PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CRITICISES GOVERNMENT'S PROPOSALS ON ANTI-VIVISECTION PROTESTS
THE influential all-party Joint Committee on Human Rights has criticised the Government's proposals to restrict the rights of anti-vivisection protesters. The proposals are contained in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, one of the measures which the Government is keen to include in the parliamentary 'wash-up' once the general election is called. The bill is due to be considered by the House of Lords this week.
The proposals - in clauses 142-146 of the new bill - specifically target anti-vivisection protesters. It is thought to be the first time a particular group has been targeted in this way under the criminal law. Broadly-speaking, the measures would make it a criminal offence, punishable with up to 5 years in prison, for protesters to commit civil 'torts' with a view to exerting economic pressure on animal research laboratories and their suppliers. Torts include defamation, nuisance, which could include noisy demonstrations, trespass and conspiracy to cause economic damage.
Drawing heavily on the BUAV's legal analysis , the Joint Committee says:-
"We are not so far persuaded that any of the specific examples of intimidation which have so far been relied on by the Government to justify the need for the new power is not already a criminal offence under existing provisions. ... The legal uncertainty created by the definition of this offence is demonstrated by the chilling effect these provisions will have on activity such as seeking to persuade contractors not to contract with animal research organisations, and advocating boycotts of those contractors if they
Adolfo Sansolini, BUAV chief executive, says:- "This is what we have been saying all along. The new offences are unnecessary and are a serious threat to legitimate protest. It has always been perfectly legal to exert economic pressure on companies, provided violence or intimidation is not used - look at the campaigns against apartheid and Nestlé and environmental campaigns. These measures are simply designed to appease multi-national drug companies. If anything, they will drive more protest
David Thomas, BUAV solicitor, comments:- "Criminalising torts is a very serious step. If the proposals become law, a protester unwittingly defaming someone, or unintentionally trespassing, could be guilty of a serious criminal offence. As the joint committee says, that has a chilling effect on free speech. As such it is liable to breach human rights
OUTDOOR CHARITY CHALLENGE IS ON THE MAP
LIVERPOOL poet Brian Patten is among over 40 writers who are supporting Write Here, Write Now, the government's awards for budding young writers. The Awards are run by the Department for Education and Skills and backed by Derek Twigg, MP for Widnes and Schools Minister. The Awards, for 8-10 year olds, are a celebration of children's writing and encourage children to have fun with writing.
Brian Patten said:- "Everyone can write - it's fun, free and a great way to give your brain a workout."
Derek Twigg, MP for Widnes and Schools Minister, said:- "Learning should be fun - this is a wonderful opportunity for children to enjoy writing and be creative. Creativity is central to all aspects of education and children need to be proactive thinkers if they are to make most of their talents. These awards will certainly help them to hone and develop these key skills."
Brian Patten made his name in the '60s with the Liverpool trio of Adrian Henri & Roger McGough and has been writing & performing poetry ever since. In June '02, Brian Patten accepted The Cholmondeley Award for services to poetry. Together with Roger McGough and the late Adrian Henri, he was honoured with The Freedom of the City of Liverpool.
Children taking part in Write Here, Write Now will complete a story by Gillian Cross, a poem by Brian Patten, a piece of persuasive writing by Geraldine McCaughrean, or they can follow advice from Lizo Mzimba to write a news report. Write Here, Write Now has the support of over 40 authors, poets and journalists including Adam Hart-Davies, Roger McGough, Malorie Blackman and Michael Morpurgo.
Winners will have their work published in a special book by Oxford University Press in addition to receiving prizes from sponsors including software from Adobe, electronic equipment from Epson and pens from Stabilo.
The closing date for entries is Thursday 14 July 2005 and all entries must be submitted through schools. A teacher's pack including children's activity sheets, classroom poster and information on how to enter the awards can be ordered by calling 0870 609 1948 or by visiting