Saturday, October 15, 2011
Hateful British prosecutors lose one
I deserved all I got, says the burglar beaten by his victim: Case against father thrown out when criminal refuses to testify
When businessman Steve Coupland fought off a violent burglar breaking into his van, the Crown Prosecution Service insisted he should be charged. But after a 12-month fight to clear his name, the case has collapsed – because career criminal Matthew Higgins refused to give evidence against him, saying he ‘got what he deserved’.
Mr Coupland, who has never previously been in trouble with the police, had seen his van targeted by thieves on 13 occasions – including the two nights before the incident – and tackled the burglar only after he was attacked with a crowbar.
Higgins, 43, who has an appalling history of violence, ended up being badly beaten by Mr Coupland and both men were arrested by police. Prosecutors refused to accept that Mr Coupland, 54, was lawfully defending himself and his property.
But the CPS has been forced into a humiliating climbdown by Higgins’s refusal to testify against him. Mr Coupland was cleared after no evidence was offered against him on the day of his scheduled trial at Hull Crown Court.
The father of three, who runs a cleaning company, had been so convinced a jury would see sense that he not only denied grievous bodily harm with intent but also ignored legal advice by refusing to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
‘I’m over the moon it’s finally over,’ he said. ‘This case has wasted a lot of time and money. ‘I have worked hard all my life and have never done anything wrong. I was just protecting my property.
‘I was facing years in prison, but I was determined to fight it. They said I had gone over the top, but I had to do what I had to do to stop that happening to me. The system is weighted in favour of the criminal – they would have preferred me to bring him in for a cup of tea and hand over my wallet.’
Just hours before the incident, Mr Coupland had spoken to police about attempted break-ins on his van the previous two nights in September last year.
The van, which contained nothing of value, was parked outside Mr Coupland’s house in Hessle, Hull. At 10pm he was alerted by the noise of Higgins trying to force open the van with a crowbar. He shouted at the thief and went outside to confront him.
But Higgins hit him on the arm with the crowbar and Mr Coupland – who, at 5ft 3in tall, is ‘at least six inches’ shorter than the thief – fought back with all his strength. ‘Both of us ended up on the floor,’ said Mr Coupland. ‘I was hitting him and trying to get the crowbar off him, which I managed to do. My blood was boiling.’
Higgins lost part of his ear in the fight and Mr Coupland believes this happened when he threw the thief against a pillar. Eventually he was able to restrain Higgins until police – called by his wife and a neighbour – arrived at the scene.
Mr Coupland was locked in police cells overnight and lawyers decided to press charges because of the extent of Higgins’s injuries.
‘The police were brilliant,’ said Mr Coupland. ‘They didn’t want me to get prosecuted as they are sick and tired of druggies breaking into vans and then being given community service. ‘I had acted in self-defence and was not going to admit doing anything wrong.’
Higgins has since been jailed for 21 months for drugs, blackmail and weapon offences. He was also given a three-month suspended sentence for attempting to break into Mr Coupland’s van.
He has been in and out of custody since he was a teenager and has 71 previous convictions, including a 14-year prison sentence in 1989 for stabbing a solicitor during an armed robbery.
Mr Coupland said: ‘I had no idea I was taking on such a dangerous man, but I don’t regret what I did and would do the same again. I won’t let these people ruin my life.’
A spokesman for the CPS said: ‘We have discontinued the case after the victim refused to give evidence.’
We don’t need experts to teach us how to be civil
A new British report calls on officialdom to ‘nudge’ the masses towards civilised behaviour. It isn’t only a patronising idea, but a dangerous one
It appears that some sections of the British establishment are suffering from selective amnesia in relation to the riots in England in August. The rioting is now treated like an embarrassing episode that one should not discuss in good company.
In such circumstances, anything that reminds us of the truth that these riots were not an aberrant moment in an otherwise civic society, but rather spoke to some profound underlying social problems, is welcome. A new report published by the Young Foundation, titled Charm Offensive: Cultivating Civility in 21st Century Britain, grapples with the question of how to tackle the feeble levels of civility in English communities today.
The report successfully establishes one crucial point that is often overlooked in debates about community life and anti-social behaviour: it notes that civility should not be confused with other forms of behaviour related to public activities and formal institutions. Rather, civility is a taken-for-granted form of behaviour, through which people express their own and recognise other people’s humanity. As the report notes, civility ‘can, as an unspoken language for interaction, provide the basis for achieving a “good society”, through an emphasis on qualities such as respect, empathy and compassion’.
So civility is very much a pre-political accomplishment; it flourishes in the pre-political areas of people’s lives – in their everyday conversations and interactions. Today, as in the past, civility becomes tangible through social engagement, through taken-for-granted behaviours and the rituals of everyday life.
How civility works, and how it mediates human interaction, is influenced by both social factors and cultural ones. Unfortunately, however, contemporary political thought and policymaking has lost confidence in its ability to engage with social and cultural issues. Instead, it prefers to focus policy on the alleged moral deficits of the individual, and it is more interested in discovering new techniques to manage behaviour than it is in addressing social problems. The clearest expression of this trend is policymakers’ promiscuous use and abuse of brain research, where people’s alleged mental failings become the all-purpose explanation for every social ill, from poor educational attainment to a disposition towards criminal behaviour.
Sadly, Charm Offensive also falls under the spell of this brain-obsessed outlook. It informs us that civil behaviour makes people happy. How do we know this? Apparently, MRI scans have shown that civil actions stimulate the same areas of the brain that are stimulated by experiences such as falling in love or holding a baby. So what we need in order to sort out today’s crisis of civility is a bit of ‘neurological reflexivity’.
The relentless politicisation of neuroscience reveals how influential technocratic and therapeutic policymaking has become. In the outlook of the brain obsessives, social and cultural analysis serves a perfunctory role only, providing a pretext for intervention into the pre-political or informal areas of community life. Having correctly identified civility as something that exists in a pre-political zone, Charm Offensive goes on to call for technocratic intervention into this domain of social experience. By presenting incivility as an individual problem, and by hiding behind advocacy science, the report proposes the politicisation of pre-political areas of life.
The report suggests changing individual behaviour through pedagogic and expert interventions. So, having identified lack of empathy for others as a key marker for incivility, the report’s authors suggest we should teach people how to be empathetic. They call for ‘empathy training’ in schools and in other institutions. In short, the report disassociates personal qualities and forms of behaviour from any wider moral and social context and instead treats them as technical skills that can be taught by trainers. It also reduces the virtue of reciprocity and reciprocal behaviour to a ‘skill’, which can be cultivated by external experts.
It is not surprising that when being civil is looked upon as little more than a skill one can acquire through training, the cultivation of civility comes to be seen as an act of self-interested manipulation. ‘Civility seems to thrive better when it is embedded from the outset as an integral and explicit element of any strategy or new venture’, says Charm Offensive.
The strategic planning and manipulation of behaviour promoted by Charm Offensive are very similar to the Lib-Con government’s policy of nudging. The doctrine of nudge is devoted to remoulding the way people think and act through behaviour modification. Nudging is presented as a benevolent attempt to help people realise what is in their best interests. So Charm Offensive also advocates what the nudge lobby calls ‘choice architecture’, which ‘may help us to make better choices and behave more consistently with our beliefs and aspirations’. In relation to the problem of incivility, the report proposes the adoption of the kind of techniques usually associated with the promotion of government-sanctioned healthy lifestyles. It states: ‘[the] behavioural-change approaches currently being applied to reduce obesity or increase recycling could be applied far more systematically in the promotion of civility.’
As is the case with all forms of paternalistic intervention into our lives, the solution is to ‘send in the experts’. Apparently it is the experts who know how to nudge people to do what is in their best interests. It is experts who can apparently teach otherwise morally illiterate people about the value of empathising with others. And it is experts – with the help of behavioural economics, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology – who can become the architects of civility. This is why the authors of Charm Offensive complain that ‘very little investment’ in expertise has gone into the field of tackling incivility.
The casual manner in which behaviour-management is put forward as the solution to problems in community life reveals a serious loss of focus in modern policymaking. To make matters worse, the advocates of nudging delude themselves into thinking that what they offer is a benevolent alternative to old, more intrusive forms of state intervention. The authors of Charm Offensive contrast their ‘softer, bottom-up interventions’ with old-style ‘punitive top-down policies’. But what is ‘bottom-up’ about campaigns that are drawn up and initiated by experts who work at think tanks and research institutions? What is bottom-up about advocating training programmes in ‘effective empathy’?
It could be argued that one reason English communities have problems of incivility is because so much of their informal life has come under the scrutiny of official and semi-official institutions. If civility is indeed an accomplishment of pre-political interaction, then all this intervention into everyday relations and interactions can only disrupt the process through which people work out what forms of behaviour are appropriate to their circumstances. The attempt to regulate the informal sphere has a very destructive impact, as strikingly exposed by the confusions that surround intergenerational relations. One of the principal legacies of policies designed to protect children from their parents and other adults has been the erosion of adult solidarity. Many modern forms of incivility are the direct outcome of the reluctance of adults to contain the behaviour of children – and more nudge-like intervention into community life can only make this bad situation even worse.
Whatever the problems confronting communities today, the answers will not be found through displacing political deliberation with technocratic policymaking. The very fact that, just a few months after the riots, there is an absence of serious debate on the fundamental questions raised by this violent event should be the very first issue to be confronted and interrogated. Avoiding the big questions by treating incivility as a problem that could be put right through training individuals in neurological reflexivity represents a naive belief in the power of the expert to fix communities. Surely decades of failed community programmes indicate that a hands-off approach would be far better and is long overdue.
Foreign boss fired two British cleaners for being lazy
From what I know of the British, their boss was right
Two cleaners claim to have been sacked for not working as hard as foreigners. Stella Judge and Sarah Pritchard say they were told that Britons were lazy while immigrants were happy to work all hours on the minimum wage.
Yesterday their MP used Parliamentary privilege to raise their plight in the Commons. Henry Smith said the cleaning firm, Jani-King, had questions to answer about the case, which corresponds with widespread fears that home-grown workers are losing out to immigrants.
‘The allegation that two of my constituents have been sacked simply for being British is deeply disturbing,’ said the Tory MP for Crawley. ‘The suggestion is that Britons are lazy and foreign workers are cheaper.
‘Unemployment and immigration are big concerns – with people increasingly worried about being dismissed and replaced with non-British workers. ‘I’m hoping for a fuller explanation of the situation in this case from Jani-King.’
A spokesman for the firm – based in Kingston, Surrey – denied the pair were sacked for being British. ‘Two employees have been dismissed following standard employment procedures,’ she said. ‘The reasons are unrelated to ethnicity. Jani-King has over 1,200 staff in the UK and is an equal opportunities employer.’ The spokesman said she could not reveal what proportion of the staff were foreign because no statistics were kept on nationality.
The two women at the centre of the claims – next-door neighbours in Crawley, West Sussex – said last night that their colleagues came mostly from Mauritius, then more recently Bulgaria.
Miss Judge, a 57-year-old mother of five, has launched a claim for unfair dismissal. She and Miss Pritchard had started full-time work cleaning the Gatwick Travelodge in summer 2010, originally for One Complete Solution. But when that firm lost the contract in April the work passed to Jani-King, which took on the employees. Miss Pritchard, a 30-year-old mother of one, said she and her friend quickly realised their days were numbered.
Miss Judge was sacked at the start of July and Miss Pritchard was made redundant three weeks later. She said: ‘We would work a normal shift from 8.30am, then go home – but the foreign staff would still be there at 10.30 at night. When I went home, they stayed on. ‘They were on the minimum wage, £5.93 an hour at the time. At first most of them were from Mauritius but now they’re generally from Bulgaria where the manager is from. ‘It was obvious we were sacked for being British.’
Mr Smith said Jani-King reacted ‘aggressively’ to his letters which amounted to ‘this is none of your business’ and had threatened legal action.
Speaking as MPs discussed topics for future debates, Mr Smith told the Commons: ‘I have been dealing with a case on behalf of two constituents who were dismissed from their job with a commercial cleaning firm called Jani-King, allegedly for being British.
‘Can we have consideration for a debate on discrimination against British workers in this country?’
Leader of the House Sir George Young urged him to inform ‘the appropriate authorities if anything illegal has taken place’ and said he would contact Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
South Australia: Aggressive response by homosexuals to Bible message
CHRISTIAN street preachers and a pro-gay rights group are a push or shove away from causing violence in Rundle Mall. That's the warning from the chairman of the shopping precinct.
Theo Maras told The Advertiser yesterday that the groups had been involved regularly in "guerrilla warfare" throughout the Mall, triggering customers to keep clear of shops because of safety fears.
"There is a real potential for violence," Mr Maras said. "All you need is a group of people to push and shove on both sides and you will have a fiasco." He said the groups seemed to care more about seeking attention for themselves than their causes.
"We are not against the Bible or the pro-rights group," Mr Maras said. "It is not about who is doing it; it is that nobody should be doing it. "People have a right not be intimidated or yelled at."
Street preachers representative Caleb Corneloup said the group's Friday night preaching had attracted protests from the gay community for about six weeks.
He said the protesters claimed the preachers were exercising hate speech. "I've asked them what they say is hate speech, and the only issue they told me is that we believe that homosexuality is a sin and those who practice it will go to hell for eternity if they don't repent," Mr Corneloup said.
"I disagree with that because we have a standard biblical position towards homosexuality."
He said his group refused to stop preaching, despite the controversy and ongoing protests. "Street church is there to stay, we're never going to leave," he said.
Mr Corneloup said he believed the presence of the gay community was in response to his group preaching at a pro-gay marriage rally earlier this year.
The preachers have been at the centre of a legal stoush with Adelaide City Council over the group's presence in Rundle Mall. Yesterday, the council asked the Supreme Court to settle its feud through mediation.
Council lawyers said they wanted the dispute set down for a private mediation - presided over by a judge - before the matter returns to court in two weeks. However, Justice John Sulan adjourned the matter to be heard at the next scheduled hearing.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.