MAY IT PLEASE YOUR LORDSHIP

It’s exciting, it’s here, and it’s the publishing sensation of the year!  I  refer, of course, to MAY IT PLEASE YOUR LORDSHIP by Toby Potts, just released by Monday Books, and now available online with Amazon, where else, and all reputable bookstores.  In these gloom and doom times with the legal profession under attack by the Government as never before, there is no better tonic than a good laugh, and MAY IT PLEASE YOUR LORDSHIP provides it in spades.  Don’t just take my word for it, buy a copy!

Briefly, the book recounts the trials and tribulations of Toby Potts, a young barrister starting out in the profession, and ready to climb the greasy pole to fame and fortune, or so he hopes.  It’s one of the funniest books you’ll ever read, and although a good book is not just for Christmas, it will make an ideal Christmas present.

Even better news!  This is the first in a series of Toby Potts books, with the second, entitled ORDER IN COURT, due for publication next summer.

Buy, enjoy, and thank me later!

HELL ON WHEELS

I have never been a fan of cycling.  I tried it once, came home with a sore bottom, and determined never to repeat the experience.

However, I appear to be in a minority, judging from the number of cyclists I overtake with difficulty on a daily basis.  Besides the state of the art cycle, it is de rigueur to dress the part.  This comprises a helmet, gaily coloured shirt and tight fitting lycra shorts, and as I follow them, my eyes water.  I mean, talk about squeaky bums!

There was a recent national campaign to make us motorists more aware of cyclists, and by inference, more considerate. The campaign trotted out some alarming statistics about accident black spots, and the number of cyclists who are killed or seriously injured on our roads.  Some metropolitan areas have created cycle lanes, with London in the forefront, and second only to the People’s Republic of China, where only the corrupt can afford cars.

But whilst I like to think that I am aware of cyclists, and considerate towards them, this should be a two way street.  More times than I can remember, cyclists seem to think they are a law to themselves.  They stick their lycra clad bottoms in the air and expose their thinking parts.  Not all have visible lights at night, and a sizeable minority have only a passing acquaintance with the Highway Code.  They seem to think the Highway Code only applies to motorists.  They weave in and out of traffic with impugnity, and frequently ignore traffic signals.

One such cyclist is reported as having gone through a red light at 26 mph and knocked down and seriously injured a pedestrian.  The pedestrian suffered a brain injury, and will never be the same again.  The only warning the cyclist gave as he shot through the lights was to shout “Oi, move!”

The cyclist was prosecuted and was fined!  Yes, fined!  His victim will remain permanently injured.

Back to the motorist.  If a motorist had driven through a red light in the same circumstances, he would be facing a term of imprisonment, and rightly so.

Last year a cyclist rode at speed along the pavement, another flagrant breach of the Highway Code, knocked down and killed a pedestrian.  At least he went to prison.

So I repeat, awareness and consideration towards other road users should be a two way street.  There shouldn’t be one law for cyclists and another for the rest of us.  And where a cyclist has been convicted of a criminal offence, his cycle should be confiscated and trashed.  It might not stop him cycling, but it might make him think twice before breaking the law again.

MUMBO JUMBO

The American film actor Tom Cruise is in the news, as his wife has filed for divorce.  One of the grounds cited in her petition is Tom’s membership of the “Church” of Scientology, which she believes is creepy and strange beyond belief, and she doesn’t want their six year old daughter Suri dragged into the cult.  I ask, in passing, how do you come up with a name like Suri?  What does it mean, and will Suri thank her parents when she grows up?  Suri not! But then, I heard the other day of a boy child being named Paddington, so I suppose anything goes.

Without wishing to appear flippant, I read that the Church of Scientology believes that much of our galaxy was once ruled by a tyrant called Xenu, whose reign lasted eighty trillion years.  Some rule!  Earth was called Teegeeack, so there you have it!  The guardians of this Holy Grail are called Sea Orgs, and no, I’m not making it up. I haven’t discovered yet if Xenu is still around or if he’s been defeated by the Sea Orgs, but perhaps it doesn’t matter.

As western civilisation moves increasingly towards a post Christian society, many of the shibboleths associated with traditional religions are being questioned as never before.  This very day we are told that scientists have, or may have, discovered the God particle, also known as the Higgs boson, and frankly, who gives a flying fuck?

I enjoy the occasional outing to my local church, as I am Anglican by birth and confirmation, and I take this outing as an opportunity for a short period of quiet meditation away from the cares of the world.  I suppose if Xenu asked me why I believed that the son of a humble carpenter from Nazareth was actually the Son of God, I might be stuck for an answer, as it is improbable in the extreme, or so the Jews thought two thousand and twelve years ago.  The answer I would give is that this is my faith and my belief, and the Sea Orgs would give me much the same answer in defence of their Church.

I suspect that the fear expressed by Mrs. Cruise is the controlling nature of the Scientology cult and all that goes with it.  Indoctrination is a powerful tool which can be used for good or evil, as history relates. So I’m with Mrs. Cruise.  Let Suri grow up in innocence, and when she is old enough to make an informed judgment, if she wants to join the Church of Scientology, then good luck to her. 

COULDN’T CARE LESS

The scandal of child care in the community makes for bleak reading, and thanks to determined investigative reporting, light is finally being shone into the darkest recesses of the worst of these care homes.

The catalogue of abuse and exploitation, both sexual and financial, is almost breathtaking, and frankly, incredible.  Vulnerable children are routinely sent miles from friends and family, with Rochdale in Greater Manchester the most favoured destination.  Astonishingly, Rochdale has a total of 47 care homes, four more than the 14 inner London boroughs combined.

The profit motive is an equal disgrace.  Many of these care homes are privately owned and operated, and by all accounts, making obscene sums of money out of the misery of these vulnerable children.  The average cost to the taxpayer per child is £200,000 per annum! By way of comparison, this is more than six times the cost of educating a child privately at Eton College, the Alma Mater of David Cameron.

But it’s the sexual exploitation of young girls in care homes which beggars belief.  Inquiries reveal that 21 per cent of sexually exploited children are in the care system.

The final disgrace is the attitude of the police.  Routinely, when these exploited children made complaints, their complaints were not taken seriously, and they were sent back into the arms of their abusers.  In the recent past, and after the arrest of a group of Asian men of Pakistani origin living in Rochdale, one of the abused girls was visited by the police for the purpose of taking a statement.  When she was asked if she knew why they were there, she replied: “Oh yes, you’re the same people I complained to over three years ago, and you didn’t believe me, and you did nothing to help me, and you did nothing to stop it”.

The sad reality is that even as I write, the exploitation continues, albeit more discreetly, but it continues.  And the government’s response?  Let’s have a review, and a report, with luck, by December!  They have also ordered a report, yes, another one, from the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, who is due to complete her inquiries by 2013!

In the meantime, little or nothing is being done to help these children as a matter of urgency.

The measure of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable.  For the time being, it is a very sick society indeed!

TWITTER BEWARE

At first blush, Twitter is one of those social networking sites specifically designed for Twits, and by all accounts, living up to their name.  They use the site to leave offensive messages which in any other medium would be illegal, and in some cases criminal, yet they seem to think they have carte blanche to write what they like.  They are restricted to 140 words, but that doesn’t stop them from purveying their prejudices in spades.

Twitter seems to exercise very little control over their users or the content of their messages.  They argue that they don’t have the time (or inclination) to monitor daily use, which on an average day can reach several thousand, if not more. But the argument that they cannot slay the monster they have created is a feeble excuse in the great scheme of things.

There are times when enough is enough, and the strong arm of the law is brought to bear on some of these Twits.  One in particular is Paul Chambers, who found himself in court and convicted under the Communications Act 2003. In his Tweet, he threatened to blow his local airport sky high if they didn’t get their act together, and he is awaiting the outcome of his appeal even as I write.

His appeal has been taken up by Al Murray, a fairly robust comedian, and Stephen Fry, who is…er…Stephen Fry, known to many without really knowing why.  With friends like these, who needs enemies, as the expression goes.

I also wonder how these offensive tweets are discovered.  Is there some poor news hound in a back office in Wapping, who is given the luckless task of trawling through Tweets to find something worth publishing?

Al Murray has written an impassioned article railing against the legal system and invoking the Magna Carta and freedom of speech.  According to the robust Murray, the offensive tweet is akin to “pub banter”, but that cut no ice with the court that convicted Chambers. The law is the law.  If you commit yourself to print, whether on a blog, a Tweet, or a website, where it can be found, then you have nobody but yourself to blame when the shit hits the fan.

It may well be that Paul Chambers didn’t mean a word of what he tweeted, and his conviction has all the hallmarks of overkill.  He may win his appeal, but there is a salutary lesson to be learned by all Twits.  Keep your opinions to yourself if they are likely to cause offence. 

However, I am persuaded by my daughter Sarah that when used responsibly, Tweets are a good way of communicating with a wider readership and generating a meaningful dialogue.  There are times when Sarah shows wisdom beyond her years, so I’m going to immerse myself in the heady waters of Twittering, and I will report back on my experiences.  Who knows, it may not be too late to teach an old dog new tricks, so watch this space, and if you get a Tweet from me, be surprised and delighted in equal measure.