Monday, 3 March 2008
Rights? What rights?
As England pulls subtly towards creating a police society for itself, it seems intent on pulling Cornwall along with it. For the time being there is little indication that things will be different, but as more people begin to feel the burden of a big brother society affecting personal aspects of their lives and restricting their civil liberties, they will inevitably become more willing to take action.
Luckily for the nine to fivers among us, civil society is still able to function in a more or less healthy way, but its influence is nevertheless becoming increasingly eroded. This can be seen by the complete lack of impact the Iraq War demonstrators had in London in recent years or the Government’s complete rejection of the Cornish Assembly petition.
The Celtic League have now written to Stephen Otter, Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, to find out what his views are on two matters relating to the civil rights, under English law, of Cornish citizens. Both issues, DNA databasing and gay rights, have implications for the Cornish public, but also to the Welsh who are also subject to English law in Wales. Both matters will be dealt with by Cornwall Police Watch in future blog posts.
Interestingly, as Michael Chappell highlights, Mr Otter is soon to take on the role of Head of the Race and Diversity Business area and included in his portfolio are matters concerning ‘sexual orientation’. As some of you may be aware from this blog, the Devon and Cornwall police do not currently have a particularly good reputation for their attitude towards the gay community in Cornwall, according to some activists. We will await his response with eagerness. Well done the Celtic League for taking up these issues!
CELTIC LEAGUE - PRESS INFORMATION
DEVONWALL POLICE PRESSED ON ATTITUDES TO CIVIL LIBERTY AND GAY PRIDE
The Assistant General Secretary (AGS) of the League has written to the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Stephen Otter, in his role as Kernow Branch Secretary to seek his views on issues relating to Cornwall and elsewhere.
Mike Chappell is keen to hear the Chief Constables views about plans to extend the powers of the police to take genetic samples of anyone arrested or suspected of any crime and also his views on plans to hold a Gay Pride march in Truro, Cornwall in August 2008.
The first issue relates to a call made by the Association of Chief Police Officers for a new debate on the issue of extending the current DNA database to include all people arrested, whether they are later charged with an offence or not. This would substantially increase the current database of genetic records held of more than 4.5million people – including 560,000 people who have never been convicted of any offence.
In Scotland last month Ministers rejected calls by Association of Chief Police Officers of Scotland (ACPOS) to fall in line with police forces in England and Wales by collecting forensic samples of anyone arrested. However, Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill has ruled this out, claiming it would be an infringement of the public's human rights. Currently in Scotland if anyone has their DNA taken by the police, it is destroyed if they are not convicted.
The second issue raised by the AGS in his letter raises the question of how Mr Otter would respond to the proposed Gay Parade to take place in Cornwall in view of the additional role he will take up in April
2008, as Spokesperson for the Association of Chief Police Officers, on matters to include, among others, 'sexual orientation'.
In the past Devon and Cornwall Constabulary has been accused of institutionalised homophobia by leading members of Cornwall's gay community. Accusations of police homophobia in Cornwall have been so persistent and far reaching that now a European television company, who are making an international documentary on homophobia, have approached Cornish activists to know more. It has been reported to the League that the recommendation for a 'British' feature on homophobia should be run in Cornwall by acclaimed Human Rights Campaigner, Peter Tatchell.
The full text of the AGS's letter can be found below:
"Mr. Stephen Otter
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary
4th March, 2008
Dear Chief Constable
DNA Database and Gay Pride Rally
I am writing to you as Assistant General Secretary and Kernow Branch Secretary of the Celtic League in order to ascertain your views on two unrelated topics that are of interest to members of our Branch and indeed to members in the other Branches of our organisation.
The first regards plans to extend the powers of the police to take genetic samples of anyone arrested or suspected of any crime. We are aware that Chief Constable Tony Lake, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) on DNA is in favour of such plans and has even spoken in favour of compiling a DNA database of everyone charged with an offence or not.
Being a member of the ACPO, we would therefore like to know what your
views are on this subject.
The second enquiry is in regard to the announcement made last week that a Gay Pride march will be taking place in Truro, Cornwall in August 2008. It has been reported to the Branch that organisers of this march, Cornwall Gay Pride, are concerned about the reaction of Devon and Cornwall police towards the organisers of the event and the marchers themselves.
We are aware that in 2007 the previous Cornwall Gay Pride Steering Group decided to disband as a result of personal experience of homophobic behaviour towards them on the part of Devon and Cornwall police officers. We are also aware that from April 2008, you will take up the position of Head of the Race and Diversity Business area and that your new portfolio will cover 'sexual orientation'.
We would therefore be interested to know what your views are on the existence of Cornwall Gay Pride and what you intend to do as Head of the Race and Diversity Business area and the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police to improve relations between the Constabulary and Cornwall's gay community. Also we would like to know your own views on the planned Gay pride march itself.
Many thanks in advance.
Michael J. Chappell"
Posted by Rhisiart at 23:23