Friday, March 06, 2009

The useless British police again

Guess which of the two above is the thug

Two catastrophic errors by police allowed the convicted knife offender Karl Bishop to be free on the streets to murder Rob Knox, the Harry Potter actor. Bishop, 21, is facing life in jail after being found guilty at the Old Bailey of killing Mr Knox outside a bar in Sidcup, Kent, last May. Two months before the murder, he had been named as a suspect to police twice in two days over an alleged burglary and a knifepoint robbery. Inexplicably, officers investigating the claims failed to speak to Bishop or question him, despite his long and violent criminal record going back to his early teens. The inquiries were still "live" in May last year when Bishop, who had only been recently released from jail for slashing two men across the face, stabbed Mr Knox and four of his friends with two kitchen knives, in a 90-second frenzy.

Mr Knox, 18, who had just finished filming for the new film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, had confronted the killer after he had earlier threatened his younger brother Jamie at knifepoint. Scotland Yard admitted that the blunder would cause "concern" to the public and the victim's family. When police chiefs learned of the mistake, they called in the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate and launched a force wide review of all outstanding knife offences.

Two police officers, a constable and a sergeant, have been given written warnings. They were based at Plumstead, the same station recently revealed to have failed to identify Robert Napper before he killed Rachel Nickell in 1992, despite him being named by his mother as a rape suspect years before.

Bishop, "a habitual knife carrier" was well known in the area and had two previous knife convictions, one of them for slashing two men in the face in 2005. He served two years of the four-year sentence and nine months after his release, he murdered Mr Knox on May 22 last year. The killing followed a series of incidents, including one at the same Sidcup venue, the Metro bar, the previous week in which Bishop made a "chilling'' prediction. After a row with Mr Knox and his friends, which ended with a fight, Bishop said: "I'm going to come back and someone's going to die".

When he did return as promised, he was armed with two kitchen knives, 11 and 12 inches long. On his way back to the bar he ran across Jamie Knox, 17, and his friends, and threatened them with the blades before continuing on to the bar. Rob was alerted to what had happened by a phone call and came out of the bar to confront Bishop just as he arrived. The knifeman was soon surrounded by a semi-circle of youths and Rob had to be held back as Bishop goaded them, shouting: "Who's going to make my ****** day?"

As well as the murder charge Bishop, who refused to leave the cells to hear the proceedings in the dock yesterday afternoon, was found guilty of wounding Rob's friend Dean Saunders, 23. He was found guilty on majority verdicts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to Charlie Grimley, 17, and Nicky Jones, 20. He was also found guilty by a majority of wounding Andrew Dormer, 17, but cleared of wounding another friend, Tom Hopkins, 19. Bishop will be sentenced tomorrow

Asked about the blunders, a spokesman for the Met said: "Lessons have been learned from what happened in this case and measures have been taken, including the introduction of a new system to monitor centrally the progress of action to arrest suspects for all violent crime offences, including knife crime".


Leftist support for drug abusers

Our public policies are indeed founded on the liberal notion that drug users need support, but the opposite view prevails in the country. The result is an underlying tension that, for the most part, we successfully ignore. Just occasionally, however, the moral issues surrounding drugs, and our inability to deal with them, are painfully exposed.

Where, one wonders, does Jake Myerson fit as a drug user? When he was 17, his mother, the novelist Julie Myerson, ejected Jake from home because of his abusive and occasionally violent behaviour. As a teenager in South London, Jake, now 20, became a user of the addictive and powerful form of cannabis known as skunk; on the receiving end, many would say, of peer pressure. His parents, worried about their younger children, gave him a chance to reform and when he didn't, they changed the locks. Jake was taken in by a friend's parents.

Did the Myersons do the right thing? Was it a child they threw out, a victim of drugs; or an abusive young man who needed to be shown the consequences of his behaviour? Jakes's father is Jonathan Myerson, also a writer, magistrate and former councillor. The couple are educated middle-class people - very smug, in Julie Myerson's own words - who saw themselves as good parents. Were they confused about where the boundaries lay?

Plainly, they suffered private agonies. So much so, in fact, that Ms Myerson's new book, The Lost Child, a candid version of events, with Jake's name removed, is due out shortly. We cannot pass judgment on its contents, but we can, I think, observe that misery literature, in all its forms, is still a bestselling genre.

Victimhood, however, is a crowded town to live in. Jake condemned the book this week, saying that he did not want it published. He resents that his mother has been writing about him "for the past 16 years". He's not an addict, he says, describing his parents as naive, insane and emotional about his use of drugs. And there we have it: a man-child who feels rejected, exploited, his rights abused, who says that the drugs are no big deal. A victim, in other words. And a mother who feels understandably violated by her child's drug use, and who has, probably brilliantly, turned private trauma into literary victimhood.

Everyone is on ambiguous moral ground. The Myerson case is, in many ways, a classic example of how confusing it can be when a comfortable, creative lifestyle rubs up against the harsh realities of drug use.

In the case of Brandon Muir there was no cosy lifestyle, but the same questions about a drug user's rights and the fallibility of liberal attitudes are raised. How far must we consider the drug user as the victim? Sometimes, until they kill someone other than themselves.

The story of Brandon, 23 months old when he died at the hands of his mother's heroin addict boyfriend in Dundee, is as ghastly as that of Baby P. His mother sold her body for drugs while her son was dying from a fatal blow that ruptured his duodenum. The toddler, who had 40 injuries to his body, was then taken to a squalid drugs party, where he vomited brown liquid while, all around him, young addicts partied. They laughed at him being sick. Hours later he was dead. His killer was convicted on Tuesday.

Brandon was not on any at-risk register. Why should he have been, when social policy emphasises that drugs users be supported in their lifestyle, not told to wise up? From top to bottom in the existing system, that ethos rules.

Addicts are official victims. They are not regarded as people with a choice. The presumption, therefore, is on keeping their children at home with them, not removing them. Suggestions that contraception be a condition of receiving methadone for addicts caused an outcry in Scotland, with accusations about eugenics.

Which take precedence? The human rights of the infant born to the junkie, or the right of the junkie to have both lifestyle and children? At the moment, it is firmly the latter. Social policy remains studiously non-interventionist; non-judgmental; passive. Hence the confusion. Hence the increasing number of babies raised in addict households; and hence - if you like- the increasing number of screwed-up middle-class teenagers.

According to an Audit Commission report today, children's services deteriorated last year and remain the least good area of councils' work. We should not be surprised. Among both families and professionals, only confusion and lack of confidence will reign until we begin to address the moral status of drug taking.


British teachers' careers 'blighted' by false allegations

Hundreds of teachers are facing false allegations of abusing children every year, union leaders said. More than 800 claims are being made against staff, according to the NASUWT union. Many of the allegations follow attempts by teachers to discipline pupils who misbehave in class, it was claimed.

The union argued that teachers were seen as "guilty until proven innocent" and can face suspension, police investigations or disciplinary procedures if they are confronted with abuse allegations or claims they used excessive force against a pupil. Even if a teacher is later cleared, the complaint is still held on record, they said.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said the majority of allegations were unfounded and told the BBC that the situation was a "blight" on the teaching profession. She said: "Whatever the outcome of the investigation, that will be on the teacher's file. If that teacher applies for another job that allegation will be resurrected under the Criminal Records Bureau check. "So you could say that every one of those 800 teachers has got a blight over their career for the rest of their time teaching." While no-one doubts that children needed protection, Miss Keates added: "This presumption of guilt is one of the major flaws in the current system."

Ministers said they were looking at the guidance on accusations against teachers. A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "Guidance on more consistent and swifter handling of allegations was issued for education in 2005. "We are also looking at whether guidance should be amended to make clear that accusations which have been demonstrated to be untrue do not need to be included in teachers' references."


Useless British regulator: "The Financial Services Authority is facing a multimillion-pound compensation claim from a group of investors who say that the City watchdog failed to stop the activities of a suspected rogue trader. Former clients of GFX Capital Markets, which has collapsed with estimated losses of œ44 million, say that the FSA knew of serious concerns about its boss, Terry Freeman, but allowed him to continue trading. The accusation comes as the regulator is struggling to cope with the most serious loss of public confidence in its decade-long history. It was accused of being negligent in its monitoring of Northern Rock, the mortgage lender that was nationalised last year, and the regulator's chairman, Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, has been forced to draw up radical plans to improve its ability to police the City. The Times understands that FSA officials had gathered intelligence on Mr Freeman, 60, a foreign exchange trader, for more than two years. The authority knew that he had changed his name after being disqualified as a director in response to a conviction."

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