The Guardian from London,  on November 27, 1980 · 17
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The Guardian from London, · 17

London, England
Issue Date:
Thursday, November 27, 1980
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THE GUARDIAN Thursday November 27 1980 After a decade' of confusion, a new Bill tackles a problem of press freedom. DAVID LEIGH reports Ten years that brought the law into contempt World War is no longer inevitable. JOHN GITTINGS considers a marked ideological change in Chinese party thinking Muzzle for an old dogma present do not exist. Judges can explicitly ban the reporting of names ; they can explicitly postpone the reporting of any evidence in open court ; jurors are forbidden to talk to journalists about named cases; under all circumstances, and journalists are to be forbidden to print what they say. It may be contempt if newspapers say anything about fugitives with warrants out, such as Lord Lucan. And it may be contempt if they say anything about convicted people who plan to appeal. It may be contempt to write about convicted people who have not yet been sentenced. The new bill offers some definite bans on free speech and some new areas of uncertainty. One thing it is unlikely to do is end the uneasy relationship in Britain between the courts and the media. But Mrs Thatcher's Government is the first one to grasp the nettle of press freedom and the law for many years. more than they would welcome any easement of the law in relation to defamation and contempt." In 1978, the Government's lawyers were sinking at Strasbourg, where one judge. Judge M. Zckia, declared free speech was impossible with British contempt laws " which are not predictable or ascertainable even by a qualified lawyer." But, instead of reform, Whitehall produced a " discussion document." raising doubts about Phillimore. Allowing attempts to influence a litigant "would tip the balance too far." they said. It is not in the new bill. Phillimore wanted comment allowed about crime and criminals until the moment of charge. "The Phillimore , recommendation goes too far," the discussion document said. Instead, the bill wants to invoke contempt from the moment a warrant is issued for someone's arrest, which newspapers fear will make a new handicap. Finally, in 1978, the Jer-emy Thorpe case (he has been acquitted of conspiracy to murder at the Old Bailey) caused a new flurry. The New Statesman published an interview with a juror, following the 1967 Criminal Law Revision Committee finding that to do so was legal. The new Attorney-General, Sir Michael Havers, mounted a contempt prosecution against the journal. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, threw the case out, and awarded costs against the Government. Tlie Whitehall lawyers immediately set to work to rewrite a draft bill. They also wanted to tighten the law further because a radical journalist, Paul Foot, had named a witness in the Janie Jones blackmail case, for what he thought were good political reasons. And so, finally, the Contempt of Court Bill emerged. In return for Phillimore's main proposals, Mrs Thatcher's Cabinet proposes curbs on tin press which at Attorney-General, did the full court of Human Rights at Strasbourg, after the Sunday Times had spent 40,000 in costs, only half of which it eventually recovered, against the Government's reluctance to pay. Phillimore made some com-monsense suggestions, which the Strasbourg decision turned into a semi-legal obligation. People ought to be allowed to try and influence litigants, provided they did not intimidate them, it said. Phillimore said that newspapers and TV should be free to discuss issues, even though someone had issued a writ of some kind about them, until the point when the hearing was actually due to come on. Publications should only be counted as contempt if there was a risk of "seriously prejudicing or impeding justice." It also proposed other clear guidelines. The five years of Labour government, from 1974 to 1979. saw a complete failure to do anything albout these proposals. Nor did those five years see any moves on the other freedom of the press issues which had seen weighty studies and recommendations. Labour did not enact Phillimore. Nor did they enact Franks, which urged reform of the Official Secrets Act : Faulks, which urged reform of libel law ; Younger, which urged privacy ref orms ; or their own manifesto proposal for a freedom of information act, Harold Wilson, then Prime Minister, made his own attitude clear in 1976, when he demanded some sort of voluntary embargo on gossip columnists and investigations then going on into the private life as he called it of Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party. In return, the press could have some of its shackles lifted, he said. Last year, he lamented "from my own ex- ferience since leaving No 10. would suspect that certain organs of the press cherish the right to invade privacy speech," the Sunday Times was hauled into the dock in the famous thalidomide affair. Fighting up to the House of Lords, the Sunday Times was solemnly told by the judges (with the exception of Lord Denning's appeal court) that they had " pre-judged " the Distillers Company, by trying to print an article showing that the 'company ought to offer large sums of money to children who had been horribly deformed by taking the drug sold by Dis-tillers The House of Lords said in theory, the children's parents were still trying to sue the company, although the case was dormant because it would have been a hard one to win. In a clash between the idea of "prejudice" to some future trial conducted by a judge and the idea of free speech, the notion of prejudice must win, they said. Phillimore said the House of Lords was wrong, when they reported in 1974. So to the embarrassment of the The Leeds murder has awakened the public as never before. MALCOLM PITHERS reports Stacking the cards against the Ripper obviously carefully planning each murder, choosing his victims at random. The police had been keeping certain areas under close surveillance but random attacks obviously make their task more worrying and even more difficult. It follows that every member of the public, not just the police, must be vigilant and report anything suspicious. This at long last seems to be happening. Police said yesterday that a sackful of mail had been delivered to the Leeds headquarters of West Yorkshire police and that there had been a change of emphasis in the letters. Now wives, girlfriends and mothers have been passing on information about people near to them : reward money for information leading to an arrest stands at 50,000. But what of the new officers who will be looking at the case ? Jim Hobson, who has taken over from Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, is certainly not fresh to the investigation. He became involved in the Ripper inquiry on February 6, 1977, when the body of Mrs Irene trict of Chapeltown in Leeds. But when the police needed help after the first few murders they did not receive it from the public. The worst thing that could now happen would be for any police officer, a newly recruited constable or a senior detective on the case to dwell on the few past blunders or be over-sensitive to criticism. Rather like a football team facing relegation from the First Division, the police officers desperately needed a psychological boost to their efforts and the current changes may well do just that. Never before has the public responded in such an overwhelming way with offers of help and information. The sad truth is that when prostitutes were ' being murdered very few members of the public cared to assist the police. People appeared to reason that somehow the deaths of prostitutes did not matter and they did not want to get involved. The worrying change in the pattern of the killings the Guardian referred to a few days ago is that the Ripper is now, although .s8 ckkkmk SKKiK- SKKKKt ttKSSSS JSS QSSSSSi SSSKSK Id M ln HA CLOUTED by the European Court of Human Rights, nagged at over the years by the press and struck down by embarrassing court cases, the politicians and legal civil ser-vants have finally produced a Bill to reform Britain's peculiar law of contempt of court:, it has taken almost ten years. . And although it Is supposed to be a contribution towards a little more free speech in Britain, the Contempt of Court Bill, introduced in the House of Lords yesterday, is bound to face storms. It makes a string of new offences, as well as some relaxation. It was June 1971 when the Heath government set up a committee under Lord Justice Phillhnore to look into contempt, under which courts had been punishing newspapers in a haphazard fashion since 1720. ' While Phillhnore was still coming to its conclusion that the way the law worked was unfair and "contains uncertainties which impede and re strict reasonable freedom of GUARDIAN DIARY Fingers do the walking SHEFFIELD City Council is ruefully considering the effects of Parliamentary procedure on attempts at local government economising. Rules of the House of Commons have just made the summoning of a meeting on local education an unexpectedly' expensive exercise. The meter started ticking when the city's education department needed to get an urgent message about the time and place of the gathering to 10 local MPs. An official dutifully rang 01-219 3000, and asked to be put through to the members or their secretaries in turn. Only one was in, so the caller asked to leave messages for the other nine and this is where the secretarial equivalent of Erskine May, or whatever, intervened. I'm sorry, said the message-taker (and you can see his point with the number of people who bombard and lobby Parliament), we can only take one message per member per call. The upshot? The Sheffield finger obediently dialled 01-219 etc, eight more times and left an identical message for all the remaining MPs. The cost at standard rate on charge band B, as a matter of interest, is four pence per 15 seconds. Sitting on the right . I AM AFRAID that it probably does not count as a ser vice to humanity, but the Diary seems to have played a part in the triumph of the Dreaded Neville Beale. This occurred last week in the Leaderene's constituency of Finchley, where the local Tories met to select a candidate for the Greater London Council elections next May. The Dreaded B began his address to the selectors by reading out a Diary paragraph, which referred to his presence on the short-list and described him as an "intemperate right-winger." Nothing could be better, thought the Leaderene's Finchley assistants, who were also delighted to hear of Mr Beale's attempts to topple Chelsea's "wet" MP. Mr Nicholas Scott. Thus the former Shell executive, whom Putney and Westminster Tories had pre fUlFo) Richardson was discovered by a jogger in a Leeds park. He has also been closely involved on other Ripper murder investigations. He is very popular with the other police officers and may be able to bring a new enthusiasm to the men on the inquiry. Commander Ronald Harvey, who was appointed this month as adviser to the Home Office's chief inspector of constabulary, was the former head of Scotland Yard's criminal intelligence branch. While he was based with Hertfordshire CID he trapped Graham Young, the Hemel Hempstead poisoner. Assistant Chief Constable David Gerty from the West Midlands was the man who investigated the death of Jimmy Kelly on Merseyside. Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Sloan is a former West Yorkshire CID officer who was made the national coordinator of the regional crime squads last year. Deputy Chief Constable Leslie Emment, from the Thames Valley Police, has held every rank in the Metropolitan Police. He joined Thames Valley three SS8S SSSSSm KS3K- Pye Car Radio 4454 Normal Price 29.99 2799 Braun Synchron 2-Way Shaver Mainsrechargeable 27'99 Prestige Slow Cooker L8100 3'A pint capacity 29" Rima Grill 903. 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It was taken in an agreed statement after talks with the Spanish Communist leader, Santiago Carrillo, whose visit to China ended yesterday. Meanwhile, the other new face in the Chinese leadership, Premier Zhao Ziyang, told the visiting Romanian prime minister that China would work with all countries to prevent aggression ' and to safeguard world peace " a concept which the Chinese have not used before without qualification. China's leadership still takes a very gloomy view of the world, and Zhao also said that the year 1980 had been marked " by an increasing danger of war and serious' threats to world peace " with the main threat coming from Moscow. But the commitment to the doctrine of inevitability of world war which had inhibited serious discussion of the alternatives to war has finally been removed. Contrary to general belief, the Chinese did not subscribe 1o this doctrine in the Sixties during their dispute with the Soviet Union. The. argued then that local wars, such as Vietnam, were indeed bound to occur, but that world war could be prevented by standing firm against imperialism which they accused the Russians of failing to do. China also took the view, which it expressed more fiercely during the Cultural Revolution, that the best way to stop a global conflict was to actively promote " revolution" in Third World countries, thus weakening imperialism in what the Chinese saw as the real field of conflict. But when in 1971 the light of revolution faded and the Chinese opened the door to the United States, while at the same time deciding that the Soviet Union was a social-imperialist power, they fell into a doctrinal trap. For if the Russians were imperialists just like the Americans, then once again the world was faced as it had been before the first and second world wars with the prospect of inevitable " conflict according to what Lenin had said about ' imperialist war." As dogma increasingly replaced discussion during the last years of the Cultural Revolution, even senior Chinese diplomats could not budge from this position, or discuss other aspects of international affairs at all flexibly. Only recently has Chinese thinking on foreign policy begun to acknowledge concepts like Eurocommunism referred t o in yesterday's joint statement with Mr Carrillo Though the Soviet Union is still called " social-imperialist " in China, the theoretical heart has gone out of the argument. In an interview published this week in the People's Daily, vice-chairman Deng Xiaoping, called on the Soviet Union to take "concrete actions" to open the door to improved Sino-Soviet relations. He proposed for the first time that a reduction of Soviet troops facing China in Soviet and Mongolian territory to the smaller numbers maintained there while Khrushchev was in power would be regarded by Peking as an acceptable " concrete action." By implication the Chinese leadership now sees the problem of Soviet " hegemonism " purely in terms of the balance of power. The Russians are expansionist not because it is inherent in the " social-imperialist " character of the Soviet state, but because they are stronger. And it is in these terms of "global strategy" that vice-chairman Deng now speaks of the need to maintain the Sino-American relationship as a counter-balance. The Chinese offer includes the pledge that China itself will scale down its armed forces once the two superpowers have, already made a "tangible and substantial reduction" on their own. Peking's proposals, which first began to emerge in 1979 but attracted very little attention, are linked to the more realistic attitude towards the likelihood of world war which Hu Yaobang has now put officially on record, years ago and has also been involved in the policing of Heathrow airport. These men will be helped by one of the country's leading forensic scientists, Stuart Kind, director of the Home Office Central Research establishment at Aldermaston. The men will be arriving in Leeds today and tomorrow for an immediate conference with the Chief Constable end Mr Hobson. Then they wili concentrate on the awesome task of looking back at the investigation to see whether anything has been missed and to suggest any new approach, in particular any unorthodox police methods that have not been tried. The timing of the "think tank" approach could not be better. It comes during the latest murder investigation and when the force has been under severe attack for not getting results. If nothing else the move will certainly concentrate the minds of all policemen so that mistakes and missed chances will probably never happen again. The days of the Yorkshire Ripper may now be numbered. 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Dolby 329'99 Sharp Video Recorder VC7300 Front-loading. 1 2 electronic programme selectors. Auto rewind FREETALKING CLOCK 44999 Philips 22" Teletext THE CAREFUL selection of four senior police officers and a leading forensic scientist to assist the new head of the Ripper inquiry may well quieten the critics. Yet the inquiry is unlikely to change course dramatically. The detectives involved in the five-year-long investigation know that ever since the first murder in Leeds in 1975 every possible line of inquiry has been explored. They know that their strongest hope of detecting the killer, given that no one who actually knows the man comes forward, lies in the latest murder. Detective Superintendent Alf Finley, the man in charge of the latest murder investigation, may have been heavily criticised for his sharp manner at press conferences but he is determined to treat the murder as any other and not have his thoughts clouded by the previous Ripper killings. The police have made mistakes in the past. One police officer actually disturbed the Ripper in the red-light dis- Jim Hobson : ' could bring new enthusiasm ' For a fee of 6 you can join eight seminars at the City university from 6.30 to .8.30 on Wednesday nights. A couple of visits are included in the course, one to the headwaters in Hampstead of the River Fleet and the other, probably, through a currently disused British Railways tunnel from St Pan-eras to Moorgate Station, Grain by the pound DISCUSSION here of the European Parliament game, a sort of political Monopoly which was launched this month in Belgium, has brought in nevs of another educational Christmas present. The Grain Drain, marketed by Christian Aid for the reasonable su,m of 1, brings the realities of the world food market into your living room. This could be just the way to dispel that bloated feeling which turkey and Christmas pudding usually bring, as you fight for a share of the world's grain market and indeed survival. A cunning device divides players into high income countries (which have to get enough grain for beef to avoid social unrest) and low income ones, which simply need enough cereal not to starve. Part of the interest of playing The Grain Drain at Christmas is to see whether mellow and festive feelings can have any effect on the harsh realities of capitalism. You mean well,- indeed more than well, to your little nephew who has got saddled with a low income card. But can you risk -your own survival to guarantee his ? Spend a pound to find out the answer. Mystery on the moors SOME EXTREMELY determined but with due respect, misguided person, is still at large with a rather precious block of slate. It was stolen in an act of arduous and unusual sabotage from the boulders of Little Mis Tor, Dartmoor, this summer. 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For your nearest shop look in your telephone directory or ring Wallhom Don 31988. I i,uu,I.iL i & I rlmirMrl I viously rejected, won the right to sit at Margaret's distinguished side through fete and bazaar. One of the others on the short-list, Miss Sonia Copland, has meanwhile danced happily off from her creaky East Lewisham seat to the safer and nicer-to-Tories pastures of Carshal-ton. Collectors' item PEOPLE are always going on about civil servants, with their index-linked pensions and cups of tea, so it is only fair to pass on the following. In a proxy way the toilers in the ministries are really heroic souls plunging through the foam to rescue sinking ships. A memo bearing this out has been pinned up on Whitehall notice boards in the form of a thank you from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The Civil Service and Post Office lifeboat fund, it says, with many thanks, remains the institution's largest regular contributor. Thirteen of the RNLI's 38 deepsea lifeboats were acquired by the fund, whose collecting activities also pay for most, of the donated boats' maintenance. The Southend inshore lifeboat is another present from the Civil Service and between them the 14 saved 38 lives last year. So far 3,600 people have been saved by the Civil Service and Post Office boats. Collectors in the long corridors meanwhile report few signs of the recession affecting their takings for 1980. 6 Tony Benn's strictures against the media and publishing certainly rang true for a recent visitor to the main branch of W. H. Smith's in Bristol. Arguments for Socialism was neatly shelved, she discovered, under "Science Fiction and Occultism." Plumbing the depths LAST WEEK'S descent into the deep airraid shelters of North London has unearthed the London Subterranean Survey Association. 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