Category Archives: UK

UK Courts to go the US way

From October onwards, cameras will broadcast cases from England’s Court of Appeal has been approved by the House of Commons. The proposal will now be debated in the House of Lords prior to coming into effect in October.

The positive move

The UK Supreme Court proceedings are already streamed live on the Internet since 2011. The Royal Courts of JusticeFilming inside has been banned under Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and Section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

The cost of filming in court will be covered by media organisations.

Courts Minister Helen Grant said, “ Justice must be seen to be done, that is why we are introducing limited television broadcasting in courts from next month.”

The limitations

Victims, witnesses, jurors and defendants will not be filmed.

“We are opening up the court process to allow people to see and hear the judges’ decisions in their own words, but we will also ensure that victims and witnesses will not be filmed and will remain protected,” added Grant

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Weird laws to watch out for

Who knew that you could be fined for feeding a pigeon in Venice or could be arrested and detained for photographing government buildings, palaces and military installations in Saudi Arabia?

These things could seem innocent to several people but could be some of the reasons why people pay hefty fines and are arrested and detained abroad.

“Every year British nationals find themselves on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly, resulting in fines or in some cases arrests or even jail sentences,” says Charles Hay, Director of Consular Services in a statement issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK following the FCO British Behaviour Abroad Report 2013.

The FCO assisted 19,244 British nationals in 2012/13.

Some examples of weird laws

Country

Law

Penalty/Consequences

Netherlands Don’t carry or use drugs. While the Netherlands has a reputation for being tolerant on the use of so-called ‘soft drugs’ this exists only for designated areas. Possession of prohibited substances or buying them can carry a prison sentence Arrest, detention
Venice Feeding the pigeons is against the law Fines
Japan It is illegal to take some commonly available nasal sprays containing pseudoephedrine into Japan Fines
Barcelona It is against the law to wear a bikini, swimming trunks or to go bare-chested away from the beach front area in Barcelona Fines
Singapore Chewing gum on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in Singapore is strictly prohibited Fines
Thailand It is illegal to import more than 200 cigarettes into Thailand Large fines and confiscation
Italy (Florence) It is an offence to sit on steps and courtyards or to eat and drink in the immediate vicinity of churches and public buildings in Florence Large fines
Saudi Arabia In Saudi Arabia photographing government buildings, military installations and palaces is prohibited Arrest and detention
Barbados It is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing Fines
Nigeria It is illegal to take mineral water into Nigeria Fines, confiscation
Fiji Sunbathing topless is prohibited Fines
Maldives Public observance of religions other than Islam is prohibited for non-Maldivians and visitors Arrest, detention

How to avoid such consequences?

One can easily avoid these circumstances by researching travel destinations thoroughly in advance. It is worth keeping in mind that the laws of the land are in force irrespective of the persons nationality.

“Consular staff often find that travelers are unaware that local laws apply to them and many British nationals think of their British passport as a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” adds Charles Hay.

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The Notting Hill Carnival

Dance, music and masquerade. This is what London will witness during the bank holiday weekend at the Notting Hill Carnival.IMG_3624

The Notting Hill Carnival is taking place on 25th and 26th August in London. The annual festival was started in 1964 by the Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their own cultures and tradition. This year will be the 49th carnival.

Largest street festival in Europe.

The Notting Hill Carnival is the second largest carnival in the world after the Rio de Janeiro carnival. The carnival is a true chance to witness the diversity of London with its vibrancy and zest.

The parade

IMG_3601

The parade is the carnival procession that begins at 9 am on Sunday and Monday. Sunday is carnival’s children’s day with a shorter parade and chances to win prizes. The main parade is on Monday. The carnival after-parties will begin once the parade has finished and the floats leave the area.

The Afro-Caribbean specialities

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

There are several stalls serving traditional Caribbean food and drink like the jerk chicken or pork with rice and peas, curried goat, fried plantain, Jamaican patties, Red Stripe lager, coconut water, rum punch.

There will be traditional and contemporary sounds in the air right from Reggae, Steel Pan, Calypso and R&B to Soca, House, Funk and many more.

Useful tips

  • Leave you car at home. Many tube stations will either be closed or have time restrictions. The best modes of transport are your legs.
  • The area will be crowded. Thieves will make hay while the sun shines so keep valuables at home.
  • The streets and footpath will be overflowing with people so do not carry heavy luggage and buggies.
  • Due to overcrowding, mobile phone networks can get jammed.
  • Carry cash, as food stalls don’t accept cards. Getting to a cash point in the crowd can be a pain and some cash points do run out of money.

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UK government introduces £3000 immigration bond

The UK government’s has decided to introduce a pilot scheme that would charge visitors of six “high risk” countries £3000 over their visa fees as an immigration bong.

The bond

In a bid to tackle illegal immigration, the UK Home Office has launched a pilot scheme to charge a bond of £3000 to adult nationals of six countries intending to visit the UK. The countries termed as “high risk” were India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria. The scheme was set up to deter visitors from overstaying their visas.

This scheme is due to run for 12 months starting from November 2013. The bond payment would be returned if the visitor returned to their home country after the visit visa expires.

Australia and New Zealand have similar schemes where financial bonds are applied to visitors in order to mitigate the risk of them overstaying their visa.

“This is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands while still welcoming the brightest and the best to Britain,” said UK Home Secretary Theresa May.

Criticism

This scheme has received criticism from several ministers and agencies.

“The Home Secretary’s plans for bonds for visitors from certain countries are unfair and discriminatory. The bond level of £3000 is completely unrealistic. If somebody was determined to work here illegally this could be earned back in a matter of months,” said British MP Keith Vaz.

According to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) statement, “such blanket rules for visas will negatively affect not only businesses, especially small businesses, it will also further bring down the number of students going to UK for higher studies and affect the tourism inflow from India to UK. This will also not help the cause of early conclusion of EU-India FTA, for which both the parties are committed.”

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Mystery over death of NRI family in London

She was working as a lab technician at a school in London. For family of 34 year Heena Solanki— Friday, the 12, turned out to be their worst nightmare when they received the heartbreaking news that Heena along with her two daughters was found dead at her home in northwest London.

Click here for my report

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The Olympic Experience of a Lifetime

The UK had been preparing to host the Olympics after it won the bid on 6th July, 2005.

Seven years later, the city had been spruced up to handle visitors from all over the world. People of different nationalities came to one place to support their team and to have a good time.

At the right place at the right time

I was working for the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) that is the official broadcaster of the Olympic Games. I applied for this job in February 2011 to work in July 2012. The competition was tough. My job description was to deliver the Olympics information to the rest of the world on a strict deadline.

This was indeed a privilege to be a part of the largest sporting event in the world in the centre of all the action. My venue was the North Greenwich Arena also known as the O2 Arena. The sports assigned to me were Artistic Gymnastics and Basketball Finals. Working behind the scenes, the atmosphere was exhilarating.

The Victory Ceremonies was my favourite part of the Olympics. The medal winners are presented with the medal and bouquet of flowers while the song “Chariots of fire” is being played in the background. Once the medals are presented, the national flags of the three countries are hoisted and the national anthem of the country winning the gold medal is played. The nationalism displayed was incredible

The benefits

My media accreditation gave me access to most venues. London is a very expensive city and travel costs are very high. My special Olympics Oyster card allowed me to free travel across London.

Working with the OBS gave me the opportunity to work and interact with broadcasters from all over the world. Each day was different. Everyday hundreds of journalists would walk through our Broadcast Information Office (BIO) doors asking for information on matches, player statistics, results, filming the game, press conferences and interviewing athletes. I was truly in a multicultural environment

As an employee of the official broadcaster, I was at the centre of all the activity, in the broadcast tribunes, mixed zone and the media centre. I got a very good view of the field of play. I was spotted on television channels in different parts of the world.

I knew nothing about both the games that were assigned to me but within no time, I became an expert in the field.

The Challenges

There were just too many people in London during the Olympics. The tube lines were packed. I had to go through airport like security check on every single day that I worked.

Journalists can be very bothersome and abusive. Working for the official broadcaster meant getting abused in different languages and putting the pesky journalists in their place whenever needed. But at the end of the day, we understand that they are doing their job, as they are answerable to their channels.

The memorabilia

I got to keep two sets of my uniform consisting of beige trousers, green polo t-shirt, green cap, blue jacket, blue backpack and a blue trolley bag.

Every participating country and most media companies have their own pins and badges that they give away. These are prices possessions among the volunteers and employees. It was almost like a competition of who could get the maximum number of pins and badges. These badges can be exchanged. I managed to collect about 20 of them.

After the Olympics

The 17 days that I worked for the Olympics has been the most memorable experience of my life and has been my best job so far. This is one event in my life that I will never forget. I met fantastic people. I made friends for life. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I hope to be a part of future Olympic Games.

I made the game and the game made me.

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Filed under International, Media and Journalism, Olympics, Sports, UK

Referendum on the AV system

Tomorrow is voting day in the UK to vote for or against the proposed Alternative Vote (AV) system.

The public is being asked whether they want to replace the existing method of first-past-the-post (FPTP) system of electing Members of Parliament (MP) to Westminster with the alternative vote system.

Under the FPTP system , the candidate who gets the maximum number of votes wins and is elected as the MP of his constituency.

Voters will be asked the question, “At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead? Yes or No?”

The votes will be counted at 1600 BST on 6 May, a day after the poll.

What is Alternative Vote?

Under the AV system, voters can rank candidates in the order of preference. The number of preferences is unlimited.  However, only the first preference will be counted initially and the candidate with more than 50% majority is automatically elected.

If a candidate in unable to secure 50% of the votes, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. Votes for that candidate will be redistributed according to voters’ second preferences. There will then be a second round of counting. Again if a candidate is unable to secure 50% of the votes, another candidate with the least number of votes will be eliminated and a third round of counting will begin. This process will continue until one candidate gets more than 50% of the votes.

AV is currently being only is three countries in the world – Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

For AV

With the current system of first-past-the-post, there are times when a candidate with the highest number of votes wins with less than 50% support of voters. Thus candidates will have to work harder in order to win with a larger margin.

Smaller and lesser known parties will benefit from AV as they could be a second choice rather than not being considered from the beginning.

Against AV

If 50% of votes are not achieved in the first round of counting, the counting will continue until a candidate achieves it. This process is only complicated but also time consuming.

The FPTP system is considered as a fair form of election. All parties release their manifestos and voters vote for the candidate, party and manifesto that appeals to them the most. The person with the maximum number of votes wins while unpopular candidates are voted out. Thus, the winner takes it all.

The change of the AV system is estimated to cost Britain about £250m as local councils will have to buy new electronic voting machines and launch voter education campaigns.

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A Royal Day in the crowd

London was a blanket of red, white and blue as millions of well wishers from all over flocked to London to catch a glimpse of the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Clutching the Union Jack flags, they came from all over the world and camped overnight for the royal wedding at areas near the Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square, Strand, Whitehall and The Mall.

In London, giant screens were installed at Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square so that people could watch the entire event courtesy the BBC.

Why did I go?

Being raised in India, I had no experience of monarchy until I came to the UK seven months ago. Being in London at the time of the royal wedding made it impossible for me to avoid the mania.

I have no connection with the royal family and my life does not revolve around them. I went like a crazy person to witness the wedding and absorb the atmosphere. I neither care about the royal family or nor am I a royalist.

I stood amidst the entire crowd who had come from different parts of the world to experience the wedding. The crowd did not deter me from going as I have experienced massive crowds in London on New Years Eve and at the pillow fight. For me it was more of an event and less of a marriage.

The key is to go early and reserve a good viewing spot if you are really crazy. Having reached the venue just an hour before the ceremony was scheduled to being, the best bet was Hyde Park. In a span of five hours I watched the entrance and church service at Hyde Park and the procession and the kiss at Trafalgar Square on big screens. The areas near Westminster and Buckingham Palace were later condoned off due to overcrowding.

The crowd

The mood was exciting and people were trying high and low to catch a glimpse of the newly wedded couple. The crowd came well prepared with tents and picnic baskets. People had dressed up for the occasion. Some wore wedding gowns; some wore attires resembling the union jack while others wore special William and Kate merchandise. The waving of the flag was a common sight.

At Hyde Park, the atmosphere was feel-good. There was a loud applause when members of the royal family entered the church. However, once the church service began, there was silence among the crowd. Many had purchased the wedding programme booklet and joined in the service by singing the hymns. The crowd cheered the couple when they uttered the words “I will”. Many Britons shed tears of joy. It was indeed an emotional moment for them.

Trafalgar Square witnessed a truly electrifying atmosphere. The crowd was livelier. There was a live band, contests for the best hats, the unveiling of the Boris tandem – a bicycle meant for two.

The crowd eagerly waited for the golden kiss – where the newly wedded couple would kiss on the balcony of the Buckingham Palace for six minutes. However, the crowds jeered them when they publicly kissed twice on the balcony while the rest of the royal family and the Middleton’s looked on.

The celebrations

London was truly the party capital with a large number of people organising royal wedding street parties and private parties in homes, backyards and terraces.

Royal wedding celebrations were held throughout the country from 1000 BST onwards. Only a selected few were invited to the church service and the reception. The rest of the country organised street parties with permission from the local council. Several pubs and clubs had royal wedding themed parties that continued through the wee hours of the morning. I managed to crash into four such parties in central London. At the end of the evening, the roads in London were ruined with empty alcohol bottles and cans thrown all over the place and many drunkards on the road.

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Why should I care about the Royal Wedding?

The United Kingdom has gone insane. The country has gone gaga over the royal wedding that will take place tomorrow in London.

Special royal wedding souvenirs are everywhere. People from all over the place have thronged the city to witness the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Transport for London (TFL) has issued a limited edition Oyster card to commemorate the marriage.

The wedding is less of a union between two people but a commercialised hyped up event that has attracted many tourists and gotten the Britons excited. The madness began ever since the couple announced their engagement in November 2010.

National holiday

April 29, 2011 has been declared as a national holiday in view of the royal wedding.

Having an extra holiday is great. The wedding falls a week after Easter. Thus, there are just three business days between April 22 and May 2. This could spell disaster for small businesses that are struggling to thrive in the poor economic condition.

The other important things

Storms in Alabama, protests in Syria and Libya; does the United Kingdom care? I think not.

Newspapers are filled with news of the wedding. News channels have gone overboard with the wedding broadcast. Very little news space is given to the important news happening around the world.

Being an Indian studying in London, in the heart of the madness, the British royal family means nothing to me. Therefore the royal wedding also means nothing to me. I don’t know Prince William and Kate Middleton, have never met them before and will probably never meet them ever.

What about the money?

The wedding is a massive expense. The royal family and the Middleton’s will be funding the wedding but security arrangements have fallen on the state treasury, which is actually public money. The debt-ridden city of London is facing spending cuts and people are getting laid off work. The royal family has immense personal wealth that they accumulated over the years through slavery, war and colonisation. It is thus unfair to have taxpayers foot the bill for the extravaganza.

On the bright side, they  have set up The Prince William & Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund so that well-wishers can donate gifts meant for the couple to charity.

With just a few hours left for all the hoopla to end. I hope the city gets back to normal and people get on with their lives as soon as possible.

I am surely going to witness all the madness tomorrow and be a part of this event. Congratulations Prince William and Kate Middleton. Wish you both a happy married life.

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A fairy tale wedding

Every young girl dreams of meeting her Prince Charming, marrying him, becoming a princess, living in a palace and living happily ever after.

Unlike other girls, Kate Middleton’s fairy tale love story will come true tomorrow as she walks down the aisle with Prince William.

The couple dated for several years and their relationship hit rock bottom. They sailed through it and now they can see a happy ending of getting married and living happily ever after.

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown

Kate Middleton will be the centre of attention. Her every movement will be under the watchful eye of the media and of the people. As a public figure she will no longer be able to enjoy the private life she used to have.

She will no longer be able to catch the latest sale at Primark as she will get the best of everything. She will live in the lap of luxury for the rest of her life.

Kate Middleton will be be under tremendous pressure. She will have to meet up to the expectations of the British subjects. She can’t make mistakes. One minute she is the nation’s sweetheart but any flaw could make her a hate figure and everyone will remember it for long.

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