Saturday, 27 April 2013

More cruelty than justice in these prosecutions

Prosecutions that are unreasonably delayed often have more cruelty than justice in them; defendants may have lost access to evidence to disprove stale prosecutions, and with the exception of the abilities of new technologies such as DNA identification, if a plaintiff has a good cause of action they should pursue any claim with diligence and timeliness.  

The Charging of Max Clifford for alleged offences committed between 29 and 47 years ago brings to mind several similes which I cannot lawfully share with you, this matter now being sub judice and any comment a contempt of legal process, so please be careful if you leave your own comment.

The attempts in Germany to charge and jail 50 men who are thought to have served with the SS-Totenkopfverbände before they die of natural causes is an even more extreme example of justice delayed - in this case some 69 years after their membership, there being no actual evidence of any offences on which basis to charge them. 

My own view is that a 15 year limitation for prosecution of the most serious offences is appropriate, with a 5 year limitation on minor offences. But then I also believe that we will all be judged and have to answer for our lives.  

Friday, 26 April 2013

Two-Up

In case you missed it, yesterday was the day it was legal to play 'two up' across Australia, despite state laws prohibiting the unbelievably simple gambling game. ANZAC day is also the day on which 'gunfire' - coffee with rum - is traditionally drunk at breakfast. As the centennial anniversary of the War next year approaches, and the last survivors of those battles have been laid in their graves, one touching tradition continues to be observed on ANZAC day. 

At 5am yesterday at Hyde Park Corner the dawn 'stand to' was called, commemorating the call of Reveille in the still empty moments of first light that preceded so many attacks. Likewise in Australia and New Zealand, soldiers (largely) will have turned out at dawn to commemorate their predecessors. It started as a quiet, wordless gathering of old soldiers alone, before the later 11am commemorations involving family, dignitaries, bands and public occasion. Now it's become something of a matter of pride for those serving in the Australian and New Zealand armed forces to attend. 

Events a century ago have seared themselves into our collective psyche like no others; did they still remember the 30 years war in the same way in 1748? Or Crimea in 1954? There is something so epochal, so important about the Great War that we have determined collectively to remember it always. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

UK Left falls out of love with EU

I seemed to the UK left like they were so well suited; the EU was redistributionist on a massive scale, enforced an equality across whole nations, regulated the minutae of people's lives 'for their own good' and governed by centralist command-and-control with all the panoply of quotas, rationing and allocations. What was there not to like? 

Then the doubts started to creep in. The EU was favouring banks and big corporations at the expense of labour; crushing wage rates were being used to devalue the Euro. That fabled equality wasn't equality after all, but corporate homogenisation. And all that command-and-control meant that they had no say in decisions that were being made. Then there were all the little signs that maybe they didn't love us back; they wanted access to our bank account but wouldn't share theirs, there were secret meetings with other nations from which we were excluded. And they ate all the fish. And at first when they sent their mates round to stay for the night it was OK; we got some decent plumbing repairs and some good tiling out of it. But now they were sending some very odd sorts with no skills at all except emptying the biscuit tin. 

Earlier this week a Mr Barroso, an unelected functionary styling himself 'President' of an unelected cabal of functionaries calling themselves the 'European Commission' complained that his dream of an unelected Europe was being undermined by ordinary people committed to democracy. So when the Guardian published the results of a recent Europe-wide poll showing a continent wide slump in confidence in the European project, you might have expected the CIF comments to the piece to have been a rallying-call to back the Eurocrats. Not a bit of it. The comrades are truly out of love with Mr Barosso's European project. Some are positively savage. Many are satisfyingly staunch in their defence of democracy, if perhaps a little late at the table. All of which must now send Mr Miliband a-thinking. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Paying less, caring more

Do a rough mental calculation. Take half your annual Council tax and multiply it by four. The result is roughly what you're paying in tax each year to 'protect' other people's children. As Christopher Booker has catalogued in his Telegraph columns, the child 'protection' racket has grown into a national industry, fully sanctioned by populist horror at baby Peter, Victoria Climbie and all the other tragic victims of adult abuse. Your local council will close every library, see each street lamp doused and let rubbish pile-up in windrows on the streets before they will willingly cut a single pound from their child 'protection' budgets.

And yes, of course 'protection' is in quotes. Most children taken from their parents into the care of the State are at infinitely greater risk under the State's 'protection' than without it. Edward Timpson MP writes in the Telegraph this morning on the recent abuse of young girls by Moslem men in Rochdale, girls without exception in the 'care' of the State. Other enquiries are examining allegations that powerful Tory figures grazed à la carte on young boys being held in a State 'home'. Suicide and self-harm figures for children held by the State are abnormal. So yes, under the State's 'protection' is the very last place you'd want a child to be.

Timpson is acting the Muppet in calling for even more investment and greater spending to prevent another Rochdale. We need a radical alternative. We need to make major cuts to State spending, and child 'protection' is a massive one; we really have to face it. Cityunslicker writes on the C@W blog
However, there are no votes in this approach from a populace used to the Nanny state; so what to do? I can see the default position being minor cuts, more tax rises and a slow Japan style death with the national debt slowly climbing towards Italian and then Japanese levels whilst politicians hand out the treats to harvest votes.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Anyone but Blair

As reported in the Ephraim Hardcastle column in the Mail this morning, Baroness Thatcher's death leaves a vacancy in the Order of Merit, limited to twenty-four living holders. In fact, there is not one but two places vacant in the list - in which technologists, scientists and historians figure largely. Denying the atrocious Blair a place is a sine qua non, but who to appoint to block him?

Well, the waspish David Starkey must surely be a prime candidate (Antony Beevor and John Keegan may have to wait as Michael Howard holds the incumbent military historian spot). As must both Brian Eno and Peter Maxwell-Davies, there being at present no musicians in the Order. And if Tom Stoppard is a member, why not Alan Bennett? Or even David Hare?

There are clearly many millions of Britons more deserving of public honours than Blair, surely it can't be that hard to find just two?

Monday, 22 April 2013

French and German woes

The Telegraph terms it 'disillusionment' that has come to France, but it could as well be the realisation that the post-war model of ever-increasing national wealth funding ever-increasing social welfare has come to an end. The astonishment is that the character of French rural society has survived despite this post-war wealth rather than because of it; "That spirit of solidarité – the instinct of people to help their fellow man — runs wonderfully deep here. The sun is still shining and the trains still run on time. Entire villages conjure up feasts and sit down to them together, just as they always did". It is, in human history, more frequently adversity and shared hardship that forges bonds of community.

In Germany, the wheels are falling off the Industrial-Educational compact. If the essence of France is the bond between commune and terroir then the essence of Germany has been its system of industrial apprenticeships. As Der Spiegel reports, a dual-track system of vocational and academic educational streams has helped maintain Germany's competitive advantage. Now, just when the UK is moving to adopt the German model, Germany is moving to adopt, er, the British model. 

And in the UK it's with mixed emotions that I must report the demise of the Quantity Surveyor; India and Malaysia both still base construction mensuration on SMM7, published by the RICS, and consequently 'taking off' a bill of quantities from a set of drawings is something that can now be done in Mumbai or KL at a fraction of the cost of employing a chap from Richmond. Consequently, QSs have been re-inventing themselves as Project Managers or Cost Consultants, and the merest suggestion that they might usefully do a bit of taking-off is met with the expression of a surgeon asked to change the patient's bedsheets. Ah well.

Asparagus and Strawberries

Native, English Asparagus and native, English Strawberries, of the sort growing not in polythene tunnels but in the open air, are set to be delayed this year. Bad news for Asparagus, which can only be picked until mid-summer's day, but possibly good news for consumers, if a sudden glut of fat, pale spears hits the market and pushes prices down. But not, alas, for April - the one month in which in good years one can enjoy a dozen Colchester natives and a plate of fat spears on the same table. Ah, such is England.