help them. I always said, Hamilton would be dangerous if you took the hate out of his prose as he made a number of valid points people agreed with. The fact that the 'Yes to Teso' FB site had as many likes as the no one, despite the language used speaks volumes.

And for me, this is where it becomes interesting. Everyone had their own theory as to who was behind the anon. I know I was accused of it, as was Simon, Clive, Alan, Iris, Bob, Sandy and some even went as far as saying it was an MP! Hamiltons attitudes could be seen to represent the dis-satisfied voice of Thanet, with extra hatred. Anyone could have been Hammy! Who knows what people think late at night?

I do feel for the people that took him seriously. But as I always said, ignore him. But others cant. They like to have the last word.

So my last word is this. To be accused of "abuse" is a big deal. If its true, I think you should be publicly shamed. The problem comes when its not true.

Duncan Smithson said...

And William - I agree with your points. I was writing to Anne for advice on what to do. Perhaps that was why my request was ignored.

John Holyer said...

I cannot overlook the possibilty that 'John Hamilton' was attacked behind the scenes not so much for what he said but for what he knew, or for what he was perceived to know.

Bemused of Birchington said...

A police officer takes an oath to serve without fear or favour, does the Commissioner have to do the same? I'm guessing not.