Weekly round-up 7-1-22

10 years for low-cost vandalism

Following the acquittal by a jury of the 4 people charged with criminal damage in Bristol for pulling down a statute of a historical figure with links to the slave trade the Transport Secretary (why him?) has promised to “close the loophole” which allowed this verdict. The way he proposes to do that is to change the law. Currently for criminal damage causing less than £5,000.00 worth of damage the maximum sentence is 3 months. He wants to add in a clause; if “emotional distress” is caused then the sentence can be 10 years (as it currently is for criminal damage where the sum involved is greater than £5,000.00).

I doubt this proposal will get anywhere. On the other hand in a country where people can be threatened with 10 years in jail for breaking Covid entry regulations and where “causing alarm or anxiety” is already on the statute books as an offence anything could happen. The intervention by Grant Shapps confirms the abysmally low level of the current Ministers in the UK. The decision to acquit was reached by a jury. There is no loophole in the law which can be closed here. The decision may have been contrary to the law – but it is a feature of the jury system that juries can and do sometimes decide to just acquit because they agree with or sympathise with the charged. (A typical example is when juries acquit climate protestors or peace protestors). Indeed making a harsher sentence available to a judge in similar cases would, if you think about it, be likely to increase the chances of a jury finding someone not guilty! If they are already sympathetic to the defendant then the prospect of a 10 year jail term would be likely to bend them towards not guilty. But this is the level of the current government in the UK.

On this case in particular I agree with the Mayor of Bristol. He suggests the statue topplers were “indulging their phantasies of being a revolutionary” and that the situation via á vis the statue is not quite as clear cut as their supporters seem to believe. (I notice, in passing, that all 4 protestors are white. Meanwhile, it seems the Mayor is a black man. That is at least anecdotal evidence of a non-racist society – that the Mayor is black. Possibly the Mayor is right; these were 4 would-be revolutionaries attaching themselves to a cause).

The difference between Belarus and Kazakhstan

The dictator of Belarus fixed the elections in August (by how much is unknown; he might have won anyway) and then brutally suppressed a protest movement. As far as I can see the brutality was limited to beatings. (There are limited and isolated reports of possible deaths). The Guardian had article after article denouncing Lukashenko. The US has implemented sanctions on Belarus. In January 2022 the President of Kazakhstan – hardly a champion of democratic participation by all accounts – ruthlessly put down a protest movement with shoot to kill orders. Official figures give 160 deaths – mostly demonstrators. Some may have been armed. We have no way of knowing how many were unarmed. The Guardian has a couple of articles which seem quite calm and factual and even lend credence to the official theory of armed gangs hijacking peaceful protests. The US has condemned the shoot to kill policy but we have not heard anything about sanctions.

The difference? Well; Kazakhstan is an oil-rich country which is open to investment and partnerships with the West. (Chevron and Excon Mobile are amongst the Western companies with substantial investments). Belarus exports a relatively small amount of refined petroleum (based mostly on crude imports from Russia) – nothing like on the scale of Kazakhstan’s crude exports.

Another factor which occurs to me is this; the protestors in Belarus were generally Western-leaning and calling for more ‘democracy’ and freedom of expression. The protestors in Kazakhstan were (initially at least) protesting against poverty in a generally quite wealthy country (resource-wise) *. Now which of these causes is close to the hearts of the liberals at the Guardian? Yes; I think you know the answer.

  • I don’t know but this seems like quite an informed piece on what happened in Kazakhstan.

Something fun!

Rand Paul having some fun at US bureaucratic state wastefulness.

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer