A Different Remembrance

What anniversary falls on the 11th November? It is Remembrance Day. This year it is the 100th anniversary of the guns going silent – for a while. Discussion about today is all through the press. The only thing I will say is: what is remembrance if we do not learn the lessons it teaches us? Which leads me on to this …
 
What I will talk about in this Blog is the threatened Human Rights Act. There is nothing to stop the Tory’s replacing this with a Bill Of British Values instead.
 
As we have seen from past Conservative practice, the little man will come out worst.
 
What has the Human Rights Act done for the country? The Human Rights Act has been absolutely key to the big justice fights of the last 20 years. On the 20th anniversary of the act receiving Royal Assent, I’d like to write about 20 Cases that were helped by the Human Rights Act.
 
The Human Rights Act is the principal law protecting human rights in the UK. The Act incorporates into UK law 16 rights from the European Convention of Human Rights.
 
The European Convention on Human Rights was drafted just after the Second World War. This was part of the promise of ‘never again’.
 
  1. Hillsborough football disaster – after 27 years of fighting for justice, the Hillsborough families were able to use the Human Rights Act to uncover the truth about how their 96 loved ones died.
  2. Mid-Staffs and NHS negligence – Families affected by the scandal have been able to launch 119  legal claims against the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust using the Human Rights Act.
  3. Equal rights for gay couples – Juan Godin-Mendoza is a gay man who proved that he had as much right to take over a protected tenancy after the death of his partner as the survivor of a married or cohabiting heterosexual couple.
  4. Proper equipment for soldiers serving in the army – Snatch Land Rovers, nicknamed “mobile coffins”, were developed to transport troops in Northern Ireland. They were subsequently deployed in the Afghan and Iraq conflicts. Families from some of the 37 whose sons and daughters died in Snatch Land Rovers brought claims against the government, mainly under the Human Rights Act.
  5. Modern-day slavery and traffickingPatience Asuquo was brought to the UK as a domestic worker and nanny. For two-and-a-half years she was physically and mentally abused. She was never paid and her employer withheld her passport. Patience eventually managed to escape – only to be met with police disinterest. Using Article 4 of the Human Rights Act, no slavery or forced labour, human rights organisation Liberty forced the police to reopen the case and Patience’s employer was finally prosecuted.
  6. Do Not Resuscitate notices – following a complaint brought by relatives of patients who had had Do Not Resuscitate notices placed on their notes without their consent, a commission found that patients must be told if doctors consider that CPR should not be carried out on the grounds that it would not work; they have the right to a second opinion; and that where they do not have the capacity, their family or advocate should be consulted. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which intervened in the case, argued that being able to make a decision about whether a life is worth living is a fundamental right protected under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.
  7. Freedom of the press –the Milton Keynes Citizen’s reporter Sally Murrer was bugged by Thames Valley Police under police spying powers. She always maintained her stories were in the public interest and that her sources and correspondence should have been private. After being arrested and spending 19 months on police bail, the case against her collapsed after the judge ruled that the police had breached her Article 10 freedom of expression rights which protect journalists and their sources, and the evidence was not admissible.
  8. Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland – during the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland, thousands of people lost their lives and many more were injured.
  9. Justice for a murdered mother Celia Peachey’s mother Maria was murdered by her violent ex-partner, despite repeatedly asking the police for help. Celia used the Human Rights Act to hold the police to account for their catalogue of failings in protecting her, and in investigating her death.
  10. Elderly couple separated by council Mr and Mrs Driscoll had lived together for over 65 years. When Mr Driscoll was moved into a residential care home, Mrs Driscoll wanted to move to the home with her husband but was told she didn’t meet the criteria. This was a clear breach of the couple’s right to a family life as protected by the Human Rights Act and a public campaign was launched to encourage social services to think again. As a result, Mrs Driscoll’s needs were re-assessed and the couple were reunited – setting an example to cite for elderly couples who want to remain together in a care home.
  11. Equal rights for unmarried couplesThe Supreme Court ruled that to deny a widow bereavement benefits because she and her partner of 23 years were unmarried was discriminatory and a breach of article 14 (non-discrimination) and article 8 (private and family life) of the Human Rights Act.
  12. Disabled women left bed-bound by inadequate care provision Jan Sutton had multiple sclerosis. For years, Jan’s local council only paid for carers to make a limited number of short 30-minute visits to her home. They would help Jan wash, dress and use the toilet at those times, but the rest of the time she was confined to her bed. It was degrading and left her with a desperately difficult life. Jan took legal action under the Human Rights Act to secure better care from the council and won. She was able to enjoy a better quality of life because of the case and became a committed campaigner for human rights and the Human Rights Act until her death last year.
  13. Asperger’s sufferer facing deportation to the US – Gary McKinnon is a British man with Asperger’s, who was accused in 2002 of hacking into NASA and Pentagon computer systems while searching for information on UFOs. Instead of allowing him to be tried in the UK, the US government attempted to have Gary extradited to the USA to face trial. If convicted, he would have faced 60 years in jail. In 2012, the then Home Secretary Theresa May announced that the threat to Gary’s health was so high that sending him to trial in the USA would be incompatible with the UK’s responsibility to protect his human rights. Gary was spared extradition by the Human Rights Act.
  14. John Worboys’ victims challenge police failure to investigate – two victims of John Worboys challenged the police over their failure properly to investigate the case.
  15. Deepcut army barracks suicides  Anne-Marie Ellement was a military police officer who killed herself as a result of bullying and ‘work-related despair’ in 2011. An inquest failed to investigate the circumstances of her death. Years later, using the Human Rights Act, Anne-Marie’s sisters secured a fresh inquest relying on the right to life, and a rape investigation under the right to freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. As a result, a trial took place in which two former soldiers were acquitted, but the MOD announced it would establish a complaints ombudsman to investigate complaints made by troops.
  16. Police retaining DNA and fingerprints of innocent people when a 12-year-old boy and a middle-aged woman were arrested but then had all charges against them dropped, the police refused to destroy the DNA samples and fingerprint records they’d taken. In both cases, the Human Rights Act helped them challenge that.
  17. Right to marry regardless of religious beliefs – in 2005, Karen and Martin became the first couple in Britain to have a legally-recognised humanist wedding.
  18. 19-year-old killed by racist cellmate – Zahid Mubarek had been sentenced to 90 days’ detention for theft. Inside prison, he was described as a “model prisoner”. On 21 March 2000, five hours before he was due to be released, Zahid was beaten to death by Robert Stewart, a racist with a history of violence, with whom he shared a cell. Stewart later admitted the murder and drew a swastika on the wall. The Mubarek family fought for an independent public inquiry using the Human Rights Act under the right to life (Article 2) to investigate deaths where the state might be implicated.
  19. Grenfell fire – there are many serious human rights questions to be answered about the role of public officials in this tragedy both at a local level – such as why the concerns of residents about safety went unheard or ignored, the design and recent refurbishment of the building, the lack of local fire-safety procedures – and at a national level – in terms of changes to fire service powers and regulations on building safety. Four of the Human Rights Act rights are particularly relevant to Grenfell: right to life (Article 2), the right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3), right to respect for private and family life (Article 8) and the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions (Article 1) These rights have been used by people involved in other tragedies to hold public officials to account for loss of life, but also loss of homes and possessions. The independent watchdog the Equality and Human Rights Commission is intending to carry out its own inquiry into whether central and local government met their obligations under the Human Rights Act in respect to Grenfell, to ensure the right lessons are learned
  20. The Windrush scandal – leading human rights law firm Leigh Day has said it is preparing a potential group action case for the Windrush victims against the Home Office. They will be arguing that the policies and practices of the Home Office that caused such harm to people long settled in this country were discriminatory and unlawful as they were in breach of the Human Rights Act for being ‘inhuman and degrading’ and contrary to Article 3 and Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

Harrogate Pride In Diversity 2018

June 16th saw Harrogate’s Pride In Diversity event – I went along to support some good friends. This had been the first time I had been to a Pride and I was very impressed with the friendliness of everyone there. There were no lager louts or scary people – just well-mannered fun; I enjoyed myself and it was a pleasure to be there.

I went to support my friends and to put my foot on a road to state that love is a Human Right. The Love should not be discriminated against. I was there so that one day people the world over could be free to take a consenting partner of any persuasion.

 

Me & Mrs Backhouse

 

I managed to get some audio recording of the event – using some new gear purchased through Allan Smyth Audio Visual. I have tried to record sections of random crowd noise where there were no distinct voices.

This has proved a bit of a problem, but I am happy with how the recordings have turned out. If you want to listen back to them I recommend listening back to the recordings on Headphones as the microphones were situated in my ears. This is a binaural recording – it allows the 3D Soundscape of the recording to be reproduced when listened back on Headphones.

Here is the launch of Pride in Diversity 2018 (best listened back on Headphones).

 

 

As ever, I have tried to leave out any distinctive conversation and just grab a snapshot – However, if you want me to take the recording down because you are in it and do not want to have this recording of Pride in Diversity on my blog then let me know by emailing me at [email protected]

Gripes

It was not too inclusive, Pride In Diversity – there were no Vegetarian options in the catering – seems meat is on the agenda.

Loved It

From my position of Hetero-Privilege, it seems Pride in Diversity 2018 was a way of ‘including’ people who feel marginalised due to their sexuality.  Did it work? Pride has been working in Harrogate for two years now – Harrogate is not the most cosmopolitan area and people still say things are bad by describing them as ‘gay’. Whilst a lot of progress has been made over the decades to change opinion, there is still a lot of work to do. However, over 1000 people have watched the video showing the start of the march – and the march only started nine hours ago – I heard a pair of young girls walking past me and a friend; the young girls (11ish?) said “I haven’t had a smile on my face this big for a while!” Harrogate’s Pride In Diversity 2018 was a unique opportunity to bring together all that is great about the town I have come to love, Harrogate.

 

Greg & Michelle (who looked amazing!)

One Man’s View Of Woman’s Suffrage On The 100th Anniversary

*Kicks Hornet’s Nest. 2018 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the right for women to vote in the UK. But, why would an upwardly-mobile, white, chubby man be writing about this? And, would his viewpoint be valid – am I qualified to pass comment? Well, Ijo Pona is my blog and a soap box for my opinion.

I definitely do not have a remit to speak on behalf of either side, male or female – but, I can offer an opinion? However vague? I am not writing this Blog post to show anyone (if anyone reads this) what a ‘moral’ person I am am or to align to any ‘side.’ If anyone reads this post then please feel free to leave a comment in the footer – I am up for learning a lot more about the topic described.

In 1918 the representation Of The People Act allowed Women who were householders and over the age of thirty to vote – it also made it legal for all men over the age of 21 to vote. It was not until 1928 that all women over the age of 21 were allowed to vote – and, even to this day, there are visa restrictions on people (not just women) voting for the government who, could in turn, decide the outcome of their stay in the Uk (see posts about Human Rights).

We have come a bit of the way to gender equality, a small step and we have a long way to go – but lets use this anniversary of Suffrage to really get equality for Women of all ages, race and denominations. The pay gap is staggering, the rights difference is staggering and the very way that society (the status quo) sees Women is staggeringly obsolete.

And … the Uk is seen as a liberal Western Society. I can only think that the best societal equality was in the Neolithic tribes – when we were Hunter Gatherers. Mind, there is not concrete evidence to suggest the varying tribal social hierarchies – this could be a romantic, nostalgic and, ultimately, uneducated view point.

But, how did the Patriarchy gain such a foot hold in the first place? How are we going to usurp it? What do we replace it with? What methods are available to us?

I do not have the answer. But essentially, men, it boils down to; don’t let the testosterone do the thinking, you knuckle dragging ape-men!

*runs to hills and retires after brief foray into Gender Politics

If you have read this blog post and you feel a bit of empathy for a man who could barely look someone in the eyes until he was 12, then feel free to write a reading list  for me below. I want to learn about my place in the world. Feel free to leave a comment, feel free to ignore this topic, feel free to hug your mum and whisper in her ear “the revolution is coming …”

In the opening sentence of the second paragraph of this Blog post, I mentioned that I –

… do not have a remit to speak on behalf of either side, male or female …

But, is this not part of the problem? Conflict occurs when there is the creation of opposing sides by a manipulative force. We have been pitched together in a power struggle of the sexes since the creation of modern society. There are the remnants of Matriarchal Tribal societies in South West China – and there is the western pay gap.

From the comfort of my pyjamas, can I call a truce? Can a fat man who has tea-stains on his pyjama t-shirt ask that there is no longer the viewing of the sexes as different ‘sides.’ Is it possible to replace the current status quo with equality? Is it possible to see someone for the worth of their character rather than their shape? Can we have equality?

I admit I have only been on the receiving end of social prejudice in the form of classism. But to have a society hell-bent on the degradation of half of the nations population seems illogical. Why do people judge others on their Bits other than the worth of their character.

I do not know I am rehashing some out-dated opinion or if I have hit a nerve. All I wanted to was try and vent my frustration about the fact that it is 2018 and women are treated as a second tier in society. In the Uk. In 2018.

Sort it out …!

Letter #16

We seem to be having a ‘wholesome’ day here at Ijo Pona HQ. Kathryn is at a Church Parade with her Girl Guide group and I am left to my own devices. Rather than just head back to bed to catch forty winks, I decided to try and put my time to good use.

That is, after all, the purpose of being here as a person – you have no say in your arrival or what you arrive with – but it is up to you to make something of it. And, if I can help other people get along, then it will help me get along.

This is what I ‘made’ today …. I decided to write to Andrew Jones, Harrogate & Knaresborough MP. Believe it or not, the right to a trial before imprisonment is still not available for people fleeing strife in foreign lands. Habeas corpus (/ˈheɪbiəs ˈkɔːrpəs/; Medieval Latin meaning literally “that you have the body”) is a recourse in law through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person, usually a prison official, to bring the prisoner to court, to determine whether the detention is lawful. The right to a fair trial – for only crossing a border – is still being denied to thousands by the British Government.


Dear Andrew Jones,

There is growing criticism of Britain for being the only EU country without a statutory time limit for the detention of immigrants, including criticism by the UN Human Rights Council. Every year the Home Office locks up tens of thousands of people – including survivors of torture, trafficking and rape – and gives them no idea when they will be freed. The lack of a time limit destroys mental health. Self-harm, suicide attempts and deaths are common. This is state-sanctioned suffering on a vast scale.

Survivors of torture, trafficking and rape are among the tens of thousands held in overcrowded centres – for months, or even years – where a recent investigation uncovered “widespread self-harm and attempted suicides”.

The Home Office has paid £21.2m to migrants it unlawfully detained over the past five years, laying bare its “chaotic decisions” it was alleged.

Now campaigners believe a looming immigration bill offers a fresh opportunity for MPs to pass an amendment to impose a strict 28-day limit. Will you back this movement?

“A stain on our democracy”

– Andrew Mitchel, Former International Development Secretary

Almost 30,000 people are detained each year in the centres, with several hundred held for longer than one year. One person was held for more than four years, according to The Independent. I don’t think it’s right to hold people in detention indefinitely. It’s wrong in principle and this is an issue that really matters.

A suspension of Habeas corpus in this day and age, Andrew Jones? Really?

Half of immigrants leaving detention centres end up being released into the community – rather than deported – where monitoring them cost 80 per cent less, according to the latest figures.

Will you back a 28-day limit if it is supported by a fresh independent review into the welfare of immigration detainees, to be published in June by Stephen Shaw, a former prisons and probation ombudsman?

Most British people would be surprised to find out it is possible to be detained indefinitely in this country – something that goes back to Habeas corpus. I would like to see Britain use methods that have proven to be effective in other countries – such as Sweden – if Stephen Shaw says any consequences with a 28-day limit can be overcome. Will you add your voice?

“Indefinite detention is not only cruel, but costs hundreds of millions of pounds.”

– Afzal Khan, Shadow Immigration Minister

I will re-iterate my point: will you back a 28-day limit if it is supported by a fresh independent review into the welfare of immigration detainees, to be published in June by Stephen Shaw, a former prisons and probation ombudsman? Or, will you blindly suspend Habeas corpus, unlawfully, for another year?

Yours faithfully,

Andrew

Letter #15

 

The Repeal Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation in a generation. It will rewrite our laws after we leave the European Union. Those laws affect every one of us – our friends, our families, our children. Laws against discrimination and privacy invasions. Protections for workers, LGBT+, disabled and older people. Rights we fought for and won long ago.

The People’s Clause makes sure the rights we’ve gained from EU membership aren’t going anywhere. The package:

  • Creates a black-and-white promise that ministers can’t use their Repeal Bill law-making powers to roll back our rights protections
  • Makes sure Parliament scrutinises how ministers rewrite laws, to prevent backroom deals that dodge the democratic process
  • Brings all our fundamental rights protections home from the EU in full force – including a fully enforceable Charter of Fundamental Rights and non-discrimination laws – and doesn’t let the Government get away with carving out a gaping human rights exemption from its promise to preserve legal consistency after Brexit.

The case for these amendments is strong. The Government knows it. The Repeal Bill in its current form isn’t fit for purpose. It takes the people out of the process and lets a few ministers decide everything for us. Plenty of MPs and peers – from all the major parties – know it. Which is why dozens have stood up for the people they represent and signed up to the People’s Clause amendments.

Every week, more join the list.

Among all the noise about Brexit, we need to make sure we are heard.

_________

Dear Andrew Jones MP,

I hope you are managing to keep warm despite the freezing conditions – we are currently choosing Heating over Eating. The matter I am writing to you about was prompted by the pressure group LIBERTY UK. They highlighted the effect of the Repeal Bill, and, I was alarmed. We need a formal commitment in the text of the Repeal Bill ensuring ministers have to protect every one of our rights in UK law after Brexit. Will you back amendments already tabled to the Repeal Bill – guaranteeing there will be no rollback of rights after we leave the EU?

The Repeal Bill gives a handful of ministers unbelievably broad powers to change our laws with no real scrutiny from Parliament or the people they represent. As my representative at Parliament, will you to stick up for me and my fellow constituents & raise the level of parliamentary scrutiny on the Repeal Bill?

Many of our hard-won rights are protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the General Principles. The Government says it wants legal consistency after Brexit, but, according to rights watchdogs LIBERTY & Amnesty UK, it has made a political decision to leave those rights behind. Will you hold the Government to its promise not to make the Repeal Bill about political policy choices and support an amendment to maintain our existing rights?

Ministers keep promising they’ll protect our rights as we leave the EU. So why not put that in black and white in their new law? I am worried that there seems to be a growing trend that fewer and fewer people have the power to shapes the Nations destiny – will you be a Voice of the people or toe the Party line?

Yours faithfully,

Andrew

Letter #14

Dear Andrew Jones,

First of all, please let me wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I have gained a lot from our correspondence throughout the year. I am signing off 2017 with a final letter to you when I should be working. I work as a freelance website designer so I can give myself the luxury of fitting my work around my lifestyle.

The matter I am writing about to you today is to make a point of standing alongside Liberty and nine other leading Human Rights organisations in the European Court Of Human Rights to challenge the United Kingdom Government’s vast cross-border surveillance regime. I do not know if you are aware of proceedings in the case?

The organisations that I stand with are Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and groups from Pakistan, South Africa & Egypt – together, they are making the case that our Government’s surveillance programmes are unlawful.

The legal case centres on secret UK & US mass surveillance programmes called Tempora, Upstream and Prism – which were exposed by the famous whistleblower Edward Snowden.

All of the organisations that I stand alongside (Liberty, Amnesty International etc.) believe that their communications were spied upon by the government – which violates the right to privacy and free expression under the European Convention on Human Rights and it jeopardises the confidentiality and protection of sources so crucial to their work.

Liberty, Amnesty International et al. regularly communicate with human rights campaigners nationally and internationally. The organisations I am writing about, regularly speak to journalists, lawyers, prisoners, victims of state abuse, politicians, government officials and whistleblowers. Their emails and phone calls often contain sensitive data and privileged information. The integrity of the before mentioned body’s communications and their ability to protect their sources is crucially important to their work challenging the powerful and defending people rights.

The case I am referring to was previously heard by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal who revealed in 2015 that GCHQ had indeed spied on Amnesty International and South Africa’s Legal Resources Centre.

I eagerly await to hear the outcome of the ruling because this is a blatant abuse of power. Granted, people still break the law and we need to protect the law-abiding; but at what cost. A Police State? Because that is what Fortress Britannica is turning in to. This is not cricket, but, it is what I have come to expect from my Government.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew

That’s The Weekend That Was, Remembrance Sunday 2017

Not a load of recollecting done on my account – yes, I held a vigil last night and at 11am when I was silent for a minute. However, with my Quaker leanings, I do not really see the glorification of war as something to steer society towards. Yes, I admit it, I am not a ‘Full’ Quaker – I am an attendee – but a lot of the philosophy has rubbed off on me.

So, Instead of praying for the dead, whatever that means, I will in fact try and make the world a bit more peaceful. Not hiding behind religion’s mask – but brazenly going forth and bearing witness to make this bit of the world a bit better for everyone, regardless of creed, ethnicity or background.

I admit I could not stomach the pomp of the Remembrance Service on the BBC – It did not chime well that people were celebrated for the killing of other people; after all, don’t the ‘opposition’ have a similar service on the same day? It is a pure chance – in a geographical lottery – that we are born in the UK (one of the most hated countries in the world)? Isn’t it pure chance that we are born into the country we live? I appreciate that if my Brother had been born 28 miles south he would have been born in France.

But still – these drunken ramblings will not bring back anyone. Least of all those who want to outlive a war, for they are a foul business. I appreciate that the argument goes that it is through the sacrifices of our forefathers that I am allowed to express this opinion (indeed, I go on about this is my previous Blog articles) but at the same time … if everyone saw the errors of their ways in war we would stop the International Dick Swinging and come together as Human Family. Is it too much to ask that the politicians are given the guns and told to fight as opposed to sending in our boys?

On Friday, I was invited out for a drink – I could not make it as I was already in my PJ’s. However, this is the last time I think I will have had the opportunity to see Matt before he goes to Dubai. Still, I am very confident I will see him on his return journey. He has been an excellent mate to me and one of the reasons I got into Blogging (therefore got into Web Design and earn a trade; ta mate). He will be sorely missed in H’Gate and I wish him all the best in his new UX adventures in the Middle East.

Saturday saw me wandering around town like a lost soul – I had no one to meet up with and had too much time on my hands.

Sunday saw me super-charged for maximum celebration: it was DJ Scooby’s Big Band Sunday and I was helping out. I took my camera down and took some images. I am probably the worst photographer on Getty’s books but still, it is a laugh.

What really gets me, daggers aside – is this: Major Tom’s. Hands down the friendliest, nicest and authoritative drinking place in H’Gate allows us to rock up and put on a charity event for MSF. DJ Scooby arrives every second Sunday of the month and plays – let’s face it – some pretty out there tunes to a public who seem to lap it up.

We managed our first Meat Feast Pizza although Stew & Karen went for the Veggie/Vegan options. When we arrived home, Kathryn let out a burp that practically deflated her and echoed around the pace we live – thanks for the drinks Kathryn (and Andy D).

The charity event would not be the same without the bar and the bar-staff (it is the bar staff who make it). The owners of Major Tom’s Social (Lee & Toby) allow Scoob to come but it is down to Josh, Ellie, Sam, Anna (new addition), Kate, Joe, Lauren & Dale to help the day go well (sorry if I have missed out on any barkeeps). Cheers guys! Thanks for being there on the other side of the bar … here are some photos …

 

Right, I’m Coming Out …

… for LGBT Rights. It’s been 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised homosexual sex between men aged over 21 – and LGBT rights have come a long way since then. This week, as part of Stonewall Season, Liberty UK (the rights watchdog – not the department store) are celebrating the progress made over those decades as inspiration to keep fighting – because that work is far from finished.

In fact, as the Government grants ministers unprecedented new powers to rewrite our laws after Brexit, we face the grim prospect of a rollback of those rights. This year, Liberty client John Walker won a victory for the pension rights of same-sex couples across the UK – but the ruling was made under EU law. We’ve been pushing the Government to promise it won’t reintroduce this injustice after Brexit – but have heard nothing but silence.

And, as Stonewall’s recent LGBT in Britain report showed all too starkly, LGBT people still face shocking levels of hate crime and discrimination today. For example, one in five LGBT people has experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year. Among trans people, that figure is two in five.

Northern Ireland still hasn’t introduced same-sex marriage. Trans people still live with serious legal inequalities & our Government still deports LGBT asylum seekers back to countries where they face punishment and persecution.

But drawing on past progress can help us win future battles – and Liberty’s members have played a key part in the fight over the years. Below you will find a brief history of how Liberty, a group I have sympathies with and I am a member of, have helped the cause:

1967: The Sexual Offences Act decriminalises homosexual acts between two men aged over 21 in private in England and Wales.

1972: Police harassment of gay men

Liberty – then known as the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) – begins a survey of police harassment of gay men.

1975: Rights at work

The NCCL establishes the right of a lesbian midwife to become a health visitor, appealing to the local health authority on the behalf of Veronica Pickles.

1980: Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act decriminalises homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private in Scotland.

1982: Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 decriminalises homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private in Northern Ireland after a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

1982: Protesting the BBC

The NCCL holds a demonstration against the BBC giving excessive airtime to homophobic views.

1984: Gay’s the Word

The NCCL acts for LGBT bookshop Gay’s the Word after customs and excise officers confiscate all their imported books and charged staff with “conspiracy to import indecent or obscene material” – such as works by Oscar Wilde and Tennessee Williams.

All charges are eventually dropped and the confiscated stock returned.

1989: Section 28

When the Government bans the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools, Liberty produces Section 28: a practical guide to the Law and its Implications. The clause was repealed in 2003.

2000: Armed Forces

Graeme Grady and Jeanette Smith are dismissed from the British Armed Forces under the Ministry of Defence policy that “homosexuality, whether male or female, is considered incompatible with service in the armed forces”.

Liberty takes on their case, and the European Court of Human Rights rules that both their dismissal and the intrusive investigations that preceded them violated their rights. The law is changed later that year.

2001: The age of consent for homosexual acts is lowered to 16 after a ruling by the European Commission of Human Rights and several attempts by the House of Lords to block the change.

2004: Civil partnerships are introduced for same-sex couples, giving them most of the rights married heterosexual couples have.

2004: The Gender Recognition Act gives trans people legal recognition of their (male or female) gender.

2007: The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) regulations become law, making discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal.

2010: Child support discrimination

Liberty’s client JM had been required to pay more in child support because her lesbian relationship was not recognised under rules that resulted in people in heterosexual relationships paying less.

The European the Court of Human Rights rules that treating JM differently on the grounds of her sexuality breaches her rights.

2012: B&B discrimination

Michael Black and John Morgan are refused a room at a Berkshire bed and breakfast because they are a gay couple.

Liberty takes their case, leading to a ruling that the couple had suffered unlawful discrimination.

2014: Same-sex marriage becomes legal in England and Wales, and equivalent legislation is passed in Scotland by the end of the year.

2017: Pension rights

John Walker fought through the courts for years to overturn an exemption in the Equality Act which let employers exclude same-sex partners from spousal benefits paid into pension funds before December 2005.

Liberty represented John all the way up to the Supreme Court, which ruled it was discriminatory under EU law and struck it down.


 

But, you may be wondering why a Heterosexual man in his mid-thirties, married to an amazing woman, is shouting that more needs to be done to help with LGBT Rights – even in 2017. Well, I figure; live and let live. The people who need LGBT Rights have just as much choice in being Gay as I had in being Heterosexual = zero choice.

I have not meant to step on any toes with this post – but, if you have a polite point of view please feel free to leave a comment in te footer of this post. It would be nice to hear from you.