Sunday, May 25, 2008

The law catches up with a stalker

THIS WEEK’S victim of the dreaded Bin Police is retired milkman Barry Freezer of Norwich (and there’s trend there) who dared to commit the capital crime of putting cabbage stalks in his garden waste bin.

I’ll say that again, shall I? He put cabbage stalks in his garden waste bin.

The 73-year-old (and why is it always our older people –war veterans and the like – who seem to be victimised by the town hall numpties?) apparently transgressed a rule which states that food which may have come into contact with meat can’t be mixed with composting waste to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as foot and mouth.

But in Barry’s case, the cabbage stalks hadn’t even been anywhere near the kitchen. They were dug up from his vegetable garden and went straight into the bin without even a nodding acquaintance with half a pound of mince.

The actions of the binmen are interesting here. Upon discovering the illegal cabbage stalks, they attached an immediate ‘red card’ to Barry’s bin, instead of the usual warning system of two yellows (no, I’m not making this up) and refused point blank to empty his bin. It should be pointed out that Barry already pays £35 a year just to have his green bin emptied although, as he says, he could burn the whole lot on a bonfire while shouting “bugger the environment”, but chooses not to.

The law which Barry apparently fell foul of is the Animal By-Products Order, imposed by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs following, in turn, a European Parliament directive which is part of an overall master plan to make all of us pay for every ounce of rubbish that we produce.

You may have heard Wee Gordie Broon declaring last week that this pay-as-you-throw system wouldn’t be introduced in Britain. Well trust me, he’s either lying or he’s deluded. It’s on its way, folks, and nothing can stop it.

THE MASSED ranks of NuLabour’s Turkey Army (“We’ll invent a job for you if you’ll vote for us”) must be getting nervous. The gravy train is heading for the buffers – appropriately enough via Crewe Junction – and the days of the government sinecure, plus gilt-edged pension, are numbered.

It’s only when you have a hard look at the government’s job creation scheme that you realise what a multi-billion pound disgrace it really is. A report this week from the Taxpayers’ Alliance revealed the astonishing number of unaccountable, unelected quangos still lurking in the shadows – 827 of them spending £101 billion of your money every year. Many of them have confused and wasteful roles with duplication rife.

Take the Carbon Trust (£85m a year) for example. Set up to advise businesses and government bodies on becoming carbon neutral, it does exactly the same job as another quango, Envirowise (£22m a year). And then there’s the Food Standards Agency extolling the benefits of a healthy diet while the Potato Council (£6m a year) launches National Chip Week.

So not only does the left hand not know what the right hand is doing, it doesn’t really care as long as both hands get to dip into the taxpayers’ pockets.

AT LEAST one group of public sector workers is striving to protect and serve the public, with police in Brighton successfully preventing a planned mass custard pie fight on the prom because of … wait for it … health and safety fears.

Police pulled the plug after more than 1,200 people signed up to take part because of fears that they would not have enough manpower to be able to control the event and innocent passers-by could be targeted with the pies.

Society is also safe from flying feathers after a mass pillow fight in Leeds was cancelled, with police again stepping in to stop the gathering, organised on networking site Facebook.

Meanwhile another 73 teenagers were stabbed to death, another 27 ‘celebrities’ were caught snorting cocaine on video and a bloke down the road from me is still getting away with sneaking potato peelings into his discarded grass cuttings.

I’M RELUCTANT to join the chorus of dissenters accusing Cherie Blair of being a traitorous, money-grubbing hypocrite who pleaded privacy during her years in Number 10 only to dish the dirt on everyone and everything once she thought there might be a quick buck in it. Everyone else has had a pop, so what’s left for me?

(Particularly offensive is her overdue admission that little Leo did have his MMR jab – a revelation that could have saved hundreds of small lives – and her bizarre admission that she didn’t take her “contraceptive equipment” to Balmoral. Why do I imagine, with fingers over my eyes, some kind of weird Catholic contraption involving ropes and pullies?)

But I do find it repugnant that so many NuLabour foot soldiers, who have made their not inconsiderable fortunes out of the party, should now go for one last pay day at the expense of the poor saps left behind. Step forward, with a bucket in his hand, John Prescott, or even Tony Blair’s millionaire tennis partner Lord Levy.

Incidentally, Cherie’s book – which is damaging to Wee Gordie - was rushed out five months ahead of schedule. Perhaps the publishers don’t think he’ll still be around by the autumn. I certainly don’t.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bashing the bishops

I DON’T want to sound like a lentil-eating, Guardian-reading, yoghurt-knitting Leftie, but was it really necessary for Metropolitan police marksmen to shoot dead Mark Saunders, the troubled young lawyer who started taking potshots at no-one in particular from his £2 million Chelsea flat?

Now if he’d been a dangerous terrorist, or even a Brazilian electrician, you can understand why they might want to pump five bullets into him as soon as possible. But he was an alcoholic suffering depression who spent five hours under siege while he blasted away at passing pigeons with a 12-bore.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to kill anyone with a shotgun, but it’s not as easy as it looks in the movies. You would really want to be within 10 yards – preferably five – before being confident of inflicting serious damage.

I know, I’ve peppered several beaters on various shoots in my time. They just brush the pellets out of their grizzled beards and look forward to the extra £50 blood money that they know will be winging their way at the end of the day.

So there was no need for the police to ever come within that lethal range. They’ve got all sorts of devastating weaponry that can pick people off from up to half a mile away, so why couldn’t they just sit tight and wait him out? Why was it deemed necessary to storm the flat and engineer a fatal confrontation?

There’s something very fishy about this whole affair. No doubt all will be revealed at the inquest and subsequent inquiries.

Yeah, right.

IT’S BACK to Crimewatch corner, where we name and shame the desperados dragging our society into the gutter.

Step up to the stocks if you will, Desert Rat veteran Lenny Woodward. Now Lenny didn’t stab anyone to death or keep his children in a cellar for 30 years, but in the view of the Powers That Be, his crime is no less serious.

You see Woodward committed the heinous offence of “Putting an Empty Tomato Sauce Bottle in the Wrong Bin”, contrary to the Recycle Or Be Shot Act 2008. There is no excuse: Woodward had been issued with the full complement of blue wheelie bin for cans and cardboard, a green box for glass and a black bin for other waste. Regardless of this, he blithely threw the ketchup bottle into the blue bin when – as eny fule nos – they should have gone into the green box.

Now I don’t want to hear that Woodward is 95 years old and therefore possibly confused, or even that he is almost blind and could hardly read the council’s orders; indeed, if he’d read the “yellow card” the binmen left him and publicly apologised on his knees on the steps of Norwich Town Hall, he wouldn’t have subsequently received the “red card” that denied him any further collections.

Rules is rules. And any man who can map-read his way across the war-torn deserts of North Africa while fighting for our freedom must surely be able to understand a simple, 12-page, small-print, council directive.

Officer, take him down!

AT LEAST the criminal Woodward managed to put his rubbish into a bin, albeit the wrong one. Keith Hirst didn’t even bother trying, allegedly discarding an apple core on the public pavement.

The 54-year-old plumber, who has had heart surgery, then has the temerity to complain when he’s surrounded by five police officers, is arrested, has his fingerprints and DNA taken, is locked up in a police cell for 18 hours and then is marched off to court in handcuffs.

Honestly, some people.

WITH THE notable exception of the saintly Dr John Sentamu, when did you actually see a bishop? You know, a proper one - big fella, pointy hat, lots of purple velvet? No, I thought not.

Admittedly the rip-roaring Rt Rev Tom Butler made the news a couple of years ago when he spent too long at a reception at the Irish Embassy and subsequently climbed into the back of a stranger’s car, threw his children’s toys out and roared: “I’m the Bishop of Southwark. It’s what I do!” But apart from that, you don’t see much of them, do you?

There’s that Weird Beard chap who wants to adopt a legal system whereby shoplifters get their hands chopped off (not altogether a bad thing) but would also have all the gays hung from lampposts (probably not a good thing). He also thinks that there should be a salary cap on the rich, which is a bit … err … rich coming from a bloke who costs the Church of England over £1,000,000 a year on his own.

Yes, that’s right, the 44 CoE bishops, their palaces, offices and support staff – including cooks, gardeners and chauffeurs - cost the church just under £20 million last year, double what they cost in 1997.

Now that’s an awful lot of money, especially when you think that whenever I roll up at my own village church (Christmas Eve, weddings and funerals if I’m honest) I’m immediately blackmailed into coughing up a few quid for the leaking roof or the disintegrating windows. And it’s not as if our Vicar is coining it; he’s never seen so much of his parishioners since we all got frightened by the credit crunch and fled Waitrose to join him down at Netto.

So forgive me if I cross to the other side of the road the next time the CoE pleads poverty, because it’s clearly not poor – it’s just spending its money in a profligate and perverse manner.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nailing the nation's most wanted

GOOD EVENING and welcome to Crimewatch, where the nation’s most dangerous criminals are named, shamed and subjected to general opprobrium.

First in the metaphorical stocks this week is that threat to society, Linda Jackson of Chaddesden, Derby, who was threatened with eviction from her council house of 17 years for the heinous crime of … not mowing the lawn. The fact that it had been raining constantly, that we’re not talking knee-high here, or that Linda, 42, usually mows the grass every two weeks, cut no ice with her city council landlords. Mow or go was the message. Tough on crime; tough on the causes of slightly long grass.

This is zero tolerance. Crack down on the little things and the big things won’t happen is the theory. And that’s why I don’t have any sympathy for Rachel McKenzie, 54, an archbishop’s secretary from London, who may end up with a criminal record after being caught under-paying her bus fare by 20 pence.

McKenzie wilfully boarded the Number 12 from East Dulwich to Southwark and swiped her pre-paid Oyster card over a reader next to the driver, not noticing that the machine had beeped to indicate that she had insufficient money on the card to pay the 90 pence fare. Sorry, love, but ignorance is no defence.

When an inspector checked her card and found it wanting, McKenzie offered to pay the difference in cash, but her offer was declined. A summons was duly issued and this dangerous criminal will now appear before Sutton magistrates on May 22.

Her legal adviser describes the case as “a scandalous abuse of the court system”. McKenzie herself says: “It reminds me of the days when people used to get transported to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread.”

Count your blessings, woman. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

And this utter disregard for the law of the land rumbles on. Take 82-year-old Parkinson’s disease sufferer Jean Raine from Kendal, Cumbria. When she felt unwell during a shopping trip, she dozed off in her car which was legally parked in a disabled space.

Fortunately for the safety of us all, a sharp-eyed traffic warden noticed that her disabled parking badge was upside down and duly issued a £35 penalty charge notice, taking care not to wake the sleeping felon as he slapped it on the windscreen.

Was she grateful for this considerate attitude? Was she heck. “I cannot understand why the parking attendant didn’t wake me up,” she moaned. “He must have been on tiptoes – so quiet that he didn’t disturb me.”

Yes - softly, softly, catchee monkey.

Sadly, this crime wave continues, with what the Daily Telegraph calls “the respectable headmaster of a successful primary school” being caught fishing with an out-of-date licence. Sixty-year-old Bob Yeomans, from Walsall, now faces being banned from teaching after his conviction showed up on a government check designed to identify child abusers.

Mr Yeomans may have 38 impeccable years on his record as a teacher, but that cut no ice when he was caught fishing on the River Dove in Derbyshire after forgetting to renew his licence. A water bailiff duly nabbed him, he was prosecuted under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 and fined £50 with £70 costs by magistrates.

Mr Yeomans then returned to his 355-pupil school, rated “good with some outstanding features” by Ofsted, and promptly forgot about the whole thing. A year later his chair of governors was notified that there was a problem with a Criminal Records Bureau check on staff and phoned Mr Yeomans to tell him.

“I said ‘Is it a member of staff’ and he said ‘No, it’s you’. He had to visit me and decide if I was fit to work with children.”

He is now waiting on a decision on his future, but has so far been allowed to keep his job.

Now this may seem like a petty intrusion on a capable man’s career, but ask yourself this: do we really want our young people to be casting off their hoodies and guns and to instead spend their spare time tickling trout without a licence? I think not. A crime is a crime. There are thousands of possible mugging victims out there but not very many brown trout. It’s a case of supply and demand.

And after all that, I really can’t be arsed bringing you the story about the man who hung a Jolly Roger flag outside his house to mark his daughter’s pirate-themed birthday party. I think you can guess what happened next.

OF COURSE, many of the above crimes against society could – and should - have been eradicated if the nation’s network of CCTV cameras actually worked. After all, we have an incredible 4.3 million of them – astonishingly a quarter of all the CCTV cameras in the world. No, really. That should, in theory, mean that Big Brother Britain is the safest country on earth. Sadly street robbery and violent crime (as well as illegal fishing, bus fare evasion, upside down parking and illicit grass growing) are at their highest levels ever.

The problem is that these much-vaunted cameras are crap. They might have cost billions of pounds, but the cops can’t be bothered reviewing them because it’s too much like hard work and even the Home Office admits that four out of every five images requested by the police are completely useless when it comes to identifying suspects. So we’re the most watched society in the world and it’s all a waste of time. Brilliant.

The real problem is that this false reliance on cameras – on our motorways as well as on our high streets – has allowed the police to abrogate responsibility for patrolling our neighbourhoods. And that means that old ladies are falling asleep in parked cars willy nilly and nobody is doing anything about it. It’s an absolute disgrace.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Welcome to the Banana Republic

I HAVEN’T got anything against Paratrooper Stu Pearson’s right leg. The problem is, neither has he.

Sergeant Pearson, 31, had his left leg blown off by a landmine in Afghanistan 18 months ago. He’s now got a highly technical, hydraulics-aided prosthetic limb, although he still needs to use a wheelchair when the appendage becomes too painful.

But it seems that this leap forward has caused the Department of Work and Pensions to declare the Queen’s Gallantry Medal holder as “fully fit”. He therefore loses his £325 a month Disability Living Allowance but, more irritatingly for Stu, he also loses his blue disabled parking badge.

As he says: “I can’t get my leg out of the car without opening the door as wide as possible so have to park in disabled bays. They give blue badges to people just because they’re fat these days, but a guy gets his leg blown off for his country and doesn’t qualify.”

You can understand his anger. While Stu is struggling in from the far reaches of car parks at Tesco or Lidl, those lying benefits scroungers with a magical Tin Leg of Money dangling redundantly from their arms will be rolling into the prime places, smug smiles of feigned injury firmly in place. You can see them every day. They don’t even know how to walk with a crutch, never mind put any weight on it.

When I come across one now I honestly feel like kicking their magical Tin Leg of Money away while shouting: “It’s a miracle! This fat, anorak-wearing fraud can now walk!”

Of course, doing so would see me arrested, charged and probably imprisoned, where I’d have a rent-free room with a television, as many Class A drugs as I could manage to take and, if you believe the tabloids, a constant supply of hot and cold running prostitutes. The notion appeals all the more.

IF YOU want further evidence of the warped values of our sick society, you need look no further than the case of the two elderly sisters from Wiltshire who have had their fight to earn the same inheritance tax rights as gay couples thrown out by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Joyce and Sybil Burton (89 and 82) have lived together in the same home since birth. They have paid their taxes, cared for ageing parents until death without any help from the state, had brothers who fought in the Second World War and a sister who was a nurse throughout the Blitz.

Yet because of our shabby inheritance tax legislation, when one of the sisters dies, the other will have to sell the £875,000 house and move out to pay the £50,000 tax bill. Does that really seem fair to you? Who in their right mind could possibly think that this was a reasonable demand by a reasonable government?

As the sisters say: “If we were lesbians we would have all the rights in the world. But we are sisters, and it seems we have no rights at all.”

Perhaps the nation’s usually verbose feminist movement might want to take up the case of these horribly victimised old ladies? Because what’s going to happen to one of them is a hundred times worse than being shouted at in the street because you’ve got a moustache.

I ALWAYS laugh when I hear that Britain has dispatched electoral observers to some dim and distant shore to keep an eye on the voting habits of a bunch of former colonials. And that’s because our own electoral process is now as open to fraud as the worst kind of banana republic.

Oh, how we titter as the Americans end up electing the gibbering George Bush because of hanging chads in Florida. Oh, how we tut as Robert Mugabe makes a mockery of Zimbabwean democracy. Well before we laugh too much, we could do well with having a hard look at our own practices in places like Bolton and Burnley.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust is hugely critical of NuLabour’s introduction of postal voting on demand - i.e. that you don’t have to give any reason why you can’t turn up in person and vote in the normal way. This is because the system makes it possible for one person to control the ballot papers of every person in a multi-person dwelling. And let’s not beat about the bush here; we’re talking about houses containing large numbers of relatively recent immigrants who have brought with them a culture where women and junior members of the family do what they’re told by the household senior.

The Rowntree report is explicit: “Greater use of postal voting has made UK elections far more vulnerable to fraud.” Examples abound from the last General Election of the ballot papers of entire streets being collected up and handed over to one person, who then presumably voted the way he’d been persuaded or even bribed.

And it could have been even worse than that. So desperate are NuLabour to hold onto power (and we must assume that they think they are the party that stands to benefit from such practices) that they even thought about introducing voting by text message – a recipe for widespread fraud if ever I’ve seen one.

So please, spare me patronising smiles when some ex-colonial civil servant sets off with his pith helmet and malaria pills to cast an eye over the electoral process in Bongo-Bongo land. He’d do far more good if we sent him to Bradford.

YOU KNOW, I can’t help but feel that this bloke in Austria is getting a rough deal. Let’s face it, which one of us has never locked a young girl in the cellar for a few months?

Let him who is without sin …