Monday, October 23, 2006

U.K.: Paedophile escapes school gym ban as it would breach his human rights

A convicted paedophile is being allowed to use a gym at a school because the authorities are worried that banning him would infringe his human rights. Andrew Baldwin, 43, was convicted in 1999 of molesting three girls aged 12 and 13. Yet he is a frequent visitor to a public gym on the site of Whitecross School, a comprehensive for 11-16 year olds in Lydney in the Forest of Dean.

Outraged parents, who raised the alarm four weeks ago, claim they were told the school was afraid to ban Baldwin in case it was accused of breaching his human rights. This is despite the fact that the gym is next door to children's changing rooms. Anthony Callaghan, 40, whose 15-year-old daughter attends Whitecross school, confronted Baldwin when he first saw him at the gym - and the child abuser promptly complained to the receptionist. Mr Callaghan said: "It's so ridiculous, you couldn't make it up. The gym is for over-16s but it is right on the school premises and you have to go down the corridor and past the boys' and girls' changing room to get there. "I use it five times a week and I've been walking down the corridor with girls in their PE kits and quite often the changing room doors are left ajar. The headmaster told me it was out of his hands because the solicitors say a ban would breach this paedophile's human rights. "Well, if that's the case, what about the human rights of the pupils?"

The gym is at council-run Whitecross Leisure Centre, which is in 'joint use' with the school. The majority of public use of the facilities, including squash courts and sports hall, takes place in the evenings or at weekends. But, crucially, the 'lifestyle fitness suite' is open to the public from 9am each day. Whitecross headmaster David Gaston and Forest of Dean District Council are now talks with legal experts on how to resolve the issue, with one option stopping Baldwin attending the gym during school hours. Mr Gaston said: "The safety of students is the absolute priority of the school and any decision will take their welfare into account." A council spokesman added: "We're unable to comment because the head at Whitecross is awaiting definitive legal advice from Shire Hall."

The child protection charity Kidscape called for immediate action. Director Dr Michelle Elliott said: "This totally defies common sense. Men who have been convicted of abusing a child should not be on school premises."


Recycling fanaticism in Britain

A householder has told of his despair at being landed with a criminal record for putting a scrap of paper in a bin bag meant for bottles and cans. Michael Reeves, 28, has become Britain's first recycling martyr after a court fined him 200 pounds for disobeying rules about sorting his rubbish. He had volunteered to take part in a recycling scheme launched by Swansea Council. But somehow a single piece of junk mail found its way into a bag designated for other rubbish. And when council workers found his name and address on it, they prosecuted.

Last night the case provoked widespread anger. Even environmentalists said that it could put people off recycling as millions of householders already struggle to make sense of bewildering rules governing how to dispose of their rubbish.

Mr Reeves told The Mail on Sunday: "I now have a criminal record and it will weigh me down like a millstone. I will have to explain myself every time I apply for a new job. And if I want to go to the United States I will have to apply for a special entry visa." Mr Reeves, a sports writer, also spoke of his frustration at his time-consuming journey through five court hearings. "Not satisfied with a false accusation of mixing up my rubbish, they tried to throw in an additional charge of leaving the bags out on the wrong day,' he said. "Looked at in one way it is a hilarious tale of barmy bureaucracy - but I found it no laughing matter."

Last night, campaign group the Taxpayers' Alliance accused local authorities of cynically using the environment as an excuse to collect extra revenue. Director James Frayne said: "This is a joke. The Green movement in Britain is in danger of being hijacked by tax-hungry politicians. People will soon start to associate going green with going broke."

Mr Reeves denied even putting the letter in the bag. There were no witnesses nor camera footage of him doing so, but magistrates still found him guilty. "I am not a violent man or a drunkard. I have not held up a bank. I have not committed fraud. But when I allowed a single piece of junk mail to appear in the wrong sort of recycling bag I found myself committing a crime. It was not me who put the letter in the recycling bag. It was not even my bag. Yet the presence of my address amid the cans and bottles was enough for the court to find me guilty. I have always been happy to do my bit for the environment - but I couldn't care less now."

Mr Reeves said his first mistake was to put his rubbish out a day early, but only because he was going on holiday the next day. It was met with a warning that any further slip-ups would result in legal action. "Duly warned I carried on separating the rubbish,' he said. Then came the summons accusing him of breaching the order. "I was shocked and had no idea what to do,' he said. "I couldn't sleep. At one point I even thought I might end up in jail." He added: "The irony is that I would have been better off not recycling at all, just loading everything into a single rubbish bag. But like most people I supported the principle and was happy to play my part."

It is only in the past six months that local authorities have pursued those who flout the rules with any vigour. They have had the power to set down rules on how rubbish is sorted since 1990, but the law has not previously been tested because recycling schemes have only really developed on a wide scale since a 1999 EU ruling limiting how much waste each country can bury in landfill. Donna Challice of Exeter was the first person to be prosecuted for putting the wrong rubbish in her recycling bin, but she was acquitted after a 6,000 pound case because the council could not prove she was responsible.

Friends of the Earth said Mr Reeves' case 'may put people off recycling - and that's bad news'. A Swansea Council spokesman said: "It is very rare for us to take this line but it is unfortunate that Mr Reeves didn't contact us at any point. When he failed to respond to a second enforcement notice over his contaminated rubbish, we had no option but to issue a summons. "It was dealt with in the magistrates court which means Mr Reeves now has a criminal record"



The life expectancies of goat-eating populations (in Africa etc.) are not very encouraging but such populations do have other problems

Janet Street-Porter may be able to take some of the credit for introducing goat meat to the British. The broadcaster extolled the meat’s low-fat virtues to a group of dieters on the Gordon Ramsay programme The F-Word, on Channel 4, and demand has soared.

Goat is the world’s most popular meat, with about 500 million animals reared for the table each year. Yet in Britain it has eluded the average dinner table, although it is a favourite for curry among the Afro-Caribbean community.

The increased demand means that there are not enough goats to slaughter. Most of the UK’s 100,000 goats are reared to produce milk and cheese. Some go into the food chain at the end of their productive life, but their meat tends to be tough. The push is on to expand the herd of British boer goats, which provide quality meat and are reared specifically for the table. There are just 1,000 boer goats in Britain, but the British Boer Society is building up its herds. Peter Bidwell, its chairman, who farms near Stanely, Co Durham, sells 300 goats a year but hopes to increase that number to 1,000 within two years. He has had inquiries from suppliers for Asda and Sainsbury’s.

But until the meat goat herd has developed, keepers are unable to provide the volumes required to satisfy retail buyers. This gap in the market has triggered a scam being investigated by trading standards officers in which some farmers sell skinny sheep and label the meat as goat. Mr Bidwell said: “We have never had so many inquiries but we just don’t have the volume. There is a butcher in Newcastle who would like to take 5,000 goats a year. We can’t do that.”



The National Health Service spent tens of millions of pounds removing nearly 200,000 tattoos last year, according to figures released by the Department of Health last week. Rosie Winterton, the health minister, said in a Commons written answer that doctors had carried out the procedure, involving either skin grafts or lasers, on 187,063 tattoos. The figure has astonished MPs and consultants who fear NHS funds are being spent on trivial surgery while patients are denied potentially life-saving drugs and staff are laid off.

Even conservative estimates of the cost of removing a small tattoo under anaesthetic on the NHS put the bill for 2004-05 at 37 million pounds, but some consultants suggested a figure of 300m.

Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: “In a week when we’ve seen the NHS turning down Velcade (a cancer drug) it seems incredible that so much is being spent on tattoo removal.” Tattoos were once seen as a rebellious statement and the preserve of criminals, bikers and sailors, but they have become increasingly mainstream adornments. According to research carried out by the Discovery Channel earlier this year, 29% of Britons aged 25-34 have tattoos. They are popular among celebrities. David Beckham, the former England football captain, has tattoos bearing the names of his three children, while Robbie Williams, the pop singer, has a Maori pattern on his left arm, a Celtic cross on his right hip, a lion on his shoulder and his grandfather’s name on his arm. Eight years ago there were 300 tattoo parlours in Britain; today there are more than 1,500.

Because tattoos penetrate under the skin, removing them is expensive. The tattooed area must be cut out and skin grafted over the gap. Removing tattoos with skin grafts in the private sector can cost 1,000-2,500 pounds. Laser surgery costs from a minimum 200 to more than 2,500.

While having tattoos removed for “beautification” on the NHS is banned, surgery may be undertaken to “secure mental health wellbeing”. Earlier this year a health trust in Manchester agreed to spend 2,500 removing the tattoos of Tanya Bainbridge, a 57-year-old transsexual. The former merchant seaman, previously called Brian, claimed the large tattoos on her forearms were “not ladylike” and made her depressed.


Firing BIG guns

There is an amusing British video here that indulges every gun-lover's fantasy -- ending up with firing a Carl Gustaf antitank weapon.

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