HORNSEY coroner's court in London has come up with a worrying innovation. It is the first court in Britain to record a verdict of 'suicide by cop'. Michael Malsbury was killed by a police gunman after a siege at his home in November 2001. The inquest decided he had tried to get himself shot.
Coroner William Dolman offered the jury the chance to record a verdict of suicide, asking them 'particularly to bear in mind the words 'suicide by cop''. The phrase comes from the US. Deborah Coles of campaigning organisation Inquest said:
'Common sense says this was not suicide. He was shot dead by the police. How can that be suicide? It might well be lawful killing but it was not suicide. It is an extremely dangerous precedent.'
There are signs that the verdict may be sought more regularly in the future. A recent review of 24 police shootings by the Police Complaints Authority claimed 'self harm or suicidal intentions arose in 12 out of 24 cases (including seven of the 11 fatalities)'.
PREMIER Detention Services, who run the Dungavel detention centre for asylum seekers, have plumbed new depths. They have fined a mother for 'offences' including sneaking food into her cell to feed her two children. The company will fine Fatima Jailana Muse, an asylum seeker from Somalia, her entire weekly allowance of £3.50. The government now pays £270 million a year more in subsidies to the private companies that run Britain's railway system than it paid to British Rail before it was privatised.
A vote winner for the Republicans
GEORGE BUSH seems set to use the same methods that were used to put him in the White House when he stands for re-election as president of the US. Remember how the key vote in US state of Florida depended on punch card machines?
Now the head of the company that is hoping to sell voting machines in the state of Ohio has told Bush's Republican Party in a recent fundraising letter that he is 'committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year'.
Forced to fight for rights
NEARLY 40,000 American troops destined for Iraq are not US citizens. Many of them are poor Latino immigrants who are resident in the US. They hope to speed up their citizenship claims. According to the US Department of Defence, 'The military services have processes in place to help service members expedite their citizenship. The estimated time for application is about six months.' That is far less than for civilians who have to wait several years.
More cash down the drain
EVEN MORE public money is to be spent on the ludicrously expensive Portcullis House, the new office block built for MPs. Water fountains in the atrium are to be dug up and replaced only three years after they were first installed at a cost of £100,000. Apparently self-cleaning chemicals in the water have corroded the concrete. Some £234 million has already been spent on Portcullis House, which includes £150,000 of taxpayers' money spent on 12 fig trees leased for five years.
Tasting their own medicine
THREE GERMAN police officers couldn't rely on the stock defence of discrediting witnesses when they were charged with beating up protesters recently. Two of the protesters they assaulted when they moved in to smash up a demonstration were themselves undercover plainclothes officers. The court case revealed that the two undercover officers were observing a demonstration from a car park. They were dressed in 'scene' clothing-black hooded tops.
A drunken man threw a beer can towards the police officers. It hit no one. But the police waded in attacking people indiscriminately. The three officers who attacked their colleagues were each given 12-month suspended sentences. The presiding judge, Thomas Semprich, phoned the defence team during the trial to advise them to change their strategy. He wanted the officers to plead guilty so that he could give them sentences of less than 12 months, which would have meant that they could remain in the police force. So much for the independence of the judiciary.
The hidden health costs of bullets
THE PENTAGON has recently given another demonstration of its commitment to environmentalism. It has asked Alliant, which is the world's largest manufacturer of ammunition, to develop lead-free bullets for use by US troops in combat. According to Bob DiMichele, a spokesperson for the US army's 'environmental centre', says, 'This is not a fire and forget kind of thing. Eventually, we have to pay somebody to go out there and clean up that lead. With lead bullets there is a cost in health, human safety and clean-up.'
It must be very reassuring for civilians in Iraq to know that soon they may be gunned down by troops using 'environmentally friendly' bullets. They will also be extremely pleased to hear that there is no danger of all that poisonous lead getting mixed up with the radioactive depleted uranium.
IN THIS WEEK - Snapshots from history - Thirty five years ago
1968 The first issue of Socialist Worker was printed. It carried the headline 'No Retreat! Engineers Can Smash Pay Freeze'. An article condemned the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The back page carried reports from workplaces and campaigns sent in by activists around the country.
'I am not in dispute with the Sun on this week's coverage.'
DAVID BLUNKETT, New Labour's home secretary on the Sun's week-long asylum-bashing series
'The pressures on the leader's time are enormous. Pray that IDS will have sufficient time to think and rest.'
The Conservative Christian Fellowship in their weekly e-mail prayer for Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith
'People urge me to get rid of this right wing government as quickly as possible. But when I explain that we can't do anything before the elections they look at me as if I was a bastard.'
FRANCOIS HOLLANDE leader of France's opposition Socialist Party
'These judges are mad twice over! First, because they are politically that way, and second because they are mad anyway. To do that job you need to be mentally disturbed. If they do that job they are anthropologically different.'
SILVIO BERLUSCONI Italy's right wing prime minister on the judiciary