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Archive for July 18th, 2011

Today I am talking to Tom Harris MP, Glasgow South’s Labour member at Westminster,  to shed some light on the workings of Select Committees and the extraordinary resignations and arrests in relation to the News International scandal.

* The work and powers of Select Committees

*The need for care to avoid prejudicing the inquiry and any future possible criminal trials

* The questioning of the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks at the CMS Committee  on Tuesday 19th July 2011

* The resignations of Stephenson and Yates and the position of Prime Minister Cameron re Coulson

* The political landscape pre and post #Hackgate

Listen to the podcast

Other Without Prejudice podcasts on #Hackgate

#WithoutPrejudice 9: Hacking / NoTW – Criminal offences in #Hackedoff – Powers of Select Committees – Assange Case

#WithoutPrejudice Special:  the US position under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act  with US lawyer Peter Friedman

#WithoutPrejudice Special podcast: News of The World – Judicial Inquiry – The law and the commercial ‘real politik’

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I’d like to thank Lawtel, WestlawCassons For Counsel, City University Law School David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Inksters SolicitorsIken, LBC Wise Counsel, Carrs Solicitors,  JMW Solicitors – Manchester, Pannone and Cellmark for sponsoring the podcast  – and the free student materials on Insite Law – appreciated.

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BY The Custody Sgt – a fellow blogger
If we are to believe in stereotypes then the average customer stood at a custody charge desk is a miscreant of disreputable character, possibly wearing a black and white hooped top and carrying a swag bag? Events this weekend both nationally and locally for me indicate the opposite. On Sunday Rebecca Brooks was arrested and she is not your usual sort of customer. But despite the media sensation she and the News of the World have become over the last few weeks she is not on her own.

On Friday night the buzzer activated and the officers walked in with a young lady. She was well presented, nice clean clothes, tidy hair and spoke with and exuded intelligence. She was anything but the ordinary type of customer. If not for the wholesale sobbing and mascara all down her cheeks she would have slotted in for afternoon tea at The Savoy quite adequately. So why was she here? In between her sobbing and wailing the officer was able to relay to my colleague that she had been arrested for drink driving. She had blown over 2 times the legal limit at the roadside. It’s always very difficult to deal with people like this. Our frequent flyer’s (so to speak) take custody with a degree of equanimity. They know the score, they’ve been before and despite some initial protestations they will soon settle into the regime. Our first timers, such as this young lady, find it very scary. “Why are you searching and taking all my property?” “Will you have to put me in a cell?” “What happens to me now?” All are common questions.

I’m a compassionate sort. I don’t like to see somebody distressed and I am not unsympathetic to the situation they find themselves in. However, as far as this offence is concerned I have zero sympathy. Their demeanour, attitude and manners have no sway at all. There are no two ways about it. Drink drivers kill people. Sadly it is often somebody else… not themselves. We are lucky when we catch these people. We have potentially saved lives… a core function of every police officer. But what makes people do this?

I have over the years come to realise that we have evolved into a blame culture. We have little to no personal responsibility and always look to place the blame for our own inadequacies on somebody else. I believe this is underpinned by a belief in many that the bad things in life that can be thrown at us will hit someone else. An “It won’t happen to me” mentality is engendered that then makes some of us take unacceptable risks. I live in a small village. There are many who travel a long distance to the local school. But there are also those who drive a very short distance too. 1/4 of a mile down a quiet rural lane in the village is hardly the A41 at Swiss Cottage or the Magic Roundabout in Swindon is it? What are the chances of something happening on such a short journey. I remember the advert by Jimmy Saville many years ago.. “Clunk, click on every trip.” This stands so true. Anything can happen and does. Yet people put their kids in cars without seat belts and drive them to school as in their head nothing is likely to happen. WRONG!! It can and will happen and whats more obtuse is that the adult often has their own seat belt on. There is a great advert by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-8PBx7isoM

Almost 14 million views! Maybe the message is getting through?

So back to our young lady. Why would she drive drunk? People take risks. In their head, the logical argument is telling them to get a bus or taxi. Anything but drive. But circumstances, finances or sheer laziness overtake common sense. “But anyway the police won’t stop me. I’m in a nice car and fully insured. They are out looking for criminals… not me.” This driver is in a total state of denial. She knows it’s wrong. She knows it will carry a penalty. She knows it’s dangerous. But she does it because she’s never done it before and won’t again…(apparently) but just this once she’ll be alright. WRONG! This offender will go to court. She will hang her head, she may be published in the local paper in a gallery of shame and she will quietly accept her punishment.

So what a contrast and a great example of how we look to blame others or minimise our responsibility we have in Mr Charlie Gilmour. As a topic it is a whole new discussion but one part of this case illustrates my point quite well. This yob, as he was nothing less that on the day, swung from the Cenotaph and then stood in court and told the Judge he didn’t “realise the significance” of the Cenotaph. He was in denial just as much as our drink driver was.

Ignorance of the law is no defence. I sometimes feel for those who have come unstuck on a very rare and quiet piece of legislation. But no matter how much we try to kid ourselves and in the case of Gilmour the Judge too, there are some matters that are well advertised and well understood. Seat belts, drink driving, theft, burglary, murder, swinging from Cenotaph’s and throwing bins at Royal convoys are just common sense. They are part of a national psyche if you like and known by all notwithstanding class, gender, race or any other group. They are prohibited, outlawed and unacceptable and in the case of Gilmour, when the the book is thrown it hits you full in the face. He can only now stand up and take it like a man. Time will tell.

It’s high time people started to take on responsibility for their own actions.

“My child is dead because you ran a red traffic light, hit us and he/she was thrown through the windscreen.”
No Madam. Your child is dead because you didn’t ensure he/she was wearing a seat belt.

(I am fully aware that each incident is individual and no desire to undermine the grief of any family is implied or intended)

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