It is easy to wonder ‘What is the purpose of Parliament’ these days, when all they seem to do is conduct a childish haranguing match over the dispatch box. John Hemming MP has today reminded us that the whole purpose of Parliament was to be able to redress the grievances of individual citizens when all other routes have failed them.
John Hemming, ever a supporter of those whose voice has been silenced by an array of legal means, has used his parliamentary privilege once again to throw light on a bizarre case of cyber bullying. Yesterday afternoon he presented a petition to Parliament which, although not read out on the floor of Parliament, has now been reported by Hansard; thus allowing us to discuss the case, in so far as it is so reported.
Regular readers will be aware that my first experience of the Blogosphere was as a moderator on a busy news site at the time that Madeline McCann went missing. I quickly formed the opinion, which has remained unshakeable to this day, that many of those who gathered on the various forums which sprung up to discuss the case, had done so because their interest was in discussing paedophilia rather than any concern for Madeleine’s fate. The case allowed them to discuss their various fantasies under the guise of ‘imagining’ what might have happened to Madeleine. That there are still many such devious individuals around on the Internet is the subject of much hand wringing in the media, nowhere more so than in the US.
The case which John Hemming has shone a light on by way of petition, concerns a blog site to discuss the American ‘goth’ rock group Evanescence, from ex-US President Bill Clinton’s home town of Little Rock, Arkansas. A British member of that site became concerned that the site was hosting material of a potentially criminal nature, including drug offences and the far more serious one of attempting ‘to procure the suicide of a teenage girl’. The response of the site to requests to remove the material was to hire the glossy celebrity London law firm of Schillings, who in turn produced a contract which allegedly prevented the petitioner from reporting the offences, and further, required that the petitioner ‘interfere’ with other potential witnesses.
Incensed, the petitioner investigated further and discovered another site, run by (now) former employees of the rock group leader, Amy Lee, were publishing material including:
‘a story about sexual offences against a physically disabled male minor and cartoons with pre-teens in lawful poses but with sexualised captions, including sexual activity with animals and one caption regarding a toddler consuming human faeces. […] and further that the Petitioner also has grounds to reasonably suspect the persons concerned of also circulating illegal child pornography including photographs.’
Not surprisingly, he was alarmed that such people should have ready access as ‘moderators’ on a web site to young children who were fans of the rock group. Despite regular correspondence with those responsible for the web site, the material has not been removed, and last November three MPs placed an Early Day Motion before Parliament in obscure terms requesting that this British citizen be allowed to report the alleged criminal offences. To date, Schillings, acting on behalf of Amy Lee and her manager Andrew Lurie of 110 Management, have not acquiesced.
Hence the bizarre petition attached to the Family Justice (Transparency, Accountability and Cost of Living) Bill, presented to Parliament yesterday. It will be of particular interest to US readers from that land of freedom of expression, perhaps unused to finding that they have access to information via the country more usually known as ‘Libel Control Central’!
Parliamentary privilege has been put to some strange uses before, perhaps none more so than to permit a British citizen to report potential offences against children in the US.
Well done John Hemming!
*Do please retweet to any American acquaintances!