Freedom Hotline's blog

Fined in Belfast - for PICKING UP dog mess

A lady has been fined in Belfast for picking up her dog mess. She had left the house without poop bags, and popped home (a few doors away) to get a bag and pick up her dog’s mess ‘60-90 seconds later’. Yet her explanations were dismissed by a ‘bellicose’ council warden, who ‘harranged’ her repeatedly and issued her with a fixed penalty notice for dog fouling.

Her account of events, below, shows how on-the-spot fines are being used to punish the law-abiding. All the basic principles of criminal justice are disregarded: guilt is impugned and officials ignore their own guidelines for the issuing of fines. Her letter is a strong demolition of the basis for this particular fine - and also a case lesson in principles of criminal justice and the rule of law.


Remove leafleting restrictions for local events!

leaflet campaign image It has become almost impossible to hand out leaflets in many town and city centres. Local councils including Brighton, Leicester and Leeds have introduced leafleting zones, within which you have to pay a fee (and often wear a badge) if you want to flyer. These rules have been catastrophic for grassroots organisations, including village halls, comedy clubs and nightclubs, who rely on leafleting to inform local people about their events.

Lord Clement Jones' Private Members' Bill for the deregulation of leafleting will have its second reading on 5 July. To support the Bill, sign our petition against leafleting bans.

Read on: See the Manifesto Club Campaign Against Leafleting Bans

Xfor incentive scheme revealed at last

The private company Xfor pioneered fining-on-commission arrangements with local authorities. For every £75 fine issued - for littering, or offences including leafleting without a licence, or walking a dog in a no-dog zone - the company pocketed £45.

Xfor denied that individual officers were paid commission. But now that the company has been purchased by Kingdom Security ltd, some of its officers have spoken out about its incentive schemes.

An anonymous officer who patrolled in South Wales said: “We had to give out four tickets a day and for any over that we would receive £5-a-ticket bonus.”

The stupidity of fining children for truancy

Truancy fines increased to 41,224 in 2011-12, compared to 32,641 the year before. This increase in fines comes at the same time as a fall in school absenteeism, suggesting that the issue is the greater use of fines rather than an increase in truancy.

This shows the increasing willingness for public authorities to slap people with fines, as a way of asserting authority or discipline, or dealing with social problems. Rather than persuade kids to attend school, or deal with the underlying issues, schools write out fines like parking tickets.

New ASB powers: Is there anything they CAN'T do?

The Manifesto Club’s Banned in London map showed the worrying extent of public space regulation, with hundreds of banned zones within which ordinary rights are suspended.

The new anti-social behaviour legislation announced in the Queen's speech makes all this look very mild. Every draconian power has been replaced with something far worse.

Doctors and landlords are not border agents

Our Visiting Artists Campaign opposed the requirement for universities and arts venues to monitor international visitors throughout their visit. Under pressure from the UK Border Agency, many universities have now introduced passport checks for visiting lecturers or external examiners.

Now the Queen's speech includes plans to extend these obligations to doctors and landlords, envisaging passport checks in doctors' surgeries, and private landlords checking tenants' documents and visas under the threat of thousands of pounds in fines.

How Britain said no to ID cards - three times over

A guest blogpost by SA Mathieson, author of Card Declined: How Britain said no to ID cards, three times over

Margaret Thatcher represented liberty for many in eastern Europe, but she was not always its greatest supporter at home. In researching my new book on identity cards, I realised that her government gained royal assent for the Football Spectators Act, enacting identity cards for football fans, on 16 November 1989 – one week after the Berlin Wall fell. The scheme was never implemented (the Hillsborough stadium disaster earlier that year had shown the consequences of treating football fans like criminals) and the act was finally repealed in 2006.

Woman fined for (not) throwing straw wrapper out of car window

A woman has been fined £400 for throwing litter out of her car window. This might be fair enough, except that the litter in question was a straw wrapper, and she categorically denies throwing anything. The mother of 3-year old twins - who were in the back at the time of the alleged offence - says that there is a possibility that one of her twins could have thrown something out.

Police play judge and jury with on-spot fines

We received this email from a gentleman who was given an on-the-spot fine for drunk and disorderly behaviour, though he says that he was 'at no time disorderly'. His description of events shows the inherent problems with these penalties, which involve the police playing judge and jury. As a teacher, this penalty could have a negative effect on his career. He says that fine will remain on the Police National Computer, even if it is revoked or if he is found not-guilty in a court hearing.

Visas denied to Iraqi artists

The Reel Iraq festival on 21-25 March had to go ahead without several Iraqi artists, who had their visas refused. The festival put out the following statement:

"Sadly we will not be joined by musicians Hassan Breesm, Lord Erragal nor poet Sabreen Kadhim as their visas were denied by British immigration authorities. The reasoning behind the refusal to issues visas is far from clear and all we can say is that Reel Festivals has done everything in their power to change the outcome but unfortunately to no avail.

Shows in Dumfries, Edinburgh, Leeds and Glasgow will however still go ahead with virtuoso oud player Khyam Allami standing in last minute in Edinburgh and Dumfries, the amazing Iraqi Choobi dance band Nashwan Media in Leeds and Iraqi music DJs in Glasgow.

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