David Lidington, the Secretary of State for Justice, made a formal statement in Parliament on Thursday about the troublesome issue of prisoners voting. Understandably, in the rather excitable atmosphere gripping Westminster at the moment it did not attract a great deal of attention. It was praised by some of those present as a limited but “elegant” solution to the problem that the United Kingdom has, for at least the last 12 years, been in breach of its obligations under international law. This praise was misplaced. It amounted to no solution at all. It was a dismal, empty gesture which at best may buy a little time, but it will besmirch this country’s international reputation and lead inevitably to further embarrassment in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Continue reading “The new guidance on prisoner voting is not an elegant solution, it’s a cowardly gesture”
Over 9,000 people responded to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on driving offences on whether a life sentence should be available for drivers who kill by dangerous driving. Dominic Raab, the Justice Minister has said that it should be:
“We’ve taken a long hard look at driving sentences, and we received 9,000 submissions to our consultation. Based on the seriousness of the worst cases, the anguish of the victims’ families, and maximum penalties for other serious offences such as manslaughter, we intend to introduce life sentences of imprisonment for those who wreck lives by driving dangerously, drunk or high on drugs.”
The consultation did not mention that we already have amongst the safest roads in the world. Nor did it point out that we currently have the highest number of prisoners per head of population in western Europe.
Of course we should try to make our roads safer still, but we could almost certainly do so for very little extra cost and without taking up a single additional prison cell. Continue reading “We don’t need to longer sentences for drivers who kill, we need more disqualifications for those who don’t.”
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
Rupert Myers, a barrister and journalist, was not caught in adultery, and if he had been I daresay most people wouldn’t particularly have cared. Instead he has been caught in: well what exactly?
A couple of years ago he met a young Australian journalist after chatting on Twitter. She was called Kate Leaver. They went for a drink. She told him that she wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship. She just wanted to be friends with him. Two weeks later they went to a pub in “Fitzrovia” for another drink. She again said that she wasn’t interested in a relationship, couldn’t they just be mates?
According to her he tried this line:
“I’ve got enough mates, I’d rather fuck you.” Continue reading “Rupert Myers may be a cad but he should not be driven out of journalism”
The heavily “redacted” Operation Conifer Report into Sir Edward Heath consists of 109 pages of self-justification and virtually no evidence of any kind. It is a document that is as empty as it is verbose. Its central conclusion, that were he still alive he would be interviewed under caution, tells us almost nothing.
It fails to make any sort of case against the former Prime Minister, but equally fails to lift the miasma of suspicion that will probably now surround him for all time. Speaking last December Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale said he hoped that the inquiry would “contribute to the wider picture of truth seeking and reconciliation.” If that was indeed the purpose, it will certainly not succeed. Those who already believed that Heath was a villain will claim that the Report lends them support. Those who were sceptical will point to the fact that the vast majority of allegations have been judged so weak that they could be dismissed without even troubling to ask Heath about them, had he still been alive. The idea that the truth can be divined from the report, or that its publication will do anything to reconcile anybody to anything is risible. Continue reading “Operation Conifer Report into Sir Edward Heath: an empty exercise in self-justification”
There was a striking headline in today’s Times:
Sexual history of rape victims still being put on trial
Many people will not have a Times Subscription, so if they saw the story at all online they would have seen only the headline, a picture of Ched Evans, and the first sentence of the story which asserted:
Victims of alleged rape or sexual assault are questioned about their sexual history at trial in nearly three out of four cases, a survey shows.
Those able to read the full story would have read that:
“Only one in four alleged victims did not have to face such examination.” Continue reading “Are 75% of rape complainants cross-examined about their sexual history?”
The assertion that thousands of British Muslim girls are getting mutilated with the passive acquiescence of the police and CPS seems to have settled into public consciousness as a matter of established fact. Last month the Crown Prosecution Service proudly tweeted that it was:
“Prosecuting more people than ever for hate crime and ensuring they receive tougher sentences.”
The response to the tweet was instructive. I haven’t read through all 671 replies. One or two questioned whether it was actually proper or desirable for the CPS to be “ensuring heavier sentences,” but the tone of a huge proportion was the same: why are you bragging about prosecuting hate crime when you haven’t prosecuted anyone successfully for FGM? Continue reading “How much is the CPS to blame for not prosecuting perpetrators of FGM?”
There were two disturbing pieces of news last week.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission produced a report on the handling by South Wales Police of complaints against the Lost Prophets singer Ian Watkins. In a nutshell, the IPCC found that over the course of several years the police failed to take complaints and intelligence about Mr Watkins’s seriously. As a result this most unpleasant and dangerous of paedophiles was able to continue his practice of filming, drugging and raping very young children when he could and should have been stopped.
The other news was about a woman called Jemma Beale who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for perjury and perverting the course of justice. Ms Beale had falsely claimed to have been raped by a man called Mahad Cassim. He was duly prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, while Ms Beale collected £11,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. She then went on to make false accusations about 14 other men, one of whom fled the country after being charged with participation in a gang rape that never happened. Continue reading “Ian Watkins and Jemma Beale: both cases should make us uncomfortable about our justice system”
Up early to get into TalkRadio by black cab. Driver asked me what I did for a living. I cleverly told him it was none of his business. That shut him up for the rest of the journey.
Bought cappuccino to take into work. Idiot trainee barrista asked if I wanted to try the new Columbian blend. “I really don’t care,” I told him, “your coffee is always awful. Why should it be any better just because it comes from Colombia.” Rather pleased with this response. Continue reading “Julia Hartley-Brewer: My Day”
What obligation does a convicted sex offender have to reveal his true identity? A storm over the issue has arisen in the world of prison blogging.
One of the best criminal justice blogs on the internet is Prison UK. Over the last 3 years it has described the life of prisoners in British prisons with a remarkable and unprecedented vividness. Anyone wanting to know about the realities of prison life should read it. I have even recommended it as preparation for clients expecting to receive a prison sentence: one of the most widely read posts (because it was eventually published in Metro) was about what to pack for somebody who is expecting to go to prison (flip-flops for the showers, earplugs and headphones being top of the list). If you want to know about food in prison, illness in prison, sex in prison, old men in prison, drugs in prison, suicide in prison and death in prison the blog has covered all those subjects superbly. Continue reading “The unfortunate silencing of Alex Cavendish”
Visitors to Long Lartin Prison, home to a number of tough cookies, has introduced a strict dress code for visitors. Relatives of Ben Geen, the nurse who was very possibly wrongly convicted on the basis of misunderstood statistical evidence, have reported visitors being turned away for wearing open-toed sandals.
In fact, the Category A establishment bans any footwear which is not “enclosed at the heel and toe.” It turns out that the prison, which houses some of Britain’s worst murderers, enforces a sartorial code for visitors, updated at the end of last month, which makes dressing for the Royal Enclosure at Ascot seem straightforward by comparison.
Indeed, Long Lartin and the Royal Enclosure share a number of similarities, although the Ascot rules have little to say about shoes, except that gentlemen’s shoes must be black. Unlike Long Lartin, Ascot imposes no specific ban on “slippers” possibly because racegoers, unlike prison visitors, simply aren’t tempted to wear them.