12 Mindless Acts – and how to fight them!

December 2, 2009

© Stuart Alexander

The Barnsdale Brigade are big fans of the Levellers (arguably the first and only English political party in history to truly represent the poor) and, as such, we are concerned about the current attacks on the Liberties that the Levellers helped bring to fruition. Since coming to power in 1997 the Labour government has introduced over 3000 new laws designed to turn society against itself and since 9/11 they have viciously attacked the liberties that were enshrined by Magna Carta nearly 800 years ago. They say that this is ‘for our own protection’, but as Benjamin Franklin said: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” (Which makes you wonder what he would have made of modern Amerikkka?) Not that the Tories did any better; for instance the 1994 Criminal Justice Act also helped to trash the right to assembly and free speech. In fact any party which follows the Neoliberal economic agenda – which is pretty much ALL political parties once they’re in power – will, by the very nature of this inhumane philosophy, act against liberty and freedom.

Mindless Acts is an attempt to highlight this dangerous loss of liberties and to encourage people to make a stand so that the worst of New Labour’s laws might be repealed at the next election. In their own words…

We have based our campaign around the following objectives:

  • To exhibit artwork made in response to the 12 Mindless Acts online and at venues around the UK.
  • To write to MP’s directly to ask them to promise to repeal these acts.
  • To encourage supporters to throw their own Mindless Acts events.
  • To encourage supporters to write to their MP’s asking them to promise to repeal these acts.
  • To promote a petition to have these acts repealed.

And the Acts in question…

12 Mindless Acts

Protection from Harassment Act 1997

Makes it illegal to “harass” someone. This is not defined. The act has been used to stop people demonstrating: people have been arrested for having pictures of dead animals on a poster, and a woman was arrested for sending polite emails to a drugs company asking it not to work with Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Crime and Disorder Act 1998

Introduces anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs). It need not be shown beyond reasonable doubt that someone has done something wrong, just that on the balance of probabilities someone (over the age of 10) has acted in an “anti-social manner”. There is no jury and hearsay evidence can be used. If they then break the ASBO, this is a criminal offence and they can be jailed for up to 10 years. 67% of ASBOs have been broken.

Famously, a 14 year old was banned from using the word “grass” anywhere in England or Wales. In June 2009 a 16 year old was given a four-month sentence for meeting his friends. A man has been banned from entering Portishead. A woman has been locked up for making too much noise during sex, and a man has been given an ASBO for mowing his lawn naked. More examples at www.statewatch.org/asbo/ASBOwatch.html.

The Act allows child curfews to be introduced, banning any children under 10 from being alone in certain areas between 9pm and 6am. The age is later increased to 16.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

Allows not just central government but also hundreds of other authorities (including local councils and health and safety officers) to demand information about a person’s phone and internet use. No oversight from a court is required. Councils have used secret cameras to track down people whose dogs foul grass or to see if parents really live in catchment areas.

Refusing to reveal the key to encrypted data can be punished by up to five years in prison.

Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001

Allows samples taken by people arrested – including fingerprints and DNA samples – to be kept in a database even if the people are not charged or are later found innocent. The European Court of Human Rights said in 2008 that this is illegal, but Britain has so far refused to stop the practice.

Allows the police to issue on-the-spot fines for crimes including “throwing fireworks in a thoroughfare” and “using public telecommunications system for sending message known to be false in order to cause annoyance”. If the person fined wants to be tried in court instead, they must request this within a set period.

Makes it illegal to protest outside someone’s home if they are not breaking the law and the protest “amounts to, or is likely to result in, the harassment of the resident”, which would cover any protest.

Extradition Act 2003

Under this act people can be extradited from the UK to other countries without any evidence needing to be provided that they have committed any crime. The list of countries who need only provide “information” rather than “evidence” is determined by the Home Secretary. The list (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2003/20033334.htm) currently has 41 counties the US, Moldova (where according to Amnesty International [2009] torture is widespread), Azerbaijan, Israel and Russia.

Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

Makes it illegal to demonstrate within a kilometre of parliament without permission. People have been arrested for reading out the names of people who died in the Iraq war.

Serious Crime Act 2007

This act allows courts to impose “Serious Crime Prevention Orders” on people, a kind of “super ASBO”. These can stop people travelling, using phones or meeting certain people, and determine where people can live or work. People subject to the orders need not be convicted of anything: the courts only need to decide, like for ASBOs, on “the balance of probabilities” that a person has engaged in “conduct which is likely to facilitate the commission, by the person whose conduct it is or another person, of a serious offence in England and Wales (whether or not such an offence is committed)”.

Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act 2008

Allows people to give evidence anonymously in court, so people can be convicted without knowing who gave evidence against them.

Terrorism Act 2000

This act massively expanded the definition of terrorism. It now covers action which is“designed to influence the government” “for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause” and “involves serious damage to property” or “is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system”. Therefore many forms of protest are classed as “terrorism”.

The Act allowed people to be held without charge for 7 days – later extended to 28 days. It is possible for the information about why the person is being held to be withheld from them.

The Act also creates very broadly defined offences involving “support” for terrorism. People have been charged for writing poetry (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/dec/06/terrorism.books).

It is also illegal to gather information which could be of use to a terrorist. This has been used to stop people taking photos of police. It has been used wrongly by police to try to stop people taking photos of them under any circumstances: http://www.demotix.com/news/gemma-atkinson.

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005

Allows the government to place people under house arrest, unable to use phones or internet, receive unapproved visitors or leave their local area. To impose an order, the Home Secretary must merely have “reasonable grounds for suspecting the person is or has been involved in terrorism-related activity”. A court must later review the decision to check it was not “flawed”, but need not even believe that on the balance of probabilities a person has done something wrong, merely that the Home Secretary had reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Evidence can be kept secret from the person, meaning they may have no idea why the order is issued.

After a decision by the House of Lords that imposing 18 hour curfews amounted to a deprivation of liberty, which is not permitted without a fair trial by the European Convention on Human Rights, these have been reduced to 16 hours.
For more details see http://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/nlj/content/fair-controls.

Terrorism Act 2006

Makes it illegal to “glorify” terrorism. It is illegal to publish a statement which:

“(a) glorifies the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or offences; and

“(b) is a statement from which those members of the public could reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified is being glorified as conduct that should be emulated by them in existing circumstances.”

This could cover support for any number of historical groups, from Nelson Mandela to the French resistance.

Counter-Terrorism Act 2008

Adds a specific offence of “eliciting” or “publishing” any information about police or members of the armed or intelligence services (e.g. taking a photo) likely to be of use to a terrorist.

Collecting information “likely to be of use to a terrorist” was already illegal under the Terrorism Act 2000, so these provisions just make it more difficult for people to record what the police are doing. People have been arrested for filming police conducting “stop and searches”.

We believe that this is an important campaign (even though we don’t believe in voting and we don’t recognise the legitimacy of laws that were created by a non-elected judicial establishment – the Levellers were fighting for an elected judiciary 360 years ago!) that writers, artists and activists can – and should – wholeheartedly support. So what are you waiting for? Go to http://www.mindlessacts.co.uk/

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4 Responses to “12 Mindless Acts – and how to fight them!”

  1. Stuart Alexander said

    Hello people.

    I am the artist who created the above image in relation to the Mindless Acts campaign and show. I have had a look about this website and like what I see and I am more than happy for you to use it, but would it be possible to be credited for it on here? The image is copyrighted, thus, I think it is only fair that I am credited properly on here.

    Thanks!

    Stuart.

  2. Hi Stuart,

    Sorry about that. Do you have a site to link to?

    Regards,
    The Brigade

  3. Stuart Alexander said

    Oh no…not as yet…it is being created right now, thus! soon!

    thanks for crediting me…I will put up a link to a website when I have one…just so you can have a look at what I do. I think you may like it.

    Thanks again!

    Stuart.

  4. Stuart Alexander said

    and I agree.

    voting IS futile.
    democracy is a sham.
    illusion of choice.
    word to ye mother, like.

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