Wednesday, 30 November 2011

How conciliatory are Catholic sounds of well meaning?

In this blog appearing in the Catholic Herald, written by a former editor of the paper, and entitled "There’s no excuse for clerical child abuse: but it needs to be recognised that the sexual abuse of minors is more common in secular society", mention is made of how, when the Pope visited the USA,  "One of his purposes in making the visit, the Pope said, was that he wished to recognise the reality of clerical child abuse". Similar noises were made when the Pope visited the UK last year.
Following the visit, the Catholic Church in England engaged in discussion with various child abuse survivor groups namely NAPAC, MACSAS, One in Four, and the Lantern Project. The approach of the church, inevitably because of its modus operandi, was somewhat theological, and based upon principles rather than practicalities.

The approach of the survivor groups was, thankfully, that any conciliatory process used to help survivors should not just cherry pick different parts of the process, but be all encompassing, and complete, to included, amongst other things, provision for financial compensation. Not surprisingly the process stumbled, and became tense at this point.

It is all well and good to talk about feelings of peace, spiritual tranquility, and so on, but when money appears on the horizon, then nerves, and compromising the position of insurers can come into the  picture.

One only has to read "Abuse victims accuse Catholic church of using talks as a smokescreen"to see how difficult the talks became.

The angle being taken currently is a "Truth and Reconciliation" type of model used in South Africa. If I remember rightly, this did not have any provision for awarding compensation, which is vital to redress the lifelong harm caused by abuse in childhood, which often causes lifelong inability to work, amongst other devastating features.

The fundamental point of the conciliatory attitude to compensation with a no fault system similar to the Irish Redress Board scheme, was that the peaceful and conciliatory attitude of the church, with its background of Nolan Committee recommendations, contrasted sharply to the aggressive, conflicting attitude of the lawyers employed by the Catholic Church to contest litigation.

One only has to read the judgement in the recent case of JGE, where the Catholic Church challenged the principle that the Church is liable for the acts and defaults of any of its priests, in an effort to escape liability on a legal technicality, to see the lengths to which the church litigation machine will go in order to try and get out of paying anything. One wonders whether the Church's Lawyers are very much out of step with the principles being encouraged by Catholic hierarchy. The two definitely seem to be pointing in different directions. There are many other cases that one can refer to which are in a similar vein.

Whether or not abuse in childhood is just as common amongst the general population as priests ignores the fact that because priests are in a position of ultimate power, and trust, then any transgression within that type of relationship makes the offence much much worse, and a betrayal to children.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Does the Government spend our money wisely?

The Nick Robinson programme, "Your money and how they spend it", was a fascinating insight into how government spends our taxes. The gap between the public's perception and reality was huge. I thought I understood what the deficit meant. I clearly didn't. It was explained so simply.

When Nick went round the Trafford centre, and asked people how much cash representing the government spend per family per year, was in his briefcase, the result was a shock. The guesses varied between a joke £5 to £5000, whereas the correct answer was £22,000. The comment made was "we don't see much of that".

There is a tax calculator on the BBC Website, which will tell you whether you put more money into the system than you take out or vica versa. I tried it, and found out, not surprisingly, that I am very much a contributor to public spending, rather than taking out more than I pay in tax.

The following statistics are quite enlightening "Some 60% of households are net recipients from the Treasury... The top 10% of households contribute, on average, five times more than they get back....The top 1% of earners - just 300,000 people - pay 27% of all income tax...In 2010-11, we spent more paying interest on our national debt than we did defending the realm." The table on the website illustrates that income earners under £23,000 receive more in benefit than they contribute, whereas over that figure the reverse is true.

More surprising, however, was the fact that government generosity varies, depending upon the political anticipation of a spending or budgetting cutback decision. For instance, politicians fear pensioners and health most, an illustration being the huge rise in the cost of the pensioner's winter fuel payment, with people like Peter Stringfellow, who clearly does not need the money, paying it back and saying he doesn't want it. The public thought that millionaires like Paul McCartney didn't deserve the payment, which is not means tested.

It also became clear that one of the largest expenses, is now interest on government borrowing.

Education and Health, understandably, are no go areas  for political cutback.

The government most fear our elderly voters, who are becoming a larger and larger proportion of our population - a sector which is going to continually increase.

So what is the point? The power of lobbying, and political vote winning sometimes trumps objective common sense.

When one considers that:-
  • Justice was one of the three pillars of the welfare system back in 1947, when Clement Attlee introduced it during an age of austerity, rations, and post war malnourishment.
  • Civil Legal Aid (as opposed to criminal) - or giving to the poor the rights of access to the Legal System including child care cases, divorce, child abuse compensation cases, housing problems, immigration etc. costs a minute £350 million out of a total justice budget of £8.9 billion
  • The government wants to slash the legal aid budget, so as to radically reduce the availability of this fundamental legal right from the poor
  • They are only taking such a fundamental step because they think they can get away with it politically.
  • Conservative policy of saving is being cleverly disguised in an age of global cutbacks and austerity, when any cutbacks the government decides to impose must  be agreed to without protest. If there was sufficient political fear at the unpopularity of such an outrageous decision, another area of cutting back would be chosen instead.
  • Recently it was announced that £250 million had been found to enable us to have a bin collection every week because of public outrage
The whole thing does not make sense in proportionate terms. To justify their position, the government repeatedly says that we spend more on Legal Aid than any country in the world, as though it is something to be ashamed of, when it clearly isn't. It is something to be proud of - surely? It is like saying - "we spend more on the health of our public than America does, and this position is obviously unsustainable, so we must stop doing so many hip operations, and make people suffer in pain." How mad would that be?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Is money everything or the root of all evil?

As I listen to the governor of the Bank of England predicting the end of the financial world, John, as we know it, then the impending collapse of not banks, but whole countries such as Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Spain, and then Italy, one wonders if Armagedon is just around the corner. Is Mad Max about to jump out and take anarchistic control of the Western World?

So why are we in this bloody mess? Simple. Greed, pure, and simple. If I rang all my friends, and said the first person to arrive at my house wins £100,000 there would a pile up of cars at the gate. If I said I needed £100,000 to pay off some debts, then all I would hear would be tumbleweed blowing in the breeze.

Basically, credit has been too freely available for too long and we have over stretched ourselves. Everyone blames the banks, but they don't say that when the banks offered lots of credit, we didn't turn it down, but let greed overcome the temptation to buy that huge Flat Screen TV for the lounge. Along with Sloth, Greed is one of the 7 Deadly Sins.

To whom does money mean nothing? Them us had nought in th' first place eg the poor and needy clients of mine who have never been able to work, so disabled are they by the irreperable damage caused by abuse in childhood. If only those paedophiles had any idea what they were doing. So if I offer them compensation it means nothing. Why?

1. There is something deeply wrong about being paid compensation for having sex with an older man.

2. They have such a low self image that they do not think they are worthy of anything.

So, to my clients, money means nothing. End of...

To whom does money mean everything? Well, commission only salesmen, of course. If they don't sell, they don't get paid. If they don't get paid, they don't eat. If they don't eat, they die. Its a cruel world, which breeds the incurably optimistic type of person, who believes that they are going to sell. If they don't sell this time then they will next time. That is what keeps them going. And they have to believe in what they are selling, to keep up the energy levels, which, believe me, are incredibly high. Trust me, I have just spent a day in the delightful company of Talisa, who works for Silverpoint Holidays based at the Hollywood Mirage time share resort in Los Christianos, Tenerife. What she went through with me, she has to repeat at least every day, with a new buyer and make it sound fresh every time. That takes spunk, as they used to say in the last war.

So my conclusion? Money doesn't necessarily make you happy. Too much of it acquired through greed will probably make you unhappy. If you don't have enough of it you can be very unhappy. It can even bring down countries. Improperly managed money can be the most grief causing thing on the planet, leading to jealousy, bittermess, crime, and disharmony. Properly managed it can be the source of happiness. If you have enough rather than too much, however, it can help make you happy, but it is no substitute for love, friendhip and family...think on...

Monday, 7 November 2011

How lucky I am to be a child abuse lawyer

I am roused to write this blog after spending a very tiring day being "shown a concept" (they can't call it selling) by a delightfully charming time-share sales girl. I have been further influenced by seeing the indefatigable energy of hopelessly optimistic promotions boys and girls who decorate, with their vigour, enthusiasm and glee, the streets of Los Christianos, Tenerife. I am completely bowled over by the arguably delusional spirit of these young and middle aged, but not old (at least in spirit) people.

I remember a motivational speaker once saying to me "If you want to succeed, then surround yourself by like minded individuals and you will feel inspired to do likewise". How right he was, even at the age of 75.

Lawyers are, as a profession, traditional, backwards looking, and cautious. Careful, prudent, analytical, and diligent also, but not cut out for the world of commission only selling. I remember a marketing man employed by some well respected local solicitors telling me how disgusted he was, that he had been referred to as "our salesman" The term had been used in a patronising manner by a partner, in the same tone as "tradesman" or "something that the dog brought in on its shoe".

The point is that, as a child abuse lawyer, I am surrounded by pessimistic, poor, ruined individuals, whose life has been taken away by abuse in childhood. Most of them are on the edge of suicide or despair. Sometimes they die before the case is over. Arguably we are partly to blame. If we hadn't opened Pandora's box then our client would not have fallen out of it, and been laid bear spread crudely all over the floor. Far from trying to sell them an eternal holiday, we are giving them some hope for the future, that one day they will reach some sort of emotional hope and peace. The compensation is just a token; a few scraps thrown out as a gesture of pretend sorrow by the insurers of the employers of the abuser to blame. How indirect and distant is that sort of apology.

So why am I so lucky? Well because my job is about pushing back the frontiers of legal and medical science. It is multi layered like the skins of an onion. Never ending layers of intellectual gymnastics. A tour de force of fighting the good fight for the poor and oppressed, in spirit at least. What a job. So is it better than being a time share salesman on a commission only basis? Well Yes and No. Yes because it is morally more satisfying, but no because it takes 14 years, sometimes, to win your case, not 4 hours with instant commission when the grateful buyer signs on the dotted line.

I tell you what. I wish I had half as much energy, enthusiasm, and determination as Gary, Sean, and Talisa have. If all lawyers had the same, we would not be the pilloried victims of government that we are...think on, but don't weep, for we are the chosen ones (as if?)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

How catholic are the Catholics when it comes to compensation?

According to Wikipedia, catholic means, "including a wide variety of things; all-embracing". This is certainly not the experience we are used to, as lawyers, in closely fought, and contentious child abuse compensation litigation. One of our Group Actions, is just settling after 15 years of hard fought, narrow, technical, frustrating litigation, where the wearing down technique has been used on our clients by the insurers of the Catholic Church. By the time they are offered a pittance to go away, they are so fed up that they will take anything.

One of my clients was sweet enough to want to hug us, bring us some sweets, and be very effusive of his praise, so relieved was he for it all to be over. Such a reaction is not typical of the way in which our clients feel. Some cases are still going on after all this time, as the insurer solicitors continue to battle with us.

I was roused to write this blog after reading Graham Wilmer's article in the Guardian last Friday. I know all the survivor group representatives referred to. I have discussed the process with Graham, and understand entirely the frustration he must feel.

One part of the package - counselling and support is no good in isolation. Religious platitudes are admirable, but not to a victim, who has lost faith, understandably, in religion.

There is a glaring conflict of interest, when the organisation who "employed" the abuser, also tries to offer support. All trust has gone, and anger bubbles under the surface of the victim. It is like trying to put a sticking plaster on a ball of fire. Attempt it at thy peril.

One can imagine a pseudo confession when the priest attempts to forgive the victim's sins at the same time as trying to sooth the anger of him/her being abused by a priest. I would like to be a fly on the wall when it is attempted. I would not like to be the priest.

So should they have walked out of the talks as reported in the linked article above? Well one group left in disgust, and another didn't. So who was right? Well if the talks prove as fruitless as forecast by the Lantern Project and MACSAS then they were absolutely right, not to have wasted any more time. If, on the other hand, NAPAC, under the admirable leadership of Peter Saunders, succeed, then one has to admire their pertinacity.

If, however, the Catholic Church agree to, not only support the victim spiritually, but also provide a no fault compensation scheme, then may I say publicly that I will run naked up and down our local catholic church aisle during Sunday might be wise to say that I will do this on a without prejudice basis...that is the legal way of saying I am too old for such silliness...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Bins or Legal Aid for the Poor and Needy?

Eric Pickles announced in time for the Labour Party conference that the government had found in a dusty corner £250 million at a time when the country is allegedly bankrupt so that we can have a waste bin collection each week, instead of once a fortnight. 

I heard this jewel on the radio and thought, wow, the Lord has spoken. We have been blessed with such a gift from the angelic host on high, the benevolent coalition government. I had waited all year for this news.

When you think that the same government - not the lovely Mr Eric Pickles but the demonic Mr. Ken Clarke is planning to wipe out the rights of the poor to get legal aid in most areas including community welfare, in order to make savings in the Ministry of Justice of £350 million. It is a drop in the ocean, yet the government have decided that the rights of the poor to get much needed legal advice are no where near as important as giving the public a bin delivery every week rather than once a fortnight.

If they can find £250 million in a corner for bins, why on earth do they need to take legal aid away. It just doesn't make any sense at all and makes my blood boil. It is just an excuse to enforce the government's obvious dislike for lawyers, at the expense of the poor and the needy claimant who has been the victim of negligence by the NHS. The message is that the government are above the law, and can injure patients without the recourse to rightful compensation.

As it was said at the TUC, the austerity policies of this government are just an excuse to make cuts that are endemic to conservative party policy.

So bins or the rights of the poor? Difficult one hey.........I think it is a load of stinking rubbish.

Eclipse Personal Injury Awards 2011

Amazingly we have got into the finals again of the Eclipse Personal Injury Awards 2011, which will be hosted at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel London on 24th November at a glitzy awards ceremony.

I am in the finals for Personal Injury Lawyer of the Year, and Paul Durkin is shorlisted for outstanding case of the year. Paul's case is AB v Nugent Care & GR v Wirral BC 29/07/2009 [2009] EWCA Civ 827, which clarified the law of Limitation in child abuse cases and afforded the opportunity for more victims of historic abuse to exercise their rights to claim compensation.

To view our other awards click here

So wish us luck!

Monday, 26 September 2011

It is excellent to be in the Law Society Excellence Award Finals

I am frankly quite amazed that Abney Garsden McDonald are in the finals of the Law Society Excellence Awards 2011 - see this link - We have been shortlisted for Client Service, Innovation, and Environmental Responsibility in the firm awards, and I have been shortlisted for Solicitor of the Year (Private Client). You can also read our press release.

When you think that there are 118,000 solicitors with practising certificates, it is an unbelievable achievement and makes me feel quite proud. Whether or not we actually win anything, is another thing all together. If I were a cynic, and I am, then all these awards are simply methods of selling tickets for a big bun fight on 18th October at a hall called Old Billingsgate in London. At £225 + VAT each they are not cheap. Mind you it does include a free glass of champagne and half a bottle of wine each, so no complaints there. 

When you think about it though, everyone wins don't they? The 3rd parties who are trying to sell to us ,sponsor awards, and get publicity. If you are shortlisted, as we are, it is good publicity even if you don't win, and if you win, well the world is your lobster as the saying doesn't go. If you work for a firm who are shortlisted, it is  nice day out in London, and a free day away from work. So who is complaining? I am because it will cost me about £2,500, but there again, I probably should be on "Grumpy Old Men"

Why did we get shortlisted? Well we went paperless in September 2010 and are saving trees, which is where the Environment bit comes in. We do child abuse compensation cases, which require a very special approach to the client, who need very careful handling, which is the client service bit. I designed a special case management system to deal with our abuse cases, and run group actions, which is where the innovation comes in.

Why am I nominated for Solicitor of the Year? Good question. Well probably for the same reason that I am still sitting here after the office has closed writing this blog, when I should be at home with my family. But there again, they are used to it by now. I get it from my grandfather, who used to drum into me when I was a little boy. "Peter, if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing properly." May you rest in peace Grandad. I just wish, I could make a balls of things sometimes.

So, we are all trooping down to London on 18th October, so wish us luck. If we don't have to buy lots of bubbly, then we didn't do well. If I get sozzled then it was a successful evening. Shame I am not really a drinker, but that is probably my father's fault, because Grandad did like his whiskey......

Saturday, 17 September 2011

How horrible is the "Little Shop of Horrors"?

The simple answer to the question in the title is "not horrible at all". Why? Because it is not a horror musical, but a rather charming story of a boy/girl relationship looking good until the second Act when horror begins to strike. It was performed by my daughter when she was doing stage school at Upstage Macclesfield, one week in the summer of 2006, where the age range was 7 to 16. So, if it's good enough for kids, it's good enough for me and thee.

Why am I writing about this famous off Broadway musical? Because I am in it of course. Macclesfield Majestic Theatre Group present "Little Shop of Horrors" at MADS Theatre, Lord Street, Macclesfield between 3rd and 8th October 2011 with shows at 7.30pm Monday to Saturday with 2pm matinee on the Saturday. Be there, or sit at home and watch the goggle box, until your backside takes over the settee. Your choice of course, but I know what I would do, if I were you. To book tickets, go to their website You can also see some fabulous promotional pictures taken by our secretary's brother, which were so brilliant, they got us a full page article in the Macc Express on the Your Life page. Success.

What is it about? You have to undertand that I would love to tell you, but the plot is a surprise known to only the select few. If I tell all, then you won't come, because you will know, and resort to the couch bottom spreading activity that we all indulge in most of the time. Also, if I told you, I would have to kill you of course, and who knows a good solicitor these days? Not me by jove.

OK then, just a sneaky peak. To quote my press release, "The show is about an orphaned shop assistant (Seymour), who, one day, discovers a “strange and interesting plant”. He calls it Audrey II after his shop assistant work mate, with whom he is in love. The owner of the shop, Mr. Mushnik (played by me) is doleful, mean and distrustful of the new plant until customers show an interest, and his flower shop starts making money. The plant needs feeding, Seymour discovers, unusual food. The plant grows, and grows, until it becomes a national sensation. The rest has to be a surprise for the audience who will be enthralled with the fabulous music, which is a mixture of rock and roll, ballads, and catchy melodies."

I have taken the show so seriously, that I have grown a special moutache for the part. The last time I had a moustache was just before playing "Widow Twankey" in Aladdin at Cheadle Hulme School about 14 years that would be 1997? Sadly moustaches are no longer trendy, and imply other overtones that certainly are not applicable to me, not even in the 1950's sense of gayness. It has been ridiculed to death, by comparing me to "Super Mario" or "Ned Flanders" out of the Simpsons. Not one person has said I look like Tom Selleck out of Magnum PI, but that is probably because I don't.

I think it is a sign of dedication to my art, that in the last 3 years I have grown mutton chops (2008 Oliver as "Mr. Bumble"), shaved my head completely (2009 "Copacabana" as Sam Silva), and grown an enormous beard which nearly took over the world (2010 "Oklahoma" as Andrew Carnes). My wife is thoroughly sick of facial hair, or the lack of it. I suppose next year I will have to grow an extra leg (cue for song).

So what should you do then to show an interest? Well my advice would be to book a ticket before they all sell out. No point waiting until the last minute then finding that there is only room for a small one at the end of a row. Get on th' t'internet now and ger it booked. You never know. If you don't, the plant might come round and eat you! Dah...shouldn't have said that.......Oh and the booking line (when Sue comes back from holiday) is 07875 149943

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Are the rioters thugs, or a true political voice?

It is odd that whenever something really bad happens, the media always react to the culprit in a neo-primitive, quasi religious sort of a way. When Brady and Hindly became the Moors Murderers many years ago, they were demonised as "beasts". Peter Sutcliffe aka "Jack the Ripper", was similarly treated. It seems to be an instinctive reaction of the press to a senseless evil crime, to demonise in an almost religious way, the person to blame. In this way we can detach ourselves from what has happened, and put it "out there" away from the sort of lives that we lead.

In just the same way the youth rioters have been isolated, and put in a different category to the rest of us, so that we can alienate them. They are "mindless thugs" who are different from us. "We could not do that sort of thing." I heard one interviewee say, that it is likely, that one of the reasons they have gone out to commit motiveless mindless vandalism, is because, as a group of gang members, they have already been alienated, and isolated from society. Because they are so isolated, it is easier for them to do something so wrong, because they are away from the norms and mores of the rest of society. Ironically, by treating them as scanalously criminalistic thugs, we isolate them even further, which makes it more likely that they will go onto commit similar offences in the future.

What creates such a mindset? It is said that, in London alone there are several hundred gangs already. When the riots took place, they all called a truce, and all worked together in a co-ordinated way with the ultimate goal of riotting. The other gangs in different parts of the country then engaged in copy cat type behaviour.

So that is the gangs. What of the other non-gang members, who apparently came from decent backgrounds, and were in full time employment. One of the rioters was a primary school teacher, another a pensioner of 60. Well, what we don't know is what sort of backgrounds they have experienced in the past. Victims of abuse, whom I deal with daily, have a very chaotic and disorganised type of existence. They have low self esteem and resent any sort of authority. Indeed they find it hard to understand why anyone can be kind to them and give them anything valuable, for the simple reason that they regard themselves as undeserving of affection and love.They constantly fight authority. The first person they trusted in childhood abused that trust, and abused them. For this reason they never accept authority, particularly when they feel out of control.

So how deeply politicial were the riots? Were they really the product of the alienation of the youth of the inner cities, or the pure wanton vandalism of youngsters engaging in speculative acquisitive behaviour, arising out of the cynical greed of kids who have nothing.

I believe the riots were a pressure valve. It is likely that beneath the surface of the psyche of the individual rioters lies much anger and resentment, whether that be against their parents, former abuser, teacher, police, or life in general. They live in subcultures where the role model to look up to is the wealthy drug baron, who has a fancy car, and lots of bling. This is what he wants, so what a good idea it would be to go into the city where looting is taking place. He is told through his mobile phone that one can find plasma TV's, and designer clothes free of charge. All one has to do is walk into shops and help yourself. 

It is rather like normal middle class people receiving a text saying they are handing out £50 notes in Marks and Spencer in the city centre. You will have to go now, because they might run out. How many people would go for it? Obviously riotting is another thing altogether, but I am not sure that they saw it in this way.

Now, every media channel is doing their best to explain away the riots as the youth's way of protesting against government cuts, something illustrating a deep malaise in the discipline of our young people, parents are not allowed to use corporal punishment, children can sue parents etc etc. It is even being suggested, supported by Ian Duncan Smith, I just saw on Channel 4, that people who riot should lose benefit or even their council houses as a way of punishment. How knee jerk and reactionary is that? If you take away all forms of support from an angry alienated person, what is going to happen? He is not going to take the punishment like a man, turn round his life and deeply analyse his motivation. No, he is going to go out and commit more crime in order to survive, eat, and find somewhere to sleep. What a stupid idea, that at least 100,000 people signed up to, apparently, on the Number 10 Downing Street opinion poll.

I think that the riots are a product of the way in which young people have become empowered to exercise their rights over the last 10 years. Without doubt, the events which took place are a product, also, of the power of social networks, and Blackberry Messenger. Undoubtedly there will be many who have inner anger generated by abuse in childhood, in the same way as others are angry about racial abuse, and alienation from the police. Many will have been grossly influenced by their peers, and the social influence of gangs. I really don't think many of them will have been motivated by thoughts of the way in which David Cameron is decimating the Legal Aid system, and removing the right to free legal advice, or even cutbacks in school building programs, or the funding of child support groups. Many are simply taking advantage of an opportunity for a free lunch. We are all generated by greed. This is what drives the consumerist, capitalist society we all live in. We are all sinners, but some sin, without thought of the consequences, more than others.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Was the Norwegian Child Killer an abuse victim?

I was deeply troubled by the story about the killing of youth socialists in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik. I found it very hard to believe, that anyone could think, that the slaughter of young people was necessary - "a necessary act... a war against the rule by Muslims".The idea was misconceived, and did not make much sense. I began to give the point some thought.

This individual will inevitably be treated by the media as a very bad person. Usually, when something so awful happens, the culprit is tagged with pseudo religious names like "devil monster", or "demon", "beast", or the like, at least in England if you read the News of the World, or the Sun. It is somehow easier for us to accept that someone, who is inhuman, could commit such a crime. They become different from the rest of us humans, who, of course, could not do anything remotely similar. The criminal almost becomes a savage weerwolf, who is only fit to be chained up, stoned, then burned alive. We seem to behave almost like primitive beings. We, thankfully, stop a little short of witch burning.

The psychiatric theories I know of, do not include "bestial disorder" as one of the recognised conditions that can be treated at Broadmoor. Although electric shock treatment, when I last looked, is still used in certain situations, it is somewhat shocking that we still use it in the National Health Service. The media will want to demonise the Norwegian killer so as to appease the understandable anger felt by the public.

In mental health terms, no killer is ever diagnosed at just "bad". The mind is a complex web of different influences, memories, thoughts, and complicated processes. It just does not fit into the mold of a two dimensional disease that has existed from birth. The debate of nature against nurture has waged for many years to and fro. We are currently in a more nature orientated phase, but moving back towards nurture. The point is that when beasts commit serious crimes, they are usually labelled by both the forensic psychiatrists, and the media as guilty of an unnatural condition rather than the product of their upbringing.

If one looks at sex offenders, over 95% of them are the victims of some type of abuse in childhood. A very low percentage of the victims of abuse, however, go on to become sex offenders. Most of the serial killers over history have had a very disturbed childhood. After all, our personality is usually formed before the age of 3. Whilst the rest of life obviously has an influence, and modifies our behaviour, our inate personality does not change very much. So if something really bad happens in those first few years, then it is bound to have an influence on us for the rest of our lives.

So back to the story - Breivik is reported by his lawyer to be "insane". This is because he believes he has started a war which will go on for the next 60 years against democracy, has attempted to destroy the headquarters of the Norwegian government, and slaughtered around 80 young people partaking in a Youth camp on Utoeya island. He is said to be on the far right of the far right, and to want to exterminate the Muslims. For what reason is not clear. His thoughts are apparently over involved, and misconstrued. It is a lot easier for us to label this man insane, and claim that he is acting alone, than to link him with existing far right organisations, of which there are several.

If we can distinguish him from ourselves, then we can remain smugly different from him, in a distant, not understanding, sort of a way. The media will help us in this route by not reporting much about his past, I wager. In the same way as John Venables was demonised for killing poor Jamie Bolger in an unprovoked sort of a way, so will Breivik be labelled as a devil. There was a sexual element to the Bolger killing that we never got to hear about. I will say no more than that.

What is a better explanation for his behaviour? All the psychiatrists I have spoken to have said that in the vast majority of the mental health conditions they have treated, child abuse, whether emotional, physical, or sexual, lies somewhere in the background, as an influence on thinking and behaviour.

So is Breivik a victim of abuse in childhood? Well firstly we will probably never be told because if his parents are alive, their confidentiality has to be respected. Secondly, the media will not report the soft option, but rather go for the evil monster alternative to appease our primitive, blood lusting feelings of revenge. True, what he has done is evil beyond description, and upset me when I heard of it, but whether we will ever hear the truth, the whole truth, and all the truth, I very much doubt.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Anglia Regional News | Anglia Tonight - ITV Local

Anglia Regional News Anglia Tonight - ITV Local

Watch Peter's interview on Anglia Tonight regarding the former pupils of the paedophile Derek Slade in the 1970s and 80s who have launched legal action for compensation.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Should we beat the poor with a stick?

The government are threatening, at a stroke, to demolish the legal aid system that has been in existence since 1947 by taking away, more or less completely, the right to free legal advice for the poor, save in exceptionally needy situations such as the victims of domestic violence, and child abuse. We are going back to Victorian times when, if you could afford it, you could have the best lawyer, whereas if you were poor, you might live in a workhouse and eat gruel. Grind them into the mire, why don’t we? After all they are disadvantaged, lacking in confidence, have poor self esteem, and are unlikely to fight back. I wonder if free legal aid remains for anyone enslaved by a feudal landlord, who objects to working 18 hours a day? Not sure about that. Will have to consult the Legal Aid Manual.

What arguments does the very warm and empathetic Ken Clarke postulate to justify his position?
  1. We spend more on our legal aid system than anywhere else in the world. Isn’t that awful? At one time our legal system was the envy of the world, not the shame thereof. Our national health system is also the envy of the world. I am sure foreign governments do not compare themselves with us and snigger at our welfare state. It is something to be proud of not to demolish.
  2. We waste countless hours and pounds sterling on court battles that benefit no one other than the fat greedy lawyers who simply wage litigation to line their own pockets. It is not exactly clear, but he is probably referring to Human Rights cases, where such fundamental principles as the right to family life, privacy, freedom, education, expression etc are involved. His boss Cameron is always complaining about how Human Rights cases are simply ridiculous, particularly when such worthless individuals such as prisoners are trying to get the right to vote, or, in human rights terms, “the right to participate in free elections”. If you look at the Direct Gov website under this topic, it mentions mediation, citizen’s advice bureaux and law centres, not solicitors – a significant omission.
  3. The government are intending to take away free legal aid for clinical negligence cases where you are poor, and cannot afford it. The case being used as a good example of where justice would not have been achieved without legal aid is, a father who waged a battle for his son who was the victim of medical negligence, and won compensation from the NHS in the sum of £8 million. Now if you look carefully, there is a theme here. Why should the government help the poor to bring proceedings against itself? Far better to prevent lawyers from making money out of the government, and grind the poor into the dirt where they belong.  What will the outcome be? Less litigation against the government so that they can cut back on health standards without fear of being embarrassed by critical court judgments.
  4. Use mediation instead of going to court. This proposal is meant to be a catch all to save the cost of litigation. It is eye wash and displays incredible naivety. Why?
    • Mediation has been tried for years in matrimonial cases, indeed it is compulsory in some situations. It works in some cases where the parties are willing. If they aren’t, because of the nature of the dispute, then, as the saying goes, “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
    • There aren’t enough trained mediators to cope with all the litigation that exists.
    • If the parties do not accept the result of the mediation then they are back to going to court anyway.
    • Use “no win no fee agreements”, instead. Again a very naïve remark. Why?
    • Lawyers will refuse to deal with anything but the most straightforward of cases.
    • The difficult cases that often creative important legal precedent and advance the law will be abandoned.
    • Lawyers will simply not be prepared to take the risk of losing tens of thousands of pounds.
    • Whilst the government, thankfully, are intending to keep legal aid for abuse cases, the law would not be in the advanced and favourable state it is without the backing of legal aid. Cynically, I think that legal aid would have been removed for abuse also if they thought they could get away with it politically. It would, however, have been a step too far.
    • I work in the area of child abuse. If one is faced with a case costing between £30,000 and £50,000, at least, to take to trial on a no win no fee basis, then it takes a very brave lawyer with private wealth to do so.
So where are we up to? This coalition government, which is basically conservative in thinking, are intending to take away the rights of the poor, more or less completely in the area of civil law. In anything but a severe financial climate, they would simply not be able to get away with it. In the few remaining areas, funding will become so pinched, and income so diminished, that all but lawyers with separate private incomes (how many of those are there around today?), will be unable to survive.

Despite all the government propaganda about “fat cat lawyers” over the last few years hourly rates of pay have not gone up since 1991. How many businesses could survive without a price rise for 20 years? Indeed rates are coming down. One of the proposals in the legal aid consultation that will be implemented in October 2011 is to reduce all hourly rates by 10%. I do not have an accurate record, but I think this means that rates will go back to what they were in or around 1985.

I really don’t think I am being cynical when I say that the government are entirely fed up of being challenged by intelligent lawyers, who can use the court system to prevent misuses of power, and extract government funds, they would rather spend on other things. The process of obtaining compensation for negligence has been turned into a social evil, which is attempted only by the greedy rather than the needy. What is more, lawyers are like pariahs at the altar of Dickensian  extortion.

So should we beat the poor with a stick? No we shouldn’t, and neither should the government be allowed to get away with it. Even that bastion of social equality Mr. Ken Clarke…….

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Are abuse victims only in it for the money?

If you saw the television programme "Abused:Breaking the Silence" on BBC1, then you would have come to the conclusion that victims are not in it for the money at all, but that if the confession and apology system breaks down and fails, then compensation is all that the victims are left with.

The program was a fascinating insight into abuse by various priests at two preparatory schools in England and South Africa, owned and run by the Rosminian order of Catholic priests to which various boys from all over the world - Australia, South Africa, England - were sent. They were the Grace Dieu school in Leicestershire and St Michael’s school in Soni, in what is now Tanzania. Each one of them, unknown to the others, was abused by various priests, both sexually and physically. Their lives were each ruined by depression, and psychological distress. Even though they lived at different corners of the world, many years later, due to the wonders of the internet, they managed to reconnect with each other, and started talking again. Gradually the subject of their school experiences came up, leading to the mention of one of the abusive priests. This then led to them all doing their own statements of complaint, and sending them to the leader of the Rosmanian order in London.

It is important to emphasise that at this stage they were not after compensation at all, but rather an explanation as to why, instead of being sent to school to learn and be cared for, they were subjected to abuse by their carers. The reaction of the head of the Rosminians was genuine revulsion and sorrow for what had happened. It was obvious at that stage, that he hadn't been advised by lawyers, because he arranged for each of the now elderley abusive priests to write confessions addressed to the boys after he had read the detailed statements of allegations of abuse. Sadly the confessions were not frank and genuine enough for the victims. The letters from the priests were also carefully worded not to actually confess to anything directly, but were full of religious sounding platitudes.

The victims received different sounding letters from different priests. One decided that he wanted to meet the priest who abused him. His travel costs from Australia were paid by the church. Amazingly he found the meeting, although somewhat bizarre and other worldly, quite satisfying, as the reaction he got was one of genuine sorrow and remorse. He said that it had brought him some closure, and that for the first time he could sleep easily at night when he realised that never again would he be depressed.

Other victims, however, got letters suggesting they remembered nothing but were none the less objectively sorry. These victims wanted a meeting, but decided to seek out their abusers rather than wait for an invitation. Amazingly, one of them took in a secret camera to record the meeting. The priest decided to deny everything, which had the not suprising effect of causing abject rage in the victim, who had travelled all the way from South Africa.

Right up to this point in time there had been no talk of compensation. All the victims wanted was a genuine apology, and a reassurance that something would be done to ensure that the same sort of thing would never happen again. Because they didn't get what the head of the Rosminians had genuinely planned for them, they decided to form a Group Action, and seek compensation. Once the lawyers got hold of the Rosminians, all those early genuine platitudes and wishes for apologies disappeared, and were replaced with denials, and words of no comment. The TV company's request for an interview was not surprisingly denied.

Our experience of litigation at Abney Garsden McDonald solicitors, against the Catholic church is that, whilst they make grand gestures about offering counselling, and helping the victims, according to their new policies on child abuse, the process is somewhat contrived, as evidenced here. Once lawyers come on the scene, and litigation is in the offing, platitudes are replaced with hard fought contested court proceedings, pushed to the bitter end, on the basis that the victims will be so worn out by the process, that they will accept an offer of a pittance. One of our group actions, for instance, has been dragged out for 14 years.

So, fascinately, and uniquely, we had, in this programme, good evidence, that all victims are interested in are psychological closure, a genuine apology, and some recognition by the abusers and their employers that what happened in the past was not the fault of the victims, which is what they all think. and will not happen again. Sadly, although in this case they got close, this ideal was not achieved. We don't know what will happen, but in all likelihood what they will be left with is the empty gesture of mean amounts of compensation.

Monday, 6 June 2011

“No More Silence” by David Whelan - a review

The job of reviewing books about child abuse for a child abuse lawyer can be a bit like selling sand to the Arabs, in that it can become too much like a day’s work in the office rather than a pleasurable read in my own time. My clients often want to tell their story, usually for unselfish reasons. The psychology of the process probably drives the victim to tell their story in order to embarrass the authorities, and draw attention to how appallingly they were treated, in the hope that no other poor child is put through the same grief ever again. Needless to say “No More Silence” did not fall into the same traps that other similar types of book can.
David tells us his life story over nearly 300 pages in paperback. Considering the many events which took place, the skill of the writing cannot be underestimated. We are taken along a journey from a neglected home life as one of five children in the desperately poor areas of Glasgow through a delightful foster home in the far flung Scottish island of Uist, to life as a waiter both in upper echelon hotels, to sea, back to London, then through the trial of his abuser. The main plank of the book revolves around the time he spent at “Quarriers”, a self contained village for children in need of care a short distance from Glasgow.
The irony of the idyllic surroundings, with its own school, medical facilities, supermarket, church, fire brigade, and cottages where children lived, on the one hand, yet on the other hand abuse of a magnitude that is almost unimaginable, grabs the reader by the throat immediately. The almost pious nature of a seemingly Presbyterian Scottish community, is made all the more shameful, by the abuse which took place. David’s abuser committed some his offences, even more ironically, in the bell tower of the church at the centre of this Christian community – Mount Zion Church. David refers to him as the “beast”. A more fitting title there could not be.
I read the book during my lunch hour over a few months. Not the most ideal way to engross yourself in the story line. It is a testament again to the writing that I was able to pick up immediately where I left off. Indeed once or twice I was late for work, as I could not wait to read another chapter. They are short yet absorbing.
I was apprehensive about the way in which the gritty details of the actual abuse would be handled. I need not have worried. Child Abuse is such a dark subject, that it can put off readers, because of the subject matter. I was assured by David in an email that the difficult bits were told sensitively, but without so much detail as to put the reader off. He was right. On the one hand the reader knows exactly what went on, but on the other hand we are spared the gory detail. To maintain this fine balance is incredibly difficult, yet David achieves it in spades.
I am not embarrassed to say that this book brought me to tears (not easy in a café) on three occasions. So moved was I that I immediately went back to the office and congratulated David on his achievement. The secret of surviving as an abuse lawyer is to admit that the subject matter affects you, and not internalise your feelings. I am sure, however, that any reader will be moved by some of the things which happened.
The sections that brought a lump to your throat for me were not the abuse, but the emotional family reunions of children and carers that have been separated for many years then reunited. One of the happiest periods of David’s childhood, was when he lived with a childless couple on the island of Uist beyond the shores of Scotland. He was cruelly separated from them, when his inept mother decided she wanted to try again. Years later he was then reunited with the help of his sister Jeanette. He describes the tears of joy when he met Morag again. Films can do this more easily, I think, than books, because the scene is graphically displayed in front of you. For a book to do this, speaks volumes for the subject matter, and writing style.
So why does this book grab your emotions so fully? First of all David Whelan is a rare breed – someone who, despite his neglected childhood, then abuse in institutional care, goes on to be a success. He initially works in prestigious hotels, then builds a successful business as a recruitment agent providing staff for same top flight events that he used to work at. Everything is going well until the abuser’s wife contacts David many years after the abuse, to ask him to be a character witness for “the Beast” against whom there are many allegations of abuse. David’s world crumbles, as he struggles to cope with the multitude of forgotten memories. He survives after the trial, and forms a support group for the victims of abuse at “Quarriers”. One can empathise completely with his emotions, feelings, and admire the incredible journey he goes through. The story is almost circular.
The book sells through Amazon, which encourages reader’s views online. This opinion is only mine, of course, but a real testament to what a wonderful book this is, can be found in the countless euphoric opinions you will find on the Amazon site, and indeed elsewhere. Does it avoid the fatal trap that books on abuse can fall into – self indulgent misery – absolutely. My advice as a child abuse lawyer – go out and buy it – NOW!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Was the sacking of Sharon Shoesmith a balls up?

Whilst the abuse of children is an appalling tragedy, for which the culprit should be severely punished, whenever it occurs, we are all in danger of making decisions based on emotion rather than reason. The recent Court of Appeal decision condemning the way in which Haringey Council sacked Sharon Shoesmith is a prime example.

Unsurprisingly, the public were appalled at the death of Baby Peter. As it was the second tragedy that had taken place under the noses of the same Council, the first being Victoria Climbie, the public were baying for blood. The papers were outraged and demanded action. Ed Balls was the Minister for Education under a “caring” Labour Government, and the pressure was on. There was a lot of angry rhetoric in Parliament, demanding that heads must roll. And roll, one of them certainly did. Sadly, no one stopped to ask and think, before acting in haste.

Who were Sharon Shoesmith’s employers? One would have hoped that in an ideal world, Haringey Council would go through the tried and tested dismissal procedures for such a high profile case, to make sure it didn’t go wrong, and back fire on them. But no, Ed Balls took over by announcing her dismissal in the House of Commons before it had even taken place. This is a yet another example of the separation of powers going badly wrong. Balls is part of the Legislative (Parliament), not the Exectutive (Administration), and was usurping his powers by interfering in Council business. Rather than admitting he was wrong, he has stuck to his guns, and said he would do the same thing again. To be fair the Court of Appeal condemned the Council for their maladministration of the dismissal procedure, but said that the Government had scapegoated Ms. Shoesmith in a wholly unfair way.

Sadly, in the course of this story and the public outrage, somehow, the real culprits were overlooked. It was those closest to Baby P that committed the real crime, for which they have been punished, namely mother Tracey Connolly, the boyfriend Steven Barker, and his brother Jason Owen. Social Services can be blamed but only in a secondary capacity. Social Workers in some London Boroughs have a high case load, staff shortages, and a multi-racial population with all the complications that are brought with it. The cost of living in London makes it difficult to find staff. Ms. Shoesmith points to failings by, not only Social Services, but also Police and Medical agencies.

More and more these days politicians bow to media pressure, which is stronger and more pervasive than ever before with 24/7 digital channels, the internet, and print journals of all shapes and sizes. When the Daily Mail, the Sun, and other outlets shouted “Jump”, Brown and Balls (sounds like a firm of butchers?) used to respond “How High”. Next thing you know, Sharon Shoesmith’s head is on the chopping block, and the crowd are wailing, “Off with her head”. It is nearly a scene from “Alice in Wonderland”. Who played “the Mad Hatter”, you might think?

So what do we conclude from this nightmare scenario? What occurs to me most strongly is that no one wins. It is a lose, lose situation.
  •  Baby P is dead
  • His closest relatives have spent periods in prison at public expense
  • Harringey Council have been heavily criticised
  • No doubt the staff are demoralised. God knows how difficult it must be now to find social care staff to work there, making the existing staff even more stressed, and the workloads, no doubt, even more onerous. 
  • Sharon Shoesmith, the intended scapegoat, has come out smelling of roses. She has had much more publicity than she no doubt likes and deserves, and has been given a ticket to large amounts of compensation at the expense of the cash strapped taxpayer of Haringey.
  • Ed Balls and the previous Labour Government come out looking like numpties.
  • Police and Medical Services have been heavily criticised, and are no doubt “learning lessons” as they always do after such tragedies.     
Who are the winners from such a tragedy?

The media have made lots of money out of the tragedy as they always do. This story really has legs. It has been running since 2008, and no doubt will continue as Sharon Shoesmith fights her way through yet more Courts of Appeal (Balls and the Department of Education are apparently going to appeal).

Lawyers of course will be well paid for the many cases that have arisen from this tragedy
  • The criminal trials of Connelly, Barker, and Owen
  • The unfair dismissal case which Shoesmith lost but has now been reversed impliedly by the most recent judgement of the Court of Appeal.
  • The judicial review case against the Department of Education at both first instance and now on Appeal.
  • The further appeal to the Supreme Court.
  • The compensation case for loss of office by Sharon Shoesmith
I have to take my hat off to her lawyer for pushing this case as far as he has. No doubt he had an anxious, intelligent, and determined client by all accounts. The case must have been very stressful with all the media attention, and he did his best for a pilloried client, who was the victim, at the end of the day, of a Balls balls up. We must wait and see how the case develops henceforth.

How super are super Injunctions?

The spin put on the effectiveness of super injunctions cannot possibly be unbiased, as long as the press are in charge of editing and writing news stories.  Why? Because the tabloid media are writing out of self interest and frustration, caused by the restriction preventing them from writing sleazy stories about famous people.

Politicians, as usual, bleat about the way in which the judges, whom they have appointed to upload the law, interpret the Human Rights Act, which they introduced in the first place. Cameron has far too frequently disrespected the decisions of judges. It is a very dangerous game for politicians to play, when they try to take control, and interfere with the workings of the Courts. Philosophers call it separation of powers. In other words the Executive (The Administration), The Judiciary (the Court), and the Legislative (Parliament), should all remain separate. When they clash, overlap, and try to usurp each other’s powers, then, in its extreme form, society can break down. Wrong decisions usually result. Cameron before has, publicly in Parliament, criticised the decisions of the Courts, and the way in which lawyers operate. He fails to realise that all they are doing is interpreting laws, which Parliament has made. He, or any other politicians, can hardly complain if they are interpreted in a way they don’t approve of.

Cameron never ceases, in an uninformed way, to moan about the decisions of the Courts in Human Rights cases. He must think that the vulnerable do not deserve rights. Prisoners should obviously not be allowed to vote when they are in prison. After all they are being looked after by the state, so if things are going wrong, they should not be able to complain to their MP, should they. The illogicality of this proposition is self evident. The Human Rights Act is not there to protect only prisoners, or sex offenders, but the great British Public from every day intrusions into our lives by Government. It stops society from turning into the grey depressing concept that was George Orwell’s 1984, where Big Brother (not the Channel 4 show) watched every move.
On Question Time, the other night, the media solicitor, Charlotte Harris, cleverly posed a scenario, which hopefully alarmed the audience and emphasised the importance of the right to privacy and family life. Imagine a scenario where one day a journalist rings up a man on the street, and informs him that a large newspaper has found out that he is having an affair with his best friend’s wife, and is very interested in publishing a story about it. This would be most alarming. One would hope that the right to privacy would prevent the newspaper from publishing this sort of thing. The difference in reality would be that the man on the street cannot afford to go to court, because of the lack of availability of legal aid to any but the most poor.

Parliament, in their wisdom, are going to try to find a solution. But how can they? How does one legislate to stop judge’s exercising their sensible and wise discretion? Each case is different. Is the right of a footballer to remain private a public issue, whereas Sir Fred Goodwin’s adulterous activity in the public interest because he is in charge of a part publicly owned bank? One can see that every case turns on its own facts, and not capable of being codified.

What Parliament can, and should do, is legislate to stop Members of Parliament from abusing their right of free speech and privilege to break super injunctions, just because they happen to disagree with the law. There are a lot of laws that we all disagree with, but if we tried the same sort of thing, we would end up on the wrong end of an action for Contempt of Court, or paying out damages for such a flagrant breach. It was so reprehensible that both the Speaker at the time, and the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, rebuked the behaviour of MP’s. This is not the first time that Parliamentary privilege has been used to leak private information. Parliament should show a better example, and not abuse their special rules. In my opinion this abuse is worse than some of the allegations of expenses fraud, which has led to incarceration.
Super injunctions are designed to protect the super rich and celebrities from the invasion into their personal lives by the paparazzi. Any normal member of the public who has experienced this has been alarmed by it, so pushy and aggressive can they be. Somehow, celebrities, are different of course, because they have so much money that it should not matter?

So important are Human Rights, that we sacrifice them at our peril. The government have to learn more respect for the judiciary, and lawyers. They should show a better example by their behaviour, and leave the law to the lawyers. The press have arguably far too much freedom, and do not need any more. In my experience they get very touchy, and overreact if they think their freedom is being eroded. They start talking about dictatorships and government controlled press, which is a long way off.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Has Cameron taken Clegg for a sucker?

Why didn't Nick Clegg see it coming? At the last election the Liberal Democrats were never going to get into power. The Conservatives needed someone to coalesce with. They had a matter of days to negotiate with each other. What did the Liberals want? Proportional representation of course. What did Cameron say? "Look Nick, we will get in bed with you, and guess what? We can have a referendum on the point." What should Clegg have said? "Get stuffed David, you toff. Even I can see that you are trying to pull a fast one." He didn't though did he? 

Nick would trust David you see, because firstly they are nearly doubles - good looking, same height, speak jolly well, fathers were bankers (spelt correctly), and both the product of our fine public schools. Nick went to Westminster, and David went to Eton.

What a lot of people don't know is that Nick also went to Caldicott Prep School in Buckinghamshire from 8 to 13. Caldicott has been the subject of a major police investigation by Thames Valley into allegations of child abuse by a string of male teachers over a number of years. There has been at least one conviction of a master called Martin Carson who went to prison for two years. Not that there is any suggestion that Clegg or Cameron were the subject of any abuse. I act for a victim of another teacher from Caldicott, who was also investigated by the police, charged, taken to court, but allowed to go free, because it was decided that a fair trial could not take place, even though all the victims were willing and able to give evidence - a controversial decision. The plot gets even thicker when one considers that Lord Justice Scott Baker spent 14 years as chairman of the board of governors during the period of the allegations. My client finds the link worrying. He & others are campaigning for a retrial. Anyway, I digress......

What was the con that Clegg fell for? Well we have just had the local elections and the referendum on proportional representation. It was clearly a subject the public knew very little about, and could not make a decision upon. It was an entirely unsuitable subject for a public vote. It should have been dealt with in Parliament after a debate between those that do understand the subject only too well - the politicians of course. The problem is, I suppose, that there is not enough support for an alternative system to get the legislation passed. Cameron could have promised to support the policy, however, and used his whips to get it through parliament. 

What did the some of the Conservatives do? Opposed the "Yes" vote. Cleggie and others were furious. Why? They had been conned of course. Vince Cable, the business secretary described his Conservative colleagues as "ruthless, calculating and thoroughly tribal".  What is more, the media were against the change, and said so in their droves. Murdock didn't like the idea, nor did his papers. The referendum poll stations were not well attended. 

The effect of the lost vote has been to weaken the standing of the Lib Dems even further. If it wasn't bad enough to have turned 180 degrees on the university tuition fees scandal, now they seem to have fallen apart. Disastrous local election results. The Green Party did the best, which probably means we will all have to boil our rubbish in muesli, and mix it with dried fruit before it goes out to the bins. 

Clegg seems to be a puppet in Cameron's hands. It is a shame really, because I think he is quite a nice bloke who talks quite a lot of sense. He is similar in character to the other two - young career politicians. What happened to the likes of Michael Foot, Harold Wilson, and even, dare I say, Margaret Thatcher. Now, they may have been eccentric caricatures, but at least they had personality, and were a lot older than the present array of suits we have to choose from.

So why didn't nice Nick see it coming. It was a con right from the start. "We won't introduce the legislation on AV, but you can have a referendum." Cameron might as well have asked him to go and buy a tin of tartan paint. No way were the public ever going to understand a referendum on an alternative voting system. Most people have trouble understanding how to boil an egg. Most people don't like change, so it is no surprise that they voted to keep things as they are.

Never mind Nick, it won't be long before you lose your seat, and get a job on the buses instead. When nice David looks you in the eyes and sounds convincing, don't fall for it. You will end up eating sandwiches out of a Tupperware box on the No.46 to Bethnal Green.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Who is more evil, Osama Bin Laden or a Paedophile?

Since the death of Osama Bin Laden has been all over the media, my mind has inevitably compared the glorification of his death with the way in which the public react to the conviction of a child molester who prays on children in a calculated and insidious way. What are the similarities?
  1. They both think that they are doing nothing wrong. Osama is trying to rid the world of the evils of capitalism by killing innocent people. He is doing this in the name of the Islamic faith. Paedophiles think that a love relationship with a minor is good for the child because they are expressing their love for children. They think that the child enjoys it. Some fall in love with the child, and give them inappropriate tenderness. Others operate a more violently abusive type of relationship.
  2. Both use manipulative tactics and subterfuge to win the trust of innocent victims. Osama has camps, where young impressionable idealistic Muslims are brain washed into believing that they are killing in the name of religion, for the greater good of their faith. Child Abusers win the trust of young impressionable children in need of affection by treating them in a special way, buying them presents and spoiling them. When the victim is ensnared, they pounce, and cause untold damage by abusing them physically and sexually. Terrorist soldiers are taught to kill on demand without question.
  3. The general public believe, that what both terrorists and paedophiles do is repulsive, abhorrent, and worthy of nothing but the most severe of punishments. So strong is the general feeling that no government would dare organise a referendum to decide what the appropriate punishment should be. The result inevitably would be the re-introduction of the death penalty or worse, probably,  in the case of serious sex offenders. Some countries allow sex offenders to consent to castration, but not Britain as yet.
Inevitably the state cannot be seen to be administering death as a  punishment for a crime not matter how severe it is. There are many who would disagree with this notion, and demand the death penalty for both terrorism and child abuse. Our modern civilisation, and the law of Human Rights, will not permit the doctrine of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, to misquote the bible.

Some states in America, however, and many less civilised penal jurisdictions, most notably Sharia Law, do permit the death penalty. Many say that Britain and Europe are too soft. Importantly, the Second Amendment to the American constitution permits the right to carry arms. Thus it is ethically easier to extend that country's right to kill people who commit crimes. It is thus no surprise that the international community allowed Iraq to try its own war criminals, because they knew that, if found guilty, Sadam Hussein would be executed. A more desirable political solution all round.

So what should we do with child abusers? For the most serious crimes, where the abuser accepts they have a problem which cannot be cured, so strong is their sexual desire for children, I would advocate the use of chemical castration, but only where the sex offender consents. Indeed it is legal in many US states including California, Canada and in many European countries – France, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Sweden, Poland and Norway. Russia are trying to introduce a castration law at the moment.

Sadly, the most dangerous paedophiles are those who are in denial. No psychological treatment will work for them, however well meaning. Even more dangerous are those who have not yet been caught. I am in favour of the discretionary life sentence, where the offender has to prove they do not present a danger to children before they can be released. Treatment is often mandatory. Sadly, in many prisons, the cost of treatment is too expensive, and will be hit by the restricted budget cuts, now imposed by this government.

Paedophiles abuse children, and terrorists abuse innocent victims in the name of politics and religion. A debate can be had as to who is the most evil. I will leave the decision to the public jury.