24 August 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: case dropped

The 23 August 2011 saw New York prosecutors drop sexual assault charges against Dominque Strauss-Kahn. Whether non-consensual sex had taken place was doubtful.

If Dominique Strauss-Kahn's relations with Nafissatou Diallo, the alleged victim, were consensual, then they are rightly the business of nobody else. It neither reflects well nor badly on DSK as a politician.

The inability of Diallo to tell a consistent story to prosecutors was the cited reason for the collapse of the case; but it seems that there are problems even in the best version of her story.

First, why was she in his executive suite at all? Imagine a male cleaner being in the room when, say, Angela Merkel emerged naked from a shower.

Second, “hot bunny” DSK may be, but for him to come out of the bathroom, then unexpectedly to come across a middle-aged cleaner and jump on her before she had the chance to leave the room! Well this is possible, but I suggest unlikely.

Third, DSK appears to be 62 year-old in the best of health. Yet for him to force a woman in the prime of her strength to have oral sex strains the imagination. Surely Mrs Diallo could have used her jaws to defend herself, and DSK would have known that.

No-one except DSK and Diallo will ever know the truth of what happened, but certainly Mrs Diallo’s accusation seems to have several "holes."

5 August 2011

Fisher and May Bowles: different laws for different people

Injurious assaults by the police are exonerated: non-injurious ones by political protesters are punished.

Nicola Fisher

The first case is that of Nicola Fisher. On 2 April 2009 Nicola Fischer attended a vigil for the newspaper vendor and bystander, Ian Tomlinson, killed the day before by police during the G20 demonstrations. Apparently, Fisher was standing in a place where the police did not want her to be.

Fisher’s account, which is backed up by film of the incident, runs as follows:

"Suddenly quite a few police officers came and made a line in front of us and almost straight away the officer in front of me shouted 'get back' and pushed me before I even had a chance to move. When he did that I, as an instant reaction, pushed back, then straight away he gave me a back-hander across my left cheek."

Not content with that, police officer Delroy Smellie then calmly took out his baton and beat Fisher on the legs causing her to dance in pain and leaving her with extensive bruising.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) decided to prosecute Smellie for assault.

Nicola Fisher did not appear at the trial, and despite the evidence against Smellie, District Judge District Judge Daphne Wickham acquitted him of assault. She said there was no evidence that his use of the baton was not approved, correct or measured.

Jonathan May-Bowles

On 19 July 2011 Rupert Murdoch was giving evidence to the House of Commons Media Select committee. Murdoch’s company, News International, has been engaged in illegal phone tapping, paying money to police officers and has for a long time extended its influence over elected government. Its aim is to support business interests, the establishment and right wing ideas in addition to making money.

May-Bowles, sitting in the audience, threw a paper plate covered in shaving foam into Murdoch’s face.

Rupert Murdoch did not appear at the trial. The same district judge, Daphne Wickham, sentenced Jonathan May-Bowles to six weeks imprisonment (reduced on appeal to four) for assault.


Fisher suffered injury: her attacker was acquitted because he was a police officer. Murdoch suffered no injury: his attacker was jailed to deter protest.

3 August 2011

Officer acquitted of assault on Nicola Fischer

The Nicola Fisher case established the precedent that police can beat protesters with impunity.

Nicola Fisher, aged 38, was a participant in a small vigil held on 2 April 2009 to commemorate the police killing of the newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson, the previous day. Tomlinson had been attempting to make his way home during the G20 demonstrations when he was bitten by police dogs, truncheoned and hurled to the ground. He died from his injuries minutes later.

From a policing point of view Nicola Fisher was at most irritating and perhaps in the way. Officer Smellie saw fit to give her a back-hand across the face; he then calmly removed his baton to administer two hard strokes on her thighs before turning his attention to other things. His misfortune was that everything he did was filmed.

To dispel the view that gratuitous police violence was tolerated, and to assuage the concerns of Daily Mail readers, the authorities needed to throw a police officer to the wolves. Of the recorded police violence against demonstrators in April 2009, the Fisher incident was not the most serious, but it was the most suitable for prosecution. Officer Smellie made the ideal fall guy; he looked like a thug, and he had hit a woman.

Yet Fisher didn’t play ball and failed to turn up to the trial. But, surprisingly, despite the evidence against him Smellie was acquitted.

Thus a precedent was set: arbitrary violence against demonstrators was to be tolerated and unpunished police behaviour; this is not what the authorities had wanted. While, of course, police had often beaten left-wing and ‘alternative’ protesters, it was another matter to be seen to be giving it official sanction.