Monday, June 27 2016


Man charged with racially aggravated criminal damage to proposed Muslim centre

The Sunderland Echo reports that a man has been charged with racially aggravated criminal damage after an attack on a disused pub that is to be converted into a Muslim education centre.

Graham French, 28, will appear before magistrates on 22 January for the attack in Shotton Colliery, County Durham. Police have released no further details in relation to the charge.

The proposal to convert the former pub into an education centre by the local Muslim community has attracted considerable opposition with far right groups returning to protest in the town. The most recent protest took place last November.


Racist and Islamophobic bullying increases in schools

The Independent and BBC News today draw attention to the NSPCC’s ChildLine report “Can I Tell You Something?” which reviews the work of the children’s charity in regards to its counselling sessions with children and young people over the period 2012/13.

During 2012/13, ChildLine counselled 278,886 children and young people with a further 10,961 cases of children referred to the helpline by concerned others. More than 1,400 counselling sessions to children and young people was for racist bullying compared to 861 cases the previous year, according to BBC News.

The report observes that racist bullying has increased by 69% in the last 12 months. Online bullying rose by 87% on the previous year.

Nearly a quarter of those aged 11 and under contacted the helpline with concerns about bullying, accounting for the largest proportion of counselling sessions for this age group, 24%.

Bullying and online bullying was the second most common factor for children aged 12-15 to contact the helpline.

Bullying and online bullying was the least common factor for young people aged 16-18, accounting for 4% of counselling, or 2,151 sessions, with this age group.

Cases concerning bullying or online bullying account for 11% of the total, or 30,387 counselling sessions.

The most prevalent reason for contacting the helpline was depression and unhappiness and family relationships, accounting for 13% of cases respectively. Other reasons included self-harm, suicidal issues, problems with friends, physical abuse, sexual abuse and online sexual abuse, puberty and sexual health and mental health issues.

The Independent reports that Islamophobia is a particular issue in schools”. The ChildLine report observes that most cases of bullying occur in schools with 19,795 young people reporting this to be the case in the last year.

The report notes that “a common theme was for young people to be called a “terrorist” or a “bomber”, and to “go back to where they came from”. These constant insults left many young people feeling upset, insecure and frustrated.”

A recent Freedom of Information inquiry to Bolton Council revealed that incidents of racism in Bolton schools average about one per day. Between 2007 and 2011, almost 88,000 incidents of racist bullying were recorded in British schools, the BBC Asian Network found in its report last year.

From one of ChildLine’s counselling sessions, the Independent highlights the story of a teenage girl who disclosed that “I’m being bullied at school because of my race and religion. They call me a terrorist because they know I’m Muslim. I’ve lost my temper a few times – it really frustrates me because then I end up getting in trouble. Some of my friends stick up for me, but it’s not enough, I want the teachers to do something but they always tell me they’re too busy.”

The Independent also raises concerns over how “children who have poor English or a strong accent are often called “freshies” – an abusive term that highlights their struggle to fit in.”

The problems surrounding racist bullying in school seems to be exacerbated by the current debate about immigration and a rise in ‘political hostility’ to migrant communities.

The British Social Attitudes Survey yesterday published findings that show 77 per cent of respondents want a reduction in immigration. 54% and 55% of respondents viewed the economic and cultural impact of immigration positively (respectively) but also were concerned about the current immigration level.

The head of ChildLine, Sue Minto, said “There’s so much more of a focus in the news at the moment about immigrants... it’s a real discussion topic and children aren’t immune to the conversations that happen around them. Some children are being told, even if they’re UK born, to pack your bags and go back where you belong. It is very worrying, it’s a big increase.”

James Kingett, of the charity Show Racism The Red Card (SRTRC) which does tremendous work in the education sector on racism and Islamophobia, said: “We work with around 50,000 young people every year and issues around Islamophobia have been very prevalent over the past 12 to 18 months. That idea that all Muslims are terrorists or bombers is a particular problem. We’re getting that from kids with no Muslim classmates through to those in diverse schools with many Muslims.

“We are doing work on the impact of far-right groups such as the English Defence League on children’s attitudes. Often children are picking up language at home and from parents and taking that to be fact. The rhetoric at the moment around immigration is incredibly pervasive. The prominence of the immigration debate may have had a knock-on effect, filtering down in classrooms.”

The ChildLine report demonstrates the importance of developing teaching materials and training sessions on anti-racism and Islamophobia awareness in our schools. According to the 2011 Census results, British Muslims have the youngest demographic profile of faith groups with 48% aged 24 and under.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 16:46

Letters of complaint to the PCC

Our letters to the Press Complaints Commission in relation to articles appearing in The Times and the Daily Mail newspapers in December can be read here and here, respectively.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 13:48

BSA survey on immigration shows attitudes 'hardening'

The IndependentThe Sun (£), the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror all report today and on the release of new data on popular attitudes on immigration. The poll was carried out by the research institute that runs the annual British Attitudes Survey and conducted for a BBC 2 programme, The Truth About Immigration', which is due to air tonight.

The results of the survey, which most of the papers pick up on, shows that 77 per cent of respondents want a reduction in immigration with those wanting to see immigration reduced "a lot" increasing 5 per cent points since 2011, from 51% to 56%.

The figures also reveal that those who hold positive views of the economic and cultural impact of migration, also express concern about the current levels of migration, at 54% and 55% respectively.

In 2011, 48 per cent of respondents considered the economic impact of migration to be neutral or positive while 51 per cent of respondents considered the cultural impact of migration to be neutral or positive.

According to the 2012 BSA, attitudes to migration in the UK are becoming socially differentiated with particular social classes exhibiting certain tendencies. It was argued that "citizens who are in economically marginal positions may worry more about economic impacts, while those in more secure employment may focus on cultural impacts."

The 2012 study argued that "The British in 2011 are much more internally divided about immigration than they were in 2002. Majorities of the more threatened groups are consistently negative about immigration impact, while among more secure groups most remain positive or neutral."

A fact borne out by the study results released today which show those expressing the "most positive views of immigration are graduates, 60 per cent of whom think immigration is good for the economy compared with 31% of the population as a whole; and the highest earners (48% of whom think immigration is economically beneficial)" while "immigration is least popular among people with few or no qualifications, 85% of whom want to see a decrease, and people in higher grade manual jobs, 88% of whom want a reduction."

The proportion who view immigration as bad for the economy has dropped from 52% in 2011 to 47% in 2013. Across party lines, the new research findings reveal that 40% of Labour supporters and 52% of Conservatives feel immigration is bad for British culture in contrast to only 20% of Liberal Democrats.

The Independent reports that the survey suggests attitudes are 'hardening' with anti-immigrant sentiment 'on the rise' in Britain. With the European elections to be held in May of this year, parties such as UKIP and Britain First are hoping to do well on an anti-immigrant platform. Nigel Farage in a column last week set out UKIP's ambition to "gain electoral strength as people turn against unrestricted mass immigration and membership of the EU."

The Institute for Public Policy Research in a report published ahead of the 2010 general election exploring 'The Roots of BNP Support' claimed social, economic and political exclusion were factors more likely to account for voter support for the BNP than immigration.

Lord Ashdown, in an interview with The Times newspaper last week claimed alienation and lack of trust in mainstream parties was turning voters to the "arms of 'demagogues". A sentiment echoed in comments by Professor Rob Ford on the poll results published today. He said, "[M]any voters recognise there are positive effects to migration, and may be swayed by arguments about the negative social and economic consequences of drastic cuts, However, with public trust in parties' competence of the issue at all time lows, the first task for policymakers will be to restore voters' faith in their ability to manage migration."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 January 2014 23:08

JCHR report on Schedule 7 powers and ‘reasonable suspicion’

The parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) upholds views expressed in its initial report criticising provisions in the Government’s Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill regarding Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA), Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBO) and the Schedule 7 powers to stop and search individuals at UK ports and airports.

In a report published today, the JCHR endorses an earlier recommendation that Schedule 7 powers considered ‘intrusive’, ie powers to seize and retain data held on electronic devices, should require a ‘reasonable suspicion’ threshold. The ‘reasonable suspicion’ threshold is also applied to detentions under Schedule 7 but not to the rights of examining officers to stop and question individuals.

The current Bill before Parliament includes reforms to the Schedule 7 powers such as reducing the maximum examination period in detention from 9 to 6 hours; granting individuals detained access to legal counsel; and to repeal powers to take ‘intimate samples’ of biometric data.

The JCHR reveals that the Government in its response to its initial report findings that the powers are ‘too powerful’ argued that "introducing a reasonable suspicion test to be met before an examining officer may detain a person, search for and retain property or take biometric samples would undermine the capability of the police to necessarily and proportionately determine whether or not individuals passing through ports and airports may be concerned in terrorism."

Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, clarified that examinations involve exploring whether individuals “appear to be involved in terrorism, whether that is because they are or have been involved, are going to become involved or are at risk of becoming involved either knowingly or unknowingly.” The JCHR rightly points out the government’s current view of Schedule 7 powers “extend[ing] to questioning people who have not and are not currently involved in terrorism” but who are ‘at risk’ of becoming involved in the future, even if ‘unknowingly’.

The JCHR also considers recommendations by David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, which fell short of supporting reasonable suspicion on powers to detain and seize data stored on electronic devices.

On the threshold to be crossed for the more ‘intrusive’ powers, the JCHR rejects Anderson’s proposal of a ‘subjective suspicion’ threshold exercised by a senior officer arguing that its concerns about “the lack of adequate safeguards against such intrusive powers being exercised arbitrarily or in a discriminatory manner” remain.

It concludes that “a subjective suspicion standard does not count as very much of a safeguard at all because it does not provide the basis for any independent scrutiny of the reasonableness of the officer's suspicion on which the exercise of the power was premised.”

The JCHR cites the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in the case of Gillan vs the United Kingdom, which led to the abrogation of the arbitrary use of Section 44 powers to stop and search, stating, “…subjective grounds for suspicion in Gillan did not survive scrutiny in the European Court of Human Rights…”

The JCHR reinforces its point for reasonable suspicion as the ‘absolute minimum’ safeguard to allow for the possibility of independent scrutiny and review arguing “there is good practical guidance for police on the sorts of things that count as reasonable grounds for suspicion.”

While the Committee agrees with Anderson that the ‘no suspicion’ nature of the current power to stop, question and search at ports should remain unchanged, it is unclear how the committee will address the discriminatory use of the powers. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission in its experimental analysis published last month, found that Asians are 11 times more likely to be stopped and searched under Schedule 7. Committee member, Lord Eric Avebury, raised concerns over the perception and effects of disproportionate targeting of Asians in a Lords debate last month saying the powers “cause immense damage to community relations because of its widespread negative impact, particularly on our Muslim population.”

On IPNA and CBO, the JCHR raises concerns on the provisions made to prevent any risk of conflict with religious belief. According to the Bill, clause 21(9) states:

(9) Prohibitions and requirements in a criminal behaviour order must, so far as practicable, be such as to avoid—

(a) any conflict with the offender’s religious beliefs;

(b) any interference with the times, if any, at which the offender normally works or attends school or any other educational establishment;

(c) any conflict with the requirements of any other court order or injunction to which the offender may be subject.

The JCHR deems the Government’s singling out of religious belief unnecessary, given the ‘absolute right’ to religious freedom under Article 9 of the Human Rights Act. In recommendation, the JCHR urges the Government to remove the words ‘so far as practicable’ from the Bill.

The provisions contained in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill concerning IPNAs and CBOs are particularly interesting in light of the recommendation contained in the report by the Taskforce on Tackling Radicalisation. In the section on disrupting extremists, the report notes the Government’s intent to “close [the] gaps in our legislation by: Considering if there is a case for new civil powers, akin to the new anti-social behaviour powers, to target the behaviours extremists use to radicalise others.”







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