A CHILD IS BORN

More depressing statistics hit the headlines. We are told that children of drug addicted parents, single or otherwise, are taking drugs when they’re barely into their teenage years. Kids of ten and eleven, and sometimes even younger, are dabbling with cannabis and alcohol as a precursor to harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

I have a confession to make. I have never used illegal drugs. I’ve never seen the need for them. I enjoy a good drink from time to time, and I’m an inveterate cigar smoker when permitted, but not so much as a joint has passed my lips in all my years of mortal coil, inhaled or otherwise. It’s not because of a privileged upbringing, as thousands of my equally privileged peers indulged, and it’s not for the lack of opportunity. I was around in the States during those heady ‘flower power’ days in the late sixties, the Chicago student riots of ’68, Woodstock and San Francisco, where we all wore flowers in our hair and the whole of North America, with one obvious exception, was stoned.

But enough of me, if that’s possible, and back to drug addicted parents and their drug addicted kids. In my family practice, the contrast between natural and adoptive parents has always amazed me. Within reason, and reason is stretched to the limit, natural parents can do what the f**k they like with their own kids, but adoptive parents are vetted, checked, assessed, interrogated, vetted again, and then, after a period of intense reappraisal, they may, if they’re lucky, make it onto a social services approved waiting list.

We don’t let young or old alike simply climb behind the wheel of a car and drive off into the blue yonder. They are tested on their theory, and then their practical aptitude, for the great adventures that lie ahead. If they fail, they have to retake the tests, again and again, until they reach the desired proficiency. It may not guarantee an accident free driving life, but at least it gives them a head start, and the rest of us some reassurance.

So why not parenting? Why not put ‘natural’ parents through the same hoops as adoptive parents? In my New Jerusalem, parents, single or otherwise, would be required to take a ‘parenting’ test. Habitual drug users would not be allowed to conceive until they were clean for at least two years. Prospective parents would have to pass theory and practical exercises in ‘parenting’ skills. They would have to show the necessary commitment to raising their children in the best interests of the children, with the love and support essential to give them the best possible start in life.

And if these ‘natural’ parents were to conceive without the required certificate of parenting competence, their offspring would be taken away from them and given to fully qualified ‘through the hoops’ adoptive parents, who would provide them with the love and support they crave and deserve. Spare us from another generation of drug addicts!

Postscript: At the risk of saying: “I told you so!” comes the news today [17th March 2008] that of the three children of drug addicted parents, one, aged two, has died, and the others, aged three and three months respectively, are seriously ill after swallowing their parents’ methadone prescription which, apparently, they mistook for cough medicine. How on earth does a three month old baby swallow anything not given to him by an adult? The world has gone mad!

ALL IN THE MIND

Who would have thought it? Certainly not me, living as I do in the real world of bad or inadequate parenting, failing schools, lack of discipline, lack of self esteem, lack of self motivation, and a total lack of a work ethic. So when these products of a failed social system go off the tracks, and I’m referring to feral youths from the bottom of the aquarium, the National Academy of Sciences, based in Melbourne Australia, have come up with a new defence to antisocial behaviour.

“May it please Your Honour, my client has an enlarged amygdala!” Developing this theme, learned counsel will go on the explain that “as children enter adolescence, their brains (sic) undergo radical rewiring to help them cope with all the changes their bodies are undergoing, including puberty and hormones.” With me so far? Then the Academy totally loses the plot by continuing: “Human brains continue to develop into a person’s early twenties, and many of the inbuilt neural safeguards against losing their tempers have yet to be put in place.” As I read this, I burst out laughing!

The problem about Academia is that, by their very definition, they lose touch with reality. It’s all graphs, and monitored behaviour, and smoke and mirrors. And sadly, nobody takes them seriously.

Kids need boundaries, not brain scans. They need to be taught the difference between right and wrong, and they need discipline to reinforce this message. With the collapse of the family unit, the onrush of a secular society, and the abject failure of comprehensive education in this country, these kids from the bottom of the aquarium stand no chance at all, whatever the size of their amygdala.

If I am expected to take this ‘research’ seriously, then why haven’t we been confronted with this problem since the dawn of time? Why is antisocial behaviour a phenomenon of the last ten years if enlarged amygdala have been to blame?

To a cynic such as I, there’s a sneaking suspicion that Academia feels obliged to repay the large grants of public money by coming up with something, anything, to justify their continued existence. I have real doubts that this research will do anything to tackle antisocial behaviour, and by losing ourselves in the smoke and mirrors, those of us who should be setting an example are simply reneging on our responsibilities. In the words of the ditty:

“See the happy moron,
He doesn’t give a damn,
I wish I were a moron,
My God, perhaps I am.”

ATTENTION STRASBOURG ICI NOUS VENONS

There are times I despair of the European Court of Human Rights. Actually, that’s not what I mean. There are times I despair of the arguments used by so called Human Rights lawyers in this country and elsewhere, at great public expense, to persuade the Court of the wisdom of their argument which, to the rest of us, is unattractive at best, and specious at worst.

I refer to a pending application to the ECHR by two English lawyers who will argue that the retention of DNA, or as one described it, the “biometric data” of those arrested but not charged, is in breach of their right to respect for private and family life, under Article 8 of the Convention. To any right minded person, lawyer and layman alike, this is complete rubbish, but there are some in the legal profession who elevate complete rubbish to an art form, and this argument is no exception. And quite how this interferes with their right to respect for private and family life is beyond me, the more so if they take the time and trouble to read Article 8 (2).

I am in favour of a national DNA database for obvious reasons. As to the guarantee under the Convention of my right to respect for private life, I suppose this depends from where and in what manner my DNA sample is taken. That said, I have nothing to fear, unless I go on to commit a crime, in which case, I can hardly complain if I am charged and convicted. Any misuse of my DNA can, and should, be protected by the State and the domestic Courts. I suggest a quango be set up immediately and chaired by me, so that I can draw down generous expenses for my family, my mistress, and of course, the cost of running a second home.

The problem with the ECHR is that they sometimes come out with ridiculous judgments, which they expect to be taken seriously. A further problem is that we, in this country, tend to take them seriously as well, which leads to the theatre of the absurd.

I like to think that the ECHR was conceived to protect the interests of minorities within its jurisdiction. If it wasn’t, then it should have been. One immediately thinks of displaced minorities in the aftermath of the war, who needed protection against a background of political instability. But the problem with the ECHR is that one size fits all, and we’re all swept along in the folly of it all.

We should do what the French and Italians do when they don’t like a judgment. Simply ignore it, and get on with business as usual, using common sense and fairness. That’s the best yardstick of a civilised society, and one that doesn’t need to be determined by the ECHR or any other ‘paralegal’ institution, no matter how well intentioned.

POSTSCRIPT

I’m flattered to read that David “Don’t” Pannick, the ascetic scribe for Law Times [11th March] is supporting my position on this subject. Welcome aboard, and better late than never! By the by, has anybody seen hide or hair of Frances Gibb lately? She’s supposed to be The Times legal eagle, but of late, she’s become all but invisible. Has she been given the heave ho? If so, break the news to me gently!

Maison Rouge

When the Almighty created Adam and Eve, in His infinite wisdom He built in the necessary procreative tools to ensure there would be lots of little Adams, Darrens, Evitas and Traceys frolicking through the Garden of Eden, all living the life of Riley till Kingdom come. Of course, as we well know, the serpent put his oar in, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But whilst the Almighty, again in His infinite wisdom, factored into woman a procreative inhibitor, known as the headache, thus giving her the occasional night off, no such inhibitor was factored into Adam. Headache be damned, if Eve wasn’t in the mood, no cold shower and a good book at bedtime was going to satisfy his carnal lust, and being weak and mortal, his fancies turned elsewhere.

Steve Wright, not that one, the other one, has just been convicted of the murders of five Ipswich prostitutes, and beneath the brutality and the tragic circumstances of the girls who were needlessly killed whilst offering their sexual favours, lies a deeper malaise which should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Man’s carnal lust has been around since the dawn of time, as have prostitutes to service his needs. These are two incontrovertible facts, and so long as “Polite Society” ignores them, there will be more Steve Wrights, and more needless and tragic deaths. Pretending something isn’t there won’t make it go away.

So I ask, in a spirit of enquiry, why not have legalised brothels? The advantages to both clients and providers are obvious. The prostitutes can ply their trade in a comfortable and controlled environment, where they will be well protected. No need to expose themselves on dirty, unlit streets at the mercy of sexual predators. Clean and infection free bedrooms would be made available, clients would be vetted to ensure no foul play, and all the necessary protective devices would be in place. Clients would also benefit, refreshments made available, and sexual gratification guaranteed. And if the client did prove a threat, a big burly bouncer would be on hand at the press of a button. And there’d be no shortage of job applications to fill that particular post!

The only problem, as I see it, is the use of the word “brothel.” It conjures up a sordid image, and the literati among you will know it derives from the Old English, meaning “go to ruin.” Not the image I seek to cultivate in my brave new world. So I suggest a competition to choose an appropriate name, no previous experience necessary, perhaps using a premium number phone line which I shall set up as a matter of urgency, with the winner getting first crack of the whip!

To start you off, how about “Maison Rouge?” or “Maison Fanny Colline?” Over to you!Let’s do the decent thing, put aside our social inhibitions and prejudices, acknowledge the reality of the situation, and do what we can to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society from sexual predators, and from themselves.

THE LUNATICS ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM

So it’s official – the lunatics are running the asylum! I refer, of course, to the news that unqualified Crown Prosecution Service “paralegals” are now to be entrusted with the conduct of summary trials in Magistrates Courts, as well as the more routine applications and guilty pleas in low grade crime.

To those of us toiling away at the coalface, it comes as no surprise, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Soon, these unqualified “paralegals” will be conducting Crown Court prosecutions along with their more senior ‘in house’ colleagues, as they grope uneasily from one crisis to another in the interests of justice. Next they’ll be wearing wigs and gowns and calling each other “my learned friend,” a misnomer if ever there was one, and the independent Bar will be helpless to stem the tide, just as they have been since the inception of publicly funded crime.

It comes as no surprise because this has been the agenda of successive governments since the blessed St. Margaret appointed Lord Clash of McFern as her curmudgeonly Lord Chancellor in 1986. His brief, which he accepted with typical Presbyterian relish, was to reduce the legal aid burden on the taxpayer at any price, and the price was economy, stupid, at the expense of quality of service.

As it was then, is now, and publicly funded crime is budget driven. The government is a monopoly provider, so they set the agenda and the terms of engagement, and if the legal profession don’t like it, they can lump it. So a word to the wise – if you can find a proper day job, go for it, and go for it now!

Pay peanuts and you get monkeys, and sadly in our profession, we have a cartload and more at the Treasury’s beck and call. Good luck, and may the road rise with you!

But I have a sneaking suspicion there’s another, hidden, agenda in all this. The facts speak for themselves. The prisons, police and court cells are full to bursting, so what better way to reduce overcrowding than to enrol “paralegals” to prosecute? Don’t forget that 80% of all criminal cases are determined in the Magistrates Courts, so with the “paralegals” at the helm, the conviction rates will reduce to a trickle, and at a stroke, our lords and masters will have achieved a number of memorable goals – they’ll get bargain basement prosecutors on minimum wage, a greatly reduced prison population, so fewer prison officers and support staff, all of whom can be made redundant, leaving only the editor of the Daily Mail to fulminate. A small price to pay, and with £110 billion on the Northern Rocks, a price worth paying!