* Posts by John Ozimek

118 publicly visible posts • joined 30 Oct 2008


Labour manifesto: More ID cards, less NHS IT

John Ozimek

Sometimes I despair...

Yes. When i want to spin something (and the moderatrix allows), i will spin. However, on this occasion i had no issue at all with Labour's claims over crime. The full sentence read: "Labour’s view is that crime is down - the reason that more people are in prison is because they are being tougher on serious offenders".

That is a pretty accurate paraphrase of a point that Labour make in various policy documents and is meant to be an answer to the question: if crime is down, why are there more people in prison?

You may disagree with their prison policy - but its a reasonably logical answer: because we're locking up more people who wouldn't have been locked up in the past.

Maybe if i'd punctuated that sentence differently the pedantic tendency would not have had an issue.

Like: "Labour’s view is that crime is down: the reason that more people are in prison is because they are being tougher on serious offenders".

PCC bares teeth at bloggers

John Ozimek

PCC and comment moderation

Actually, Trevor Pott seems to be on the right lines. There are two aspects to this piece.

The first is the PCC flexing its muscles online in respect of an OFFICIAL blog attached to a well-known publication (the Spectator) which it keeps an eye on in its hard copy incarnation. Its historic, as it is the first ruling in respect of an online opinion - and possibly slightly at odds with last weeks ruling in the Singh case - and most important, it is not just about blogs.

As the PCC statement makes clear (and conversation with the PCC also made clear), they see their remit as intervening in any instance where there is direct editorial control over content. Therefore, although El Reg is not a blog, if our sainted moderatrix let through any and every comment, including racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. the PCC could well decide it needed to have a word.

Today, blogs. Tomorrow, comment.

Quite separate from this is the question of whether they are considering trying to extend their remit to individual (i.e., non-commercial) blogs. Here the message is less clear. They would like to: think they have something to add, but....does anyone imagine that they would have the time to do so if every blogger signed up? And who imagines some of the nationally (in)famous bloggers doing so?

Therefore, extending their remit to cover all online blogs is a wish, a pipe dream by the PCC - and one that seems unlikely ever to come true in any meaningful way.

Google takes China-buffed halo to Oz

John Ozimek

Normalising censorship

Just responding to Matthew Pinches here.

It struck me that Conroy's attempt to play the old "just closing a loophole" card and to argue that they are aligning net standards with those for other media is a good example of distraction in play, along with a rather odd logical ellipse.

Most countries develop different censorship regimes for different media. This is because it tends to be argued that media get used in different ways. There is also an element of snobbery in play (good, middle-class theatre vs. bad lower-class cinema), but that is beside the point.

An obvious difference is between film and dvd, where censors have long argued that you can be slightly more relaxed over general release versions of films, on the grounds that nasty details appear and then are gone as the film unwinds - whereas stuff on dvd's can be played and replayed ad nauseam.

Anyway, the point is that this whole idea of standard censorship is a red herring - but it hasn't stopped Conroy running with it big time. If you don't examine it too closely, it sounds plausible. It just isn't.

Man could face prison over six second 'extreme porn' clip

John Ozimek

Appeal to HippyChippy

(and anyone else out there who may have seen the tiger clip.

I am actually quite interested in getting sight of this (provided it is the one that has the pubchline at the end and therefore the one declared legal to possess) in order to work out for myself just how "realistic" this particular clip was.

Please don't start sending stuff directly (even if you have worked out my e-mail address). However, if you could point to a reasonably virus-free hosting site (which is not otherwise illegal on account of content) would be grateful.


John Ozimek

@bexley - content of the clip

Let's say i have my suspicions as to what is in the clip (as i am still talking to Mr Holland and his solicitor).

However, there are two things you can be sure are NOT in this clip. The first is a tiger. That charge was thrown out at the last hearing.

Second is child abuse imagery. Because if that was present, the police in north wales would have done what every other force in the country does, and charged the individual with possession of indecent images. (courtesy of the Protection of Children Act 1978).

This was charged under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 - and therefore relates to extreme porn. For definition of same, go check out that legislation.

Sexy is as sexy does: UK.gov struggles with sexualisation

John Ozimek

Fact Alert

I do believe the good doctor is of cypriot canadian descent...not american. unless the person suggesting that was speaking in continental terms.

John Ozimek

The problem with this "research"

The main issue i have with the research in point is that it doesn't actually seem to prove three central planks of its argument.

1. children are more sexualised now than they were in some theoretical golden age. Hmmm. As opposed to 20 years ago when 12 as a marriageable age was the norm in rather more states than it is now? Or in the days of good old Queen Victoria, when child prostitution was rife?

Or the 1930's, when the incidence of incest amongst pubescent children was a good deal higher than we believe it to be now on the grounds that large families often shared a very small number of beds and bedrooms. Nah. I'd say that the starting point is "not proven".

2. There is a direct link between this alleged sexualisation of children and images in popular culture. Again, very tempting as theory - but very little direct evidence out there to show this one way or another: and the same prob exists when it comes to showing links between violence and imagery or rape and imagery.

You can easily show that people claim to be desensitised: but there are few if any decent studies that demonstrate their claim actually translates into real behavioural change.

3. The best way to stop "this sort of thing" is through government regulation. Not even researched, as far as i can see: although there are strong counter-arguments that what we consider to be sexualisation is actually the commercialisation of sex and the way that government sets up regulation of this area transfers power from small producers to big commercial enterprises...thereby re-inforcing the prob its aiming to solve.

Oh, yes: as for dictionaries...i learnt (ancient) Greek and Latin at school. I still remember, as a smutty school boy, looking up rude words in the Greek to English dictionary...and finding them not so much translated as obfuscated by the use of latin terms like "pudenda" (literally: things to be ashamed of).

Pope pooh-poohs airport perv-scanners

John Ozimek

re. "I smell a rat"

heyrick wrote:

"Don't care if you get your yayas out of it or not, my question is "blurry grey image". Which proves what, exactly? What good is a blurry grey image?"

Hmmm. works OK for squirrels. Which are sort of tree rats anyway.

MPs obsess about expenses, ignore data security

John Ozimek

Having a go at tories...

er...the comment about the Tory leader was directed at the fact that David Cameron, in his eagerness to appease the vengeful tendency amongst the public, took the supposed high ground in having a go at Micholas Winterton for being out of touch and, in effect, a bit of a dinosaur.

When asked about whether this was being a bit kneejerk and missing one issue entirely, a spokesperson for the party attempted to make the argument that Mr Cameron was dealing with the expenses issue and that the data issue was separate/differnt.

John Ozimek

4 inches?

er, not quite, Chris. The seating arrangement on many of the main line routes (intercity standard) is for First Class to have single seats as well as side-by-side ones.

In other words, you can choose to sit at a seat and have the nearest person sat across the aisle from you.

To be honest, though, the salient point for me from this is not entirely the first vs. standard issue, so much as the fact that no-one in parliament seems to have given all that much thought to whether MP's should be working on trains at all.

A decade of techno-sex: Look how far we've come

John Ozimek

Virtual worlds and MMORPG

Thanks, idai...though if you'd checked out my record, you'd see that when it comes to Second Life, i tend to buck the trend. I'm a longstanding participant - and admirer - though i do question at times where that particular world is going.

You may see it as something beyond MMORPG's...and in many ways, i would agree. But its a point of view - and one shared by many longterm inhabitants of sl. Whatever else it is, it is not a swipe of any kind at virtual worlds.

Aussie censor balks at bijou boobs

John Ozimek

Just for the record

This ejaculation issue strikes me as one that is not being fought as well as it might. The censors have been playing the grown-up science card.

That is, they have managed to sideline this into a debate about whether or not the thing actually happens...and the pro-ejaculation lobby have walked into that particular trap without a second thought.

But hang on. Superman does NOT fly. Half the feats we see in mainstream films are impossible. And no censor steps in going...if its not possible, it is not allowed.

Same with sex. How many men can actually cum several times in an hour? (No...i won't believe it even if i get half a dozen positive responses from this comment page!).

But apparently men doing impossible things in the name of porn is ok...presumably because it seals a pact with the audience that that fiction is at least believable within the bounds of a porn film.

So...ask an audience of women watching porn made for women whether they believe women can ejaculate and...if the answer is that they believe, then striking ejaculation out from the film-makers vocabulary is a denial of their sexuality.

Not to put too fine a point on it, it is pure sexism...demanding a higher standard of "proof" for female sexual fantasy than is demanded for male.

That seems to be the ground to fight this on - the sexual discrimination one - rather than the scientific one.


John Ozimek


Nah. Don't think it is actually tied to the male sexual performance at all, Ms moderatrix....just that some women do, some don't.

Airport scanner staff object to vetting

John Ozimek

Why not vetted already

Because no-one is yet vetted.

The Safeguarding and Vetting Act 2006 was passed in, er, 2006.

Since then, the government has been busy setting up the vetting database, on to which many of us soon will go, establishing regulations, setting up the Independent Safeguarding Authority, etc.

Most of that is now in place. The ISA oppened its doors for very preliminary business in October 2009.

However, the first tranche of vetting will take place in July of this year.

Up til then, those in the most difficult areas of life, vetting-wise, will receive an enhanced crb check. As i understand it, those working on security scanners already get this.

However, the vetting process will add in data that does not go on the enhanced crb and despite some initial thoughts that vetting would supplant crb, that now appears not to be the case.

Therefore, security/scanner staff are NOW vetted on a security basis and the enhanced crb is part of that. They are not, unless the DfT wishes to make a statement to the contrary, vetted on the basis of their propensity to perv at vulnerable people.

It really feels as though, come July, they ought to be. It would have been so easy for the DfT just to have said yes.

But I am still awaiting a reply.

John Ozimek

Nothing to hide?

Neal 5...far from being hacked off by the failure of various organisations to respond, it gradually dawned on me that their failure was actually the story here.

Because the question was NOT whether security scanners should be in use (I did not address that at all) but whether airport security staff ought to be treated with the same lack of trust as every other person in the UK (particularly those in teaching, social work, etc.). Personally, I dislike the levels of untrust that have been growing over the last decade, but that is a separate issue.

However, I dislike even more the presumption of one law for us (because we are grown up security bods) and another law for everyone else. The indignation spewing forth from the security staff questioned is real and heartfelt. But hang on: they seem to be suggesting that because they do a grown security job, they are above suspicion. Really?

Maybe THAT is a bit condescending. I am quite sure that somewhere lurking within the ranks of security staff are some saints and hopefully a very small number of total sinners.

The fact that no-one on the official side - from the Under-Secretary, to employer, to the DfT itself - seemed aware of the new vetting regs also suggests a worrying disdain for the law.

Hmmm...and as for the comment from someone else that: "in that case train conductors, bus ticket collectors, and a majority of professions would have to be vetted as they come into contact with vulnerable on a regular basis".

Think you'll find that in many places that is exactly what is now happening.


Home Office advises Police to break the law

John Ozimek

Citizen's Arrest

When i wrote about this issue last week, i raised - albeit slightly tongue in cheek - the question of carrying out a citizen's arrest. i said then, echoing advice from a criminal lawyer, that such a course of action was highly dangerous legally and not something to be advised lightly.

a police officer attempting to detain someone unlawfully may be carrying out an act of unlawful detention. That is a criminal offence and for that, they could be arrested.

However, when it comes to carrying out an arrest, there is a very clear distinction between the arrest powers with which the police are endowed and the powers with which an ordinary member of the public is endowed. For the police to arrest someone they need only reasonable grounds for so doing.

Suspicion that someone has just committed a crime are reasonable grounds, so police officers may arrest on suspicion.

The ordinary member of the public can only arrest where the crime in question has actually been committed. How do you know its been committed? When a court says it has. Therefore, even if you saw someone removing goods from a shop and making off thru the door with them, be very careful. They MIGHT have merely forgotten to pay...in which case, whilst a police constable can validly carry out an arrest in such circs, any arrest YOU carry out would be unlawful detention and chances are YOU would end up in the dock.

Worse: case law contains various examples of the consequences of someone making an unlawful arrest. Individuals are entitled to resist unlawful arrests/detentions - and that resistance may include some degree of violence.

Yes. That applies to the police too...but how sure would you be that after the event, you can prove that you resisted an unlawful s44 arrest and therefore hit the police officer lawfully...as against the polcie story that you hit them and they then arrested you for assault? You'd need clear video recordings of the event, plus some good credible witnesses.

Other slight prob with making a citizen's arrest: the offence must be punishable by a sentence of at least five years. How well do you know your sentences? If you see a crime being committed, is the max penalty 5 years? 10? 3?

Get it wrong, and your citizen's arrest fails and opens you to all the consequences noted above.

So yes. As thought excperiment, arresting a police officer makes for an amusing scenario. As practical course of conduct, it just ain't.

Sex in the Noughties: How was it for you?

John Ozimek

So many presumptions...

I like the phrase "successful species": would that include mankind, because we have conquered technology? or ants, because if our technology fucks up, there is a good chance they will inherit the earth.

How about lions, who top the food chain in many areas, but are not expecially numerous compared to many other species?

And what is this about the majority of the population needing to be "straight" to prevent dying out. I guess, technically, you may be right, as it helps for most females to be straight...but in most mammalian species, it is the fact that males produce lots of sperm whilst females produce relatively few eggs that is key.

one (biological) strategy, given such a state of play, is monogamy. Another is pack or herd groupings, within which a small number of alpha males ...sometimes just a single one... rise to the top and get awarded the right to shag to their heart's content, whilst the majority of males are condemned to a life of lonely celibacy.

Or shagging other males.

I have no idea whether homosexuality is a "natural" behaviour...personally i find the attempt to split sexual behaviours into natural and unnatural both daft and fraught with bear traps: but there is plenty of evidence of it existing in the wild as a natural response to a given species' breeding strategy.

That said, I am not sure I am aware of any species for which tying their partner down prior to love-making and applying a riding crop to their sensitive bits is recorded as a viable mating strategy.

So moralists may yet take some hope from the biological determinist agenda.

John Ozimek


I didn't assert the non-existence of necrophilia...the Home Office said there was no evidence it ever happened.

Gov retreats on vetting database but ain't climbing down

John Ozimek


What I meant to say is that at the last minute, the legislation in question got an avalanche of 250 additional amendments...not the paltry 50 I quoted above.

mea culpa!

John Ozimek

All-party support?

Sorry,qwerty...but you can't blsame this on other parties. After long consultation,debate, Lords debate, etc., etc. this legislationcame back to the Commons for final reading...and an onslaught of c. 50 amendments put forward by government at the last minute.

Opposition had little more than a week...and in some cases significantly less, to consider fundamental changes to what had been proposed. Given the volume of amends, debate was suitably truncated, with the amend on barring people on the basis of their sexual intersts gettingno debate and maybe just two minutes time on the floor in total. And that is more than some other amendments got.

This is bad legislation...ALan Johnson's legislation, for the record - and his successor is being left to pick up the pieces.

Oh yes. I spoke with AJ's Tory opposite number. She was spitting about the way they were treated in the Commons...but beyond a mild parliamentary squawk, could do very little about it.

Vigilantes R US: Private enterprise takes over

John Ozimek

Where is the site based?

er, not Spain, as far as I can tell.

We are geeky enough to do a simple look-up. That tracked to a spanish hosting service. I spoke to them yesterday and they e-mailed back to say ratbook is NOTHING to do with them.

So nice try, AC...but we do check as far as poss.

Durham police demonstrate DNA will stuff you

John Ozimek

What's the issue?

AC (12.20) wrote: "if my reading is correct, then the police have talked sense....and el reg has jumped on the story because the quote contained the the text 'DNA'...."

Not quite, although I appreciate why you and one or two others have said this.

When I read the release, I thought that the way the sentence was structured, a PR COULD argue that a totally literal interpretation of that sentence was as you have suggested.

However, there are two issues with this reading. First, it merely pushes the issue one step further back: if being DNA tested is not career-damaging, but being arrested is, then that is equally wrong.

However, there is also the textual crit perspective to have a go at. It is fairly clear that this passage is intended to warn people off mere possession of a substance, even if possession is legal. It is police going beyond simple "enforce the law" territory into something else.

The language is fairly oppressive: you will be "taken to a police cell" is clearly there to emphasise the heaviness of what may happen. Then DNA. And to cap it all, there is going to be a consequence to the arrest (of which the cell-holding and DNA stuff is a part).

SO I am less certain that one can exculpate the police quite so easily.

If you want my honest view of what is going down here, I think that someone middle-ranking realised that they could not brandish the law...so decided to shift into threat territory without thinking first: without thinking that their remarks might have consequences in respect of other policy issues.

This whole set-up seems difficult to me. As others have observed: if you are found in possession of a bag of white powder, chances are, the police would (rightly) want to know more. Happened to a (medical) friend of mine many years back when he was caught cycling round Cambridge in possession of a back of aspirin powder.

But just rethink that particular section.

How would you react if the police issued a warning as follows.

At halloween, people have been known to wander the streets carrying flour. This is a white powder and, since it COULD be a drug, anyone found in possession of said white powder will be locked in a police cell, have their DNA taken, arrested.

Is that really what we, as a society, want?

Internet and journos fertilise scrotum-ripping drug panic

John Ozimek

A reader comments...

A reader further comments (by e-mail - thank you sir...you know who you are):

""Meow meow" is the cute-sounding nickname for a currently legal substance capable of producing a degree of excitement in party situations. It ought not to be confused with Miou-miou - a French actress capable of providing excitement to gentlemen of a certain age in most situations."

Also not to be confused with Mau Mau, a Kenyan rebel from the 1950s who would hack your scrotum off with a machete

Vetting database is mighty maths mess

John Ozimek

Support required

er....if one looks at the database in the round, then the total support requirement for a database of 16 million IS quite different from one of 11 million.

Support = all manner of stuff, from staffing, terminals, phone lines, premises, etc., etc.

This was the lesson of the CSA, which emerged slowly as a Select Committee grilled the Chair of the CSA back in 1995. In setting it up, they had made a stab at working out hours needed per case...then staffed up on that basis.

Unfortunately, they were wrong...hence backlog...and political fall-out.

If you under-staff a facility that needs to do some fairly people-intensive work in its early days, you create a culture in which backlog is the norm and catching up is the best it can do. You also crete a prob on call-time waiting....

If you look at models for staff needed relative to calls waiting, the relationship is NOT linear.

Kent Police exceeded powers in too-tall photographer case

John Ozimek



It is always possible that a spate of anti-police articles will follow on from the police doing things that cause the general public to raise their collective eyebrows...

...or, as this is the Register, from police doing TECHY things to cause mass eyebrow-raising.

Personally, I hope that what we do is far more nuanced than that. It also depends in large measure on how clever the police (and other bodies are) at handling flak. It further depends on the old truism that people are interested in news that is bad - not good.

This particular story revisits and develops a story that we reported on in July. We have not invented it: and it seems to me to fall into two parts... an original piece of mis-placed zeal by coppers on the street, followed by a rather cack-handed attempt to spin the facts.

The stuff on the street is pretty mundane. OK: apart from the "too tall" comment. The refusal to answer some pretty legitimate questions, not least in respect of what legislation the arrest was made under, comes under the heading of "when you're in a hole, stop digging".

No matter. In addition to upsetting Kent Police today, I had a productive and friendly discussion with CEOP, ditto with ACPO - and arranged to go chat to a senior police officer whose specialism is not a million miles from the hearts of El Reg readers.

Though whether you'd enjoy reading, day after day, about all the police persons I get on with perfectly well, I am not so sure.

Gov advisers slate Home Office over innocents' DNA retention

John Ozimek

Bollocks statistics

Oh dear....

the same old same old in respect of the statistics of DNA matching.

There are two "sources of error" in dealing with DNA matches. The first is error due to a random match - and this is both what prosecution like to bleat about and what everyone else on this thread is going on about.

It is the probability that for a given number of DNA points sampled, some other individual on the planet will have identical DNA to your own. Various posters have correctly noted that this figure is usually in the millions to one against.

The second source of error is, quite simply, the probability of a false positive from ALL causal sources. False positives may arise because some bugger contaminated a sample. Because someone lied. Because samples got mis-labelled. And so on.

Such cases exist - and since court cases tend to run into the thousands worldwide...as opposed to the millions in each year.... an error for one of these reasons would occur with odds against of thousands to one. Not millions to one.

Oddly, outside of some very rarefied criminology departments, no-one much is researching this topic...which is a shame, because it would be pretty easy to get a lower limit figure for this sort of error.

And it would be disingenuous of courts to claim that one can talk about error due to random matches and not talk about error due to, well, error.

Basically, the chances of your getting a false positive on a DNA match are the chance of a random match PLUS the chance of a match by error.

Oh...and don't even get me started on the probability of having committed a crime given the presence of your DNA at the scene of crime. For rape, say, presence of genetically matching semen, if you are not claiming a misunderstanding over consent, is pretty damning evidence.

However, I have spoken to people "fingered" in cases where multiple DNA profiles were preent at the soc...and the police appear simply to have fancied them for the offence.

Combat games disrespect war laws, report claims

John Ozimek
Paris Hilton


And in further news today....

The Financial Services Authority were considering referring the owners of Hotels on Mayfair and Park Lane to the Monopolies Commission....

The Association of Chief Police Officers condemned as "utterly irresponsible" the amateur sleuthing of Professor Plum, Reverend Green and various others present at a country house last weekend following the murder of Dr Black. A spokesman said: "they have ignored all rules of evidence gathering and the crime scene is now thoroughly compromised".

And at the London International Chess Tournament, two bishops and a white knight were complaining bitterly about the conduct of a certain Black Queen, who proceeded to cut them down in a violent and vindictive fashion even as they attempted to surrender.

Paris, cause she knows lots about playing games - and can definitely tell the difference between games and real life.

MPs prepare to beat off phantom Olympic hooker invasion

John Ozimek

Not so fair

Actually, John Robson, by doing as you do, you are implicitly buying into the government agitprop on this issue. Its the old saw about a statistician drowning in water that is on average 1 inch deep.

The 40,000 figure was pretty much plucked out of the air by those opposed to alleged trafficking...little or no analytical base for it whatsoever.

The 5 is an actual, based on police figures. That is police figures in a country where prostitution is effectively legalised, organised and trade unionised. So working girls are not going to report instantly to the police if some outsiders turn up down the road undercutting the market and breaking the law?


In a sense, this story makes the case for decriminalisation of prostitution in a nutshell. Where working girls are able to police their own trade to some extent, they almost certainly will do.

Yes...I would be more than prepared to believe that the police hit rate was not 100%...that they missed some instances...but not by miles.

So the issue on the evidence provided is not "somewhere in the middle"...but quite possibly negligible to non-existent.

What gets me, of course, is how the head of the Women's Commission is happy to talk to the Lords about these figures being widely known. Nope. Widely claimed. There is a difference.

Police fail to dampen down bonfire night Westminster protest

John Ozimek

Cop reaction

To be honest, I think there are two levels for looking at this. I did not go into the Commons, so cannot comment on allegations later made by aulde Holborne on his blog about unreasonable behaviour by the authorities inside.

However, outside, I saw nothing but good-humoured jovial cops...both those at the gate, and the supervisor (Inspector) who turned up to discuss the situation a little later.

Certainly nothing like the horror stories I have heard in respect of how demos are policed...although it may be that there are two different divisions involved. Not 100% sure.

The second level, however, is in respect of the application of the law overall and the provisions for police to determine whether protest can/should go down at all in the excluded area.

That, of course, is a much bigger political issue, and one where the police input has been rather less than wedded to democratic ideals. If you look at what the government is proposing by way of replacement to the SOCPA provisions, they almost precisely mirror proposals put forward by the Met during the consultation process.

Isle of Man plays catch-up on extreme porn law

John Ozimek

yes, daniel

the two pics are very very very similar.

<whacks daniel on back of head with rolled up copy of the Isle of Man Courier>


Government to protect children from zombie paedophiles

John Ozimek

Dead in the Channel Isles

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but just in case.

I worked, many years back, on building a database with a large but slow IT department and budget limitations.

The db users decided they wanted various exclusions run...like "do-not-mail", living outside the UK, deceased...and our genius IT team came up with a large quote...which was OK...but also a very long development time...which was not.

At the time, we had just the one field for goneaway/deceased...so we improvised...

1 meant goneaway. 2 became do-not-mail. 3, from memory, was living in the Channel Isles. And 4 was deceased.

Meant all key info was preserved, and individuals could be deselected on the basis of numeric status alone.

Yeah, yeah...meant that being deceased and living in the Channel Isles were mixed up from time to time...but we took the view that both were bars to receiving further comms...so any flag with a value greater than or equal to 1 was fair game for exclusion.

Watford council punts parents from playground

John Ozimek


Kit, I really hope you are right. Oddly, a lot of parents (and kids) charities would disagree.

Over the last 10 years there has been a gradual demolition of barrier after barrier between state and parents. The current vetting/crb climate has virtually expelled parents from schools unless they are prepared to obtain a government certificate of child-worthiness...and this is an extension of that principle.

This, in Watford, is an instance of a PLAY facility only available to children on condition that parents hand them over to official workers. Yes: there are other similar facilities (like outside playgrounds... which stop being very interesting when it rains) and community centres.

But the principle breached here is that of parents and play and the demand that to access this particular sort of facility, the state takes control.

Now, if that were it, I would probably not mind. The fear, as with every aspect of child protection, is that every time the levels get ratcheted up, the latest exceptional case becomes the new norm.

So today, exclude parents from undercover play areas on the grounds that official workers can't be "managing parents": how long before some council somewhere decides to go the next step and require that the only adults in any play area are parents?

Its a steep and slippery slope, and we started down it a long time ago.

Upminster top for tupping on UK bonkmap

John Ozimek

Sorry, Faith, but...

There are now a whole range of remotely controllable vibes out there...activatable off mobiles, pc's and even via second life im'ing.

That's even before you stray into urban myth territory, switch your mobile to silent/vibrate on...and get your best friend to phone you at regular intervals during the day.

The field is known as "teledildonics"...for obvious reasons.

John Ozimek


Actually, frank, they claim they used census stats to get back to a sensible average.

Yes: I agree that the map suggests something weird is going on in Upminster...and its probably data weirdness, rather than an actual aspect of the average Upminsterian's sexuality...but I'd still like to know.

As someone who has done serious data analysis in the past, I would love to get my paws on this data and do some sort of geodemographic overlay. Yes...such analysis will throw up all manner of epiphenomena - such as the finding I made many years back of an association between reading Playboy and being an HSBC customer! - but might also reveal some interesting social stuff.

As for the status of this data...it is what it is. Its not really research: its just the data from the lovehoney accounting system matched to a couple of geo bases (including population counts) and overlaid with a slightly greasy text generator.

It'll be quirky, as I bet they haven't taken the trouble to clean the data and examine outliers properly...but so long as you don't apply too much weight to it, its all just a bit of fun.

John Ozimek


Its the Northern Ireland one...not the Welsh one.

DNA database reports shows costs up, 'detections' down

John Ozimek


One issue...that perhaps not all readers have grasped...is that there is a difference between the odds on a random match, which is usually what gets quoted, and a false match.

The random odds are what are usually quoted These are the odds that the profile matches a particular unique individual and not some other individual, whose details may not even be on the database. Usually, these are in the realms of millions to one against, and reflect the fact that it is unlikely, barring twins, for one individual to have an exact genetic doppelganger elsewhere at large in the world.

What has not been properly studied are the odds on false mtches, which are matches that take place whenever the wrong individual's DNA gets matched for any reason - including procedural error, contamination of samples, etc., etc.

Some academics estimate the odds on false matches as considerably higher.

John Ozimek


Records are held at DNA sample level and not de-duped to individual. So, if two samples are taken from the same person, there will be two identical DNA records on file.

No issue with the DNA itseldf.

UK.gov prostitution proposals caught with pants down

John Ozimek


Oh, don't worry. No offence taken. I was merely using you as a hook on which to hang the authenticity issue - particularly as it came up recently elsewhere.

Came up twice, in fact. Once around prostitution: once around something that MIGHT count as a "woman's issue".

Twas ever thus...but since I do take a stance, when writing in comment mode, of being a libertarian on issues of sexuality, it poses me a particular problem. A couple of friends have suggested I write under a pseudonym, using whatever is most (gender) appropriate for the medium in question.

That feels like it solves nothing and if anything re-inforces the problem by colluding in a rigid worldview.

Bottom line: I think it would be utterly wrong of me - since it would be untrue - to write about "the experience of" being a prostitute, being raped, etc. from any sort of first person view point

But that so long as I am acting as an honest, accurate and insightful conduit for the experience of another, that is a legitimate thing for me to do - and my part in that process should not be strait-jacketed by the various societal roles that I occupy from time to time.

The only thing that matters is how well I communicate.

John Ozimek


@BlueGreen "By blokes commented about by blokes"

So should I hand this piece over to women? Prostitutes?

This issue came up recently at an academic conference - who is an authentic voice when it comes to discussing this issue...and more to the point, whether imposing such conditions on writing about prostitution is not to single it out.

After all, I can write about politics, the law, policing and many other topics without being a politician, lawyer or pc. Is the sex business so different?

Relevant question, since one of the publications for which I write definitely thinks this. I can write about almost anything. Gay issues. Straight issues. Kinky issues. Without ever the flag being raised of whether I am gay, straight or kinky. I have even written for them on what I would say is mostly a woman's issue.

Still no batting of eyelids.

On t'other side of the fence, I write about the pro-censorship lobby and their views on porn, the internet, etc. But I don't have to be a censor (or fundamentalist Christian to do so).

But prostitution: ah...there the requirement is that I prostitute myself before I am allowed to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

How strange...

Police make a mockery of data protection

John Ozimek

A little harsh?

AC writes: "If you had even a basic understanding of the DPA you would know that neither the Act nor the Directive it is based on limits the nature of 'purposes' for processing."

Hmmm. Guilty as charged - and judging by this case, neither does the Information Commissioner either, who believed the law DID impose some restriction in this way.

To be honest, I did not believe such a restriction to be implicit in the law. However, I have worked with the law, lawyers and the DPA for long enough to know that the English legal system throws up peculiar results from time to time - especially around this area of what is "implied".

Sometimes, as with the Interpretations Act, courts take a very broad brush view, arguing that although the letter of the law may say X, common sense suggests that Y is actually implied. On other occasions, the law is applied according to its strict letter.

I remain perplexed by the status of people found guilty of offences under the Video Recordings Act 1984, given that a court has now ruled that legislation itself unlawful. A strict legal reading would mean cases should now be overturned: but oddly, the CPS says not.

Maybe I am being too sensationalist in talking about this ruling gutting the DPA...but I would say that it is at least an "Emperor's New Clothes" moment. Because for a very long time, most businesses and many individuals acted as though purposes registered placed a limit on purposes that data might be applied to.

I have sat through lengthy sessions with some very expensive lawyers (Masons, in case you are wondering), explaining that there is only one permissible reason for processing outside declared purposes - which is a "blinding flash": a realisation that there was a need for a different purpose to processing.

That said, I was sufficiently aware of the law to notice that purpose is not enshrined quite the same way as the other processing principles and it did occasionally cross my mind that there might be an issue here.

However, as long as lawyers, Information Commissioner and companies all acted as though the law was as I presumed it was...that consensus held. What the Appeal Court has done is to underscore that that never was the law...so we must all think again.

So I do think that is significant.

As for pursuing the disclosures: the judges seemed pretty determined that if individuals had issues there, they should take them up with parliament that created an obligation for disclosure, rather than police or DPA.

Airport rethinks strip-scanner for kids

John Ozimek



Was going to give a lengthy explanation explaining all this from photography and drama. Point out how raising hands above shoulder level is always exceptional, and often causes dramatic effect - whilst placing one or both hands behind the head is pretty staple (along with pouty lips and semi-dazed eyes) soft porn fare.

And yes...whoever mentioned the bdsm Master/slave sort of imagery more or less got it right. Whilst hands behind head and out of alignment with the perpendicular tends to be erotic, hands up and behind head in a squared off pose tends to connote passivity.

Anyway...it is also possible to read almost anything into anything, as this clip suggests:

Anyway...the inclusion of the term "erotic posing" in the indecency definition has always struck me as mildly odd, given what some folks will find erotic.</p>


Although I have to say, Ive never been a fan of salmon-pink for suits.

NO2ID backs drive to inject voter power into next Election

John Ozimek

Election data (@colin miller)

Technically, according to some constitutional pedants, this government could run til June 4 (Friday) as oppposed to June 3 (Thursday). That depends on whether you consider this government to have taken office during the thursday or at midnight on that day.


As for date...I took a look at this some months back and whilst not unheard of, an election now...effectively between November and end of January is highly unlikely. Last October one - and that forced to a degree by circs, was October 1974.

Never say never: someone could blow up the cabinet...leading to chaos and a need for a quick election...Brown could have a sudden cunning plan, but personally, I don't think an election can happen any earlier than, say, Feb 11 2010.

Nor will it run into the buffers and go for June 3. Two reasons, really. That really would look like clinging to power by the finger nails: and it would be so close to the Council elections that the opposition could claim it was wasteful.

Ditto the other side. An April election would look bad for the same reason....probably most of March, too.

So that leaves February or the same day as the Councils in May.

If they go for February...just remotely possible as a surprise...then the question of whether to go for Feb 11 will depend on whether they want to go on the old electoral register or new: there is some effect there whereby more organised parties do slightly better on one than t'other (but can't remember which way round).

Register will be at its oldest on 11 Feb. Newest on 18 Feb. So that's it...I'd put my money 98% on May 6...with a very very very small chance of Feb 11 or Feb 18.

Anyone like to argue otherwise?

Brooke Shields pic exposes real/online rift

John Ozimek

The Point (@ AC 15.37)

I though there might be some question around what i was getting at. I do actually think that this picture breaches the law. Whether the law should be precisely as it is is another matter. First, and i wasn't particulary having a go at the Met or the IWF, this incident does point up a real/online rift simply becuase it is much easier to police and control a single image in a gallery than multiple images on the international web. That is a fact of life but undoubtebly it leads some pedants to question law.

In respect of the law itself I'm always slightly queasy about the introduction of the principle of strict liability to such a serious matter. Of course a requirement to prove intent in respect of such material would cause some difficulties in some cases but to be honest almost only in the most marginal cases. If you talk to forensic experts or if you look at charge sheets you tend to find that the true paedophile does not restrict their interest to a handful of level one images but tends to collect avidly across the range.

The grey area opened up by the ability to prosecute soley on level1 images without need to demonstrate intent may actually contribute to a weakening of public support for the law in this area and is therefore counter productive.

First prison sentence for extreme porn

John Ozimek
Thumb Down

@ moderatrix

Can we not have a house rule that bans all repetition of the "flogging a dead horse" joke from future debate on extreme porn? I seem to remember seeing it before.


UK council forced to swallow dick

John Ozimek


"In future, any customers who act in this childish way will be asked to behave properly or will be refused service."

So, presumably, asking if they're are familiar with the Fanny Craddock version of this great dish is well out of order?

Ha! You think I jest. Go pick up a second-hand copy of "Bon Viveur", Fanny and Johny's book of puddings - one for every day of the year.

Government swiftly backpedals on vetting scheme

John Ozimek

Personal vs. State Value

Interesting...guess the question of a life value instantly deconstructs into what value do you place personally on your child - say if they had a life-threatening illness, how much of your own life/resource/money would you sink towards trying to cure them.... would you go into bankruptcy, f'rinstance...or are there some hard-hearted souls out there who would say this far - and no further?

Then there is the value a state imposes.

The end cost of the vetting base is likely to be near £1 billion.

If it saves just one child's life, is that worth it (as Martin Narey of Barnardo's seems to think)....

...how many respirators, ICU's, etc., etc. could we buy for that money. Basically, what we spend is not an absolute, but a trade-off...and I think maybe the question boils down to what PREMUM would we spend to save a child's life over any other.

Or how much would we take away from other services in order to preserve a child.

A wholly neutral policy would say... every adult is worth spending up to £900k for (a figure close to that used for Transport)...and the same figure would apply to children.

On that basis, the Vetting Base would need to save something like 1100 lives to be worth putting up. But for other purposes, we use higher values. Maybe we say £500k for an OAP... £1m for an adult and...£2 m for a child?

John Ozimek

The unasked question

In the course of interviewing for this piece, I shocked one Children's charity by asking the unaskable: what value would they put on a child's life...especially given the expense and social disruption that this system might cause. Do they genuinely believe that ANY cost is justifiable to save one child's life?

Should they be costed as adults are? Or should different rules apply?

Any thoughts? Genuine interest in how people believe this question can or should be asked...and answered.

Home Office shifts feet as vetting database looms

John Ozimek

Two systems becoming one?

Sorry, Tom. I thought this at one point. But no: that is not what is happening. In the early days of promoting the ISA and the vetting database, the impression was allowed to grow that it would do away with the imperfections in the crb system.

However, what is now clear is that the two systems do quite different things.

The database sets a single gold standard for everyone on it. You either pass, or you fail...and my guess is that the fail bar will be set high, otherwise the database would become a major scandal.

So what employers will know from the database is merely...that the individual has NOT been barred from working with kids or the vulnerable. So what?

I very much doubt Huntley would have been barred: so this base fails its initial objective right there.

Meanwhile, employers are still going to need crb checks a) because they give far more detail about an individual...and some employers might want that detail when making employment decisions and b) because the whole compensation/negligence culture means that even if the vetting database says someone isn't barred, an employed doesn't want to end up employing someone who commits a crime and, it turns out, had dodgy crb info on them.

Therefore, the value of this base is that it will bar from working with kids and the vulnerable about 20k people over and above those already effectively barred. Assuming every one of those is a new barring who would not be caught by other means, that puts a price tag of £50k per person barred.

Assuming that maybe half to three quarters of those would have been picked up simply by extending the range of work for which crb is required...you have a system in which maybe 14 million people go on a database in order to control the behaviour of 5,000...with cost per person barred now a staggering £200k per individual.

Common sense? Or arrogant stupidity?

Met shops self to IPCC over terror toddlers

John Ozimek

Two points

First, I am intrigued at how many people on here talk about the police having "reasonable" grounds to search. Under s.44, provided the stop/search takes place in a designated area, they do NOT need reasonable grounds. This is an intriguing difference in respect of s.44 by comparison with almost ANY other piece of legislation on the books.

Read the Act carefully, and you will find that s.43 allows a stop/search/seizure by ANY Police Officer providing reasonable grounds are present: s.44 allows a stop/search ONLY by an officer in uniform. The difference, I suspect but am not absolutely sure, is that parliament may have felt that because the powers being exercised under s44 were so extreme, they wished not to give them to plain clothes police.

Which brings on to what the citizen in question should do in response. An unlawful arrest - and probably also stop - is possibly false imprisonment and some form of kidnap. Therefore, a citizen's arrest MIGHT be a valid response. The issue with that is that one would have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the arrest was unlawful in the first place.

The complainant in this story alleges that they were unlawfully stopped because the police claimed to be doing the stop under s44. If those facts were proven and provable subsequently, fine.

However, my suspicion is that IF said citizen turned round and attempted to carry out a citizen's arrest, by the time they all got back to the station (with him in cuffs and allegations of having assaulted police officers) they would have changed their story to either that the stop was under s43 OR that they didn't quote a statute at all...merely stopped him casually...and then had to arrest him when he became unreasonable/violent.

Difficult. Very difficult.

One's heart wishes that there was an instant on-street remedy. One's head suggests otherwise.

For another tale of police changing their story when actually challenged in respect of what they are alleged to have said:

http://www.ligali.org/pdf/Correspondence%20between%20Toyin%20Agbetu%20and%20Leroy%20Logan%20re%20Stop%20and%20Search%20in%20Hackney.pdf (pdf)

John Ozimek


Some interesting questions being raised on this thread. Here are some official answers (the first two confirmed by the HO: the third from past chats with the ISA).

1. Of course police can arrest in plain clothes...so long as they identify themselves. Just need to show a warrant card, and that's it. Otherwise, imagine the scene: two undercover cops watch a drugs shipment about to leave the warehouse forever. Waiting for the uniform branch, stuck in traffic ten minutes away. Ooops...better let them get away because we can't arrest. Nah!

2. Police also retain the powers of a police constable when off duty. Reason, therefore, not to wind up your police next door neighbour. That is significant when it comes to arrests, as a citizen's arrest is a very dangerous thing - for the arresting citizen. Get it wrong and you're facing a charge of false imprisonment. In one case, an individual who arrested a citizen's arrest and beat up the citizen was exonerated in court since it was held that an improper arrest was simple assault - and that to resist was self-defence.

Police powers of arrest are far wider and therefore very few let-outs.

3. Police will certainly be on the ISA base when it goes live...and possibly a few more besides. The ISA base is about regulating the activities of those working with "vulnerable" groups - not just children - and it makes sense, within the logic of the scheme, to include police in it.