Friday, July 17, 2009

Former British magistrate cleared of rape sues his accuser for £300,000

False accusers deserve imprisonment, not monetary penalties but in this case a damages claim seems the only option. The matter should certainly be tried in court. Claiming non-consent after an interval of 7 years should never have led to a conviction in the first place

A former magistrate cleared of rape has launched a landmark legal claim for £300,000 damages against his accuser. Anthony Hunt, 66, was jailed in 2003 for after a jury found him guilty of raping a woman in her home after they both attended a flower show. He spent nearly two years on a prison sex offender's wing before his conviction was overturned. Now in a legal first, Mr Hunt wants to 'vindicate his reputation' by bringing a claim of malicious prosecution against the woman who alleged rape.

Critics say that if the bid succeeds, it could have far-reaching consequences as to whether rape gets reported to the police. They argue it will deter rape complainants from giving evidence - out of fear they may be sued if their alleged attackers are found not guilty. Mark Warby QC, representing Mr Hunt, however, said the move offered a vital legal remedy to those wrongly accused of rape. Mr Warby said: 'It is 14 years ago to the day that my client had sex with the defendant with her consent at her home at the age of 52.

'It was nearly seven years afterwards that he was arrested and first learned of her allegation of rape. 'He was prosecuted and, on a majority verdict, convicted, but his conviction was held unsafe by the Court of Appeal Criminal Division and was quashed.' 'He's brought this action to vindicate himself, not only because the conviction was unsafe. 'It was a miscarriage of justice and he is suing his accuser for damages.'

Mr Hunt - who was jailed for four years - did not face a retrial as he had served 23 months and 18 days of his sentence in prison - nearly the full amount required before release. His conviction was overturned after the Appeal Court ruled the trial judge had misdirected the jury.

Claims of malicious prosecution are normally brought against public bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service which prosecute in the vast majority of cases. But Mr Hunt argued that, by giving a witness statement to Hampshire constabulary in May 2002, Mr Hunt's accuser was effectively responsible for the prosecution - and should stand trial in a civil court. The argument was rejected last year at the High Court, but now three Law Lords at the Appeal Court are deciding whether to give the go-ahead to a trial for malicious prosecution.

Mr Warby told Lords Justices Sedley, Wall and Moore-Bick that Mr Hunt was entitled to a fair trial of the issues - whether AB effectively brought the prosecution - and whether she lied. He argued that Mr Justice Blake in the High Court had wrongly ruled against Mr Hunt by taking into account 'public policy' issues - that the 'floodgates would open' if those cleared of rape could bring malicious prosecution cases against their accusers. Mr Justice Blake also wrong considered whether rape was actually committed which Mr Warby said was a matter for a jury rather than a High Court judge.

But Roger ter Haar, for AB, said: 'On the one hand if Mr Hunt's story is true, he has been subject to an enormous injustice. 'He's been to prision in circumstances where he should not have been. 'On the other hand, from my client's point of view, she's not only been the victim of rape, and had to deal with the psychological consequences of that, but she has also had to deal with the police investigation, which in the circumstances of this case cannot have been easy.'

Mr Ter Haar added that if the judges were to find in Mr Hunt's favour 'It would be a massive in road into the principle of witness immunity. 'In any case where it is one person's word against the other, witness immunity will be removed.'

At Mr Hunt's Winchester Crown Court trial for rape, jurors heard that the complainant, a special constable, had invited him into her home for a cup of tea after the Fordingbridge Show in 1995. Mr Hunt, whose civilian job was as a senior traffic warden, claimed he could not have raped his accuser as his manhood was 'abnormally small' and he could only have had sex with consent. But the jury convicted him by a majority of 10-2.

The court heard that Mr Hunt's wife, Lynn, had suffered acute embarrassment working at her antique shop near the couple's home in Blandford St Mary, Dorset. The case, listed for two days, will continue on Friday.


A 9-month wait for NHS arthritis treatment: Delay can mean a lifetime of agony for victims

Thousands of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers face a lifetime of agony because they are not being treated quickly enough, a report says. Guidelines state that patients should receive treatment within three months of the first symptoms appearing. But the average wait is nine months - and GPs are not trained well enough to know what help to offer.

There is no cure, but experts say that if arthritis is diagnosed in the first three months, drugs can be given which limit its progression. This means the disease will not be as painful as it would have been if the condition was diagnosed later. The study by the National Audit Office found that patients do not know enough about the condition, and therefore delay going to see their GP. Between half and three-quarters of people with symptoms wait more than three months before seeking medical help, and about a fifth delay for a year or more.

GPs lack the specialist knowledge required to diagnose the condition quickly, and on average it takes four visits before a patient is referred to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment, the report adds. Its author, Chris Groom, said: 'This is a nasty disease, a progressive auto-immune disease, which attacks otherwise healthy joints. Early symptoms are joint pain and stiffness and it leads to inflammation and loss of strength. 'It also affects other parts of the body, such as the heart and lungs, and is also associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.'

The report found that the average length of time from the onset of symptoms to treatment has not improved in the past five years. Mr Groom said that services needed to be better coordinated and designed around people's needs, including helping them remain in work.

Three-quarters of sufferers are of working age when diagnosed, meaning delays cost the economy almost £2billion a year - about £560million a year in NHS healthcare costs and £1.8billion in sick leave and work-related disability. 'Once people fall out of the job market with this disease, it is very hard to get back in', Mr Groom said.

The report also found that 50 per cent more people have rheumatoid arthritis than was previously thought. Mr Groom added: 'We estimate that 580,000 adults in England have the condition, which is higher than existing estimates of 400,000 for the UK, and that there are 26,000 new cases each year in England, compared to estimates of 12,000 for the UK.'

Neil Betteridge, chief executive of the charity Arthritis Care, said: 'The report echoes what people with rheumatoid arthritis have been telling Arthritis Care for years. 'Early diagnosis and referral for suitable treatment is crucial as it can stop this debilitating condition in its tracks. 'We applaud the audit's recommendations that the Department of Health and Primary Care Trusts replace their often scattergun delivery with joined-up services.'

Tory MP Edward Leigh, chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said the NHS needed to improve support services for people with arthritis.
Health minister Ann Keen said: 'We welcome this report and will consider it carefully before responding.'


Pathetic science examinations in British High Schools: Some exam questions require no scientific knowledge!

Teenagers need only a grasp of grammar and no scientific knowledge to answer GCSE science questions correctly, a report suggests today. It says that the right answers to multiple-choice questions are obvious because they are often the only ones that make grammatical sense. The report is by Science Community Representing Education (Score), which speaks on behalf of organisations including the Royal Society, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Science Council.

A panel of experts reviewed recent changes to GCSE science examinations. It analysed 79 exam papers. The report said that some of the range of answers deemed allowable in marking schemes were not correct. It noted the widespread use of multiple-choice questions, saying: “There were substantial variations between awarding bodies, with some specifications having as few as 2 per cent or 9 per cent of marks available through extended response questions on structured papers. “This is of importance, as extended response questions provide an opportunity for pupils to demonstrate the full extent of their understanding and ability in a deeper sense than is possible in multiple choice or short-response questions.”

It added: “There were a few instances where knowledge of science was not needed to answer some parts of some questions. “Of particular concern were questions which appeared to be general knowledge. “A related finding was that some multiple-choice questions had poorly constructed, incorrect answers. In some cases, only the correct answer made grammatical sense and therefore the incorrect answers were unlikely to be selected by the student, simply on the basis of grammar.”

Sir Alan Wilson, chairman of Score, said: “Science is a quantitative subject yet the amount of maths in the exams varied widely and was generally woefully inadequate. While these general knowledge questions were not widespread, it is astonishing that there are any examples. “The failings outlined in the report must now be addressed as we cannot afford to fail the young people who are working so hard to get their science qualifications.”

Peter Main, director of education and science at the Institute of Physics, said: “Currently, it appears that there is insufficient use of mathematics, the language of science, and that some of the questions do not even require a knowledge of science at all.


Brighter people live longer, says Glasgow scientist David Batty

Yet more evidence that high IQ is usually a part of general biological fitness

Greater intelligence may in part partially explain why people from a high socio-economic background live longer than those of lower social status, researchers have suggested. A study of former soldiers in the United States has indicated that differences in IQ may explain almost a quarter of the differences in mortality between people of higher and lower social classes.

It has long been accepted that social status affects mortality, with a particular influence on death from cardiovascular events such as strokes and heart attacks. Many of these differences have been ascribed to stress, to income, and to behavioural factors such as smoking and diet — but these cannot explain the whole gap in longevity between the highest socio-economic groups and the lowest ones.

The new study, from a team led by David Batty, of the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, compared outcomes from a group of 4,289 former American soldiers drawn from diverse social backgrounds. It found that variations in IQ explain about 23 per cent of the survival differences between different social groups. Details of the study are published in European Heart Journal.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, of University College, London, who leads the Whitehall II study of civil servants, which has uncovered many of the effects of social class on mortality, and his colleague Mika Kivimaki, offered three possible explanations for the effect in a commentary for the journal. [The Marmot is associated with the dubious WCRF and some equally dubious dietary claims so his interpretations should be treated with caution]

“Intelligence might lead to greater knowledge about how to pursue healthy behaviours,” he wrote. Intelligence may “cause” socio-economic position; that is, more intelligence leads to more education, and greater income and occupational prestige. “Intelligence may be a marker for something else, and it is that something else, early life exposures, for example, that leads to mortality,” Dr Batty said.

“We already know that socio-economically disadvantaged people have worse health and tend to die earlier from conditions such as heart disease, cancer and accidents. Environmental exposures and health-related behaviours, such as smoking, diet and physical activity, can explain some of this difference, but not all of it. This raises the possibility that as-yet-unmeasured psychological factors need to be considered. One of these is intelligence or cognitive function, commonly referred to as IQ. This measures a person’s ability to reason and problem-solve. IQ is strongly related to socio-economic status.

“IQ wasn’t a magic bullet in this study, but this psychological variable had additional explanatory power on top of the classic variables such as smoking, high blood pressure, high blood glucose and obesity. It has partially explained the differences in death from heart disease and all causes.”


Cut population by a third, say crowded Britons

One in four Britons would like to see the population reduced by up to a third to ease overcrowding. A survey has revealed deep anxiety about pressure on the environment and the impact of migrants on public services and social cohesion. Nearly seven out of ten adults believe the best way to curb population growth is to cut immigration, the poll showed.

The findings, gathered in a YouGov survey for the environmental pressure group Optimum Population Trust [a Greenie outfit], suggest there is widespread unhappiness over official projections that the population will rise to 70million in the next 20 years. The number of British citizens has grown by around two million in the past decade. The exact figure is unknown because of the difficulties in precisely measuring immigration. This has brought the population to around 61million.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas has promised that the Government will not allow numbers to reach 70million, a pledge that has provoked mockery from political opponents.

Yesterday’s poll showed that the greatest support for cutting population levels was found in regions where immigration has been the highest. In London, where one in three of the population was born abroad, 54 per cent think there should be fewer people. In the East of England, 49 per cent support a lower population and 48 per cent support it in the South.

The survey, which questioned 2,000 people, found that 24 per cent want the population to be between 40million and 50million, and 51 per cent would like numbers brought below 60million.

In Scotland, where recent levels of immigration have been minimal, only 22 per cent want the population reduced.

According to the poll, three quarters thought over-population was responsible for transport congestion and two thirds blamed it for lack of affordable housing or environmental degradation. A total of 53 per cent thought that too many people meant a lower quality of life.

Reducing immigration was the most popular method of lowering numbers, and was supported by 69 per cent. Many of those questioned believed that people should take the environment into account when deciding family size. Some 34 per cent said couples should think about having no more than two children. Eight per cent favoured having only one child and 7 per cent said couples should consider having no children. A total of 49 per cent supported two children or fewer. A three-child maximum was favoured by 13 per cent, but 14 per cent said couples should have as many children as they liked.

Roger Martin, of the Optimum Population Trust, said: ‘The poll clearly demonstrates widespread concern about the environmental damage caused by population
growth and widespread support for measures to limit it. ‘The unequivocal nature of these findings makes the silence on population policy on the part of politicians and environmental groups even more astonishing. ‘The political parties and the green movement need to realise that the public can sustain a mature debate on population.’

Sir Andrew Green, of the MigrationWatch UK think-tank, said neither Labour nor the Conservatives would prevent the population increasing to 70million by 2029 with their present policies. ‘The main parties talk tough on immigration, but they are trying to con the British public,’ he added. ‘According to Government figures, we can expect almost another ten million people in England in 20 years’ time of which seven million will be due to immigration – equivalent to seven cities the size of Birmingham.’


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