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Life Update: Luxembourg, birthday, work, court

It's been a very busy few weeks here, with no sign that work is going to ease off before Xmas (or before the arrival of Garklet #2), but I ought to make an effort to at least record what's been going on with my life.

After the failed trip to Stornoway last month, the candidate and his supervisor came down to Southampton (they were in London for a meeting) for a second attempt at a viva, and I'm delighted to say that he defended his PhD well.

On the 6th, I headed off to Luxembourg for the kick-off meeting for a new EU-funded project that I'm involved with. Travelling on a Sunday wasn't quite the way I'd wanted to support UCU's work-to-contract, but this was unavoidable. Still made to feel guilty by check-in at Heathrow; when told that I was travelling on business, they wanted to know why I was travelling on a Sunday. Well, quite.

The hotel I'd booked turned out to be reasonable, but the area was less so (by the railway station). My keen colleague N had booked his hotel a few weeks before I had, and had managed to choose a hotel that was given an average score of 2/5 on TripAdvisor (most frequent comment: "I would never stay here again"). I picked the hotel over the road (average score of 3/5), and was generally pleased, but the proximity to three strip clubs was less than desirable.

Had a good time on my birthday the following weekend. Didn't get a pub lunch (due to trip to the big B&Q), but ended up seeing The Ides of March (v. good, much recommended) and Chris Addison's warm-up gig in New Milton. Now have boxed sets of The Prisoner and Twin Peaks to work through in my spare time, ha ha.

Work is still busy, but highlights have included my teaching on the hypertext module and my two new PhD students. Hypertext was what attracted me to Southampton back in the mid-90s, so it's been fun teaching this. This is my second year teaching this module, and I took the opportunity to radically revamp the material from that I'd inherited. The lecture on hypertext narrative went down particularly well, as did that on the history of hypertext.

As part of the Web Science doctoral training centre, I have two new PhD students, neither of them traditional computer scientists. One is a teacher who is studying the myth of the digital native, and the other is a cuneiform paleographer. Yes, I've spent part of the last month looking at tablets and familiarising myself with Sumerian grammar and orthography - not the usual.

In other news, I didn't have to appear at Westminster Magistrate's Court on Wednesday. As some of you may know, ias, the garklet and I went on the TUC protest march on the 26th March, and ended up in Fortnum and Mason (for a post-march ice cream for the youngster to reward him for putting up with us) at the time that UKUncut occupied the building. We were there when the fighting kicked off outside, but left by the back door (the front door having been closed by the police) before the non-UKUncut lot outside broke in. When we found out that the police had arrested the UKUncut protesters (who were being "non-violent and sensible", to quote the senior police officer on the scene, and who were doing nothing more than chanting "pay your taxes") but not the lot who were smashing things up outside, we were more than a little disappointed, to say the least.

Over the summer, I found out that the son of one of my colleagues was one of the protesters who had been arrested on a charge of aggravated trespass, and so I offered to make a statement in his defence. The case came to trial a week and a half ago, and I was originally to have appeared as a defence witness, but the defence considered that the prosecution case had been so poorly made (see the quote from the police officer above, called as a prosecution witness) that it wasn't worth calling witnesses of their own. Unfortunately, DJ Snow found against the ten defendents, so it looks like I may be called when the case goes to appeal (and possibly for the trial of the remaining twenty protesters).

In other news, I'm getting really rather depressed by the state of the nation; having screwed over the Universities, targetted the most vulnerable in society with their welfare reforms, and initiated the privatisation of the NHS and the school system, the coalition is now killing off publicly-owned social housing by reviving and accelerating the madness of right-to-buy. "Lower than vermin", as Aneurin Bevan rightly put it (and I very much doubt whether he would have distinguished between today's Tories and Lib Dems in this estimation).

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I think politics and government needs to be reinvented.

I must have critically failed my paying attention role as I had no idea a second garklet was en route. Congratulations to all three (four?) of you and good luck!

Thanks - I spilled the beans on Facebook a few months back, but don't think that I said anything here.

That explains it then, since I don't do farcebook.

I'm not sure how your "statement in his defence" would do anything for his defence. Mitigation, maybe, but I don't see any defence here. And the mitigation was already entirely successful. That's why they're back home.

While getting arrested is not the _point_ of civil disobedience, it is entirely within expectations that you'll be arrested and convicted. Agg. Trespass is pretty easy to prove, the police officers knew perfectly well that they had no need to characterise the protesters other than as "non-violent and sensible" since they weren't charging affray or any other crime which that supposition would contradict.

And Joint Enterprise is easy to prove too. No specific individual need to be proved to have done anything, if it can be established that it was done by the group and that the individual charged, a member of that group, would have reasonably foreseen that it might be done (e.g. Joint enterprise murder for shooting a guard during an armed robbery). A group of people agreed to trespass (in Fortnum & Mason) knowing they may interfere with lawful activity (shopping) carrying on there, and some of them do so. Joint Enterprise Agg. Trespass. Guilty.

Well, given that a charge of aggravated trespass required the prosecution to demonstrate that the protesters had intended to intimidate those in F+M, my evidence was that not only had they not intimidated me, but also that I did not view their actions as having had the intent of intimidating me.

(those outside who broke in later are a different matter, but the UKUncut protesters were not intimidating)

No, the description I gave is 68(1)(b) as amended -- you're looking at 68(1)(a). It's not necessary to show that anyone at all was intimidated or even that there was an intention to intimidate in order to rely on 68(1)(b) or (c)

Keep in mind the purpose for which this law (before amendment) was written. It's to shut down hunt sabs. The hunt sabs just want to wreck the hunt. Some hunt sabs were into intimidation (e.g. threats to injure the hunting animals, or the hunters) but other preferred to just cause disruption. So that's what Agg. Trespass prohibits. The amendment was necessary because it's so laser-focused on hunt sabs it doesn't work inside buildings as originally written, they had to remove this restriction to use it on other protests.

The main way to avoid being charged Agg. Trespass as a protester is to protest on the streets, or (on the rare occasion this is convenient) on land where you have the landowner's permission. You might get away with trespasses that can't really inconvenience anyone, e.g. occupying unused floors of a government building to highlight wasted inner city space, but you'd need careful legal advice.

That project sounds fascinating. And having now discovered that your course slides are downloadable I'll be reading them later - thanks!

I was just going to say the same -- a really interesting EU project. I hope it pans out well.

Great. Because less social housing is EXACTLY what this country needs.

And with local authorities under massive financial pressure, they can't really afford to build/buy more social housing, and oh look, the Government took away the powers that allowed them to seize empty properties and bring them back into use. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12127328

This is a license to print money for slum landlords, and will end up costing LAs more in housing benefit and in payments to hostels and B&Bs as homeless numbers increase.
"Fatman's got something to sell / to the capital's homeless
A Crossroads Motel / for the no fixed aboders"

I have no idea what the definition of "aggravated trespass" is, but I don't have much sympathy for the people that occupied F&M. Very hard to argue that chanting isn't threatening. It's also blatantly class-ist, no one was "occupying" google (just across the park), despite them being grossly worse offenders. F&M are quite an ethical company, as they go, even though they don't shout about it, c.f. Co-op / John Lewis — not that there's anything wrong with either of them.

UK gov't is truly a mess. I actually though the Lib Dems might have some positive impact, but they're just another bunch of bloody politicians.

I stayed in the Mercure in Luxembourg, also near the station, but there's nothing really wrong with it. The EC building is impressively low-key though, gratifying that they're not blowing public money on extravagant headquarters, unlike certain UK organisations I could mention.

I was in the All Seasons, just round the corner from the Mercure. Confusingly, it used to be a Mercure hotel.

The EC building I was in was Euroforum, which is out on an industrial park. While their building is not extravagant, the taxi fares in Lux make up for it, alas. EUR37 for a fifteen minute ride from the Airport?

The one I was at was out in an industrial park too, near a big ugly car dealership.

Bus form the station to EC is pretty cheap, but yeah taxis are not a bargain there.

This was the same (dis)organisation that occupied Topshop; they haven't just concerned themselves with posh grocers. I suspect the main reason that F+M was targetted was because they were on Piccadilly, and therefore on the route of the TUC march.

So, a combination of ignorance and laziness.

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