Not Saussure

September 30, 2006

Rachel on Garri Holness, The Sun and ‘Being a Victim’

Filed under: Blogroll, press — notsaussure @ 11:30 pm

Rachel From North London writes in Anorak (a few days ago, but I missed it) about The Sun’s monstering (again) of Garri Holness, one of the other bomb survivors on her train, and draws some wider conclusions about the press and being ‘A Victim’:

This is the problem when all you see is ‘Victims’, not real people. There was a cross section of London life on that train. The man who had raped, the woman who had been raped. The cleaner and the company director. The happy and the unhappy. The lonely and the loved. Men, women, young, old, white, black, gay, straight, with complex lives and strengths and weaknesses. Individuals.

I notice that I became a cypher, a symbol, a blank screen onto which others project what they want to see, when I wrote about being a victim of the bombs…


The Magistrate’s Blog: Competition Time

Filed under: Blogroll, Law — notsaussure @ 5:15 pm

Bystander JP, author of The Magistrate’s Blog, is running a competition with a handsome prize.

Essentially, people willing to admit to a minor crime may, in future, be offered the chance to accept a ‘conditional caution’ rather than worry the courts with the matter. One of the conditions will be for the offender to write a letter of apology to the victim. He explains:

I don’t know how the system is going to overcome the fact that a good half of our defendants are functionally illiterate, and half of those struggle to write their own name. Many communicate only in grunts. Our ushers are well used to filling in means forms, and more often than not ask the defendants to repeat the oath rather than risk them reading it off a card.

His worship invites us to have a go, asking that we write letters

apologising for imaginary crimes, of assault on PC or civilian, theft, vandalism, drunkenness, public order offences, that kind of thing. I shall award extra marks for any letters that manage to conceal lack of remorse in a cloak of apparent apology. But feel free to write whatever you like.

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Filed under: Medicine — notsaussure @ 3:49 pm

Sound medical advice.

Via Tim Worstall

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Something fishy at the Home Office?

Filed under: Law, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 1:12 pm

The BBC report that, unsurprisingly, John Reid has resiled from the proposal leaked yesterday to impose on-the-spot fines for offences including

assault, threatening behaviour, theft up to the value of £100 and assaulting a police officer.

But the Home Office said the idea had not been put to ministers, and that Mr Reid would never allow a reduction in punishments for violent criminals.

A spokesman said: “Ministers have not been consulted about these proposals. Most of the suggestions come from police chiefs.

“The home secretary will never approve any lessening of punishments for violent crime.”

However, this has left me wondering why someone put out these proposals for consultation in the first place, knowing — as he must have — the sort of reaction they’d get. What’s the point of asking the Magistrates’ Association about proposals to hand out fixed penalty notices for theft and assault when the Department for Constitutional Affairs have put out a consultation document in July on Delivering Simple, Speedy, Summary Justice that says, à propos fixed-penalty notices for certain offences,

In a consultation exercise in late 2004 and early 2005, magistrates told us that television licensing and summary motoring offences took up a disproportionate amount of court time and resource – see key facts below. Such cases, where there are no victims or public safety issues, need not be dealt with using the same process as offences such as burglary or assault.

Would it not be obvious what their worships’ reaction was going to be, let alone anyone else’s?

Magistrates’ Association chairman Cindy Barnett told the Times such proposals would undermine the gravity of serious offences.

She said: “These are crimes that involve victims, and sometimes violence, and some of them are at the top end of what government research has shown the public regard as serious.

“They should not be dealt with by penalty notice. What kind of message does this send out?”

I’m also slightly puzzled about the notion of leaking proposals about a clearly public matter such as the administration of justice that are put out for consultation.

In short, someone’s drawn up a list of highly contentious proposals that never had a chance of being accepted and made sure they gained maximum publicity. Was this someone in the Home Office trying to embarrass Dr Reid, or was it — more deviously — an opportunity for Home Secretary to gain brownie points by very publicly shooting down a daft idea that was guaranteed to upset just about everyone, from those concerned about law and order to those concerned about civil liberties (or those, like me, who are concerned about both)?

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Wild boar on the increase; possible solutions

Filed under: UK — notsaussure @ 11:16 am

Tim Worstall has noticed in The Telegraph that wild boar are making a comeback here, to the extent that they may soon become as great a problem as are urban foxes;

“Wild boar populations grow very slowly at first but there comes a point when they go through the roof,” said Martin Goulding, a former scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

“Because it has no natural predators in Britain, no lynx or wolf for example, the populations could soar at any time. They are already scavenging through bins in Berlin and could be doing the same here soon.”

Tim, quite rightly, says he isn’t too keen on re-introducing the wolf to Britain but wonders about trying to re-establish the lynx.

I’m not too sure about the lynx, lovely-looking creatures that they are, but certainly agree that re-introducing wolves wouldn’t be too smart; I couldn’t help but think that the Kazakh government rather scored an own goal when, in an attempt to undo the impression of their country given by Borat, they took four-page advertising inserts in leading American papers boasting, among other things, that their country’s attractions include

Gleaming hotels and the region’s best pastrami sandwiches, cash machines and the planet’s largest population of wolves.

A reply to Tim’s piece suggests simply re-introducing the shotgun, but Tim isn’t sure that works on boar. The solution, however, is clear; re-introduce the sport of pig-sticking, thus also giving the hunts something to do (and I doubt any but the most enthusiastic animal rights campaigner or nu-Labour MP could get quite as sentimental about bloody great big boars as they do about cute little foxy-woxies). As Lord Baden-Powell describes it,

Three or four riders form a ” party.” Beaters drive the pig out of his lair in the jungle, and the party then race after him, but for the first three-quarters of a mile he can generally outpace them.
The honours then go to the man who can first come up with and spear him. But so soon as- the boar finds himself in danger of being overtaken he either ” jinks,” that is, darts off sideways, or else turns round and charges his pursuer.

A spear-thrust, unless delivered in a vital spot, has little effect beyond making him more angry, and then follows a good deal of charging on both sides, and it is not always the boar that comes off second best.

He has a wonderful power of quick and effective use of his tusks and many a good horse has been fatally gashed by the animal he was hunting.

Among the Indian Princes and cavalry leaders are a number of good pig-stickers, and it is on this common ground of sportsmanship that our officers of both British and Indian Regiments are on such good terms of friendship.

A great man after pig was Lord William Beresford, at that time Military Secretary to the Viceroy. And I remember him taking a toss, which would have killed any ordinary man, when riding after a pig at the Stud Farm at Saharunpur.

Here the paddocks were divided by stout post and rail fences with wooden gates. His pig instead of jumping the fence charged through the gate, smashing the bottom bar, lifting the gate off the latch, so that as Beresford’s horse rose to jump it the gate swung open under him and landing on the top of it he came a heavy crumpler on the hard roadway.

But Beresford was an Irishman and no harm resulted

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September 29, 2006

What is it with Lithuanian girls and Albanians?

Filed under: Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 9:01 pm

Can anyone explain this? For I am genuinely puzzled. Yet another bunch of men who’ve tricked women with promises of decent jobs and, instead, forced them to work in brothels has been imprisoned. It will come as no surprise to anyone that the men are Albanian and the girl is Lithuanian.

Why is this, though? If they were all coming from Belarus or Ukraine I could understand it, but Lithuanians can enter the country on exactly the same terms as Poles or Latvians or anyone else from the EU accession countries. Why don’t they just get on a bus and come here looking for work as do their Polish sisters in their thousands? It’s not as if they have to rely on Albanian gangsters to smuggle them in nor as if they’d find it difficult to get a cleaning or bar job on their own when they got here.

And you’d have thought that by now there’d have been enough publicity back in Lithuania that even the dopiest young woman would realise by now that she’s taking a bit of risk listening to a plausible Albanian bloke who promises her a cleaning job in London.

I can see that there were already a lot of Poles and people of Polish descent over here, so maybe folks were initially less worried about coming on their own from Poland than they might otherwise have been, but can that be the only explanation?

I have no thesis to advance — I’m just bemused.

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Mission impossible

Filed under: hubris, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 8:10 pm

If he wins the next election, this promise is going to come back and haunt him:

David Cameron promised today that the next Conservative government would “clean up” British politics.

Amid reports that one of Tony Blair’s senior aides has been quizzed by police as part of the ongoing “cash for peerages” inquiry, the Tory leader said he wanted to restore trust in politics.

He’s making exactly the same mistake as did Blair when he made such a song and dance about ‘Tory sleaze’. Seems a tempting shot at an open goal, but Blair just ended up making problems for himself.

Having helped create a climate in which no one will believe that someone gives money to a political party without some base ulterior motive, and having ensured that all large individual donations had to be reported, Blair then wondered why no one wanted to risk obloquy by donating money. Meanwhile, political parties cost a lot to run, and the money has to come from somewhere. Answer: invent a half-cocked scheme to dress up donations as ‘loans’ and hope, somewhat over-optimistically, you don’t get rumbled.

If Cameron wins, he’ll have everyone scrutinising every contribution to Conservative Party funds with an highly suspicious eye, just waiting for someone to put a foot wrong. And they will.

I’d far rather he took what I’d see as a much more traditional and authentic Conservative attitude, saying something to the effect that he wants to be judged on what he actually does and doesn’t do; he won’t give peerages to dodgy characters and nor will he change his policies to suit donors, though if someone wants to give the party money because they like what it’s doing, then fine. It’s up to the electorate to decide if his government’s policies have been a success or not, not to worry about whether they like what they read in the papers about his funding. And because he believes in privacy and in people’s right to spend their money how they choose, he’s going to scrap the requirement that donations be reported.

The only problem is, that probably wouldn’t help get him elected. So I suppose we’d better prepare ourselves for yet another sleaze scandal a few years after a Tory victory. And for another set of unworkable proposals as we move ever closer to having politicians decide for us that our taxes will be used to fund their parties and political adverts, since we can’t be trusted to give them the money ourselves. Or, even if we are so inclined, they’ve managed to make giving your own money to a party so shameful a practice that no one wants to be associated with it, at least in public.

Update: Just come across this quote from The Countess of Mar, via Simon Carr’s site“I think it is accepted among peers that some have bought their peerages, although that has probably always been the case. Where it has gone to the dogs in the last 10 years is we have got a lot of people who have lost an election [to the Commons]. Why should we get the dross?”

Seems an eminently reasonable point of view. I’m not so much worried about how someone gets their job (unless it’s one I’m after, of course) as I am about how good they are at it.

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“Kissing is inappropriate behavior on an airplane.”

Filed under: Bloody Yanks, usa — notsaussure @ 7:17 pm

Not, apparently, anything to do with the war on liquids ( also here) — cue jokes about mixing apparently harmless fluids with potentially explosive results.

OK, we’ve only got their side of the story, though the couple sitting in the row behind them appear to confirm their account, but it seems to be a case of two gay men on the plane back to New York from Paris whose behaviour is bothering no one other than one particularly officious hostie being told to stop and, when they ask if the same request would be made of a straight couple, everyone getting very worried.

The purser asked the men to describe what they’d been doing, and sheacknowledged that their behavior had not been inappropriate. Tsikhiseli then asked if the stewardess would have made the request if the kissers had been a man and a woman. Suddenly, Leisner said, the purser “became very rigid.” Contradicting what she’d told them before, she stiffly said, “Kissing is inappropriate behavior on an airplane.” She then said that she was busy with the meal service and promised to come back.

At one point, the Captain apparently threatened to divert the plane if they didn’t shut up and stop arguing.

Tim Wagner, a spokesman for American, said that the stewardess’s injunction to the men was reasonable, and would have been made whether the couple was gay or straight. “Our passengers need to recognize that they are in an environment with all ages, backgrounds, creeds, and races. We have an obligation to make as many of them feel as comfortable as possible,” he said.

Presumably the question got the purser worrying about the PR implications of American being tagged as an airline that discriminates against gays, and someone at American decided that it would preferable to be tagged as an airline that not only discriminates against gays but also makes up lame excuses which make it look like an airline run by pompous dickheads.

‘For everyone’s safety and convenience, you will not kiss your wife on one of our planes’? Come off it.

I know that public displays of affection between men and women are considered offensive in, for example, India, and my late wife and I had no problem respecting the local mores when we were visiting the place — in fact, she once got an airline gate opened for us after we arrived late for an internal flight by answering the question, ‘You cover your head. Are you a Muslim?’ (she was wearing a Hermès headscarf), ‘No, I’m a Catholic. But I understand it is the custom in Kashmir for married ladies to cover their heads, and I am a guest in your country’ — but on a flight between Paris and JFK?

Via Boing Boing

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Telegraph: Instant fines plan for violent crimes

Filed under: Law, UK — notsaussure @ 6:00 pm

What on earth is going on here?

Law and order campaigners have reacted with fury after it emerged that violent criminals could be handed on-the-spot fines of up to £100 rather than taken to court.

Plans drawn up by the Home Office propose an extension of fixed penalty notices from 2007 in a bid to ease pressure on the legal system.

The fines would be handed out for offences including assault, threatening behaviour, theft up to the value of £100, obstructing or assaulting a police officer, possession of cannabis and drunkenness.

Government sources confirmed the proposals were being considered, although it is understood they have not yet been put before ministers.

The story continues,

Cindy Barnett, chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, said the proposals made a mockery of the criminal justice system and downgraded the gravity of offences that should go before the courts.

The association had been given until next week to respond to the proposals, she said.

The Government released a wide-ranging set of proposals in July, entitled Delivering Simple, Speedy, Summary Justice, to shake up the way the courts handle cases.

Indeed it did. And here is what it had to say in section 7, Dealing with low-level offences outside the courtroom:

Magistrates’ courts deal with over 95% of all criminal cases, and their capacity is under increasing pressure in some areas. Numbers of summary cases have increased for the third year in a row, and delays have increased too. Moreover, performance improvements and technology such as automatic number plate recognition are enabling more offences to be detected and prosecuted. It is also clear that there are more effective ways of dealing directly with some forms of low-level offending, especially first-time offending, than the full court process […]

In a consultation exercise in late 2004 and early 2005, magistrates told us that television licensing and summary motoring offences took up a disproportionate amount of court time and resource – see key facts below. Such cases, where there are no victims or public safety issues, need not be dealt with using the same process as offences such as burglary or assault. They are regulatory in nature and their evidence is largely documentary and could be delivered in a much more proportional way

So, having issued a ‘consultation document’ that purports to suggest dealing administratively with offences that are ‘regulatory in nature and their evidence is largely documentary’, unlike assault, which the magistrates have already told them they think — quite rightly — is best dealt with in court, the Home Office tries to ‘consult’ them again about proposals they’d rejected a year or so previously, and gives them a couple of weeks to think about it.

Quite apart from turning assault — assuming they mean, as I think they must, Common Assault as opposed to anything more serious — from an offence punishable by up to 6 months in prison into something similar to a parking ticket — what on earth are they doing trying to sneak it through with this charade of ‘consulatation’?

With the best will in the world towards police officers (which, most of the time, I do have, not least because when I’m not writing this my job does involve me in the criminal justice system), they aren’t the best people to decide on guilt or innocence, the appropriate charge or the penalty. That’s what we have courts for.

And offering people the inducement of an apparent soft option — ‘just accept this fixed penalty notice and pay up; that’ll be an end to it, and you won’t have to go to court, where you could get 6 months, and there’ll be nothing in the papers’ — that lands them with a criminal record for theft or assault is downright invidious. Theft and assault are very serious matters; let’s make sure people realise that they are by treating them as such.

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Above the law?

Filed under: Law, UK — notsaussure @ 4:41 pm

As many others, notably Mssrs Worstall and Eugenides have complained:

Neil Martin faces bankruptcy and losing his home because of an error by the taxman. He has been told the law can do nothing. The taxman is not liable for his mistakes even when he seriously disadvantages customers, a judge ruled yesterday

Neil Martin lost his case after being the first person to sue the Inland Revenue over allegations of negligence or administrative incompetence

Andrew Simmonds, QC, said that the Inland Revenue had been responsible for a 52-day “negligent” delay that had helped push a builder to the brink of bankruptcy.

However, he ruled that the tax office is immune to prosecution by individuals and businesses, unlike other public services such as hospitals and police forces. Neil Martin, 38, became the first person to sue the Inland Revenue, now known as Revenue & Customs, for alleged negligence or administrative incompetence (Telegraph)

We may, I suppose, take some comfort in the fact that

Mr Simmonds acknowledged that the case had raised “some very tricky legal questions” of general public importance and granted Mr Martin permission to challenge his ruling in the Court of Appeal

assuming, that is, that Mr Martin doesn’t go bankrupt in the meantime.

However, the bit of the report that really worried me was that

The Revenue had argued that, had Mr Martin won, it would have opened the floodgates to thousands of claims from businesses and individuals who believed that they had been disadvantaged.

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