Thursday, May 16, 2013

UK - Co-founder of activist movement Anonymous UK, Malcolm Blackman, accused of raping a woman at the Occupy London demonstration

Malcolm Blackman
Original Article

05/13/2013

By Simon Angear

A political activist who says his life has been ‘shattered’ by false rape claims is returning to Weston to begin a fight for new laws to protect people from malicious allegations.

Malcolm Blackman made national headlines two weeks ago when he went on trial at the Old Bailey accused of raping a woman at the Occupy London demonstration at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Jurors have since cleared the 46-year-old of any wrong-doing – and now Mr Blackman says he wants to return home ‘with his head up high’ and campaign to save others from having their lives ‘ruined’ in the same way.

Formal ‘not guilty’ verdicts were recorded on both charges against Mr Blackman on May 3, and now he faces the task of piecing together a life which has been on hold for more than a year.

Mr Blackman – the co-founder of activist movement Anonymous UK – told the Mercury: “The whole situation has been horrendous.”

All year, people have been told I am a rapist. Life will never be the same again.”

There will always be that stigma attached to me. There will always be people who are wondering ‘I wonder if he just got away with it’.

The worst thing was knowing that I would either be going to prison as an innocent man, or walking away with my life in ruins.”

Completely vindicated as I was, it’s not going to change the fact that my life is shattered.”

Key video evidence and witness testimonies put Mr Blackman elsewhere at the time the woman – who cannot be named – claimed she was attacked.
- Why can't the woman be named?

And he now wants the law to do more to protect the identity of people accused of rape until their guilt is established.

Mr Blackman said: “We live in a make-believe world where people are innocent until proven guilty - but I had to prove my innocence.”
- Welcome to the real world where you are guilty and must prove your innocence.  Like we've said before, people have no clue, until it happens to them.

I expected British justice to do its thing. The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) should have looked at this and seen it had no legs. They said they have to be sympathetic to the victim – but now I am the victim.”

I am 100 per cent behind anonymity for alleged victims of rape, as real victims must not be deterred from coming forward.”

But what I am going to be stamping my feet about and campaigning for is the need for anonymity for both parties.”

The law needs to be reviewed as a matter of urgency. The accused gets his life torn apart. It has cost me my career, my home.”

I had to go and see everyone in my life that matters to me. I told them ‘the first thing I need to say is I didn’t do it – the second is, you’d better sit down’.”

It’s a very difficult thing to try to explain something which is so alien to you.”

Even my sisters, like everyone else, just didn’t know. They were forced to question their faith in me.”

I’ve not slept, I’ve not eaten. I’ve lived with untold pressure. I have lost a lot of faith in humanity. I now have only a very few friends. And I have an absolute fear of women – I don’t intend to date ever again.”

The first step will be for Mr Blackman to return home to the town where he has lived for more than 20 years, and is well known for his work in the security industry and for his street act as a magician.

He said: “What I really want to do is get back to Weston and rebuild my life. I want to be able to walk around with my head up high. I want people to know the truth.”

I consider myself a decent citizen of Weston, and an asset to the town. I love it as home.”

I want to sit on the beach and watch the sun go down. Little things like that mean a lot now.”

But I will have to take it one day at a time because there have been no plans for me. How can you make plans when your life is in limbo?


MO - Sex Offenders Left Out of Halloween Law Lose Fees

Original Article

05/16/2013

By JOE HARRIS

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A group of convicted sex offenders who fought back when Missouri tried to restrict what they could do on Halloween are not entitled to legal fees, the 8th Circuit ruled (PDF).

Under the 2008 Halloween Statute, Missouri said that every Oct. 31 all registered sex offenders would have to avoid "all Halloween-related contact with children," post a sign saying that there was no candy at their homes, and spend most of the night in their houses with the outside lights off.

Six individuals who had previously been convicted of sex offenses challenged the rules as unconstitutional, but the law was in force on Oct. 31, 2008, after the 8th Circuit tossed an injunction.

That year, Missouri charged [name withheld] with violating the Halloween Statute, but a circuit court dismissed the charge because it found that the law violated the state's prohibition on retrospective laws since [name withheld]'s conviction predated enactment of the Halloween Statute.

Later the Missouri Supreme Court considered [name withheld]'s case with another sex offender named in the court documents as F.R.

The federal court stayed its consideration of the six offenders' case pending the conclusion of the state-court case. In January 2010, a majority of the Missouri Supreme Court concluded that the Halloween Statute violated the state Constitution as applied to [name withheld].

Since enactment of the Halloween Statute also predated the convictions of any of the anonymous plaintiffs in the federal case, Missouri conceded that it would be unconstitutional to prosecute any of them, and the case was dismissed as moot.

The court ordered the John and Jane Does to bear the costs of the federal action, but found that they were entitled to about $22,000 in attorneys' fees as prevailing parties.

A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit affirmed dismissal but reversed the award of fees last week.

"The dismissal on mootness grounds in the instant case was not the result of the Does prevailing on the merits of any of their claims," Judge Roger Wollman wrote for the court. "Instead, it was the product of a voluntary change adopted by the officials' in the face of the Missouri Supreme Court's decision in F.R. Under these circumstances, the Does are not entitled to prevailing party status simply because the voluntary change in conduct is recognized in an order of dismissal."

Chief Judge William Jay Riley and Judge Michael Melloy joined the opinion.


AUSTRALIA - Find a better way to keep our children safe

Original Article

05/16/2013

By ROB HULLS

Sex offenders are seen by the community as the scum of the Earth. They are considered to be monsters, people who should be abandoned by the community, locked up for a very long time, placed on a sex offenders register and, if they are ever released, monitored for life.

Recently, we read in the Herald Sun that new technology will mean that these heinous offenders will have tracking devices attached to them, so if they're not in jail, "we" know where they are.

But is there a better way? Does placing someone's name on a sex offenders register protect the community? Does putting an ankle bracelet on someone make our children safer? Let's look at some facts.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission's 2011 report on the Sex Offenders Registration Scheme found that there is little evidence to suggest that registration schemes are an effective means of reducing child sexual abuse because they deter offending. In fact, the report found that most sex offences are committed by people with no previous convictions for offences of that type.

Importantly, the report found that details about people who might be potentially dangerous reoffenders sit alongside those of offenders who pose no risk of harm, with police and child protection authorities having no reasonable means of allocating risk ratings, and investigative resources, to particular offenders. Despite that, at the current rate of increase, there will be approximately 10,000 registrations by 2020.

No doubt the new, you-beaut, whiz-bang one-size-fits-all tracking scheme will also grow like topsy with, as the Herald Sun reports, sex offenders, arsonists and boozers being monitored 24/7. That should make us all feel safe - shouldn't it?

The reality is quite different. Recently in Indianapolis in the US the systems at a GPS tracking company crashed.

Believe it or not, police throughout the nation had to scramble and lock up 16,000 criminals until the problem was solved. And of course GPS monitoring relies on someone actually watching and understanding the signals being transmitted from the device. As critics of the system in Vancouver make clear, GPS monitoring does not alert corrections officers when an offender commits an offence, but merely indicates their location.

Again, I suspect, as with the registration scheme there will be no reasonable means of allocating risk and investigative resources. While the policy might, during a 24-hour news cycle, have the objective of making people think the Government is tough, and will make everyone safer from these deviants, it's not and it won't.

There is a better way, but it's hard and it involves the community not abandoning these people.

Circles of Support and Accountability, or CoSA, is a community-orientated, restorative justice-based reintegration program that assists people in their effort to re-enter society after a period of incarceration for a sexual offence. It exists in Nova Scotia, Canada as well as in some parts of the UK and USA.

A "circle" involves three to five trained volunteers from the community who commit themselves to forming a circle around, supporting and holding accountable the offender or "core member".

The circle meets regularly to facilitate the core member's practical needs such as access to medical services, assistance with housing and employment and providing emotional support. In return, the core member commits to open communication with the circle regarding his identified risk factors, problematic behaviour and day-to-day problems in an effort to end his offending and increase public safety.

The motto of CoSA is No more Victims: No one is Disposable. Early evaluations suggest that the approach works with massive reductions in recidivism, or reoffending rates, compared with offenders not involved in a "circle".

Yes, it's easy to dispose of people who commit crimes, but to do so places a big financial burden on all of us, and to what end? Crime rates rise while our prison population escalates and more money is spent on registers and tracking people.

If the community is serious about wanting to be safer and reducing crime, then surely we have to do more than just listen to the "tough on crime" rhetoric of our politicians. It's hard, but we have to get involved.

As a CoSA volunteer said: "I used to be like everyone else. I hated these guys. Then I met one. He's a human being. Once I understood that, I could not turn my back on him. I hate what he's done but if he's willing to do his part, I'm willing to be there to help him. I don't want there to be any more victims."

And shouldn't that be the bottom line?

Rob Hulls was Victoria's attorney-general and now is director of RMIT's Centre for Innovative Justice


ID - Is Idaho's Sex Offender Registry effective?

Original Article

05/15/2013

By Jamie Grey

BOISE - This year marks the 20th year of Idaho's Sex Offender Registry, so KTVB looked at what's changed in those two decades and whether the registry is serving its intended purpose 'to protect communities'.

Since its creation and adoption in 1993, the registry has become more controversial, mostly for two reasons: The high level of public access to the information, and because every offender is listed, without classifications.

Changes in laws prompted changes in the registry

"Back then it was different. There was a different mentality, and it wasn't a big deal," Dawn Peck, Manger of ISP Bureau of Criminal Identification, said.

Peck has been involved with the registry since it began on July 1, 1993.

"At that time, it was just a little half page form that the offender filled out that said where they were living and what they were convicted of. And it was an honor system," Peck said.

Since then, a lot of changes have been made. In 1998, registration became mandatory for convictions for crimes from rape to enticing a child over the Internet. In 1998, there were around 1,800 registered offenders, and now there are nearly 4,000 registered offenders statewide. In the mid-2000s, ISP put every offender online, making it simple to find who's on the list and where they live.

"Back in the initial days of the registry and clear up until the late 2000s, [if you wanted information on an offender] you had to fill out a form and you had to give your address and your drivers license number to get the information," Peck explained.

Offender: 'I really feel that the system, other than the list, was good to me'

[name withheld] lives with his wife outside of Boise. He's been on the registry since it began. He was registered because he was still under Corrections supervision (probation) when the list was created in 1993.

"You have this mark of Cain on your forehead and you just can't get away from it," [name withheld] said. "People from my church found that I was on that up here. I went out with this outdoor group for nine years. Somebody found I was on it, and boom, I was out of the group."

[name withheld] offended three decades ago. He admits sexually abusing a young female family member off and on for years.

"Aside from the fact that I am truly, completely repentant for my past deed, I don't want to get into the system again," [name withheld] said.

[name withheld] says jail time, treatment and religion changed him years ago, and his victim has forgiven him. But he says forever, his neighbors will know, and sometimes judge, him, by his old actions.

"I richly deserved to face my issues. I absolutely believe that the jail time was a good thing for me because it brought me to my knees, and that brought me to Jesus Christ," [name withheld] said. "[But] If you have a proven track record of socially and legally acceptable behavior, I don't believe that should go on indefinitely like it does."

ACLU: Registries punish people unconstitutionally

"Rather than have an assessment on the front end of whether or not they're going to reoffend, they just go into this blanket registry," ACLU of Idaho's Executive Director Monica Hopkins said.

The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees with having sex offender registries in general, and particularly disagrees with public registries with no differentiation of severity of crime. They say the registries deny offenders due process rights.

"You have everything from you know minor sex crimes to very egregious sex crimes and they all go in the same registry," Hopkins said. "Something that started as a regulatory thing so law enforcement could know where individuals were is now a punitive thing that lasts way beyond someone paying their debt to society back."



Proof that criminals can be rehabilitated


This goes to show you, even to most hardened criminals can be rehabilitated, when treated with respect and not like animals.