Sometimes I rub my eyes at what I read from the Mail/Express (I wonder if there isn't some handy way of combining the two into a portmanteau of evil - maybe "Exprail" will do; I'll think about it more later) and seriously have to wonder if I'm actually seeing what I'm seeing.
Sometimes, in my more paranoid moments, I wonder if they create completely loony stories which are only accessible from my ISP, so that I unwittingly write about what a bunch of evil right-wing scumbags they are and they say: "Aha! But it was never on the internet at all! And now we're going to rape you with a cactus until you die!" and then the Tales of the Unexpected Music fades into eerie silence. So do me a favour and pop over to the Express website. Have a look at this little beauty here. Is it still there? Is it really saying what I think it's saying? Because from where I'm sitting - and I've stuck needles in my arms to make sure I really am awake and this isn't some bizarre dream - it says
THE CONVERT TO TERROR
about a man who has been arrested but not charged with any offence. Just up the road from me, as it happens, but that's beside the point.
Surely, I must be wrong. Surely, I must be hallucinating this. This can't actually be happening. A newspaper can't really be condemning someone of a crime, without having even spoken to him or seen any evidence, while the police - who actually can see all the evidence and have interviewed him at length, I would suspect - still haven't even charged him. Surely that isn't the way round things happen. Is it? It is? I must be going mad. Where did I miss the bit where you're allowed to say people have committed crimes without them having actually been convicted of committing crimes? Where's that? I must have missed that memo.
There's a second element to this that needs to be looked at as well. 'The convert to terror' is a spectacularly appalling and disgraceful headline for more reasons than simply accusing someone of a crime before due process has taken place. There's much worse. Because the suspect, Andrew Ibrahim, is a convert to Islam. Essentially - and I don't think I'm going too far in suggesting this - Islam = terror, at least in the eyes of the Express.
Because all we know is that Ibrahim has converted to Islam. We don't know if he's involved in terror at all. We know that people have blown things up in house, well so what? Forest Gate ring any bells to anyone? No? Remember how The Sun (whose headline was the restrained and intelligent FIND THE CHEMICAL BOMB), and others, were completely convinced, thanks to a nudge and a wink from plod in return for a brown envelope, that the Forest Gate men were a terrorist cell?
But no, according to the Express, arrest = guilty. Arrest = terrorist. Oh, but what's this?
Home Office statistics - UK police terrorism arrest statistics (excluding Northern Ireland) from 11 September 2001 – 31 March 2007
A total of 1228 arrests were made:
1165 arrests under the Terrorism Act 2000
63 arrests under legislation other than the Terrorism Act, where the investigation was conducted as a terrorist investigation
Of the total 1228 arrested:
132 charged with terrorism legislation offences only
109 charged with terrorism legislation offences and other criminal offences
195 charged under other legislation including murder, grievous bodily harm, firearms, explosives offences, fraud, false documents
76 handed over to immigration authorities
15 on police bail awaiting charging decisions
1 warrant issued for arrest
1 dealt with under youth offending procedures
11 dealt with under mental health legislation
4 transferred to Police Service of Northern Ireland custody
2 remanded in custody awaiting extradition proceedings
669 released without charge
1 awaiting further investigation
Of those charged:
41 Terrorism Act convictions to date
183 convicted under other legislation: murder and explosives offences (including conspiracies), grievous bodily harm, firearms offences, fraud, false documents offences, etc (this includes the 12 cautions detailed above)
114 at or awaiting trial
Why, those figures would appear to show that terrorism arrests are wrong 50% of the time, wouldn't it? What makes the Express so sure about this one?
THE BRITISH Muslim convert being questioned by police over a suburban bomb factory was last night exposed as a disturbed loner with a serious drug problem.
The details emerged as a team of Army bomb disposal experts carried out controlled explosions on three “suspect” devices at the Bristol home of Andrew Ibrahim.
Yes, but where's the smoking gun? Where's the evidence to back up that this man is a convert to 'terror'? Where's the evidence of 'terror'? Have these 'suspect' devices, or the remnants of them, been analysed, and if so, what has been found? Have explosives been discovered?
Yesterday as some locals remained at a nearby hotel, a picture began to emerge of the spiky-haired and pierced techno fan who had turned to Islam “to find salvation”.
Trans = 'we looked up his Myspace profile'.
Ibrahim’s profile on the social networking website MySpace carries a picture of him with dyed red hair and facial piercings. It lists his favourite music as hardcore, trance and techno and his heroes include former WWF wrestling champion Mick Foley and Hollywood actor Edward Norton. He describes himself as straight and says he does not smoke or drink.
Neighbours said he was a heavily built man who wore traditional Muslim dress and carried a preacher’s satchel. Others said they had to confront him over “loud chanting” music blasting from his house. Family liaison officers last night escorted Mr Ibrahim senior to his home but he refused to discuss his son.
Oh, they (or probably some locust-infested news agency or some local hack on a retainer) have doorstepped a few neighbours as well. And exposed the shocking truth of... playing loud music. Wow, you wouldn't imagine that from a 19-year-old, would you?
He is understood to have slept at the St George’s House hostel in Bristol for troubled teenagers, where he was undergoing treatment on a drug rehabilitation scheme.
Who told you that? If it's someone who works there, I hope the cunt's getting their P45 on Monday.
Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Roberts confirmed that Ibrahim was not arrested at his house. She said: “I cannot rule out that he was acting alone or that there won’t be further arrests.”
So essentially, we don't know. No-one appears to know anything. I'm sure the 'intelligence' that drove this operation was of a solid and important kind, not some neighbour with a grudge against a Muslim who played loud music and thought the best way to sort it out was not to go to the council but report him to plod for being a terrorist - well, they all are, aren't they? Especially when 'convert to Islam' has become 'convert to terror' for the Express.
Of course if it does turn out that this kid was involved in something - when we actually have evidence of that, rather than a nod and a wink for a few quid from PC Bent - then the law must take over, and he has the right to a fair trial. And if it does eventually turn out that this 'disturbed teenager' was seriously involved in jihad, as opposed to a drug-fuelled fantasy, then of course the courts must decide. But this is if, if, if. There is no proof and there have been no charges. Not yet. Whatever happened to waiting to see what happens with these things? Are things like respecting the legal processs old hat now we've got 24-7 newsrooms?
And about that fair trial business. Is he still going to have one? Even though he's already been called a CONVERT TO TERROR? Is that all right? Because he hasn't been charged, is that green for go? Can we call anyone a terrorist if they're arrested of it - despite the figures showing that 50% of suspects are released without any charge?
Do things like the truth not matter any more? Not if you're the Express. If you're arrested, you're guilty, and they'll say what they like. What a nasty bunch of bastards.