Wednesday, February 03, 2010

We are not Spartacus

My excuse is that I haven't been blogging much. Normally, I do chip in when there's a "We are all Spartacus" call on behalf of a blogger, and so do many people from left and right. Normally.

For some reason, the only places I've seen the case of the Reverend Stephen Sizer mentioned have been left of centre blogs. So, in case you haven't heard about it yet:

At 10am on Sunday 29th November 2009, I received a visit from two policemen regarding my activities in running the Seismic Shock blog. (Does exposing a vicar’s associations with extremists make me a criminal?, I wondered initially). A sergeant from the Horsforth Police related to me that he had received complaints via Surrey Police from Rev Sizer and from Dr Anthony McRoy – a lecturer at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology – who both objected to being associated with terrorists and Holocaust deniers.
Sizer then used the incident to try to intimidate another blogger:
Dear Vee,

You must take a little more care who you brand as anti-semitic otherwise you too will be receiving a caution from the police as the young former student of Leeds did recently. One more reference to me and you will be reported.

But here's what I find the most chilling part of the account:
The sergeant made clear that this was merely an informal chat, in which I agreed to delete my original blog ( but maintain my current one ( The policeman related to me that his police force had been in contact with the ICT department my previous place of study, and had looked through my files, and that the head of ICT at my university would like to remind me that I should not be using university property in order to associate individuals with terrorists and Holocaust deniers (I am sure other people use university property to make political comments, but nevermind).
An informal chat? What does that mean?

Are we to take it that if a complaint of defamation is made to them, police officers will contact a person's employer, visit that person, reach an agreement that they will delete a blog in its entirety, that they will do all this informally?

This is "informal" as in "the police have no jurisdiction"; defamation is a civil matter in which the police have no role, at least at the stage where nothing more has happened than a complaint from the aggrieved party.

Yet they still act to censor and intimidate a writer. This, entirely extra-judicial, harassment is a far greater worry than our current, infamous, libel laws. At least they involve court appearances and take place within the rule of law.


JuliaM said...

I saw this over at 'Harry's Place' first. And after that, came this.

Surprised they BOTH didn't get more of a showing among the Libertarian blogs, too...

ModernityBlog said...

When it first came out, I posted a few comments on various Libertarian blogs and on the recent carnival, but it didn't seem to register.

Can't say they weren't told about it.

JuliaM said...

Mind you, 'Harry's Place' are a little selective about what they see as appropriate uses of police authority...

dearieme said...

I don't know about the Holocaust. That is, I don't know whether it murdered five million Jews, six million Jews or eight million Jews. Does that make me a denier?

bob said...

So why the lack of interest from libertarians and conservatives? (So far?)

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Ditto. I mean that I was stricken the most by the same passage. Unbelievable.

ModernityBlog said...

It is not for the want of being told.

I made an effort to inform about 3-5+ Libertarian blogs, (from memory), Mr Eug, Devil Kitchen and whoever was running their carnival, but nothing.


I can only assume that they need to be told a "line" from libertarian central before the penny drops :)

Fair play Richard Wilson got the point in about 5 seconds.

But it is still rolling on, so they'll get their chance to comment!