Penguins On The March

Penguin Education Specials:
A LAST RESORT? CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN SCHOOLS. Editor: Peter Newell. 60p.
THE PAINT HOUSE: Words from an East End Gang. The Collinwood Gang and Susie Daniel and Pete McGuire. 30p.

A Penguin Special:
THALIDOMIDE AND THE POWER OF THE DRUG COMPANIES. Henning Sjostrom and Robert Nilsson 40p.

Three books, each important, each original, each an attack on common assumptions, and all written well without propagandising.

The first two, A Last Resort and The Paint House, are about two different aspects of violence. And instead of laying the blame where it is usually put (on the children in schools or the toughs’ in the skinhead gangs), they place it squarely where it belongs; on the shoulders of the people who made them that way, and on the society which sanctions and uses violence as the quick and easy way of getting what it wants.

A Last Resort was compiled from material collected by the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment (STOPP), and is the first shot in their campaign to abolish corporal punishment in schools. They are doing this along with the National Council for Civil Liberties. The book demonstrates how educationally and socially destructive the threat and actual use of physical punishment in schools is, and how a school can work better, both for the teachers and the pupils, when it is removed. Unfortunately, abolishing it also means that the traditional teaching methods and attitudes have to be questioned and modified or scrapped, and the book includes examples of schools where this has been done

One example will show how destructive caning and the threat of it is. Caning is often used as a punishment for truancy. This makes the school an even more unpleasant place to be, so the child is more likely to play truant again, and less likely to want to go back – after all, the first thing he will face is a caning. Eventually he will lose interest in being at school and want to be away from it as soon as possible. It may take longer to talk to and understand a child, but isn’t that better for him and everyone else (since it avoids building violence into him as a means of getting his own way), than the easy way out with a cane?

The Paint House is about East End boys whose background (including their schools) leaves them no means of self-expression except violence, and no importance except in the eyes of one another — hence the gang, and the violence they can get away with as a gang, become the most important things for them.

Who can blame them for using violence for getting their own way? After all, police, parents, government, teachers, even doctors use violence in one form or another to get their way. Some of us have a recourse against this in our social status – they have no such comfortable bolster.

The words are the words of the gang members themselves, with a thread supplied by the two ‘outsiders’, and occasional comments (highlighting the misunderstanding and ignorance) from people in authority, whether in school, work, pub or whatever.

It is a committed book, about change and about class differences, but it restrains its preaching and puts a cogent case. That we are all people, but you wouldn’t think so from the way we treat one another. Most of us are subtle about it. Skinheads are not.

The third book I want to talk about is about one of the worst cases of disregarding people in order to profit — the thalidomide story. Thalidomide and the Power of the Drug Companies. Time after time, so calmly you almost don’t notice, the book details how Chemie Grunenthal ignored mounting evidence about the various permanent side effects of thalidomide, until the sudden incidence of ‘thalidomide babies’ gave them no option. Even years later, when on trial, the contended that there was no proof that thalidomide caused the damage. Profit, in other words, was a higher consideration than people. The amazing thing is that, with the exception of the USA, most countries have done little to tighten their regulations regarding the introduction of new drugs. And that the majority of the population in some countries where thalidomide was sold still do not know about what happened!

Three books then, that attack basic assumptions and structures in our world. If you don’t believe things need changing, read them and see.

This could happen to you

Four Prisoners – Fourteen Charges

19720901-03
Keele Gay Lib Soc established itself early this year, and membership grew rapidly at first. The group soon noticed that the police (CID) began to show some passion for having hurried half pints in the same pub they used prior to meetings. And, coincidentally, they were ostentatiously watching the house of some gays living in the Potteries, also taking youths down to the station for questioning in the absence of solicitors, parents or guardians. It is hard to establish whether threats were actually used on these occasions.

The Gay Lib Soc were informed that the police had been assembling a dossier on all known gays in the Potteries, for the last eight months.

After consultation with the NCCL (National Council for Civil Liberties) a formal complaint was sent to the police and statements forwarded to NCCL. Shortly after this the first person was arrested (on May 31) and remanded in custody. Within about two more weeks, three more people were arrested and also remanded in custody. It is possible that an otherwise growing membership melted away because of these arrests, as the group shrank in size from this time.

The remands (at Risley) continued until about July 17, when they were released on bail – police objections that they would plant bombs, intimidate witnesses, and be the subject of ravenous lynch mobs, suddenly disappeared from the prosecutor’s repertoire.

The four came up for committal on August 7, and are due to appear in the Crown Court in about 2-3 months time. Here are the details.

  1. One person aged about forty is charged with nine out of twenty-six possible charges: three charges of buggery with minors (section 12(i) of the 1956 Sexual Offences Act); five charges of attempted buggery contrary to Common Law; one charge of indecent assault (section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act).
  2. A second person aged about thirty is charged with buggery with a minor (section 12(i) of the 1956 Act).
  3. The third (about thirty-five) is charged with attempted buggery and indecent assault.
  4. The fourth, aged about nineteen, is charged with indecent assault and ‘causing wasteful employment of police time by making a phone call to the effect that there was a bomb in Longton Police Station’.

(The latter charge omitted the fact that the police had used this as an excuse to go up into the house the boys were living in, and illegally arrest them). This boy had been summarily tried on the latter charge, and no sentence was imposed, as his lawyer so abjectly grovelled and apologised for his ‘silly act , etc.

All the four charged have straight-straight solicitors – one solicitor gets most of his bread as the local pig-prosecutor!

What remains of the Gay Lib group has tried to support the accused while on remand, and get together the beginnings of an alternative defence – but it looks like they will get a straight defence in the end – psychiatrists and all.

At least four other arrests have been expected (but this may be police panic-mongering) and the present case seems in some ways like a repeat performance of the 1968 Potteries Purge, which resulted in the murder of one boy (‘suicide’ according to the coroner) whilst on remand, and the incarceration of three others after dubious police practices (see Sunday Times 17/3/68 – ‘The Disturbing Case of the Consenting Teenagers’, page 2)

These people are still remembered in the local gay community.

Obsolete or Not

02-197206XX 3The Law Relating To Homosexual Acts In Scotland by Robert Thomson, Secretary, Scottish Council for Civil Liberties.

Most people in other parts of Britain do not realise that Scotland has a separate legal structure with many fundamental differences to that in England and Wales. Some Acts of Parliament do not apply to Scotland and many items of government policy need separate legislation: for example, going through Parliament at present is the Housing Finance (Scotland) Bill which seeks to increase local authority rents in Scotland as does the Housing Finance Bill in England and Wales. The chief law officer in Scotland is the Lord Advocate – at present Norman Wylie, QC, MP. He combines the duties of the Lord Chancellor, Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales. Through his Department, the Crown Office in Edinburgh, he controls prosecutions throughout Scotland by a system of Procurator Fiscals. The Fiscals are similar to District Attorneys in the United States.

“I asked the Crown Office about this and I was informed that efforts have been made to find when the last prosecution of two consenting adult males took place but nobody was able to remember a single one… and the fact is that they have never done so in living memory so far as I can ascertain.”

So said the Earl of Dundee on 13 June 1967 during a debate on the Sexual Offences Bill. His point was the main argument for not including Scotland in the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 1967.

However. as late as 1970 when the Crown Office was approached directly on this matter, it transpired that their policy was much more illiberal than supposed. The c Crown Agent stated that those laws which related exclusively to male homosexual behaviour were enforced in so far as it was possible to do so but that since most homosexual acts were conducted in private and because of the Scots Law requirement of corroboration, prosecutions seldom, if ever, arose.

It would seem, therefore. that some duplicity and hypocrisy was practiced at the time the Sexual Offences Bill was going through Parliament. If some item of legislation is not being enforced, surely that is an argument for removing it from the Statute Book rather than for retaining it. Obsolete legislation bring the whole legal system into disrepute.

This type of hypocrisy exemplifies establishment attitudes in Scotland. Sex is not a “nice” subject. “Decent” people don’t discuss it or even admit it exists. This form of repression permeates Scotland, for example, regarding the licencing laws, places of entertainment and Sunday observance. The reasons for this altitude are complex but the historical role of the Church of Scotland is an important factor.

The facts, then, are that for practical purposes the law is not enforced though there would seem to have been some prosecutions of men for acts with younger men or boys, convictions are usually gained through voluntary confessions. However there are many convictions for acts of public indecency in toilets to which homosexuals are driven because of the lack of social meeting places.

The law (Section II Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885) remaining on the Statute Book encourages social discrimination of homosexuals, makes them feel insecure and open to blackmail and fosters prejudice. Scotland is a relatively small country with few large cities; because of the prevailing attitude, described above, any person admitting or being “found out” as gay, faces loss of job and social ostracism. This includes women who, though they don’t face let penalties, are in many ways worse off, certainly in the availability of solid meeting places.

In 1971 the following motion was passed at the Annual General Meeting of the Scottish Council for Civil Liberties:

“This AGM notes the continuing social and legal inequalities of the homosexual in Scotland and recommends to the Executive Committee and the Parliamentary Civil Liberties Group to press for sound legal reforms for an early removal of remaining discrimination.”

Together with the Scottish Minorities Group which is affiliated to the SCCL, it is campaigning for law reform. The Scottish Minorities Group was set up to look after the interests of sexual minorities in Scotland.

A memorandum prepared by SMG was sent to all Scottish MPs. In a covering letter the SCCL stated:

“We adopt as our basic principle the view that sexual activity of any description between consenting parties should not be subject to legal constraints, with exceptions only in the case of provisions necessary to protect the young and immature and to prevent public indecency. We also believe that social discrimination against minorities such as homosexuals is unjustifiable but it can only be eliminated when the law ceases to discriminate.”

Copies of the memorandum were also sent to social workers and other organisations. The press were informed but published little.

The response of Scottish MPs to the memorandum was disappointing. We received replies from a number of MPs who said they would actively oppose any attempt to change the law. The majority of other replies said “Yes, I agree with you but let sleeping dogs lie”. Those MPs who offered to help all thought it was hot the best time to try and introduce reform. Our most helpful replies were from several members of the House of Lords.

Frankly, it seems unlikely that we will get any constructive action from the present Parliament since the “hang ‘em and fog ‘em” brigade seem to be in the ascendancy. However, one of our lawyers has prepared a draft Bill which we hope to introduce into the House of Lords sometime this year to test Parliamentary and public reaction. In addition, members of the Law Reform Committee of SMG have been personally lobbying MPs and this line of attack seems very useful.

The SCCL has been involved mainly in the campaign for legal equality, SMG has been doing a first-class job in contacting and speaking to social workers, churches, university organisations, local councillors MPs and school teachers. This kind of face-to-face contact will do more than any law case, to dispel the public image of the homosexual as some effeminate sex pervert and lead to the realisation that they an ordinary decent citizens attracted to their own sex.

The SCCL

The SCCL is the Scottish arm of the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL)

All the SCCL’s work is done by voluntary helpers; solicitors and advocates, trade unionists and academics, social workers and housewives. There is a Scottish sub-Committee of the Parliamentary Civil Liberties Group.

Members of the NCCL living in Scotland an automatically members of the SCCL. Membership is administered by the NCCL. The SCCL receives half the subscription fees of Scottish members.


SCOTTISH MINORITIES GROUP.

MEETINGS;
EDINBURGH, from 7.45pm to 9.00pm in the basement of 23 George Square. Check with Mike Coulson at 031-225 4395. Women’s Group at 7.30pm. Saturdays from 9.30pm to 12.30pm coffee/food/dance at the same address.

GLASGOW, meetings every Tuesday at 8.00pm an 8 Dunham Street, Glasgow C4. Women’s Group at 184 Swinton Road, at 8.00pm. Third Friday of every month at 214 Clyde Street (library of community house) invited speakers, from 8pm.

DUNDEE, every Friday at Dundee University Chaplaincy. Social. Details from 041-771 7600.

ABERDEEN, Weekly social meetings, Details from 041-771 7600.

Help Safeguard Liberty

CIVIL LIBERTY: THE NCCL GUIDE,02-197206XX 7ed. Anna Coote and Lawrence Grant.
A Penguin Special, 50p.

This is a successor to the National Council for Civil Liberties’ Handbook of Citizens’ Rights but it much more extensive in its range. The NCCL is not anti the police, public services or the establishment. It is interested only in basic legal rights and is anti – as we all should be – the misuse and abuse of power. Unlike Canada and the USA, this country has no written constitution, no Bill of Rights. Consequently the rights of British citizens are often difficult to isolate and even harder to assert. Vigilance is required to safeguard liberty, but can only be based on knowledge.

This 356 page guide sets out the legal rights of British citizens in simple terms. Unfortunately, as the editors point out, too often one may only find out what one can do by studying the lists of what one cannot do. The most sensitive areas (racial discrimination, drug use, rights on arrest and court procedure) are thoroughly covered, but the guide also includes valuable chapters on the law and the motorist, the consumer, the landlord and tenant. There are sections devoted to children, to education, to sex and to marriage. The theoretically law-abiding citizen who will never be searched on suspicion of carrying drugs or discriminated against through colour or sex, will find much to concern him. The distinguished list of contributors have been resolutely fair: anomalies in the law (different rights for a husband and wife, for a girl of 16 and a boy of 16 for example) are quietly pointed out and case-histories are included where relevant. The full text of the European Convention of Human Rights, which the United Kingdom signed in 1950 but the provisions of which have yet to be incorporated into the ordinary law of the land, is published as an appendix.