Sunday, September 23, 2007

Disgusting British pseudo-police

They followed their rules even though it meant letting a little boy drown. It is hard to believe that some bureaucrats are human beings -- but no doubt they will be rewarded for their "correct" behaviour

Two police support officers looked on as a boy of ten drowned because they had not been trained to deal with such an emergency. Jordon Lyon had jumped into a pond after his step-sister Bethany Ganderton, eight, got into difficulties while swimming. Emergency services were called and two police community support officers - nicknamed "Blunkett's bobbies" - were the first on the scene on their bikes. But instead of wading in, they stood on the side of the pond and waited for trained officers to turn up.

When Sergeant Craig Lippitt, a regular police officer, arrived minutes later, he stripped off his body armour and jumped into the pond in Wigan. Jordon was pulled from the water but, despite attempts to resuscitate him, was pronouced dead in hospital.

The incident is likely to raise further questions over the effectiveness of support officers who have been described as "plastic police" - under-trained and ill-equipped.

Jordon's parents, Tracy and Anthony Ganderton, yesterday condemned the pair for failing to help in the crucial minutes in which their son's life could have been saved. At an inquest into Jordon's death, Mr Ganderton said: "When we got there, the PCSOs just stood there watching. I can't understand it. If I had been walking along and seen a child drowning I would have jumped in."

Detective Chief Inspector Philip Owen of Greater Manchester Police told the inquest: "PCSOs are not trained to the same extent as police officers, so wouldn't have been taught how to deal with a situation like this." But Mr Ganderton retorted: "You don't have to be trained to jump in after a drowning child." He and his wife are demanding to know why the PCSOs did not try to rescue Jordon the second they arrived on the scene, why the officers did not give evidence at the inquest and why their identities were concealed.

The inquest was told Jordon had gone to play in area of open land with his brothers Haydon, eight, Brandon, nine, his stepbrother Anthony, nine, and Bethany on the afternoon of May 3. Fishermen had seen the children collecting tadpoles at the edge of a pond. But moments later Bert Wright, 66, and John Collinson, 63, saw that Bethany had her arms around her stepbrother's neck and he was holding her up, even though his head was under the water. Both men waded in and managed to get hold of the girl, but Jordon had disappeared.

Mr Ganderton had been alerted and he and a friend raced to scene. After seeing the two PCSOs standing at the water's edge, they jumped in, to be joined moments later by Sergeant Lippitt.

In a statement issued after the inquest, Mr Owen said there was initially confusion over the location of the incident. When the support officers arrived, there was no sign of the boy in the water. "Having made an assessment, one of the PCSOs called the Greater Manchester Police control room and an officer was at the scene within five minutes of this. "It would have been inappropriate for PCSOs, who are not trained in water rescue, to enter the pond."

Recording a verdict of accidental death, deputy coroner Alan Walsh said: "This is an inquest of utmost tragedy." There are 14,000 PCSOs who have the power to issue fines for anti-social behaviour, public disorder and motoring offences. They are cheaper to train and to employ than regular officers and were introduced by the then Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2002.


Brits not allowed to prefer British doctors

The threat of unemployment among UK medical graduates is being blamed on the failed computerised recruitment system (MTAS), but an article in this week's BMJ argues that the real problem is government policy on medical immigration.

In the late 1990s UK medical schools produced nearly 5,000 graduates each year, considerably fewer than the NHS needed, writes Graham Winyard, a retired Postgraduate Dean. But in 1997, an expansion of medical school places began and the number of graduate doctors is set to rise to 7,000 in 2010, an increase of 40%.

The planners assumed that UK qualified doctors would replace those from overseas. But Government immigration policies have encouraged thousands of overseas doctors to compete for postgraduate training posts, and it is of course illegal for trusts and deaneries to discriminate on the basis of country of qualification when making appointments. Expanding medical schools makes little sense if extra graduates cannot pursue a career in medicine, says Winyard.

UK trained doctors began to voice concerns about possible unemployment in 2005 and these concerns were dramatically realised this summer, when MTAS was introduced to select doctors for training posts. While there were broadly sufficient posts to accommodate UK applicants, together with those from the rest of the European Economic Area, he argues, the inclusion of thousands of overseas doctors has transformed the prospects for all applicants and has made widespread failure to secure a proper training post inevitable.

The UK urgently needs policy coherence on immigration and medical training, he writes. The direct connection between policy on medical immigration and the likelihood of unemployment for UK medical graduates is inescapable. The most obvious action, he says, would be to suspend the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme - a scheme allowing highly skilled people to migrate to the UK to seek work without a specific job offer - as it applies to doctors, and establish a two stage recruitment process similar to that used in other countries, whereby overseas applications are considered after those of domestic graduates.

The rights of overseas doctors already in the system must be safeguarded, but if decisive action is not taken the situation will be worse next year, he warns. This muddle is in no one's best interests and needs open and honest discussion and clear leadership, however difficult that may be, he concludes.



A lorry driver is taking the Government to court over a film that he believes is biased and shouldn't be shown to children in schools. 'The debate over the science of climate change is well and truly over." So said David Miliband in February. Mr Miliband, who was then environment secretary, was responding to a report from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This left the minister so confident that there was nothing more to say on the matter that he and Alan Johnson, the then education secretary, announced that they would be sending a film about climate change to all 3,385 secondary schools in England.

A neutral, objective assessment of the evidence, perhaps? One that took care to present all sides of the argument so that pupils could make up their own minds? Not at all: it was Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, described by Mr Johnson as "a powerful message about the fragility of our planet". Since ministers regarded the debate as well and truly over, they were "delighted" to send school children a polemic that took as its central thesis the argument that climate change - the increase in global temperatures over the past 50 years - was mainly the result of man-made carbon dioxide emissions. This is indeed the view of the IPCC, and most of the world's climate scientists. But other people disagree.

One of them is Stewart Dimmock, 45, a lorry driver and school governor from Kent. His sons, aged 11 and 14, attend a secondary school in Dover which has presumably received a copy of Mr Gore's film. "I care about the environment as much as the next man," says Mr Dimmock. "However, I am determined to prevent my children from being subjected to political spin in the classroom."

You might think there ought to be a law against this - and there is. Section 406(1)(b) of the Education Act 1996 says that local education authorities, school governing bodies and head teachers "shall forbid... the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school". And if political issues are brought to the attention of pupils while they are at a maintained school, the authority, the governors and the head are required by the next section of the Act to take "such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that... they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views".

What precisely do these words mean? No court has yet ruled on them. But that opportunity will come in a week's time when Mr Dimmock takes legal action against Ed Balls, the new Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Mr Dimmock's lawyers are trying to prevent the film being shown in schools. At this stage, they are asking for permission to challenge the Schools Secretary's decision to distribute it. This was refused in July after a written application. But if permission is granted at an oral hearing next Thursday, the judge is expected to consider the merits of Mr Dimmock's application for judicial review straight away.

A day in court, with expert evidence, does not come cheap - especially if Mr Dimmock loses and has to pay part or all of the Government's costs. Where will the money come from? "The funding is a private matter for him," says John Day, Mr Dimmock's solicitor. Mr Day will not be drawn further, but he does confirm that his client is an active member of the New Party. Its manifesto says that "political opportunism and alarmism have combined in seizing [the IPCC's] conclusions to push forward an agenda of taxation and controls that may ultimately be ineffective in tackling climate change, but will certainly be damaging to our economy and society".

What, though, of the issues? According to his solicitor, Mr Dimmock accepts that the planet is getting hotter; he is not trying to prevent climate change being taught in schools. What he does not accept is that sending out a 93-minute film made by the former vice-president of the United States is the right way to do it. "Gore has gone on record as saying he believes it is appropriate to over-represent the facts to get his message across," says Mr Day. "One of the very clear inferences from the Gore film is that areas such as Bangladesh will be under water by the end of the century. He is talking about sea levels rising by 20 feet."

But this is not backed up by the IPCC, the solicitor says. Their view is that sea levels will rise by 1.3 feet over the next 100 years. A rise of 20ft would require rising temperatures to continue for millennia.

"This film is a very powerful piece of work, says Mr Day. "There is a real risk that children are going to gulp on this and just digest it and accept it." Michael Sparkes, also from the law firm Malletts, adds that Mr Gore's central premise - that carbon dioxide emissions are causing the recently observed global warming - is taken by the film as proved. "There is no discussion of the fact that the climate is changing naturally all the time, whether warming or cooling," he said. He questions the examples given in the film, suggesting that there are often local causes for shrinking lakes and melting glaciers.

Mr Dimmock's lawyers will therefore argue that distributing this film to schools is either unlawful under section 406 of the 1996 Act or unlawful because it does not offer the balance required by section 407.

But, says the Government, balance is precisely what we are providing. Teachers need only go to a public website called to download and print - at their schools' expense - a 48-page guidance note. The current version of this note acknowledges that "teachers have a duty to give a balanced presentation of political issues and to avoid political indoctrination". It advises teachers to divide the film into three strands: Areas where there is undisputed scientific consensus, such as the clear evidence that global temperatures are rising; Areas where there is a "strong scientific consensus but where a small minority of scientists do not agree", for example that gas emissions from human activity are the main cause of climate change. "When dealing with such issues teachers may wish to refer to alternative views but make it clear that they do not accord with the weight of scientific opinion," the Government says; and Areas where there is political debate, such as how we should respond to climate change. "When addressing these areas, teachers must take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that pupils are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views."

The Schools Department says: "The law does not prevent teachers or schools from showing material which includes expressions of political opinion. But it does require that, when such material is shown, the opinion is presented in a balanced way."

Mr Day says his client is not satisfied with this. "You have a fundamentally flawed film, scientifically and politically, where the onus is being placed on teachers to draw the thorns and to remedy the defects," he says. "Is that fair on teachers?" Whether the written guidance is enough to balance the impact of Mr Gore's undoubtedly political views will no doubt be at the heart of next week's hearing. But is the debate over the science of climate change "well and truly over"? Not a chance.


No comments: