26 February, 2011


In the frame

Barring a successful appeal, Wikileaks head geezer Julian Assange will be deported to Sweden to face charges (or is it still just an investigation?) of rape and sexual assault. An odd business, whether or not you agree with the received view that Mr Assange is an arrogant, sanctimonious weirdo who does more harm than good. Particularly odd is the nature of the alleged offences. If I understand correctly, he is charged with not telling the woman whom he was shagging, entirely consensually and seemingly at her enthusiastic insistence, that he was also shagging, or might possibly shag in the near future, some other woman. If that amounts to rape then I have to count myself as being at one with Mr Hislop's infamous banana.

Methinks Julian is being fitted up.

Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, tanning shop operator and head man of the English Defence League, has for some time had his bank account frozen, or more precisely throttled, while the authorities investigate accusations of "money laundering". The authorities seem in no great hurry to complete these investigations, leaving our man in difficult financial straits and unable to run his business effectively.

Methinks Tommy is being fitted up.

Well, methinks those things, but maybe both of these gents are banged to rights; I have no inside track on either matter. Let's move on to the case of Richard Price.

Here it gets a wee bit tendentious. Mr Price (no I'd never heard of him either) was apparently a senior figure in the EDL. Then the Times published a piece about him having to sign on the sex offenders' register. The article is behind Rupert's paywall, but such niceties are of no consequence to the Left, so here is a full copy of the article at an Indymedia site. The antifascists have, to put it in the vernacular, been creaming themselves over this one.

Tommy Robinson initially supported Mr Price against the allegations and put out a statement via a number of EDL-related sites defending him . This statement was then quietly withdrawn and removed from all sites. A period of silence followed. I understand Mr Price has since severed his connections with the EDL by mutual agreement.

The antifascists, of course, interpret this as an admission of guilt and are cock-a-hoop. I make no interpretation either way. Certainly Mr Price's reputation was damaged to the extent that his former position became untenable. Beyond that I don't know. Not that it matters, the damage has been done, the mission has been accomplished. Who cares about the truth?

I'm more interested in the scenario described in Tommy's statement and its wider implications. Tommy should be aware that if you publish to the web and then have second thoughts, you have to move pretty damned sharpish to retract it before it gets replicated. In this case the spiderbots of Google beat Tommy to it and I have the cached copy of the article from English Defence League Extra.

As the matter now seems to be done and dusted, I'm sure it will do no harm if I quote a couple of relevant paragraphs:

When his house was raided the police took a number of items from his house, including his mobile phone and his computer, which he had recently bought second hand. After investigating his computer further, West Midlands Police informed Mr Price that they had found 5 photographs of children on the computer. Although they would not show him, he was informed that photographs are put into a scale of 1 to 5 - where 1 being photographs of children in a swimming pool and 5 being indecent photographs. All 5 of the photos that where found where scale 1 images. Mr Price has no idea what these photos are and how they where on his computer.

The police however informed him that if he pleaded guilty to possessing them he would be put on the sex offenders register and no more would be mentioned and nothing would be made public and all would be finished with. If, however, he pleaded not guilty there would be a public trial and he would be miss-represented by the UK media as being a paedophile. After legal advice Mr Price felt he had no choice in the matter and since the photos where not of a paedophilic nature chose the option of pleading guilty, something that any man in his position would be forced into doing.

I'm not particularly interested here in whether Mr Price is innocent or not. He may well be as guilty as sin. I am interested in the immense scope that agents of the state, in this case the police and the CPS, have for quietly fitting up or intimidating political opponents.

The police refer to 5 images at scale 1. Five images is a remarkably small number. From all the reports I've seen, your average dodgy porn obsessive has thousands upon thousands of images. Compulsive acquisition seems to be part of the buzz. Well, OK, perhaps they were specimen images to form the basis of a charge, with the rest to be "taken into consideration". Or perhaps not.

The images were at level 1. The classification of child pornography used in the UK criminal justice system is a subset of the international psychatric COPINE scale. Level 1 on the SAP scale essentially refers to "provocatively posed" images not necessarily involving nudity and definitely not involving sexual activity. This seems to be open to very broad interpretation. (Incidentally, the Heresiarch has an interesting post in this area which you might like to take a look at.)

So what constitutes a naughty level 1 image. Well I don't know either, which again is rather part of the point. Here is an image. An entirely legal image of an adult woman. At considerable risk to my personal street cred, I have watched and recorded on your behalf part of Lorraine Kelly's breakfast TV show, and in particular Mark Heyes' high-street fashion segment. I don't think you can get more anodyne than that. Most assuredly I would have no qualms about letting my servants watch it.

Sasha (for it is she) is posing for us on the catwalk. I'm not up to speed with catwalk jargon, so I will call this pose the sinuous half teapot. Well, I'm not going to do a detailed analysis in case we all get overexcited and have to go and lie down for a while, but I think we can take it as read that this would be generally viewed as a mildly, almost formally, "sexy" or if you like "coquettish" pose.

Now suppose that the image on your hard disk is not of the lovely Sasha, but of your friend's or neighbour's 14-year-old daughter. You have been taking pictures at a social gathering: a barbecue, a church fete, a birthday party, whatever. Among them several pictures of the children. Why would a 14-year-old adopt such a pose, you ask. Because she's a 14-year-old in her best party dress playing at being a grown-up. Showing off. That make sense? Would you consider there to be anything remotely untoward about it? I wouldn't.

Now I may be wrong, but it is my understanding that if they had a mind to, the police could at least make a prima facie assertion that such a picture could be potentially classified as erotic posing at level 1 on the SAP scale. Even in isolation.

Loads and loads of weasel words there, but weasel words are all you need.

Of course the CPS would throw it out. Or would they? Of course a jury wouldn't convict. (Or would they? I'm not even sure of that anymore.) The point is that context is everything in this sort of case. Coquettish photo of a younger Sasha in among a set of consistent "family gathering" photos. No problem. Folder upon folder filled entirely with cheeky pictures of the younger Sasha and her mates. Hmm, maybe keep an eye on this one. Making the final decision on context is the jury's job. By which stage it's already effectively in the public domain.

But let's go back to Mr Price. Mr Price is, shall we say, a nasty rough sort with a bit of form for being nasty and rough. He moves among a demographic which is not at all known for its tolerance of nonces, suspected or confirmed.

"Come on Pricey. We've got the CPS on board. They don't like you EDL types very much. What do you say? You sign up for the register, nice and quiet like, and we'll say no more. Just between us. Just so we know who's boss. Just so we've got a bit of a handle on you, eh? Or of course you can go to court and get your name in the papers. Even the thickest jury will throw it out, but the mud'll stick, eh? No smoke without fire, eh? I'm sure your mates will be very understanding."

Once the reputational genie is out of the bottle, no amount of official apologies is going to push him back in.

A far-fetched scenario? Not far enough fetched for my liking.

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