Government hides the truth

If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that's something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can't live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.
Noam Chomsky

Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked. They buy it from the voters, using the voters' own money.
Peter Newman


The Mhlako Triumvirate

Tuesday, March 1, 2011



Whenever our Police  need to oppress the people and they can't find the requisite offence they  fall back on two based on oppressive and outmoded English Laws.
1)   Conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace
2)   Rogue and vagabond
There are many laws  that would appear to be out of line with our Republican Constitution. There are so many of them that the Law Commission does not have the resources to see which can be repealed and which should be retained or amended. In the meantime the Police continue to use these 'useful' catch-all tools. Unfortunately, most of those who are arrested by the Police are unaware of their rights and those who do understand find that they will be burdened with massive legal charges to obtain their freedom or claim damages from the State.
The photograph of me in the hands of the Police that appears on my blog in the right column relates to a peaceful demonstration that was illegally broken up by the Police before it could really begin.
The photo at the head of the blog is not one that people are so familiar with. Here's the story. Large numbers of demonstrators had collected at the Old Town Hall ready to march. I informed the crowd that I was sure that the Police would open fire and release tear gas. My instructions were that they should not run away but just lie flat until the gas cleared. I took the first step and all hell broke loose. Gunshots and tear gas. Following my own advice I lay down and waited for the smoke to drift away. And when I looked up there were only six of us left - Emmie Chanika, Rev. Gunya, Ian Nankhuni, Kamuzu Chibambo, an anonymous Catholic lay brother and me. Everyone else fled only to be attacked by a mob of UDF hooligans (assisted by the Police) hiding in ambush.
In the photo the Police are putting Emmie into the Land Rover, Rev Gunya and Ian Nankhuni were also arrested. The Police then attempted to arrest the three of us who remained. Kamuzu refused saying he was a lawyer and knew his rights. The Catholic brother escaped their attention. Then they tried to arrest me. I demanded to know why I was being arrested. I was told "We'll tell you at the Police Station." to which I replied that I would not go unless I was given the reason there and then. Eventually the policeman lost the struggle - with a gun in  one hand and a 98kg man in the other it was too much for him..
Chanika, Gunya and Nankhuni were taken to Blantyre Police where they were charged with - what else - conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace. The truth is, of course, that the Police breached the peace! They were released, bailed on their own surety. The Polcie were happy that they had used (abused) the law to remove leaders from the street. Some ten years later the case has yet to come to court!
The Police continue to rely on these 'elastic' provisions as tools. Unfortunately, they get away with it. But it does not enhance their reputation as a SERVICE.
For those of you who would like to look into the matter further read on. I have not attempted to paraphrase. Full links are give for deeper reading:

Arrest at Common Law for Breach of the Peace

A breach of the peace is not in itself a criminal offence, but the police and any other person have a power of arrest where there are reasonable grounds for believing a breach of the peace is taking place or is imminent. The Court of Appeal defined a breach of the peace as being ‘an act done or threatened to be done which either actually harms a person, or in his presence, his property, or is likely to cause such harm being done’ – see R v Howell. This power of arrest will, of course, be closely scrutinised in connection with Article 5 (the right to liberty and security), Article 10 (the right to freedom of expression) and Article 11 (the right to freedom of assembly and association).
DefaultVagrancy Laws
Vagrants Laws

Are you an “idle and disorderly person”, “rogue or vagabond”, or “incorrigible rogue”? If so, the Poor Laws passed from the late sixteenth century were there to make sure you were punished or controlled. If you fell on hard times in a strange place you could be imprisoned then sent back to your place of settlement, after having to explain to the local authorities how you came to be there.

A vagabond or “drifter” is an itinerant person. The word is derived from the Latin adjective vagabundus, “inclined to wander”, from the verb vagor, “wander”. It does not denote a member of a nomadic people, but rather an individual who follows a wandering lifestyle within a sedentary society. Such people may be called drifters, tramps, or rogues. A vagabond is characterized by almost continuous travelling, lacking a fixed home, temporary abode, or permanent residence. Vagabonds are not bums, as bums are not known for travelling, preferring to stay in one location.[1]
In the law of England, the Vagrancy Act 1824 provides that “every person wandering abroad and lodging in any barn or outhouse, or in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart or waggon, [...] and not giving a good account of himself or herself [...] shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond,” and may be imprisoned for up to three months on conviction by a magistrate.[2] This act is still in force, though extensively amended by subsequent legislation. The expression nevertheless goes much further back in English law: following the Peasants' Revolt, constables were authorised under a 1383 statute[citation needed] to apprehend vagabonds and force them to show their means of support; if they could not, they were jailed.[3]


Vagrancy is the state of homelessness, vagabondage. Formerly, in English law the term was applied to various classes of idle and disorderly persons. The principal Act in this connexion was the Vagrancy Act, 1824, extended in certain directions by Vagrancy Acts of 1838, 1873, and 1878, and further amended by the Casual Poor Act, 1882, and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1912.
Three classes of vagrants were recognized by the law: (1) Idle and disorderly persons ; (2) rogues and vagabonds ; (3) incorrigible rogues. The sentence on conviction varied from one month for the first class, to one year's imprisonment for the third.
This is the section for disorderly conduct in Pennsylvania.

5503. Disorderly conduct. (From an American Police Website)

(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
(1)engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior;
(2)makes unreasonable noise;
(3)uses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
(4)creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.

Absurd Vagrancy Act must go

Young Bailey, June 3rd 2005
In England, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Houses of Parliament passed four acts to "cope" specifically with the issue of "vagrancy" - in 1824, 1838, 1898 and 1935. All of these acts of parliament have now, sensibly, been repealed. That is, apart from the oldest one. It is 2005 and in England, legislation that is almost 200 years old and unbearably connected to the prejudices and misconceptions of a previous age, is alive and well: the Vagrancy Act 1824. The 1824 legislation would almost be poetic if it were not so absurd. Its purpose is to "punish idle and disorderly persons, and rogues and vagabonds". Those people who "beg in a public place", who "refuse to maintain themselves", are deemed to be idle and disorderly. To be "idle and disorderly" is a criminal offence and could result in a fine. Individuals who have already been castigated as "idle and disorderly" and then go on to "wander abroad", "lodge in the open air, or under a tent" or "endeavour to expose their wounds or deformities to gather alms", are incorrigible rogues and vagabonds, of course. However, if a person can "give a good account of himself or herself" then all may be forgiven, but failure to do so could mean, in 2005, a three-month prison sentence. More important than a possible prison sentence under this law, perhaps, is that within English law, an "idle and disorderly person" can be branded a criminal. I am often idle and frequently disorderly and I quite enjoy lodging under a tent. Only very rarely can I give a good account of myself. Under our law, I think that makes me a criminal

The next link is a facsimile of the original English Vagrancy law. Be warned - it is about 400 kb and will not suit a slow connection. 

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