A Mischief Of Magpies

If the Sun were the size of a beach ball then Jupiter would be the size of a golf ball and a Mischief of Magpies would be as small as a pea.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Detention without trial: The Anachronisms Strike Back

According to The Independent, Blair's supporters in the House of Lords are planning to try and push through an amendment to the Terrorism Bill to allow the police to hold people for 60 days before without charge.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, a Labour peer, makes the rather strange argument that the amendment says "'up to 60 days', not '60 days'," which would only make sense if she thinks that the police won't use the powers they're given. But if the police aren't going to use the powers, why provide them?

According to Shami Chakrabati, the general secretary of the civil rights pressure group Liberty:

This is politicking, because there was a government defeat and some people haven't got over the shock to their system that the belief in the rule of law actually triumphed in this case.

I'm repeating myself here, but holding someone without charge for 14 days is too long. 28 days is excessive.

60 days is extreme.

Save the children

Ruth Kelly, Minister for Education, has admitted that sex offenders are being cleared to work in schools.

According to her, this particular offender (Paul Reeve, a PE teacher who looked at child porn) posed "an acceptable risk" and was a "borderline case". Two statements that should never be used in this context. You can tell she has no children of her own if she thinks any risk at all is acceptable.

For those of you who don't know how this happened, here'a a little background information about the vetting process. It's clear that it wasn't actually the vetting process that was to blame. Two things were wrong in this case. Firstly, Reeve was only given a caution for his offence. Hello ? A slap on the wrists, don't-do-it-again for this kind of crime ? Secondly, someone decided NOT to put his name on the list of people banned from working in schools. They read the file and decided that it was alright for him to go and teach kids, to be left alone with other people's children. When this guy was vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau, the information was simply not there to disclose. Ruth Kelly has promised reforms to the vetting process but this won't achieve anything unless ministers are relieved of the power to interfere, as they are clearly not to be trusted with the very grave responsibility of protecting children. This is the job of the police and the Criminal Records Bureau.

Now the civil liberties brigade will jump in. There wasn't enough evidence to prosecute Reeve which is why he only received a caution. He wants to continue working as a teacher so he should have that right. I disagree completely. Do we have to wait until he actually gets caught abusing a child ? Yes, I accept that he may never actually do it but there IS a risk (and it is not "acceptable") and shouldn't we try to prevent this from ever happening ? If we have the opportunity to stop it, I think it is our responsibilty to do everything in our power. There are plenty of other jobs out there which do not involve working with children. Go and do one of them. Let these bleeding hearts consider how they would feel if one of their children was abused by one of these people cleared to work by the government.

It's frightening to read that this is not an isolated case. There are "a small number" (ha !) of similar people working in schools right now and the government, at this precise moment in time, have no idea exactly how many or where they are. Smacks a bit of negligence, don't you think ?

And Now For The Headline Act . . .

May I encourage everyone to vote for your favourite Daily Mail or Daily Express front page of the year? There's some absolute classics, from 'Murder By Playstation', through 'March Of The Gipsy Camps' to 'What Would Diana Say?' In the end, however, I had to plump for:

Just, wow.