Wednesday, 31 December 2008


The situation in Gaza seems really serious this time. But then, the Russians and Cheznia is/was worse and no one in the wider world community did anything about that. There is much condemnation but I cannot see just what can be done that would work. All sorts of attempts in the past that have been made to resolve things end up back on the old roundabout of cease fire, agreement, breach of truce and renewed Israeli actions.
The one thing I can understand relates to the apparent lack of balance between Israeli deaths and Palestinian losses. People say "only four Jews killed". What does not seem to be understood is having to live in an environment of multiple incoming rockets on a daily basis into wholly civilian targets. As a kid I lived through the Blitz of the '39-'45 War. The bombings and, even more so, the attacks of the 'V' weapons of doodle-bugs and rockets. The stress of knowing these things would buzz overhead until the engine shut off and the silent count of four until the bang. The sudden and totally unannounced arrival of the rockets. My memory is that these were far worse than the aircraft raids. The inability as a civilian to do anything; not being able to fight back. So, as I see things, it is not the totality of the fatalities that is a measure of suffering but the strain of living with the constant threat of sudden death. I can understand why the Israeli government decided that enough was enough and embarked once again on the only thing that experience has shown them as having any effect.

Breaking news - no euthanisia for Gordon Brown

So - Gordon Brown is against assisted suicide? Given his situation where assassination would be no bad thing, I can understand that.
He is intent on using his political position to push his beliefs and attitude. An unelected functionary on a non-manifesto topic? Surely he is the same as me - one man one vote? His upbringing should not define what the people of this country must do or have to accept.
I support what seems to be the policy of the prosecuting authorities where no charges are brought against those who assist in the trip to Switzerland and oblivion. It is my life to determine; hopefully whilst still in a fit and competent mental state. Deciding that continuing life has no attraction and many pains and mental anguish is as much a choice as, say, a marriage partner or a career choice.
There is an alternative. All the while tall buildings and high cliffs exist, fast heavy lorries run and gin with a side order of readily available drugs is available, the suicide choices exist. Some of these present danger to others beside the person seeking a route out. Not all have a fully guaranteed outcome. Dignitas solves all these complications and, I understand, has decision making paths far in excess of a desperate person at that high building, cliff etc.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Obtaining money under false pretences

I was wondering when someone would raise this. My thoughts exactly

Mr Blair has visited the Middle East for a week each month since taking up the envoy’s primarily economic role when he stood down as prime minister. But he has not made a trip into Gaza and postponing a visit to see a new sewage treatment works in northern Gaza last July for security reasons.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, told the paper: “At this crucial moment for the Middle East, Tony Blair has been conspicuous by his absence.

"As Middle East peace envoy he has the authority to put pressure on both sides for an immediate ceasefire.

"Tony Blair’s efforts to improve security and the economy on the West Bank have so far produced less than modest dividends. It’s time he started earning his salary.”

Time for the Truth

The dreaded lurgy

I thought I might have missed the 'flu this year. I obediently went long and had my injection in good time so was not expecting anything other than a bad cold. However, it seems that the days when I shrugged off such things are now gone.
Now, when it gets a hold of me I suffer. Aches and pains all over. Wheezing and blocked up nose. As I am on the Warfarin, the usual range of symptom-easing things like Day/Night-Nurse are denied me. It got so bloody miserable though that, in the end, I stopped the rat-poison. The doctor allowed me penicillin and after a week or so on that i seem much better.
Old age has its own curses healthwise but the addition of flu makes these all just that bit worse.

Friday, 26 December 2008

On the Home Straight now

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Well, that is about it. All over for another year so some peace before we have to read again about how the word Ch*is*ma* has been removed from polite society lest it offend ‘them’. I served in most countries of the world over a period of more than 22 years. Many of these were Muslim areas. In a few, we were there because of some dusty old Agreement or colonial situation and were not TOTP amongst all the locals. I cannot remember any where we were denied our own traditional observance of our Christian heritage. We may have kept what we did a bit low-key but the streets were still decorated, trees and lights were erected and restaurants sported strange menus. They let us get on with it. So, I now find it strange that some do-gooders – self appointed at that – tell us we may offend the people who have come to live amongst us. This, I am sure, creates far more ill-feeling than it is thought the bunting, songs and parties would arouse. Mr Britain assumes that it is those of another belief system who are to blame.

Still, enough of that.
Did you have a good Christmas? One of the drawbacks about being a senior rank in the Army was that the 25th December was devoted to observing traditions long passed out of importance. One required that we serve the single soldiers in barracks with what was referred to as ‘gunfire’ This was tea or coffee laced with rum or whiskey and was delivered to those still a’bed. A more noxious drink is difficult to imagine at that hour to those doubtless still suffering from the over-indulgencies of the previous night.
We then hung about until the dinner was ready and we waited on the troops. We got into the booze and feeding frenzy act so that when I finally got home that day I was over-fed, slightly pished and ready for bed.
We had a break from tradition this year in that we dined out. As it worked out – a good idea. Norma was unchained from the kitchen and we had a choice far better than our larder or wine cellar could have provided. We were very well served by young and cheerful staff who showed no problems with Christmas duty. So, back to the past – I arrived home over-fed, slightly pished and ready for bed! Keith’s wife is a vegetarian so she was able to have exactly what she wanted and not be left to the ideas of a family that is very carnivore-oriented. I was still able to indulge my creaky joke though.

Actually, Christmas has never meant a great deal to me. The religious side not at all and the fun and games bit only marginally. The admonition that “Its Christmas and you have to enjoy yourself” leaves me cold as it encourages that sort of false pretence that tends to arise. When I was a worker, we were lucky that I could always afford to buy anything I wanted when I wanted it. I did not have to wait until the once a year opportunity to restock the sock drawer. Now, my desires are less but I still get what I want as and when which complicated the “What does he want for Christmas?” question. Finding and getting things for others is still a pleasure though so that was nice.
All that is left of the routine is to wish you all a good end-of-year night and the wish that next year brings you all you ever wanted. Even here, I have to intrude with a bit of humbug mentality; given the rubbish that makes up our present Government – including the so-called Opposition – I cannot see a greatly enjoyable 365 days ahead.

Note - I've no idea what I have done that has buggered up the blog at the end of this. If I had the slightest idea of this htlm or whatever, I'd be able to sort it but as my lovely guru says - I'm rubbish at it so I hope it does not totally spoil your day. It has not spoiled mine I assure you! It is the message that counts isn't it? Just like that observation seen around at these times - it isn't the gift. it is the thought that counts

Thursday, 25 December 2008

State of the Nation

Someone said it far better than I could
Despite the nation being brought to its knees by incompetence and the politics of envy, malice and spite; and, in spite of the most perniciously evil and hopelessly inept government since, well since ever - we are SO LUCKY

How can that be? Those of you who listened minutes ago to our Sovereign, and heard her wisdom, experience and peerless knowledge, speaking plainly will understand.

Her Majesty is, as yet, the one important 'brick', the CORNER-STONE of this once great nation, that the disgusting oiks in government have yet to dismantle or attack. Admittedly, the slimy Bliar tried, when he assumed he was wanted in a 'starring' role for the funeral of Late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. As fortune would have it, he was put back in his grubby box by a General Officer in Her Majesty's Service. 

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has been attacked by the Bliar-Brown axis of filth. So easy to attack someone who is precluded from a forthright defence. 

The House of Lords, whose members were largely chosen by God, or Fate if you so believe - gone. Replaced by a gang of nondescript actors, media people, tycoons of the 'party political donating' propensity, failed politicians, unelectable politicians and friends of the dishonest and despicable war-monger Bliar!

The Lord Chancellor's post - discontinued. Replaced by - er, umm, ...?

The Home Secretary - now a cipher and apologist for the behaviour of the more rabid senior police personnel.

Her Majesty's Armed Forces decimated, yet committed to 'adventures' unconnected to the security of this Realm. (No prizes for guessing why - no AF - no serious opposition).

Crime rampant, despite the dishonest reporting of 'statistics'. The police becoming disliked and distrusted because of the antics of their senior officers.

Eduction. Practically disbanded!! Illiterate population = No serious opposition.

So-called 'Jewel in Labour's Crown' - the Not Helping System (NHS) for short. This is not a little short of a national disgrace, it IS A NATIONAL DISGRACE. Not so much the 'little people' in it but the layers and endless layers of 'management and bureaucracy' therein. (Some 'little people' do merit a kick in the arse though!)

Despite all this, and I have barely scratched the surface, Her Majesty continues to exude standards and common-sense.

We are so lucky because we have a monarch and not something like:

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Intolenant Tories

This is here for a historical record in case I want to come back to it later - I think I might. However, if anyone drifts be - read it now.

Monday, 22 December 2008

PC Jack and PC Jill.

From a local paper today.

Police officers have been sent on courses on how to climb 3ft up a ladder to install anti-speeding devices. Forty-five Lancashire police employees have gone on the two-hour health and safety seminars to teach them how to hang smiley-face speed indicator signs (Spids) on posts by the roadside.
Workers had been erecting the portable signs for months without ladder training until health and safety bosses stepped in. Staff were then banned from moving the signs between locations until they had special training – leaving devices, which cost up to £3,500, dormant across the county for four months. A police statement, issued as part of a Freedom of Information request, says: "It would appear that, although working at less than one metre above ground level, staff should have been on a ladder training course. "It is fair to say that risks associated with deployment of a Spid sign have not changed, but the risks associated with working at height were not fully appreciated initially." Questions are being raised about the policy by MPs and pressure groups. Lancaster and Wyre MP Ben Wallace said: "It's another example of the tail wagging the dog, of bureaucracy gone mad. "It beggars belief that bureaucracy stands in the way of common sense, even when it concerns our police force." Lancashire police said proper training courses had also been introduced because some of the signs had not been mounted correctly and could not detect all oncoming traffic. Seminars include advice on what type of ladder should be used, how to carry devices safely and how to set up and maintain signs. Police officers and civilian workers have also been warned they must wear high-visibility jackets and leggings and cone off the area when installing signs in bad weather – in case pedestrians bump into their ladder. Eighty-two parish council volunteers and two private contractors have also gone on the courses, organised by the police, Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Fire and Rescue, which manages the ladder training.

I assume that the next thing will be courses in down to climb down the ladder?

Saturday, 20 December 2008


I oppose the death penalty but, as Clarence Darrow said, I often read obituaries with great pleasure,


Yeah - OK. It IS just a sick excuse to post pictures of naked ladies.

However, my serious point is that some things in the world are improving. In the days when I saw many young Asian ladies in the buff (don't all rush to condemn; I was a Vice Squad bloke), they all displayed signs of malnutrition verging on starvation. Chests were almost universally flat. Joke was that they spent the first five years of their life strapped to a board which gave them no swollen bits at all.
I'll acknowledge that what we see here may be the result of surgery* but my tired and aged eyes have seen much to suggest that - the ladies at least - they are getting enough food to develop fat layers. That has got to be an improvement in real life terms.

* OK gents - you may undertake a close examination to see if you can see any stitch marks!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Chicken entrails required.

The Rachel Nickell case has drawn attention to profilers. The common perception of these relies on the TV series Cracker and another recent series Wire in the Blood. The slightly older will remember Silence of the Lambs. For the sake of the drama and story line, these profilers were presented as complex characters almost as out of synch as those they hunted.

I came across some research on American profilers which puts them in the status of stage hypnotists or mind-readers. They have a low success rate - in the mid-nineties, the British Home Office analysed a hundred and eighty-four crimes, to see how many times profiles led to the arrest of a criminal. The profile worked in five of those cases. That's just 2.7 per cent success. I do not know whether this was communicated to those who used profilers - I suspect not but they certainly gained higher credence amongst investigators than they deserved.

A Father's anguish

These impact statements are common in modern day criminal trials but very few see he light of day outside the actual court room. Publication of the one prepared by the father of Rachel Nickell lifts the corner of the obscuring sheet.

It reflects something I picked up on in the lead-in to his repeating some of this on national TV. He said that he and his wife had moved on. Many - indeed, most - families say that they cannot achieve closure until the person responsible for their loss is detected and brought to justice. Nickell pere shows it can be done; even in the face of the sort of aggravation he outlines in his statement. Which follows :

Andrew Nickell's impact statement

Last Modified: 18 Dec 2008
By: Channel 4 News

A statement released by Andrew Nickell, father of Rachel, on the impact his daughter's murder has had on the Nickell family.

We have been asked to provide an impact statement to try and describe how Rachel's murder has affected us. This is a bit like trying to describe how you felt after being run over by a very large truck. In both cases you come out of a coma months/years later, having lived through a period when you were not really conscious of what was going on but you keep on automatically breathing and eating. When you come to, you gradually realise what you have lost.

The greatest loss is your future. All the things that any family hopes for and expects are completely smashed. There will be no daughter to talk to in our old age, no grandchildren to love and admire. At a stroke all this has been removed.

The next loss is your anonymity. Your life is trampled on by the media. You are "gawked at" in supermarkets. You are avoided by so-called friends who think some bad luck will rub off on them. Your son is devastated as he is very close to his sister. He avoids any close relationship because he fears losing someone else. Your mother, in her eighties, cries every day and wished she had been taken instead.

The greatest loss is your future. All the things that any family hopes for and expects are completely smashed.

Your daughter's partner retreats into pain and blame without the guidance and love of your daughter. After a few years he moves abroad and later you are stopped from seeing your only grandson. You become ever more wary of strangers. You reveal nothing because they might be media or have contacts with the media. Copies of your phone bills are obtained and friends abroad ring up to try to discover where your grandson lives.

You fight the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for recompense for Alex for losing his mother in horrible circumstances and the loss of her love and parenting skills for the 15 years until he is 18. After seven years he is rewarded a derisory amount. The home secretary tells you that there is no appeal against this award.

You deal year after year with the machinery of the Crown and the ever-changing teams of police and specialists. Some of them care deeply, but they come and go. To say one man has destroyed our lives is too strong. But that one man has changed it forever. You learn to accommodate these changes, but the pain remains with you every minute of every day. Every day Rachel's name is mentioned, her photograph published or her home videos shown, everything comes flooding back.

We hope the man who committed the crime will spend the rest of his life in prison. That is the sentence he has given us.

Signed: A. Nickell

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Troops Out

Much is being made of the (politician's) promise that our troops will be out of Iraq - less a few there to train Iraqi forces - by the end of July 2009. I would like to think that the euphoria will not distract attention from the real need that the Nation deserves to know just why we went there in the first place. Blair and Bush have wavered on this for longer than the forces have been in Iraq. Weapons of Mass Destruction? The only weapons of mass destruction have been Bush and Blair. 45 minutes from launching an assault - total lack of any supportive evidence. It seems to me that, other than Bush and his claim about The Voice Of God, they just settled on the excuse 'It Seemed a Good Idea At The Time'. Well, lads, I'm afraid that won't do although I would accept it if they in their turn accept that their trial in an International Court for war crimes also 'Seems A Good Idea Right Now' They are just as responsible for the deaths and destruction in Iraq as those Generals with unpronounceable names were in Bosnia.
Doubtless they would squeak and squirrel away about having made genuine mistakes based upon duff intelligence given to them. Well, they employed the givers and assessors of that evidence and must be responsible for their ability and performance. I cannot see much sympathy for the driver who mistakes accelerator for brake and ploughs down a column of school kids en route to school. So it is for them. There is sufficient prima-facie evidence; the senior member of the Attorney General's office who resigned. The rejection of the first opinion when the senior law adviser was sent away to form another more favourable conclusion. Even that was a lukewarm statement:

" I remain of the opinion that the safest legal course would be to secure the adoption of a further resolution to authorise the use of force.... Nevertheless, having regard to the information on the negotiating history which I have been given and to the arguments of the US Administration which I heard in Washington, I accept that a reasonable case can be made that resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation in 678 without a further resolution"

That further resolution was not sought despite it being identified as a 'safe legal course' . On the basis of what he was told, he accepts that there is a reasonable case ........ Blair chose not to accept the safe legal course - reckless at the least. Criminally reckless where the action he wanted was sure to result in loss of life. We now have reason to doubt what he was told so that destroys the basis for his secondary and grudging go ahead. He describes it as a 'reasonable case'. Not, notice, a stone cold certaintity. The final opinion given almost under duress needs to be revisited in the light of the true situation as it was when he gave it. There is further documentation for the AG's study. The Downing Street Memo. The "Downing Street memo" sometimes described by critics of the Iraq War as the "smoking gun memo", is the note of a secret 23 July 2002 meeting of senior United Kingdom Labour government, defence and intelligence figures discussing the build-up to the war, which included direct references to classified United States policy of the time. The memo recorded the head of MI6 as expressing the view following his recent visit to Washington that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." It also quoted Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as saying that it was clear that Bush had "made up his mind" to take military action but that "the case was thin", and the Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith as warning that justifying the invasion on legal grounds would be difficult.

Blair has wormed his way into a strong diplomatic rank but no man is so superior that he cannot be brought to trial. And, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands killed and those families and dependants whose lives have been ruined, that is what should happen to him. And Bush as a joint conspirator.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Weird dreams

I had a great long dream last night. I do not know if the dream was trying to tell me something or was based upon my own thinking.
I was driving along a dual carriageway road. I could see for miles and miles ahead. There was no oncoming traffic but there were quite few cars ahead of me. We seemed to be all travelling at the same speed as the gap between cars did not shorten or get longer.
Along the road were traffic lights. Mostly they were green; the red lights there were seemed to have no pattern of dispersal compared to the green. After a while, I noticed that if a car was stopped by a red light, it disappeared. I don't remember seeing exactly what happened. There were side roads at the traffic light but I do not remember seeing any car turn off up one of these.
I had no sense of panic or fear. It did not really bother me that they went out of my sight; I seemed to accept that a red light just caused them to disappear. I did not worry about my getting stopped at a traffic light.
The obvious explanation of this does not take any degree in parapsychology or, indeed, any -ology. But I cannot see why this was being revealed to me at this time. I am free of my old mate The Black Dog; have been now for longer than I can ever remember. I am not conscious of death looming large in my mind other than the Dignitas debate recently. And, of course, Christmas was the time of my mother's death. If it was that, why nothing in the 25 years since that occurred? There was nothing in the DIY suicide that might have brought this dream about.

Bloody Grandma Edwards!

Dominoes and cards fall

The phrase House of Cards comes to my mind as we hear of more losses, arising this time from a fraud involving something around £50 billion. Would we have heard anything now of the latest if the sub-primes had not gone belly-up? But the system used by Bernard Madoff seems to have been nothing new and was one that would have been detected had the regulatory body made the usual checks and supervision. Maybe it was the sheer scale that kept them away? In amongst the identified losers based in UK are banks that are already in the midst of rough waters. HSBC Holdings plc has potential exposure of about $1.5 billion. Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc had exposure through trading and collateralized lending to funds of hedge funds invested with Madoff, with a potential loss of around 400 million pounds. City 'superwoman' Nicola Horlick has attacked US financial regulators after becoming a victim of a £33billion investment scam.
Glad I don't have money to lose on this scale.

The enemy within (government)

I make a point of following the writings of Fred Reed. I have some of his books as well.
Reading his latest, I wonder why it is that we have such bloody idiots engaged in running the country when men with minds and intellect such as his sit on the sidelines?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Now will you pi*s off?

This appealed to me.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A 50-year-old rural Willmar man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor charges stemming from a homecoming week incident that allegedly included spraying toilet-papering teens with a squirt gun filled with fox urine.
Scott Edward Wagar faces charges of fifth-degree assault, theft and disorderly conduct in Kandiyohi County District Court for the Sept. 16 incident. He was released on his personal recognizance and ordered to have no contact with others involved in the case. His next court date is Jan. 20.
According to a complaint, Wagar reported to the county sheriff on Sept. 17 he had been in an altercation with another person near his property east of Willmar, and that he possibly had broken the person's finger.
He allegedly said he was fed up with his house being toilet-papered and had taken matters into his own hands. He was out along his property line the night before, between 10:30 and 11 p.m., and observed 15 to 20 people running toward his place through a soybean field. His observation was made through night vision goggles he had received from his son who served in the military. He said he told the group to leave, swore at them and sprayed them with a "supersoaker" squirt gun filled with fox urine.

While this was happening, he said, someone grabbed him from behind and they struggled with each other.

Later, a Sheriff's Office detective received a tip from a 16-year-old teenager who was in the group of people who had walked toward Wagar's property by following a drainage ditch and walking through the field. The teen said he was sprayed by the squirt gun and thought the liquid was human urine. The teen said he grabbed the squirt gun, and Wagar grabbed him and they struggled until another person started choking him and someone threatened to break his finger. He was able to free himself and run away.
During an interview with the detective, Wagar allegedly said he found a cell phone in the field, found out the phone number and called the father of the person who owned it. The man asked for the phone back and Wagar told him he could have it for $100. The man declined to pay the price and Wagar later turned the phone over to the detective.
The detective also interviewed the man, who said he had his son apologize to Wagar, but that the apology ended after Wagar yelled and screamed at the boy.

Well done that man!

I am amongst that clique of Grumpy Old Men who find little to praise in the youth of today. A gross exaggeration in itself; I have two exceedingly worthwhile teenagers in my grandchildren right now and I’m confident they will be valuable members of society when they come to be viewed and assessed as adults. Looking through my newsreader today, I discovered another one who seems to be made of the right stuff.
Seb Green spent a year of his life walking more than 3,100 miles around the UK with his border collie, Flash. He has raised more than £20,000 for two Dorset charities in a bid to pay back the local community for his behaviour four years ago.  

Seb was 15 when he and another teenager stole a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) from Weymouth Harbour, Dorset, late on May 8 2004. The pair became stranded in mud in nearby Fleet Lagoon and a massive air and land search was launched. Both teenagers began shouting for help and Seb got out of the boat to walk to safety but became stuck up to his waist in mud.

A passer-by heard their screams and called for help. The Coastguard helicopter, Dorset Police helicopter, two Coastguard land based teams and two RNLI lifeboats were then launched to look for the missing teenagers.

They were taken to safety by the Coastguard helicopter half an hour later at around midnight.

Seb now plans to study biology and English A-levels before joining the Royal Marines. And good luck to him - he will get a lot of RIB riding there.


Nostalgia isn't what it was

Digging around looking for something car-related, I came across this Volkswagen advert.

I remember it caused a lot of nasty stuff from the then-powerful bra-burning sisterhood. Shame about that!
Then I recalled the name of the model - Paula Hamilton. She had a powerful self-destruct button or we might have seen as much of her as Ms Moss

Motivation is a poster I > U

The 'plane now leaving is for Dignitas

It is a criminal offence to 'aid, abet, counsel or procure' someone else's suicide. But last week the Director of Public Prosecutions said there would be no charges against the parents of Daniel James, who accompanied their son earlier this year to a clinic in Switzerland where, with assistance, he ended his life.

Also last week a TV documentary showed the last moments in the life of Craig Ewert. In 2006 he too had travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, supported by his wife, to kill himself.

The two cases are very different, not least because one of them was broadcast to the nation. Mr Ewert was 59 years old and terminally ill. Mr James, while tetraplegic, had, at 23, many years of life ahead of him. It was the diminished quality of that life that he could not bear.

To those who believe the ability to take one's own life is an inalienable right, such circumstantial differences hardly matter. The fact that assistance was required is purely technical. But the technical fact of assistance inevitably raises a unique set of ethical and legal quandaries.

Even if it is accepted that, in certain circumstances, mercy demands that a life of terrible suffering end, it is extraordinarily hard to envisage a law that effectively gives one person licence to kill another. How, for example, could such a law establish whether a person dying was of fully sound mind, or that their medical prognosis was so accurate that they could truly deduce there was no hope of recovery? How might the law reasonably investigate the motives of the person assisting the suicide, or of the doctor facilitating it?

Fear of the awesome complexity of those questions, and the passions they arouse, has stopped governments from heeding repeated calls by campaigners and some MPs for a new legal framework. But the fact that Parliament has failed to resolve this issue does not mean it will go away. Instead, the arguments will be played out in the media until political action becomes inevitable.

In surveys, at least 80 per cent of the population say assisted suicide should be legalised. To some extent, the precedent of the DPP's judgement on the Daniel James case has partially done that - but only for those who can afford to travel abroad.

The government must anticipate the need for a new law and establish a commission of enquiry to recommend what it should be. Otherwise, while the issues continue to be debated in the media, cases will come to court and conflicting precedents set on the basis of particular circumstances. But justice requires that, on such a difficult ethical question, the law be based on universal principles. The proper place to establish those principles is Parliament.

My own attitude is very clear. If, as and when I deem I wish to follow these two, my options should be no more limited than they are now. I really do not care where the suicide suite is in geographic terms "Go to the ends of the Earth" etc. etc" Obviously, if I need aid to get me there, it should be lawful for someone to accompany me. Any documentation should also be completed by another if needed.

The red herrings of external compulsion being used does not apply to me; I have next to no assets or enemies of sufficient determination to wish to kill me. I have the same scant regard for those who advance the religion case. I have never bothered God, or any 'Superior' being, so why should we be introduced to each other at the end of my present life here on Earth?

These attitudes are selfishly personal and I can quite accept the difficulty that would arise to draft legislation. Fine - leave things as they are now. If that debars me getting the assistance I need to get to Dignitas or some other "Exit Gateway" just balance me at the kerb of a busy road.

Just to clarify - I have no current intent to off myself. I just want to make provision now when I have some ability to make myself clear rather than wait until I have to communicate by flickering eyelashes.

Anyway - cheer up. At least I've been spared this sort of card!
Not all guitar music has to be senseless cacophony.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Positive thinking

Saying that the police are a waste of time and space will get us nowhere. I reckon we still have a core of fine law officers. This blogger is one; check out her own description of herself

The police: upholding the law, protecting the weak and innocent, bringing the guilty to justice... or just a chaotic bunch of nincompoops? The opinion in this blog is not official, but it is that of a real serving policewoman and is Copyright of PC Bloggs, author of 'Diary of an On-Call Girl'. PS Readers referring to me as " MsBloggs", " Madame Author" or """Woman will have their comments removed. Unless they're really funny.

Firing Sharon Shoesmith will do nothing to make children safer. Nor will calling for public inquiries, naming and shaming those who directly killed Baby P, bemoaning the breakdown of British society/families/morals. No indeed, we need to go much further.

Since the dawn of time, people have abused their children, and I now propse this radical ten-step programme to eradicating child abuse FOREVER:
  1. Baby licenses. Couples have to apply to have children in the first place, and the adjudicators who give out the licenses will be people like Jacqui Smith and Boris Johnson.
  2. It goes without saying, certain categories of person will not be allowed to give birth at all: single parents, those who have had more than one marriage, or more than one partner, or more than one sexual partner, or any sex at all ever.
  3. Cameras installed in every home, with audio, and voice recognition to call the police immediately if any of the following sounds are heard: crying child, raised voice, loud thud or other noise.
  4. Social Services to vet the household of every new baby at one week intervals, for the first five years of their life, then fortnightly until they are 10, then monthly.
  5. Social Workers to have the power to have someone instantaneously convicted of child abuse without the need for judicial process.
  6. Sterlisation in police stations. Whenever someone is arrested, along with their DNA and fingerprints being taken, they will be sterilised. People who get arrested shouldn't be allowed to have kids.
  7. The immediate removal of all children from their parents. The parents will then have to retrospectively apply for a license as above.
  8. Parents to wear a tag with satellite navigation system, to allow their parental effectiveness to be monitored at all times.
  9. All children to be put into foster care, forever.
  10. The whole of the UK to become one big family, with all children as wards of the nation and politicians directly responsible for their welfare. This is because ultimately politicians know best how children should be brought up.
Until we enact the above programme, cases like Baby P will continue to happen.

I don't WANT that to be the case. But I do want to live in a society where people who aren't torturing and murdering their babies can bring them up without state interference. You can't have it both ways.

After that broadside, a image of a realistic police officer

Hard Hit

In another sign of holiday cheer, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reported a 250 percent rise in the number of guns handed over in a no-questions-asked program to exchange weapons for holiday gift cards. The department's station in a high crime suburb received 964 guns, two hand grenades and two briefcases full of dynamite.

I find it hard to associate the message in a holiday gift card with the casual possession of hand grenades or briefcases full of dynamite. But then, I do have a bit of a Grinch DNA.

Death of a Brazilian

The Coroners' Inquest has now reported. The verdict of the Jury was Open. This is possibly the worst finding in such a important matter. It is tantamount to their saying "we do not know what happened". This despite a very full ventilation of the events of that day. There can be no closure for the family, vindication of the police or us, the public, knowing whether we can trust the ability and honesty of our public defenders. Obviously, contention increases newspaper sales even more than cheap fish and chips would do but they are still hammering on.

To me, the whole thing is like a sex act that did not come to the final physical event. Such a lot of well-intentioned effort but no satisfaction. I am disappointed at the Coroner's action in limiting the findings that could have been considered. This seeds further discontent; very few can understand or explain why he constrained the panel. I did not see anything in his closure regarding the fact that the Met. police seem to have driven a coach and horses through the law of the land regarding homicide. The sudden death implication of Kratos was not in their gift; parliament changes our laws.

There is another implication arising from leaving the veracity of police evidence up in the air. The Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) based their reports and recommendations on - presumably - the information now considered tainted. Just how does the suspicion implicit from the Coroners' Court change IPCC findings and will they re-convene?

All in all. an unsatisfactory fudge. Saloon bar pundits will run this for some while longer.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Fresh scene

If you now reading this are the solitary reader that I have, you might notice a few tweaks here and there.

Courtesy of The Guru Lady. Comes Highly Recommended.

Strength - not the muscular sort

An ambulance man writes about what it takes to do his job.

It's the strength that you need when you have picked up the fourth severely demented patient in a row, they curl up on our trolley having been unable to move for many years, their arms and legs contracted into the foetal position. Their bodies are skin and bone, as we pick them up their joints creak and crack and they shriek in our ears, long nails dig into our arms.

It's the strength that you need when driving the ambulance and you hear them start to cry in the back, your crewmate holds their hand and tries to reassure them but they can't get through. Instead all you can hear is the sobbing and the noises that are left them now that language has gone. they can't tell you if they are in pain or are scared - instead all they can do is moan, and cry and scream.

It's when you walk into a nursing home full of the demented elderly. Stuck on the walls outside the doors to their room are photographs from their prime. Happy mothers holding their children, proud men standing to attention in military uniform. Sepia memories from the past, what they were, not what they are. You open the door and the person in the photographs is lying on urine sodden sheets, legs heavily bandaged from ulcers that will never heal, with hands constantly grasping for something imaginary that floats just out of reach. The person that they were is gone, all that is left is the shell, no expression behind the face that smiled all those years ago for the photo outside the door.

Then one takes hold of your hand and looks up at you with bright blue eyes and asks if you are their dad, long since dust.

And your heart breaks.

I don't know how much longer I can do this.

Happy Hour

I always enjoy the blogs written by someone who describes himself as NHS Blog Doctor. He is frank about NHS problems and names and shames. Today however, he has initiated a Christmas competition seeking the best ten reasons why PM Gordon Brown must go. He does find himself in a quandary - his Short List remains at fifty reasons and he has great difficulty in cutting that down.

There is a preponderance of William Hague YouTube clips. These should be on the list of everyone looking for a present suitable for David Cameron as they form a true Master Class of how a Leader of the Opposition should conduct himself. The only path to salvation of the Conservative party is to get Hague back to take over from Cameron. Just as the Speaker is dragged to his place as part of the ritual, there should be a dragging of Hague.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Truth repeats itself

I remember seeing the film about the US lawyer who obtained compensation for people living near a chemical plant. In the movie, Erin Brockovich, played by Julia Roberts, uncovered a conspiracy involving contaminated water which was making local residents sick. She helped to secure the largest settlement in United States history- 333 million dollars.
By signing up a considerable number of claimants, all of whom agreed to pay a relatively small proportion of any reward, her firm made considerable profits. Nothing legally wrong in that; open to personal interpretation as to the moral angle.
Now we have the story here in UK of a legal firm criticised for a repeat of Erin's activities. The senior partners in a firm of South Yorkshire solicitors have been paid almost £30 million for settling thousands of compensation claims on behalf of dead or sick miners. Until late 2003, Beresfords’ head office was to be found among a shabby line of redbrick terraced buildings on tired and dust-stained Balby Road in Doncaster. Near-neighbours on the street included a Chinese takeaway and Lorraine’s CafĂ©. The premises are now boarded up and for sale. Beresfords no longer needs them because in November 2003 the firm moved into a luxurious £4.8 million lakeside development at Quay Point in Doncaster. An ocean of shimmering glass fronts the new 38,000sq ft office, big enough to house the 200 employees who, the solicitors’ website announced in 2003, would be housed together for the first time since the rapid growth of the firm. When the firm’s three partners — Jim Beresford, 55, his daughter Esta, 27, and Doug Smith, 48 — gaze from their “magnificent boardroom overlooking the lake”, they may well reflect on the wisdom of recognising the potential for expansion and glittering profits via the coal health compensation schemes. To date, Beresfords — which in 2004 was describing itself as “a unique law firm . . . dealing with industrial disease and personal injury claims only” — has registered 80,474 chest disease claims on behalf of miners and their families, more than any other solicitors’ practice in the country. Only 15,713 — less than 20 per cent — of those claims have so far been settled, yet the Department of Trade and Industry has already paid Beresfords a total of £27.2 million in legal costs. If all the remaining cases were successfully settled on the same basis, the firm potentially could receive a further £100 million from the public purse. Beresfords has enjoyed a close working relationship with the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and Vendside, the claims-handling company owned by the union, which chose to pass on several thousand of its cases to be dealt with by the Doncaster solicitors. And as the three leading individuals at the UDM have flourished financially, so have their friends at Beresfords. The profits allocated to Mr Beresford in 2002 and 2003, the most recent year for which his limited liability partnership has returned a financial statement, totalled £1.4 million. Meanwhile, Mr Smith has been busy spending his money. In November 2003 he sold his modern, red-brick house at Tickhill, near Doncaster, for £340,000. Three months earlier he had spent £840,000 to buy Noblethorpe Hall, a Grade II-listed Victorian country property with seven bedrooms, four reception rooms, grand hall, scullery, butler’s pantry and cellars, set in 18 acres of parkland, including a ha-ha and folly. In the past few weeks Mr Smith has also spent more than £200,000 on two cars, an Aston Martin DB9 and a Bentley Arnage.
Solicitors Jim Beresford and Douglas Smith have been found guilty of misconduct by the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal in London over compensation payouts for sick miners.
The two former senior partners faced 11 allegations of serious professional misconduct. They were accused of conduct unbecoming a solicitor in failing to represent the best interests of their clients, misleading a government minister, breaching referral rules and entering into “sham arrangements”.
The tribunal found eight out of the allegations against the lawyers proven.

Chairman David Leverton said: “If ever there was a group of persons who needed the full care and attention from solicitors, it was these miners. Mr Beresford described himself as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, his attitude allowed himself and Mr Smith to put commercial goals before his clients’ best interests.”

The lawyers were also accused of not giving adequate advice and entering into contingency fee deals against their clients’ best interests. Both men denied the charges at the tribunal hearing last month, which heard that up to 30 per cent of a miner’s damages could be deducted by Beresfords. The compensation scheme was set up by the Government because of British Coal’s lack of safety standards and led to hundreds of thousands of claims from former miners and their families.The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) agreed to pay lawyers’ fees in successful cases and it was also agreed that in unsuccessful cases miners would not have to bear costs.Some miners claimed they were not told what compensation they might obtain.

Beresfords expanded rapidly with the advent of the coal claims, acting in more than 83,000 cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more than 14,500 cases of Vibration White Finger (VWF), a painful condition caused by working with vibrating tools.

Beresford and Smith’s joint earnings went from more than £182,000 in 2000 to £23,273,256 in 2006, the tribunal heard. But Timothy Dutton QC, appearing for the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority (SRA), said charging conditional or contingency fees over and above those set out in the scheme was “unacceptable”. In one case, the firm deducted a “success fee” from the widow of a miner, leaving her with a total payout of just £217.73, the tribunal heard. The law firm argued there was “absolutely nothing wrong” with earning substantial fees from its business conduct. The tribunal panel will now decide what penalties to set.

I like it when people such as this get their come-uppance.

Even more of a sad dog day

My RentaDog project is no more. Thinking about the abandonment yesterday led me to face up to the fact that I am really too old to undertake the walking on a guaranteed daily basis. Rather than get the dog into a place where it was expecting me, only to be disappointed when I chickened out, was not acceptable.

Dogs do pick up on this. Think how they look when a toy goes missing and the joy when it is regained. His owner is a good sort and he was not neglected when I started. Just that his day will not be as full as it had been for a short while.

Neither will mine.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Sad dog day

Woke up this morning with flu like never before. Dragged myself about and got ready to walk Trooper but realised as I walked to collect him that I was in no fit state to wrestle a dog round the park.

He had to settle for 15 minutes of indoors play and attention. He got his treats but missed out on the run around. Still, I hope that the concentration of a 40 minute walk into 15 minutes of talk and rough and tumble made up for it. At least, he was not left wondering what he had done to cause his fat friend to abandon him. Hard to explain things to dogs. Maybe that is part of the attraction really - never having to explain?

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Suffering little children

This is from a police officer's blog. Seems appropriate to post it here. Even though it is over eighteen months old; Baby P's situation was nothing new.

There's been a couple of instances recently in the news where young children have been either neglected or actively abused by family members leading to the deaths of the children.

One of the things I found hardest to get to grips with after joining the job was coming face to face with this sort of depravity and not throwing the parent out of the nearest window. I couldn't understand how an adult could treat any child so badly, never mind their own. But there were lots and lots of examples of how wrong I was. Still, I never quite got used to it.

One particular time, we'd been looking for a guy who was wanted for theft and burglary and we knew he spent a lot of time at a particular house. The woman who lived there, we'll call her "Sara", was a raging heroin addict and had four kids. The youngest was still in nappies and the eldest about fourteen. Her place was basically an open house for any drug addled low life in the area and when her benefits couldn't stretch to her heroin she paid for them by whoring herself to the other users and anyone else she could find. She'd do this at home with the kiddies still in the house.

Anyway, we'd gone round there and put containment on the house to stop the bloke we were looking for skipping over the back wall. I knocked on the door and, after being told to "f*ck off" several times I persuaded Sara that it would be easier if she opened the door from the inside rather than us doing it from the outside.

I walked in and the sight I was met with was enough to block out the abuse she was giving me from about six inches away. As she called me every name under the Sun, including a few I'd never heard before, screaming into my ear I gazed around her "home".

The kitchen was covered in dirty clothes and dirty plates and pans. To the point that you couldn't see any of the work tops and most of the floor. There were flies, living and dead, all over and a small army of ants working their way around the days old rotting food. Turning left, I walked down the hall into her "living room". I call it that, but the only things actually living there were probably what Tony Blair was searching for in Iraq. The sofas were taken up by a group of heroin addicts I was on nodding terms with and they were engrossed in the football. I said hello to them as I looked behind the sofa for the chap we were looking for.

Instead, I found Sara's youngest, filthy dirty and with a nappy overflowing with piss and shit. He gave me a big smile and wave. His hands were black with ingrained dirt.

Sara's carpet was purple originally, but in most places had either worn away or was now more of a browny black colour. There was a stench of human fecaes that made me retch. I asked one of the bobbies with me to wait in the living room and I walked upstairs. Again, the carpet had all but worn away. On the landing there was an ironing board set up and, on the ironing board a large saucepan. Sticking out of the pan was a wooden spoon. I looked inside and saw it contained some rice krispies and milk that had long since gone off. The stink of the sour milk did help to cover the smell of urine from the bedrooms though so small mercies...

The bathroom was more filthy than the living room, the toilet caked in brown stains and the bath full of more dirty clothes. The bedrooms were equally bad, with matresses on the floor barely covered by dirty sheets. Again, the floors were covered in dirty clothes and half eaten takeaway meals.

Sara's room, unsurprisingly, was the cleanest of the lot. That said, it still stank of sweat, dirt and recently burned heroin. I prodded around the rooms with my stick and we eventually found the bloke we were looking for hiding in a cupboard set into the wall in one of the kid's bedrooms. Considering he was going to go to prison, he was remarkably compliant. I put this down to the fact he was close to passing out due to the smell. In fact, he perked up enough to put up a bit of a fight one he'd had some fresh air.

We obviously removed the kids that were there under a Police Protection Order and Sara kicked right off. The loving, caring mother was probably stressed about losing her child benefit payments. As I carried the toddler out (admittedly at arms length. I mean, I like kids as much as the next person but...) Sara was again screaming at me as she was held back by a bobby and one of her smack head mates. The temptation to drag her upstairs and stick her face in the pan on the ironing board was almost overwhelming.

Instead, as she followed me outside and played up to the growing audience of jeering anti-Police neighbours I instead just pointed out, loud enough for them to hear, why exactly I was taking her children away. All of a sudden the neighbours weren't quite as supportive of her.

As we drove away we felt like we'd done a good job all round and I definately didn't mind filling in the paperwork for Social Services to follow up on our P.P.O. Thing is, within a week, the kids were back living in the slum after Sara had given "assurances" to the social workers. Still, we felt like we'd done our bit and at least we knew to keep an eye on the kiddies in the future.

I bumped into her eldest not long ago. She'd left Sara's as soon as she could and got a place at a hostel for young people. She found a job and started a college course and she's doing OK. She's been in trouble once or twice, but not for anything particularly bad and I felt really proud of her. She's beaten the odds and I just hope her brothers and sisters do too.

Reticence of the aged

Michele Hanson is a blogger who has just announced "I can sew, make stews, do apostrophes and recite poems, but I can't name certain body parts out loud. Something is going frightfully wrong with a bit of Rosemary's body that she is loath to talk about. "Upper body," she shouts, "and not my heart." That's as far as she is prepared to go. "I don't want to talk about it, frankly," she adds, "and neither do you."

No, I don't. Perhaps it's a generational thing. We older persons have our merits. Attitudes towards us are changing now that times are hard, even if we can't be newsreaders. We're no longer just a bank or a burden, but a treasured resource with ancient skills. "Darling Granny, will you please darn my woolly? Mummy doesn't know how and she can't afford to buy me a new one." We can sew, mend, make stews, do apostrophes, know poems by heart, and can easily adapt to blackouts, but there's still one thing many of us could never, and still cannot, do - name certain body parts out loud.

I, for one, cannot say the V, P, N, G or B words in public or private. I'm still stuck on "chest" or "front bottom" and the like. Which is perhaps why some of us don't go to the doctors as soon as we should and so drop off our perches too early.

Younger women do not have a problem with discussing their 'bits'. I am not sure where my preference lies.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Top of my list

This is the genre. This is the Number One Man with another genius.

I listen to this when my eyes need a rinse!

Different sort of music but Gosh, ain't it good.

See what he does with those guitars - the riffs send shivers down my spine.

More of what I like

I first put him in my list of Things I like as a drummer but he moved on. This gives us a bit of both!

Laugh at the Devil

Bit of a lazy blog today. Sorry - think of it as a way for me to make my tastes known!

This is the man who makes me laugh when the Black Dog has me in it's grip.

Meditation as medication

A Monty Python script surely!

I had to check the date when I read this today. No - it was not April Fools Day. So, even the poor old guy twisted out of any human shape may keep his hand in with a bit of robbery and violence,

A company called Constitution Arms claims that the FDA has classed its "Palm Pistol" (a squeezable handgun suitable for people with arthritis) as a Class I medical device ("a classification reserved for devices that pose little risk to a patient's health, such as stethoscopes and walking aids") and they imply that Medicare will help you buy one. The FDA denies any certification and an expert on medical device regulation says that Medicare probably wouldn't subsidize these even if the FDA gave it the nod.

"It's something that they need to assist them in daily living," says Matthew Carmel, president of Constitution Arms in Maplewood, New Jersey, which hopes to manufacture the Palm Pistol - now just a patent and specifications.

"The justification for this would be no more or less for a [walking aid] or wheelchair, or any number of things that are medical devices," he says.

The sales information reads: "It is also ideal for seniors, disabled or others who may have limited strength or manual dexterity. Using the thumb instead of the index finger for firing, it significantly reduces muzzle drift, one of the principal causes of inaccurate targeting. Point and shoot couldn't be easier."

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Call to arms

Something that has often annoyed me whenever I mention my Army service is the response that War is Evil and Must Be Banned. When I do bother with any response - infrequently - it is to ask them how they intend to achieve that end state - would they use force against another Nation?

Certainly, the man Mugabe is a foul tyrant who deserves the worst treatment possible that will cause him to go away from the country he had bled dry. Not an easy task; he still holds the services of a fair sized arm. Then, again, there is that No War faction.

So, I was rather surprised to read of all the good and beautiful and their calls for him to be forced out of office. See chaps - there is something to be said for violence after all.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

How will you die?

Only a joke but try this quiz.
Apparently, I'm going to go in a traffic accident. Figures

Return to my youth

I moved out of the marital bedroom some 2 years ago. I move about a lot at night and Norma makes all sorts of groans and grunts. Initially, I moved into what is the guest bedroom of the other four bedrooms but I had to be on my best behaviour and could not personalise it.
I next moved into the bedroom on the top floor of the flat. This is nominally a loft conversion but there was so much space available that the conversion looks as if it was designed along with the main floors. Over the months, I've created what can only be described as a Teenagers Flat. My room has a couple of bookshelves and loads of gadgets. My DVD player is there, the iPod base station and a number of drawers that hold any number of goodies. My Asus eee wi netbook works there. There is even a coffee machine. Vacuum cleaners wielded by women are banned; I keep it clean myself.
With the approach of real cold weather, I had to add a oil-based heater. Connected to a timer to run just before my normal bed-time and at the time I usually get up. During the night itself though, temperatures dropped to about 7 or 8 degrees and I had to over-ride the timer. A full-rated duvet did not crack the problem.
Last week-end though I found the solution, A double-size sleeping bag with flannelet liner. I creep into that on top of my fleece-covered mattress and all is well. I've got the art of getting in well sorted so that I do not need the electric heater at all.
Things are now just about perfect but it was that reversion to the sort of bedroom I had as a teenager that did it. All I have to worry about now is how the undertakers will get my stiffening body down the stairs!

A day of mixed emotions.

My lovely old dog left us just over a year ago. She left a void that I have not even begun to fill. I have been unable to visit any of the places where we enjoyed each other so very much. It has been difficult to talk to passing dogs. I miss her even now more than I would miss the use of my arms.
Today, I exercised a German shorthaired pointer dog. He was a rescue dog taken in by the owner of the hotel near home. Even discussing the walk was a hard thing for me. The dog, Trooper, is a small example of the breed; we used to joke with Sable that she was a runt. He has the oval eyes that are not usual - just as Sable had.
Equipped with small pieces of corned beef, I set out with him. He is extremely biddable but it would seem he has had little training so we started from scratch this time out. Heel walking was OK, We went into the tennis courts which are fenced around and we got the idea of Come. The meat stocks were going down fast! When all seemed well - off into the park. No lead; just my voice. A super little dog. Such a wonderful day though so very tearful.
He came into the house with me on the way back to his home and dashed about - just like a ghost dog.
I'm down for a repeat tomorrow if I can manage it. I think that Topper and I will get a lot out of this. I hope so. I don't know what is in his background prior to rescue but so far as I am able, he will enjoy things from now on.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Now - that is a good idea!

Every year about this time we see and hear what the Royal Mail will be doing about special stamps for Christmas. Never very inspiring and not a lot of involvement from the customers
Compare what we do - or, rather, fail to do with the situation in America. There, one may design one's very own stamp. Not just for Christmas. All the holidays and special days they so much love as well.
Something like this for example

Well, what would you do?

So, captured on film. Secret lover, woman and woman's significant other. Love tryst interrupted by return of The Man who has had time to get a rifle. Romeo disturbed didn't even have time to sort out which way his shreddies were put on. The woman in the trio does not seem to know what to do.

Party time people - let us see what YOU would do if one of the players in the photograph.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

MPs and the law

I have tried not to get wound up about it but the incident of the MP and his arrest and treatment has got under my skin. It seems that condemnation of police is universal but much of this, I feel, comes from public ignorance of some of the lesser used laws of the land fuelled by the media who see it as a stick to beat one side or the other. We have claims that it was not a matter for police action and that they should have held off the complaint that was made to them by a senior official of the government. This suggestion that it was not a police matter is made at a time when more and more people are complaining that the service do not attend when they report a crime. If the allegation were not investigated by police – who then? Does anyone feel happy about the cash for honours saga where government obviously called many of the shots? Then we had the off and on and off again BAE/Saudi case. Who is really convinced by the results of the inquest into David Kelly? Where evidence will mainly consist of documentation or computer records all too easily destroyed or deleted, maximum confidentiality is essential. Editors have focussed on who was told in advance of the raids. They suggest that DPP should have been consulted but several who make this point report that he was told shortly before they went in. We have not heard what the DPP has to say but it was open to him to object when he was told. It would seem he did not; any observation from him now that he objected would be an example of 20::20 after sight. The speed of modern communications would have allowed things to be cancelled or done differently.
There are those who say that the civil servant and the MP were following a tradition long established. I would agree but many things have changed since the tradition commenced. Both journalists and whistle blowers have lowered integrity in these times where we now live.
I've done some digging. My understanding of conspiracy was aged but simple. I knew it as the execution of an unlawful act or doing something lawful by an unlawful means. Here, both parties chose an unlawful way to carry out their actions. We have procedures whereby illumination can be directed into dark recesses. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000 came into force on 1 January 2005. It establishes a “general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities”. . It also needs to operate in conjunction with the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, and oversight of all three rests with the Information Commissioner. This legislation and regulation promote a “culture of openness” and accountability, alongside protecting privacy rights, across the public sector. The whistle blower could have supplied the member with chapter and verse to formulate a FoI request. All legal and above board.
The Criminal Law Act 1977 redefined conspiracy and put it on a statutory footing. The offence-creating provision is section 1(1). So far as material for present purposes section 1(1), as substituted by the Criminal Attempts Act 1981, provides:
'…if a person agrees with any other person or persons that a course of conduct shall be pursued which, if the agreement is carried out in accordance with their intentions … (a) will necessarily amount to or involve the commission of any offence or offences by one or more of the parties to the agreement …he is guilty of conspiracy to commit the offence or offences in question.'
The offence therefore lies in making an agreement. Implicitly, the subsection requires also that the parties intend to carry out their agreement. The offence is complete at that stage. The offence is complete even if the parties do not carry out their agreement. The offence is complete even if the substantive offence is not thereafter committed by any of the conspirators or by anyone else. The whole question of conspiracy is well examined in R. v. Saik a House of Lords appeal in session 2006 UKHL 18 reported at.
( )
Worthy of note at this time is “will necessarily amount to or involve the commission of any offence or offences by one or more of the parties to the agreement “ I will suggest that the action by the civil servant to pass on papers was an offence by him. As soon as the MP agreed to accept these, he was dragged into the conspiracy.
The MP was dragged into the conspiracy situation by his association with the civil aervant who is considered to have committed an offence of misconduct in public office. The elements of this offence have been stated by CPS as
a) A public officer acting as such.
b) Wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself.
c) To such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder.
d) Without reasonable excuse or justification.
A Public Officer is Guilty of Misconduct in these circumstances:
There must be a breach of duty by the officer, [which is wilful and which is such that the conduct is] an affront to the standing of the public office held. The threshold is a high one requiring conduct so far below acceptable standards as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder”
It is a Serious Offence, compared by the CPS to perverting the course of justice:
Like perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office covers a wide range of conduct. It should always be remembered that it is a very serious, indictable only offence carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. A charge of misconduct in public office should be reserved for cases of serious misconduct or deliberate failure to perform a duty which is likely to injure the public interest.
So, I think that explains why the MP was due to be investigated. Can I quickly dispose of the question as to why Anti-Terrorist police were used? It is just a quirk of a 2006 police reorganisation. Official Secrets Act cases have always fallen to Special Branch, which was merged into the Counter Terrorism Command in 2006, hence you get a superannuated Plod on the case rather than the regular variety. I am not sure if MPs are bound by the OSA; it might clash with parliamentary privilege. Members of both Houses of Parliament are granted special rights and privileges, including immunity from laws on slander for any statement made in a parliamentary debate.
These privileges are affirmed in the Commons by the Speaker at the beginning of each Parliament.
Parliamentary privilege guarantees the rights of MPs and peers to enjoy freedom of speech and freedom from arrest (on civil matters) in the House, and the freedom of access to the monarch. As to whether the Speaker or any other parliamentary functionary had a right or duty to stop police from searching his Westminster office, the detailed law of parliamentary privilege has been built up from individual cases where Parliament has decided that certain acts interfere with the essential rights of MPs. These are known as "contempts". It may be the question of searching rooms at Westminster has not been considered. It is also a privilege and not an absolute right that over-rides the law of the land. And, let's look at the question as to whether removal of papers was an abuse of privilege. It would seem not. is Standard Note: SN/PC/2024 Last updated: 5 April 2004 Author: Oonagh Gay, Chris Pond of the Parliament and Constitution Centre where the opinion is “A Member referring an allegation to a Minister, government body, council or company would not be protected by absolute privilege, since letters and telephone calls originating with Members are not proceedings in Parliament for the purposes of the Bill of Rights. (my emboldening)
The question of arrest derives from Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and is part of section C which covers, amongst other matters, the detention, treatment and questioning of persons by police officers as well as tape recording of interviews with suspects together with searching of premises by police officers and the seizure of property found by police officers on persons or premises.
Starting at the beginning of the relevant bits we have C 3.21 which rules that anyone attending a police station voluntarily to assist with an investigation may leave at will unless arrested. If it is decided that they shall not be allowed to leave, they must be informed at once that they are under arrest. One can here understand a quandary for any investigator. If the subject is asked to come to the police station at their convenience it is likely that they will destroy any physical evidence such as documents or recordings of conversations. If allowed to walk away as soon as the interview commences, the same risk applies. So, it is sound investigative practice to arrest anyone who is a witness against whom charges might be brought. The question of suspicion would seem to be covered under Note for Guidance 10A which states that there must be reasonable, objective grounds for the suspicion based on known facts or information which are relevant to the likelihood the offence has been committed. If the civil servant has admitted the contact or there is other good evidence such as connecting the disclosure by the MP with the role of the civil servant, then he is a suspect and has to be dealt with as such.
PACE imposes numerous conditions regarding the manner in which interviews be carried out. The main thing requires the recording of the interview. This would seem to require a suite especially fitted out and not in a suspects office or home. There are notices that have to be displayed for the information and benefit of prisoners. Anyway, anyone who experienced the charms of the Judges Rules which governed police action prior to PACE will recall the “admissions” made in the back of police cars of the 'Gawd blimey guv – you've got me bang to rights' school. As the argot of the times had it ' done up like a kipper'.
The searching would seem to be OK as well. Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Section 18 permits a constable to enter and search any premises occupied or controlled by a person who is under arrest for an arrestable offence if he has reasonable grounds for suspecting there is on the premises, other than items subject to legal privilege, that relates to that offence or some other arrestable offence connected with or similar to that offence.
A constable may conduct such a search before taking the person to a police station and without the written authority of an other inspector rank or above if the presence of that person at a place other than a police station is necessary for the effective investigation of that offence.
I have enough of the conspiracy theorist in me to accept a suspicion that the protests are politically based rather than outrage at erosion of our legal customs and tradition.