Sunday, 23 December 2012

An Inconvenient truth, Submission to the Leveson Inquiry

To the Right Honourable  Justice Leveson
The Leveson Inquiry
Court 73 Royal Courts of Justice  Strand
 London WC2A 2LL

27 February 2012

My Lord
I write to confirm my evidence  to the Leveson Enquiry, broadly on the subject  of the cooperation and collusion of the police, the Home Office and  the ongoing  inappropriate relationship with News International. I also wish to address the way in which women who have comitted crimes are portayed in the media, both tabloid and broadsheet, gutter press and so-called high minded newspapers.

I am an ex offender who used to be quite high profile in the media, having written for most of the major dailies and better news magazines. In 2005 I went to prison for 21 months for lying cheating and stealing – theft and perverting the course of justice.  I have more than served my sentence for any and all crimes I committed, however in 2008 I was reconvicted of lying on a Housing Allowance form because the lack of provision particularly for women, post release was so desperately bad.  37% of women leaving prison lose everything, their homes, their children and their belongings while serving prison sentences.

When I was sentenced in 2005, my case was followed by the international media,  for two years up to the  day I was sent to prison in 2010  I was portrayed as a manipulative con-woman, who had enjoyed the high life at the expense of colleagues. Nothing could have been further from the truth yet  vitriolic articles made their way on the front page of The New York Times and London's Metro newspaper. The level of interest in my past affairs, former lovers and relationships was violating and intrusive. Even articles which were meant to show "my side" of the story were twisted and perverted so they became about some sort of sexual depravity, I was meant to be some sort of marriage breaking femme fatale and according to the Mail on Sunday which ran with the headline "Prison Past of Sex Avenger" it didn't matter what I had suffered, I was beyond redemption and worthy of only scorn, hatred and derision. Other papers found it necessary to drag my children's ages and their fathers into descriptions of my “jetset” lifestyle which had no bearing on my crime. When a man is sentenced, there is never any mention of his children or partner or indeed former partners.  Just because I am a woman does not make me a fair target for all the feral hatred of tabloid news journalists who brush all women who offend as predators, sexually promiscuous, rather desperate archetypes.  We are not all Myra Hindley.

In my case, and I make no excuses for what I did, but my crimes were financial,  “white collar crimes”, not murder or violence, I hurt financial institutions not human beings.  Lord Conrad  Black ripped off Hollinger to the tune of $7 million, he is now back in respectable society, and appears on television news shows such as Have I got News For You, Erwin James, double murderer is now a respected panelist and has a column in The Guardian, Bobby Cummines, who served 13 years for amongst other things extortion and multiple bank robberies. Now he has an OBE and is considered reformed. At what point does society, which is mirrored by the media,  and does it, ever, allow the reformation of a woman?

My conviction in 2008 was as a result of an extremely abusive relationship and further to incidents of violence. I was trying to secure safe sustainable housing  in order to get away from  a predatory perpetrator, Francesco Miccolupo, with whom I was living, to be able to get my children back into my care. However in the eyes of the media,  thanks to  a rogue officer in the Metropolitan Police , who was constantly feeding   misinformation about me to the press and the CPS and who was forced to take early retirement partly because of his relentless and  unremitting pursuit of me, to the point of fabricating evidence, a DC Tim Evans of Hounslow police, I was portrayed repeatedly  as a pariah.  This cosy relationship between  the press and the police resulted in my receiving  a punitive sentence that was nothing to do with  proportionality or natural justice, only about punishment and retribution. There was no mitigation for the fact that I had lost everything when I was released from jail in 2007 or that I was a victim of domestic violence and had no recourse to any types of services because I was perceived as manipulative, resourceful and cunning. In men, these are admirable traits, in women they are  worse than bearing the sign of the Devil on your forehead and as demonising.

 In the eyes of the press, women who have offended, or committed crimes are morally repugnant and eternally offensive to the whole of society and these amoral, sociopathic journalists are there to play hanging judge, jury and executioner upon their fate.  This must stop.

I had been told categorically by the sentencing Judge, HHJ Marron QC that I deserved to go to prison, simply because I was who I was and I should have known better.  My solicitor, Imran Khan was fairly confident that this was not a crime for  which I was going to get a prison sentence . No one else would have, however HHJ Marron  QC  delivered a vicious and personal sentencing speech, when he sentenced me. No man in that courtroom that morning suffered such a personal attack. I don’t believe it is for judges to abuse women in the criminal justice system, particularly when the CPS case was so clearly flawed and their star witness who was a man with whom I had been involved in an abusive relationship, with a history of domestic violence and police attendances to our flat,  refused to come to the UK  from New York for a Newton Hearing. I should have been convicted on the facts before the judge, not a fanciful and unproved “version” presented by the CPS which could not even be verified. This sentencing speech has been often quoted in the press and did not take into account mental health and underlying problems with which I had not dealt. The criminal justice system is already stacked against female offenders as resettlement, incarceration and punishment are all designed by men, for men in a punitive paradigm, not from a gender based framework which deals with the specific issues of women.  I have campaigned upon this issue extensively and  managed to get an amendment into LASPO in the House of Lords presented by Baroness Corston and Baroness Gould asking this Government for a Women’s Justice Commission to deal with women’s issues from a gender sensitive perspective.

You will have seen the submission of Frances Crook of the Howard League which raises significant questions about the police and the media and the uncomfortable “alliances” found therein. I have lived this nightmare for the last 7 years and find myself without recourse to a solution which allows to me to move on from the version of me the press likes to throw around, was it Lawrence of Arabia who said he managed to move unnoticed under the legend of his shadow which preceded him, I often feel like that, but unfortunately I move far too noticed.   My book ( was published in  2009 and the two page Evening Standard interview bore the screaming headline was “Confessions of London’s Most Dangerous Woman,” which has withstood the test of time to the general delight and amusement of my friends and my children. 

It is unacceptable that  women ex offenders are targeted and constantly tarnished with the brush of their criminal pasts, by news corporations which lie, steal information and access data by any means possible.  It is also unacceptable that when the Government, in the form of the Home Office wishes to put a slant on a story , it uses journalists and gives them access to confidential and commercial information.  This unhealthy alliance of politics, police and media makes for distortion in the transparency of the commercial contracting process which should not be sullied by corrupt influences. This needs to be broken by way of absolute transparency by what is sent to journalists through  Home Office channels.

Respect for my personal and private life were completely flouted. Every contact in my BlackBerry (I believe phone and e mail hacking exists at the Sunday Times, particularly in the Insight Team) was contacted and  journalists from the Insight Team   tried to find out details about my personal  and family life. I was contacted by David Leppard, the journalist and told him I would not speak on the phone and insisted he send me e mail questions. He was quite bullying and this was obviously a personal issue, they could find nothing at all negative to say about  a proposed program for ex soldiers so they made a story up literally out of nothing, in spite of having a set of answers that refuted their version of events completely with supporting evidence.  Again, my children were named and their ages revealed.  

I would urge you to ensure that whatever mechanism is left in place post PCC, that there are legal  safeguards in place which ensure women ex offenders are allowed safety and the smooth passage to resettlement without having to worry about media intrusion into the private lives. I also ask you to address specifically what is known as the Google Effect; in light of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and spent convictions. If someone’s past, truths and untruths and all that lies in between is available at the touch of a Google search, although employers will not be allowed to ask for spent convictions to be declared and newspapers will not be allowed to mention spent convictions, what regulation  should be put in place to end the constant churning of one’s past convictions and all the related trauma around that ?  

I do look forward to hearing from you and seeing the recommendations you make for a transparent and honest press  and media in the UK.

Your sincerely
Farah Damji

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Seres de luz

A mí me encanta saber que hay Seres de  
Luz, que nos acompañan durante nuestra vida, y después también.
Ahí mostraban como hay seres cerca de nosotros que podemos convivir con ellos y otros no los vemos, pero son ángeles que nos ayudan, sobre todo en momentos difíciles, son una gran compañía, hay que permitirles que estén cerca de nosotros y estar muy atentos para reconocerlos y percibirlos. Dicen que uno tiene que pedirles que nos ayuden para que ellos puedan emprender su labor, su misión!
Los ángeles se han enterado de que estas luchando contra algo. Dicen que ya ha pasado. Recibirás una bendición.
Si crees en los ángeles envía este mensaje, no lo ignores por favor.
Esta noche se arreglarán dos asuntos de tu vida para tu alivio.
Deja todo lo que estas haciendo y reenvía el mensaje. Mañana será el mejor día en absoluto.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Time to say goodbye, my love.

Saying  goodbye, I am not good at it.

 I'd rather you think I have temporarily left the room and I'm going to come back in a few minutes. Like shadows dancing a long slow tango in the evening sun, I am restless.   I can't bear permanence,  imagine offering a specimen tray to a butterfly. Change is oxygen. I am the child who finishes the jigsaw puzzle and then tears it apart to start over or who throws the deck of cards up in the air, just to see where they might land.

But good things came out of time well spent and now, time pondering  to bring the thoughts and the feelings back home. To me. It's like asking for my love letters back, but when I wrote them, I meant every word in them and I have no shame for loving you. A very wise friend of mine says that love resides, eternally and after the physical closeness has ended when lovers have taken different paths. Still, there's some comfort in knowing that   universal abstract configuration of love.  I have no regrets, except about the bitter ending.

Streets remind me of you, the eternal taxi ride to Kings Cross from my flat, your hand wrapped around mine, so the fit was like a glove, a cliff walk in Zennor, down Fleet Street and the champagne bar at Kings Cross station. Waking up with the summer sun filtering through the wooden blinds and opening my eyes in softened stripy light, feeling held in your green gaze as you watched me sleeping. That softness that came over you and I when we found our safe space and  you, the man who brought me flowers and books and a kind of grace.  He lives in me.

 Time heals fresh wounds  but love, for all her thousand faces, made me stronger and able to let go.

So it's time to say good bye.
Clock that moon. Anon.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

A-Fictionelle, a new genre

This is  like  a journalist's column, drawn from life but not realistic. Imagine Suzanne Moore but not on hallucinogenic teabags.

Or perhaps it is. In any event, let's not get drawn in by de tails and de tours  such as the truth and people's  private lives, let me tell you  a story. Just as much of the story that won't get my ass sued by your expensive and  shark-like lawyers, who eat little defenseless columnists, sorry, A-Fictionelle writers like me, for breakfast.

Nothing like being in the arms of an old lover, I am thinking, while I hack away at an article for an Indian newspaper which has passed its sell by date and its deadline (they pay enough for a packet of crisps). When  a brown manila envelope is delivered by courier to my office  I am thinking what fresh hell has landed on me, now? It was a week of, well, enough. The debacle with the most recent ex ( I should categorize them  like specimens, perhaps an indexed file box filled with little white note cards under the headings:  "keeper," "loser,"  "forgettable" and "I did what?") has descended into a farce with him writing perhaps the second most boring column ever  superseded only  by last week's which was about tea cakes and train stations and how he lives to get pissed and do drugs. Lovely.

I stare at said  brown envelope and  the handwriting on the front and I don't recognize it. Cautiously I open it, half wincing, one eye closed. Good news and nice presents rarely come wrapped in brown paper.

It's a first class ticket to Paris on the Eurostar and an itinerary , two nights in a bijou boutique hotel next to the Tuilleries. I check to make sure the date has not passed, no, it's for Friday. Today is Wednesday. I think of all the reasons that I can't go. I tell myself I am going, this was the 'romance - interrupted,' by  the love affair of the last five months, we won't call him Low Life, we will call him henceforth Pond Life, because this is where he ranks in my esteem today.

I call the ex, a lovely academic. An intelligent and gentle soul who reads The Guardian and has snowy white hair and eyes like glaciers, as deep and penetrating. He has other parts that are as penetrating but I don't want to be censored by God@Google so I won't go there.

This morning, waking up in his arms,  there's a pleasant familiarity, none of the fake joviality Pond Life tried to exude with his "morningmorningmorning" and attempts to maul me before I was   fully awake. I don't do mornings well, I don't empathise with people who do. I need caffeine intravenously, face cream and to meditate before I am decent to talk to. Pond Life only woke up early at my home,  face creased like a piece of crumpled copy paper,  eyes all buggy and breath stinking like  a dog's bollocks (his words, not mine) but never at his mother's in Devon where he squats, because  he can't maintain a residence of his own. We spoke about getting a place together in St Ives, I thank my lucky stars and the Celtic and Norse Goddesses we didn't do anything too permanent. Among other things which infuriated me, Pond Life has an aversion to changing his underwear. He regularly has skid marks, so much so that he admitted to owning only 2 pairs. I bought him  some designer ones (Pringle or Hugo Boss, I can't remember)  from the House of  Fraser  one day sale event which doubled the his worldly quota of underwear but half of those are still at my home  so he exists in this reduced paradigm of reversing his underwear. I thought only teenage boys did that.

"You have lost a lot of weight," remarks the lovely academic, basking in the cold early morning sunshine of a Paris morning.

"Ah yes, terrible flu, got it off a man who got it in a plane travelling back from Brasil. Laid me up for five days, I couldn't get out of bed." That and the Pond Life Stress Diet of shifting sands, anxiety and smoke and mirrors.

"Did he come and look after you, the flu-giver?" asks nice academic who loves his mother but doesn't live with her and is training to be a counselor. I feel the onset of an analysis into Pond Life's indescribable behavior ahead.

"Um - no. He went back to Devon then flew to St Barthes for  a travel piece. But he e mailed that time."  Only because I nagged him after he had been radio silent during the week long Brasil  jaunt and said if he did it again, he could find new London lodgings. I wanted more than his communicable diseases.  I wonder why I am making excuses for a man I find risible and whose existence on this planet is so meaningless, by his own account, he might as well be dead.

"Jesus. Why didn't you call me?"

I mumble an excuse about how someone came and made fresh soup everyday and the Chinese Doctor in Kentish Town prepared a special potion of antivirals and antibiotics which finally killed the Pond Life affliction. It dawns on me that Pond Life couldn't really like women, any women. The whole saga of the relationship suddenly refreshes in context, as if someone has repeatedly pushed F5 and I realise why we were so doomed.

All those stories, poor Claudia, Cowgirl, the hippy he tried to date who was so repelled by him she decided to go off in search of her inner goddess, one night stands and one night hopefuls,  me, this litany of women like a morning register,  he has fucked and trussed up and written about, he couldn't like them because he hates his mother. Audrey, he explained to me, was a social upstart, thus betraying his solid lower middle class roots. She is a Hyacinth Bouquet  de nos jours. Born working class Essex, she married Pond Life's father, a bank clerk alcoholic (think genetics eugenics) and they moved into larger properties eventually owning the 9 bedroom mansion in Devon they turned into an old people's home. All the residents are dead, only Pond Life and Mummy live there now.   She never looked after him, she never told him she loved him when he was a child.

He said he couldn't wait to leave the house every time he returned and coming to London, to stay with me, was his sanctuary. But I didn't want to be an escape plan. He was quite horrible about her. All the women he was ever with were absolutely horrible to him. I used to feel sorry for him, thinking, "Poor Jeremy  he just needs the love of a good woman," but that wasn't quite the truth. His theory of love was that women who showed any kind of affection or vulnerability towards him were "stupid." He was unlovable, so there had to be something inherently flawed in anyone who loved him. Either that, or they were not up to scratch.  Do you see a pattern emerging? I can't say I wasn't warned . At last two of his ex lovers told me he was an emotional cripple. He told me himself. But he said he wanted to change. More fool me, for believing Pond Life's frog spawn of lies.

I remove the crumb of croissant from the lovely academic's chin, where it has fallen and he nestles back into bed, his long body settling along the horizontal, ready to sleep again. I look at the swoop of his elegant body, the  curve of  his spine and the way his head rests on the pillow and I am overcome with relief.  I cover him with the duvet and put on my coat to brace Paris chill and Christmas shopping.

This is what good men feel like.

I slip the ticket back in the envelope from the ex - interrupted.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The best revenge is living

An interesting couple of days, a new team in the work fold, a dynamic pair who understand resettlement and that we are not a one size fits all society. Two very fun Christmas parties yesterday, Women In Social Housing, an elegant affair in the shadow of the mighty Shard, God I love that building and the raucous Women in Journalism party at the Embassy, old friends and new  and the gorgeous Shaziah Mirza who I  forgot, used to write a column for the Guardian, diary of a disappointing daughter. Don't we know that one too well? Still waiting for Mummy Dearest to die so I can have a picnic and pour champagne on her grave?  I am.
I took one of these 2 new work colleagues,  a much younger man with me and people ass-u-med we were together. Deeply flattering. We weren't.
Tonight however,  dinner at Carluccios with a young man (31)  who wanted to   explore possibilities with an older woman. He is beautiful, 6'2", green eyes, dark hair, just got back from Vietnam, so slightly tan, model like features, works as a bond trader  and made me laugh into my venison ravioli, something I   haven't done openly  for  what feels like a  very long time.  Isn't it strange how sad times become telescopic in their endlessness, as if they won't end and then a single good moment can make you just snap out of it. So the delicious 31 year old wants to meet again and has promised to read up on tantric sex (not sure how we got to that).  I feel deeply flattered, quite amused and strangely content. It was all very chaste, barely a kiss on the cheek which  he misdirected to reach the corner of my smile, very smooth. I said let's go and see  DEATH at the Wellcome which I want to get to again. He doesn't like art.  Lost puppy, eager and friendly, needs some  training.

I sleep tonight feeling lighter than I have for a month at least. So much for man flu and the stress diet. And men who are too much work.

Here's a profile to avoid if you go on line dating. As if you ever would do such a thing...

Ladies, I present Thomas Cromwell. As in Woolf Hall. Literary pretensions so far up his ass he can't see the shit from the delusions anymore. Face like beaten leather or Max Clifford.  Has just had an AIDS test, so I should wait for the results of that before diving in. Not quite Shard like. Not a keeper, sort of  a part time indulgence, like a book you read then leave on a bench for anyone who might be interested. 55, lives at home with his mother in Devon.

                                          55 / M / Straight / Single      Dartmouth, United Kingdom

My self-summaryConvivial recluse.
What I’m doing with my life I'm a journalist. Reading. Writing rubbish. Swimming. Taking my grandson Oscar on steam trains and to zoos.

I’m really good at:
Lighting fires.
Making tea.
Breast stroke.

The first things people usually notice about me:
My Ronald Kray retro style glasses

Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food
Books: In Which Piglet Is Entirely Surrounded By Water
Music: Sailing By, Dr Feelgood, Cesaria Evora, African pop.
Food: A free range boiled egg and a slice of bread and butter

The six things I could never do without
Fountain pen and paper, ink, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, WD40

I spend a lot of time thinking about
What rubbish to write next.

On a typical Friday night I am
Adults only lane swimming session at the local pool.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit
I'm a fucking idiot

He’s looking for
Girls who like guys
Ages 30–55
Near me
For new friends, long-term dating, short-term dating, activity partners

You should message me if

You've had one too many.

Yes. Quite.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

When is enough enough?

Lots of noise and static recently about personal issues being written about and people's perceived right to privacy in their personal affairs.

Tuesday,  at Fredericks in Islington, an event  hosted Financial Mail Women's Forum, a Daily Mail initiative to bring together senior business women, by the fragrant  Lisa Buckingham, editor of the Financial Mail . The event was sponsored by Fiona Cannon, head of diversity at Lloyds Bank and two serving prisoners were awarded  one thousand pounds in recognition of their brilliant business idea, with support from leading businesswomen, an account with Lloyds TSB  (stay away from that one girls, recipe for disaster) and mentoring to make their idea a reality. The runner up was awarded 500 pounds.

It was an interesting night. The Mail on Sunday's  Angella Johnson seems to have carved a career peddling vitriol about me and others and I have avoided anything to do with them recently  but I am impressed by Lisa's commitment to help ex offenders (particularly as she got funding from Halifax and Lloyds, not easy, Lloyds is a terrible business bank they don't understand social enterprise) to create a newspaper for women in prison, Financial Freedom.
Fiona Cannon from Lloyds TSB and Lisa Buckingham from the Financial Mail

Here's the piece they wrote about Kazuri in the paper she edits. I feel grateful and blessed to have the support  I have which lead Kazuri to grow and flourish.

People ask if I regret my past. People I care about and am involved with. I don't. The past has made me who I am and resilient and also able to identify when something good goes bad or when I am operating in a way that isn't aligned with my own purpose. A recent love affair brought out the best and the worst in me, but I was being written about.  I am  quite private and I  treasure my privacy,  and it was one of only two rules we established at the beginning of our relationship. Suddenly I found myself being ridiculed because he can't hold a straight argument, being accused of portraying myself as a victim ( I don't see myself as a victim of anyone or anything and certainly not him), being lied  to about whether drugs came from a Spectator party or afterwards.  He accused me of being vulnerable, which I think is my greatest strength as a human being. Then because I wanted him to attend an event which marked the most important achievement of my life so far, I was "being like man and wife." No, Jeremy, that is what being in a relationship entails. Or is it just one way traffic for you to accumulate more column fodder?

This final intrusion  crossed the Rubicon of acceptable  boundaries  for me. I have written to Mary Wakefield his editor at the Speccie to say I will sue if there is anything further written about me, indirectly or not. I don't give my consent to be violated and humiliated by him trading  and commercializing on his intimacies. He's done it for years about his girlfriends, present and past but he didn't like it much when it was unforgivingly  done to him. Revenge is best served brilliantly written with a powerful headline.  In the wake of Leveson, we live in interesting times.

Jeremy Clarke aka Low Life

I learned a lot, he's  well read and perhaps, deep down and in spite of himself, a most gentle and noble man. However,  I  felt like I was drizzling sadness inside, as women we put up with so much crap we shouldn't have to. Because he couldn't come up with a decent retort or excuse, he calls me names. I'm stupid, ridiculous, going a bit mad, am I feeling ok, am I on some self destruct Kamikaze mission? Two glasses of champagne? I'm turning into an alcoholic.  My friends are horrible because they tried to protect me from his self destruction,  I am vicious.

No, I am exhausted by putting emotional energy into a place where there is neither resistance or acceptance, just a dead space. He says, quite clearly and to anyone who will listen that he doesn't want to be loved or to love a woman. But he lures women in with the cottage, roses by the garden gate and white picket fence fantasy. Straight from  Hans Christian Anderson. I don't want to be that princess anymore. It hurts too much.

He's used to treating women badly, he gets away with it. The last, the mistress of a rich retailer,  he proposed to after just five weeks and three dates. When she realized he had no money she ditched him , after he had bought a luxury king size bed and paid the fee at  the  registry office.  Another, an ex colleague from the Spectator who he messed about for six years warned me about his fatal charm, his inability to connect and how she felt like his local London B+B when he needed somewhere to sleep when he was up from Devon. She asked him for a baby. She didn't hear from him again. I don't need the money and I certainly don't want anymore babies.  I saw and tried to bring out the best in him but when a person doesn't value themselves, how do they connect with the concept of valuing anyone else?

So, as they say in America, it's been real. He says let's stay friends but I don't  know how. He doesn't have friends, he has people he goes and gets drunk / drugged with. I know that life, I used to think it was cool. I grew up. Friends don't treat each other the way he has treated me.

I've noticed recently, that the  older I get the more my desire to punish myself recedes.

Feeling so much better. Like I cleared a pile of doggy mess and chaos out of my life. Much more focused and a strengthened resolve to make some things I have been dreaming about happen,  sucha s the women's resilience centre and a partnership with a multinational , two have been sniffing around.  These "too big to fails" are not going anywhere. As I said, we live in interesting times.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

e mail response from Crowdfuelled

Received 25/9/12 09:51 hours

Hi Amanda and Farah,

Thanks for your email and questions about Crowd Fuelled Causes. This email explains the stage that our social enterprise is at and how we are preparing for the future. I am afraid we are not in a position to answer all 40 questions in detail. (Questions any decent social enterprise would have been able to answer in less than 30 minutes around constitution, charitable purpose, policies and safeguarding)

At the outset, I want to express our regret at how our proposals were communicated. Clearly, we did not articulate our plans as we would have liked, and we failed to explain our timing or vision. Some donors expected the launch of the Hope Boutique Bakery to be more immediate than our actual plans. We have decided to contact current donors and offer them the chance to have their donation fully refunded or, if they prefer, to be forwarded to a partner charity that we are seeking to identify.

Our initiative is still in the preparation stage. We plan to undertake training and work with charities on the ground, to understand how we can partner and learn from best practice. This will give us the knowledge and experience required to shape our idea to really help the women in the Bakery and those women visiting. Once we have undertaken this thorough preparation, and have found a supporting partner charity, we will look to open a pilot bakery fully integrated with this charity. This would provide the guidance, policy, safeguarding practice and professional infrastructure required by the self-funding vision of the Bakery. 

The Hope Boutique Bakery will provide a safe space for women to connect with professionals, charities and the community, as well as paid employment, training, and a platform to help redevelop their self-confidence and trust in others. This remains something we are committed to. But of course we regret the reaction to how our proposals were conveyed at this very early stage.

I hope this helps you both understand further.

Kind Regards,

Richard Wheatcroft

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Open Letter to the Press Complains Commission

Feather Mews
89 Fieldgate Street
London E1 1DH

September 22 2012

ref Crowdfuelled and recent press coverage


I write somewhat disturbed at the level of inaccuracy and lack of responsible reporting concering Crowdfuelled, a so called social enterprise start up which appear to have come from nowhere but launched themselves at the head of the queue for the new iPhone 5  which was released in London last week. The plan, allegedly, was to sell their seats to the highest bidder and give the money to a bakery for  abused women, in order to provide training and some sort of  safe space for women "to reflect on how they got themselves there" presumably having chosen to be raped , battered and demeaned.

The story of these 2 photgenic young men, 23 and 30, Richard Wheatcroft and George Young was soon picked up by the media and pieces followed in the Evening Standard. The article by Lindsay Watling  in the Evening Standard which can still be seen here states
It reads:

"He said: “It will offer woman employment, training from a top chef and help build their self-confidence by being around good male role models.
“I want it to be a safe, positive, friendly working environment for them.”
Business partner Mr Horne, 23, added: “This is just part of the funding process – we are going to try to get match funding. Hopefully we will get a lot of support, but at the very least we are raising awareness.”
As well as flogging the seats, people can donate to the cause and those who do will be rewarded with a free cake once the bakery is up and running.
It will begin as a pop-up enterprise, but longer-term the pair will be looking for a permanent site which will be staffed by different charities each day of the week."

However there is no determination of how any of this will happen or what track record these men have working with vulnerable women. Indeed the article reads as an endorsement of something already  almost up and running. Sadly this is not the case at all and Wheatcroft and Young had not spoken to a single women's charity, although they promised they would  provide names of same when pressed, nothing has been forthcoming. A journalist bears the responsibility to check how far something is tangible, maybe speaking to supporters and partners might have been a way to measure whether Crowdfuelled were the best thing since sliced bread with their women's bakery and not  accept that because it is stated, that it is fact, which was so far from the truth in this case. 

Photo from 20/9/12

The Daily Mail states on 14 September 2012 in an article written by Mark Prigg,

George Horne and Richard Wheatcroft hope to use their place at the head of the queue to raise awareness for their charity 'The Hope Boutique Bakery' that helps vulnerable women find employment and training.
Quite clearly this gives the impression that the Hope Boutique bakery is already up and running, not that it is still unestablished, and in fact, when questioned Crowdfuelled admitted it would not be a static building but a "pop up" in various London  markets. So very soothing and therapeutic then,.  Why did the journalist not do any kind of background checking on whether the bakery existed or not? This is not journalism, this is fairy tales.
Daily Mail journalist Mark Prigg did not bother to check the facts printed. The Hope Boutique Bakery does not exist, the traning and employment pathways for these women do not exist and this is all a piece of PR, on the backs of women who have already suffered trauma and pain. 
 The online news site Huffington Post  carries a piece by contributor by Cllr Stephen Canning
Stephen Canning appears to be rewriting  from a press release. The same blurb, this is all for a good cause, it is about raising the profile for women who have been abused. But the T shirts and all the sponsorship around this was to do with a mobile app platform, which was meant to  collate bids for the seats at the front of the queue for iPhones.

These 2 young men  guys , George Young and Richard Wheatcroft were not doing anything for abused or battered women and in fact it has all been a huge publicity stunt (failed) on the back of women who have already suffered trauma and violence to raise their own profile and  that of the company which was meant to get the auction bids to sell their places in the queue for an iPhone.

They were also featured on the BBC and I will write separately about that once I have located a link to the piece. 

 Where is The Daily Mail,  The Huffington Post, The Evening Standard,  the BBC's editorial integrity in this matter? Did any one bother to check  which charities they were working with or whether the Hope Boutique Bakery actually exists? We need to address the systemic mysogeny which exists and which allows un-facts such as these, to pass without muster and become newsworthy thus detracting from the real story which is that every single women's shelter in the UK faces closure because of funding cuts and the real story of domestic violence. .

The violence against women agenda is an important one and while this Government struggles to find viable solutions, and continues to make cuts to existing providers with proven success in tackling the issues,  and take risks with  new untried ones in cost efficiency measures, safeguarding  must be put in place. The press have  a responsibility to represent the truth and the facts not reproduce glossy press releases.  

Wheatcroft and Young have absolutely no understanding of violence against women, I assure you we do not chose it. Women  who suffer don't "choose" to put themselves in vulnerable situations.

 From their own website, their Hope Boutique bakery which doesn't quite exist , "will be a place where they can earn a living and find an alternative to what they might have been doing in the past which caused them to get to the vulnerable state."

Survivors of DV don't get themselves into a vulnerable state, the system in which we live allows perpetrators to operate and exploit women, much the way these  two  have, and this  is where we need to look at alternatives and consequences when misunderstanding and intentions are allowed to converge and create chaos and danger.  When pressed, Crowdfuelled were unable to provide any names of any charities they were working with , any business model , any training or employment pathways, or indeed any safeguarding measures for these "vulnerable women" for whom they were claiming to fundraise.

The Huffington Post has a good international reputation for reporting the news fairly and with accuracy. This is a piece of puffery about Soqquini, as can clearly be seen from the branding on the t shirts below and had nothing to do with violence against women. People like this are very harmful to the whole ending violence against women sector and actually do a lot of damage by diverting funds (they claim to have raised over 2k pounds on their site), yet not a penny was raised for vulnerable women.

The Sooqini T shirts have been professionally designed and printed, the board claiming theor cause looks like an afterthought on a whiteboard, quite literally.

With the words domestic violence being bandied about like this season's black, we simply ask that you write to the papers and specifically the journalists concerned and ask that  they check their facts more efficiently and offer retractions and indeed apologies to  the millions of women in the UK who have sufered any form of abuse and do not deserve to be treated like this, as if some half brained idea about baking cupcakes is going to heal the deep inner wounds and will have the great curing effect promised.

I write with the support of the following, but I also write in my on capacity as a survivor of domestic  violence and currenmtly on the front line of providing housing and tenancy support services to  women who have suffered trauma.

We look forward to hearing from you and are grateful for your investigation into this matter.

Yours sincerely

Farah Damji

Friday, 21 September 2012

Crowd Fooled and perpetrators

Battered women and domestic abuse are really sexy, right now,  so sexy in fact that Home Secretary Theresa May is even finally paying attention and has widened the definition of domestic  violence to include honour killings, forced marriages, financial exclusion , power players,  etc.

Two young men Richard Wheatcroft and George Horne, are allegedly employed and promoting their charity from up north of Camden somewhere (Leicester?) and they  are camping outside the Apple store in line for the new iPhone 5 or whatever ( I am not interested in gadgets, they bore me and tend to make my life  more complicated). They  wanted to sell their seats  at the front of the queue to the highest bidder to secure the first iPhone sold in London and raise the awareness of their crowd funding campaign to create a  boutique bakery (couture cupcakes?)  to train up vulnerable women and survivors of abuse.  Do people really do this stuff? Is it people who have nothing else to do who want to sleep outside in the street and feel virtuous about it?  Fuck's sake, give your Sealey posturepedic sprung divan to a homeless person who lives on the street and give up your gap year delusions of thinking you are the best thing since sliced bread. 

Not surprising really that people are coming up with all sorts of innovative ways to grease the wheels of enterprise (nothing wrong with that at all) and try and raise the profile of the plight of these vulnerable  women. However, throughout the course of yesterday evening I watched their definition of vulnerable women change from prostitutes, to homeless women, to women who had experienced DV and  I realized the lack of any gendered analysis of the problem and the way that all abused women were being thrown into one murky female  fish pond to be plucked out and rescued at random, by putting them  in some sort of baking finishing school where they could come in for a chat and a cupcake, was not only demeaning it  had the potential to be extremely damaging.     At one point they tweeted about how they were helping raise the profile of women who had been raped and I wondered if they had downed some MDMA on that long line on Regent Street.  Poor poppets, out in the cold, surely mummy would be bringing a flask of Horlicks soon and relieve us of the torture...sadly not.

Someone asked me why they shouldn't be allowed to tweet about rape and what about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech has nothing to do with this. Protecting vulnerable women and not allowing traumatic experiences of rape to be commercialised,  are more important than someone's right to tweet to allegedly raise the profile of  a very sensitive subject which opens wounds in scores of women.  As a survivor of rape and someone who deals regularly with women who are trying to get over the lifelong emotional trauma inflicted by rape, I find it disgusting that they can take this issue and  spin it for some muddled and damaging PR.  It made me physically ill last night. 

I was  sent the link to them on twitter, the scourge of modern living and I asked the person who manages our social media for the company at which I am director and where we procure decent homes   primarily for vulnerable women leaving prison, on license or existing gang violence, refuges and supported housing to find out  some more and we exchanged a few benign tweets with @crowdfuelled , two  photogenic young white boys. I am not being racist, I am making an observation. However, realistically,  your chances of suffering DV in the UK are substantially higher  if you are a black or ethnic minority woman than if you are a young white guy. I believe services around domestic violence and indeed any kind of trauma inflicted on women should be designed, deployed and delivered by WOMEN. Of course men can be champions of a cause and without men, (where the power inequality lies and is furthered), we won't get too far. No rocket science there then. When asked about their business model, a bakery, to offer training and "become a top chef" and safeguarding policy, they went  quiet and huffy.

By now, my back was up and the hairs on my arms were prickling with alarm and I decided to look into this myself a little more closely. They claimed to be a charity, then they changed that to be a social enterprise. they claimed to have a building in London for their Hope Boutique Bakery (yukk, I know) and then it was going to be  a pop up in various London markets run by different charities. Had they formed partnerships with any charities? Had they even spoken to anyone? I contacted some of the well known refuges we work with and Eaves and of course NO ONE had heard of them and no one knew anything about them.  The website content has   been changed  today to reflect the New Truth.

They have no discernible links to any womens orgs. They are behaving like perpetrators,   violence against women is not just  physical, it's also financial, sexual, emotional, through exploitation,  and to me the prospect of all sorts of abuse  through this completely ill thought out PR stunt had the potential to manifest. What if they said they were raising money  for starving kids in Africa but didn't know what country / what charity / NGO or who  would benefit from their fundraising? Why  is this ok, now that there is money being thrown at the EVAW sector  to come in and say and "do" these intangible "ideas" when there is no chance of  longevity or success? Why do we tolerate it as women? If it was starving African Kids, you'd have Trading Standards and possibly the fraud squad all over them.I know if I did it , I would be writing to you from Holloway Prison right now.

Two young men, with no understanding of the deeper issues around violence against women and its systemic and inherent  nature and how it is established in all our institutions and furthered by women who should know better. What do  they think,  these little boys and their little camping expedition for an iPhone on the back of abused women. And who are these abused women Crowdfuelled claim to be helping, are they prostitutes, women who have suffered violence or  abused women? This isn't one huge pool of damaged women to fish in, the treatment of the symptoms, the psychosocial interventions and resettlement and recovery needs of each  group, and also of each woman, is completely different. But hey, check out one of those forecasting almanacs and cupcaked and DV are right up there.

Start ups are great, the buzz around and from getting loads of publicity is also great, I've been there and know it well and am asked almost weekly to  be profiled or do something to raise the plight of women who have suffered violence or resettled  as ex offenders successfully. I don't do it,  because I have to check my own agenda against the greater one, which is about confronting situations like Crowdfuelled, against the instant hit of publicity, when photo ops or eager journalists approach me.  All the research says that services lead by women for women, designed and deployed by and for women are much more successful than those run by men allegedly for women. There is a huge risk of abuse being heaped on these women AGAIN by male lead services. There is no gendered analysis in  the way a man will design a service for a woman and there is little understanding of the longstanding and far reaching effects of multiple exclusion and trauma specifically faced by women. To me, these guys are frankly scary amateurs with the potential to do a lot of harm.

I have been working on a report with Imran Khan (human rights lawyer), Flo Krause ( leading female criminal defence barrister)  and Julia Gibby (Senior research fellow at Kings College London) in response to the Justice Committee's call for evidence into women in the criminal justice system. Stats show that 87% of women who have been to prison have suffered some sort of violence or been abused. Our report reflects on the lack of provision for women who have suffered trauma and violence  who end up in prison, and asks for systemic change in the way services are designed and delivered in order that they suit women's needs, not men's needs to superimpose their will on women.

I have 3 simple questions fro the founders of Crowd Fooled:
What is their training model? How will they recruit?
What kind of safeguarding has been put in place  to protect their female staff and service users?
What is their referral route? No charities I spoke to today (we work with most of the refuges and shelters across London) had ever heard of them.

And where is my locus standi in this? As an ex offender who had to put up with shitty services run by men and was almost raped in one of them, I have  a personal issue with male perpetrators fronting as something else. Poppetiesques,  I noticed you changed your website and took away all the guff about the bakery, so what is it then? A great idea or a PR stunt?

And if you want to support a crowdfunding venture, please support  this  and you're most welcome to come and check out what we do.


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Lovers and liars, a gallery of rogues.

Just a random musing really, about how men say things they think women want to hear, to make us feel secure. Do we live in such a black / white or light / dark paradigm?

Is there such a thing as truth in love or do we just adjust the situation to the circumstances and lying in  her tender arms, tell her what we need to be, in order to feel enough or valuable? Then slink away like shame as dawn lifts her skirts and dayight breaks.

Sometimes I wish I was a man, then I could do exactly what I do and not have guilt / complexity around it.

 Oh for the glory of a cock.

Penis envy?

I have an enviable collection of cock shots on my BlackBerry, sent by randomers, perhaps it's meant to turn me on. Difficult to attach emotion to a distended member, engorged and ready, when I haveno inkling what sociopathic tendencies  it might be attached to. A perfect installation for the lobby of The Shard, my collection of cock shots.  I would never send a photo of my unfolding. Paris Hilton type XXX rated  traumas don't interest me, anymore.

Still here, a dip in and out, a passing of flotillas and a silent gun salute...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Open Letter to the Chairman of the Trustees , Crisis

Steve Holliday
Chief  Executive, National Grid
National Grid House
Warwick Technolgy Park
Gallows Hill Warwick  CV34 6DA

9 April 2012

Dear Mr Holliday

I write to you as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the homelessness charity, Crisis. 
I hope by now you will have seen the letter I wrote to Grant Shapps requesting that all future money  for the Crisis / Shelter Private Rented Sector schemes to "end homelessness" be suspended pending  the review of Sir Adrian Montague's  call for consultation into the lack of interest and investment in the Private Rented Sector. I asked Lesley Morphy to send you a copy of this letter but she has not yet confirmed that she has done so.

Crisis are actually doing more damage than  good and while no one wishes to detract from the excellent policy and research which they conduct,  they are neither equipped or  able to deal with the practicalities of putting single homeless people into the Private Rented Sector. Some of the campaigns that have depicted all landlords as criminals  and sustaining low outcomes by their own measures simply serve to highlight the lack of credibility or engagement with private landlords.

I seek that you ask the Board of Trustees to ask the Government to suspend the funding until Crisis outcomes have been independently monitored and assessed by a firm of chartered accountants or a body which specialises in measuring social, economic and human returns on investment as this leaky charity bucket model is not sustainable. I have received a very unsatisfactory response from DCLG which simply states Crisis has to report to DCLG every quarter  and find on its outcomes. There is no transparency in this response, the figures released by the DCLG contradict those released by Crisis in their response to my open letter and the outcomes in any event, are pathetic given the disproportionate amount of funding bunged at this issue to Crisis by Government. I am seeking that the last three reports be released under the Freedom of Information Act as a matter of urgency as it is in the public interest. I will be looking at Judicial Review as to how the funding was allocated to Crisis in the first place, on whether any impact assessment was made or any consultation was undertaken and also asking the Public Accounts Committee to investigate the Private Rented Sector funding Crisis and Shelter receive.

I would also like to find out, and ask that you respond to me,  what percentage of the money given to Crisis by DCLG for "ending homelessness" is ringfenced and what the costs are of the ten most highly paid staff at CRISIS are and whether any Government grant money meant to be used for the Private Rented Sector  is used for these as proportioned expenses.

Finally, I would like you to ask your Director of Policy Duncan Shrubsole,  to stop his ridiculous campaigning against me. It is unimpressive and makes him look like a bully. I have never denied my criminal convictions and yes, one of them was indeed for Housing Benefit fraud. This offence was committed in a situation of domestic violence, in 2008,  the circumstances of which the Court and the CPS refused to mitigate but which looked both mean and vindictive when it came to sentencing and  Franco Miccoloupo, a known drug dealer and serial  criminal who was the perpetrator of both actual violence and threats against me and my young children refused to come back to the UK for a Newton Hearing as a star witness for the CPS. I have learned not only from my mistakes but also from personal experiences about the lack of provision and the preponderance of academics and social policy makers with absolutely no experience of how the system is stacked particularly against women. I do not see myself as a victim and have not fully recounted this previously in the public domain  as it was both painful and I felt shame around it however my debt to society is repaid and I have as much right, if not more, than he, to make my voice and opinion heard in this fractious and contentious issue of homelessness and access to the private rented sector  which hopefully, this Government has decided to grasp by the nettle and finally deal with. It is easy to pick up on the tabloid version of events with no knowledge or concern as to why I committed those offences at a particularly difficult time in my life when I just wanted o get my children back and living with me, post a prison sentence.

I do  look forward to hearing from you and hope you will view this letter as it was written with good intentions and from a place of concern because every day I meet  or encounter single homeless people who are being let down by Crisis by NOT providing accommodation and frankly doing everything they can to keep people disempowered, vulnerable and benefit dependent. I am sure you agree as a society this is no longer sustainable for us and is in fact quite cruel against a backdrop of Big Society and social action.

Kind regards

Farah Damji
Director, Kazuri Properties Ltd

A i Wei Wei we love you

Sunday. A most extraordinary day. Walk down Bow Road, fall into this painting it calls me into a derelict house full of passion and painterly perspectives. Richard Sleeman, art genius, new art central lends me his eyes and his vision. Found it a perfect home in our new office in Feather Mews, Whitechapel, what better icon?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

For the man with the golden green gaze

For the man with the golden green gaze who made me cry tears for change; I'd shrinkwrap my life and make it pretty for you, take out the rage and the pain which flows through all that I am in order to live within the confines of structure and order and calmness you crave and created.
But then my heart would break and the seas would overflow with my blood, the sky would set its stormy growl upon you and all your tears couldn't wash away the stain of sorrow inside me.
You see, I died already  to live to be free another day.
Goodbye, sad love.