THE VILLAGE SOAPBOX
Ron addresses those subjects that have made him angry this month and those which worries him
What has made me angry this month?
Every so often there is an instance of a decision by those administering justice that defies reason and I have had cause to complain in these columns before. Recently there was the case of a woman who sued her neighbour because he had erected a fence on her land, whilst the amount of land was small it had a significant impact on the gap between her house and the fence. The court ruled in her favour but, amazingly, she was ordered to pay the costs of the defendant as well as her own. The net result was that she was unable to pay and the final outcome was that she had her house possessed by bailiffs and, despite having won her case, she has lost her house.
Another case was that of a woman who at one time lived in a house jointly owned by her and her male partner. The man walked out, leaving the woman in the house with their two young children. She carried on for 17 years paying the mortgage and all household bills and maintenance. The man then re-appeared and took her to court to claim his half of the house. The court sensibly ruled that he was only entitled to 10% of the value. He then went to appeal and the appeal judges ruled that in their view of the law he is entitled to half.
Administering 'Justice' means being 'just' or 'fair'. Too often, it seems, those administering justice get too hooked up on the law and lose sight of justice.
Murders of young women.
People were appalled by the murders of five young women in Ipswich a couple of years ago. There were demands from many quarters for changes in the law and the way in which society dealt with drug addiction so that these sorts of murders could be avoided in future. I made the case in these columns for the legalisation of brothels and a new approach to drug addiction with the aim of keeping these young women off the streets and helping them back to a more normal life. Since then we have seen actions by the government that have made matters worse, they have done nothing to ease the problems of drug addiction and they have attempted to criminalise the use of prostitutes. They have encouraged the police to close down known brothels with the added incentive that they are permitted to seize money found on the premises and they have failed to take stronger action against the exploitation of women as sex slaves, especially immigrant women. Now we have another instance of a serial killer murdering these vulnerable young women. Quite apart from this instance of serial killing there has been a significant number of murders of individual young women since the Ipswich murders. The press and the media generally take great pains to tell us that the women were prostitutes, it is almost as though they regard them as a sort of sub-human category, they fail to stress that each one is a young woman, someone's daughter, that has become a victim, perhaps because of their own weakness, but a victim nonetheless.
What worries me this month?
Several of the policies of our new government worry me:
I am concerned that the proposal for increased civil liberties could lead to a reduction in the use of cctv cameras. I do not understand how these cameras interfere with my civil liberties and I am aware that they have made an invaluable contribution to the solving of many crimes.
I think the proposal that all schools may apply to become academies can lead to a certain amount of anarchy in our education system. The idea that any group can ask to set up their own school could lead to a proliferation of small schools with inadequate facilities and with covert admission policies. The lack of Local Authority supervision and reliance on OFSTED for inspection is worrying since currently the inspections can be as infrequent as five years and will be less frequent with an increase in the number of schools. There are many excellent LEA schools that parents are keen to retain but the extra support for academies could result in those schools suffering a reduction in their finances.
The proposal for elected police commissioners worries me greatly also, as does the lack of clarity and common sense emerging on the question of future energy supplies, especially in relation to nuclear power.
What has irritated me this month?
The pomp and arcane proceedings associated with the opening of parliament.
The pussyfooting over the question of banning the burqa. There is no question in my mind that any one that ventures out into society should not be permitted to conceal their identity by hiding their face.
The recent killings in Cumberland, when Derrick Bird went on an orgy of murder, has focused attention once again on the law relating to guns. I think it would be wrong to overreact with proposals to introduce new laws that are much more strict, but it does seem as though it would not be unreasonable to look again to see if there is scope for some tightening of the rules. At present I believe it is relatively easy to obtain a shot gun licence, even for someone as young as fifteen. Once obtained it is valid for five years and, as far as I know, it permits the licence holder to have an unlimited number of guns and an unlimited quantity of ammunition. It would seem that there could be some justification for introducing tighter checks on the person's suitability to hold a licence and to make checks more frequently. Perhaps too there is a need to set a limit on the number of guns and to raise the age limit.
The use of guns by criminals has increased in recent years, with sawn off shot guns being a popular choice. The present policy with regard to arming police, that is to have a limited number of firearms officers, usually in special squads that can be called upon in an emergency, is becoming less and less appropriate. The time delay involved in waiting for the firearms squad could be disastrous and it seems to me that it may be time to abandon the long cherished idea that it is not necessary to arm our police and bring ourselves into line with most other nations.