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Ready?! Aim! FIRE!

19 Jun

Ronnie Lee Gardner is Dead exclaimed one newspaper. What shocked me, was the method which was chosen by the condemned: firing squad. According to the Guardian, he told his daughter that the reason he chose this method was “I lived by the gun, I murdered with a gun, so I will die by the gun.”

For me, this method brings about images of the old west. The condemned standing in the middle of town. The unwashed towns people watching as 5 men raise their rifles and fire.
No mercy.
No sympathy.
How it works is normally there are 5 shooters, one armed with a blank round so everyone can take comfort in the fact that they may not be the one firing that lethal blow. However, sometimes (rarely) a 6th shooter is required to administer the final shot to put the accused out of their misery.  While this method is not the most technologically advanced, let’s look at two positives of it. It preserves the organs for donations—well, other than the heart and it is the cheapest form of capital punishment.

Other than the slight risk that one of the 5 bullets will not hit the heart (meaning someone is not as accurate as they are supposed to be), there is little risk that the shots will not be deadly. The same can not be said for other forms of execution. According to the Associated Press, “University of Colorado law professor Michael Radlet has been tracking botched executions in the U.S. and found some 42 cases that went wrong between 1982 and September 2009. Of those executions, 30 were lethal injection, 10 were electrocution and two were from asphyxiation after exposure to lethal gas.” Who says technology is always good? 4 bullets, aimed at the heart. Fire. Death. What could be simpler? We try to hard to make everything humane but we forget to look at why these people are on death row to begin with. Murder. The taking of a life. An innocent life, usually. And in our attempts to make the execution more humane we actually make it more difficult (which is usually how any government works anyway).
Let’s take lethal injection.  It has the guise of being humane because it is a “medical procedure”. However, if the needle is not placed correctly in a vein, which has happened, or if there is difficulty in finding a vein, the pain can be extreme. Humane ? Cost of lethal drugs? $86.08. However, the overall cost including salary of the people involved, the phone in the room, the supplies for the drugs, etc…$30,000 +/- (from a few different sites dealing with the cost of executions).
Okay, electrocution. Sometimes a jolt of between 500 and 2000 volts doesn’t work the first time and only after the victim is checked to see if there is a heart beat do they do it again. I have been shocked. We all have. Can you imagine having that voltage running through your body more than once? And to top it all off “...the prisoner’s eyeballs sometimes pop out and rest on [his] cheeks. The prisoner often defecates, urinates, and vomits blood and drool. The body turns bright red as its temperature rises, and the prisoner’s flesh swells and his skin stretches to the point of breaking. Sometimes the prisoner catches fire….Witnesses hear a loud and sustained sound like bacon frying, and the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh permeates the chamber. (Ecenbarger, 1994)“. Humane ? Cost of this? $14,000-$16,000. (again, approximate from many sites).
Now the cost firing squad is harder to find mainly because only three people have been executed by firing squad since 1977, but presumably the cost are negligible. I mean, really, how much do bullets cost? Also the blood is funnelled into bags placed near the entry site so there is no messy clean up.
The idea of capital punishment is like, to put it rudely, fucking for virginity. We are killing someone because they killed someone to prove a point. Seems a little off to me. It is like teaching your child not to bite by biting them. Also, the idea of a humane form of execution is absurd. Were their actions humane to their victims?
I can’t say that I am for or against capital punishment. I don’t believe that if we are punishing people that it should be torturous. That is just lowering ourselves to their standards. It really shouldn’t cost a lot since it will be the taxpayers footing the bill. Cheapest is the best. Should it be humane? Well, yes, to a point, but should it be painless? Naaah. After all, what does capital punishment actually serve but our sadistic impulses.


Justice will only be served if Jon Venables remains anonymous

9 Mar

The news that Jon Venables has been returned to prison* has, unsurprisingly, caused something of a feeding frenzy amongst right-wing tabloids and their readers focused around an alleged “need to know” why he has been recalled. So far, the “need to know” brigade have been unable to explain precisely why anyone unconnected with the case has any need to know anything about it, preferring to deflect such questions with emotive and inflammatory arguments about it being in the public interest, and all about justice for the family of James Bulger (along with lots of silly remarks about NuLiebor** secrecy). However, I can provide a very good reason why not only do we not need to know, but it is actually far better if we don’t. 

Venables is, apparently, accused of child pornography offences. This means there are now a whole new set of victims who have suffered either directly, or indirectly, because of his actions. These children deserve justice every bit as much as James did. 

It’s commonplace to assume that looking at photos of children being abused is, in some unfathomable way, less serious than actually doing it. This is a completely bogus argument. Anyone who looks as such material for enjoyment is complicit in the acts depicted. End of! The children in those images are real, they aren’t ‘posed by models’, they aren’t computer generated. They are real children who suffer for the gratification of others. They deserve to have their suffering recognised, and their abusers prosecuted. As anyone with half an idea about the British legal system knows, these children will not get justice if tabloid newspapers are allowed to print identifying information about Venables because, once identified, there would be little chance of him receiving a fair trial. The Crown Prosecution Service will be forced to drop the case, he will go unpunished, and may even end up back on the streets. 

And no, that’s not because of some left-wing plot to promote criminals’ rights, it’s because our legal system attempts to ensure everyone who appears before a court is tried without favour or prejudice, no matter who they are, and no matter what they may have done in the past. Whether you agree with that or not, it’s a system that’s worked well over many centuries and only the stupendously stupid would consider it should be overturned simply to satisfy the prurient curiosity of armchair vigilantes. 

Furthermore, arrests in such cases often come as part of a wider investigation. It’s entirely possible that, if guilty, Venables is only one link in a very long chain, and that identifying him to the public will compromise the whole investigation. 

Bearing all that in mind: if you genuinely believe you “need to know”, do you also think that should be accommodated at any price? Even at the price of letting guilty people go untried? 

*Technically, it’s not a return because he didn’t serve his original sentence in a prison.

** Not my spelling, but that of the oh-so-witty ranting righties who seem to have overlooked the fact that Venables was last tried under a Tory government when he was named by a judge, leaving the Home Office no choice but to give him a new identity. 

A Mandate for the Malicious

19 Aug

 The Register are covering the story of John Pinnington, a former headmaster who has lost his job because an enhanced security check revealed unsubstantiated rumours about him.

“A recent landmark ruling by the High Court takes the UK one step closer to becoming an “informant society” along the lines of the former East Germany or Soviet Union.”

I have no idea about the veracity of the allegations against Mr Pinnington, but the idea that someone’s life can be ruined by little more than tittle tattle is not only shocking, but against everything the UK legal system is supposed to stand for. I have children at school so of course I agree with security checks, but I’m more concerned about dedicated and talented teachers leaving the education system only to be replaced by those who are squeaky clean but otherwise second rate.

Teaching is a poorly paid occupation with, in many cases, a high level of stress and responsibility. At the time of writing, the profession finds it hard to recruit graduates with good degrees. Adding yet another disincentive will only serve to further deter the very people who would be of most benefit to young minds. Why on earth would these people want to teach when they can earn considerably more doing a job which does not expose them to the risk of public humiliation and ruin!

What is (or should be) of concern to us all is the idea that an individual is no longer considered innocent unless proven guilty – a system which has served us well for centuries – instead gossip and spite are seen as proof of guilt. In an ideal world, no one would ever make false allegations against another person. However, out here in the real world people do, even children. The law should serve to protect the innocent from such claims, not to give a mandate to the malicious.

Because I am poor I am denied justice.

27 Jun

What follows is a draft letter written after I experienced no less than three distinct and illegal breaches of my human rights in one day. I have spoken about this more here

Because I am poor I am denied justice.

My local council has an issue with corruption regardless of if it admits it or not. One of our elected councillors is currently investigating the distinct possibility that a member of the council has been using his position to make life impossible for my family. This is almost certainly the same person as the anonymous cyberstalker who has been harassing me with far to much intimate knowledge of myself and my family with gaps of knowledge consistent with the data held by the council.

As a result of this persons actions I have been denied benefits all year. The councillor investigating is the first representative for my ward (there are three seats) to ever bother to acknowledge correspondence. In short no one is interested and there is no funding to seek legal redress. I am at the mercy of the every whim of those that abuse the system from without and within.

There is just one department within the council that collects rent arrears and council tax. Somehow this department was able to write to me and arrange payments for my rent but unable to communicate with me regarding any council tax owed. So that at the end of the first half of the year they had failed to send many of us a bill at all.

The first I know is when the only councillor from my ward ever give me the time of day told me I would be summoned for non payment and there was nothing he could do about it.

Sure enough I was sent a final demand and a summons that same month. The summons was issued 24 days before the date of the letter of the demand. The law requires 28 days notice as a minimum before action can be taken.

I felt sure that should I present my case on the day that I would not have costs awarded against me and that “normal” progression of paying such tax would commence.

I reckoned without the 2 and a half hour delay and I reckoned without the fact that many of the other people summoned to court 2 that day had very similar stories. Thanet District Council was breaking the law.

The bench did not seem at all impressed that I was in the court room at all and as I started to read my prepared statement the “head” whatever he might be titled sighed. The statement which outlined the details of my case covers a single side of A4. I was stopped from reading it and told to summarise and sit down.

The council representative who did not even get my address right reiterated his claims and the bench award costs against me. I objected and was told in no uncertain terms that “the council is in good standing” with a tone that said “and you are not”. This despite the identical nature of so many respondents claims.

So, you see, regardless of the law of this land I was guilty unless I could prove my innocence.

To my understanding no one left that court without costs being awarded against them and the debt (in my case just under £1000) to be paid within one month. Failure to pay will see what little we posses taken from us by a court system that would not even listen to the evidence against the council. The same council that is rated poorly and, as I have experience first hand, harbours shocking abuse of power.

There is no legal aid to fight cases involving benefits or local authorities and so this will go unaddressed unless I can obtain help. But from where does my help come from?

I am poor. I live in an area of exceptional poverty in a county with one of the highest rates of unemployment in the UK. Who in their right mind would care that these abuses of human rights took place in this corner of our country? Who is there to speak up about the lack of protection we poor are given.

We are the abused of Thanet, the ignored of Kent and the unheard of England.

We are desperate.

Help us.