Thursday, 24 December 2009
New Labour Nazi Block Wardens On The Way
In Nazi Germany, a Blockleiter (block leader) was the lowest official of the NSDAP, responsible for the political supervision of a neighborhood or city block and formed the link between the NSDAP and the general population. Also colloquially known as a Blockwart (block attendant or warden), he was charged with planning, spreading propaganda and developing an acceptance to the policies of the NSDAP among the households (typically 40 to 60) in his area.
It was also the duty of the Blockleiter to spy on the population and report any anti-Nazi activities to the local office. This was helped by keeping files on each household (Haushaltskarten). Due to such activities, Blockwarts were particularly disliked by the general population. Other duties included allocating beds in homes for visiting NSDAP demonstrators, the collection of subscriptions and charitable donations especially for Winterhilfe and organising the clearing of rubble after air-raids. It is thought that there were nearly half a million Blockleiter.
The Blockleiter was appointed to keep an eye upon the activities and political attitudes of the families under his control and to keep a card index system, containing Haushaltskarten, providing detailed information about them. Regular reports were sent from the Blockleiter to the Zellenleiter who in turn reported to his Ortsgruppenleiter and so on up through the chain of political leadership. Any unrest was dealt with swiftly and at source. Small wonder therefore that the Party found it necessary to state on repeated occasions that the Blockleiter was not employed as a Party spy.
Today, Blockwart is a colloquial German insult word for a person who feels the motivation to keep people in line, esp. by reporting them to officials or pressing the enforcing of rules (esp. petty rules) upon people.
Ministers have drawn up plans to encourage people to lodge complaints about hate crimes, which they say are being under-reported.
Police have set up special units to investigate allegations, while the Crown Prosecution Service has established 'scrutiny panels' to look through previous cases to improve on their hit-rate in failed prosecutions.
Since Labour came to power, ministers have increased categories of 'hate' crimes from simply covering racism to include religious aggravation, homophobia and 'transphobic’ offences.
The result has been a seven-fold increase in prosecutions for hate crimes over the past decade, from 1,602 crimes in 1998/9 to 11,624 in 2008/9.
However, campaigners are now accusing ministers of intensifying their pursuit of hate crime offenders and of allowing prosecutors to go "fishing" for offences, opening them up to accusations of sometimes criminalising apparently innocent remarks and comments.
Police officers are also privately complaining that they are now being required to investigate 'trivial' spats between people as hate crimes, when they would prefer to deal with more serious offences.
The new crackdown on hate crimes, which involves co-ordination between Government department, was unveiled quietly by the Home Office.
But it has only now been highlighted by the think tank, Civitas.
David Green, director at Civitas, said: "The Government is running a campaign to increase the number of race hate crimes brought before the courts.
"The police are being encouraged to investigated ordinary disputes and redefine them as crimes. Unlikely cases are being dragged before the courts”."
At the unveiling of the Goverment scheme in the autumn, Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said that he was worried that “hate crime is under-reported”.
“While it may seem counter-intuitive to some, we believe that an increase in the number of hate crimes being reported can be a sign that we are starting to have a positive impact,” he said.
The Home Office needed “to see a substantial level of proof before we conclude that hate crime is not a problem in a particular area”, Mr Johnson added.
Among other plans, public bodies, like schools and colleges, were to be forced to report evidence of hate crimes, he said.
However there are now concerns that the attempt to encourage more people to report hate crimes has gone too far.
In October, a study by the Manifesto Club found schools were reporting 40,000 incidents of racism a year involving children as young as five after everyday playground squabbles.
Earlier this month, two devout Christian hoteliers were cleared of insulting a Muslim guest after a judge heard that she had claimed Jesus was a “minor prophet” and the Bible was untrue.
In the summer, a grandmother was investigated by police for a 'hate crime' after writing a letter to her council objecting to a gay pride march.
David Green said these cases were likely to be the "tip of the iceberg".
Mr Green said the CPS's network of 42 “hate crime scrutiny panels” to sift through successful and unsuccessful hate crime prosecutions to see if any lessons can be learned were like a law firm going on an “fishing expedition for more business”.
He said: “The CPS is starting to resemble the law firms that advertise on television their ability to win compensation for people who tripped on the pavement.”
Opposition MPs also called for restraint. David Davies, a Tory member of the powerful Commons home affairs committee, said there was already public order laws to deal with verbal abuse.
He said: “Unpleasant name calling goes on a lot but it should not be necessarily a police matter."
James Clappison, a Conservative MP and another member of the committee, added: "While I deprecate hate crime, we have to be very careful about where the law goes. We don't want to criminalise impolite behavour."
Last night a spokesman for the Home Office said: “The Hate Crime Action Plan launched in September is helping ensure our response to these unacceptable crimes is as effective as possible by creating an environment that gives victims more confidence to report these crimes, knowing they will be taken seriously and acted on.
“Every hate-related incident is devastating to that victim and they have the right to report it. It is, however, for individual police forces to satisfy themselves that a hate crime has taken place.”
“There has been no evidence presented to show that lower-level crime is being reported as hate crime.Hate crime ruins people’s lives and the government is determined to tackle it in all its forms.
"We are absolutely clear that no one is entitled to infringe others' freedom by instilling fear or inciting others to violence because of someone's identity or what they believe."
A CPS spokesman added: "The Crown Prosecution Service encourages anyone who may have been victim of any crime to report it to police, not just hate crimes. It is absolutely wrong to imply that the CPS is looking for crimes that do not exist.
"The under reporting of crime can sometimes be due to lack of confidence in the criminal justice system.
"It is vital that all communities have confidence that their complaints will be taken seriously, including hate crimes, which disproportionately affect minority groups.
“Hate Crime Scrutiny Panels review completed hate crime cases, including domestic violence and rape cases, to see if they were dealt with appropriately and sensitively, from a community perspective.
"This is aimed at improving our handling of these serious crimes and not at increasing the reporting of such offences.”