All decent minded people were shocked and horrified at the murder of 6 year old Alesha McPhail in the early hours of Monday morning. The fact it happened in Rothesay on the island of Bute, a place most Scottish people associate with summer days out and the last place you would expect bad things to happen intensified that.
But there was one person who saw this not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to further their hateful agenda. That person was, of course, right wing Uber-troll Katie Hopkins.
Hopkins immediately sought to link the murder of this little girl with the fact that, in 2015, 24 refugee families from Syria settled on the island. There is absolutely no reason to think any of these individuals was in any way responsible for this crime. Hopkins then posted an article implying a correlation between the arrival of the refugees and a 29% increase in sex crimes. At first glance this might seem a worrying and compelling statistic but upon closer inspection it falls apart for several reasons.
1. The statistics apply to Argyle & Bute Council, an area that encompasses over 80,000 people of which the island of Bute makes up barely 8% of the population.
2. The relatively large percentage rise between the two years quoted is mainly due to an unusual reduction in the first year, and over a wider period of time numbers of sex crimes have remained relatively constant.
3. The time period she quotes the refugee families didn’t actually arrive until the very end of the year and the vast majority of these crimes were committed before their arrival.
As an island with a falling population, the settlement of Syrian families has been an overwhelmingly positive thing for Bute. Upon their arrival locals ran welcoming committees to help what must’ve been a difficult transition from Damascus to Rothesay. There may have been trepidation from some local people initially but that seems to have subsided and three years on former Refugees have opened a barbershop and a patisserie on the island.
Today a graffiti artist summed up the feelings of Scotland rather succinctly:
We at Left Ungagged would like to echo that sentiment and categorically state that Scotland Welcomes Refugees and we agree that we would like Katie Hopkins to GTF.
Last week a 78-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder after a suspected burglar was stabbed to death. The man, Richard Osborn-Brooks, discovered two intruders in his home South-East London in the early hours of the morning. One of the intruders was armed with a screwdriver and forced Mr Osborn Brooks into his kitchen where a struggle ensued and the intruder was stabbed. He was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead several hours later. The police, faced with a dead body and a man admitting to stabbing him, not surprisingly arrested Mr Osborn-Brooks on suspicion of murder.
This provoked a furious backlash in the tabloid press and some sections of the public. The Sun declared Mr Osborn-Brooks to be a hero and a GoFundMe page raising thousands of pounds for his legal defence was set up, one excited supporter on Facebook even declared that Mr Osborn-Brooks “deserves a medal” for his actions.
Within 48 hours, the police investigated the circumstances of the death and released a statement saying that Mr Osborn-Brooks would face no charges. You would think the tabloids would be happy with this turn of events as the police seemingly agreed with them that, given the circumstances of having his home invaded and being physically attacked, Mr Osborn-Brooks response was justified even if that caused the death of the intruder. However the tabloid press fury was undiminished declaring that Mr Osborn-Brooks should never have been arrested in the first place.
This was a tragic event, the elderly man and his wife suffered the trauma of having their home invaded and now he has to live with the guilt of having taken a life. We may not feel much sympathy for a man who sought to terrorise two pensioners but there will be a family mourning him.
The right wing press love to write stories about how the legal system and the courts are bias towards the criminal as part of their endless quest to terrify people, and by dropping the charges in this case the police undermined that narrative.
The legal position in these situations is that you can use reasonable force to protect yourself. As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence. You are given greater protection under the law if force is used to protect yourself or others when dealing with a burglar. England’s Crown Prosecution Service says if you act in reasonable self-defence and the intruder dies you will still have acted lawfully. What is it that the right wing press find objectionable in that position? Do we really want to give free pass to someone who tortures an alleged burglar to death?
A crime was committed, a man lost his life, the police looked into the circumstances and found this elderly man was justified in using deadly force to protect himself. For once the system worked – don’t let the right wing press tell you otherwise.
David was born in Rutherglen Maternity Hospital in Glasgow in 1982 and spent most of his life in Cambuslang. He never left Glasgow but in 1995 Glasgow left him when local authority reorganisation rezoned Rutherglen & Cambuslang into the newly created South Lanarkshire.
David has always been political, one of his earliest political memories is being woken up by his Nana the morning after the 1987 UK General Election and being heartbroken to hear Labour had lost. At Primary School when he received homework that required him to use the word “witch” in a sentence he wrote “Maggie Thatcher is a witch”. Such was the political atmosphere of the time instead of receiving a reprimand from his teacher he received a gold star.
At 18, David joined the Scottish Socialist Party eventually becoming Secretary of the Rutherglen, Cambuslang & Blantyre branch. In 2009 he travelled on a SSP delegation to Cuba as guests of the Cuban Communist Party. He have also been actively involved with the pro Independence movement having been involved with both “Yes Rutherglen” and a founding member of “Yes Blantyre”. In 2015 he resigned from the SSP in protest at their affiliation with RISE. His intention to step back from politics lasted a year when he joined the Scottish Green Party in the wake of the UK’s vote on Brexit. David is currently CoConvenor of the South Lanarkshire Greens.
After studying Immunology & Microbiology at Strathclyde University he changed career direction and has spent most of his career working in Social Care. From 2008-2014 David worked with Turning Point Scotland, with individuals with a history of homelessness and addiction and still retain an interest in these issues. David also has an interest in Carer issues, being a carer for his mother in 2013 after the death of my stepfather in the Clutha Disaster. David currently lives in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire with his mother, Margaret, his wife Caroline and their two daughters Molly & Megan.
Some of David’s other interests in no particular order are, Celtic Football Club, Lamb Tikka, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pro Wrestling, Game of Thrones, vodka, The Roman Empire, The Rocky Horror Show and stand-up comedy.