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Archive for September, 2007

Police Community Support Officers…

The writer of The 3Rs – Reading, Ranting & Recipes Blog visits my blog from time to time. She is a magistrate and an enthusiastic blogger. I enjoy reading her posts…. I also cook from time to time!

On Friday 21st she wrote about Police Community Support Officers – with passion and authority. I wrote about PCSOs the other day. I am not a fan of these quasi-police. If I had seen the 3Rs post on Saturday when I had my own rant, I would have referred you to her view then. I won’t pre-empt your visit. Her ‘rant’ for 21st September is well worth reading. (I can’t seem to link to the specific post, so you will have to locate 21st September and scroll down to the rant.)

Good stuff. I agree with her view. Get rid of PCSOs and spend the money on real police.

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Nineteen to the dozen and other matters…

So…it was all above board when I woke up this morning, bright as a button, but I did find I was back to square one on the work front, which added insult to injury. And, while often keen to go against the grain, at least I was alive and kicking. Turned on the news. The balloon had not gone up and unless England beat Tonga in the rugby next week it will all be over bar the shouting and the RFU will find they have been barking up the wrong tree. No doubt, the RFU will find someone to carry the can. Had a square meal and settled down to pull my finger out on the work front.

Anyway… I seem to have the bit between my teeth on the blogging front at the moment and, grasping the nettle, showered, shaved and prepared to separate the wheat from the chaff on the matters needing my attention today. A friend called and said that he would be down in my neck of the woods and wandered if he could splice the mainbrace with me at lunchtime. I had to tell him, that as a rule of thumb, I would normally be happy to push the boat out, but today I had to lick a couple of things into shape, knuckle down, leave no stone unturned and deal with all my admin in one fell swoop. He seemed to understand, knowing that I don’t mince my words, and said that we could take a raincheck on it and come back to fight another day.

I told him that we could talk turkey and go the whole hog in a couple of weeks Anyway… there we are… without wishing to flog a dead horse, and get on your goat, I’m off , probably in the nick of time, and, when I have completed my labours, at the eleventh hour, get three sheets to the wind down at The Bollo. There we are…time to sling my hook…

Charon is thinking of applying to manage a football team. He feels that he would be able to communicate with the footballing journos without them being too gutted or turning himself into a laughing stock … after all, a week is a long time in sport.

[Red Herrings and White Elephants by Albert Jack is a most enjoyable re-read.]

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I’ve heard of the management technique ‘”giving someone a rocket up the arse” but it seems that this Taliban management consultant is taking the concept literally. Either that or the fun loving blokes on the left have taken up ‘Le vice anglais’ with a bit of extra ‘edge’.

Looking for a suitable reference to Le vice anglais, I searched Google and came up with an article written by Rowan Pelling in The Independent. Apparently Sir John Mortimer QC liked to be be spanked and wield a hairbrush from time to time. Excellent nonsense… and as we were told several times by a history master at the preparatory detention centre in Scotland where I was incarcerated for five years: Churchill stated of naval tradition: “Don’t talk to me about naval tradition. It’s nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.”

No wonder Europeans find the British odd. Long may that continue.

Continuing with the maritime theme…

The Royal Navy do things differently these days.  No longer is it “Flogging around the Fleet”… it is now “Blogging around the Fleet”.  The Captain of HMS Somerset now has his own blog, approved by the MoD, to inform the families of crew about daily life when they are at sea.  No operational details, of course – but I am sure the axis of evil and others will be reading it.

and… finally, on this theme…

The Sun informs us today: “TWO British yachting stars have had a bust-up over their boat’s name — Jackie Big Tits!”. World champions Steve Morrison and Ben Rhodes entered a regatta but were told by organisers the name had to go after a series of complaints. Steve said: “We’re gutted. We can’t just change the boat’s name — that’s what it’s called.”

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Google and other matters…

Gratified to discover (inspired to do so by Family Lore) from my blog stats – that those who type ‘How to become a gravedigger’ into Google are visiting my blog. I typed this rather bizarre question into Google myself and… lo and behold… Charon was a grave digger. (I was a grave digger at university – paid for my law studies / subsistence) Excellent.

***

And so… a short post before I start again on the law.

A future lawyer? Here is a story about a ‘smart kid’

TEACHER: Ellen, give me a sentence starting with “I”.
ELLEN: I is…
TEACHER: No, Ellen. Always say, “I am.”
ELLEN: All right… “I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.”

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Observations on a theme…

Late yesterday afternoon, shortly after 5.30, I went for a quick glass of Rioja at my usual filling station. Seated at a nearby table outside was a man in his mid to late forties who looked as if he had been an extra in the John Wayne film The Alamo. He was dressed in a cowboy shirt, leather waistcoat, jeans and had a huge cowboy hat on his head with a dead animal tail hanging off the back of the hat. Somehow the look did not quite work. It was not his mode of dress which was irritating but his behaviour. He was on a mobile talking corporate merde du boeuf about ‘deals’ in a particularly irritating and loud Northern Irish accent; completely unaware of the irritation he was causing to others. Why do people need to shout when they are on a mobile? I know the person they are talking to may well be a long way away, but….

I was on the point of asking him if he would mind talking more quietly when a friend of mine wheeled out of the pub, came over, and said he had had quite enough of “Hopalong Cassidy” and was off to another pub.

I started laughing – and every time I looked at the guy after that I just could not help myself. I think actors call it ‘corpsing’, but I just could not control my laughter. He gave me a few odd looks as he ‘moseyed’ off, still talking merde du boeuf into his mobile. I think my laughter was interrupting his concentration.

So… I thought I would theme my post for today, after overdoing the law earlier in the week, by dragging up a few other things which I find irritating – a la ‘grumpy old git’.

Let me start with estate agents… not just any estate agent, but those particularly irritating ones from F*xtons who drive around in Minis. Readers may well remember the expose of F*xtons by the BBC Whistleblower programme. I’m glad of the opportunity to bring it up again. Shake hands with one and count your fingers afterwards. I like to imagine a F*xtons estate agent, thinking of going for a drive in his / her Mini, saying to a colleague “Fancy going for a spiv?”.

Next… Community Service Support Police. Apart from being served with a notice to trim my hedge – which followed their visit to my Staterooms a couple of weeks ago. (The ‘notice requiring me to cut my hedge’ arrived yesterday morning) they seem to be pretty useless – See: the furore about the failure of two Community Support Officers in Manchester to rescue a young boy from a pond (They were not ‘trained’ to enter water). Many of the ones I see around West London don’t look that fit and I saw three of them the other day eating sausage rolls on a street corner – no doubt to build their energy levels to look for out of date tax discs and ‘horror hedges from hell’. Why can’t we have normal Police patrolling the streets? – a fairly rare sight these days.

Call centres have to be pretty near the top of my list. The other day I had to telephone a Gas supplier. The call went roughly as follows:

Ring ring…ring ring…ring ring… “Hello… you are through to XYZ Gas… your call it important to us but all our operators are busy so please hold.” [Muzak, muzak] “Your call is important, you are in a queue, please hold on. If you would like to pay your bill you may now do online at our website http://www.xyzgas.com.” [Muzak, muzak].

I looked at the timer on my phone. I had been holding for 8 minutes and 16 seconds.

“Hello… if you have a touchtone telephone Press the star button.” I did so…

“If you have moved press 1. If you wish to notify us that you wish to terminate your supply with us because you are moving press 2. If you wish to advise us that you are about to pay your bill press 3. If you wish to pay your bill press 4. If your matter relates to anything else please press 5.”

I pressed 5. “Thank you. Please type in the 10 digit account number at the top right hand side of your bill.”

I did not have my bill with me, just a letter about my supply meter reading. I was losing the will to live. My life was draining away. I felt like holding on and, when they answered, saying “If you would like me to talk to you Press 1. If you would like me to be less angry press 2. If you want me to behave like a psychopath press 3.”

I re-dialled, went though the procedure again after finding a bill, and eventually got through to a human being. I said: “Hello!…thank god you answered. Please don’t go away. I haven’t eaten for days or had any water because I have been trying to get through.” A very charming lady laughed and was extremely helpful – mercifully.

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The presumption of innocence…

The McCann case continues to attract tabloid and broadsheet interest – the latest story is that the McCann’s are prepared to take a lie detector test. I wrote a few days ago about my preference for the old fashioned idea – the presumption of innocence – and said that I am none to keen on trial by media.

I received this useful note today – which I have permission to post in full:

“The comments by Charon on the McCann case are quite right and that presumption of innocence should be maintained but so should the presumption of common sense.

The Portuguese criminal justice system is suffering from a hangover from the days of the Junta. The investigative process is shrouded in secrecy but remains fair non the less and suspects are still innocent until proved guilty. One thing that people should bear in mind is that here in the UK the parents of Madeline McCann would have been suspects from day one of the investigation and there would have been just as much media frenzy generated.

The CATCHEM database used by police on investigations into child disappearences indicates that 80% of missing children have been killed either by parents or close relatives and that the snatching of children by roving paedophiles is actually quite rare.

The media have been feasting off the idea that naming the parents as ‘arguido’ is something terribly unfair and that the Portuguese police are somehow corrupt or incompetant. This is a formality in the Portuguese criminal justice system and allows for questions to be put that are not allowed before the formal declaration that someone is a suspect. It is no different in principle to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act caution or the Miranda warning. Still why ruin a good story by telling it as it is!

We don’t formally allocate suspect status in our criminal justice systems but we do nevertheless treat all witnesses as in some way ‘suspect’ and the last person to see the victim alive is usually included in the list of suspects.

I teach criminal investigation and am very familar with the evidence gathering process in the UK, US and Europe. They are different in style but it is quite silly to think that the UK is somehow a more sensitive system.

There has clearly been a fiasco in the leaking of alleged DNA evidence detail to the press and this has hurt the family unecessarily. Our media is the culprit however as they have plenty of access to people who could have put them right on the significance (or lack of) of this from the outset.

Trust no one said the lonely cop!

Regards

Barry Turner
Lecturer in Criminal Investigation
Department of Forensic and Biomedical Sciences
University of Lincoln

***

Thank you for writing Barry. I am delighted to be able to state the following: Barry Turner has written the comparative forensic criminal evidence sections for the Wiley Encyclopedia covering most of the European jurisdictions

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On yer bike….

Doughty Street Chambers seems to be getting a bit of flack from the blogosphere following the imprisonment of Bruce Hyman for perverting the course of justice.

Victorian Maiden over at Ruthie’s Law, commenting on the press release Doughty Street Chambers issued yesterday, states: “as we are now told, Brucie was never actually a member there. He simply gave lectures at events organised and promoted by Doughty Street and worked from there. He resigned before he could be considered for membership and was only at Doughty Street as part of his training having completed a 12 month pupillage at Blackstone Chambers. Dear Diary, curiouser and curiouser. I was under the impression that a 12 month pupillage was a barrister’s training. Obviously, different standards apply in WC1.”

Anyway… be that as it may, it seems that Hyman got off fairly lightly and a number of barristers I have spoken to were a bit surprised at the fairly lenient sentence.

On to other matters…. the biker brief

I received a press release yesterday about ‘motorcycle mad Solicitor Daniella Tarbuck’ who has joined and joined city commercial lawyers Young and Lee.

As an enthusiastic biker (Geeklawyer and Ruthie also ride), I would certainly encourage Daniella to get on with passing her bike test… but would suggest, with some hesitation, that she may have more fun on a Ducati or a jap sportsbike than a Harley Davidson.

And for the England rugby fans – a new shirt for you to wear down at the pub, just to remind you of that glorious fiasco against South Africa.

Mind you, England cricket isn’t too good at the moment. Twenty Twenty is an enjoyable romp, but I prefer the longer versions of the game. Good to see that England management are still having to deal with cricketers doing inapprpriate things. Collingwood, the one day captain, was fined £1000 for nipping into a pole dancing club on the eve of a game. When he realised where he was, he left. Bring Back Captain Fredalo.

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