HANG ‘EM HIGH

First things first.  Very exciting news.  Following my blog (Jack It In) about the folly of prosecuting journalists involved in alleged misconduct in public office, the good news is that the CPS have taken on board my submissions and will not seek a retrial following the successful appeal of one of the journalists. The bad news is that Ms. Saunders, the misdirected Director of Public Prosecutions, has taken charge of an intensive review of all similar prosecutions in the light of the critical judgment by the Court of Appeal.  She and a team of lawyers will be working through the Easter break to decide whether to proceed with a further eight pending trials.  I can hardly contain my excitement! If I were she, and I am not, I’d take my advice and jack it in, lock stock and barrel.  It is doing her and the CPS no credit whatsoever in trying to argue the unarguable, and with a total bill to date of £20 million, time to cut and run.

As the countdown to the General Election gathers pace (yawn yawn), the two main parties vie with each other over crime and punishment. It is a sad reality that so-called right minded people, also known as middle England, see successive governments as soft on crime, and demand ever more draconian measures to punish offenders.  It is also a sad reality that rehabilitation is a dirty word, as it is akin to going soft on crime, and is definitely not a vote winner.

The statistics are instructive. When this coalition government was cobbled together in May 2010, the prisons were grossly overcrowded, with a total of 85600 prisoners serving  custodial sentences.  The coalition government undertook to reduce the prison population to save costs, and 80000 was the primary target.

There are essentially two obvious ways to achieve this objective: the first is to send fewer people to prison, and the second is to release them under licence into the community once they have served the custodial element of their sentence. Neither is working, as the prison population is as high as ever.  All the problems associated with overcrowding are still with us, and still middle England bays for blood, or at least longer and longer custodial sentences.

My old chum Harry Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice and now Lord Woolf of Barnes, is scathing about successive governments and their refusal to tackle these problems.  He is reported as saying: “Most politicians believe there are no votes in prisons and mistakenly think there are votes in being toughest on crime.”

It is worth remembering that a civilised society is judged by the way it treats its most disadvantaged citizens.  Overcrowding, poor hygiene, lack of facilities, violence, little or no rehabilitation and more, all combine to create a flawed system where the rate of re-offending is frighteningly high, and so it goes on, a self-perpetuating shambles which, according to Lord Woolf, no politician wants to address.

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE

So it’s official, or not, as the case may be. Following a thorough and searching investigation, Jeremy Clarkson has been shown the garage door, and will no longer present the Top Gear programme which, by all accounts, has been a drive-away success over many years.

I have to confess I have never watched a single episode, but that of itself has not dented its popularity.  I cannot understand the fascination of watching fast cars being driven very fast indeed, so it will come as no surprise that I haven’t watched one single Grand Prix race.  What’s the point?  A dozen or more very expensive cars driving round and round a circuit lap after lap, and for the most part, being driven by complete airheads.  Lewis Hamilton is a case in point, sporting an ill-fitting baseball cap, girlie earrings and dark glasses with mirrors inside.  Surely somebody knows him well enough to give him a few words of advice.

But so it seems in the world of sport, with professional performers doing what comes naturally and rather well, but when asked to put two sentences together, they becomes airheads.  Wayne Rooney and that bloke from Liverpool SFA spring to mind.

Nobody can accuse Jeremy Clarkson of being an airhead.  Petrol Head yes.  But his tiff with the programme’s producer, which varies in its narration day by day, is regarded by Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the BBC’s Director-General, as the end of the road (if you’ll forgive the pun).  Hall and his advisers have reacted with predictable political correctness, in the result that a programme earning the BBC in the region of £50 million a year will either disappear altogether, or hit the skids with another presenter.  And if the latest reports are to be believed, the new revamped show will need three presenters, as James May and Richard Hammond may follow Clarkson into the sunset and a new lucrative career elsewhere (Hello Rupert Murdoch).

Lord Hall, who has completely lost the plot, said that the BBC was looking to “bring Top Gear back in good shape” next year, and somebody called Kim Shillingford has drawn the short straw and faces the impossible task of rescuing it.  Why bother?!?  The deed is done and the dye is cast:

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

In short, Lord Hall has blown a gasket.

But if this sorry sack of squirming emotions were not enough, Plod might become involved.  OMG! Run for the hills!

Back to the plot.  A spokesman from North Yorkshire Police, using the English language in a way that only Plod knows how,  is quoted as saying: “The information will be assessed  appropriately and action will be taken where necessary.”  What complete drivel!  Why can’t they speak English like what the rest of us speak?  And correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t Rochdale and Rotherham and Hillsborough on their patch? And wasn’t it the Yorkshire Plod who invited the BBC to join them on a raid of Cliff Richard’s apartment in Surrey?  So much to do, so little time.

But you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t stop there. There will need to be a case conference, chaired, yes, you guessed it, by the redoubtable Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions and ever on the lookout for the main chance. Another celebrity to add to her collection, such as it is. It  has all the ingredients of a high fiasco, with Chief Plod of Yorkshire getting into bed with Ms. Saunders, figuratively speaking of course, but not until he has her written consent and has satisfied himself that she is not unduly under the influence of alcohol to the extent that her consent might not have been freely given.

If Jeremy pleads guilty to giving his totally useless and whingeing producer a good smack, then not even Ms. Saunders can cock it up. With a conviction safely under her belt, and thousands of wasted hours by Plod, it will be out onto the court steps for a few well chosen bons mots and before you can say res ipsa loquitur it will be Dame Saunders, honoured for services to…….er?

To dream the impossible dream!