News and Other Busyness
All brief stories from Squall 14 collated in one handy file...
Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pp. 5-10.
Squatting In Ulster
A RECENT spate of forced evictions in Northern Ireland has led to an increase in squatting in the province.
Since the breakdown of the ceasefire this year, sectarian intimidation has led to a number of families being forced out of their homes by constant harassment, including firebomb and brick attacks.
The majority of such attacks have been targeted on Catholic families and designed to scare them out of Protestant areas, although Protestant and mixed sectarian families have also been targeted.
Some of these families have resorted to squatting as an immediate route out of the violent intimidation; providing a roof over their head whilst they await rehousing by Northern Ireland’s Housing Executive.
Jail Tensions Rise
TENSIONS in one of Britain’s most secure prisons are rising to a “desperate” level, 46 prisoners warned in August.
The prisoners, in Belmarsh Prison, in Woolwich, South London, some of whom were on remand, said new security regimes were driving them “to despair”.
In a letter to a national newspaper they said they were locked up for 22 and a half hours a day, denied access to the library and chapel, visits from relatives and lawyers were obstructed, and they were in a building with no natural light.
“Millions of pounds has been spent on security gadgets and measures, yet security is still needed to oppress us and justify the abuse of our rights,” the prisoners said. “We’re bogged down trying to survive this inhuman treatment.”
Britain's Boot Camps
BRITAIN’S first “Boot Camp” regime for young offenders began in July.
Inmates of Thorn Cross young offenders institution will be subjected to a “militaristic” approach involving drills, parades and inspections.
“Militaristic methods merely produce tougher, fitter offenders better able to run away from the scene of a crime,” said Paul Cavadino of the Penal Affairs Consortium. “They are a headline-hitting gimmick with no serious contribution to reducing crime.”
Breach Of The Peace
TWO PEACE campaigners boarded a nuclear submarine and made a phone call before being arrested by the Ministry of Defence in July.
The protesters entered the Clyde Nuclear Submarine base using scuba gear, and climbed the gang plank of Hunter Killer sub HMS Sceptre.
The two women were released after being charged with a breach of the peace.
Disabled Campaigner Fined
A DISABLED campaigner was given a two year conditional discharge and fined £500 in July for throwing blood-coloured water at a Department of Health building in Whitehall.
Barry Shaufler was one of 50 campaigners from Incapacity Action demonstrating against the first year of Incapacity Benefit outside Richmond House.
Incapacity Benefit introduced more stringent tests to judge if disabled people were capable of work or not.
SIXTEEN rare red kites were released into the Midlands by the RSPB in July.
This is the second year of a five year reintroduction programme. The birds were donated by Spanish conservationists and join 11 birds released last year.
Formerly a common sight across Britain, red kites were hunted to extinction in England and Scotland by the turn of the century. Since 1989 the RSPB has released 186 birds into southern England.
Giant Crispbread Eats Famous Landmark?
A BUSINESS plan commissioned by the Department of the Environment has suggested that some of London’s most famous landmarks could be redesigned as product advertisements.
The preliminary arrangements so far negotiated by the design company Brand Encounters include turning Tower Bridge into a large Ryvita crispbread which would be regularly snapped to allow shipping to pass through. Ryvita Biscuits have suggested they would be willing to pay £20 million for the deal. The report also acknowledges an interest shown by Nestle in painting a Kit Kat logo on Big Ben and by Pepsi in turning the bottom of Nelson’s Column into a Cola can. The business plan undertaken by Brand Encounters has been paid for with public money and claims that under such proposals £1 billion could be raised for the Treasury coffers within a decade.
Benefit Grass Up Line
A FREE telephone line for people to inform on any neighbours suspected of benefit fraud opened for business in August.
The Government expects 2,000 callers a day to use its “Beat a Cheat” line. The line attracted 12,000 callers in its first week.
Smart Card Tricks
CARDS containing computer chips to store personal information could be introduced for benefit claimants.
A consultation paper due to be published this autumn by the Government’s new information technology unit will contain detailed plans for “smart cards”.
Smart cards are said to be one of the Government’s top priorities. They are used extensively across Europe for identification purposes.
SCOTTISH grouse shooting estates are losing £10 million a year due to the decline in grouse numbers - so are calling for a cash injection from Europe.
But the European Federation Against Hunting - a body of 19 anti-hunting organisations - are to campaign against the move.
Losing The Plottery
EIGHTEEN MILLION one pound lottery scratch cards are sold a week to two thirds of the adult population, according to figures from the Office of the National Lottery and National Opinion Polls. “The information we have does not suggest a problem with excessive participation,” said Peter Davis, Director General of the National Plottery.
Animal Rights United
THREE LEADING animal right’s organisations joined forces to fight hunting in July.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports issued a joint statement saying that using dogs to hunt animals was “fundamentally cruel”.
The “Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals” calls for hunting with dogs to be “abolished”.
Benefit Helpline Cut
FREE telephone advice for benefit claimants ended in July. The free inquiry line, used by three million people a year, was cut by Social Security Secretary Peter Lilley, in an attempt to slice £3.25 billion from his department’s budget.
In another move, family credit for 15,000 low income families was cut, “saving” £8 million.
Stiffer Sentences For Dealers
DRUG DEALERS found guilty of a second offence will be automatically given a minimum seven year jail sentence if new government proposals published in July are made law.
Michael Howard’s white consultation paper, Protecting the Public, does not differentiate between big time traffickers and small time users.
The proposals will also scrap parole and early release for prisoners, as well as introducing mandatory life sentences for second violent or sexual offences.
According to prison watchdogs, the Penal Affairs Consortium, a group of 31 prison related organisations, the proposals are “riddled with injustice”.
The Consortium point out that automatic life sentences would lead to wrongful acquittals if individual circumstances were not taken into consideration.
They also expressed fears about seven year sentences for repeat drug dealers.
McDonald’s At Stonehenge?
WILL MCDONALD’S be funding a new visitor’s centre at Stonehenge and opening a burger bar next to the monument?
If it sounds far fetched then perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that satire is becoming reality faster than the comics can keep up.
English Heritage have put forward proposals to attract private finance for the construction of a new visitors complex and amongst those approached to put in a bid are the McDonald’s fast food corporation.
JSA Staff Fear For Safety
BENEFITS AGENCY staff held a two day walk out in July over worries about safety under the Job Seekers’ Allowance.
The Civil and Public Services Association believe the JSA will be an “unpopular” benefit that will increase violent attacks on agency staff.
According to the CPSA, assaults on staff have increased “alarmingly” since protective screens were removed in 1989.
Prison Exercise Abolished
A PRISONER’S right to one hour’s exercise a day was abolished in July - breaking European rules on prisons according to prison campaigners.
Guidelines given to prison staff said only half an hour a day was needed for health requirements. How much time a prisoner is allowed in the open air is now to be left to the discretion of prison governors.
The decision to abolish prison rule 27 was made without debate by MPs under special government rules.
“It is ironic the Prison Service should choose one of the hottest days of the year to implement a restriction on prisoner’s access to open air,” said Stephen Shaw, Director of the Prison Reform Trust. “The new rules breach one of the European prison rules.”
The new instructions to governors state that an hour in the open is ideal, but no longer a legal requirement. They add that health advice is that “normally prisoners must be able to spend at least half an hour in the open each day”.
More Prison Works
AN EMERGENCY building programme costing £200 million to accommodate the burgeoning prison population was announced in July.
Just under half the money, £90 million, will come from cutting compensation to crime victims.
The programme will include an extra 3,500 prison places over two years. Two thousand places will be supplied by building extra blocks in existing prisons.
Five Victorian wings in Liverpool, Leeds, Preston and Wandsworth are also to be refurbished.
Since Michael Howard adopted his “prison works” policy (see Squall 12) the number of prisoners has expanded to an all time high of 55,851. It is expected to reach 60,000 by next autumn.
One in five people found guilty are being sent straight to jail - the highest figure for 16 years.
The first two private prisons for 12 to 14 year olds are to be built by Group 4 and Tarmac.