Category Archives: Uncategorized

GDPR – my privacy policy

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will govern the way companies of all sizes manage and are responsible for the personal information they store and use. It is designed to give people more control over the information that is held about them, and to provide a legal framework to protect that control.

The new legislation is necessary because the way personal information is stored and used has been completely transformed over the past few decades. Existing legislation across Europe, including our own Data Protection Act 1998, has fallen behind as innovative ways to collect and exploit personal records have evolved, especially online.

I have read the Information Commissioner’s Office guidelines for compliance with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules. This document that follows explains how I comply. If you have given me your email address, you should read this to reassure yourself that I am looking after your data extremely responsibly.

If any of you understand this even better than me and believe there’s something else I should be doing, do let me know. I value the security of your information extremely highly and will never intentionally breach the rules. However, the rules are designed for organisations and most authors are sole traders just doing our best to keep up.

I have used the ICO booklet, “Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation – 12 Steps to Take Now.” Here are my answers.

I am a sole trader so there is no one else in my organisation to make aware.

The information I hold:
Email addresses of people who have emailed me and to whom I have replied – automatically saved in gmail.

I do not share this information with anyone. Ever.

If someone randomly asks for another person’s email address, unless both are known closely to me, I always check with the other person first.

Communicating privacy information
I am taking five steps:

I have put this document on my website.
I have added a link to my email signature.

I have added a link to my contact page.

Lawful basis for processing data
If people have emailed me, they have given me their email address. I do not actively add it to a list but gmail will save it. I will not add it to any database or spreadsheet unless someone asks me to or gives me explicit and detailed permission.


Data breaches
I have done everything I can to prevent this, by strongly password-protecting my computer, Google and Dropbox accounts. If any of those organisations were compromised I would take steps to follow their advice immediately.

Data Protection by Design and Data Protection Impact Assessments
I have familiarised myself with the ICO’s code of practice on Privacy Impact Assessments as well as the latest guidance from the Article 29 Working Party, and believe that I am using best practice.

Data Protection Officers

I have appointed myself as the Data protection Officer.

My lead data protection supervisory authority is the UK’s ICO.


2017 Impact Report


An image of the Bureau newsroom

I’ve been a little silent recently, as I started a new post as Production Editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in July last year and it has been busy.

I’m very pleased to work at the Bureau, as it’s known, with some very talented people.

Towards the end of the year I put together and wrote the Bureau’s Impact report for 2017. It’s a record of sterling journalism in the public interest, following in a long tradition of journalism that seeks to expose wrongdoing and shine a light on poor practice, wherever it takes place.

Here’s the link to the report – it’s an honour to have worked on it for my new employer.

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Election pieces

A quick blog to give links to my latest pieces on the general election 2017 for Prospect Magazine. I first looked at UKIP’s chances in Boston and Skegness:

This week, I looked at the fight for the South London seat of Vauxhall.

Lastly, I looked at the contested seat of Tooting, and how disabled people might affect the election. Prospect – disabled voters




The heft of a place

This week I was lucky enough to join Ken Titmuss, an expert in old maps who runs London walking tours, on one of his outings in Vauxhall. Ken, a former community worker, really knows his stuff, although he wears his knowledge lightly. I met Ken, along with some charming German students at the local station. He gave us copies of four old maps of the area, in covers, for us to refer back to as we walked around the area.

We circled around what was left of the Pleasure Gardens (now a well-used park, with a fine tea house at one corner). Ken explained the history of the Gardens, and then we struck out a little further, finding traces of the Royal Doulton tile factory, an old school and the former graveyard, amongst other treasures such as tucked away Georgian houses. IMG_9006

I was there because I wanted to get a better feel for the second third of the book I am writing at the moment, about two young girls, in Georgian times, and their precarious life in London before being transported to Australia in the 1820’s. The first third is set in Norfolk. I know the South Norfolk landscape well; I’ve walked it many times with my parents. I’ve seen the seasons come and go; I’ve heard the birds sing, and watched them out hunting. I’ve been to the great church below, in Redenhall, many times, and know its place in the landscape and in the hearts of the people about whose ancestors I am writing. I’ve swum in the slow, local river, taken boats out on it. The heft of the landscape is within me and so although I’m going back in time, some 200 years, I feel at ease with it.



Now I have to go through the same process with London, and it’s so much harder because of the multiple descriptions by other writers. I have to peel them away and find my own voice, in a landscape that has been so well conjured by others.

So having a guide who can walk you through history is useful. Ken brought Vauxhall to life, but he was also kind enough, at the end of the walk, to go with me to what remains of the Millbank Penitentiary to identify parts of the outer wall that remain.



We walked round the vast footprint of the building as it was, through social housing and around Tate Britain, which sits on its foundations. This forbidding structure would have dominated the riverside when the two girls lived in London. They were intimately acquainted with the Penitentiary, having spent some years inside it before being transferred, with marsh fever, to the hulks. Their life in the London was typical of that of poor young women – life in and out of institutions, on the streets, before they were transported. My task is to breathe life into their voices, as their lives are currently mediated and communicated by those who disparage them. It’s about raising the dead from paper, and hearing them speak back, in the landscapes that formed them.


Oh, and if you want to join Ken on one of his excellent walks, he can be contacted through his website on on Twitter @oldmapman.

Disability Hate Crime Network – appeal on behalf of Lee Irving

Below is the text of the letter we have sent today to the Attorney General, asking if he will review the sentences against those who attacked Lee Irving, under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.

We hope pressure from the family, the network and others will bring about a review of the sentence. We campaigned some years ago to make sure that disability related murders could be sentenced as a matter of parity with other murders that could be seen as hate crimes (for instance, homophobic or race related murders). This would mean that the life sentence can be increased up to 30 years for such crimes. We achieved this end with an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, thanks to all party pressure. However it is not being used in disabilty related murders – the sentences have remained relatively low for such horrific crimes. So should there be a new law? Or can the provisions in place bring about change?

My feeling is now that the current provisions do not go far enough and are not fit for purpose if, as in the case of Lee Irving, the police and CPS regarded the crimes against him as related to his disability but the judge could decide that was not the case and sentence (relatively) low. If the provision was for a clear issue – disability related murder – the jury would decide, rather than the judge. This may be a useful reform. It’s certainly worth discussing at least.




Dear Mr Wright, 
The Disability Hate Crime Network and Mr Irving’s family would be grateful if you could review the sentence given to James Wheatley, of Studdon Walk, Newcastle. Wheatley was given a life sentence for murder at Newcastle Crown Court on 2 December. 
We are asking for the murder to be sentenced as a disability hate crime, in which case the time served could be increased up till 30 years under LASPO. 
We are also asking for the other defendants (except Barry Imray) in the case to be sentenced for their crimes under sec 146 of the Criminal Justice Act, which would also increase their sentences. However, we are asking that the sentence against Mr Imray be reviewed to see if it is appropriate, given his disability. Mr Irving’s family have also asked for this sentence to be reviewed with care. 
The police and CPS agreed that the multiple crimes committed against Mr Irving were disability related. The judge disagreed and has the discretion, in law, to do so. However we believe that the police and CPS presented good evidence of disability hate targeting. We would be grateful if you could review the case with a view to appeal. 
The family of Mr Irving would be particularly grateful if you would do so. His aunt writes to the Network: “The sentence was..not deemed a hate crime which we cannot understand. In my opinion the [murder] sentence was pretty low for such a dreadful crime.”
We look forward to hearing from you, 
Katharine Quarmby
on behalf of Mr Irving’s family
and the Disability Hate Crime Network

Christmas memories

Here’s the next in a series of oral memories from friends, family and neighbours. This time the theme is Christmas. I asked everyone for a vivid memory from any Christmas they remembered.

My mum talked about Christmas as a child in war-time Belgrade, where she was born and lived till she was nine. My dad talked about having a spot of bother in Bethlehem one year. There’s my daughter, Josie, pin-pointing what is important for her about Christmas..and many more from neighbours in Finsbury Park, north London, with memories of growing up in Cork,  Edgbaston, Staffordshire and further afield too.

Here are the memories, in Soundcloud, for you to dip in to and enjoy, and Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year, to one and all.


Review of Eliot Pattison’s Blood of the Oak

Blood of the Oak is the fourth in the so-called Bone Rattler historical series, setting a Scottish protagonist, physician Duncan McCallum, centre stage during the early days of America settlement. He is known among the native peoples as a Death Speaker – someone who can read corpses and find out the truth about what happened to them. As such, he becomes a de facto detective in this excellent historical mystery.

Set in 1765, Pattison uses the Stamp Tax dissent, arguably marking the beginning of organised resistance to English colonial rule, as the backdrop to this tensely crafted tale. McCallum starts to track a series of ritualistic murders, connected both to the theft of an Iroquois artifact, known as the Blooddancer, and to a series of horrific murders and kidnappings. These are of the network of underground runners, who are, for their part, starting to put together the beginning of organised struggle against colonial rule. McCallum starts to journey south from Pennsylvania, to uncover the truth and track the Blooddancer and the murders that seem to have occurred in its wake. He is enslaved in Virginia, on a tobacco plantation, when captured, alongside other runners. There he starts to put the story together, and why he, and others, are suffering: behind the killings stands a conspiracy of highly placed Englishmen, who want things to stay as they are.

The centre part of the book is set on the plantation, and at this point key characters move in and out of focus. This is useful (one could argue key) for both exposition of history and also to establish the wide range of peoples contesting power at this critical historical juncture. However, the pace slows down during the part, though that may be justified, given the power of the writing at this point. The cruelty of slavery which, as Pattison demonstrates, is clearly related to torture – emotional and physical – is portrayed unflinchingly. “The days became a blur of pain and toil. The crack of a cane and the bray of “sotweed!” grew as constant as the drone of flies. At night men collapsed onto the sleeping racks but in the small hours Duncan often heard them talking in their sleep to loved ones they might never see again. Friends whispered to each other of simple things, like picking apples with a son or kittens delivered on a hearth on a snowy night. Duncan, lying on his pallet in the dark, found himself spending more and more time thinking of Edentown, and the contentment he had known in the years since the war.”

The book speeds up again, in the last part, when McCallum decides to escape and to turn the intrigue of the Englishmen against them.

Pattison weaves real historical characters deftly into the novel, including Benjamin Franklin, early rebels and even Washington himself, in a cameo role. However, Pattison’s favoured viewpoint is from bottom up – with the voices of new settlers, Native Americans, black slaves and others speaking eloquently of how American was made, and who sacrificed most in that bitter struggle. A lost world is glimpsed, in beautiful writing about the bond between nature and people, showing how harmonious that world could be. Sadly, it is captured just at the moment of its disappearance; similarly to his Tibet series, Pattison wants to reclaim the voices and experiences of peoples whose lives have been destroyed by colonial rule – whether that be English or Chinese powers. What Pattison does best is allow the voiceless to speak, whether they are women, or people from ethnic groups whose rights have been trampled upon in the quest for territory, wealth, dominion. Here is a sense of the iniquitous pecking order on the plantation, in McCallum’s voice:“We are chattels of the estate,” Duncan replied. “If you were to rank the population of this plantation, there would be the unseen owner, then the aristocrats of the manor and the superintendent, after that there is the house staff, the field overseers, the Africans, the horses, the pigs, and finally those of us who inhabit this stable.”

As he says himself, in an author Q&A, all too often history, as it is taught in schools, is bloodless and pale, compared to the lives of real people at any moment, who burned with the same passions as we have today. Pattison’s take is to bring history to life, through the medium of accurately researched historical fiction. As a writer embarking on her first historical novel, I can feel the research in this book, and how it has been weighted to work in a fictional form. This poignant book  is also beautifully told, in nuanced language that fits well to the period. It is well paced and reminds us, rightly, of the cruelty of colonial rule and of many of the first settlers.

I hope that Pattison’s character, Jaho, is right, when he talks of freedom on the plantation to McCallum:

“Freedom? Here is where you learn about freedom, McCallum. The only real chains you wear are those you put on yourself.”

Acknowledgment: I was sent a copy of Blood of the Oak for review by Julia Drake Public Relations.