Archive for October 5th, 2010

Ken Clarke proves you can do more with less

Telegraph (where else?): Three cheers for Ken Clarke. In a strange conference in which hopes far exceed the money needed to underpin them, he has come up with the best idea to emerge from the platform.

Saying that prisoners should work a 40-hour week for the minimum wage makes sense on every level. Victims would be rewarded from the proceeds, cash sent home to families and taxes paid. The iniquity of having fit and healthy young people sitting idly in their cells at the taxpayers’ expense currently instils the idea that it’s fine not to earn a living.

Now, assuming the scheme gets off the ground, all that is going to alter. There are already good examples in British prisons. High Down runs a gourmet restaurant, The Clink, where prisoners are trained up for the catering trade and given hope of a good job on their release. Wansdworth does IT, bricklaying, plastering and shoe repairs. Now it’s up to Mr Clarke and individual governors to build on that model.

Normally, I’d be quite happy to admit that the Howard League (referred to in the article)  comes up with good ideas – but I really am not sure that this plan will work.  There are Union issues.  There are Employment Law issues, There are Human Rights Act issues.  There are administrative, supervision and …. well… there are issues…. possibly issues which may have ESCAPED… Mr Clarke’s attention… if you will forgive the pun.

The mantra is… GET EVERYONE BACK TO WORK…. unfortunately… there are 470,000 vacancies at the moment (apparently) … but there are a lot of unemployed (Millions of ’em) …. and MORE to come?… so 85,000 prisoners…. who will want/not want to work… could be a problem.

But.. as I said in my last post… happy to be proved wrong

Perhaps these working prisoners could be given the vote?  see Jailhouse Lawyer’s blog for all the gen on prisoner votes and UK compliance with European Court orders!

And… while you are at it… from Jailhouse Lawyer… this…?



And… for you music lovers out there… here is Elvis Clarke QC, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice,  singing… what else?…. JAILHOUSE ROCK

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I am reasonably certain we can trust the judges to determine a matter based on the evidence put at trial – but can we be so certain about jurors?  It would seem not and the judges, while directing juries not to look at Google, The Daily Mail, Facebook, twitter and other information on the net, seem to have given up the ghost.  This does not bode well for our ‘hallowed jury trial system’ according to an interesting article in The Guardian this morning.

The Guardian reports: “Judges are “giving up” trying to stop juries using Google, Facebook and Twitter to access potentially false and prejudicial information about defendants, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, has warned.

High-profile criminal trials, such as that of Baby P, have been put at risk by material posted abroad but widely available online – and Macdonald admits that the consequences can be serious.

But although policing the accuracy of information on the internet is “an unmanageable task”, Macdonald said, it should not invalidate a trial if jurors are found to have conducted online research while a case is in progress.

“This is a serious point and we struggled with it, in criminal justice, for years trying to protect juries from what they might read about a case on the internet, material they weren’t supposed to know about while they were trying it,” Macdonald said.

“In essence, we’re finally giving up and just concluding that you have to expect juries to try cases fairly and they’re told to do that so I think this is a serious issue around privacy, because policing the internet is really, I think, an unmanageable task.

One of the ironies of freedom of speech and the internet making information more widely available, is the very real possibility that such freedom and freely available material can prejudice justice.  Can anything be done other than asking reasonable jurors to behave honestly and fairly?

Ken Clarke to unveil plans for prisoners to work 40-hour week

The Guardian: Justice secretary to end enforced idleness in jails with some of cash earned going to victims

Political Conferences tend to be rather like X-Factor on television but for a specialised audience,  and the speakers tend not, usually, to be subjected to a great deal of criticism by the attendees.  Grandstanding is very much part of the ethos and ‘staff of life’ at these conferences so I am not sure whether we should take too seriously ideas being put forward by Ken Clarke,  Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice,  to put prisoners to work, give them 20 quid and plough the rest of the money into the system to pay for their detention and into a compensation fund for their victims.  Sounds good – but, I suspect, this little wheeze will not be a main feature on the Ministry of Justice website in twelve months or so and will be consigned to the Google search archive. We shall see.  For what it is worth – the thoughts of Chairman Ken are reported in the Guardian article.  I’m not going to bother to quote – because this appears to be a bit of ‘red meat’ being chucked to carnivorous Tories who miss the old days of flogging, hanging and deportation to Australia and Benidorm. As always, I could be wrong.  We shall see.

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As usual, I flinch not and when it comes to reporting I do so from the comfort of my desk at my window overlooking The Thames.  I’ve not really ever got the point of the need to stand in a puddle while reporting on floods, stand about in a fur coat outside BBC television Centre when it snows, or, indeed, stand outside Parliament while reporting on matters political.

So… on that premise, I bring you news of the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham – described yesterday on TV… or was it radio… or even ‘pub talk’? ….  as Britain’s second city; once the very heart of industrial and manufacturing Britain but now just a large car park with a lot of restaurants.

Day One involved George Osbore – who seems to find it difficult to shrug off his childhood name of ‘Gideon’ –  giving us the low down on his latest well thought out plan to get rid of Child Benefit for everyone earning more than £44k – giving rise to the wonderful anomaly that a single person earning £45k with children will lose child benefit,  but middle class couples who both earn less than £44k – but between them rake in £87k – can continue to get it. Needless to say Mumsnet has not been overcrowded by couples earning less than £44k.

I don’t suppose that my tweet, offering advice, was that helpful…

The Daily Mail, The Sun and other sundry news providers raged about the injustice and I enjoyed a few happy moments (not blessed with the pleasure of having *greedy, venal, precocious and spoiled little darlings*) watching the sheer terror on the faces of various members of the middle classes being interviewed about the loss of their M&S shopping allowance from 2013.

I am advised that there is to be a protest march..and tweeted accordingly….

I did enjoy one comment from a regular on The Sun who summed the issue up perfectly… “if you can’t afford to feed ’em, don’t breed ’em’.” Rather more insightful than the usual knuckle dragging comments on online tabloid stories.

Guido Fawkes came in for quite a bit of stick on his story about William Hague sharing a room with his SpAd – and some even refused to have anything further to do with Guido Fawkes or his website!

Leading commentator, blogger, television commentator, radio presenter,  publisher and occasional kneejerkitis sufferer,  Iain Dale, had an amusing piece in his blog this morning about ‘sharing rooms’….

Guido in ‘Sleeping with Employee’ Shock Revelation

Dale revealed.. (breathily?)…..

Remember how I took Guido Fawkes to task for his insinuations about William Hague and his assistant, Chris Myers after they innocently shared a room together during the election campaign?

I interviewed blogger Harry Cole on LBC during the furore and reminded him of the time he shared not only a bedroom, but a bed, with fellow blogger Mike Rouse. He made the perfectly fair point that Mike wasn’t his boss.

So what are we to make of the revelation that Guido Fawkes and his able seaman employee Harry Cole have been sharing bunks in a barge moored alongside the conference centre here in Birmingham.

I wonder if bargepoles are being touched…

The response from Guido amused me and I have even decided that Toby Young, often so terribly serious on TV, does have a sense of humour and I have revised my opinion accordingly.  It is Young, not William Hague… on the right!  Tory Bear (aka Harry Cole) is occupying the centre ground…. but for the purposes of the picture only.  I would not wish to defame him by suggesting that he is, in any way, a *Centrist*!

Picture tweeted by Guido Fawkes… no idea who took it?  Not Osbore, surely?

More tomorrow… if my doctor says that I can take  the excitement….

Oh… and, remember… it is all Labour’s fault… and we are all in this together…..

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