The UK’s largest child abuse inquiry, Fracking, Operation Yewtree and Banning the Burqa are just some of the trending UK topics explored by Rachel Barr in Pandeia’s inaugaral overview of the weekly mainstream and student news.
THE UK MEDIA have this week turned their attention to the pre-trial of well known British entertainment figures accused of sexual abuse, indecent assault and rape. The accused included TV personality Rolf Harris, former Radio One DJ Dave Lee Travis and Coronation Street Actor William Roache, who stood before Crown Courts today as a progression of Scotland Yard’s ‘Operation Yewtree’.
Courts were told of how Travis ‘opportunistically’ targeted ‘vulnerable’ young women – including once live on “Top of the Pops”; that Harris allegedly assaulted different young women over an almost 20 year period; and that Roache, who has been accused of two counts of rape and five counts of indecent assault, purportedly assaulted a 14 year old girl before sending her a signed photograph as a ‘sort of grooming’.
The investigations, which have identified over 600 potential victims, stemmed from widespread allegations against the now deceased personality Jimmy Savile in 2012 but have since spread independently to inquiries into the past of the ‘stars’ on trial later this year. All three men deny the allegations.
ACROSS THE WATER in Northern Ireland, the biggest public inquiry into child abuse ever held in the UK has began. The hearing is examining claims made against 13 children’s homes and borstals run by the state, voluntary organizations and the Catholic church. The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry will investigate stories of abuse from over 434 people affected by injustices spanning over 70 years, with the allegations covering offences of childhood neglect as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
PRIME MINISTER David Cameron brought Fracking back to the foreground at the beginning of this week, in his announcement that money from proposed shale gas enterprises would go back into local communities. His predictions indicate that the schemes would bring economically disadvantaged areas benefits such as 74,000 new jobs and a reduction in energy bills. Critics of the scheme have called to question hidden disadvantages, including traffic congestion, the destruction of natural landscapes and environmental issues like water contamination and earth tremors. Greenpeace have called the initiative out as the ‘bribery’ of local councils.
THE BURQA, as a poll for tabloid The Sun found 61% of British people surveyed would be in favour of a ban. Writing for The Student Journals, Rory Tingle argued that the ban would turn “the law into a weapon of intolerance, fill up courtrooms with unnecessary cases and cause violence in our streets”.
The existing ban in France is used as a case in point, where Tingle argues the new law has actually bred greater intolerance, with Muslim women reporting a rise in physical and verbal abuse as “racial bigots see their opinions represented in law”. This – Tingle stresses – should persuade Britain “of the need not to follow the French example”.
This argument is continued from a more personal stance by Tayyabah Iqbal for King’s (London) Roar! who herself wears a face veil. Calling out Birmingham Metropolitan College’s consideration to ‘ban the burqa’ from its institution in 2013 (a proposal which was met with considerable protests and was then scrapped), Iqbal emphasises the agency and free choice of women wearing face veils as “the outward manifestation of someone’s inner faith, which is inextricably linked to their identity”.
She concludes that a “country which prides itself on freedom of expression should embrace these women acting of their own agency…To refuse these women access to universities is to deny an entire community their voice”.
HEAD TO HEAD: Newspapers react to Duggan Verdict
ANOTHER CONTROVERSIAL TRIAL came to its completion this week when UK courts ruled that London resident Mark Duggan was ‘lawfully killed’ by police. The shooting sparked riots throughout the country in 2011, and the debate over his death has since carried on in the mainstream media. Richard Littlejohn writing in the Daily Mail described how ‘mob rule’ had ‘invaded’ the courtroom, where Duggan’s supporters and ‘fan club’ had “screamed abuse and threatened members of the jury, who had to be smuggled out of a back door for their own safety”. Littejohn argues that the ‘threatened’ jury — comprised of seven women and three men from North London — “didn’t buy into the ‘lovable’ Mark Duggan myth perpetuated by his supporters and the gullible Left-wing media”.
In contrast, Stafford Scott writing in The Guardian paints a picture less of a “Mob” and more of a bereaved family “struggling to understand how the shooting of an unarmed man can still be deemed a lawful act”. He goes on to pose the question that as the “jury themselves stated that it was their belief that Duggan had thrown the gun before being fatally shot, where was the immediate, clear and present danger?”
Furthermore Al Sharpton more explicitly argues against Littlejohn’s accusation of “Mob rule” chanting by defending the protests as “a peaceful mechanism by which we raise our discontent. And it is a way to expose inequality that would otherwise be ignored.
Sharpton concludes: “The world may come with unjust decisions, but it our job to ensure we never remain silent in the face of oppression. Instead, we must march and continue to raise our voices nonviolently just as the revered Dr King taught us all. No justice, no peace.