Wednesday, 26 March 2014

NO TOUCHING POLICIES AND VELVET AUTHORITARIANISM


No tolerance to touching appears to be the latest disciplinary fad infecting school administrators across North America.  

A Milford, Connecticut middle school banned all physical contact between students, including high-fives, handshakes, and hand-holding, in an alleged attempt to cut down on "horseplay”.  This absurdity was implemented after a student was injured in a "groin-kicking" incident but rather than just dealing with the specific incident, brain dead school officials decided that they had to ban ANY and ALL contact between students.  

A middle school in Canada was in the news recently for their "no loving, no shoving" policy, which is intended to prevent violence and sexual contact.  Consequently four middle school students were called down to the principal’s office for the crime of hugging.  The girls, who frquently got in trouble for the dastardly crime of hugging each other pushed back by organizing a “hug-in” protest at the school.

Schools in Arizona, New Jersey and elsewhere have attempted to implement similar no-touch initiatives.  It was noted that the old adage "keep your hands to yourself" - once reserved for school assemblies and cafeterias - has slowly crept its way into hallways, classrooms and playgrounds policies.

At Mornington Peninsula primary school in Australia one parent said her son was winded on the playground yesterday and, when his friend tried to console him by putting his arm around his shoulder, the friend was told his actions were against the rules.  The friend then had to walk around with the teacher on playground duty for the rest of lunch as punishment.   Another parent said his children were told they could not high-five each other.  "I have a couple of children, and they have been told that if they high-five one another that’s instant detention, and if they do it three times they will be expelled," John said.  "I mean, what are they actually trying to teach?"  One child was reportedly told that if students wanted to high-five, it would have to be an "air high-five".

The no touch policy reached its pathological extreme when school administrators at Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School in Aldergrove, British Columbia banned kindergarten students from touching each other during recess.  Students were sent home with a letter on November 1, 2013 advising parents of the new hands-off rule which prohibits games such as tag, holding hands and imaginary Star Wars light saber duels.  Yes even imaginary fighting games (not involving any physical contact) were now punishable by trips to the office and the missing of playtime.

Parent Julia Chen said "I can’t imagine little kids not being able to hug each other or help each other on the playground.  Not tag, no hugging, no touching at all."  The school said it would have a zero-tolerance policy when it came to the no-touching policy and children who break the rule will miss playtime or be sent to the office.

These bizarre rules are often justified as a safety measure.  Principal Judy Beckworth of the Australian school said it was "not actually a policy, it’s a practice that we’ve adopted in the short-term as a no-contact games week".  She said the new practice was introduced yesterday after students suffered a number of injuries on the playground in recent weeks, and the new no-touching rule was only due to last for one week.

"Now it's almost as if it's a sanitized school," said one parent about no touch rules. "Where you have to keep your distance from everybody? And that's not what school is about." It's not what life is about, either. The more we "protect" children with asinine rules like this, the more confused we make them about their own right to space, privacy, and their bodies.  Forcing them to keep their hands to themselves only serves as a means to help the administration keep their heads in the sand.”

Traumatizing five year old over touching each other?  What a gold plated way to cause long term psychological damage to little kids and to think we actually pay one hundred thousand dollar plus salaries to school principals to come up with these kinds of absurdities.

There is a recognized psychological disease known as haphephobia. The (4th Ed.) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association describes haphephobia, or the fear of touch, as “a rare but often devastating phobia. Most people with haphephobia fear being touched by anyone, although some people are afraid only of being touched by those of the opposite gender. Haphephobia is sometimes triggered by sexual assault or another trauma, but more often, it seems to develop without any known cause.   Most people who cannot trace their haphephobia to a specific event develop the fear in early childhood, although it can occur at any time. The fear is highly unusual in that it is not particularly linked to other fears such as social phobia or fears of vulnerability or intimacy. Many people with haphephobia are able to form warm, tight bonds with other people, although they may worry that those bonds are at risk due to their inability to show physical affection.”

It goes on to say “The need for touch and human contact is innate, and the inability to enjoy that contact can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness. Haphephobia is extremely difficult for most people to understand, and the rejection of touch may be interpreted as a rejection of the person offering the touch.”

Lawrence Cohen and Anthony DeBenedet in “The Problem with 'No Hug' Policies in School” note that Anthony Pellegrini, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota who studies recess and rough-and-tumble play, has found that children can tell play fighting from real fighting much better than adults. They comments “Yet adults continue to believe that they are protecting children when they ban roughhousing. No-touch policies in elementary schools are motivated more by safety than worries about sexual contact, but in reality, safety is sometimes a code word to disguise schools’ burning desire for order.”

There is another aspect about no touch rules.  It puts holding hands  on par with a full scale physical assault? Perhaps school administrators in Canada, the U.S. and Australia are inspired by the U.K. which has become the World’s model for a new type of totalitarian state where “crimes” ranging from putting a poster on a telephone pole to robbing a bank are all lumped together under the rubric “anti-social behavior”.  It is part of the very disturbing trend to criminalize a whole range of normal, innocent behavior.

Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian society was based on what he saw happening in Germany and the Soviet Union during the 1930's but the totalitarian society that is evolving in the former heartlands of democracy and personal freedom is very much different.  It is characterized by the mentality of a no tolerance policy about five year olds touching each other.  It may be motivated by the best of intentions and it may not seem on par with the physical cruelty that children experienced in the orphanages and residential schools of past years. But it is alarming when school authorities think it is appropriate to put young children into this kind of physical and mental straight jacket.  In some respects it is a measure of control that would not even have been seen in the dystopian society contemplated by Orwell.

Constraining the freedom of individuals - start with constraining the freedom of children.  Children are a prime object of the social policers whether they are drafting draconic anti-bullying policies,  banning books, legislating ASBOS and IPNAS or enforcing student codes of conduct. Starting in the kindergartens teach them to accept a controlled social environment!

What if parents resist no touching and other anti-children rules?  There is a suggestion from Scotland that the state has a new remedy up its sleeve.  It is the Children and Young People Act which was passed by the Scottish parliament on .  Now every child in Scotland, from birth until the age of 18, will have a specific state-appointed ‘guardian’ to safeguard their interests and oversee their safety. Until school age this person might be a health visitor or midwife; upon attaining school age the role will be assumed by a school teacher. This person will have a “duty” and responsibility to act as the child’s guardian and to have legal authority to access information from the police, the local council, the National Health Service and other government agencies.



Monday, 17 March 2014

DON"T HURT MY FEELINGS. HOW THE EMERGING DOCTRINE OF INOFFENSIVENESS ENDS FREE SPEECH.

When you protect people from having their feelings hurt, you must necessarily end freedom of speech. Anything and everything can be punished.

North American universities have become famous for their all-inclusive speech codes.  Drexel University's harassment policy banned "inconsiderate jokes" and "inappropriately directed laughter."   Johns Hopkins University prohibits any “rude, disrespectful behavior”.  At Colorado State you are not allowed to tell a joke that makes fun of someone for some reason such as an inability to spell.  University of Connecticut also outlawed “inappropriately directed laughter” and adds a ban on “conspicuous exclusion of students from conversation”. At Tufts University a student newspaper was found guilty of harassment in 2007 for printing violent passages from the Quran and facts about the status of women in Saudi Arabia.   Northeastern University did all the other speech codes one better by prohibiting sending any e-mail message “which in the sole judgment of the University is offensive”.

In other words the “right not to be offended” has increasingly made vigorous debate practically impossible. It is no longer permitted to say anything meaningful since someone or some group may take offence or claim victim status.  If someone’s feelings can be hurt by something that is said, a campus equity office comes to the fore, armed with the right to force sensitivity training on the speaker backed up by the right to suspend or expel anyone who resists being sent to reeducation camp.

The mentality of the university is spreading into the public realm.  Take Nova Scotia’s Cyber-safety Act.  It defines cyberbullying as any electronic communication through the use of technology including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, computers, other electronic devices, social net-works, text messaging, instant messaging, websites and electronic mail, typically repeated or with continuing effect, that is intended or ought reasonably [to] be expected to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other damage or harm to another person’s health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation, and includes assisting or encouraging such communication in any way“.

Cyberbullying at its broadest reach thusly “means any electronic communication ... that ... ought reasonably [to] be expected to cause ..... distress or other damage or harm to another person’s .... emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation.”  It could cover a phone call - even a phone call initiated by a so-called victim.  For example you receive an unsolicited phone call from a Christian evangelist.  You react by harshly criticizing religion and denying the existence of God.  You say that Jesus Christ never existed or if he did he was a quack.  You state that Christianity is a force of evil.  Or you say all these types of things in an unsolicited call from a Muslim.  You ought reasonably have expected that the expression of your opinion will cause distress to the phone caller’s emotional well-being.  

Similarly virtually any vigorous criticism of a politician or other public figure that is made in an electronic communication could reasonably be expected to cause damage or harm to that person’s well-being, self-esteem or reputation.  The application for the protection order concerning such can even be submitted “by telephone or other means of telecommunication, by a lawyer, a police officer or a person designated by the regulations for this purpose, with the applicant’s consent”.

Self designated moral guardians are already zealously policing public space and debate forcing targets to back down or apologize for offending communications.  Often it is a handful of individuals who initiate the policing.  For example in 2004, the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) upheld the complaints of three people who had taken offence to Somerfield supermarket’s advert for a meat dish which included the use of the word ‘faggot’, on the grounds that the word is also derogatory slang for a homosexual.  The English online publication “Spiked” recently reported on a similar row over a West Midlands pub selling something called ‘The Michael Barrymore Pie: Faggots Swimming in Gravy”. 

It is a new form of minority censorship where each citizen is deputized as a gatekeeper of inoffensiveness. Every individual is turned into a potential citizen spy.  The online English publication, Spike reported about a couple of police officers who complained about an advertisement for a Wearside law firm. “The promotional poster advertised the fact that everyone who is taken to a police station is entitled to free legal advice. It was placed opposite the main police station in Sunderland and showed an attractive woman dressed as a sexy policewoman waving handcuffs under the words: ‘It’s a fair cop! (but it might not be)….so let [our solicitors] advise, assist and defend you.’ Following the police officers’ complaints the advertisement was promptly quashed.

In a culture of inoffensiveness, the idea that ‘You can’t say something that might hurt someone’s feelings, results in a censorship by a small number of people claiming to have felt offended.  As stated by Alex Hochuli in Spiked “Once society accepts that it is legitimate to protect individuals or groups from the subjective category of ‘offensive’ speech or expression, then that gives carte blanche to individuals everywhere to demand the removal of things they don’t like.”  Hochuli correctly notes “The consequence is an unmistakable narrowing of what is acceptable and unacceptable speech, and the spread of both formal and informal speech codes.”  People will avoid saying anything that could possibly be taken as offensive by anybody.  They will self censor their humour, their controversial statements, their hearty opinions.  Free speech is at an end.

Monday, 3 February 2014

THE WAR ON YOUTH

Labour in the United Kingdom brought in the widely reviled ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) and the Conservative-Liberal coalition are trying to do them one better with IPNA which stands for Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance.  A review of comments from local UK police forces quickly reveal that the number one target of ASBOS and IPNAS are youth. As Guardian writer Janet Street-Porter wrote “Have you noticed how the hackneyed phrase "antisocial behaviour" is generally in the same sentence as teenager?

What is driving this Anti Youth mentality?  According to psychologist and TV presenter Tanya Byron adults in the U.K.are suffering from ephebiphobia - fear of young people.  There have been a number of studies which support this.

One study compared the views of 185 teenagers (aged 11-15) at a Greater London comprehensive school in 2006 with those of over 200 adult residents in the same area, in order to establish whether there are significant age-related differences. The questionnaire listed 18 different behaviours (from ‘assaulting a police officer’ to ‘young people hanging around in streets/parks’) and set out a series of vignettes to capture the views of the two groups.

The study revealed  a wide variety of behaviours that adults identified as anti-social including acts ranging serious crimes to everyday activities such as gathering in groups and playing football in the street.  Indeed 40% of adults saw young people’s presence in public places, regardless of their behaviour, as anti-social behavior.  Similarly more than 60% of adults listed cycling or skateboarding on the street as ASB.

The leader of the study, Hulley, noted that the “identification of behaviour as anti-social involved an interpretative process that is not based simply on the behaviour itself but on the age of those involved.”  He further stated “My research confirms that young people are particularly likely to be labelled perpetrators of ASB - especially by adult observers - and are less likely to be recognised as victims of ASB.”

A 200-page report done for The Institute for Public Policy Research in 2006 found that more than 1.5 million Britons thought about moving away from their local area due to young people hanging around.  About 1.7 million admitted to avoiding going out after dark as a direct result of youths gathering.  Britons were also three times more likely to cite young people "hanging around" as a problem than they were to complain about noisy neighbours.

A recent Best Value User satisfaction survey (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2007) found that 57 per cent of respondents reported young people hanging around on the streets as a big or fairly big problem(this percentage was higher compared to otherantisocial behaviours, such as vandalism and littering).  The “children’s tsar”, Sir Aynsley-Green said in a recent speech the “demonisation and lack of empathy for young people is a major issue for England. It causes anger and alienation”. In fact normal youth behaviour, such as gathering in public places and playing ball games, was being demonised, that is, the attitudes about so-called juvenile criminals had become one of the most severe for generations.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

TOTALITARIANISM ADVANCES IN THE UK

The U.K exemplifies the new kind of totalitarianism taking hold in the West.  New Labour brought in the widely reviled ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) but the Conservative-Liberal coalition have done them one better with IPNA.  IPNA stands for Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance.  Believe it or not, in the U.K, it is possible to obtain an injunction against nuisance and annoyance.

AN IPNA is worse than the ASBO in four different ways: a broader definition; a lower standard of proof; increased sanctions; and increased durations.

Anti-Social Behavior under the new Act is defined as “an engagement or the threat of engaging in "conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person" This compares to “behaviour that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as the offender" for a Criminal Behaviour Order.   Underline that it is not just behavior that causes a nuisance or annoyance but also behavior merely capable of causing a nuisance or annoyance.

Is it humanly possible to avoid being the subject of an IPNA? Is there a person alive who has not caused annoyance to another person?  What about the hyper-sensitive individuals who believe that they are being bombarded by various types of “rays”, who demand absolute silence from those around them; who will not broker any disagreement or the slightest disparagement from others?  It has been pointed out that trick-or-treaters on Hallowe’en could certainly be subject to an IPNA and that “even carol singers could be deemed “capable” of causing a nuisance or annoyance to some people.  Many curmudgeonly adults find children very annoying and appropriately IPNA’s can be issued against a kid over the age of ten.  It is obvious that IPNAs will invariably be directed at everyday activities of children such as skateboarding or ball games or street soccer.

Before a court can grant an ASBO it has to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a person has behaved antisocially and that it is necessary to protect others from further antisocial acts. Under the new legislation the court will have to believe only that "on the balance of probabilities" a person has behaved antisocially and to conclude that it is "just and convenient" to grant an injunction to stop their antisocial behaviour.  The IPNA grants judicial discretion to either prohibit a person from "doing anything" contained in the injunction, or to require a person to "do anything" contained in the injunction.  Thusly, if the police or local council decide "on the balance of probabilities" that a weekly pickup soccer game at a community field is capable of annoying residents, they could stop it by asking the Court to issue an injunction against the players.  The Court would be almost unlimited in setting the terms of the order including forbidding any of the players to ever be present on that field or even to appear in public with a soccer ball.  If subsequently a player over 14and disobeys the minutae of the injunction, he or she could be imprisoned for up to three months.

The police will also have the power to make a dispersal order where there is a presence or behaviour in a locality that has contributed to or is likely to contribute to harassment, alarm or distress or the occurrence of crime or disorder.  These orders can be made merely if there is reasonable grounds for suspicion. 

The IPNA can result in even harsher punishment than an ASBO including up to 2 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine in a contempt of court proceeding. 

While there are some limits on the duration of  an ASBO, the duration of IPNA will be unlimited. Thus a 16 year old could be ordered not to be on a certain street in a town and ten years later the prohibition would still be in place.

It was noted that “Each time successive Governments have amended the ASB regime, the definition of anti-social behaviour has grown wider, the standard of proof has fallen lower and the punishment for breach has toughened. This arms race must end.” 

Monday, 23 September 2013

WHEN JOKING BECOMES A CRIME

Joking around has been outlawed in a number of situations.  Firstly, you do not make jokes about blowing things up as Paul Chambers found out in the UK’s famous Twitter Trial.  When Mr. Chambers was unable to catch an important flight he made the big mistake of twitting “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!”  This joking threat was made to a small group of friends that followed him on twitter but somehow or other the tweet came into the purview of the authorities.  Consequently Mr. Chambers was prosecuted and convicted pursuant to the Communication Act for "sending a public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character".  He lost his job and his life was horribly upset even though the conviction was ultimately set aside on appeal.  The absurdity of the whole situation was that it was obviously a joke and that he never planned to blow up the airport, and nobody in authority thought that he planned to blow up the airport.  A joke of this type, however,  is not allowed anymore.

Two British tourists learnt the same lesson when they were barred from entering America after joking on Twitter that they were going to 'destroy America' and 'dig up Marilyn Monroe'. The Department of Homeland Security identified the young man as a potential threat when he posted an excited tweet to his pals about his forthcoming trip to Hollywood which read: 'Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?'  He told officials that the term 'destroy' was British slang for 'party', but nevertheless he and his girlfriend were held on suspicion of planning to 'commit crimes' and had their passports confiscated.  In fact, he was handcuffed and kept under armed guard in a cell with Mexican drug dealers for 12 hours after landing in Los Angeles.

The UK’s Equality Act of 2010 put jokes about religion into the no-no category.  A UK lawyer was asked whether a Catholic member of staff would be successful with a complaint he filed about a colleague telling offensive jokes in the office – a few of which referred to the Pope.  The lawyerly answer “While a jovial atmosphere in the workplace helps to create a fun and positive environment, it is important for colleagues taking part to understand that some jokes might be construed as harassment in the eyes of the law.  In the present example, offensive jokes about the Pope could easily amount to harassment under the Equality Act 2010, so you are right to be concerned.”

In France a woman and her brother were convicted for “justifying a crime” after her toddler son, named Jihad, went to preschool in a T-shirt bearing the words “I am a bomb” and “Jihad: Born on Sept. 11.  Bouchra Bagour received a 2,000-euro fine and a one-month suspended prison sentence and her brother, Zayed, received a 4,000-euro fine and two-month suspended sentence. The boy, whose real name is Jihad and whose birthday is Sept. 11, wore the shirt to preschool last year. The family are not Islamic militants - it apparently was intended as a joke.  Bad taste as a joke and in France also very illegal. 

In this age of extreme social correctness interpersonal relationships are fraught with peril.  This starts with anything that can be remotely labeled as sexual.  We can see the broad parameters of this in some excerpts from “Shockwaves: The Global Impact of Sexual Harassment by Susan L. Webb.  Firstly we start with the heading “Sexual Harassment is Conduct of a Sexual Nature that Occurs Because of the Person's Sex”.  She goes on to say “Conduct of a sexual nature includes a range of behaviors or actions, since there is a very wide range of activities which are expressions of sexuality or have sexual connotations in our society.  Therefore, behavior which may appear relatively innocent (such as joking, innuendoes, flirting and asking someone on a date) to behavior which is blatantly illegal (such as forced fondling, attempted or actual rape and sexual assault) can all constitute conduct of a sexual nature.”  

As suggested by the headline in Shockwaves “conduct of a sexual nature” equals sexual harassment.  This was illustrated by Julia Gray, founder of the London branch of US movement Hollaback, which is dedicated to getting rid of street harassment.  She said: "The way we see it is if you want to tackle it you tackle all of it – you say no to all forms of unwanted sexual harassment; that includes wolf-whistling, comments, everything."  Not surprising that a Toronto fireman got fired for this joking tweet "Reject a woman and she will never let it go. One of the many defects of their kind. Also weak arms."

In most cases it is largely the so-called victim who determines whether the conduct is sexual harassment. Per the above “Whether a particular behavior is defined as sexual harassment depends largely on whether the behavior is unwelcome to the target, along with the circumstances surrounding those evens.  Unwelcome behaviors, which are considered sexual harassment, can be of verbal, non-verbal, physical, or visual nature.” This means that a joke told to a room full of a hundred people can constitute sexual harassment to the one person who finds it offensive.

John Yardley, a Conservative councillor in Wolverhampton in the U.K. where he is the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Safer Communities found out that you no longer about sexual orientation. He was interviewed by police after supposedly making a transexual joke at a meeting. He was chairing a presentation when the police authority worker making the presentation said: ‘Let’s start with an easy question to get us going. Press Button A if you’re male or B if you’re female.’ A member of the audience asked: ‘What if you are transgender?  By answering this question the wrong way John Yardley committed his alleged ‘hate crime’  He responded jokingly: ”You could press A and B together”.   His answer supposedly “hurt” the person who asked the question and who was in fact transgendered.  In this bizarre age full of people quick to claim injury a quick witted, funny answer like that is no longer permitted.  

Totalitarian societies are typically homourless since humour has an invariable in your face, rebellious element.  Humor shows up human foibles.   It has to somewhat outrageous in order to be effective. The “joke police” are out there, however, ready with their dripping sanctimony to apply some pejorative label to humour poking fun at human characteristics.  It has been said very aptly “Without humour, civility cannot flourish. The tendency to label every joke or passing comment we consider to be in poor taste as something more, something sexist, misogynist, or racist is a sign of a New Puritanism taking hold.”  The New Puritanism is a driving force in our developing bureaucratic police state.

Monday, 5 August 2013

POLICING ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR IN THE UK

Anti-social behavior? England in the 2010's seems ... well ... so 1970's Soviet Union.  Here is Article 65 from 1977 Soviet Union Constitution: A citizen of the USSR is obliged to respect the rights and lawful interests of other persons, to be uncompromising toward anti-social behavior, and to help maintain public order.  In the East German crackdown on dissenters in 1988 charges ranged from rowdyism and anti-social behavior to treason and working with agents of capitalism (for which sentences of 12 years were proposed).

Anti-Social behavior was a widely identified “evil” in the Soviet Union, East Germany and other Eastern Bloc countries.  It did not mean just political dissent; it was most often a diatribe for rebellious youth, long haired hippies, cultural outliers, etc.

What happened when the Evil Empire fall apart.  After It died in the East it was reincarnated in the following decade in the U.K.  Something similar to Article 65 would probably be included in a new UK constitution; since the UK does not have a constitution per se, equivalent provisions appear in a variety of different acts.

A review of local English newspapers shows that the scourge of the land is anti-social behavior.  In the July 16, 2013 edition of the Skegness Review it was reported that the Neighbourhood Policing Team had appealed for information after two ‘pre-teen’ children threw stones and ‘other objects’ at properties in the town on Sunday.  PCSO Dave Bunker “The males are known to have been on Church Road North, Skegness as well as the locations where they were reportedly acting anti socially,” 

The Gloucestershire Gazette on June 3 informed its readers that drink-related crime and anti-social behaviour in Dursley was being targeted by police during the summer as children finish school for the year. Inspector Andy Poole said: "It is essential that those engaged in anti-social activities are challenged regarding their behaviour.”   

Bradford Telegraph on the same day reported that police were putting extra officers on patrol in the City Park during school holidays after an increase in anti-social behaviour and that the City Ward Neighbourhood Policing Team drafted in more police community support officers to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the city centre and the inner city communities of Little Horton.  What is anti-social behavior in Bradford.  The paper said “The problems have consisted of the anti-social use of skateboards, alcohol misuse and large groups of youths congregating, which can be intimidating to other members of the public.”

On July 8, 2013 the Wirral Globe announced that police across Merseyside had launched a six-week crackdown on the anti-social use of scrambler bikes.  Operation Brookdale will centre on areas where communities have suffered from the illegal and anti-social use of scrambler and quad bikes. It was said that riders of these bikes have “a complete disregard for decent, law-abiding members in their communities.”

Cambridge News on July 2 told about worried residents despatching police to tackle anti-social behaviour in a Cambridgeshire village – but all officers found was a smiley face daubed on a bus stop.  The police account said: “We received a report of graffiti on the bus stop in High Street, Linton. PCSO Pulley went to examine this and found a smiley face painted on. There was no other damage. PCSO Pulley has been liaising with the parish council regarding this.”  In a less repressive England this would have been a Monty Python skit. 

Stratford-upon-Avon Herald on  June 13, 2013 noted that according to a recent vote that Stratford people want the police to focus more on anti-social behaviour than road safety. Police asked residents to vote both online and at the town’s community forum the previous week for what they wanted officers to focus on for the ensuing three months. “Now the votes have been counted, the top two policing priorities are to reduce anti-social behaviour in the town centre and on the Bancroft Gardens and to reduce anti-social behaviour outside the town centre, on Shottery Fields and on the housing estates.”   The Stratford police had been given new powers to ban “intimidating” groups of people from the town centre for 24 hours which the paper thought seemed to tie in with the concerns of residents. 

Horncastle News on June 8 appeared happy to advise that police in Horncastle had taken swift and decisive action to deal with an increase in reports of anti social behaviour involving vehicles. Inspector Terry Ball, head of policing in the Wolds Area, revealed residents had complained about noise and anti-social behaviour in St Lawrence Street and Tesco car park.  Inspector Ball went on to reveal high level patrols were continuing to help combat anti social behaviour in Coningsby and Tattershalll.  Again it appeared that it was young people who were targeted as Ball confirmed ten warning letters had been issued to youths who had been involved in incidents in the vicinity of Coningsby launderette.

Watford Observer on July 29, 2013 advised that two employees from a grounds maintenance company would be able to request the name and address of anyone they suspect of causing anti-social behaviour and confiscate alcohol from those underage after being given policing powers by Hertfordshire Constabulary.  The John O’Conner Grounds Maintenance employees were given the limited powers under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme on Tuesday, July 23.  Hertfordshire Constabulary's community safety manager, Sally Russell, added: "We are pleased to welcome these two council contractors into the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme and to facilitate them being able to deal more effectively with anyone causing anti-social behaviour.  The Scheme continues to grow successfully and to play an important role in the delivery of effective policing in many neighbourhoods. Above all, it assists in providing an effective and efficient contribution to the safety and security of Hertfordshire’s residents."

There will be no street parties in Sheffield as the Star reports on July 30 that a dispersal order has been granted for the Fir Vale and Firth Park areas of Sheffield, giving police officers extra powers to split up groups on street corners in a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.  The dispersal order was made because residents complained to South Yorkshire Police and Sheffield Council about the behaviour of groups congregating on the streets.  The order gives police and police community support officers the right to split up groups of two or more people to reduce the risk of trouble.  Apparently it did not concern the good citizens or the authorities whether the groups were doing anything criminal or were just hanging around.

The law says that someone is behaving in an antisocial manner if they are acting in a manner that is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm or distress, or they are doing several things over a period of time that cause, or are likely to cause, alarm or distress to at least one person living in another household.  This definition also covers verbal abuse, so if someone has been shouting and swearing at another person or even saying things which make others feel uneasy, then it could be classed as antisocial behaviour under the law.

The South Kesteven District Council has its own definition of Anti Social Behaviour.  It is behaviour by an individual or group that results in another party feeling personally threatened or which creates a public nuisance, or which has a detrimental impact upon the environment and thereby has a detrimental effect upon the quality of life of an individual or the community as a whole.  They also have a definition for a “Vulnerable Victim of Anti Social Behaviour”.  A Vulnerable Victim a vulnerable person is one whose experience and/or effect of harm as a result of the incident is likely to be more significant because of their individual personal circumstances.  This is about a subjective a test as you will find anywhere.  Feel sorry for the hapless soul whose path crosses the extremely sensitive person who can be upset about pretty much anything - a look on someone’s face, an “excuse me” said in the wrong way, a piece of clothing that symbolizes something that the victim doesn’t like. 

It is interesting that most of the above mentioned stories about policing anti-social behavior were in newspapers serving small towns or suburbs, rather than big cities.  The targets of anti-social policing are not just tough inner city gangs.

What else can we conclude about the policing of so-called anti-social behavior in the UK.  The anti-social behavior which is the subject of dispersal orders often seems very vague.  It is not limited to public drunkenness but extends to any behavior that could be considered impolite by “decent, law-abiding citizens”. Are there really that many obnoxious people on the High Streets of small town England.  Or is the term obnoxious people almost synonomous with youth.  The U.K’s decent, law-abiding citizens just don’t like young people just “hanging around” or having a good time.  

This kind of obsession with “ant-social behavior” is not present in the United States or Canada.  Youth are not targeted just because they hang around.

New Labour introduced the anti-social behavior law and its ASBO’s to the U.K.  The Conservatives promised to change things but their new Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill creates a set of tougher, and even easier to obtain, measures to tackle so-called anti-social behaviour. 

The Children's Society in the U.K. notes that the government has in fact worsened anti-social behaviour measures for children.  They declare “We fear that the measures could seriously affect the way children go about living their everyday lives.”

The bill will replace the ASBO with a new injunction to known as an IPNA (Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance). This injunction greatly increases the scope of the types of behaviour that are subject to anti-social behaviour measures and can be used for children as young as 10 if they behave in a way that is capable of causing "nuisance and annoyance". This is instead of causing "harassment, alarm and distress", as defined by ASBOs.  It is obvious that causing “nuisance and annoyance” can cover a huge range of normal childhood behaviour and will result in many more children being drawn into the criminal justice system.

The excerpts from English newspaper articles about policing anti-social behavior illustrate that it is really about policing young people.  It was noted by the Children’s Society in response to the IPNAs that the very low threshold for policing measures will extend over a huge range of typical childhood behavior.  Now “those annoying teenagers hanging around malls or on the street can now be dealt with by authorities.  “The breach of an injunction can result in a joyless jail term for those 14 and over in other words, the teenager can be put in prison for not actually having committed a criminal offense, but just having annoyed somebody.” The conviction for an antisocial behavioral offence can also lead to the criminal behavior order and up to two years of imprisonment.

Even children younger than ten can be targeted for anti-social behavior.  The Daily Mail reported that a police community support officer wrote several letters to the parents of Ellie-Louise Cox, aged four, and her sister Isabel, seven, complaining about their children’s (and that of neighbor three year old, Caidence Leadbetter’s) anti-social behaviour’ near homes in Smiths Wood, Solihill. The letters said elderly neighbours had complained of 'minor damage' to trees, the 'trampling of plants' and 'slightly intimidating behaviour'.  The letters from the  PCSO from the Solihull Police observed: “Reports have been received about a rise in anti-social behaviour”.  The police regretfully stated “There was no mention of Asbos in the letter and, legally, we cannot issue the orders to anyone under 10-years-old”.

It would be nice to say that these draconic youth targeting laws are simply the work of evil UK politicians and do not have general public support but that is not the case because “teenagers hanging around” has been the item which provoked the most continuous concern in the population in the British Crime Survey from 2004 to 2009.  Preteens and teens can be very annoying and often are a nuisance.  So what do you do about it?  You pass a law to lock them up.  The U.K. Gulag for children.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

WHEN GOOD INTENTIONS GO BAD

The last 20 years has seen a plethora of authoritarian legislation in the United States, Canada and England. This legislation has often been accompanied by the best of intentions.  As Paul Craig Roberts says in the Tyranny of Good Intentions “The twentieth century’s belief in government power as a force for good has encouraged the practice of chasing after devils.  Like a national emergency, a righteous cause can cut a wide swath through the law to more easily apprehend wrongdoers.”  The legislators more often than not have been spurred by reform oriented media campaigns. The end result, however, has been an accumulative attack on basic civil rights that extend back to the Magna Carta.

The new anti-bullying legislation in Nova Scotia is typical of the type of bad laws that are resulting from good intentions.  The anti-bullying law, as is often the case, was prompted by the suicide of a teenager allegedly caused by so-called bullying which took place primarily on the Internet.  There are undoubtedly many nuances to teenage suicide but they are swept aside when there is a convenient explanation available.  The end result is an intense media campaign which politicians ignore at their peril.

In the Nova Scotia case the provincial Attorney General at first instance said that he had been advised by Crown prosecutors that there was no basis for proceeding with criminal charges.  This was not the right thing to say to the media and to the new type of mob rule on the Internet characterized by the hacker group Anonymous.  Very quickly a scared government reversed its original position and rushed to introduce new legislation.

The provincial government in Nova Scotia is NDP which is a left of centre political party.  The legislation that they introduced has this extremely broad definition of bullying: “Bullying” means behaviour, typically repeated, that is intended to cause or should be known to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property, and can be direct or indirect, and includes assisting or encouraging the behaviour in any way,” 

Typically repeated but not necessarily repeated.  There is no reasonable person limitation to “distress to feelings”; some people’s feelings can be distressed by most anything.  Harm to self-esteem - repeatedly giving a pupil low grades could obviously cause harm to his or her self-esteem.  All sorts of people, especially politicians, can claim harm to their reputation - by repeated comments in newspapers.  Then consider indirectly causing loss of self-esteem or harm to feelings - let the imagination go wild.  You write a book like the God Delusion - you are harming the feelings of all sorts of religious people.  The final cooker - “assisting the behaviour” in any way - well that’s broad enough to take in virtually everyone and every act.

This was not sufficient for the Liberal and Conservative opposition political parties.  Very soon Nova Scotia’s politicians were outdoing each other proposing even more draconic legislation.  The Liberals wanted cyberbulling to become a criminal offense (imagine a criminal offence with the hugely broad definition of bullying contained in the legislation) and wanted a provision to require school boards to immediately notify Internet service and cell phone companies in instances where so-called bullying has occurred. The other opposition party, the Conservatives, proposed holding parents liable if the parent or guardian had been warned that the youth was suspected of cyberbullying OR knew or ought to have known the youth was cyberbullying.  Due diligence would be a defence to parental liability, i.e. if parents engage in 24 hour snooping on their kid they would probably be off the hook. 

The Conservative’s proposed bill also contained this weird definition: "recklessly" includes by sending electronically or posting online, including in any form of social media, any comment, picture, video or audio if there is a reasonable probability of causing harm to a person.  Is there anything that could be sent electronically or posted that “reasonably” might not cause harm to at least one very sensitive person.

Neither opposition party suggested that perhaps the original legislation was already far too broad.  No one asked whether Nova Scotia was going to end up with a society where people are investigated and locked up because they say something that might hurt someone's feelings?  No politician considered the possibility that future governments might expand the definition of "bullying" to include criticism of the state and "elected" officials?

What the Nova Scotia experience shows is that the tyranny of good intentions crosses traditional political boundaries and encompasses all mainstream political ideologies.  If there is someone saying wait a minute or hold back or take a second look, it is usually a party or person on the right or left wing fringe.  Somewhere along the way the prudent, reasonable people of the Centre have been lost.


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

CITIZEN SPIES

Citizen spies are a characteristic of totalitarian regimes, past and present.  It is estimated that one in seven of the population of the East German Communist state  was an informant for Stasi, the secret police force.  Citizen spies were also widely used in the old Soviet Union and are still an important element of state control in Cuba.  They are also favoured in fundamentalist Islamic states like Iran.

Citizen spies have now arrived in the U.K. and the U.S.  In the U.K., which once again is leading the way to the new “benign” police state, councils across the country have recruited thousands of ‘citizen snoopers’ to report so-called ‘environmental crime’.   These citizen spies are called Street Champions. The environmental crimes are not ones being committed by steel mills or chemical plants.  The target of the Street Champions are dog foulers, litter louts and neighbours who fail to sort their rubbish properly.  Other reportable matters include graffiti, litter, abandoned vehicles, fly–tipping and other anti-social behaviour that can supposedly affect the quality of life in an area.

The Street Champions are described  as the ‘eyes and ears’ of their neighbourhoods and are encouraged to take photos of ‘environmental crime’ and send them in with location details for a rapid response.  They are given hand-held GPS computers for the task or phone cards to cover the cost of using their own devices.  It is contemplated that evidence gathered this way will be used in criminal prosecutions. 

Typical of the evils which will be reported by the UK’s citizen spies is fly-posting.  This dreaded crime is defined as the display of advertising material on buildings and street furniture without the consent of the owner.  It can appear in many different forms including photocopied advertisements for local events. These may advertise garage (car-boot) sales or lost animals. They may be attached to light posts, railings and street benches or pasted on buildings. 

While the UK concentrates on evil fly-posters Homeland Security officials in the U.S.  are enlisting citizens as spies for the state by encouraging them to use a new app which allows smartphone users to attach pictures of “suspicious” vehicles or persons and send them directly to the federal government.  Its Delaware Information and Analysis Center (DIAC) now offers a mobile app to report suspicious activities in real-time by attaching a photo, sending location information, or entering details about suspicious vehicles or persons.  Users can choose to make their report anonymously or can include contact information for follow-up by law enforcement,” reports. 

In a 38 page report the American Civil Liberties Union observes that the state is recruiting individuals to serve as "eyes and ears" for the authorities while at the same time companies are being pressured to voluntarily provide consumer information to the government.  There are many ways security agencies can force companies to turn over sensitive information under federal laws such as the Patriot Act and to participate in watch list programs and in systems for the automatic scrutiny of individuals' financial transactions.  Government spy agencies are also increasingly using data mining programs like the MATRIX state information-sharing program and are purchasing information from private-sector data aggregators. Jay Stanley, Communications Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program noted "The amount of direct surveillance that government security agencies can conduct, and the number of people they can hire, will always be limited.  But leveraging the private sector vastly expands the government's capacity to invade our lives."   The American Civil Liberties Union calls this the Surveillance-Industrial Complex. 

Big city cops in the U.S. are also advocating for a new system of "citizen watch" programs - allegedly to help them spot hidden terrorists - but really to report any so-called crime including alleged acts of bullying.  New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights compels the reporting of so-called acts of bullying - firstly to school authorities and secondly to the police.   In East Hanover, new Jersey schools lunch-line bullies can be reported to the police by their classmates through anonymous tips to the Crimestoppers hot line.  Crimestoppers will accept anonymous text messages, calls or tips to its Web site and then forward the information to school and local police officials. 

One so-called anti-bullying website chillingly advocates for ubiquitous surveillance: “Bullies are everywhere! Due to spy gadgets, like spy video cams and voice recorders, it has now become easier to gather hard evidence against those bullies. Children, as well as adults, can be victims of bullying, or can themselves be the bullies. Bullying can happen anywhere, at school, on the bus, at work, at the park, or even on the street. Proof, is the only way to catch them, but was previously difficult to obtain. Thanks to spy equipment, it is now possible to expose those bullies for who they really are, so they can be dealt with appropriately!”

Citizen spies in East Germany were used to keep watch on people who were non-conformist or had anti-state tendencies or were ideological dissidents.  This was done usually under the guise of looking for foreign based intrigues.  In the new police state the ostensible targets are the “terrorists” but the much more likely targets are people who might engage in disapproved social behavior. In other words the citizen spy will be used as an instrument of social policing. 

The term “social policing” describes the policing of interactions between people which do not involve violence or the threat of violence or the wrongful taking of property.  Examples of such interactions include bullying where violence or the threat of violence is absent and harassment where the character off the harassment is psychological rather than physical.  In the U.K., in particular, it extends to putting up political posters on lamp posts or making insulting comments to others or not doing recycling duties properly or to rowdiness on the streets or, for youth, just hanging out on the streets.  The citizen spies will be recording these unacceptable behaviours and will be busy taking pictures with their phones or using their state provided apps to report to the nearest police station.

The English speaking world will probably not rival Communist East Germany for the sheer number of citizen spies but with all the additional surveillance instruments available to authorities from CCTV systems to drones to big data analysis, it won’t matter.  A limited number of citizen spies will suffice for the control purposes of the new police state. 



Tuesday, 16 April 2013

THE NEW POLICE STATE

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a police state as a political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures.
 
This is the traditional definition of a police state. There is a 21st century type of police state which over the last two to three decades has begun to take shape in the Western World, primarily in English speaking jurisdictions,. This new version of the police state has a softer, less obviously repressive feel to it. It relies much more heavily on the state bureaucracy and is process oriented although the process often does not bear much resemblance to that of English common law. Accordingly it does not look like the thuggish police states associated with fascism, communism or Third World dictatorships. Instead it tends to grind its victims into submission through a continuing flow of process and application. It can be characterized by a senseless, disorienting and often menacing complexity.
 
There have been three broad justifications used by governments to create the Bureaucratic Police State. They are terrorism, gangsterism and bad social behavior.
 
The threat of terrorism has usually been the rational for governments in the U.K. to gut traditional civil liberties and long standing restrictions on police power. There are a potpourri of rights stripping provisions. Under the power of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 police in the U.K. can now stop and search people without the need to show that they have reasonable suspicion that an offence is being committed. The use of this power, however, is not restricted to terrorism; less than half a percent of those stopped and searched are arrested in connection with terrorism (even less are convicted). In a parallel development police can search the home of arrested (not charged) people without the need for a warrant under Section 18 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Under Section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 the police have powers of arrest without warrant, which make all offences, no matter how trivial, into arrestable offences
 
You can see how these types of provisions play out in incidents that do not involve even a whiff of terrorism. Recently in London two police officers stopped a teenage photographer from taking pictures of an Armed Forces Day parade - and then claimed they did not need a law to detain him. After arguing his rights in a series of protracted legal debates with officers, the sixth former says he was pushed down a set of stairs and detained for breaching the peace until the parade passed.
 
Federal governments in the U.S. and Canada used the World Trade Centre attacks of September 11, 2002 to justify legislation which similarly assailed long standing freedoms. There are a plethora of sections in the USA Patriot Act extending surveillance powers in previously unknown ways. For example Section 215 of the Act allows the federal government to make a physician or medical insurance company release medical records to them and allows the government to access library records enabling the government to access information about books that have been checked out. Section 206 of the PATRIOT Act authorizes orders for multipoint or "roving" wiretaps for foreign intelligence investigations. A "roving" wiretap applies to an individual and allows the government to use a single wiretap order to cover any communications device that the suspect uses or may use." Section 505 permits the FBI to obtain financial records on anyone, without a court order. This includes the bank, hotels, travel agencies, hotels, pawn shops, or the Post office. Both Sections 215 and 505 bar the institution concerned from disclosing to the person in question that the government asked for the record or information.
 
Although the Patriot Act and related provisions were Republican Bush laws, the pattern of anti-liberties legislation has continued under President Obama. Last year he signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2012. One typical section of the Act, namely, Title X, Subtitle D, "Counter-Terrorism," affirms the president's right to detain anybody anywhere, U.S. citizens included, deemed to have "substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. Ominously, it specifies that this may proceed "without trial, until the end of the hostilities," and can involve transfer to "any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity" - in other words, Guantanamo or worse.
 
Legislation, which was initially sold to the public as mechanisms to control criminal gangs, has a similarity to anti-terrorism legislation. A particularly alarming development has been the use of purportedly civil proceedings to circumvent the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard for criminal convictions. At the head of this class is civil forfeiture. Civil forfeiture is really criminal law wearing the mask of a civil proceeding. Thusly disguised the standard for a punitive measure becomes the balance of probabilities. Arguably even the onus shifts to the target party if the law provides that the property is deemed to be used in or a product of a criminal activity until the owner shows otherwise.
 
Civil forfeiture quickly became a way for the police to avoid dealing with public prosecutors and they love it. In Victoria, British Columbia police officers recently went to court under the province’s Civil Forfeiture Act to ask a B.C. Supreme Court judge to forfeit the vehicles of two gentlemen who had convictions for impaired driving. Victoria police Const. Mike Russell, told The Province newspaper "That's the nice thing about civil forfeiture, it doesn't just fall into the criminal realm. You're able to put all the different things in [an application to a judge]. You can put in the police files, [details of events] every time we are called."
 
In addition to the complexity and costs of finding a lawyer and suing to reclaim your own property, the bounty that law enforcement collects from forfeitures is even more problematic. Forfeiture laws have often give police and prosecutors the wrong incentives and invite abuse. The problems of bad incentives are now well known to Minnesotans. In 2010 police officers assigned to the Metro Gang Strike Force (MGSF), a multi-jurisdictional agency charged by the Legislature to address gang-related crimes in the Twin Cities, were found to be stopping individuals who had no connection to gang activities and seizing money and other property regardless of any intent to file charges or whether the funds could reasonably be connected to illegal activities. As documented in their report to the Commissioner of Public Safety, a former U.S. Attorney and a retired FBI agent said:
 
"We’re struck by how many cases had no connection to any gang activity and could notbe reconciled with the mission of the Strike Force. The Strike Force’s mission does not support the creation of roving ‘saturation’ details that stop people for traffic violations or seize the funds of an undocumented alien who has committed no other offense. Yet this is what we found, many times over. … And the mission of the Strike Force does not authorize officers to take seized items home or purchase these items for their own personal use. But this is what happened, time and again."
 
The problems with asset forfeiture in Minnesota extended beyond a few rogue MGSF officers. Like other forfeiture provisions the State laws gives incentives to law enforcement to seize property based on police officers’ mere suspicion since a person need not be ever convicted of a crime for their property to be seized by the state and forfeited. It was pointed out that the very fact that Minnesota’s laws financially reward law enforcement for seizure of private property led to the MGSF scandal and other abuses.
 
Civil forfeiture essentially does away with other fundamental principles of British justice. The first of these is illustrated by B.C.’s grand motherly Attorney-General, Shirley Bond, who proudly claimed that civil forfeiture makes it possible to "get the bad guys twice". She is blissfully ignorant about double jeopardy which has been a principal of Anglo justice since the early part of the 14th century. A person is supposed to get punished only once for the same offence.
 
Civil forfeiture also eliminates the necessity of mens rea (a guilty mind) - unless houses, cars and cash can have mens rea - since the intention of an owner is irrelevant.
 
In fact mens rea has been taken a hit in the last couple of decades. This was noted by Harry Silverglate in Harvey Silverglade, is entitled " Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent ". Because of the thousands of broad and vague laws that do not require mens rea, he estimates that the average person in the United States goes through a typical day, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes. As a result citizens from all walks of life including doctors, accountants, businessmen, political activists, and others have been the targets of federal prosecutions for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior and despite reasonably believing that they did nothing wrong, broke no laws, and harmed no one.
 
There is another way that the "guilty mind" has been discarded as an essential for a criminal prosecution. Mens rea has never been required for many so-called statutory offences that are found outside criminal codes. In the past these strict liability offences had relatively minor penalties. Fines often maxed out at $5,000.00 and imprisonment was rare - and never more than six months. That is no longer true. British Columbia’s Public Health Act introduced by the province’s Liberal government in 2006 is an example of provincial legislation which carries greatly enhanced fines and lengthier incarceration. Subsection 108 of the Act says that in addition to a penalty imposed under section 107 [alternative penalties], a person who commits an offence "listed in .... .(c) section 99 (3) is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $3,000,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 36 months, or to both". Yes, a fine of $3,000,000.00 and three years in prison. In effect many statutory offences are being escalated into criminal offences.
 
What is that horrendous 99(3) offence that can result in a three year prison term. It is an offence under either section 15 of Act; i.e causing a health hazard or under section 26 which is a failure to provide a designated quarantine facility. Section 15 says "A person must not willingly cause a health hazard, or act in a manner that the person knows, or ought to know, will cause a health hazard." Health hazard in turn means (a) a condition, a thing or an activity that (i) endangers, or is likely to endanger, public health, or (ii) interferes, or is likely to interfere, with the suppression of infectious agents or hazardous agents, or (b) a prescribed condition, thing or activity, including a prescribed condition, thing or activity that (i) is associated with injury or illness, or (ii) fails to meet a prescribed standard in relation to health, injury or illness. This is the "killer" part of the definition - a prescribed condition is one set in regulation that requires approval (usually a rubber stamp) only by the Provincial Cabinet. A prescribed condition is a bureaucrat created offence which could be virtually anything, e.g. playing overly loud music at a rock concert. In other words a relatively minor regulatory offence, which can be hatched by backroom bureaucrats, could be punished by a three million dollar fine and three years in jail.
 
The police have increasingly been given judicial like powers. Consider British Columbia’s recently passed Offence Act. Section 89.1 of the Act says that the justice must include, as conditions in a probation order, that the defendant do all of the following: (a) keep the peace and be of good behaviour; (b) appear before the court as and when required to do so by a justice; (c) notify the justice or a person designated by the justice (i) in advance of any change in the defendant's name or address, and (ii) promptly of any change in the defendant's employment or occupation. The amended 89.6 says that "A defendant who is bound by a probation order commits an offence if the defendant, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with a condition in the probation order." But it is brand new section 89.7 which is most dangerous. It says "A police officer may arrest without warrant a person whom the police officer believes on reasonable and probable grounds is committing an offence under section 89.6." This gives police the ability to arrest a person without a warrant that they suspect is breaching their probation.
 
Thusly an individual who commits a relatively minor provincial offence can find himself effectively placed under police control.
 
While the police are gaining judicial like powers, bureaucrats are increasingly being given police like powers. This is essentially true of Civil Forfeiture offices like in B.C. which operate almost as a secret investigative body outside of public view. The Community Safety Act in British Columbia is creating a new provincial unit which will police so-called problem properties throughout the Province. Typically it is being given vast investigative powers. In fact it is an offence under the Act to "refuse or fail to provide information as required". Gone is another longstanding right.
 
In the U.S. (at the federal level) Inspectors General over two dozen federal agencies, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to NASA, have been authorized by Congress to seek law enforcement powers from the Attorney General without having to demonstrate any proof of need or ability.
 
The real evil with bureaucratic-driven policing is that it is carried out in a totally ad hoc, discretionary and out-of-the public-view manner. There is often little or no prosecutorial control. The bureaucrats pick and choose who they go after. Often the only criteria seems to be bad public relations. Asian kids driving two hundred thousand dollar cars provided to them by Mom and Dad are an inevitable target. At the same time former cabinet ministers with multiple number of speeding tickets are ignored. Petty bureaucrats with far too much individual power and free of checks and balances will INEVITABLY act in an abusive, non-judicial manner.
 
The UK is a world leader in establishing the 21st century style of a police state. One of its innovative devices (2001) are called Penalty Notices for Disorder or PND’s. On the surface PND’s which for adults carry fines of £50 and £80 could appear to be an enlightened alternative to a formal charge for a minor criminal offense. PNDs can be issued on the street by a police officer in uniform or at a police station by an authorised officer to any individual across England and Wales. Theoretically PNDs help police officers to deal with minor anti-social behaviour offences quickly, such as littering, wasting police time, drunk and disorderly & possession of cannabis. They also extend to the UK’s infamous Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986; namely; "using words/conduct likely to cause fear of harassment, alarm or distress".
 
The notices can only be given if the person who committed the offence agrees and then they will be issued a £50 or £80 fine, depending on the offence. The incentive for the alleged offender to 'pay-up' is that no criminal conviction or admission of guilt is associated with payment of the penalty. If the offender accepts the ticket and then fails to pay, the fine will be increased and eventually a warrant will be issued.
 
Once a penalty notice has been issued, in accordance with Section 2 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, the recipient may elect within the 21 day suspended enforcement period from the date of issue to either pay the amount shown on the notice in full or request a court hearing. Once issued in accordance with the law, a notice may not be withdrawn or any action taken until the 21 day suspended enforcement period has expired. Just one per cent of penalty notices have been contested at court in each year since PND's were rolled out in England and Wales in 2004. This strictly low-level of contest reflects the notion that if the fine is contested that it will lead to a criminal charge.
 
Again a relatively minor offence can in this step by step process place an individual under the boot of a cop. Twenty-five different offences provide police with a swift financial punishment to deal with alleged misbehaviour and it is efficient in the peculiar way that the new police state measures efficiency. Issuing a penalty notice takes an officer approximately 30 minutes compared with 2 ½ hours to prepare an evidential case file for court.
 
The"blurring" of the lines between lawmakers, enforcers and punishers is exactly what makes a police state a police state. As John Fassenfelt, chairman of the U.K.’s Magistrates’ Association, said: "In some cases there is already a suspicion that this has created a lack of transparency and openness in the system and effectively means that those who are there to enforce the law are effectively put in the position of judges and sentencers."
 
The Criminal Justice and Police Act also illustrate another blurring of lines - that between serious criminal offences and minor offences that until recently did not even rank as crimes. In a progressive way a minor offence can be escalated into a serious crime.
 
Reducing costs and increasing efficiencies are often cited as the reasons for taking the handling of offences away from the Courts. This claim accompanied a recently announced B.C. justice ministry plan to shift ticket disputes from traffic court to an administrative tribunal. A report on justice reform "What this means for citizens is that drivers who challenge a driving offence will no longer face the cost and inconvenience of attending court," Instead of the court "the majority of traffic disputes will be resolved though an administrative justice model that will allow resolution to be completed by phone."
 
The big problem with good behavior orders, roadside impairment justice, PND’s, civil forfeiture and a whole host of other initiatives is that justice is increasingly being delivered by a police-bureaucrat linkage. The police avoid the checks and balances of the Courthouse and the professional prosecutor. Instead they deal directly with a government office - often an obscure government office - with which it is much easier to establish a cozy, supportive relationship.
 
Social policing is a rapidly developing area of criminalized human relationships. In a previous article on this blog the term "social policing" was defined as the policing of interactions between people which do not involve violence or the threat of violence or the wrongful taking of property. Examples of such interactions include bullying where violence or the threat of violence is absent and harassment where the character off the harassment is psychological rather than physical. In other words it is about the policing of behaviour labelled as anti-social or inconsiderate but which does not involve traditional criminal activity. The term could extend to the policing of opinions whether those opinions be about religion or politics or other groups provided they are expressed in a social context.

Social policing often begins with the targeting of seriously deviant behavior but gradually extends its reach. Anti-harassment measures are an example. They originally grew out of attempts to prevent stalking; i.e where one individual followed or kept watch on another individual over an extended period of time. Stalking often ended in physical violence. Harassment, however, was defined so broadly that it included any conduct that a particularly sensitive person could find annoying. The sexual harassment codes used by many universities make even mild flirting illegal - if a so-called victim chooses for whatever personal reason to make a big deal about it. While universities can not imprison the alleged culprit, they can severely disrupt the his or her life through the instrument of expulsion.
 
Consider this definition of harassment: "unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment" Non-verbal conduct would include "looks" and "faces". The use of "dignity of a person" essentially makes the test a subjective one - is the dignity of the so-called victim violated AS PERCEIVED by the victim. Similarly "offensive environment" implies an environment perceived by the victim as offensive. The guilty party looks at the victim in a way that the sensitive victim perceives as hostile or degrading or offensive and we are away to the Courthouse.
 
The kinds of behaviour now identified as bullying are mostly social not physical in nature. A typical definition of bullying now includes such conduct as social exclusion and name calling and even gestures. The advocates of expanded "bullying laws" are clearly aiming at policing social relationships in ways never seen before. The City of Regina’s bylaw says "bully" means: (a) any objectionable or inappropriate comment, conduct or display by a person; (b) directed at an individual not of the same household; (c) intended to intimidate, humiliate, ridicule, or isolate; and (d) which causes or is likely to cause physical or emotional distress. Manitoba’s bill defines bullying as behaviour that "is intended to cause, or should be known to cause, fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other forms of harm to another person's body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property. Bullying thus includes behavior that "should be known to cause ... harm to another person’s .... feelings, self-esteem, reputation ..."
 
A Canadian Public Health Association discussion papers says "However, the social manipulation and social exclusion of victims, although not as easily detected, is equally harmful and likely more prevalent. Does social exclusion mean that Jason’s mother is engaging in bullying when she doesn’t invite Matthew to her son’s birthday party.
 
Manitoba’s legislation does not include any heavy penalties for bullying but serious criminalization is never very far way. For example, in Missouri the failed prosecution of a woman for an egregious internet scam resulted in the definition of the crime of 'harassment' being expanded to include "knowingly intimidating or causing emotional distress anonymously, either by phone or electronically, or causing distress to a child." At the same time the state increased the penalty for harassment from a misdemeanor to a felony which carries up to four years in prison. Four years in jail for an act of social exclusion that distresses a child?
 
In the United States, a proposed federal law would make it illegal to use electronic means to "coerce, intimidate, harass or cause other substantial emotional distress." It would have a maximum prison sentence of two years.
 
Section 5 of the U.K.’s Public Order Act makes it an offence if a person uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby. Two fascinating aspects of Section 5: firstly, it specifically makes "insults" a crime and secondly, no one actually has to be distressed - it is sufficient that they would likely be distressed (if present). 
 
The City of Regina obviously took its inspiration from Section 5 because its anti-bully bylaw says much the same thing. "Bully" means: (a) any objectionable or inappropriate comment, conduct or display by a person; (b) directed at an individual not of the same household; (c) intended to intimidate, humiliate, ridicule, or isolate; and (d) which causes or is likely to cause physical or emotional distress. An "insult" and "objectionable or inappropriate comment" are almost synonymous - if anything, an inappropriate comment can be even less offensive than an insult. Isolate has been defined as "set apart from others". Any comment directed at a single person or part of a group could be described as isolating. And like Section 5 Regina’s by-law does not require emotional distress - just the likelihood of such.
 
Advocates of anti-bullying legislation invariably protest that they are not trying to lock up people who make nasty comments to others. They don’t need to jail offenders. The bureaucratic police state has "weapons" at its disposal other than imprisonment. Seizing personal property as in civil forfeiture is a significant weapon. Additionally huge fines are levied against the so-called wrongdoer. A huge fine which wipes out a personal financially can often be a worse punishment than imprisonment.
 
The criminalization of bad social behavior (social policing) has enormously broad ramifications. It means that virtually every aspect of a person’s daily life will be subject to oversight by Authority. 
 
The bureaucratic police state finds novel ways to "punish" people. Taking away driver’s license - in a society in which public transit is absent in many areas and in which distance between places is large - is a favorite.
 
Simson L. Garfinkel (in a blog, Nobody Fucks with the DMV) points out that in his state of Massachusetts, you can't renew your driver's license if you have outstanding parking tickets, unpaid moving violations or if you owe excise tax on your automobile. "Oregon has 109 different offenses that can result in the temporary suspension of a driver's license; 50 of them have nothing at all to do with driving. In Wisconsin, you can lose your driver's license if you forget to pay your library fines, don't shovel the snow off your sidewalk, or don't trim a tree that overhangs a neighbor's property." 
 
Individuals that choose to fight rather than surrender to the bureaucratic police state often find themselves in a nightmarish situation. The resources arrayed against them are enormous. The state always resolves to win - cases are never lost until the highest level of court has rendered its decision. The outcome again for the individual who fights back is financial ruination even if he or she is the ultimate winner in Court.
 
Interestingly much of this authoritarian legislation is not originating from far left or far right governments but from those positioned in the middle of the road. Rather than combining the best of the Left and the best of the Right modern day Centrists seem to combine the worst of the Left - a tendency to regulate everything - with the worst of the Right - harsh law and order. Zealots of goodness.
 
The final frightening element that we see is a massive expansion of surveillance at all levels. The U.K., leads the way in surveillance with about 20% of the world’s population of CCTV cameras, although it has only 1% of the world’s population. It has been estimated that there are over two million CCTV cameras watching people’s every move or one for every 32 citizens.. Consequently the average Londoner being caught on camera more than 300 times every day.
 
If that does not do the job, the U.K’s Home Office now has a brand new surveillance tool at hand; namely, drones in the sky. Spy drones raise obvious privacy concerns because of their ability to gather information from superior vantage points; for example, by hovering outside a person’s bedroom window. Already a number of civil liberties groups have concluded that watchful eyes in the sky will inevitably be privy to intimate details concerning the private lives of everyday Britons. Drones got their first big time test monitoring crowds at the London Olympics in the summer of 2012. In a city already laden with cameras, the police were able to add their "eyes in the sky."
 
Location tracking has become a major tool for law enforcement and is virtually devoid of proper regulation. Accordingly police often track individuals' movements for days, weeks, and even months, frequently without a judge determining whether the surveillance is justified based upon a legitimate suspicion of criminal activity. People can be tracked in a number of different ways - through their cell phones, their vehicle license plates and even by attaching GPs devices inconspicuously to a car. 
 
In British Columbia an "automatic licence plate recognition" program was introduced six years ago. The system was supposed to catch car thieves, people driving without licenses, etc. but the license plate recognition information as could be expected included anyone who happened to be driving past an equipped police vehicle. The Victoria City police built up an ongoing data base. They even extended it to people entering local bars. B.C.’s privacy commissioner had to tell the Victoria police that they were violating privacy legislation unless they deleted the information on a daily basis. Victoria’s police chief initially refused to comply. One suspects that even when this kind of data is supposed to be deleted, this does not necessarily happen.
 
George Orwell in Oceania envisioned written correspondence that was opened and read by the government before it was delivered but he did not foresee the communication technology that has developed in the last half century. People now communicate on the internet rather than writing letters so fittingly in Spring of 2012 the British government introduced the Communications Data Bill into Parliament. This legislation, if passed, would give police, intelligence agencies and HM Revenue and Customs officials access to data about web communications made by UK citizens. It would also allow the Home Secretary the blanket power to retain data on every citizen for an undefined purpose. It won’t require judicial approval - the death knell of another fundamental principle - and potentially every text message, every Facebook message, every phone call, every email from everyone in Britain would be stored on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government. If the Bill passes the Home Secretary will also be able to ask manufacturers of communications equipment to install hardware such as ‘black boxes’ on their products to make spying easier. The end result - potential for total population monitoring.
 
The explosion of population surveillance in the U.K is being replicated in the United States. Its Homeland Security has fitted Predator drones with domestic espionage capabilities. Performance specifications includes the following technical requirements: infra-red sensors and communications, plus either synthetic aperture radar (SAR), Ground Moving Target Indicator mode (GMTI –– tracking) or signals interception receivers. The "UAV" (unmanned aerial vehicle) is required to be "capable of tracking an adult human-sized, single moving object with sufficient accuracy to allow target designation at the specific ranges."
 
Drones where originally intended to be used to guard America’s political borders but they have quickly gained popularity with domestic police forces. Again the greatest benefit of drones in the eye of law enforcement officials is the cost benefit since they are much cheaper than helicopters or other aircraft and cost much less to operate per hour than do other aircraft.
 
Drones already create significant concerns over privacy rights. In the future the uses of these vehicles will be even more frightening enhancements. A Wired article drew attention to the technological leaps that are possible when this technology is deployed for everyday use. These drones could be equipped with LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) which is also known as a sound cannon. They could also be equipped with a "light based personnel immobilization device," which is a strobe-like light used to disorient fleeing criminals and stop them in their tracks. It is even proposed that non-lethal rounds, or Tasers, could be mounted to smaller drones to track down persons that Authority wants to apprehend.
 
Drones are likely to be a fixture of our future society. Given the ongoing protests that have shook many dictatorships (and democracies) in recent years, this technology will inevitably be an extremely useful tool for Authority worldwide. For example, sound cannons could be flown in from a remote location and used to dispel protesters, thusly avoiding any clashes with the police or army.
 
What about thought control? Already expressing your thoughts in nonverbal ways can get you into trouble. For example some of the anti-bullying legislation extends to gestures. Quebec’s bill states "bullying means any direct or indirect behaviour, comment, act or gesture, including through the use of social media, intended to injure, hurt, oppress, intimidate or ostracize." This definition can encompass gestures such as eye-rolling or sticking out one’s tongue. But it can get much worse since it is now possible to detect hidden intentions by observing patterns of brain activity. It will be especially justified in the context of children; that is, in identifying and isolating adults who are having paedophilic thoughts. If the technology is available, there will be inexorable pressure to apply this kind of thought analysis to all those people might have contact with children in an employment situation . And then what is next. The law and order logic suggests blanket analysis of people’s thoughts in all sorts of public situations - after all what better way to prevent bank robberies, assaults, murders, other evil acts - that flow from the original thought.
 
The bureaucratic police state can perhaps be seen in its most advanced state in matters dealing with children. This is not unexpected. Totalitarian reformers across the ages have seen re-educating the children as the first essential steps in creating their new order.
 
It is now necessary to supervise and regulate the totality of children’s social relationships. How is this done? Through the use of more fear – this time it is fear of so-called bullying. As noted above bullying has been defined so broadly that it encompasses pretty much the entirety of social interaction between children. If one child says something nasty to another child that is bullying and subject to adult interference. One child ignores another child and that too is classified as bullying and subject to more adult interference. 
 
Legislation in Ontario in Canada and New Jersey in the U.S. has imposed enormous requirements on school administrators to monitor bullying. It basically commands school authorities to be ever watchful over playing children. Realistically this is going to be done through surveillance cameras and other such technology.
 
Traditionally children could escape the prying eyes of adults when they went into a school washroom but for how much longer. Three East Yorkshire schools were discovered to have cameras filming in changing rooms or toilets. It was subsequently revealed there were at least 206 schools nationally filming in those areas.
 
A novel extension of total surveillance occurred in a school district in Pennsylvania. It generously gave laptops to all 1,800 students at its two high school district but unfortunately the devices included a webcam that could be remotely activated. Images were taken with the webcam included anything going on in a room at home where the laptop was placed. One set of parents discovered this when their son was told off by teachers for "engaging in improper behaviour in his home" and that the evidence was an image from his webcam. The school subsequently claimed that the webcam was only intended as tracking device to prevent the loss of the laptops. They disabled the security-tracking program.
 
Unfortunately the new police state is often looked at favourably by the media and the initiatives described in this article often have significant public support. Take criminalization of bullying. An Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll done in 2012 in Canada revealed that 90 per cent of respondents believed that the country should consider cyber-bullying a crime. A paltry 19 per cent believed that bullying should only be a criminal offence if violence is involved. The media play a huge role in whipping up public hysteria - this was seen when a 15 year old girl committed suicide in B.C. purportedly on account of cyber-bullying. Gone was any rational discussion of the nuances of such suicides. Soon the public was frothing at the bit to jail twelve year olds who had allegedly engaged in the cyber-bullying.
 
I said that a new type of police state has begun to take shape. Are we there yet? Probably not. The alarming possibility is the convergence of the developments that I describe in this article. To capsulize firstly there has been a weakening or even abolition of many traditional safeguards and rights. The standard of proof reduced to balance of probabilities (or less) from beyond a reasonable doubt; innocent until proven guilty has (arguably) been replaced in some instances by guilty until the party proves innocence; mens rea is replaced by strict liability for the act, guilty mind or not; a person can be punished more than once for the same act (double jeopardy); refusal or failure to provide information as required is now an offence (self-incrimination). 
 
Secondly, there are enhanced powers of arrest and seizure. Statutes provide expanded powers of arrest and individuals can in certain instances be locked up for months and even years without being brought to trial. Correspondingly certain laws now allow warrantless searches and seizures - even searches and seizures which can be kept secret from the target.
 
Thirdly the state now has enormous surveillance abilities - cameras on every street corner, drones in the sky, tracking devices, forced access to new media communications, the list goes on and on.
 
Finally, there is an expansion of criminalized and quasi-criminalized behavior. There are many environmental offences; there are new public health and safety offences; there is social policing with even rude or annoying interpersonal behavior being illegalized. Freedom of speech is being restricted to innocuous commentary.
 
The developments that are described in this article are not even. They also vary considerably from one to the other of the three Anglo jurisdictions that are reviewed. What there is, however, is a relentless expansion (and increasingly a convergence) of various types of state power. Combine the massive expansion of criminalized behavior detected through the use of omnipresent surveillance and then prosecuted by almost invisible tribunals freed of the restraints imposed by traditional rights and freedoms and what do you get. It is a bureaucratic police state that would make the world described in Kafka’s "Trial" look almost benign.