Lack of Convictions

Once again, between extensive discussions in the comments and work, I’ve gone several days without a new post. And once I have something to post, it’s one of those topics that is important to me, but doesn’t tend to generate a lot of viewship. Oh well. . .

Even though crime in the UK has continued to rise, the number of convictions in trials is at a seven-year low. If this were because the quality of criminal defense work is getting better and better, then I suppose that would be okay. But I don’t think that’s the reason.

This is really due to three main causes. Police forces are under a lot of pressure to meet targets. They need to charge defendants. They put together sloppy cases that the Crown Prosecution Service can’t win.

The other two causes create a danger to the public. They endanger public safety by using cautions instead of trying to get convictions. A signed caution counts just a good for the statistics as a conviction, because it is an admission of guilt.  As reported in The Daily Telegraph, from 2002 to 2006, “there was a 142 per cent rise in the use of cautions for violence against the person from 23,607 to 57,273. There was a 75 per cent increase in cautions for robbery and a 60 per cent rise for sexual offences.”

That’s right, chances are that if you rob someone, the cops will say, “Okay, you’ve admitted you’ve done wrong. Now don’t do it again. We might take you to court if you do.”

The police are also endangering the public with fixed penalty notices. A fixed penalty notice is like a traffic ticket. A cop says you are guilty and issues a fine. The number of fixed penalty notices has risen dramatically, in no small part because the number of crimes for which a notice can be issued has also expanded significantly. This is bad for civil liberties, because there are an increasing number of transgressions for which the burden of proof is shifted to the defendent. But it is also bad for public safety and welfare, because for those who are committing some of these offenses, there is no criminal record.

The following information is from the Home Office:

Offences where a notice might be issued

Examples of offences where a penalty notice for disorder may be issued include:

  • intentionally harassing or scaring people
  • being drunk and disorderly in public
  • destroying or damaging property
  • petty shoplifting
  • selling alcohol to underage customers
  • selling alcohol to somebody who is obviously drunk
  • using fireworks after curfew

Maybe it’s just me, but some of these seem fairly serious for there to be no record attached. You can harrass someone, destroy their property, or steal from their shop, then pay a small fine and go back to what you were doing. Or you could use your shop to sell alcohol to children.  No big deal.

Something that shocked me as a former criminal defense attorney in the States was to learn that only 67.5% of cases in Crown Court (where the more serious cases are heard) result in a guilty plea. And this is an increase. In the States over 90% of cases are pleaded out. This means that that in over 30% of cases sent to trial in Britain, the defense thinks they have a shot at winning. I suppose with a 61% acquittal rate this is not surprising.

This either means that defense lawyers are really good or the police are fitting a lot of people up and having their cases collapse. I think I’m going with the latter.

Palin the Pro-Choice Candidate

Sarah Palin is pro-choice.

With all the political rhetoric and ideological shorthand being thrown around some people may have missed this. She believes that women should have the right to choose representatives close to home who can decide law and public policy, not nine judges in Washington picked by the President. She supports their right to choose, even if they choose differently than she would, since she would like women voters to exercise their right by choosing representatives who will protect all innocent human life.

That’s because she believes that women temporarily housed and fed inside someone else’s body should have the opportunity to spend their lives making all sorts of choices, even though all of them will make good choices and bad choices, and will have to live with the consequences of their choices. She holds the view that they should have those opportunities even if their father was a really bad person. Some people actually think that one man’s choice – even though that choice led to creation of their daughter’s life – should take away her right to ever make one. Fortunately Sarah Palin doesn’t hold such an extreme view. She doesn’t think a child should be punished for their parent’s crime, and especially not with the death penalty.

For those men or women who will have limited choices in life because their genes have limited some of their abilities, Sarah wants to protect their right to choose as well.

Sarah Palin also realises that everyone has their choices limited by law. Everyone that endangers innocent human life uses their body. She’s not pro-choice when it comes to gang violence. She’s not pro-choice when it comes to armed robbery. She’s not pro-choice when it comes to drunk driving (even though her husband was once charged with it 22 year ago, before they were married).

Some women are saying they want the government to keep its hands off their wombs. It seems to me that Mrs Palin is perfectly happy to keep the government’s hands (or anyone else’s for that matter) off their wombs. It’s only when someone starts putting their hands on it that anything bad happens. Sarah definitely has a hands-off policy when it comes to wombs. That’s the only way to protect the unique human life inside it.

Without a judge-imposed law, both Sarah Palin and Joe Biden know that there will be more women in the United States to make more choices. That’s why Joe Biden, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has opposed the appointment of judges who would limit their own perogative to choose for the American people. He knows that as many as half of the 4,000 people each day in America who permanently lose their right to choose are women. He knows that many women voters in many states will want to protect the right of every human to choose and he want to continue to keep them from having that right.

That’s why I’m supporting Sarah Palin – the pro-choice candidate.

Barry George Unframed

The big story this week in the UK has been the acquittal of Barry George in his retrial for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando. At the time of his arrest and initial conviction, I had serious doubts about his guilt.

Having been a criminal defense attorney, I was aware of two things. First, since I hadn’t seen all of the evidence, I was not best placed to make any truly informed opinion about it. Second, I had seen police frame-ups since before I was admitted to Bar. I was practicing under supervision as a law student in a criminal defense clinic when I won back-to-back supression of evidence hearings against undercover narcotics officers who had no qualms about bald-face lying under oath. (My double win surprised both my supervising attorney and the assistant prosecutor, but that’s another story.)

What was obvious at the time was that the police needed to make a case. This was the highest profile murder in the UK for years. Dando was a presenter of the BBC series Crimewatch. The show was responsible for putting dozens of criminals behind bars. The Met were under a lot of public pressure. And if you want to know how the Met responds when they are under lots of pressure ask Jean Charles de Menezes. Oh, wait, sorry, he’s dead.  Ask Harry Stanley, then. No, wait, sorry, he’s dead, too.

Sure, Barry George is a nutter. His mental illness is compounded by his Asperger’s (and I make a clear distinction between the two). That didn’t make him a killer. He was a bit of a pest to women. That’s a long way from sidling up behind one on her doorstep and putting a bullet in the back of her head.

It’s like when the cops tried to spin that he was obsessed with Dando because they found eight newspapers in his flat with articles about her in them. What they didn’t say was that they found a total of 800 newpapers in his flat, so it is not surprising that eight of them had articles about a celebrity TV presenter.

Even though there were eyewitnesses that placed Barry impossibly away from Dando’s Gowan Avenue address, the one piece of circumstantial evidence the police relied on was a single grain of gunpowder reside on a coat belonging to George, found by police a year after the murder. After all, it wasn’t found until after it had been placed on a mannequin by police to be photographed as evidence. Barry doesn’t know how it got there, but I’m afraid I have to go with his suspicion that it was planted there by the police. I’ve known nutters and I’ve known police. Barry only has an IQ of 75, but I’m going with the nutter on this one.

The police maintain that they got their man, but after eight years in prison he got away. They have to do that in order to save face. As a result, it is very unlikely that they will make any real effort to find the real killer of Jill Dando.

Sharing Another Difference Between the US and UK

Another contrast between the US and UK has become apparent today when the FCC ruled against Comcast hampering file sharing. In the UK, people have been getting warning letters from their ISPs if they have been suspected of file sharing.

The British Government want to cut file sharing by 80% by 2011. British Phonographic Industry – the trade cartel for the UK record industry – has cut a deal with six of the UK’s biggest ISPs. The ISPs have agreed a three-strikes policy against customers who are suspected by the BPI of file sharing.

And just because the ISPs are agreeing to boot offenders, this doesn’t mean the cartel won’t take people to court for damages. They have and they will again. That’s not to say the equivalent US cartel, the Record Industry Association of America won’t sue people. They also have and will again.

The difference is the approach by Government. The BPI have Whitehall in their pocket. You’re thinking those must be very big pockets to fit Whitehall in them, but trust me, the BPI and its members have big pockets. Much bigger pockets than the private individuals they like to pick off and litigate into financial oblivion.

I’m not suggesting the record industry isn’t hurting from the downturn in CD sales. But they’re not losing money. Let’s be straight about this. You can’t lose someting you don’t have. Unless you have either pocketed someone’s money and it gets taken out of your pocket or you have invested money and end up with less than you’ve invested, you haven’t lost money. But they are hurting because it must be emotionally painful to be used to wallowing in billions and billions of pounds and to now have fewer billions in which to wallow. Think of what it must be like to be filthy rich and after a huge slump in sales to be, well, filthy rich.

Let me say this again: when you are making huge profits and then you are making less huge profits, you are not losing money.

In the US, the RIAA has had to face accusations of the obvious – they are an antitrust violating monopoly. It appears from my brief look at existing litigation that the RIAA are in retreat. Most recently it seems they have tried to drop cases in such a way as to punish the defendants by forcing them to pay their own legal fees, which, when fighting giant corporations and their lawyers, can be enormous. They have now been losing at that tactic.

In the UK, the courts have not been so enlightened. it is strange to think that in a very capitalist country like the US, the courts and even Congress can see through attempts at creating illegal monopolies and bullying the consumer, while in the socialist UK, big business wins.

So once again in the UK we have to deal with a heavy-handed totalitarian-aspiring Government and their collusion with industry cartels that are determined to maintain their profit levels. I haven’t even touched on the Government supporting the energy utilities putting up their prices by 35% in a single hike to maintain or even increase their profit levels in the face of rising energy costs.

Fatwa Rules Paedophilia Preferable to Christianity

Following up on the the previous story, I was looking to see what other WordPress bloggers might have said about the kidnapping, forced conversion and forced marriage of the Younis sisters. That’s where I found Blogging for a free world referring to information from Minorities Concern of Pakistan.

Even though the legal marriage age in Pakistan is 16 for females, this was negated by a fatwa – a decree issued by religious leaders – which justified it. It was worth it to them that the girls be kidnapped, sold as property, and then sexually abused in order to effect their conversion to Islam.

Reports indicate exactly what has happened to Saba Younis, the elder sister. After Muhammad Arif Bajwa kidnapped the girls at gunpoint, he sold them to Falak Sher Gill. Gill then gave Saba to his son, Muhammad Amjid. To whom Anila has been given seems to be unknown at this point.

In contravention of the statutory law, a Pakistani court has previously approved of the marriage of a 12-year-old because it ruled that Islam allows a female to marry if she has reached puberty. However, in that case it appears that the girl wanted to marry. Of course in that case, both parties were Muslim.

It now appears that special rules apply if the girl is a Christian and doesn’t consent. Puberty need not be an issue.

Remember to file this under “All religions and cultures are equal.”

Pre-teen Christian Girls Forced to Convert and Marry

Another one for the all religions and all cultures are equal file . . .

Saba and Anila Younis, sisters from a Christian family. They are 12 and 10 years old respectively. They were kidnapped on June 26 on their way to their uncle’s house in the Punjab province of Pakistan. When their father went to the police to complain about the kidnapping, he was threatened. By the 28th, their kidnappers had married them and filed with the police for custody of them. Their husbands declared that the girls had converted to Islam.

Apparently in Pakistan if a man finds a 10-year-old that he just can’t resist, he kidnaps her. If she’s not Muslim, he wants her converted, because even though it is legal for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman, there’s no reason he should have to have a kafir as one of his wives. I’m not sure if a man has to file for custody of any of his wives in Pakistan, or if it is just for those under 13.

As reported by Ecumenical News International, a court has agreed that the forced conversion was pefectly legal. There appears to have been to no challenge to the legality of the forced marriage.

This is by no means a unique situation. In a blog describing the hundreds of forced conversions to Islam in Pakistan, there is a quote from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telling President Musharraf at a 2005 meeting that Pakistan is “a model country for the Muslim world”.

Ahead of His Time

The Welsh get unfairly blamed for a propensity to a certain crime against nature. However, a string of attacks has made national news (and here) and the alleged perpetrator is a Londoner.

Though it seems a bit over the top, he was arrested in a dawn raid on his home. He has been bailed by police while they continue their enquiries, on the condition that he not visit any farmyards in the London area. Of course there’s nothing to stop him visiting farmyards outside the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police.

This may be what has been happening all along. It may be Londoners looking for virgin territory, so to speak, visiting the hillsides of Wales, and observers have just assumed that they are Welsh. The lie is then spread by other English people, casting aspersion on the natives of the Principality.

The alleged crime carries with it a possible two-year prison sentence. However, in the news stories there is no mention of a political lobbying group protesting about his right to express his own sexuality. After all there is no suggestion that the sheep in question were lambs. These were described at violent attacks, though there was no evidence of actual violence. Do we just assume that the sheep were not consenting?

Isn’t is just a bit hypocritical to say that others are not bound by sexuality linked to the possibility of procreation, and yet criminalise this man for expressing his own orientation? This is especially true given the advances in embryology. Scientists have already created human-animal hybrids and cloning became most famous with the case of Dolly the sheep. Who’s to say that in a very few years, a man and his ewe (though I suppose that’s sexist to say “his ewe”, implying that it’s not an equal partnership) won’t be able to have their own offspring.

Rather than being criminalised and ostracised, this poor man should be recognised for living in the true spirit of the age. He is a shinig example of the British liberal ethos that it shouldn’t matter what you do as long as you’re not hurting anyone else.

Moneygrubbing

Carol Williams is a millionaire. She earned her money by divorcing a successful businessman. She said he was overbearing and controlling. She got £1.4 million ($2.8 million) in a settlement agreed by both parties.

Sounds like her lawyers did a pretty good job. She thought so. That is, until two months later when the House of Lords ruled that the wives of the rich were entitled to much more.

Now Ms Williams is suing her lawyers, because if they has delayed her case (even though she was very keen to push the deal through) until after the ruling, she could have gotten a bit more than twice as much. As they say, 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. Since her lawyers couldn’t predict the future, she wants them to cough up the extra £1.6 million to which she is entitled.

Of course it’s not cheap to sue your lawyers. The costs are around £400,000 and Ms Williams says she has been forced to sell her house to fund the litigation. Forced by her own greed.

The Cost of Multicultural Accommodation

Any Muslims dealing in either drugs or explosives will not have to worry about being sniffed out by police canine units. There will have to be exceptional circumstances – apparently above those that normally justify sniffer dogs – to search the property of a Muslim if the owner objects. That’s because not only do the police have to bend over backwards to avoid offending terrorists, but also because it takes a lot of effort to put special bootees on the dog.

That’s right. Dogs used in searching Muslim premises will now have to wear bootees so the dog itself does not touch anything belonging to a Muslim police suspect. This would obviously include their bombs. This does make sense if you think about it. After all, the bombs are being used for religious purposes. What will Allah think if they have been touched by a dog? Could this reduce the number of virgins to be enjoyed by the suicide bomber if he allows defiled bombs to blow up infidels?

But you want to really upset the Muslim community? Do what Tayside Police have done, and feature a puppy on a postcard. Because there is a puppy sitting on a police hat in an advertisement about the Scottish force’s new non-emergency phone number, Dundee shopkeepers of that religious persuasion (and there would seem to be a significant number) are refusing to display it.

There is no actual dog present on the postcard to touch the actual property of an Muslim, so there is no chance of actually defiling anything. I think there is a lesson in this for the BBC, ITV, and other broadcasters. They will need to avoid any programmes that feature dogs. It’s a good thing they haven’t been showing sheepdog trials and they will need to cut coverage of Crufts. I don’t know how Birmingham City Council, which governs one of the largest Muslims communities in Britain, has allowed the world’s largest dog show on it’s property (it’s one of the two shareholders of the NEC Arena) without Muslims staging a protest, picketing and threatening to kill everyone inside.

This is not absurd. The question is where do you draw the line of multiculturalism? Where is the limit of accommodation? For the Government of the Day, it is clearly more important than the protection of the realm. As I noted yesterday, for the Cheshire education authority, it is important enough to force children into idolatrous worship.

Today’s absurdities become tomorrow’s realities. We have seen this over and over.

I haven’t yet touched on this week’s statement by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, that aspects of Sharia law should be adopted in Britain. This follows the advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year. Some people will say that since Beth Din courts are allowed by Orthodox Jews, why shouldn’t Sharia courts be allowed. Well, Sharia courts are already allowed – just not enforceable under English law. Orthodox Jews also have no agenda of bringing all of Britain under the 613 mitzvahs.

With all this accommodation, you would think that Muslims make up a significant minority in this country. Is it right that everything should be changed for 2%-3% of the population and that we should live in fear of whether or not we keep them happy? But it’s not even 2% of the population that are the issue. It is a much smaller minority – a minority within the minority. As reported in the Telegraph:

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar and a practising Muslim, said that allowing sharia in parts of the UK would be divisive.

He said: “This would create a two-tier society. It is highly retrograde. It will segregate and alienate the Muslim community from the rest of British society.

“The majority of British Muslims want to live only under British law and they would reject anything that means they are treated differently.

So why are we toeing a line continually re-drawn by radical Muslims? Have they already won the war on terrorism and we are afraid to challenge them? Are we really ruled by a bunch of lily-livered liberal multiculturalist sycophants? Do I even need to ask these rhetorical questions?

Culture of Death is Alive and Well

Well, the great debate is over. I’m sure there have already been plenty of post-vote post mortems in the blogosphere, though I have trawled through to read them. Between marking exams and getting ready for the arrival of the grandparents, I haven’t had the time.

The culture of death is alive and well in Britain. We will continue to have some of the most liberal laws in Europe and babies will continue to die at a rate exceeding 500 per day. There has been no change to 24-week social abortion limit. Supporters tried to play this down by emphasising that only 1.5% of abortions occur between 20 and 24 weeks, Of course if you do the math, that’s over 3000 babies chopped up and pulled out of wombs each year. That’s more than eight per day. It’s also an increase of 44% over the last ten years. For those aged over 17 weeks, and there were 7,123 abortions, or more than 19 per day. Those children were also removed one amputated part at a time.

And speaking of eight, that’s the highest number of previous abortions recorded. In other words, in the statistics available, they only note individuals (we can’t really call them mothers, can we?) who have had eight or more previous abortions. This number obviously continues to increase. The 2006 figures – the latest available – show that 54 women had procured at least eight abortions. There were 65 who had six abortions before they were 30 years old.

Then the numbers get really scary. In just the year 2006, 1300 women had their what was at least their fifth termination. More than 3,800 were on their fourth and nearly 15,000 were killing their third child. I suppose it is some comfort that of those achieving a hat trick, only 82 of those were under 18.

Most all of this is at taxpayer expense. Don’t be fooled by hearing that less than 25% are carried out by the NHS. A further 67% take place in private clinics that are funded by the NHS. That’s 92% in total.

As for the rest of the legislation, MP voted for human-animal hybrids, against children of IVF needing a father, and for the production of children as saviour siblings.

No Place for Conscience

A registrar in the champagne socialist London borough of Islington wants to opt out of officiating at gay weddings. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of registrars in the borough who are willing to do the deed.

Lillian Ladele has the distinct disadvantage of being a Christian whose beliefs and conscience are violated in performing such ceremonies. She’s having to sue to try to keep her conscience and her job. Until this year, registrars had a conscience opt-out.

But as with so many of the moral boundary changes enacted by the Labour Government, conscience matters for nothing in this area. After all, if they are going to force all the Catholic adoption agencies to shut down rather than actively provide services to gay couples, what chance do individuals of conscience stand?

Ben Summerskill, of Stonewall, the homosexual rights group, said: “Doctors and nurses can’t choose who they treat, and nor should a registrar be allowed to discriminate.” Too bad he’s wrong. Doctors and nurses can choose not to do procedures which violate their conscience. That’s why there’s a shortage of abortionists in this county, even though we have the some of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe.

Of course the local council is not prevented from accommodating individual registrars, as long as the council’s registry office does not deny the opportunity for the state to officially such unions. But we are talking about Islington. It’s either give in to the spirit of the age or hit the road. A council spokesman said: “Islington council will be robustly defending its position at the employment tribunal.”

Life and Death

According to the Daily Telegraph, Prime Minsiter Gordon Brown has been warned by his whips that his opposition to reducing the abortion gestational time limit is likely to fail. The mood of the House is to bring the limit down. With nine time-limit amendments tabled, the most likely compromise appears to be a fortnightly reduction to 22 weeks. I think 20 weeks should be a reasonable adjustment to even the most die hard pro-death supporter, but it would seem that even that extra two weeks will be too much for some to stomach.

The son of a Church of Scotland minister, Brown will vote against the pro-life position on any attempts to change the law. Even though less than one percent of abortions happen between 22 and 24 weeks, and those are the most gruesome (except for the very later abortions, which it appears will continue to be legal), Gordon doesn’t want to keep them from happening.

What is interesting to me about battle lines on this “women’s rights” issue is that the chief pro-life leaders in the House of Commons are women. The pro-choice campaign is led by men. Abortion is a very cross-party issue here. The Labour Party has long had significant support amongst Catholics.

So next week as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is debated by a committee of the whole House, it will be a matter of life and death.  On Monday, the debates will cover human-animal embryos and saviour siblings. Tuesday will start with lesbians and fertility treatment, before moving on to abortion. The preservation of the unborn and the sanctity of the entire human species is up for grabs.

Open Season on Ridiculing Christianity

Britain is now almost completely officially a post-Christian country. As reported in the Daily Telegraph, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which was passed with amendements abolishing the blasphemy laws, has received the Royal Assent.

As junior Justice minister Maria Eagle said in debte, “Given theat these laws protect only the tenets of the Christian Churches, they would appear to be plainly discriminatory.” Of course, given that the UK is officially a Christian country, with an established Church, this would appear to be plainly appropriate.

As a practical matter, this will mean that non-Christian religions, which are increasing protected, will be at an advantage over Christianity. This is not because prosecutions will now cease under the blasphemy laws. The last prosecution was in 1977. It is because it sends the message that Christianity does not even enjoy the pretense of protection.

The amendment was proposed by Dr Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat who is always at the forefront of the affront to Christianity. Dr Harris is also the big proponent make abortion more accessible and genetically modifying humans through embyro manipulation and hybridisation.

Local Government at Its Worst

The world is full of jobworths. It’s really not that surprising when someone with a uniform and a limited secondary education meets a quota by some sort of oppressive official action, usually involving an undeserved and out-of-proportion fine.

Jean Raine is 82-year-old and suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. She was feel ill and taking a rest in her car. The car was legally parked in a handicap bay. She has a disabled parking badge. But, oops, it was the wrong way up. Perhaps not surprising when you are 82, have Parkinson’s, and have been taken ill. Still, in a world of semi-literate, quota-driven jobsworths, it is no excuse.

The only care taken by the parking attendant was to quietly put the ticket on the windscreen, so as not to disturb Miss Raine. After all, had he done that, she would have turned the badge over and proven that it was, in fact, fully valid. Then he would have to find another unlucky driver to ticket.

But like I said, this bit is not surprising. But when faced with this sort of action, sometimes it is necessary to appeal to responsible and rational authorities. Miss Raine and her partner 88-year-old Martin Westgarth (who was shopping while Miss Raine rested) appealed to the South Lakeland Council in Cumbria. The council rejected their appeal. Why? “Guidance notes issued with the badge and parking disc clearly state that it should be clearly and correctly displayed at all times.”

You can read the full story in the Daily Telegraph.

I think it would be nice if people across Britain let South Lakeland Council know how terrible their policies are. The cabinet member of the council responsible for parking is Mrs Hilary Stephenson. If you click the link you will find all of her contact details, including her email address.

Catching the Real Criminals

With the continuing rise in violent crime, it is comforting to know that some criminals are being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Rachel McKenzie is one such criminal. Now admittedly she didn’t kill anyone. She didn’t even beat up anyone. She didn’t rob anyone. Criminals like that can be treated with lenience.

No, Ms McKenzie, who works for the Catholic archbishop of Southwark (I sense a true scandal brewing) failed to pay 20p of a bus fare. Those who know that justice must be blind should agree that not realising she hadn’t paid the fare is no excuse. She should have heard the beep when she pressed her Oyster card on the reader. She should have checked that her card had enough credit. If we as a society start letting people pay 70p for a 90p bus journey, where will it end?

And it doesn’t matter than when the ticket nazi inspector got on the bus and read her card, she offered to pay 20p out of her purse. A crime had been committed. Now some people might think that if 20p isn’t enough, she should be allowed to pay the £20 penalty fare. After all, as a Transport for London legal department wrote to Ms McKenzie, “Consistent with all cashless services, it is your responsibility to ensure you have sufficient credit in your card to pay for your bus journey.”

But does a penalty fare of 10,000% send the right message to Ms McKenzie and criminals like her? The ticket nazi inspector and his superiors at Transport for London don’t think so. No, some criminals must face the music in court. Why shouldn’t she get a criminal record, a fine of up to £1,000 and pay the costs of prosecution? That’s what will happen if she is convicted.

If she isn’t convicted, the costs will have to borne by taxpayers. This is going to be in the range of £5,000. I don’t know about you, but as a taxpayer, I have to hope Ms McKenzie is brought to justice. Remember, it’s not like she’s the only offender. After all, Transport for London brought more than 30,000 prosections last year, in additon to the more than 47,000 who were clearly less culpable than Ms McKenzie and received the £20 penalty fare.

Now before you think I am blowing this out of proportion and that a court will never find against Ms McKenzie, bear in mind that Ashley Williams tried to get off the bus last year when her Oyster card beeped insufficient funds, but the driver closed the door and pulled away too quick. She got off as soon as the bus reached the next stop, but as the court realised, a crime had been committed and must be punished. Ms Williams has a criminal record and like Ms McKenzie she will now have trouble with things like getting a visa to visit the US.

Court of Appeal Rules Man Can Carry a Stick

It is a stark contrast between the right-to-carry laws in the US and the stripping of weapons in the UK and at the same time a demonstration of taxpayer money wasted in the pursuit of a political agenda.

Stuart Kennedy is a stripper who uses a police uniform as the set up for his act. He was stopped out the Paramount Bar by two real cops. They weren’t so worried about the uniform – though they did follow him to the pub to make sure he was telling the truth. There’s no indication as to whether either constables Amanda Lawson and Fiona Duncan enjoyed the show. Of course they needed to watch the whole thing to be sure. That’s right, two police women watched him on taxpayer time, just to be sure he was a real stripper. PC Lawson told the trial court, “We had never been in a situation like that before. We needed proof he was a stripper.”

But that wasn’t the issue. No, it was his truncheon that bothered them. Stuart used a real police truncheon, not a floppy imitation. The policewomen arrested him after the show. He was charged with carrying of an offensive weapon. There is an provision in the law for a “reasonable excuse” but neither the police nor the Crown Office (the prosecutor in Scotland) thought Stuart had a reasonable excuse. The sheriff (trial judge) disagreed and threw the case out of court. Both he and the general public thought it was a waste of time and money.

Not to be put off by a judge or the overwhelming common sense of the Scottish people, the Crown appealed. This time three judges told them the same thing. The full written opinion will be released at a later date, but the Court of Appeal decided not to waste anyone’s time and let it be known that the Crown’s case had failed.

There is probably no way to tally the total costs of this overblown exercise in comic jurisprudence. All of this over who can carry a stick with a handle.

Family Matters

The most senior family court judge in southwest England has diagnosed the cause of the almost every evil in society today. Sir Paul Coleridge blames pretty much everything on the breakdown of the family, which he labels a cancer.

Though he is certainly an expert on these matters, this is not something that requires such a specialist to diagnose. But even though he is stating the obvious, it is something that the Government, with it’s family unfriendly policies, is ignoring. It is not just no-fault divorce. Mr Justice Coleridge includes the “meltdown” of the parent/child relations as well.

So you combine no-fault divorce with all-fault discipline (given the restrictions imposed by the law, compounded with the tendency to assume any discipline exceeds those restrictions) and you have a recipe for disaster. Disaster is certainly what we have in this country. Disaster is what we see every day in schools – with a combination of kids who can’t draw their family tree and as they are shifted throughout the week from one parent to another, or sometimes a relative, or a former partner of a parent, with no consistent structure in their life.

If that’s what it’s like in relatively sedate rural areas, think about what other educators face each day in the more urban environments. Several years ago I taught in a city of about 70,000. I was talking to a head of year who was sending out congratulatory letters to parents of children who were performing above expectations in at least five subjects and also letters to parents of children for whom significant concerns had been raised in at least five subjects. As he was looking through the envelopes, he noticed that all of the former were sent to “Mr and Mrs” and all of the latter were sent to single parents or adults of two difference surnames.

This echoes Sir Paul’s statement, “I am not saying every broken family produces dysfunctional children but I am saying that almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family.”

The Not-So-Independent View of Christians Working in Parliament

Back in 1992 when I was a visiting law student in London, I interned with a Conservative backbencher. I got the job because of my pro-life credentials. I wrote to the sister of a family acquaintance, but since she had been elevated into the Government of the day and was not allowed unpaid interns, she referred me to another Tory MP who was very active in the pro-life movement.

Thus, I was quite interested to read in the Independent today that a Christian pro-life charity has been sponsoring interns to work at Westminster. Of course for the left-wing Independent, this is a rather dastardly thing. This is particularly bad since it is “allowing them unrestricted access to Westminster in the run-up to highly sensitive and potentially close votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill next month.” Never mind that Christian Action, Research and Education (Care) has run the internship programme for 10 years.

There is no suggestion that Care has actually done anything wrong. The only thing the Independent found to exploit is that two of the twelve members of Parliament who have Care interns failed to note them as such in the main register of members interests. It is not a lack of public record as to their sponsorship. The interns themselves have registered this. The paper even admitted, “There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of any of the MPs who employ Care research assistants.”

There is not even any evidence that Care-sponsored interns are lobbying MPs about the HEF Bill or anything else. It’s just that they could.

The Independent knows that Care is an evil organisation because it campaigned against the repeal of the infamous Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. Section 28 banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. It also campaigned against assisted suicide in the House of Lords (or what the Independent likes to call “assisted dying”). Why didn’t the Independent mention that Tom Harris has a staffer who is Parliamentary & Campaigns Officer for the pro-euthanasia activist group Dignity in Dying? Or for that matter, that Bob Laxton employs the Chief Executive of the Birmingham Brook Advisory Centre, an organisation that promotes abortion?

And the Independent does not mention that there are members with staff who are sponsored by other organisations with political agendas – it’s just that the agendas are more fitting with the views of the Independent. For example, Michael Clapham employs someone registered as “Independent Parliamentary and Political Consultant” and lists eight organisation as clients. Natascha Engel has a staff member who is Parliamentary and Campaigns Officer for the Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV charity which encourages promiscuity as a partner of Playzone: “We’re working in partnership with gay venues to improve conditions and make your play safer.” Eliot Morley has a staffer who is “Parliamentary Consultant, Network for Animals”. Fabian Hamilton has a staffer who is involved as Parliamentary liaison/research for the trade union Amicus. Lindsay Hoyle employs one of their Policy Officers. Doug Henderson employs the National Political Officer of the GMB union. Diana Johnson employers a Regional Manager for Unison. Edward O’Hara employs two staffers who are Parliamentary Assistants for Age Concern. I know this is a fairly innocuous organisation, but it is a lobbying group nonetheless.

Or how about the fact that Michelle Glidernew and Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein have staff on the register at all? Neither has taken their seat since being elected, because they won’t take the oath of allegiance. However, Sinn Fein’s press office assures me that they are entitled to public money for this and most everything else, just like any other MPs.

Feeling Harrassed, Love?

Acts of Parliament are nice and all, but hardly necessary most of the time. There is a reason that the system of government in this country is called an elective dictatorship. Women and Equalities Minister Harriet Harman has once again demonstrated how this works.

Using a statutory instrument, which is basically ministerial fiat, she has decided that rules about sexual harrassment are going to change. Employers will now be held responsible for the acts of customers. I say “acts,” but the amount of action required to support a demand for compensation is quite minimal.

Calling a barmaid or a shop assistant “love”, “darling”, or even “young lady” will be enough. Since this is common parlance for a large segment of society, it will not take long for it to happen three times. That’s the minium for making a claim. Not three times from the same customer, or three times in the same day – just three times total.

It is anticipated that large notices warning customers will be posted everywhere on business premises. However, given that pubs, as well as restaurants and other leisure environments where alcohol is served, deal with a significant number of customers whose inhibitions have been reduced, it may be difficult for them to restrain themselves from such sexual harrasment, not to mention more egregious violations, such as asking a female staff member on a date.

Any claim made will be assumed to be proved. The burden of proof will be on employers to prove that they were not at fault. And remember, what is or is not harrassment is entirely up to the subjective feelings of the person claiming to have been offended. The employer doesn’t even need to have had prior notice that the employee would find a particular familiarity by a customer to be offensive.

This will all be enforced by tribunals run by the Government’s Commission for Equality and Human Rights. More bureaucrats.

Y Rod Liddle is Right

Not one to excessively meta-blog, but I have to recommend Rod Liddle’s column in The Sunday Times today.

He opines on the murder of Sophie Lancaster and the pustules of society that perpetrated it. He also comments on Tracy Lagondino, the woman who is pregnant and goes by the name Thomas Beatie. Apparently because she has had some plastic surgery and hormone treatments and changed her name, this is somehow remarkable.

The State of Oregon also let her change the “F” to “M” on her driver’s license, because Oregon believes that sex is determined by plastic surgery, hormone treatments and a name change. This make her transgendered. What legal fiction. She may be gender dysphoric – though apparently not as much as she used to be if she’s having a baby – but while doctors fill her with drugs and chop bits off, they still can’t change XX to XY.

Free Vote?

When members of Parliament are given a free vote, they are allowed to vote their conscience on a particular bill. Free votes are not particularly common, especially on significant legislation.

For Americans, the severe whipping MPs sometimes get may seem strange. In Congress and state legislatures, there are party whips who use various methods to persuade members to vote a certain way. They may be able to dangle carrots of certain preferential treatment or future committee assignments. Party discipline here is a different. Because the executive and legislative functions are so intertwined, an indisciplined party can bring down a Government.

That is why a Government that chooses to introduce very morally questionable legislation has to force members of its party to choose between the Prime Minister and their conscience. If a Government allows a free vote, they are saying that it would be nice if the bill were inacted, but not key to their policies and agenda for the country.

Backbench member of the party of Government are held in line with a lot of carrot and stick. Fronbenchers – members of the Prime Minister’s ministerial team – are held in line with their jobs. If a minister cannot vote with the Government, they are expected to resign and return to the back benches. This means a loss of between one-third and more that half of their salary, depending on their ministerial rank. Except for particularly high-flyers, it also means their hope for advancement in their political career is effectively over.

It is easier to return to the frontbenches after a scandal of immorality than it is over disloyality to the party whip. In other word, it is better to lie, cheat, steal, improperly use ministerial influence for personal gain, or cheat on your spouse using public money to finance it and cover it up, than it is to vote your conscience.

If you are still with me, I said all that to say this. Gordon Brown has determined that Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill now has parts that can be allowed a free vote and parts that can’t. Human/animal hybrids are now optional, as are saviour sibilings. However, embyro screening and lesbian parents are not. And once all the amendments have been voted on, regardless of the outcome, all ministers must vote for the Bill or resign.

Prior to the PM’s partial back-down, there were a dozen members of the Government who were willing to rebel, including three Cabinet ministers. Reports are that two of the three Catholics, Paul Murphy and Des Browne, are satified. Ruth Kelly, a member of Opus Dei, was reported back in 2004 to be “straight down the line” on abortion and other life issues.

The embryo screen provisions of the Bill are plainly contrary to Catholic teaching. This would specifically authorise the killing of embryos that do not meet certain genetic criteria. I’m also not sure how the idea that lesbian parents would both be able to register as parents on a birth certificate is in line with Catholic teaching either. Under this provision, children of lesbian parents will be forbidden to from contacting their fathers (since due the nature of the species, every has a male parent, whether or not that fits into the lesbian lifestyle) until they are eighteen years old.

When the dust has cleared, it will be interesting to see who has voted their conscience, or even for which Catholics the teaching of the Church is their conscience.

Without Objection

Except for presidential politics, I tend to blog mostly about things on the eastern side of the Atlantic. That’s probably because living here, most of the things that affect my life on a daily basis are here. However, having visited the blog of a commenter to a previous post, my attention is drawn westward.

Each of Mark McGaha’s children have been declared a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) by an Indiana Circuit Court at the behest of the Department of Child Services. I can’t opine on whether they should be CHINS or not, or whether they should be in foster care.

As a lawyer I used to handle occasional CHINS cases in Indiana, usually representing the interests of one or both parents. One of my longest-running cases was a CHINS case involving what I called the family tree that didn’t fork. So I’m not denying that there can be situations whether the State needs to step in.

Unless there have been significant changes in my absence, like all buraucrats, DCS workers range from good to bad. If McGaha’s allegations are true, then there are some in Fountain County who are very bad. One thing that concerns me is that there is no mention of McGaha’s lawyer. He needs one. If he is doing this on his own, sadly he is fighting at a severe disadvantage.

This may be why the Fountain County Circuit Court judge got away with an outrageous unconstitutional act. She issued a restraining order preventing WXIN in Indianapolis from showing McGaha’s face or even allowing him to make his complaints against DCS. As one of my old law professors commented to the Indianapolis Star, “I don’t know what’s more outrageous: the judge ordering this and not knowing it violates the Constitution, or knowing and still issuing the injunction.” He described this as bordering on judicial misconduct. “Quite simply, a judge does not have the authority to stop the press from publishing or airing a story. Any person has a right to contact the press and say a public agency is not treating them right.”

Because of the inherent power of the bureaucracy, the press is one of the only checks upon it. That is why it is so important that access to the press not be denied. The greater the power, the more important the power to question it and challenge it. The more important that it stay on the straight and narrow. Otherwise rights get trampled upon. Otherwise democracy is meaningless.

A Real Disgrace

For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father,
And it is a disgrace for children to dishonor their mother.

Wisdom of Sirach 3:11

The truth of this verse was made evident by the elder son of Susan Pope. Mrs Pope was until recently the senior nurse at one of the most prestigious private girls schools in the country, Malvern St James. She was sacked for gross misconduct.

However, as has become increasingly common in this country, she was not sacked for anything she did or didn’t do at work. She was sacked for something that happened at home. The facts are not in dispute. Her ten-year-old son swore at her, and after giving him a warning that he would get a smack on the bottom if he did it again, he called her bluff. She was true to her word and applied the mildest discipline to his buttocks over his trousers.

Now most decent reasonable people would immediately recognise that she made a mistake. The warning was entirely out of order. He already knew that what he was doing was wrong. He had already made a conscious decision to curse his mother. This is unquestionably one-strike-and-you’re-out territory.

So all you need now is another rebellious son and a society in complete disconnect with reality. Mrs Pope has both. Her fifteen-year-old snatched his younger brother from the house and called the police. She was arrested and spent 32 hours in police custody. Not only that, her husband was also arrested and held for 32 hours and he didn’t do anything at all. That didn’t stop police questioning him for four hours. She was only questioned for 90 minutes. (I know, I know: on top of all this you are wondering why they were held for 32 hours to be questioned for so little time. That’s the way police do business in this country.)

Someone at the Crown Prosecution Service wisely decided not to charge Mrs Pope with any offence. But as I’m sure you know, Newton’s Third Law of Bureaucratic Motion requires that for every wise action there is an equally stupid reaction. Worcestershire County Council social services stepped in and put both the ten-year-old potty mouth and his eight-year-old sister on the Child Protection Register. They have been on the Register since this occurred last May. According The Daily Telegraph:

sources within the department indicated the Popes had not yet satisfied them that they had met the welfare criteria laid out when the children were placed on the register. “There are issues that still need to be sorted, it’s not simply about a child being smacked,” the source said.

In case you need a translation from the Bureaucraspeak language, the source said that the Pope children are still in danger because bureaurcrats do not believe the parents have accepted the re-education required of them. The State has decided how its children are to be raised and parents must realised that they are merely agents of the State.

So finally, you would think that a posh private school steeped in tradition would be above such things. Well, no. You would think that they would be aware of the character of their employee, but that’s not the issue. Denis Smith, the school’s bursar made the real issue plain in his letter to Mrs Pope informing her that she had been sacked:

The school’s reputation could be significantly damaged in the event that parents or potential parents were to discover that your children are on the Child Protection Register.

We do not believe that the school needs to accept this very real risk to its reputation, which has arisen directly as a result of your conduct.

That’s a lot of words when just two were required: pride and money. But if he wanted to be verbose, he should have just been honest and written something like: “You innocence is irrelevant. We don’t care if social services are completely off their rocker. It is all about appearances and the wrong appearance could cost us pride and money. We care much more about our pride and our money than we could ever possibly care about you, our devalued employee.”

The only positive outcome from this would be for the school’s reputation to be significantly damaged as a result of their conduct. If the values demonstrated by Malvern St James in sacking Susan Pope exemplify what parents want for their children, when they ship them off to be raised by this boarding school, then they should go ahead. Otherwise, they might pause to consider first whether they want their child to be inculcated with the opposite of the Golden Rule. They might further pause to consider whether the way the school treats its employees will be reflected in the way it treats its pupils. Before making a £25,000 per year gamble with the life of a child, perhaps that’s much more worthy of consideration than whether the school nurse smacked her sons bum when he swore at her.

After all, their child may come home thinking that it is okay to destroy the parents’ career if they don’t like being disciplined. Seems like there’s a lot at stake here. I hope the bursar at Malvern St James finds out they gambled the wrong way.

Eliminating Public Prayer

It’s like something you would see in the States. A public body wants to include prayers and they are warned about being sued. After all, somebody might be offended by short introductory Christian prayers. This may seem strange in the country with an established Church.

What you have to remember is that Parliament is no longer the supreme authority in the land. The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is worried about the implications of Article 9 of the and Fundamental Freedoms, which trumps any British legislation. The language of it seems innocuous enough: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

The NALC is worried that this could be used by anyone, councillor or member of the public, to argue that their right to practise their non-Christian religion or no religion could be infringe. That’s why they’ve urge the Bideford town council to stop praying. They want to eliminate any risk of a court challenge. Clearly, once one council has been challenged then any others might be challenged. Town and parish councils have such small budgets than any sort of damages awarded would be devastating.

But it is not just European law that is a problem. The NALC is worried that the Race Discrimination Act may also come into play. I have never understood this. What does religion have to do with race? After all, most Christians in the world are not of the same race as the members of Bideford Town Council.

For now Bideford Town Council have voted to keep the prayers, after one councillor offered a motion to get rid of them. Unfortunately they are waiting to see what the Government’s position is on all this before discussing it again. Knowing this Government’s track record against Christianiy, that does not bode well.

Doctors Tried to Kill a Healthy Baby

I can understand how people can be opposed to abortion and the death penalty. What I can’t understand is how people could opposed capital punishment, yet have no problem with abortion.

Death penalty opponents often (as in just about every time I see or hear one) say, “With an imperfect justice system, there is no doubt that an innocent person will be executed.” How many of them take the same view when it comes to abortions performed on the grounds of the serious illness or handicap of the foetus?

In the England, Wales and Scotland, a child in the womb diagnosed with a serious handicap can be aborted up to the time of natural delivery. Doctors wanted to abort Brandon Kramer. He was diagnosed with rhomboencephalosynapsis. He would be born blind and deaf and only survive for a few hours. That diagnosis was after they said he had Downs Syndrome.

His parents are glad they withstood the pressure from doctors. His father put it succinctly “I feel incredibly guilty thinking that I could have killed him – and then I find myself wondering how many other babies are killed who would have turned out to be completely healthy.”

Read the whole story in the Mail on Sunday.