Friday, 25 September 2009

Justice for Ian Tomlinson

You may remember that Ian Tomlinson was killed as a result of action during the G20 summit protests. As far as I'm aware the CPS is still looking into this but it has now fallen off the press pages and as a consequence off the radar of most people. The Government recently released statistics on the rise in complaints against the police and it is time there was a serious debate about the role and management of the police in the UK.

Perhaps it would be useful to revisit Peel's 9 principles of policing:

Principle #1: The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

Principle #2: The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.

Principle #3: Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

Principle #4: The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

Principle #5: Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

Principle #6: Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient.

Principle #7: Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence."

Principle #8: Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

Principle #9: The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it

These still look pretty relevant to me.
An article from the Guardian that I would have missed had I not heard the reference to the Inquest findings on 5Live:

"Incident diary reveals ordeal of mother who killed herself and daughter

Fiona Pilkington, found dead in burning car with 18-year-old daughter, kept log of harassment by local youths

Fiona Pilkington and daughter

Francecca Hardwick, 18, and her mother Fiona Pilkington, whose bodies were found in a burning car in 2007. Photograph: Leicestershire police/PA

A vulnerable single mother who killed herself and her disabled daughter after years of harassment wrote about sitting in darkness in her house as youths yelled abuse outside, an inquest was told.

Extracts from a "harassment diary" Fiona Pilkington, 38, kept for her local council were read to the hearing at Loughborough town hall . She kept the diary for a short time about six months before her death in November 2007.

An extract from May 12 read: "They were shouting outside the window from 11.30pm until it went quiet at 2.30am." Pilkington had opened the living room curtains to see if she could scare away the gang, who regularly gathered outside her 1930s semi-detached house in Barwell, Leicestershire. This failed and she turned off the light. The entry ends: "Sat in the dark until 2.30am, stressed out."

The gang returned the next day, the diary records, attacking her hedge.

"It's chucking down with rain," she wrote at 4pm. "Fed up. Cheesed off. Why can't they just walk past without doing anything? Why can't they walk on the other side of the road?"

The last entry was written late at night on June 2, another Saturday. Youths had pelted the house with stones. "They then went [next door] to number 57, lit a fag and then tried to set fire to fences between the houses. Really cheesed off. Can't they just walk down the street without doing anything? It seems impossible."

Little more than six months later, after she had abandoned recording the incidents of abuse or, apparently, informing the council about them, Pilkington drove her blue Austin Maestro to a layby on the nearby A47 and set it alight. Inside, fire crews found her severely burned body and that of her 18-year-old daughter, Francecca.

An inquest has been told that the ever-changing gang of around 16 local youngsters seemed unable to leave the family in peace because they were perceived as different and vulnerable, and fair game.

As well as Francecca's disability, Pilkington's son Anthony, now 19, has serious dyslexia. She herself had borderline learning difficulties and had experienced depression, the inquest has been told.

Although Pilkington called the police 33 times, no one was ever charged over the harassment. In the diary she noted that on the night of May 12 she opted against calling the police again. "Know from experience that no one is usually available from Friday to Monday as it is busy elsewhere. This is a low priority."

Yesterday it also emerged that the council failed to pick up on the family's vulnerability, or share information with local police, even though both organisations knew the identities of the children behind the harassment, most of whom lived on the same street.

Tim Butterworth, a community safety officer for Hinckley and Bosworth borough council, sent Pilkington the diary after visiting her at her home in February 2007, and he read the extracts to the inquest. His only other recorded contact with her was a 10-minute phone call in April.

The coroner, Olivia Davison, noted that in a matter of weeks during that period, police recorded three separate incidents involving the family, including youths throwing stones at Anthony as he rode his bike, and that the council was informed.

"Did it not concern you to explore why this was occurring to this family?" Davison asked. Butterworth replied: "At this point no, because I had no concern for the family." He said he had not picked up on Pilkington's slight learning difficulties and knew nothing of her children's conditions.

Had he known the family's situation, Butterworth said, he would have treated the matter as a suspected hate crime and pursued it far more vigorously.

The hearing heard how the police and the council identified the same hardcore group of tormentors, but seemingly failed to share the information. Both organisations particularly picked out children from a household further down Pilkington's road, which was referred to at the hearing only as "Family A". Earlier this week it emerged that this family had persistently refused to cooperate with officials, remained known troublemakers and still lived on the street despite efforts to evict them.

The inquest has heard that members of the gang, some as young as 10, would pelt the house with stones, eggs and flour, and put fireworks through the letterbox. Once a key member of the group was heard to shout: "We can do anything we like and you can't do anything about it."

The inquest is expected to finish on Friday"

I simply cannot understand how something like this could possibly be allowed to go on for so long. Surely repeated reporting of this kind of activity should lead to a more proactive response from the police/council. I'm sure those 'kids' would have found it much less fun if the were constantly being picked up/detained/fined or, in the case of those who are considered below the age of criminal responsibility if their parents were constantly asked to come and pick them up from the station, or fined.

That this situation is allowed to occur is a shaming indictment of the society we live in. A lack of care, a lack of responsibility and an apparently total lack of support/protection for victims. Who will those 'kids' pick on next? How many of them will end getting into more/worse trouble and ultimately causing further harm and costing more money (either in cleaning up or prosecuting further crimes).

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Lockerbie economy

I hope that the Lockerbie bomber was let out on compassionate grounds. It shows that this country at least is capable of compassion. It was a difficult outcome and would be controversial whatever may happen. If it wasn't based upon a humanitarian reason then really it does put us in the same position as the rest of the world. If I was a relative of the a victim of that outrage then I too would be upset, but also think on this. If we by this gesture stop more Lockerbies from happening isn't that a good thing?
I know the Americans are angry about it but wasn't a deal done to get the two journalists out of North Korea or the American idiot who now has stopped the pro democracy leader in Burma from participating in the next election, so enabling the military powers to keep power for another long term. Do the Americans send a senator to protest, (I didn't hear anything), no he gets the American out of jail and back to the USA.
I dare say it was about oil. It generally is these days. Which leads me on to the idiocy of raising tax in a recession. It's not just the duty on petrol but the VAT on the duty. I am not sure but is the government taking 65% of the price of petrol in tax, plus in March unless the money runs out the scrappage scheme stops. Well that really helps the economy.It doesn't help the car industry but it helps the banks or finance houses that give the loans to buy the new cars. Does it really help the car industry? What car industry? Does the government mean car imports or cars built here for foreign companies who make more profits for their home company? If governments, any governments want to aid the economy then lets drop the cost of VAT on building. If you buy materials you pay VAT plus vat on the services, such as employing a plumber. We complain about houses falling into disrepair and not enough houses in the first place well how about dropping VAT on materials by half. The amount of work that would take place would easily cover the first instance shortfall in government revenue. Householders would be able to employ builders or even do it themselves so stimulating the economy through retail and the housing market through improved sales.
We now need a radical rethink in policy. Instead of the simple methods of more of less public spending which never works, depending on who is in government lets have some stimulating ideas about running the economy. Instead of nuclear power lets start by giving houses the opportunity of buying solar panels (without VAT) and proper grants. Have you tried to read the material about getting a grant to put in solar panels? I am reading a book on French revolutions series of economic blunders which led to the reign of terror and that is easier to understand than the documents from the government.
Lets actually stop and think about how to maintain a decent economy, without recourse to oil, but then without oil we wouldn't be in the Middle East,but then that brings us back to Lockerbie.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009


I understand that teachers are to be licensed with a view to their licenses being revued every five years, this comes in the same breath as the new policy on having individual tuition for every child who is falling behind in English & Maths. Is it me or does this not add up? So lets get rid of teachers in an all ready under populated industry while having the teachers who are already there having to take time out to tutor those children who are falling behind because there are not enough teachers to teach the children they have already got so you have to increase class sizes which makes things worse for the treachers who leave the profession, etc etc etc.
When will governments actually start taking responsibility for the the mess education is in. First it was the super headmaster at a giant salary, when in fact their higher wages would have been better served in recruiting more teachers to make the classes smaller so giving the children more attention. It's not rocket science, but yet again it is all down to cost against benefit statistics. Whatever happened to value? What we need is a proper cohesive education policy. One that involves negotiation with the teachers, and the parents as well as the civil servants and policy makers. This has to be done before policy is rubber stamped, not after.
Try looking at the Dutch system. You know the one where every child takes responsibility for its own learning, the country where children as young at primary school can speak another European language. Where children are allowed to flourish not be squeezed. In fact government should stop looking towards America for their solutions and start looking to Europe. After all are we not in the community now? If I go to Spain, or France or Germany and I have to go to hospital, there will be a doctor who will be able to explain things to me in English. I wish I could say the same here. I have had problems making myself understood in the a&e down the road.
We have become the village idiots of Europe.
We need to change the whole culture of education. Start by putting the word education back into the ministery title. Its not about skills and employment, its about long term belief that education is not about a series of short term fixes, but a long thought through strategy of improving this country through education. Start thinking in terms of education as a profession and not a caring industry. If teachers who are under enough strain have to worry about being tested all the time what do you think they will do, settle for a good old nine to five, with more money, better conditions and no stress, no fear of violence from pupils or parents and actually being able to take cheap holidays in term time; well what do you think they will do?
How about a bit of support from government? How about reinstating teaching as a profession? Bad teachers will leave anyway. Its pretty obvious that whoever thought up this policy has never stood before a class of thirty kids from an inner city estate. Do you know what? Even bad teachers are better than no teachers, now bankers, thats a different matter.
Stop rewarding failure. Stop allowing ceo's big payouts for putting people out of work and their homes. Now if you want to license one group lets start with CEO's of financial institutions. Where they have to show progress over five years, not just a large profit sheet but also social investment. How many small busineses have they helped over a five year period, not by lending them money but also with advice and guidence? How many first time buyers have they given the opportunity to buy their own house and advice on what grants are available to improve it? After all RBS is now owned by the government so why not instill the policy there as a start?
The problem is that MP's can only see everything in terms of their own tenure, but how about licensing MP's. Show us what you have done and we will renew your license so you can stand as an MP, if not it gets revoked so you can't. What about ministers. After all how many of them have been in the profession they are now in charge of. Perhaps a test on what they do every five years. Now thats what I call education.
By the way who ever is stealing our ideas please either stop or start giving us a credit, so we can appear on question time. I know its all there and it is nice that some of the solutions we came up with four years ago are now becoming policy, but give us a credit now and again. It won't hurt your reputation any, in fact imagine what we could do if we had the right backing and support.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

DNA database

written on another thread by Loftwork.

The argument is always that since a genetic identifier allows the police to establish identity so easily we must keep as much data as possible to avoid the chance of missing a dangerous criminal. This is always trotted out in emotive cases - child abuse, rape, granny-mugging etc.

The principle is in fact the same as the justification for torture: 'we need to do it because it might prevent a terrorist blowing up London'. It rests on the notion that one can strike a balance between a routine but less significant erosion of personal rights and an extreme and terrifying but remote possibility.

The reason that governments manage to make the case so successfully is that human beings are very poor risk assessors. We are biologically wired to respond to severe threats but not to routine threats. Severe threats, no matter how unlikely, provoke a primitive hind-brain Thalamic response: fight or flight. This is illogical - a known threat which kills thousands is routinely ignored, a drastic risk which kills nobody provokes demands for action at any price.

Politicians of course instinctively know how to manipulate this. If there's a problem and logic is against you, simply ramp up the threat level. Logical opposition vanishes as the Noradrenalin kicks in. Can't find a terrorist threat? Put tanks around Heathrow.

So for those who prefer to know who is trying to manipulate them, the first step is to find the fear merchants.

Jac Smith is a fear merchant. ID databases are grossly overhyped but a cool, logical assessment woud be contrary to nulabour political will, so the fear factor will now be spun to a froth.

DNA evidence is nothing new. It is part of a range of techniques which allow identification including fingerprinting, facial recognition, tests for chemical and material transfer etc. etc. In other words, DNA is an investigative tool, not a total solution. It may be just as important that a perpetrator leaves a bit of fabric or a chemical smudge - without police work nothing will happen.

The problem with universal DNA is that it is a probability-based tool so if the sample quality does not give an optimal result or the size of the database is large, the probability of a false positive increases toward unity. And its sensitivity also makes it prone to contamination in a way fingerprints were not. DNA found at a crime site is a starting point for investigation, not its conclusion. Whether the case is brought to successful conclusion is very much a matter of competent policing, as always.

It is therefore fatuous to demand that there be an immense DNA database to avoid the possibility of future crime. The investment might much more profitably be made in improving the workload of parole officers or investing in more programmes to get offenders off drugs or back into work, or just to put policemen back on the street and in local stations instead of in 'fast response' units 20 miles away.

The fact is that this database contributes to a society in which everyone is a criminal, in which criminals no longer have any possibility of 'spent' convictions, in which being suspected of a crime is the same as being guilty of a crime. Fundamentally, it is a society based on the idea that people never change. For a Christian nation that is a sad state of affairs. It is also a sure route to increasing crime, and of course criminals will take strenuous steps to avoid leaving forensic evidence while the innocent will not.

But that would be a logical response. The political will is to have a big, expensive, bureaucratic, unreliable database which involves paying some US contractor billions of pounds. Now watch the fear factor as ministers spin the usual out-of-context war stories and dodgy statistics, again. With nulabour it never stops.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Crime and Punishment

I want to raise the tragic case of Kevin Tripp who was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mr. Tripp was killed by Tony Virasami, by mistake. Virasami actually wanted to hit a completely different man but poor Mr Tripp happened to be in the way. Why was this poor man killed because some other person thought that they didn't have to queue and objected to being told off.
The instigator received 18 months and Virasami recieved four years. I am sorry but this is hardly a deterent. This poor man has lost the rest of his life. Its not something that is bankable. It is irreplaceable and priceless and now it is no more.
The justice system in this country has yet again failed to protect the innocent. The violent man, the killer be it accidental or not, will in four years be able to go on with his life, while Mr. Tripp will not have that option.
Violence in any kind of society cannot be tolerated in any shape or form. Two things come out of this. The cameras that survey our streets are reactive and not proactive. So that if the light is good and they get a clear picture they might be able to make an arrest. It doesn't stop people from committing the crimes in the first place. That is why we need a strong deterrant. Strong sentences for crimes of violence. What gives these people the right to be violent just because they can't get their own way. The casualness of violence has become part and parcel of the young.

The other thing is that the BNP could jump on this. Who would note vote for a party that promises that the streets would be safe and retribution would be hard as a warning to others?

We have resources pouring into a war that we cannot win, while incidents like this happen. We now live in a violent world which is getting more violent. I suggest bringing back hard labour. I know it sounds harsh and victorian, but then either we help the prisoners or we are make prison a deterent not a rite of passage.

There are lots of areas which need cleaning, canals which need clearing, coastal defences which need repairing. The whole of the East Anglia will be under water unless something is done about it, so here we have a ready made work force that would cost nothing. Human rights? Well that works both ways. Where is my human right to sit on a bus and feel safe, to walk down a street without having to keep one eye on a group of lads, that might just take it into their head to attack me for no reason, to be able to go to a supermarket without the fear of being killed. Where are Mr. Tripps human rights now.

Amazing that we seem to ignore human rights if it involves upsetting our allies but only to happy to invoke them if it is on our own back door.

Cases like this will lead to vigilanties. The whole purpose of the law is for the population to believe in it and have faith that justice will be done. This case has failed us all, especially the family of Mr.Tripp and all other people who may complain that someone is pushing in the queue. Wait for the next time. They may have a gun. What will the justice system do then? I don't know only that it will be too late for Mr. Tripp and others who have died because they have been subjected to casual violence.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Royal Mail

Firstly let me congratulate Peter Mandelson on actually speaking his mind over the comments from the Head of Starbucks. It was a refreshing act of truth and emotion.
Now let me condemn him as well over the sale of the Royal Mail to a private company, well 30% of it. Two things come to mind, the first being where the hell has he been for the past ten years? Has the debacle of the privatised companies passed him by? Did he not notice the rise in energy prices by private companies? Energy that we once owned and we were the share holders. Now it seems that that has been overlooked. The energy companies didn't need to make a profit as there were no shareholders to placate. The railway system has never been in a worse state. It costs over a hundred pounds to travel from Birmingham to London on the same day and its slower than it was a hundred years ago and it is still subsidised by the tax payer. If you run state based economies and companies on anything but altruistic means then you are going to be in serious trouble.
This brings me to the main point. Isn't about time that the government stopped relying on experts and civil servants and actually started asking the people who do the job their opinion? Any junior school child can tell you that sats don't work, most of the teachers would agree but all these years later they have decided to have a review. If you want to know about the post office ask a postman, the railways a train driver and you will hear more sense in one afternoon than any amount of government committees.
After all it was the experts that got us into an unwinnable war and a spiralling economic system. Just because someone is the MD or CEO of a large company doesn't follow that they know anything about that company or even the industry. They maybe there because of the shares they own, or perhaps its part of another company that they own. Just an aside don't you think it might be a good idea that if the MD or CEO has a knighthood and the company goes bust putting people out of work that he might lose it. It's a small thing but even small punishments count. My advice is make it compulsory for every cabinet minister to watch Back to the Floor. Its not just about everyday life but its about my life and every other individual's in this country. You stop thinking about people as human beings and only as statistics then two things happen, you get dictatorships and people start getting locked up without trials and start to disappear.Sound familiar?
How is it that education can't have enough money but we can sustain a war in two counties and MI5 can double its members of staff. The two submarines that collided, well the damage to the British sub is estimated at £50 million. How many Hospital wards could be staffed with decent wages and fitted out with the latest equipment, how many schools could be fully staffed with good teachers teaching smaller classes. I don't think we even realise how near and how lucky we are it wasn't worse. Just remember that there are countries in the world that don't even have our expertise.
Just one final point before I go. This is a labour government, a government dedicated to equality and state ownership. I never saw selling off the post office as part of the manifesto and yet there seems a lot that was in it that seems to be again overlooked. Keir Hardy would turn over in his grave, but I think that under this regime he maybe trade marked, branded and sold to the highest bidder. One clean conscience going to the highest offer, though a consortium would be considered.