UNFIT FOR PURPOSE

March 24th, 2015

No doubt there was a warm glow of vindication in the London headquarters of the Crown Prosecution Service on Thursday evening after the conviction of Paul Gadd, aka Gary Glitter. Here was another celebrity who had got his just deserts for historic sex abuse, to join Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall and Max Clifford behind bars.

The CPS has been accused of pursuing a witch-hunt against ageing stars in order to make up for the failure to bring Jimmy Savile to book; as the guilty verdicts have mounted up, the criticism has become ever more muted.

Yet, in truth, last week was not a good one for the CPS, notwithstanding the successful prosecution of Gadd. Even this success could not erase the memory of the appalling miscarriage of justice inflicted upon a hospital doctor for allegedly performing female genital mutilation on a patient.

Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena was the first person to stand trial for an offence that has been on the statute book for 30 years. Charges were brought even though the woman had been subject to FGM in her native Somalia and Dr Dharmasena was carrying out a post-natal surgical procedure at a London hospital. It took the jury half an hour to find him not guilty, but not before his reputation had been shattered and his career blighted.

Even campaigners for tougher action against practitioners of FGM were appalled. Dr Dharmasena’s colleagues suspect that he was hung out to dry so that the CPS could demonstrate that it was taking this matter seriously.

Indeed, the charges were announced – purely coincidentally, of course – a few days before Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, was due to appear before a Commons select committee to explain why there had been no FGM convictions. Interviewed on the BBC after the jury had cleared Dr Dharmasena, Ms. Saunders flatly refused to accept that her office had been in any way culpable in this abuse of process. It had weighed up the evidence and believed there was a case to answer, she said.

Yet there is growing concern that Ms. Saunders is more interested in pursuing campaign agendas rather than serving the interests of the public at large. The decision to prosecute Dr Dharmasena contrasts noticeably with the DPP’s refusal to take action against two doctors accused of offering to carry out gender-specific abortions. It would not, she said, have been in the public interest to do so. So why take a different line with FGM?

Last month, Ms. Saunders issued new guidelines to police and prosecutors that men accused of rape would have to prove that their alleged victim had consented to sex. This is a reversal of the fundamental tenet of English justice that people are innocent until proven guilty. Even though that remains the case in court, the guidelines will inevitably mean that more men are charged with rape – but will do nothing to improve conviction rates. It is making a statement rather than upholding the rule of law.  I made my opposition clear to this ‘new’ approach (see my earlier blog – She was gagging for it), and in the result created a firestorm of vitriolic comment from all the usual Feminista suspects.

The appointment of Ms. Saunders just over a year ago was the first from the ranks of the CPS, and by all accounts, should be the last.  The adage ‘Home Grown Talent’ is a contradiction in terms as far as this appointment is concerned, and Ms. Saunders has been a disappointment even by her own modest standards. Sadly however, and in the way of these things, once installed, it’s the devil’s own job to winkle her out, so we are stuck with her and her acolytes until she chooses to go of her own accord.

The post of DPP is meant to be independent and impartial. It was set up in the Victorian era and took on its current form in 1986 with the creation of the Crown Prosecution Service. The incumbent oversees some 7,000 staff and wields considerable influence over the way the justice system functions. In many ways, prosecutors are its most powerful practitioners: once they’ve made a decision to proceed with a case, it cannot easily be stopped. In weighing up whether to bring charges they need to exercise power and discretion appropriately. In many cases they do not.  As they say, if you bury your head in the sand, you expose your thinking parts, and time and again Ms. Saunders’ judgment has been called into question.  The sad reality is that she simply refuses to learn from her own mistakes, and that is not the example to set from a senior civil servant.

From the witch hunt prosecution of dozens of journalists for phone hacking, to the pursuit of celebrities for historic sex offences and the prosecution of Dr Dharmasena, Ms. Saunders’ motivation seems more about being seen to do something, anything, rather than ensuring that justice is carried out.

With acknowledgments to The Times

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A LITTLE LIGHT RELIEF

March 18th, 2015

As a fellow member of the legal profession, albeit the senior branch, I read with sadness the report that three ‘judges’ had been sacked for viewing pornography at work, with a fourth throwing himself on his sword before he could be disciplined.  As I understand it, these ‘judges’ are at the bottom of the feeding chain, so they are not really grown up judges in the accepted sense of the word.  But no matter, they are still expected to behave when on the job so to speak.

As you will know, pornography has been the fastest growth industry on the Internet for many years, something out there to suit every prurient taste in pursuit of self satisfaction.  The voyeurs are drawn from all levels of society, and as the argument goes, it keeps them off the streets and avoids sexually transmitted diseases, so it must be a good thing.  The report reassures us that these ‘judges’ were not looking at images of children or any other illegal content. Any other illegal content is not defined, so I leave that to your imagination.

What does concern me, and important issues arise, is the fact that the computers on which they were watching porn were provided by the Lord Chancellor’s Office and were programmed to set off an alarm if pornography was being downloaded.  All very curious.  If I were the Lord Chancellor, even Chris Grayling the present incumbent who has only a passing acquaintance with the law, it would never cross my mind to factor in a porn alarm.  All aspirants to judicial office, no matter how minor, have to be vetted, to determine not just if they have the necessary knowledge and expertise to hold down the job on offer, but also to ensure that they have led a blameless life hitherto.  That would rule out about 90% of all applicants, and more’s the pity.  We need characters and iconoclasts sitting in loco judiciaris and not just yes men (and women of course).

But more to the point.  These computers are provided by the Lord Chancellor’s department to assist judges in the proper administration of the law, so I ask in a spirit of enquiry, what is porn doing on the system in the first place?  And is this entrapment in the legal sense of the word? You will be familiar with the principle.  Somebody in authority, such as a Chris Grayling apparatchik, whispers seductively into the junior judicial ear about porn being readily available, so go forth and be titillated. Otherwise, how do these innocents know it’s on their computer?  It’s not something you would search for at random.

This  may not have legs.  I am advised by Lord Nicholls, a former Law Lord.  He considered the case of Eve in the Garden of Eden, who told Jehovah that the serpent had beguiled her, and she did eat.  Lord Nicholls did not consider this entrapment, and therefore ruled it no defence, as she could have refused, and by all accounts, nor did Jehovah, because the unfortunate woman and Adam found themselves out on their ear before they could say Cox’s Pippin.  Whilst I cannot claim to be a big fan of the Old Testament, I have always been worried by the presence of the serpent in the Garden.  I mean, what was it doing there in the first place?  This is supposed to be Paradise where everything is sweetness and light.  Jehovah must have known it was there, as He created it, so what was his thinking on the matter?  Your guess is as good as mine, but leaving it in loco parentis was asking for trouble, it’s like putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum, so poor Adam and Eve were always set up to fall.

But I digress. As for these ‘judges’, life in court can get exceedingly tedious, especially if confronted by a litigant in person, so it’s only natural if they find something to distract them.  There is no suggestion that their voyeurism interfered with the business of the court unless they had the sound on, and if it were not for the porn alarm, nobody would have been the wiser.

It’s a clear case of overreaction.  These junior judges now have a serious stain on their character, and their careers could be blighted for ever.  That cannot be fair.

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TONY TO THE RESCUE

March 17th, 2015

The melodrama of the poisoned dogs at Crufts, or not as the case may be, looks likely to blow up into a major international incident.  As hap-chance would have it, Tony Blair may be available, given the uncertainty of his middle east diplomacy and a feeling amongst some of the protagonists that it’s time for a fresh approach.

You will remember how this melodrama unfolded.  It started at Crufts, the dog show, with Jagger, not Mick, the other one, a magnificent Irish setter, who had taken the title of the best reserve of breed, which means second place to the rest of us, but a commendable showing nonetheless.  But it transpires that Jagger is not Jagger’s real name, all very cloak and Jagger, his actual name is Thendara Satisfaction, believe that and you’ll believe anything, and although he’s Irish, his home is in Belgium, in a town called Lauw.  I’ve never heard of it, have you?  No, I didn’t think so.

Crufts, anxious to distance themselves from this rapidly evolving sorry saga, are determined to deny anything and everything that might reflect badly on their reputation, so they have put out a statement.  Those who suggest that Jagger was poisoned at Crufts are barking up the wrong tree, they said.  No such dastardly act took place on their premises, and any suggestion that a further six dogs could also have been poisoned whilst at Crufts was dismissed out of hand.  All very suspicious.

In his first act of evidence gathering, I suggest Tony concentrates on the Russian connection, as there is a whisper that Jagger was poisoned by polonium-210 and not, as presently alleged, by a combination of agricultural pesticides banned in the European Union.  Although I have never heard of Lauw, and I question its very existence, where did these banned pesticides come from?  After all, I am reliably informed that Belgium is a member of the EU, at least for the time being, and not many people know that.  It’s just the sort of mischief we have come to expect from Vladimir Putin, but I also expect him, along with Crufts, to deny any involvement.

Tony to the rescue.  Unlike the poor deceased Jagger, this could run and run.

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PLOD ON THE BEAT

March 17th, 2015

I read with wry amusement and some disquiet the remarks made by the Chief Plod of West Midlands Police, that because of financial constraints, or so he says, the days of the ‘bobby’ on the beat are numbered. He went on to say that police patrols will disappear from middle class neighbourhoods as Plod becomes a digital-first organisation.  He also cautioned (if you’ll forgive the pun) that the public will have to accept the end of of the “chocolate box image of how policing should be”, whatever that may mean!  He must be joking! Surely somebody in a white coat should lead him gently away.

There is an obvious problem about this approach.  Plod digitally enhanced?  Come off it, they still lick their pencils when taking notes. It’s all pie-in-the-sky, and it won’t work!

Ask any law-abiding person, whether from a middle-class neighbourhood or a rough backstreet slum, and they will tell you to a man that a visible Plod presence is the best possible deterrent to street crime. They don’t have to do anything except the occasional ‘hello, hello, hello’, and strut their stuff.

Time and again over the years when Plod has been conspicuous by his absence, the excuses have been manifold and universally lame.  The most popular one is ‘working on papers’ back at the Station, with heavy boots up and munching on a cream bun. And their response time is a disgrace, second only to the Ambulance Service.

If numbers have to be cut, and I don’t accept that argument for one moment, then cut where it doesn’t matter, the soft underbelly back at the Station, and leave the front-line officers alone.  The lone voice of reason came from the chairman of the West Midlands Police Federation, when he stated that the bedrock of policing is neighbourhood policing. “We must never lose contact with the public we serve.”  Amen to that!

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THE WORLD OF KINDLE

March 16th, 2015

I have been contacted by a company specialising in the promotion of Kindle books.  Normally I would delete and move on, but I decided to check it out, if for no other reason than the fact that my books have a kindle version.  You will find them listed on this blog.

When my books were first published, either by me or by my publisher, it was  taken as read (if you’ll forgive the pun) that there would be a kindle version as well as hardback or paperback.  As I write, hardbacks are now confined to learned tomes, and the days are now long gone when a publisher would publish a modest first print in hardback, and then try and recover his losses with the paperback version.  Is it any wonder so many are going to the wall?

In the recent past, the world of publishing has been taken over by Jeff ‘Midas’ Bezos, the owner of Amazon, who by all accounts is the publisher of first choice of nearly 70% of all books, and as we feed more and more on the Internet for our literary pleasures, Jeff looms large.  It was he and his team who came up with the kindle idea, and it works.  It’s a strange and rather depressing fact that barely 5% of the British population above the age of consent ever buy and read a book, such is the dominance of the mass media, so Jeff’s idea to make reading a jolly jape caught on very quickly.  It is particularly popular on holiday, where you can download dozens of books onto your kindle device to compensate for foreign garbage on television, and even if it’s not garbage, the average Brit can’t understand a word of it.  Bloody foreigners, why can’t they all speak English?  Actually, for the most part they can, but no matter.

Anyway, I have decided that if you can’t beat them, join them, so I have agreed, as a trial period, to offer two of my books FREE on kindle. It hurts me to do so, as I am a poor struggling author shivering in my garret with only my ego to keep me warm, so offering my books for FREE is a novel step, if you’ll forgive the pun.  The two I have chosen for my increasingly sophisticated followers is: The Art of Public Speaking for all those of you who have been called upon to speak in public at one time or another in your lives. At one end of the spectrum will be: “Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding and raise your glasses to the adorable couple.” At the other end are those who see public speaking as a lucrative business, and the speakers most in demand command considerable fees for their services.  The book is available on kindle from this Wednesday the 18th March for five days.  I must be mad! Here is the link: http://amzn.to/1bc9Dph

The second book to enjoy, or endure, the same treatment is my latest humorous book on the law Order in Court featuring Toby Potts, a young and aspiring barrister, fresh from Bar School, and clutching his graduation diploma, full of hopes and dreams and intent on becoming the leading criminal advocate of his time. He can hardly wait to get on his feet and impress the jury with his incisive cross-examination, his mastery of all things legal, and his spellbinding final speeches.

Sadly, reality kicks in, and Toby finds the path to fame and fortune far from smooth and uneventful. His trials and tribulations take Toby from his Call to the Bar, his experiences in pupillage, his first brief when he represents the wrong client, through to his great tour de force at the Old Bailey when he goes head to head with the Honourable Mr. Justice Boniface, known to one and all in the profession as Old Sourpuss, and many adventures in between.  Chambers politics, strange clients, solicitors who come and go on a whim, and even stranger and eccentric judges, all have their part to play in Toby’s climb up the greasy pole. Moments of courtroom drama, and many more moments of high fiasco, mark Toby’s initiation into the heady world of the Criminal Bar. So much to learn, so little time.  Will Toby succeed where so many have failed? He has the determination, he has the self-belief, but does he have what it takes to reach the pinnacle of the profession? Only time will tell.  One thing is certain – never a dull moment! Why be ordinary, Toby was once told, if you have it in you to be extraordinary?

This book is also FREE on kindle, starting tomorrow, again for five days.  Here is the link: http://amzn.to/1MFodkH.  Download, read and enjoy, and leave a comment.

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