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On Joe Paterno, #409, the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal and sexual consent…

Please note the title. This is the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal not the Penn State sex scandal.

So last Friday the NCAA reached agreement with Senator Jake Corman on his litigation with the association that saw changes to the penalties levied against Penn State university. The headline change to these sanctions is the restoration of all wins by the football team between 1998 and 2011. This means that Tom Bradley now gets credit for his win at Ohio State in 2011 and that Joe Paterno gets credit for his 111 wins between 1998 and 2011 and in turn once more becomes the all-time leader in division one wins for a coach with 409.

This has caused two rather strong reactions from people. Those who think that the NCAA originally overstepped their authority when they originally hit the university with unprecedented sanctions following the Freeh Report and those who believe that it just shows that Penn State still doesn’t get it. The fact the litigation wasn’t pushed through by the university but by a senator doesn’t seem that important to these people and lets be honest here, this isn’t an issue where facts are the top determining factor on your opinion, this is all about your gut reaction.

One such person is former Penn State alum Roxanne Jones who wrote an op-ed for CNN entitled Penn State still doesn’t get it. In it she shows that she doesn’t get it (but she is the author who says that she has taught her kid to get a woman to text him before sex saying she agrees to have sex with him because that is evidence that she consented to sex, not that a woman is ever free to change her mind but still. You think I’m making that last thing up? Think again…

Never have sex with a girl unless she’s sent you a text that proves the sexual relationship is consensual beforehand. And it’s a good idea to even follow up any sexual encounter with a tasteful text message saying how you both enjoyed being with one another — even if you never plan on hooking up again.

So yeah, interesting woman. The whole consent issue is a legitimate one but a text message proves nothing. The woman can always change her mind and what is to stop the rapist taking her phone and texting his phone about consent? Still that isn’t what I’m really writing about today but I just wanted to show context of this authors previous work. Also sending her kid to university with 300 condoms? She must think her kid is a freaking stud. If I’d been sent to uni with 300 condoms…I’d still have 300 (or I’d have sold them off cheap to those who were in fact getting some)

Back to the piece from yesterday, ‘The NCAA had reached beyond its authority in punishing Penn State, they argued,’ she wrote. ‘In other words, their lawsuit had nothing to do with the boys who were raped or abused by Sandusky. Correct but still that isn’t the point of the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed because an authority overstepped their boundaries and had no legal grounds to do what they did. ‘The NCAA caved,’ she decries. No Roxanne, they didn’t cave, they knew they were about to lose in court because they knew they had no legal grounds to do what they did. This is the United States of America, this is a litigation culture so when you do something that you have no legal grounds to do then expect to lose in court.

This isn’t about restoring Joe Paterno’s wins. They should never have been taken away in the first place because doing that does nothing for the victims of the crime does it? The NCAA has its laws and they have punishments for breaking those laws. Penn State did not break any of these rules. One man – a former employee at Penn State – did some unspeakable crimes, at least one of which occurred on the Penn State campus. That we know.

Do you know what else we know? That man is going to spend the rest of his life in prison where he belongs. You see the issues here aren’t about NCAA by-laws, they are about criminal laws and therefore he went to criminal court. Three other men, all university officials have had charges filed against them regarding a potential cover-up but none of them have gone to trial yet. Again they face criminal proceedings, not civil actions or NCAA sanctions because the laws they are charged with breaking are criminal ones.

Anyone who knows anything about civil law knew that the sanctions would get reduced and that the wins would eventually be restored. You can’t punish people for things that aren’t governed by your rules and regulations. It is a bit like a utility company deciding that you’ve used too much energy and are therefore cutting off your supply even if you’ve paid your bill on time. They have just decided to punish you because they want to.

The sanctions were originally levied in the mist of more public shock and outrage than I have seen in a long time. The reporting at the time was reactionary and poor. This is part of the media culture that we live in nowadays. Journalism isn’t about being right, fair and balanced. Instead journalism is about being fastest, being loudest and being the most extreme in terms of reporting. That is a detriment to society but is sadly an indication of where we are.

I don’t know the extent of any cover-up at Penn State and do you know what, nor does Roxanne Jones. Three men are facing charges and we’ll start to get further towards the truth when they face trial. There is still another lawsuit pending by the Paterno family and they want everything to come out wherever that trail leads. Coach Paterno’s legacy will forever be tarnished by what his former defensive coordinator did after he had left his job.

Joe Paterno was never linked to what this monster did, only one person committed unspeakable acts against children and that man was Jerry Sandusky. He was never a suspect in the investigation that led to charges being filed against three university officials, in fact the investigators are on record with saying Coach Paterno followed the law and was a forthcoming witness.

What we all want to see if the truth come out and that best practices are put in place to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again. When something horrific happens then what you want to do afterwards is to have those who committed illegal acts punished within the scope of the law. You want the truth to come out. You want those who were wronged to feel some justice. You want the cracks filled up to ensure that such a scandal cannot happen again and you want the issues highlighted so everyone is more aware of sexual acts against minors and are more attune to the warning signs.

Stripping Penn State of wins, scholarships, bowl games and bowl revenue does nothing to achieve any of those goals. This is why doing it was a show to make the NCAA feel better because the public wanted someone to pay. The fact Jerry Sandusky is in jail is a secondary story because that doesn’t fill column inches. That is such a depressing line to write but it is also true. The NCAA had no legal basis to levy those sanctions and those sanctions also do nothing for the kids who were the victims of this monster. The fact the huge $60million fine is going to help victims of this monster and other similar monsters is something that helps, nothing else does.

A man rots in jail, another three face charges and potential jail time. The whole issue is now front and centre and hopefully lessons will be learned not just in Pennsylvania but all around the US and beyond. I hope the kids who were his victims can find as much peace as possible and if the three men charged were in fact part of a cover-up then I hope they get that justice, they’ve already got some from the fact that Sandusky will never be a free man again.

The fact Joe Paterno now has 409 wins in the record books changes nothing. He recorded those wins within the boundaries of the laws of the NCAA and the players who played those games did not do anything wrong to have their wins vacated. No player who played was ineligible. No coach who coached was ineligible. I’m glad that coach Paterno has his wins back because they never should have been taken away in the first place. Punishing him, his players and his coaches for acts they didn’t do isn’t right. I know the crimes against those kids weren’t right either but two wrongs do not make a right.

Roxanne Jones says that Penn State still don’t get it. I think that she doesn’t get that in the country she lives in, just like the rest of the world, you can’t punish someone or an organisation when they haven’t done anything against your rules and regulations. Those wins were always coming back and anyone with an ounce of legal knowledge knows that. I think her argument is that Penn State should have curled up and allowed the NCAA to do whatever they wanted to them because nothing they could do could be worse than what happened to those kids. That isn’t how the world works. This isn’t an easy case because of the sensitive nature but leave the punishment to the criminal courts because if any laws were broken, that is where the punishment should come from. The NCAA had no power to do what they did and just because they were sailing on a wave of public opinion doesn’t make it right, in fact quite the opposite.

Jerry Sandusky was and is an evil man. Three other people may well be criminals. Everything else isn’t clear and until we know the full story we won’t know the full truth. I hope the Paterno lawsuit gets everything out in the open and then everyone can digest all the information. Most of all I hope that the victims find as much peace as possible and that this incident, no matter how ugly, helps stop further cildren from being victims to evil men like Jerry Sandusky.

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Yet another reason not to bring back the death penalty – Henry McCollum & Leon Brown edition

I’m sure many people have read the story about mentally disabled half brothers Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, who were convicted in 1984 of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina. That girl, 11 year-old Sabrina Buie, had been raped and suffocated with her underwear crammed down her throat, her body left in a soybean field. One of them was on death row for the crime and the other was sentenced to life imprisonment. The crime is certainly one that many people would feel passionately should deserve the ultimate punishment but there is one big issue…these two men were completely innocent.

Yesterday a judge ordered that they be released after spending three decades in jail. DNA evidence from the crime had been tested and it ruled out both men and implicated another man who is currently in prison for another crime. That man lived only a block away from where the body was found and was arrested and convicted of a very similar crime weeks after the body for this crime was discovered, however the prosecutor never even looked at him believing that he had the right people and that was that.

The lead prosecutor still believed up to a week ago that the right people were convicted, you have to worry that people like Joe Freeman Britt are allowed in positions of power. He was a bible quoting DA who sought the death penalty more than any other DA in his era, I know I struggle to believe that a Christian could be so tied to the death penalty but there you go.

One of the two men, Mr McCollom confessed to the crime following a marathon interrogation where they weren’t allowed to see their family or a lawyer. They initially came under suspicion because they were new to the small town and people saw them as outsiders. Long story short, there was no evidence against these two young men and yet one of them has spent thirty years on Death Row and to most people he should’ve been executed a long time ago. Those people no doubt would feel very little remorse today.

People will tell me that one wrong conviction shouldn’t mean anything and that mistakes happen. Mistakes do happen but if the state put to death an innocent person then that is just not on. Just because it is someone that you don’t know doesn’t mean you should feel any differently about it. If it was someone you knew that had been falsely convicted of a crime based on shaky (at best) evidence but the raw emotion had led to a jury filing a guilty verdict and a judge because of the emotion of the case imposing a death penalty then how would you feel?

The death penalty is something that I cannot stomach because of cases like these. When people say to me that it should only be used for people who are ‘guilty guilty’ and do ‘horrific crimes’ then I try and point out that we only have two verdicts in the UK, ‘Guilty’ and ‘Not Guilty’, there is no ‘Guilty Guilty’ verdict for people that are just clearly guilty of a crime. Also the people that make up a jury are human beings, they can be influenced my emotion.

I have been on a jury and have seen such a thing where people wanted to convict solely based on the crime they were accused of and not on the evidence presented. The jury system is the best we have but it isn’t perfect and in the US of A the jury can impose the death penalty in certain states and situations.

State sanctioned murder is not for me. Not for people who have committed horrific crimes and nor for those who actually hadn’t done so. Making mistakes happens to us all and sending innocent people to prison happens but they can get released and still live their lives. If they are put to death and then found they are innocent then there is no recourse.

Bringing back the Death Penalty in the UK would lead to nasty people being killed by the state but it would also no doubt lead to innocent people being put to death as well and I’d like to know what ratio of nasty people to innocent people being put to death would be acceptable to people who back the death penalty because to me, even one innocent person being slain is one too many.

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Five year-old fights sexual misconduct charge for voluntary ‘depantsing’

I don’t know where to start folks. Sometimes I click on a link to a news story and I just get filled with rage and want to go all vigilante on the idiots that I am reading about. This is very much what happened last night when I read about this story in the Inquisitr.

Here is the short version for those that can’t be arsed to click on the link. A five year-old from Arizona took his pants off in the playground at his kindergarten. The school reacted to this by making him sign paperwork acknowledging that he had indeed been guilty of sexual misconduct and have added to his permanent school file that he has been guilty of sexual misconduct during his school life.

What the fucking hell?

My actual response (and that of the Scot-come-Yank friend of mine that I showed it to) was simple. He’s fucking five. You know the courts are really big on honouring the signature of a five year-old who really knew exactly what he was signing. The school idiots claim that the student was fully entitled to have his parents there if they ask for them but as the five year-old didn’t ask for his parents then everything was above board. Let me repeat one bit of that sentence, the five year-old…he’s fucking five years old people. Five years old. If I teacher told me to do something at the age of five then you know what, I’d have done it. I didn’t get my rebellious streak until much later in my life. My Scot-come-Yank friend said that he hoped the signature was in crayon. I guffawed.

“Our school district uses consistent language for disciplinary infractions in order to provide clarity and track discipline data accurately,” Assistant Superintendent Jim Dean said in a written statement as he tried to cover his backside. See I’ve been kind there and called him Jim Dean not what I want to call him but I think it is fair to say my opinion of him and his actions are not exactly sky high at this point.

My favourite assistant superintendent also said ‘it’s just a label’ – yeah like having a sexual misconduct label attached to his permanent file wouldn’t hack him off. Like he wouldn’t want this to happen to his children or grandchildren. Some people are seriously so incomprehensible at times that you wonder how they are part of a balanced and successful society. The kid is I repeat five years old. Five fucking years old. We all know how mud sticks and labels like this would follow him through his schooling. Does he deserve that? God no.

Look if the teachers involved and good old Jim Dean got fired then I wouldn’t cry for them. Until they get in inside of their thick heads that they have acted in a wholly inappropriate way then then I have no hope for them. Maybe the Dysart Unified School District needs to look at the way it handles discipline. The poor kids mum believes that they didn’t take the kids age into consideration. Of course they didn’t – they just looked at the disciplinary procedures and followed them like lemmings.

Every single rational person I’m sure would look at this story and have the same simple reaction ‘he’s fucking five’ and despair at what is going on. The worst of it though is they’ve had two months to rectify their mistake and realise that they have boobed in a big way but instead of doing that, they have dug in behind their rule book and not looked at how ridiculous they all are.

So Jim Dean and associates I hope you twig just how dumb you are acting and reverse this ludicrous decision quick-smartish. However I fear that you won’t and five year-old Eric Lopez will be labelled for the rest of his school life as having admitted his guilt of sexual misconduct as a five year-old for voluntarily taking down his pants. The way the supposed responsible adults acted I’d just shocked the police weren’t called, the kid read his Miranda Rights and then hauled off to the police station in handcuffs.

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Carisbrooke College fails Ofsted and is failing their pupils and they failed me

This morning someone posted a screenshot of the Isle of Wight County Press about an article where a UKIP candidate forged signatures on their nomination form. I didn’t really care about this story but at the bottom of the screenshot there was another story entitled ‘Carisbrooke fails Ofsted’ and I did some research. Basically Carisbrooke College has been on special measures since being judged inadequate in all four core areas – pupil achievement, the quality of teaching, the behaviour and safety of pupils and leadership of the school.

Now why do I care about a school that is 150 odd miles away from me?

Well this was my high school. It isn’t a high school any more as it has been rebranded a college but it is where I went to school, doing my GCSEs on this site and staying on to the VI Form to get my A-Levels. It is a shame to see the school in such a state but reading up on what has been going on, it isn’t the anomaly on the Isle of Wight, with three of the six secondary schools having been placed in special measures within the past year. The Isle of Wight is clearly failing its secondary school pupils, that is clear. Since I left the island they have really messed around with the school system and it doesn’t seem to have been for the better.

Now I do know people – friends – who work in the Isle of Wight school system as teachers. I do know people who work as teachers at Carisbrooke College and of course there are a handful of teachers who are still working there from when I was there, so it is a tricky one to be too critical of.

The thing is I have written about the school once before on this very blog, in a piece entitled I wrote about the current uniform policy and how much I despised it. My main beef was with these two lines:

Hair must be worn in an appropriate style.
No extreme styling or designs of hair or eyebrows e.g. lines, intricate patterns. Only hair of one natural colour allowed and no false nails or coloured nail varnish is allowed.

Look I understand the need for a school uniform as without one then you can easily have a situation where pupils are bullied for not having the latest style of blouse or the right trainers but I don’t think school uniforms should be very strict. No trainers, black shoes, white t-shirt or shirt and dark coloured skirts/trousers or whatever. I certainly don’t think that if you are all dolled up in a blazer then you’ll suddenly act like a better student.

However when it comes to hair then I believe children – teenage children – should be allowed to express some form of identity and individuality. Young people develop their own sense of who they are are at high school. Schools shouldn’t feel that purple hair for example will rock the boat. I don’t recall any such rule in place when I went there and I do recall people with what I’d call ‘extreme styling’ of hair. Has the school improved with such strict uniform policy? Clearly not.

The thing is I went to the Carisbrooke College website today and what is one of their latest news stories? – – Yes. They are still banging on about uniform and appearance. Ofsted believe that the standing of teaching is inadequate, too many teachers have come in from middle schools where they have been merged and they haven’t been trained to teach secondary school pupils, isn’t this a far bigger fundamental issue?

Whilst I may have left the place in 2001 after my A-Levels, one of the inadequacies the Ofsted inspection noted really hit home:

Students do not make enough progress because too many teachers do not have high enough expectations of them.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

I’m not going to sit here and say I was a great student because that would be a lie. In fact I was incredibly lazy and would always do the bare minimum to go forward. The fact is though I was (and still am) actually rather bright. I moved to the Isle of Wight after Year 8, so I had been at a secondary school on the mainland and was in all the top sets – and at the very top of them all as well. That school was a far better school than Carisbrooke but when I rolled up there, they placed me in the middle sets across the board and I was on the biggest easy street of all time. I wasn’t even placed in any set for maths (clearly a great school) and I just told the head of maths to put me in the highest set but she was happy to place me very low down, luckily I won the debate (even at just 13 at times I could stand up for myself) and I stayed in the top set throughout my stay at the school.

Basically Year 9 was a complete waste of time as I learned nothing pretty much. I was placed in set four (out of seven) for English and we did a spelling test. I got 50/50 but the teacher said I only got 49 and he said eerie was spelt eery instead of eerie. At the time we were actually reading a book that had the word eerie in it and it was spelt eerie. I pointed this out and he decided that both spellings were acceptable but it took a good five to ten minutes of shall we say ‘debate’ (it was really me lambasting him).

At the end of Year 9 we had the CATS tests (Cognitive Abilities Test) which are widely used to understand ability. According to their website, ‘The Cognitive Abilities Test Third Edition (CAT3) is the most widely used test of reasoning ability in the UK.’ I went into these tests in middle sets across the board (apart from in maths where I told them I was going in the top set as they didn’t have a set assigned to me) and promptly went and bashed the tests out of the park. So much so my mum was called into the school and told that I was a genius and in the top percentile in the country. This wasn’t news.

She knew I was gifted. I always had been. However my marks weren’t living up to my ability and they didn’t understand why. The fact is I wasn’t being challenged so didn’t bother. Children need to be challenged otherwise they’ll become disillusioned and just get by on natural ability. I have never failed an exam in my life and I have gone into many wholly unprepared. Natural ability though and what I call ‘exam nous’ can only get you so far though.

When I actually got challenged (or chose to challenge myself) I was right up there. For example in GCSE history we did the American West and it interested me. So I read all about it and actually ignored the teacher in class, instead choosing to read the text books and assimilating knowledge on the subject. I’m told that the person who marked my exam paper actually rang my history teacher to tell him I was a genius. I scored 100% on that GCSE paper, including writing an essay at the end of the exam talking about what a bastard the white man was towards the native American just for the hell of it and I wanted someone to know my thoughts on the subject.

In A-Level geography we did modules and had five exams with one piece of coursework. In two modules I scored an A/B borderline and I told the head of Geography that I wanted to resit as I believed I could get far better. He actually agreed and had faith in my abilities and I didn’t want to show him up so that he felt my resits were not worth the extra money. On the day of the results we also had a new module, so I had three exam results. We heard the news the results were in and basically all A-Level geography students piled into his office to try and get their results. I got there just as he said that he had to go and register his form so to come back at break, he stood up and saw me and said – and I remember the words well, ‘here comes the star of the show’ and sat back down and told me to come over. I had scored 119/120 in one paper and 89/90 and 88/90 in the other two. I had dropped four marks out of a possible 300 for a 98.7% result across those three modules. In another module I actually answered a question that we weren’t taught as I had a better understanding of it (renewable energy over ecosystems which we were taught) and I still got an A on that paper. So when challenged I came through.

The problem at Carisbrooke was they didn’t identify this. They believed they knew me better than I did. They failed me in not identifying my ability. I don’t know if they didn’t get my records from my old school or what but you don’t go from the top of the top at a really good school to being average at a much worse school based on exam results. I’m not guilt free in all of this but when you are 13 years-old and realise you can go through school basically in first gear, you don’t speak up. The Cats tests should have been the moment the school just threw me in the deep end to challenge me. They chose not to. This was a mistake that I believe has cost me to some degree in my life. I have many GCSEs, I have A-Levels, I have a degree so I’m still an educated man but I could have done better and I do believe that they failed me in that respect – and they are clearly doing it to many others.

Teachers and school staff need to get students interested and stimulated. Without that then they’ve already lost the war. Now of course if a kid has no interest in learning French for example then you can’t drum it into them, but school staff need to identify what makes every single pupil tick far more than they do. This sounds like a big challenge but surely that is far more important to spending hours of staff time on telling off students for not wearing a blazer, or having a blue streak in their hair or wearing brown instead of black shoes.

Until staff remember what their priorities should be then they will continue to fail students. All of us will be influenced primarily by our home life but after that our next biggest influences will be our schooling and the teachers we have. I won’t say I had any really bad teachers but I could sit here and name several who were just wholly inadequate. When studying GCSE English Literature we had a teacher who spent three to four months basically just playing us a recording of someone reading To Kill A Mockingbird. We weren’t asked questions on it, she just came in and played the audio and stopped it when the bell rang. That stimulated me less than a Michael McIntyre ‘joke’ stimulates my body into an attempt at a laugh. She was an inadequate teacher. There is no doubt about this. I won’t name her in case she is still teaching and more than three people ever read this blog, but she was not earning her money.

I did have some good teachers, I did have some that challenged me. I had a teacher I thought was a complete tosser but he challenged me because I thought this and wanted to prove him wrong. I did. Good teachers aren’t always the ones you like the most, they are the ones that get under your skin someway, somehow. Good teachers are the ones that let you realise your potential and not those who let you have a good time.

Carisbrooke College is an inadequate school as it stands. It wasn’t always this way. Carisbrooke failed me to some degree but I wouldn’t have ever said the teaching as a whole was inadequate like Ofsted did. I had a good handful of lousy teaching but I also had a good solid handful of good to inspiring teaching. I suspect if I was a student at Carisbrooke College now I’d be a lot worse off than I was when I went there and that makes me despondent for the young people of the west part of the Isle of Wight and those in Newport who go to Carisbrooke and not Medina. The fact that Cowes and Sandown Bay Academy are also in special measures shows that the problem isn’t specific to Carisbrooke, but instead a larger problem for the people who run education on the Isle of Wight and they need to answer questions, serious questions about how they are failing young people on the Isle of Wight.

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‘Let your friend drive home drunk’ school tells pupil

Every so often you come across a news story that you just can’t understand. This afternoon that happened to me. An American teenager (Erin Cox) gets a call from her friend who is drinking underage. Bad girl. However the underage drinker was old enough to drive and had indeed driven to a party but knew better than to drive home, so she called her friend to come pick her up. Her friend came and picked her up to take her home. Good story, no?

Well between the phone call and the girl picking up her drunk friend, the police raided the party and broke it up. When the girl who came to pick her up arrived to pick her up she was told she’d be hauled before court for underage drinking. Police arrested 12 and issued court summons to everyone else at the venue. Uh oh. However the police officer at the scene did tell the court that Erin Cox was not drinking and had indeed just shown up to drive someone home. Case dismissed. All sorted.

As Lee Corso would say, ‘not so fast my friend…’

What happened next was Ms Cox was stripped of being captain of her High School Volleyball team and suspended for five games because she was around alcohol. Any high school athlete at her school can be suspended just being in the vicinity of alcohol. They are the rules. She launched legal action against the school for suspending her but the Court decided they didn’t have the jurisdiction to overturn the school’s decision.

The lawyer for the school said outside the courtroom, “The school is really trying to take a very serious and principled stand regarding alcohol and we all get that. Teen drinking is a serious problem.” Yes and we have no problem with that but at some point common sense prevails. If Ms Cox says she can’t pick up her friend then the logical next step is for that friend to get in her car and drive home. What is worse in the grand scheme of things, underage drinking or drinking and driving? Anyone…?

Of course it is the latter. The school is taking a strong stand against drinking but being a good friend and stopping a drunk person getting behind the wheel is clearly something they aren’t in favour of. The people behind this decision are clearly idiots and will defend themselves to the nth degree. Rules are rules and there is nothing that can supersede a rule.

This young woman would not have been punished had she allowed her friend to get behind the wheel drunk that night, yet she is for going to pick her up to stop her drink-driving. There is no logic behind that notion. It is drummed into young people that underage drinking is bad but if you do then don’t drive home drunk – call someone and get them to pick you up. We all know this but North Andover High School administrators clearly believe differently. Ms Cox said she would do nothing differently but this story could easily propel others in similar situations to not come to their friends aid, in turn putting more drink-drivers on the road and who knows what happens then.

I just think these idiots could indirectly lead to people dying and I don’t think that is a stretch. So kids listen to these idiots. They say let friends drive home drunk because if you are around alcohol then you will be punished. What a great message to send our young people.


You can read the full story from the Boston Herald

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Michael Le Vell found not guilty but how and why does the jury reach such a verdict?

When the Michael Le Vell verdict came through this afternoon I wasn’t surprised. Not because he’s famous and famous people get off. Not because I didn’t believe the accuser. Not because I thought he looked like a good guy but I wasn’t surprised because I have been there – in the jury room on a very similar case where it came down solely to whether we believed the accuser or whether we believed the defendant and I saw how a jury swayed from what their gut instincts were to how we found the man.

You see the legal system is skewed against the defendant all the way until court where in fact the defendant who has the weight of the law on his or her side. You are instructed clearly by the judge that your gut opinion counts for nothing and that only what is said in court should influence you on your decision. So what the defendant looks like shouldn’t come into play for example. All that matters is what the witnesses tell you and what the lawyers and judges say.

In our case we saw no medical evidence and the reporting on the Le Vell case says that the judge instructed them that the medical evidence was neutral and therefore shouldn’t carry any weight either way. This meant for them as it did us – it came down not just to who we believed but did we believe the accuser to such a degree that we were confident that the accused had done the alleged crimes.

I have written about this before but we walked into the jury room and after an initial vote we were 9-3 in favour of not guilty. One of the nine was a young lady who actually didn’t care and wanted to go with the majority just so she could go home so its hard to fully gauge what she really thought – if she thought anything at all. The three guilty voters were two young men who felt that anyone accused of such a crime is probably guilty and one mother who believed that in the same situation her daughter (who was of the same age) would tell the truth and therefore she believed this girl totally and any accusation that her daughter wouldn’t tell the truth would crush her.

The impasse didn’t last long with the two young men, they agreed that following what was actually said in court (and one particular comment from the girls mother) meant that her testimony could not be taken as gospel and due to the lack of evidence bar from the accuser they changed their vote to not guilty and therefore we were 11-1 within an hour or so but we’d be deliberating for several more hours whilst the final member of the jury still equated the accuser for her daughter and how bad she would feel is people didn’t believe her daughter. She eventually was persuaded that her daughter and this girl were two different people and should be treated as such and we were unanimous and acquitted on all charges.

Obviously I was not in the Le Vell jury room but I wouldn’t be surprised if the discussion went along a similar front. It came down solely to whether the accuser was a solid enough witness to prove the case, now that is the key part of the whole thing, proving the case. The jury didn’t say that they thought the accuser was a liar, they didn’t say that she made up the allegations, they didn’t say that she embellished the truth, they didn’t say that any of the things she said happened to her didn’t happen, they simply said that her word alone wasn’t enough to confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did what he was accused of.

So to those who are asking about whether the girl will now be arrested for making up allegations then just shut up. There was no proof that she made anything up, no-one has said or even intimated that. All that has happened is a jury has decided that her word alone against the word of one other person isn’t good enough to prove a case. This happens day in, day out in court cases. When it comes to one persons word against another it is hard to convict just because as humans we find it hard to take one person who we don’t know’s word above another person we don’t know – certainly to a significant degree which ‘reasonable doubt’ makes a jury think about.

Did Michael Le Vell commit these crimes? I don’t know but I suspect the jury were in a position where it was very hard to be sure that he did and subsequently acquitted and as a society we should take that verdict as fact unless any further evidence comes out. Le Vell should be free of any stigma and allowed to get on with his life. As for the accuser she should also be allowed to get on with her life and not face any questions about whether she was telling the truth or not.

The reason our criminal justice system is setup is to make the CPS prove their case and not for the defence to prove their own. You are innocent until proven guilty and if you are not proven to be guilty then you are innocent in the eyes of the law and should be in the eyes of society as well. Being a jury member is not easy as you have a lot to weigh up but you are instructed very clearly as to what you can use to form your verdict and that ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ thing always looms large in your thought process.

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No Nick, this is simply not good enough.

A spokesman for Nick Clegg has released the following statement to the media this morning regarding David Miranda, The Guardian and National Security issues. This statement was reported by multiple outlets but I saw it first on LibDemVoice

We understand the concerns about recent events, particularly around issues of freedom of the press and civil liberties. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.

On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.

The Deputy Prime Minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action. He was keen to protect the Guardian’s freedom to publish, whilst taking the necessary steps to safeguard security.

It was agreed to on the understanding that the purpose of the destruction of the material would not impinge on the Guardian’s ability to publish articles about the issue, but would help as a precautionary measure to protect lives and security.

My initial reaction is quite simple. Nick that quite simply is not good enough. I was laying in bed last night thinking about the time I met Nick Clegg at conference in 2011 (because that is what I do in bed – I worry about myself – as should you) and I was thinking about how impressed I was with him and how I was fully convinced as to his liberal philosophies. The reason I was thinking about it was because of how impressed I was with Julian Huppert on BBC News yesterday afternoon and it got me thinking about how often I hear Nick – or any of his Liberal Democrat cabinet colleagues – say anything that I thought was inherently liberal.

I realised that I just don’t hear Nick, Vince, Danny, Michael or Ed come out and say anything in the media that would make me nod and approve as to its liberalness. They might say things I agree with but they don’t say things that would prompt me to think how liberal they are.

Now on this situation it has clearly been pretty clumsy. The Whitehouse knew about it and the Deputy Prime Minister did not. This cannot be. Nick should either be banging the drum and asking why America was told and he wasn’t or he should be just banging his drum and asking relevant questions. Instead he seemingly backs the Prime Minister, ‘the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands. What bollocks. Flat out bollocks.

Why do I say this I hear you ask (or at least think)? Well any time I hear the words ‘serious threat to national security’ all I actually hear is ‘we had no actual reason so we need a good all encompassing cover story that people will swallow.’ If the No More Page 3 campaign started claiming that boobs were harming national security then they would get a whole lot more traction. If Wayne Rooney moving to Chelsea would destabilise national security then the PM would have a word with the Manchester United board and ensure he stays. National Security is a term used when politicians don’t actually know why they’ve done something.

There was probably a time when I would believe politicians and take them at face value but that good will has long since evaporated and I firmly believe anyone in power would go a long way to suppress free speech in an attempt to justify their actions. They are happy for The Guardian to publish articles on this subject but want everything destroyed. Yeah that doesn’t add up. I may not be the sharpest tool in the tool shed but I’m no tool (see what I did there?)

Tony Blair took on to war in the guise of National Security and as hindsight clearly states it was done not in National Security interests. It was done to finish a job that a President was too scared to finish as he had an election to win and feared the US citizens didn’t care about that war any more. ‘National Security’ this and ‘National Security’ that. That good will ship has sailed and quite frankly I don’t believe it one jot any more – certainly when it comes to this situation. All logic dictates that our National Security wasn’t in any jeopardy and in fact the only thing here was to blow smoke up America’s butt and to show Edward Snowdon and any other person interested in whistle-blowing against America that it has allies who are willing to help out all under the guise of ‘national security.’

I am suspicious of politicians in general but when I start getting suspicious of the leader of the Liberal Democrats then it is probably time to worry.

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The problem of dealing with online abuse…the twitter ‘report abuse’ idea.

I agree with Owen Jones. It might not be as catchy as I agree with Nick but in the context of this blog is it far more applicable. Do I agree with everything he has to say? No, no I don’t. No-one agrees with everything another person has to say, so what exactly am I agreeing with here? Well Owen’s piece in the Independent’s Voices section entitled Trolls, Caroline Criado-Perez, and how to tackle the dark side of Twitter.

He makes some extremely salient points but the one I want to talk about is the difference between trolling and disagreement, ‘It’s also important to make a distinction between passionate disagreement and trolling,’ he says. This is the reason why I think the twitter report abuse button/idea is more than a problematic one. I have had conversations with people where they think I am being abusive whereas I would just say I was disagreeing with their Point of View. I know of many people who see disagreements as abuse. If you don’t think the same as them then you must be being abusive. That is how a not insignificant number of people think.

So how do we deal with genuine abuse of the sort Caroline Criado-Perez has receive in recent days following her appearance on television over having a woman appear on a banknote? That is the old $64,000 question. Firstly of course we have the law, and people who are threatening someone whether it be over twitter or face to face are indeed breaking the law and should face the consequences of their actions. I think everyone knows that abuse is abuse whether it is anonymous on the internet or publicly in the street. Ignorance is not any sort of defence.

Secondly though it is education. Now this situation has caused the old ‘misogyny’ word to appear left, right and centre. I won’t be tackling this one because internet abuse can be sent to men too, by men and then misogyny obviously doesn’t play in as a factor. It isn’t funny or cool to abuse anyone and it is never harmless. The best way to tackle this type of behaviour is to get people to see it from the victims PoV. Would they be so blaze if this abuse was being sent to them, or their parents or their little brothers or sisters? I suspect they wouldn’t. This is an issue society has failed to tackle and the whole ‘treat others how you’d like to be treated’ thing is kinda old-fashioned to some people and that makes me sad.

Thirdly the actual practicalities behind the proposed report abuse button on twitter. Who is going to pay for the extra staff who are going to monitor all the reports of abuse? Who gets the final say on what is abuse or isn’t? Tweeting someone that you are going to rape them is a pretty slam dunk case and should be passed on to local law enforcement authorities. What about a sinister tweet saying they shouldn’t go down dark alleys late at night? Threatening but do these get passed on as well? How about when someone reports abuse when there was no abuse? Do those people get their accounts suspended for wasting twitter’s time? Do twitter pass on every abuse report and then people who claimed abuse get arrested for wasting police time?

As with many of these things the practicalities of what seem like a good idea need to be thought through carefully. As the Yorkshire Gob puts it (her words – not mine) ‘A report abuse button which is easy to click on is easy to click on for EVERYBODY, not just those who are genuinely being abused. So the EDL will probably click on it for the English Disco Lovers. And homophobes will click on it on the accounts of gay people. And TERFs will click on it on the accounts of transfolk.‘ and she is right. The report abuse button would be open to abuse itself. How easy would it be to go to all the people’s tweeter feeds you don’t like and click on a button to report them and hopefully get their account suspended for a bit just to piss them off? You can set up a fake tweeter account in an instant so it wouldn’t even put your proper account at risk.

Sometimes good ideas just don’t work in the real world (or in this case the online world). This lady received some vile abuse and one person has already been arrested this morning and hopefully more will follow. This type of abuse is not just morally wrong but is legally wrong too and the people who deal out sickening abuse should face the consequences. However just throwing up a ‘report abuse’ button might create far more problems than it solves and the real abuse may well just get swallowed up in all the noise as people use this tool to troll even more.

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The ‘casual sexism’ of Andy Murray’s win stopping 77 years of hurt.

My blood people. My blood. You have endangered that blood by trying to make it boil. All afternoon and evening last night and now this morning. I need a hot tub to relax in (well ok I just want a hot tub and think that this would be the perfect excuse) but what has got my blood boiling you ask? The faux sexism regarding Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon yesterday.

You see it has been 77 years since a British man has held aloft the Wimbledon Men’s Singles trophy. The thing is though instead of enjoying that triumph people are looking for every way to attack and use this victory to make their point. Twitter was full of ‘Don’t you remember Virginia Wade’ such quotes yesterday as she was the last woman to hold aloft the Wimbledon Women’s Singles trophy to have hailed from the British Isles and she did so in 1977, which as basic mathematicians will tell you is more recent than 1936.

Now that is a fine point but if we are looking at all British victories at Wimbledon in the main events (singles and doubles for both men and women as well as mixed) then of course it was only last year when Jonathan Marray held aloft a Wimbledon trophy having won the Men’s Doubles. In 2007 Andy’s own brother lifted the Mixed Doubles trophy and if you really want to be pedantic and say that they had help from non-British partners then go back to 1987 when Jo Durie and Jeremy Bates were British winners of the Mixed Doubles at SW19.

Stephen Tall today blogged about the headline in The Times today which was ‘Murray ends 77-year wait for British win’ and exclaims As if it would have killed the headline writer to say 36 years (accurate) instead of 77 (inaccurate). Well Stephen as you well know 36 is not accurate. It cannot be accurate. The only accurate responses are either one year or 77. At no point does the headline writer refer to singles play so it either has to be one (the last British winner of any sort) or 77 (the last Men’s winner) you can’t just decide that singles play was intimated because it fits your point.

See this is the type of thing I have seen for the majority of the past 24 hours. People manipulate things to fit their own agenda or point. Facts get thrown out of the window and accuracy that people are pleading for is something they have missed entirely. Now if anyone – whether face to face or in the media – says that Andy Murray’s win ended 77 of singles hurt at Wimbledon for British players then that would be inaccurate and sexist. If they say that Andy Murray’s win ended British hurt at Wimbledon then either they mean the Men’s singles or instead of being sexist they just don’t know about Jonathan Marray, Jamie Murray, Jo Durie, Jeremy Bates, Virginia Wade etc.

The thing is folks I have yet to see any commentator, yet to see any media outlet, yet to speak to anyone – let me repeat that – anyone – who has said that Andy Murray’s win ended 77 of singles hurt at Wimbledon for British players. Not one. They have either just said hurt at Wimbledon or hurt in the Men’s singles at Wimbledon. So either they are correct or they don’t care about all other events about from the Men’s singles including Men’s doubles and male participants in the Mixed doubles.

However why let facts get in the way of faux outrage. This is why sexism kills me. People will see sexism in everything. I know people who think holding a door open for a woman is sexist. I know of people who don’t. I know of people who thought it was sexist that the Men’s marathon awards ceremony at the Olympics was during the Closing Ceremony. They thought women should have just as much right to the final awards ceremony as men. So do these people think that the Women’s Wimbledon Final should be played on the same day as the Men? Should they be played at the same time and given equal billing? If they are played on the same day and the Women’s final is first then is it sexist and demeaning and making the Men out to be more important? At Wimbledon women are asked to play back-to-back days (Monday/Tuesday of the second week) whereas men aren’t. Some say that is sexist.

I could go on and on but if you are to plead sexism – and we all depressingly know that there is more than enough sexism to go around – but if you are to see sexism then actually find something sexist to be mad at. Don’t manipulate a story to fit your agenda. As for Stephen’s take on would it kill the headline writer to say 36 years which would’ve been accurate. If Stephen can point out in the headline where it says ‘singles’ then I’ll grant him that it is casual sexism. However he won’t be able to so it cannot be sexist. Either it is ignoring all men and women who have won Wimbledon trophies since 1936 or it is talking about the Men’s Singles. It cannot be anything else.

Who cares about facts anyway. Outrage people. Outrage!

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Caroline Criado-Perez petition on female representation on bank notes…

I just received the following e-mail:

Neil —

In April the Bank of England announced that they would be removing the last remaining female from English banknotes — the social reformer Elizabeth Fry who appears on the £5 note — meaning that, other than the Queen, there will be no women featuring.

Caroline Criado-Perez believes that having an all-male line-up on English banknotes sends out a damaging and untrue message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear.

That’s why she started a petition calling on the Bank of England to reverse their decision and ensure a female is on a banknote. Click here to join her.

Since Caroline launched her petition over 30,000 people have signed it — and yesterday she received a response from the new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, that they would be reviewing the decision.

This is a fantastic achievement for everyone who has signed Caroline’s petition and shows that their message is getting through — but they need to keep the pressure up.

Tomorrow Caroline will deliver her petition to the Bank of England — will you add your name before then?

Thanks for being part of this,

Brie and the team

Interesting. I agree that the bank notes should not be all male but here is one line that riled me enough to actually write a short post on the subject:

Caroline Criado-Perez believes that having an all-male line-up on English banknotes sends out a damaging and untrue message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear.

Holy shit. No. No. No. No. No. It doesn’t send out a damaging and untrue message about this – and do you know why – because no-one actually looks at who is on the bank note. I suspect I’m pretty typical in how I deal with bank notes. I get them out of the hole in the wall and stuff them in my wallet. I then exchange the bank notes for food or other supplies. At no point do I look at the bank notes and say ‘oh look at whose on the £5/10/20/50 note’ – no-one does that. No-one.

I agree with the sentiment but seriously it doesn’t really send out too much of a message because no-one notices. I won’t say nobody cares because clearly 30,000 people at least do but if you asked 1,000 random people to name who the woman on the £5 note is today then if more than 5% can name her then I would be stunned. Stunned.

It isn’t a huge issue. It is an issue but not a huge one but yet again people are starting to foam at the mouth. I wish people would foam at the mouth for things on equality that actually mattered…

For the record should you wish to sign the petition then you can do so here.

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