It hasn't been a particularly good week for justice in this country. By “justice” we don't mean “the legal system”, of course. That has nothing to do with justice, being merely a vehicle for the continued employment, enrichment and aggrandisement of lawyers and judges. No, when we say “justice” we mean traditional notions of fair play, right and wrong, common sense ... silly us.
Here's the Rochdale Observer ...
A mother was arrested when she tried to get rid of gatecrashers from a party at her own home.
Company boss Penny Heffernan was charged with obstructing an officer and using threatening and abusive words or behaviour after neighbours dialled 999. The mother-of-two, aged 56, was found guilty by magistrates but won an appeal at Crown Court, overturning the verdict. She has accused police of a ‘complete overreaction’ and is now pursuing a complaint against two officers after a 20-month fight to clear her name.
Her daughter, Sarah, had invited between 30 and 40 teenage guests to her 16th birthday party at the £450,000, five-bedroom house in Norden, Rochdale, with her parents’ permission. But she rang her mother, who owns a property management company in Manchester, after men walked in from the street. Mrs Heffernan arrived home with her husband Brian after a meal with friends and was outside her house on Merebank Close looking for the gatecrashers when police arrived. She said she remonstrated with an officer who she claimed was being heavy-handed with one of the children.
Mrs Heffernan said: "I arrived at home to see quite a lot of people, but it wasn't horrendous. My daughter and her friends had already got rid of all the gatecrashers. Then this police officer arrived – it was like he was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut." She said the officer slapped cans of lager from the hands of one teenager who was at the party in March 2009.
Mrs Heffernan added: "He was acting in a very aggressive way. The children were not being unruly and parents were arriving to collect their children. I said to the officer that I was going to walk back to the house and asked if he wanted to join me to clean up. I was then arrested and frog-marched to a van."
Mrs Heffernan, who owns Penny Ashton Sales, Lettings and Property Management, denied police claims that she was drunk. She said she had two small glasses of wine. Mrs Heffernan spent a night in the cells at Chadderton Police Station and refused to accept a police caution the following morning. She was bailed then charged and appeared before Rochdale magistrates court in July last year.
Her solicitors wrote letters to the Crown Prosecution Service before the case to ask police not to destroy CCTV footage recorded from the police custody suite, which would act as evidence for the defence. But when the case was heard, the footage had already been destroyed. Mrs Heffernan was found guilty and conditionally discharged for 12 months. She appealed and the case was thrown out at Bolton Crown Court. Mrs Heffernan said: "I should never had been charged, but accepting a caution is accepting guilt. It has been 20 months of hell."
Police confirmed that the force’s professional standards branch has received a complaint against both the arresting officer and a custody sergeant, which is currently under investigation. A CPS spokesman said: "Our handling of the correspondence from the defence in this case fell below the standards we expect and action has been taken to ensure this does not happen again."
Great, isn't it? The Prime Minister can say what he likes about our right to defend our own property and families, but if some thick constable doesn't like the shape of your face or the sound of your voice, that's your lot, chummy. Next time you're being mugged or raped or shot, just be a little bit careful how you call for help. We wouldn't like to offend anyone's sensibilities, especially if they have a pair of handcuffs and the ear of the CPS.
Meanwhile in sunny Birminghamshire the Coventry Telegraph has this to say ...
Villagers campaigning against a travellers’ camp in Meriden are facing being booted off the protest site – for breaking planning laws. And it is likely the objectors will be forced to pack up their caravan and awning and go before the travellers. Ironically, they are being accused of doing the same thing as the travellers: damaging the green belt.
Protestors from Meriden RAID (“Residents Against Illegal Development”) set up the camp in May last year to highlight the illegal development of the site in Eaves Green Lane. But like the travellers they did not apply for planning permission and now their application and the subsequent appeal has been turned down. As a result, Solihull Borough Council will meet at the end of the month to discuss the possibility of launching legal action against the protesters.
If they do it could mean the campaigners are kicked off the land before the travellers – even though both groups have had applications and appeals turned down. David McGrath, from Meriden RAID, vowed that if the council does start enforcement action against the protesters, the group would make sure that any further action they take would not cost the taxpayer a penny.
“It’s 100 per cent likely that enforcement action will be taken against us before members of the traveller community,” he said. “They know exactly what they are doing. The reality is they can tie the legal system in knots. We will be holding a public meeting of RAID supporters what our options are and what decisions we can take to move forward. This protest is not going away. We may alter one or two things about it but RAID is not going anywhere.”
A spokesman for Solihull Borough Council confirmed that members of the planning committee would discuss whether or not to take enforcement action against the protestors at a meeting later this month. On Tuesday, the Telegraph revealed that the legal team acting on behalf of the travellers had launched an appeal against the decision to dismiss their appeal against the initial refusal to grant planning permission.
They will remain on their site until at least March when Solihull Council will return to the High Court to apply for permission to evict them. An attempt a few weeks ago was aborted by the council’s legal team.
Mr McGrath denied that by continuing to protest on the illegal camp Meriden RAID were no better than the people they are campaigning to remove. “There’s no comparison,” he said. “We are not here for residential or commercial reasons. We are not seeking to be here for any great length of time. And we are not in a field. We are set up in a builders yard on an area of hard standing and we are having no impact on the environment. They have dug up acres of land and now the area looks like a muddy quagmire.”
The protesters have maintained a 24-hour presence on the illegal camp for 585 days now. Their original planning application was turned down because of fears about noise levels, damage to a nearby hedgerow and because it constituted illegal development in the green belt.
So, yet again council jobsworths are prepared to act against the easy targets, the law-abiding citizens whose council tax pays for their comfortable salaries and nice secure pensions, but are scared to tackle the real criminals who flout our planning laws and can thumb their noses at authority because they threaten violence and insurrection if anyone takes them on.
If you're interested, the protesters' website is here.
Most of the national newspapers carried the story of Rhea Page this week. The Sun's reportage was typical ...
A feral gang of Somalian girls who repeatedly kicked a young woman in the head walked free from court after a judge heard they were "not used to being drunk" because they were Muslim. The four girls, three sisters and their cousin, were told the charge of actual bodily harm against 22-year-old care worker Rhea Page, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, would normally land them in custody. But the judge handed the girls suspended sentences after hearing that they were not used to alcohol because their religion does not allow it.
Victim Rhea said Ambaro Maxamed, 24, Ayan Maxamed, 28, and Hibo Maxamed, 24, and their 28-year-old cousin Ifrah Nur screamed "Kill the white s***" while kicking her in the head as she lay motionless on the ground. The support worker from Leicester was left "black and blue" with bruises and needed hospital treatment following the attack which came as she walked to a taxi rank with her boyfriend. She was also left with a bald patch after having her hair yanked out. She was left so traumatised by the attack that she lost her job due to repeated absences with stress and flashbacks.
Rhea had been walking home with her boyfriend after a night out when the drunken women attacked her, knocking her to the ground and taking turns to kick her in the head. She said: "I had gone for a drink after work and then I met my boyfriend for a couple more before heading home. We didn't want to stay out too late so we went to get a taxi and all of a sudden I heard these women shouting abuse at me. "We were just minding our own business but they kept shouting 'white b****' and 'white s***' at me. When I turned around one of them grabbed my hair - she literally wrapped her fingers in my hair - then threw me on the ground. They were taking turns to kick me in the head and back over and over.
"Eventually the police came but it felt like ages. I honestly think they attacked me just because I was white. I can't think of any other reason."
Seventeen months on from the attack, which happened in Leicester city centre, she is still undergoing counselling and suffers from panic attacks and flashbacks.
The women all admitted actual bodily harm at Leicester Crown Court, but received six-month jail sentences, suspended for 12 months on November 22. Sentencing, Judge Robert Brown said: "This was ugly and reflects very badly on all four of you. Those who knock someone to the floor and kick them in the head can expect to go inside, but I'm going to suspend the sentence."
He said he accepted the women may have felt they were the victims of unreasonable force from Rhea's partner Lewis Moore, 23, who tried desperately to defend her from the attack. However, Rhea said outside the court that he had only been trying to protect her.
During the hearing, James Bide-Thomas, prosecuting, said Ambaro Maxamed, who started the violence, had called Rhea a "white b****" during the incident. However, the women, who are all Somalian Muslims, were not charged with racial aggravation. Nur, who joined in the attack after initially acting as a peacemaker, said it was in fact the victim's partner who had been racially abusive, but Mr Bide-Thomas said that was not accepted by the prosecution.
The court heard that after words were exchanged, Ambaro Maxamed had grabbed Rhea's hair, causing her to fall on the ground. Mr Bide-Thomas said: "Miss Page was repeatedly kicked on her back and head and was crying and screaming throughout. Afterwards, she was sick and was pulling her own hair from her mouth."
Gary Short, mitigating for Ambaro Maxamed, said the attack was down to alcohol. He said "Although Miss Page's partner used violence, it doesn't justify their behaviour. They're Somalian Muslims and alcohol or drugs isn't something they're used to."
As well as the suspended sentence, Hibo Maxamed, who needs dialysis three times a week for a kidney complaint, received a four-month curfew between 9pm and 6am. The others were ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
Rhea labelled the sentence "disgusting". She said: "It's no punishment at all and sends out a message that it's OK to do that to someone. And for them to say they did it because they were not used to alcohol is not an excuse. If they were not supposed to be drinking then they shouldn't have been out in bars at that time of night. The attack has had a devastating affect on my life and they have just been allowed to get away with it."
Many papers carried clips of CCTV footage, so we could all see for ourselves the violence with which Rhea's boyfriend defended her against the unprovoked attack by four older women. Of course we all realise this was totally unreasonable of him. It probably ought to have been him in the dock, not the four women. You can tell from the video that he was bladdered, which was lucky for the women because to be honest his violence was pretty half-hearted.
The story caused more outrage on the Daily Mail website than any in living memory, with 1,160 readers' comments. While we don't like to align ourselves either with the Daily Mail or its readership, it's obvious that we're not alone in being angered by the women's defence and the judge's decision.
This was a racial attack, that's plain. The defendants said so, over and over, very loudly. But it was a racial attack by four black people on two white people, so apparently the law doesn't care. Indeed, so little does it care that it's prepared to accept and even quote in summary a racial defence - “This wasn't my fault because I'm a Muslim”. The GOS is writing to the defence team in the Stephen Lawrence murder trial, suggesting this as a potentially useful line of legal argument - “Your honour, I can't be held responsible for my actions because I'm a Methodist”.
Why weren't the women charged with a racially-aggravated offence? Does racism only work one way?
Why was the boyfriend's attempt to protect the victim even mentioned in court? Have we really sunk so low that if anyone with a shred of decency leaps to the defence of a woman in the street, his actions are to be questioned? There was a time when this would have been considered the normal behaviour of any gentleman.
Why is a British judge prepared to accept that belief in some imaginary religion trumps the law? Is he completely stupid?
And the police and judiciary are paid, by us, to defend us from disorder and uphold the letter and spirit of the law of this country, not the superstitions of Somalia. When the f*ck are they going to man up and start behaving as society expects?
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