Saturday, 13 March 2010

The killers of James Bulger should not have been prosecuted for his murder because children under the age of 12 who commit crimes are too young to understand the full consequences of their actions, the Children's Commissioner for England said today.

She also said civilised society should recognise that children who commit offences needed to be treated differently from adult criminals. Dr Atkinson said James Bulger's killers should have taken "programmes" to turn their lives around and not been jailed.

Obviously, the attraction of the Venables situation is wearing thin quicker than I anticipated; I had expected tree-huggers and the elf people to get around to this a bit later than they have. Luckily, I can remove my 'Mr. Angry' hat as the Justice department has rejected the idea and things will stay as they are. A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We do not intend to raise the age of criminal responsibility. It is not in the interests of justice, of victims or the young people themselves to prevent serious offending being challenged". But, like a genie released from the bottle, the pronouncements of the Commissioner will be around for some while yet. Whilst I still have a lingering doubt as to the sanity of that good lady, I just wonder where she has been during the recent spate of incidents involving young children as victims and where the age of the offenders and the failing agency workers is not in dispute.

Other than Scotland, where the criminal responsibility bar of eight years is under review to be raised to 12 years, we have almost the lowest age for initiating criminal action against juveniles. Switzerland, Nigerian and South Africa set the age at seven years old whilst Belgium and most of America are the top of the league with the age of 18. I do not recognise the concept that physical age is what determines the actions of human beings. Quite clearly, there are some very savage and ferocious young persons. The one who comes immediately to mind is Mary Bell who was tried in 1968 with the murder (reduced to manslaughter) of two youngsters. She was ten years old at the time of the first murder and 11 when she carried out her second offence.

I can understand the dichotomy between between punishment as retribution and re-education programmes such as the ones Dr Atkinson may have had in mind. I think age is too imprecise a consideration. I have chosen Bell because she presents just about the worst example of how nurture can determine personality. For those who do not 'do' links, here is an abstract from the Wiki site:
Bell's mother Betty (born McCrickett) was a prostitute who was often absent from the family home, travelling to Glasgow to work. Mary (nicknamed May) was her first child, born when Betty was 17 years old. It is not known who Mary's biological father was; for most of her life she believed it to be Billy Bell, an habitual criminal later arrested for armed robbery who had married Betty some time after Mary was born. Independent accounts from family members suggest strongly that Betty had attempted to kill Mary and make her death look accidental more than once during the first few years of her life. Mary herself says she was subject to repeated sexual abuse, her mother forcing her from the age of four to engage in sex acts with men.

On May 25, 1968, the day before her 11th birthday, Mary Flora Bell strangled four year old Martin Brown. She was believed to have committed this crime alone. Between that time and the second killing, she and her friend Norma Joyce Bell (no relation), age thirteen, broke into and vandalised a nursery in Scotswood, leaving notes that claimed responsibility for the Brown killing. The Newcastle police dismissed this incident as a prank.

On 31 July 1968, the two took part in the death, again by strangulation, of three-year-old Brian Howe. Police reports concluded that Mary Bell had gone back after killing him to carve an "N" into his stomach with a razor; this was then changed using the same razor but with a different hand from an "M". Mary Bell also used a pair of scissors to cut off bits of Brian Howe's hair and to mutilate his genitals. As the girls were so young and their testimonies contradicted each other, what happened has never been entirely clear. Martin Brown's death was initially ruled an accident as there was no evidence of foul play. Eventually, his death was linked with Brian Howe's killing and in August, the two girls were charged with two counts of manslaughter.

So, if any example is needed to define "buggered up" it was the rearing of Mary Bell. There might be another interesting factor; she was 'overlooked' just as the children of whom we have heard much in recent days. Now, take her situation. Just where could one start with a programme? We do not know but I would imagine that she would not have recognised any such approach as being to her benefit or advantage and it would have been necessary to hold her in closed accommodation. How long would it have taken to get her fit to be a free spirit as a 'normal' 12 year old? Bell herself made headlines when in September 1977, she briefly absconded from Moore Court open prison, where she had been imprisoned since her transfer from a young offender's institution to an adult prison a year earlier.

Without the exposure that arose from her trial, her actions would have remained as a secret within the child care profession. Venables is but the latest display of how wrong they can be in assessing whether an individual has learned anything positive or has merely been advised by others what to say to please his assessors. Do they speak from the heart or just imitate parrots? So, I feel that age should not be a determining factor when considering what happens to a young offender. There have to be some limits - I would be very afraid to be in a Nigerian prison at 47 still less seven. What comes from a court hearing is the opportunity for an impartial hearing to assess just how wicked or evil the defendant may be. The outcomes will be numerous - not guilty, guilty but not the full shilling, guilty but provoked beyond reason or just plain old vanilla guilty. This is where we invite the psycho-babblers in. What do they have in their range of voodoo that might work. (Yes - I am biased against psychiatry. I've experienced it first hand and in cases where I was closely involved). That treatment may take a long period of time and it would not be until the end that it was possible to say if it had been successful. No professional likes to say they have failed and we have seen the outcomes where too optimistic a view was taken when deciding whether to release someone into society.

Bell is another string to my bow of 'try em and keep them safe until they are fit to be alongside me and mine' She was released when 23 with a new secret identity and settled own into relative obscurity with attention being drawn only when she secured lifelong anonymity for her daughter and, subsequently, grand-daughter. There can be few who came from such desperately damaging origins who have metamorphosed into grey-haired old Granny.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Goodby cruel world

My Guest this time around is a 93 year old man. I've read his item more than once but cannot quite decide whether or not I am with him on the subject of shuffling away from this mortal coil

Mr Presley has left the building

Thursday, 11 March 2010

This Welfare State

The revelations regarding the two sisters who suffered abuse and rape from their father over a very long period of time read like something from a sick pervert's novel. I had been aware of this case from the time of the father's trial but very little details was given at that time.

This is not primarily a matter where child protection failed. The frequency of the pregnancies should have sounded warning bells. Over a particular six year period, one or other of the females was pregnant. One had two children within a year and there were four occasions when both were pregnant at the same time. A number of the off-spring exhibited defects associated with incest and early death was a feature in over half the live births. We will never know how many miscarriages there were. Even if the women had a heightened state of fertility, the frequency of known pregnancies should have set off warning bells. Even a most casual reference to a police officer or child care official should have led to positive action. The RSPCA would have done a better job closing down a puppy farm.

The man who did this had his original sentence reduced from 19 and a half years to 14 and a half. On what grounds - were the sentencing authorities aware that a case review was pending? We are also told that no sackings, resignations or criminal charges against any of the "care" workers will result. An excuse was put forward that social workers were afraid of the father and this limited their actions. The guy moved 67 times - again and again to put himself out of reach of carers so how could they even begin to comprehend his nature in such short exposure times. Not anywhere long enough to scare next door's cat. Did none of them consider the plight of the girls who were under his control 24/7 and thus likely be in fear. What about the gynaecological nurses and midwives - with the frequent moves it must have been that they were presenting for delivery without attending any ante-natal classes. Why were the girls not marked up for being seen by the sexual health staff? Did no local registrar spot the pattern - it was this factor that led to Shipman's exposure.

So - maybe they were scared; I see it as a post-event excuse. What liaison was there between the child care staff and the police. Any officer worth their salt would be only too happy to find an excuse to smash open a door and have a mooch about in a house. We do not know all of the more than 35 agencies who were involved - funny choice of words when involvement was the very last thing they were. Has anyone looked atthe Job Descriptions of the executives and confirmed whether this neglect is within their responsibilities or not. If it wasn't - what is being done to correct this? If I am the Health and Safety officer in a commercial enterprise and a stairway collapses it is not worth my wasting my breath denying responsibility and blaming the Premises Manager.

This is but the latest incident where we have failed little kids. Follow-up inquiries have identified faults in the system and the personnel appointed. With just the one exception, all have escaped scot free. Not even charged enough to send a bunch of flowers. Every time we have such an event and people get away scot free merely increases the complacency of others in the discipline. "The people in case X got away with it so no one will bother with me" Staff with caring responsibilities must have a clear duty to act - their best endeavours will not suffice. Even in this age of school uniform mothers, single parents to multiple fathers and the other sad circumstances the pregnancy history of these two girls should have stood out. This sort of whistle-blowing has to be taught and emphasised in the workplace. "I am a carer and I care" should be displayed everywhere in their workplace.

Seems that every minor injustice leads to demands for a 'full inquiry' but so far I have not seen any pressure for one into this desperately sad affair. We cannot even begin to call ourselves civilised or with any form of culture all the while things like this occur without punishment and correction.

Women's organisations all make much of the total degradation involved in rape. Most often, a one off event, quickly over with no lasting effect with good counselling. Just what did those two girls suffer - repeatedly attacked without warning, brutalised if they demurred and aware at all times what their sibling was suffering when dragged away by the brutal parent. Many women face childbirth with trepidation even with their companion alongside to give support - what must have been the effect on these girls when wheeled alone into the delivery room? Repeatedly, with the memory of what happened just a few months back still fresh in their minds. Some paedophiles claim they do what they do out of love; these two young women would never have seen what happened as containing the slightest affection.

Not mentioned is what will be happening to these broken butterflies? Put into a system which has already proven itself as totally and completely not fit for purpose I suppose.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Locker Room full of pain

Film reviews are a bit out of my line. I do not get to many actual cinemas and rely on DVD for the home theatre. If asked to rate any especial film, I would be hampered by the fact that I have not seen all the opposition anyway. Hurt Locker came to me as a birthday gift and I cannot say that I would have thought of buying it.

Having run it a couple of times I came to the opinion that it was aimed at the patriotic "Gee Aren't our troops wonderful" element. Nothing wrong with that idea or using it as a hook to gain sales.
Whilst I have no relevant knowledge of what goes on I suspected it to be an imperfect reflection of the dangerous and often deadly mission of the troops who’ve been fighting in Iraq the past seven years. I had seen, as close up as was safe, how our British bomb disposal officers went about their work and could see that some sort of documentary would have very limited appeal. The popular image of ice blood playing on the extreme edge of danger does not really apply. They are well-trained professionals who have good equipment and back-up. This is what allows them to do what they do. My own attitude in the very limited hot situations I was involved in was that my Mother did not raise me just to have me die in Ireland. This kept me just the right side of that slippery slope.

Sure enough, the ones who knew what was what were quick to condemn the way in which their work had been represented. "
"That guy was more of a run and gun cowboy type, and that is exactly the kind of person that we’re not looking for" said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Phillips, a team leader in Iraq’s eastern Maysan province" The Army has not supported the movie due to inaccurate depictions of Soldiers. "The movie-goer in me thought it was an entertaining movie, the Soldier in me was disappointed by inaccuracies and the inaccurate portrayal" said Lt. Col. Gregory Bishop, Army Public Affairs-West film liaison officer.

Obviously, film scripts have to be written with a slant more towards entertainment than education. The classic 'Brief Encounter' could have been portrayed with just the one scene - "No chance of a quick fu*k then?" would have said it all. But who would pay to see that?

So - critic's hat back on. I cannot see that Hurt Locker was the best film of the year; the industry cannot have failed to produce better and, no - that better was certainly not Avatar either. What it may have done was capture a need for the majority of Americans. With an attitude to war in Afghanistan that is unfavourable and a need to wash away some of the Abu Gharib images, it was a right film for it's time and place. What it did for me was to reinforce my theory that bravery is not very far from stupidity. Die as a result of your conduct and you will be a hero. Do the same thing and survive to face condemnation - stupidity.

A Brave New World

The Tories have committed themselves to work on UK role within 6 months of election. The way things are going now, this may be based on wishful thinking anyway. But, just why do we have to have any complex involvement or great concern re what goes on overseas? The days when any atlas was a glorious red orb have long gone - rightly or wrongly is of no concern really - but it seems we have not adjusted to this. More than half a century after the loss of Empire, our political culture still seems racked by the need to be the leading nation, not just one of them. Every country likes to be taken seriously around the world. Nations like to feel they are punching their weight, or even above it. Only a few, however, seem to feel the need to promote themselves as the one that others look to for leadership. America has taken on our old role. It is quite presumptuous for Britain to pretend to such a status. We can still harbour dreams of punching above our weight - the tremendous efforts, performance and true grit of what we are doing, despite Brown's sabotage, in Afghanistan is widely acknowledged and recognised. The current situation regarding the Falklands is a case in point that illustrates how low our status has fallen. It is clear that if push came to shove, we could offer little military resistance to a re-match down there. Pulling the lions tail is a favourite sport for any leader keen to improve their home support and status. (We do still have a sense of humour though - our latest aid for his country expressed an opinion)

Nations that formerly chose to remain aloof from involvement in wider world affairs have now, in the main, thrown their lot in with UN or EU or with the look-alike organisations. Africa alone must have a dozen or so and there are the states previously under control of Russia. The value of even the most senior of these may be dubious - vide UN Resolutions reference action on Iraq which were so skilfully twisted and abused by Brown and Blair but it least they give an air of respectability to Machiavellian plans and plots. It would seem just plain old common sense for us to become more widely involved with these world organisations and be part of a quorum now our true freedom of action by way of power has disappeared.

It would be hard for any leader to have to accept the position of also ran. The UN does not have an unblemished record of actually solving anything or managing those situations that seem unresolvable. When one looks at their aims and ambitions, this is no surprise. How can so many things be recognised and acknowledged, still less debated and settled?

Ah - but that is just where we could punch above our weight. Our Colonial past and the Days of Empire have a legacy that we could use. We have a knowledge of what goes on in the Government and minds of almost every one of the delegates. A long time ago and much censored by the likes of NuLabour perhaps but capable of being dragged from fusty basement archives, dusted down, vocabulary changed and then introduced. With the right attitude and mindset, we could wield the power to challenge even America's position. This would not call for the force of arms which is so draining of human life, GDP share and threatens to destroy our integrity. All we need is to be a leader and then use the power of unity to prevail. The UN is like some failing company - a world-wide Enron where finagling has run into the buffers. GB needs to be appointed as administrator.

Some may say that the UN's little brother of the European Union creates very little enthusiasm for us joining a much larger and more complex organisation. What is wrong about our relationship is not difficult to define - even the Prince of Darkness has done it (quite well though it hurts me to say it!). The real problem in so far as it concerns us is that we got on board - even partially - far too late. We are committed to terms and conditions where we had but little option other than to tick to 'agreed; box. Maggy and her handbag politics showed what can be achieved. Were we to make a play for revitalising the UN we would be able to start with a almost blank sheet of T & C which would work in our favour.

The idea that the Boy Dave and Co will set the foundations of our place in the world has one very big weakness. In the situation we are now, it is superfluous; we are fighting for our lives just to stay afloat and any coat will have to be cut from the cloth we have and not from what we might get. The debate and animosity it would engender would be counter-productive; politicians much prefer jaw jaw and would delay action until a change of Government came round again. Taking things onto the UN stage would cut the legs off any long running debate.

I commend this motion to the House.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

My World of Confusion

An embarrassment of riches today Almost need a contents page to cover. Venables (the kiddy fiddler-murderer not the Manager), The Facebook rapist-murderer, Bush and his Cameron delusion and dangerous dogs.So, if you are all sitting comfortably, I'll begin.

Venables. My main thing here is 'So What?' Why is the British world and his wife so exercised about this - the really horrible bit was many years back when they tortured, abused and murdered the small child. Should we not just be satisfied that Venables is locked away? Clearly, he was supervised and detected. Given the many recent cases where youngsters have died because police, social workers, medical staff and neighbours all fell down on the job, we have had a good result.It may be that the matter is welcome relief from the political storm und drang or salacious and puerile interest but every nook and cranny supports pages in MSM and on TV and radio. For my part, we certainly have a right to know but do we really have a need to know? I am sure there truly are some who are not able to sleep safely in their beds whilst this is unresolved but that cannot explain the exposure we are all getting. I cannot understand what drives the former Mrs Bulger in her demands for personal service from Jack Straw. If she ever achieved closure, the stress she is putting upon herself will just tear the scabs away. Thankfully, there has only been the one really sad and painful event in my life. I would not welcome having to rehearse it all again.

Straw seems to be batting on a dodgy wicket where he claims that justice would be prejudiced if the nature of Venables' transgression were fully disclosed. Think for a moment about some sensational crime - Heathrow bullion or that Knightsbridge safe-deposit sort of standard. When the offenders went to court for trial, we all inew what they were accused of. So, why is Venables any different - if fore-knowledge would make a trial unfair why were the bullion/safe-deposit guys banged up? Straw's explanation is not sustainable. It also suggests to me that there was no Plan A in the event that Venables or his colleague lost their cover or committed further offences. Anyway, what need of a trial? The terms of his licence are very clear - do this and you are back in the slammer. There must be good evidence as to what he did so re-imprisonment is automatic.

One factor not yet exposed to light is the validity of the decision for early release of the two murderers. Did they con the Review Board, was the Board too complacent or did the new course of action come out of the blue totally unforeseen? There were strong paedophile connections in the way they abused their victim and the popular rumour is that Venables had indecent images of children on his computer. It is difficult to get rates of recidivism for licence releases and there are even less where criminals with newly manufactured identities are concerned. Hopefully, Venables will get a Brady now he is back behind bars and there will be no need for more expenditure. What happened here should set off a review of the tariff system - why is it needed? The trial judge heard all the evidence including the victim impact statement and should be capable of deciding what balance there has to be between the demands of an injured society and the hopes of a guilty person.

A case where the police did not do such a fine job came to an end yesterday when the Facebook Groomer was weighed off. He was on the Sex Offenders' Register but had been over the side for over a year with, it seems, no real effort being made to trace him. His previous sex-associated detention had also been reduced such that he did not serve the full term. Facebook is now getting a kicking about what is does (or,in this case, does not do) to block or detect use of false identities or ongoing grooming. They do have previous form for weakness in protecting subscribers from undue attention. There was a conversation on Today that a monitoring association had received only 3% of it's alerts from FB. The attitude that checking what one's off-spring are up to is a parental responsibility has also been pushed about. Hard to see just what the average parent knows of grooming to be able to detect it - this assuming they have that much (interest)/(concern) anyway. Some police forces run sting teams where officers pose as youngsters on the Internet and follow up on suspected friendship approaches. There is ample good advice readily available but, of course, the parent has to bother to find and read it. Werew I to be carried back some 40 odd years, I would include drawing such a site to my child's attention as part of the Birds and Bees process. We seem to begin in-school teaching about sex at a very early age and grooming could fit into a module there.

I would imagine that amongst the telephone calls Boy Dave wished had not been placed was the one from Dubya Bush. Bush - aided and abetted by Hilarious Clinton - wanted Dave to exert pressure on the Ulster Union Party. This target for conversion shows just how little the two Alices in Wonderland know. the former Ulster Unionist MP, Lord Maginnis, has said his party would not give in to what he called "blackmail" or "bribery". "What on earth do they know about about day-to-day security, policing and justice in Northern Ireland?" he said. And it is not just about those matters in NI that they know fu*k all about Ken!

Last in the running order - dangerous dogs. To me, there is a perfect synergy with the NI snippet. What better place for mad dogs than amongst mad people? Ideally suited and the nutters are fully reconciled to dangerous dogs, We let a Army attack dog off the leash and launched it at a rioting crown of rabid Loyalists. It was never seen again - not a hair, not a whisker. Soldiers' view was that the demonstrators had eaten it alive there and then, raw and on the street.

In terms of the Government proposal regarding 3rd party insurance and microchipping, they seem to have failed to recognise that it is the criminal minded or otherwise dodgy moron who keeps a dangerous dog as a weapon. These are also in the class of society least likely to set much store by Government regulations.

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Rover returns

Back again. Here to see if the juices still flow. Quite a sojourn at another site where I slicked out a few words and thoughts. I could not get comfortable with the software and it got to the state where I had no confidence that what I wrote would get to see the light of day when I pressed the 'Go' button.That could have been due to mistakes on my part; I just do not know. Whatever - I lacked the patience to see it through.

One of the things I find coming between me and writing these blogs is annoyance at the topic. I read of the proposal to impose some sort of censorship on the news of Afghanistan during the period when electioneering is officially in play. This struck me as wrong on so many counts and I wanted to find some way to express this. But, I know that whatever I do will have zero effect on what it is that annoys me.

The ban will only involve British journalists and our forces. The embed system will be put in abeyance. This really achieves little; there are a number of significant reporters who are capable of living with Afghan forces and who do not rely on being fed the sort of pap that the Forces PR outlets brief. The announcement is quite mealy-mouthed

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "During the period between an election being called and taking place, communications activity across government is restricted in order to be fair to all political parties. Rules are issued by the Cabinet Secretary and this has been the case for many years.

"It is acceptable during purdah to continue to provide factual information. The MoD recognises that it is vital to continue to tell the public about the efforts and achievements of our forces in Afghanistan during this period and has agreed principles with the Cabinet Office that allow this.

There is very strong feeling that the Government manipulates what is published so as to put things in the best possible light. Even on very minor threats. The Op Together was announced well in advance and in detail that would normally be regarded as a breach of security. The official excuse was that the new departure was intended to allow the good guys to separate themselves from the terrorists. Their choice was to disperse, surrender or be killed. Given that there is no readily discernible physical or dress difference between an terrorist and a non-terrorist it was clear that those who wished could fight until near to being overcome and then put their weapon away and - instant good guy. Much was made that we were likely to sustain heavy losses in the attacks.

The terrorists who did disperse seem to have migrated Northwards to around Sangin which has been a very significant stronghold for Taliban. Sangin is the most challenging area in which British troops operate and is where we have taken many of our casualties. We had mounted a campaign to drive them out but, like clearing flood-water with a rake, they just flowed back in again. We are sustaining heavy losses in the area. The MOD is very concerned to avoid any suggestion that these are attributable to the Together initiative. Casualty reports contain the mantra "not connected with Operation Together" So - what is the reason for the increase in activity? We knew that some would drift away and Sangin was a natural draw. This smokescreen of the MOD is just another reason why we need eyes and ears of journalists wide open and unfettered.

Do they really think that anyone who opposes the current Government's actions in Afghanistan will suspend their belief whilst the politicians exercise their dreamland presentations and put up their best faces.My view of Brown's opportunist visit yesterday and that of his toad Aintworth today will not change or moderate before we have the election. The damage is done; they have cooked their own goose.

That typifies the dilema I have when writing this sort of stuff. As one ties together the reports and comments that there are on the 'net it is easy to see just how cynical the idea of a truth ban really is. They must know what sort of stuff is available and how it can be presented without regard to the Everything Is Wonderful official mantra. Colonel Blimp will never die.