Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Secret British court in control of a £2billion fortune: It holds the assets of 16,000 vulnerable people - but pays them paltry interest
A secret court is controlling £2billion of assets of thousands of elderly and mentally impaired people and paying them a paltry rate of interest.
The controversial actions of the Court of Protection were criticised by an MP last night as ‘bordering on malpractice’.
The interest rate – currently much less than they would receive in an ordinary bank account – means that the value of the financial estates are falling rapidly because the rate of inflation is 2.8 per cent.
An investigation by the Daily Mail has uncovered a litany of other complaints about the court, which came under fire last week after it emerged it had jailed a woman for defying its orders over the fate of her elderly father in a care home.
The allegations include claims that:
* The court’s officials frittered away people’s money by charging exorbitant fees;
* Officials have raided homes in search of documents and read private emails;
* The billions controlled by the court are being used to offset the national debt through an arm of the Treasury.
The court sits in private and deals with up to 23,000 cases a year.
It was set up in 2007 by Labour to act in the interests of those deemed incapable of running their own financial affairs because of ill health or old age.
It takes over when an individual suffers sudden mental impairment and has not already handed over power of attorney to a trusted friend or relative. It now controls huge sums of money for 16,000 vulnerable people.
The money is not at any risk. However, many families say the low interest rate – equivalent to the Bank of England base rate of 0.5 per cent – produces an income that it is impossible for their loved ones to live on.
Lib Dem MP John Hemming said: ‘The money should be well-managed and pay a decent rate of interest or it borders on malpractice.
'The current rate is risible and losing these 16,000 people, who desperately need a proper income, tens of millions of pounds a year in total.’
The Ministry of Justice said: ‘These accounts are designed to protect funds awarded by the courts with a 100 per cent government-backed guarantee and at zero risk to the individual. 'These are not supposed to be an investment fund.’
You can't bash a burglar after all: British Government's tough rhetoric branded a farce as it's revealed homeowners are barred from fighting raiders in garden or chasing them outside
New laws giving householders the right to fight back against burglars were condemned as a ‘farce’ last night after it emerged they are riddled with loopholes.
The Government had promised to let people use maximum force when confronted by intruders, after an outcry at cases where victims were arrested for defending their homes and businesses.
Justice Minister Chris Grayling told last year’s Tory Party conference: ‘Householders who act instinctively and honestly in self-defence are crime victims and should be treated that way.’
Justice Minister Chris Grayling MP had promised to let people use 'maximum force' against burglars at last year's Conservative party conference
But today it can be revealed that the new defence of ‘disproportionate force’ – which became law this week – will not apply in many cases.
Official guidance sent to judges, prosecutors and police shows:
* Homeowners cannot rely on the new defence if they find an intruder in their garden or chase them outside – the fight must take place indoors.
* Shopkeepers can only get away with disproportionate attacks on robbers if they live above their shop, and only if the two parts of the building are connected.
* Shop assistants and customers cannot get involved in the violence, unless their loved ones happen to be living in the store.
* Householders cannot use the defence if they are only trying to protect their property, rather than trying to defend themselves or their family.
The document admits: ‘The provision does not give householders free rein to use disproportionate force in every case they are confronted by an intruder.’
Dramatic CCTV footage released this week showed the risks shop staff are prepared to take to defend their livelihoods. Thurairagh Pirabahuran used his seat to hit gunman Sheldon Green as he tried to rob his store in Ilford, Essex.
But the brave shopkeeper does not live above the premises, so would not be protected from prosecution if police decided he had used ‘grossly disproportionate’ force.
Last night critics said the detail of the law, due to come into force within days, exposed Mr Grayling’s tough rhetoric as worthless.
They said it meant terrified homeowners and small businesses would still face possible prosecution if they lash out at criminals.
Malcolm Starr, a spokesman for jailed burglary victim Tony Martin, said: ‘I think it’s an absolute farce. They really must let common sense prevail.’ He said that rather than drawing up new laws, the system should simply prevent homeowners being arrested as soon as an intruder is attacked. Mr Starr added: ‘People immediately seem to get arrested and don’t get the benefit of the doubt – it’s the wrong way round.’
Nick de Bois, a Conservative MP on the Justice Select Committee, said: ‘It looks like the Ministry of Justice civil servants are watering down the intent behind this very sensible law. People have the right to defend their property and homes, and they don’t need a straitjacket from the Ministry of Justice.’
Campaigners have been calling for greater protection for burglary victims for years, prompted by a series of cases. Tony Martin, whose farmhouse had been repeatedly broken into, was convicted of murder after he shot two intruders in 1999, killing one. On appeal his sentence was cut.
In 2008, Munir Hussain chased and caught one of the three men who broke into his house. He and his brother Tokeer were jailed for attacking the intruder with a cricket bat, although their sentences were also later reduced on appeal.
Last September a couple spent two nights in custody after firing a shotgun at intruders, but Andy and Tracey Ferrie were not prosecuted.
Mr Grayling has been saying since 2009 that the law on self-defence should be reviewed and the Conservatives’ 2010 Election manifesto promised householders ‘greater legal protection if they have to defend themselves against intruders’.
The following year David Cameron himself said: ‘We’ll put beyond doubt that homeowners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted.’
Then at last year’s Tory conference, Mr Grayling announced that householders would be able to use more than reasonable force.
A clause on self-defence was added to the Crime and Courts Bill, which gained Royal Assent on Thursday.
But a circular sent this month by the Ministry of Justice makes clear the limitations of the legislation. It states: ‘Householders are only permitted to rely on the heightened defence if they are using force to defend themselves or others. They cannot seek to rely on the defence if they were acting for another purpose, such as protecting their property.’
It continues: ‘The term “in or partly in a building” is used to protect householders who might be confronted by an intruder on the threshold of their home, climbing in through a window perhaps. But householders cannot rely on the heightened defence if the confrontation occurred wholly outside the building, for example in the garden.’
Steve McCabe, a Labour MP on the Home Affairs Committee, said: ‘This shows how empty the conference rhetoric is. This constant raising of expectations followed by a failure to deliver, is undermining justice in this country. It’s time people like Chris Grayling acted more responsibly.’
Whitehall sources stressed the legislation was only ever intended to give more protection to homeowners who wake up to find intruders.
Mr Grayling said: ‘Being confronted by a burglar inside your home while loved ones sleep upstairs is a rare but uniquely frightening experience. This law is designed to protect those whose actions in that awful moment may seem disproportionate in the cold light of day. ’
What kind of society treats smacking as a war crime - while teaching children how to watch porn?
A group of sex education ‘experts’ has suggested that pupils should be taught in school about pornography, on the grounds that it is not ‘all bad’ and can even be ‘helpful’ to them.
Yes, you read that right. The Sex Education Forum says in a new publication for schools that pornography should be taught in terms of ‘media literacy and representation, gender, sexual behaviour and body image’.
Behind the gobbledegook, this seems to be at least in part a confused attempt to deal with the fact that children are now accessing all manner of dubious or harmful material on the internet.
Accordingly, this publication warns that the sex and bodies in pornography ‘are mostly unrealistic’, and that such material may involve coercing participants into performing sex acts. But it also suggests showing such images to children at age 14. Moreover, it states they might find some of the positions in such porn films ‘helpful’, while being made aware that ‘the so-called pleasure’ they see ‘may be anything but’.
So schoolchildren are to be taught sexual positions from pornography — with a pious health warning that they may not get much pleasure out of them! Pinch yourself — we’re talking 14-year-olds here. Whatever happened to childhood innocence? Whatever happened to teaching?
The Forum says that this approach will equip children with ‘filters in their head’ to apply to the disturbing or damaging media images available to them.
What an amazing argument, that for children to handle situations that are harmful to them they must be exposed to that harm! What next — teaching them how to smoke a crack pipe?
There is no such thing as harmless porn, let alone porn that is actually helpful to children. This is because, even at its least extreme, porn invariably turns the human body into a dehumanised sexual object and degrades the people involved, particularly women.
Yet the Forum’s publication suggests that pornography may not in fact lead people to view women with contempt or disgust.
Whatever happened to feminism, and its fierce campaigns against pornography for putting women in danger by representing them as sexual objects?
These dangers move on to a different plane altogether when children are exposed to porn. Some will see these images before they are old enough fully to understand human sexuality. Indeed, porn may shape their whole view of sexuality, doing untold harm as a result.
It also inescapably makes the viewer complicit in a voyeuristic exercise which uses sex as a salacious peep-show. Exposing children to these disgusting images is therefore itself a type of child abuse.
Lucy Emmerson, co-ordinator of the Forum, has said the magazine aims to help teachers ‘offer factually correct information and an opportunity for safe discussion that matches the maturity of the child’.
But it is never safe to subject a child to pornography. At 14, a child is not mature enough to handle all the implications of healthy sexuality, let alone its perversions.
Among these ‘sexperts’, there is a shocking confusion between adults and children. Exposing children in this way is to treat them wholly inappropriately as quasi-adults, supposedly able to apply adult values and considerations to behaviour which would trouble many adults themselves.
The Forum's publication also contains some all-too telling details: a hypothetical correspondence with parents who would be horrified to hear that their children are to be exposed to porn in school
To these imagined (but realistic) parents protesting that they are trying to keep their children away from such images, this document replies with patronising idiocy that avoiding such things gives children the impression that it is wrong to talk about sex in any context.
How extraordinary to imply that there is nothing between ignorance and porn! And how revealing to dismiss such proper parental concern as damaging!
A teacher named Boo Spurgeon writes that, since children start accessing porn at around the age of 11, teachers need then to start talking to them about it.
This argument says if you can’t beat them, join them: innocence is already being abused, so teachers might as well finish the job. What an abandonment of responsibility. Adults need to set boundaries for children by saying that certain things are simply wrong — and talk about matters that belong to the adult world only when children are fully able to understand that world.
Indeed, destroy the innocence of a child and you destroy what it is to be a child — and as a result, damage the adult into whom the child then grows.
In any event, children almost instinctively filter out from their minds much information that is too grown-up for them to understand. No chance of that, however, in many of today’s sex education lessons and teaching materials which introduce even pre-pubescent children to the full range of sexual practices, positions and perversions.
Indeed, since many such lessons are themselves a kind of pornography, it is not really surprising that teachers are now being advised to go the whole hog and introduce their pupils to the real stuff.
An adult world which thinks some pornography is acceptable fare for 14-year-olds can no longer grasp the difference between children and adults, nor between sexuality and pornography. It can no longer make the essential distinction between healthy and harmful behaviour.
A quite different campaign illustrates this terrible confusion. Brecon Cathedral has joined forces with a number of children’s charities to end what they call ‘legalised violence against children’ — which in the real world is called sometimes giving a child a smack.
The Dean of Brecon, Geoffrey Marshall, says ‘resorting to violence and smacking is not effective and should no longer be seen as acceptable behaviour or reasonable punishment’. Such language elides the acceptable and the intolerable.
Beating a child is wrong; a one-off smack is not in the same league. To call that ‘violence’ is to minimise, and thus effectively deny, what real violence actually is.
It fails to draw the proper distinction between loving discipline, without which a child cannot flourish, and child abuse.
What has our society come to when it treats as a war criminal anyone who admits to giving their child an occasional smack, and yet advocates exposing children to porn?
The answer is that, for several decades now, a small number of determined zealots have wormed their way into influential positions from where they have set about undermining traditional moral precepts and replacing parental authority with their own, in order to brainwash children with the doctrine of ‘anything goes’ and ‘the right to choose’.
The Sex Education Forum, which describes itself as ‘the national authority on sex and relationships education’, is actually a bunch of activists with a ‘lifestyle choice’ agenda who have been busy undermining parental authority and traditional moral values for a quarter of a century.
Lo and behold, the organisations supporting the Brecon campaign include Barnardo’s, the National Children’s Bureau and Relate — which are also listed as members of the Sex Education Forum.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that parental discipline is treated as child abuse while children are force-fed pornography in the classroom — and anyone who dares protest faces vilification, ostracism and scorn?
But don’t worry. Children may have their innocence corrupted and become brutalised and degraded as a result — but they won’t be smacked. So that’s ok then.
There’s a name for this — society’s death wish.
The attack on religion in America
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY is being redefined in America, or at least many would like it to be. Our secular establishment wants to reduce the autonomy of religious institutions and limit the influence of faith in the public square. The reason is not hard to grasp. In America, "religion" largely means Christianity, and today our secular culture views orthodox Christian churches as troublesome, retrograde, and reactionary forces. They're seen as anti-science, anti-gay, and anti-women-which is to say anti-progress as the Left defines progress. Not surprisingly, then, the Left believes society will be best served if Christians are limited in their influence on public life. And in the short run this view is likely to succeed. There will be many arguments urging Christians to keep their religion strictly religious rather than "political." And there won't just be arguments; there will be laws as well. We're in the midst of climate change-one that's getting colder and colder toward religion.
Recent court cases and controversies suggest trends unfriendly to religion in public life. In 2005, a former teacher at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Michigan, filed an employment lawsuit claiming discrimination based on disability. The school fired her for violating St. Paul's teaching that Christians should not bring their disputes before secular judges. The subsequent lawsuit revolved around the question of whether a religious school could invoke a religious principle to justify firing an employee. The school said it could, drawing on a legal doctrine known as the ministerial exception, which allows religious institutions wide latitude in hiring and firing their religious leaders. It's in the nature of legal arguments to be complex and multi-layered, but in this case the Obama administration's lawyers made a shockingly blunt argument: Their brief claimed that there should be no ministerial exception.
The Supreme Court rejected this argument in a unanimous 9-0 vote. But it's telling nonetheless that lawyers in the Justice Department wanted to eliminate this exception. Their argument was straightforward: Government needs to have broad powers to address the problem of discrimination-in this case disability-as well as other injustices. Conceding too much to religious institutions limits those powers. Why should the theological doctrines of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, or of any other church, trump the legal doctrines of the United States when the important principle of non-discrimination is at stake? It is an arresting question, to say the least-especially when we remember that the Left is currently pushing to add gay marriage to the list of civil rights.
Concerns about the autonomy of religious institutions are also at work in the Obama administration's tussle with the Catholic Church and her religious allies over the mandate to provide free contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. After the initial public outcry, the administration announced a supposed compromise, which has been recently revised and re-proposed. The Obama administration allows that churches and organizations directly under the control of those churches are religious employers and can opt out of the morally controversial coverage. But religious colleges and charities are not and cannot. To them, the administration offers a so-called accommodation.
The details are complex, but a recent statement issued by Cardinal Dolan of New York identifies the key issue: Who counts as a religious employer? It's a question closely related to the issue in the Hosanna-Tabor case, which asks who counts as a religious employee. Once again the Obama administration seeks a narrow definition, "accommodating" others in an act of lŠse majest‚, as it were. The Catholic Church and her allies want a broad definition that includes Catholic health care, Catholic universities, and Catholic charities. The Church knows that it cannot count on accommodations-after all, when various states such as Illinois passed laws allowing gay adoptions, they did not "accommodate" Catholic charities, but instead demanded compliance with principles of non-discrimination, forcing the Church to shut down her adoption agencies in those jurisdictions.
Cardinal Dolan's statement went still further. For-profit companies are not religious in the way that Notre Dame University is religious. Nonetheless, the religious beliefs of those who own and run businesses in America should be accorded some protection. This idea the Obama administration flatly rejects. By their progressive way of thinking, economic life should be under the full and unlimited control of the federal government.
Religious liberty is undermined in a third and different way as well. For a long time, political theorists like John Rawls have argued that our laws must be based on so-called public reason, which is in fact an ambiguous, ill-defined concept that gives privileged status to liberalism. In 2010, Federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8-the ballot measure that reversed the California Supreme Court's 2006 decision that homosexuals have a right to marry-citing the lack of a rational basis for thinking that only men and women can marry. "The evidence shows conclusively," he wrote, "that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples." He continues by observing that many supporters of Proposition 8 were motivated by their religious convictions, which-following Rawls-he presumes should not be allowed to govern public law.
This line of thinking is not unique to Judge Walker. The influence of Rawls has been extensive, leading to restrictions on the use of religious reasons or even religiously-influenced reasons in public debate. In striking down Texas sodomy laws, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that moral censure of homosexuality has "been shaped by religious beliefs." The idea seems to be that moral views historically supported by religion-which of course means all moral views other than modern secular ones-are constitutionally suspect.
Here we come to the unifying feature of contemporary challenges to religious freedom-the desire to limit the influence of religion over public life. In the world envisioned by Obama administration lawyers, churches will have freedom as "houses of worship," but unless they accept the secular consensus they can't inspire their adherents to form institutions to educate and serve society in accordance with the principles of their faith. Under a legal regime influenced by the concept of public reason, religious people are free to speak-but when their voices contradict the secular consensus, they're not allowed into our legislative chambers or courtrooms.
Thus our present clashes over religious liberty. The Constitution protects religious liberty in two ways. First, it prohibits laws establishing a religion. This prevents the dominant religion from using the political power of majority rule to privilege its own doctrines to the disadvantage of others. Second, it prohibits laws that limit the free exercise of religion. What we're seeing today is a secular liberalism that wants to expand the prohibition of establishment to silence articulate religious voices and disenfranchise religiously motivated voters, and at the same time to narrow the scope of free exercise so that the new secular morality can reign over American society unimpeded.
Rise of the Nones
This shift in legal thinking on the Left reflects underlying religious trends. As the religious character of our society changes, so do our assumptions about religious freedom. The main change has been the rise of the Nones. In the 1950s, around three percent of Americans checked the "none" box when asked about their religious affiliation. That number has grown, especially in the last decade, to 20 percent of the population. And Nones are heavily represented in elite culture. A great deal of higher education is dominated by Nones, as are important cultural institutions, the media, and Hollywood. They are conscious of their power, and they feel the momentum of their growth.
At the same time, the number of Americans who say they go to church every week has remained strikingly constant over the last 50 years, at around 35 percent. Sociologists of religion think this self-reported number is higher than the actual one, which may be closer to 25 percent. In any event, the social reality is the same. As the Nones have emerged as a significant cohort, the committed core of religious people has not declined and in fact has become unified and increasingly battle tested. Protestants and Catholics alike know they're up against an often hostile secular culture-and although a far smaller portion of the population, the same holds for Jews and Muslims as well.
These two trends-the rise of the Nones and the consolidation of the committed core of believers-have led to friction in public life. The Nones and religious Americans collide culturally and politically, not just theologically.
For a long time, the press has reported on the influence of religious voters, especially Evangelicals. Polling data shows that religiosity has become increasingly reliable as a predictor of political loyalties. But what's far less commonly reported is that this goes both ways. In their recent book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Robert Putnam and William Campbell focused on the practice of saying grace before meals as an indication of religious commitment and found a striking correlation. Seventy percent of those who never say grace before meals identify as Democrats, compared to slightly more than 20 percent who identify as Republicans. Nones are extremely ideological. Meanwhile, among those who say grace daily, 40 percent identify as Democrats and 50 percent as Republicans. Religious people are more diverse, but they trend to the political right, and the more religious they are the more likely they are to vote Republican.
Other data also suggests a growing divide between the irreligious and religious. A recent Pew study confirms that Nones are the single most ideologically committed cohort of white Americans, rivaled only by Evangelical Protestants. They overwhelmingly support abortion and gay marriage. Seventy-five percent of them voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and they played a decisive role in his victory in 2012. In Ohio, Obama lost the Protestant vote by three percent and the Catholic vote by eleven percent-and both numbers rise if we isolate Protestants and Catholics who say they go to church every week. But he won the Nones, who make up 12 percent of the electorate in Ohio, by an astounding 47 percent.
I think it's fair to say that Obama ran a values campaign last fall that gambled that the Nones would cast the decisive votes. For the first time in American political history, the winning party deliberately attacked religion. Its national convention famously struck God from the platform, only to have it restored by anxious party leaders in a comical session characterized by the kind of frivolity that comes when people recognize that it doesn't really matter. Democratic talking points included the "war on women" and other well-crafted slogans that rallied their base, the Nones, who at 24 percent of all Democrat and Democratic-leaning voters have become the single largest identifiable cohort in the liberal coalition.
This presents the deepest threat to religious liberty today. It's not good when the most numerous and powerful constituency in the Democratic Party has no time for religion. This is all the more true when its ideology has the effect of encouraging the rest of the party to view religion-especially Christianity-as the enemy; and when law professors provide reasons why the Constitution doesn't protect religious people.
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, 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. Email me (John Ray) here.