Freedom Hotline's blog

Westminster Council - stop the prosecution of young musician Dan Wilson

A guest post by Jonny Walker, director of Keep Streets Live

On Wednesday 20 August at 10am a talented young musician who has represented Great Britain in the world loop championships appeared in court in Westminster answering criminal charges of ‘illegal street trading’ and using a speaker in the street, for a 10 minute busk in Leicester Square early this year with a couple of CDs of his own music with a sign saying ‘suggested donation £5’ and giving details of his Facebook page. This was his fourth court appearance relating to this one incident of spontaneous live music and he now faces a fifth court hearing in November. 
If convicted this graduate of Leeds College of Music will have a life-long criminal record which will affect his ability to travel aboard, an essential part of life as a touring musician, and a heavy fine.

The injustice of fining parents for a family holiday

Parents are organising against the increasing habit of fining families who take their kids on holiday in term-time.

Fines for truancy have grown astronomically – from 3,483 in 2004-5, to 32,641 in 2011-12, to the record 52,370 in 2012-13. In many councils the majority of these fines are issued to holidaying families (two thirds of the total in Kent, for example).

Prosecutions for truancy have also grown, reaching 8000 in 2012-13. One couple recently received criminal records for taking their kids on holiday to Australia.

Malaysian photographer refused entry: Testimony from Jemima Yong

Jemima Yong, a talented young photographer and performance maker, was recently detained in London Heathrow Airport, denied entry and sent back to Singapore, 18 hours after arriving in the UK. Jemima is a Malaysian citizen and a permanent resident of Singapore. She studied and lived in the UK for five years. Jemima had not done anything illegal on arrival but the Home Office believed that she might break immigration laws whilst she was here.

Fined for drying a bench in Glasgow

I have just received a letter from an elderly gentleman in Glasgow, who was fined earlier this year while in the process of drying a bench.

He has arthritis and wanted to sit down; he had one handkerchief but the bench was still wet, so he left the tissue for a minute to go to a cafe opposite to get some more tissues and finish the job. Yet no sooner had he stepped away from his bench, he was approached by a warden who slapped him with a fine for littering. He explained that he hadn't left the tissue, he was only going for a minute to get more tissues, but his explanations cut no ice.

Leicester Sq busking crackdown funded by private company

The band King's Parade were arrested while busking in Leicester square in May.

Reports from a Westminster Council meeting (1) now reveal the context for this arrest.

The crackdown on busking in Leicester square is part of Operation Spotlight, which is funded by the private business association the Heart of London. The minutes report:

    'Operation Spotlight is a HoLBA (Heart of London Business Alliance) funded initiative aimed at deterring performers/buskers, pedicabs with amplification, persistent beggars and ticket touts.'

Is feeding the birds now a crime in the UK?

Is feeding the birds now a crime in the UK?

Judging from the number of recent cases involving crust-scattering pensioners, you would have to conclude, yes.

A woman in Blaenau Gwent was fined £125 for throwing a piece of bread roll for the birds out of her car window.

In another recent case, a Devon woman was fined for ‘littering peanuts while feeding pigeons'.

The Blaenau Gwent fine was issued by private security guards, paid on a commission basis, with a propensity to fine for negligible offences. (This is the company that issued a fine for a thread of cotton falling off a woman's glove.)

Fines for parents who don’t read to their kids

The Ofsted chief has said that schools should have the power to fine parents who don't read to their children, or who miss school events.

This is the latest extension of on-spot fines, which are increasingly seen as the sole form of persuasion or sanction, and the answer to every social problem.

The fine is the one way in which a school can communicate with parents, apparently.

A school – an institution which is supposed to have a shared interest with parents in the education of their children - increasingly exerts authority through the use of coercive, pecuniary penalties.

Manufactured Britishness

A guest post by artist and Visiting Artist Campaign supporter Kristina Cranfield, about her project Manufactured Britishness.

‘Manufactured Britishness’ is a project derived from the compulsory and very real ‘Life in the UK’ test created to assess individuals’ eligibility for UK citizenship. The project critically explores the government’s program and displays a future manifestation of the test. In this dystopian future, we see immigrants as an exploitable material – a living currency, compelled to sustain national identity in order to maximise profitable agendas.

Organist deported - problems with visas continue

In spite of the Manifesto Club's victory in winning reforms to the visa system for visiting artists, it seems that the news hasn't reached border officials on the ground.

Under the permitted paid engagement route artists visiting the UK for a concert or talk are exempt from the heavy-handed 'points-based visa system'.

Yet the star organist Cameron Carpenter - booked to play in Birmingham - was detained for seven hours in an 'Orwellian' ordeal, before being deported back to Berlin. Once he found out about the new visa route he was able to return to the UK - with only a short detention this time - and eventually arrived in Birmingham just in time for the concert.

Dog owners rebelling against no-dog zones

As I said in a Spectator article, dog owners are rising up across the country in protest against no-dog zones.

Here are a few of the groups taking on their council's zero-tolerance rules...

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