A sign of the times in leafy Berkshire. The front page of my local paper announces that Father Christmas's charity sleigh is to start touring a troubled housing estate again. But he's requesting an escort from police and community wardens.
MEMRI unearths a TV interview with the man who wields the death-penalty sword in Saudi Arabia:
Like we said at the beginning of the show, the executioner Abdallah Al-Bishi will be joining us shortly. He is delayed because he is busy carrying out an execution. He is coming to the show straight from work, and will be joining us soon.
Being a superstitious type, I've never used the pens in the photo. (If you’re struggling to read the lettering, it says Fred A. Leuchter Associates Inc. Execution Equipment And Support.) The name's pronounced "Loocher", by the way. It’s more than fifteen years since I interviewed him. I was on holiday in the States, and had just read an Atlantic Monthly article about his strange life as a manufacturer of the machinery of death. As I was planning to pass through Boston, his home town, I rang him up and, slightly to my surprise, he invited me over to his home, which was also his workplace.
Old circuits and other electrical odds and ends were scattered his driveway in an anonymous suburb. During the hour we spent together in his kitchen, he broke off to take a call from a southern penitentiary. He was servicing their chair down in his basement workshop, and they were in a hurry to get it back. The conversation took place on his speakerphone, so I could hear every word. You’d have thought they were talking about a car that needed a new axle.
It was only afterwards that I discovered he had a connection with David Irving. Weirdly, the Atlantic piece hadn’t mentioned a single thing about that. If I’d known at the time, I wouldn’t have been quite so surprised to see a couple of Irving's books on the shelves. As it was, Leuchter's career nose-dived months later. I didn't manage to sell the interview, although I was tempted to dig it out years later, when the documentary, Mr Death, came out. And I never got to see the tools of his trade. He had a gallows downstairs too, as far as I recall. (One or two states still had hanging on the books.) But he did give me the pens before I left.
Just when she was beginning to lose hope, Jackie Danicki gets some encouraging news about the search for the idiots who assaulted her on the Tube. Seems, too, that the police are going to use the picture she took. If and when it all comes to court, I just hope some ultra-clever, loophole-seeking defence lawyer doesn't find a way of using her posts against her. I mean, can a blog prejudice a trial? I don't imagine it can, but I have no idea how the law stands.
The uncomfortable truth about Delano Brown and Donnel Carty is that they did not come from backgrounds of deprivation and chaotic family breakdown. Both boys' mothers separated from their fathers when they were young, but contrary to most of the reports this week, they each had a relationship with fathers who tried, to varying degrees, to keep them on the straight and narrow. Both were raised as churchgoers.
Reading about them somehow makes Rhys Pryce's death seem all the more pointless.
As I mentioned at the weekend, Jackie Danicki, one of the sparkiest bloggers around, was assaulted on the Tube last Friday, but managed to take a photo of one of the culprits. She filed a report with the police, yet she's still waiting to hear from the investigating officer. The force's head of media and marketing has been in touch, though. Very reassuring...
The BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action produced evidence yesterday that it was being used by some Muslims as an alternative to English criminal law. Aydarus Yusuf, 29, a youth worker from Somalia, recalled a stabbing case that was decided by an unofficial Somali "court" sitting in Woolwich, south-east London.
... Faizul Aqtab Siddiqi, a barrister and principal of Hijaz College Islamic University, near Nuneaton said this type of court had advantages for Muslims. "It operates on a low budget, it operates on very small timescales and the process and the laws of evidence are far more lenient and it's less awesome an environment than the English courts."
Former judge Gerald Butler QC says that while courts such as the Jewish Beth Din can work properly, it's essential that all of the involved parties "freely and voluntarily agree to the jurisdiction... and that they conduct their proceedings fairly and properly". He adds: "What they mustn't do - and this must never happen - is to stray into the field of criminal matters. That simply would never be acceptable."
...Cassandra Balchin, a convert to Islam and spokeswoman for the group Women Living Under Muslim Laws, is concerned about the growth of these minority legal systems. "Very often traditional forms of mediation can disadvantage vulnerable groups, such as women, within a community."
Jackie Danicki was attacked on the Bakerloo line yesterday, but had the presence of mind - and the courage - to take a photograph of the culprit. Apart from the fact that she had to endure 15 minutes of abuse and assault before anyone intervened, the most depressing part of the story is that "it didn’t actually occur to me to go to the police at all." She did in the end, but what does that tell you about life in London? Interesting, too, that she had to wait nearly two hours to see an officer.
SECOND THOUGHTS: Was she wrong to reproduce the photo? I don't think so. Was it OK for other bloggers to post it? That's a trickier one, but, on balance, the answer is yes.
Q- There are so many Muslims in Europe. How many of them are really involved in extremism?
A - There is no collective "they." The majority actually does acclimate [sic] and adjust...
Via Mick Hartley, a thought-provoking Jerusalem Post interview with Yigal Carmon, founder of the Middle East monitoring organisation, MEMRI. I mentioned recently that I was uneasy about having MEMRI ads channeled onto this blog. That didn't mean I disapproved of its work, just that I felt slightly compromised. Reading the article - which, aside from the Palestinian issue, also has instructivel and undogmatic things to say about Islam in Europe - has set my mind at ease somewhat.
Prison is an expensive and limited resource. Its punitive effect is obvious, but only lasts for a while. Its deterrent effect is debatable, certainly for second and subsequent offenders. Its one undisputed strength is that it incapacitates inmates from further offences against the public. From this I draw a couple of conclusions. The first is that prison is too precious a resource to waste on drunks drug addicts and petty offenders, many of whom are mentally ill. The second is that if we can clear the mad and the sad out of prison we can ask the professionals to sharpen up their handling of the truly bad...
At the moment the prison service has been reduced to warehousing inmates, its Victorian ideals overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers. There may be a better way, but I fear that there is no prospect of a politician with the courage to put it forward.
Whoever had the idea of creating that tasteless publicity image of Myra Hindley deserves a good kick. Or maybe the geniuses handling Channel 4's advertising are too young to know anything about the Moors Murders. As David Aaronovitch recommended the drama-documentary on Newsnight Review, I'll still watch it. But this ad almost put me off.
Should Hindley and Ian Brady have been hanged for what they did? I think so. Is life imprisonment an even worse punishment? Probably. The deterrence aspect of capital punishment doesn't really interest me: some crimes are so horrendous that no other form of retribution does justice to the victims. Yet, given the way the way the criminal justice system and the press operate today, I'd hestitate about voting yes in any kind of referendum.
An interesting background piece here by Lord Longford's biographer, Peter Stanford. David A said on TV that watching the play had made him change his mind about the Hindley case. He didn't say how, or maybe I was distracted when he was talking. I'm curious to discover what he meant.