THE VILLAGE SOAPBOX
Ron expresses strong views of the government's Tough on Crime startegy, on education standards and the growing curse of Sudoku
Tough on Crime
I am driven to return to one of my old hobby horses by a recent report of a trial: I believe there were three men on trial for murder, part way through the trial the judge discovered that the police had bugged a conversation between one of the accused and his lawyer, the police claimed this was by accident, they had been attempting to bug a conversation between the accused men. Nevertheless the judge promptly dismissed the case.
Now I am not sure of the justification for a rule which prevents bugging of private conversations between lawyer and client in such cases but, in this case, the judge's reaction seems to me to be excessive. Surely the aim in any trial should be to get to the truth, we should not encourage a system where the accused and their lawyer can cook up a defence based on a pack of lies. The innocent should have nothing to fear from others eavesdropping on their conversations with their lawyer, only the guilty would have cause to worry.
It is all part of the justice system in this country where the trial largely becomes an adversarial contest between the defending and prosecuting lawyers, defending lawyers see it as their role to get their client acquitted irrespective of whether or not they believe them to be innocent, getting at the truth becomes secondary. In the case reported three man may have got away with murder for no good reason.
GCSEs and A levels
Once again we have the annual claims and denials that standards have fallen. There can be little doubt in my mind that standards have fallen; this view was recently confirmed for me when it was reported that in the Business Studies 'A' level a mark of 47% was sufficient for the award of an A* and a mark of 16% in Maths attracted a grade C. On this evidence perhaps the examinations and assessments are not too easy, merely the grading scheme. I have heard that employers now regard anything below an 'A' as a failure. Is there any wonder?
It is not fair on our youngsters who put so much effort into their studies to have a system where their awards are undervalued in this way.
The Curse of Sudoku
For those of you not familiar with it, Sudoku is a type of puzzle regularly appearing in some newspapers in which a square is subdivided into nine smaller squares and each of these further subdivided into nine to give 81 small squares. The objective is to arrange the numbers 1 to 9 in vertical and horizontal columns, also with the numbers 1 to 9 in each of the larger squares. Approximately 30 numbers located around the grid are given and the task is to fill in the remainder of the 81 squares by logical deduction.
Some people with a dislike of numerical problems are deterred from attempting to solve these puzzles but they are not numerical problems, it would be possible to have the same puzzle using the letters A to I in place of the numbers one to nine. A major attraction of this type of puzzle is that, unlike crosswords and some others, it does not require any knowledge whatsoever.
There are varying degrees of difficulty but in principle they are straightforward, in practice there is the risk of making a mistake, which is not recognised immediately, that leads to a false end. It may then be difficult to retrace one's steps. If you are careful, however, you will get there in the end. 'In the end' is the key phrase, however, because, depending on the degree of difficulty, it just takes time and these puzzles are the biggest time waster after jigsaw puzzles that I know, but the curse is that each one represents a challenge that it is difficult to ignore. I suspect that since they were introduced they have led to a significant reduction in office productivity throughout the land.