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Sep 14 2013

A shaggy dog (s)tory: MP responds to right-of-protest letter with ‘dangerous dogs’ concern

Some weeks ago I signal-boosted Jonathan Lindsell’s excellent, incisive commentary on media rape culture.

He’s written on a range of other topics at Haywire Thought, Liberal Conspiracy and other places – including, the day before that, the further erosion of Britons’ right to protest in a post which ought to have made more waves than it did.

After writing it, Jonathan in his own words ‘calmed down and wrote a measured, balanced, meticulously-researched open letter‘ to his Member of Parliament, Conservative Jeremy Wright – also Minister for Prisons and a lawyer by training – which set out at length the horrifying details of the forthcoming Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

On being sent this letter, Wright sent back the following.

Dear Mr Lindsell,

Thank you for contacting me about the recent consultation on maximum prison Sentences for Dog Attacks Causing Injury or Death.

Dog attacks can be terrifying and I believe that we should have appropriate penalties to punish those who allow their dog to injure people while out of control. Ministers recently announced changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act as partof the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. Those measures including extending the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to private property and providing protection from prosecution for householders whose dogs attack intruders in the home.

I believe that the measures that the Government is introducing are a proportionate, measured response that will improve the way in which irresponsible dog ownership is addressed and help to prevent further attacks. In particular, the provisions in the Bill already deal with exactly the type of problems that would be dealt with by dog control notices.

I am pleased that the Government undertook a conseultation before the next Parliamentary stage of the Bill, on a change to the maximum sentence for allowing an aggravated dog attack, namely where a person or an assistance dog is injured or killed by a dog. The Government will consider all responses and issue a response taking in to account the points raised. I do not wish to prejudge the outcome of the consultation as I believe this process is the best avenue to allow interested parties to raise their concerns regarding the specific policy.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely, Jeremy Wright MP

To quote Jonathan’s post about this:

My criticisms of the ASBCP bill [prizes for anyone who can make a catchy acronym] were:

  • the bill made it near-impossible to get compensation for miscarriage of justice
  • the bill’s IPNAs [super-ASBOs] gave police too much power with too much subjective discretion
  • the bill’s  PSPOs [dispersal orders] threatened legal protest and freedom of assembly
  • the bill contributed to a general lurch towards heavy-handed state supervision

My criticisms did not include:

  • unicorn horn shape and size safety regulations’ cross-compliance with EU Directive 1998/238A.
  • the war in Syria.
  • oliphaunts rampaging around Harad.
  • dogs.

I had taken quite a lot of time to verify these criticisms, I didn’t just complain to make a good blog. My blogs don’t get the hits or income to justify that. I had read the minutes of committee meetings and the wording of the draft bill itself, which is bloody tedious. I had talked to lawyers and read human rights groups’ scrutiny of the bill. I linked to all of these, which is part of the reason I sent a companion email (and I explained as much in the letter). All of my criticisms were at least valid enough to deserve an actual response.

Yes, quite: it’s rather uninspiring, if also unsurprising, that writing to one’s MP might garner a reply like this. (At least it got a reply at all.) What kind of world are we living in where parliamentarians neglect even properly to read constituents’ concerns – the kind perhaps in which a good many, dare I say it, aren’t interested in representing us?

Read Jonathan’s blog post for more. The whole thing’s barking.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Walton

    I’m not surprised. Most of the time, when I’ve written to MPs about asylum cases and immigration justice, I’ve just been ignored. This has been the case with both Tory and Labour MPs (I’ve never lived in a Lib Dem constituency).

    I should mention the one honourable exception: when I lived in Oxford East, Andrew Smith (Labour) always wrote back promptly, and always made an effort to do something about it.

  2. 2
    brucegee1962

    My guess is that, out of all their constituents, this guy was the only one who cared about the erosion of civil liberties. But probably a whole bunch cared about their dogs enough to write to the MPs. So an office drone glanced down the letter just far enough to see the name of the bill, and threw it onto the “dog stack.”

    I saw a cartoon recently that showed two or three marchers with signs saying “Save the Earth,” and on the other side of the street a vast horde with signs saying “Save the Twinkie.” Same principle.

  3. 3
    John Horstman

    I’m used to getting form letters in response to writing to my ‘representatives’ here in USA (that it’s common doesn’t make it any less disheartening, of course), but the fixation on the dog issue, not raised in the first place, is just bizarre. brucegee1962′s idea makes as much sense as anything to me.

  4. 4
    thinksanddrinks

    I’ve seen things like this over and over, but with Members of Congress (that is, west of the pond, with even more stupid “representatives”). Once I wrote to a representative congratulating him on his rejection of idiocy and I got a pseudo-apology for his vote. I’ve written letters with four different points and gotten repliee to the simplest and easiest point, ignoring the rest. (E-mail has made this simpler; split it into four emails and get blow-off answers to all of them.)

  5. 5
    John Phillips, FCD

    Well fair play, mine, a Lib Dem, has yet to fail to reply to me and I contact him often enough that I often jokingly start with an ‘it’s me again’. His replies also make it apparent that if he doesn’t do it himself, whoever does do it for him, actually reads them properly before replying in context. We don’t always agree, but when he does disagree he always explains in detail why he does and will then invite further input.

    Also, I was recently moved into this ward by redistricting just before the last election and my previous MP, Labour, was equally good at responding in depth and prepared to explain her position in detail. Both were/are also very good at providing links to any parliamentary docs, committee reports and the like, I might find useful about the subject being discussed.

    However, this is unusual as my previous experience in other parts of the UK is to feel lucky if I even got just a form letter acknowledgement.

  1. 6
    My MP’s response: Going to the dogs | Haywire Thought

    […] may have had the good fortune to read an abridge version on HuffPoUK, or Alex Gabriel’s Godlessness in Theory. If you haven’t, I imagine there are more fascinating comments over […]

  2. 7
    Update: Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill | Haywire Thought

    […] may have had the good fortune to read an abridge version on HuffPoUK, or Alex Gabriel’s Godlessness in Theory. If you haven’t, I imagine there are more fascinating comments over […]

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