Thursday, April 14, 2005

More Asbo insanity

In a issue I've been meaning to bloggify, a Conservative councillor in Lyneham, Wiltshire, one Allison Bucknall, has been seeking an Anti-Social Behaviour Order against a web site on the grounds that "people looking for information might go there first". Instead of what? I always thought Conservatives believed in free competition.

It seems there is also another site, here. Comparing the two, some differences become apparent-for a start, the second is utterly without personality, and strangely enough it bears a string of rather Tory-sounding voodoo polls on the front. ("Travellers should abide by the same rules as society". There's a leading question if ever I saw one, and terrible style to boot.) Curiously enough, the WHOIS record for shows it as registered to one Adrian Humm of Chippenham. (Lyneham village, eh.) The tech contact is in the US, at a random hosting company.

This seems ridiculous. But it is serious. An ASBO requires only that someone claims to have experienced fear, harassment or distress. As these are subjective experiences, this means the requirement is that somebody says so. Unlike this woolly babble, the conditions in the order can be just as precise and restricting as the judge wants. And if you break them, you go to jail.

We are now seeing the Asbo industry's diversification into the lucrative censorship business. I am not joking. Today, it is reported, Lindis Percy, the veteran Quaker campaigner against the Menwith Hill NSA surveillance centre, has been threatened with an Asbo. Who has she harassed, alarmed or distressed? She is 63 years old and pledged to the absolute rejection of violence. If anyone in the control bureaucracy is frightened, alarmed or distressed, they really ought to consult their files - no doubt they have details of her myriad court cases going back 30 years. Every new police power this government has introduced has soon been recycled to deal with otherwise decent citizens who dislike their policies. The Terrorism Act (2000) has developed a bad reputation already. I recall from working at the CPS in 1999 that most of the Prevention of Harassment Act (1998) cases we had were against people who had been rude to the police. That legislation was the child of that year's annual moral panic (stalkers), but very soon it became just another means of arbitrary power.

So exactly who experienced the fear, harassment and distress from the sight of some woman waving a sign across the galelashed A59 over the moors where I grew up? I feel a Freedom of Information Act Request coming on.

Remember. Today, Mitch Hawkin. Tomorrow, you.

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