Saturday, September 04, 2010

Schadenfreude Update

The Magistrate on the ITV revelation that a lot of "community service" youth do damn-all except sit around smoking dope :

I am sure that it came as no surprise to anyone in the system to hear that a number of projects are poorly managed and sloppily supervised. I have been writing on here for years about the dozens of times that governments have promised 'really tough' community punishments. On the whole it hasn't happened.
We don't always see eye to eye, but, like Lib Con's Adam Ramsey he at least seems to realise that a large number of Blair's 'tough on crime' soundbites were 'for amusement only'.

Ken Clarke, by contrast, doesn't even bother pretending to be tough.

(see also It's Schadenfreude Time ...)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Cyril Smith 1928-2010

Why did Norman Scott bite the pillow ?

Because he thought Cyril Smith was next.

They don't make Liberal MPs like that any more - working class, ran a company - not only that, but a company that made things, anti-abortion, pro-capital punishment. Even in the 70s he was a rarity in a party becoming dominated by career politicians.

"Spurred on by the chip on his very large shoulder, he saw it as his duty to fight for the rights of the common man. He was deeply proud of his modest Lancashire origins, and never let anyone forget it.

A shade puritanical, he had far more affinity with the lower middle class than with a Liberal establishment — the Bonham Carters, Thorpes and Grimonds — which he despised. He was the only Liberal to oppose the abolition of capital punishment and abortion law reform (“We are the backstreet abortionists for the rest of Europe,” he declared)."

Friday Night Jungle

Mark Steyn's brilliant musical history of 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' is back up online:

Solomon Linda's song has penetrated every corner of the globe. It's the most famous tune ever to have come out of Africa.

He and his family must be multi-multi-millionaires, right? Not exactly. Linda sold it to the Gallo record company for ten shillings: that would be about 87 cents. In 1962, just as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was reaching Number One around the world, he died of kidney disease in Soweto, on the edge of Johannesburg, in a concrete hovel with a couple of bedrooms with dirt floors covered in cow dung. He left his widow the equivalent of $22 in the bank and unable even to afford a headstone for his grave.

The child of wealthy New York radicals, Seeger has always been avowedly anti-capitalist. Yet his publisher had a deal with Gallo Music: they snaffled up the rights to "Mbube" cheap and in return sub-licensed to Gallo the South African and Rhodesian rights to "Wimoweh". And Seeger knew all along that Solomon Linda was the composer. He says now that back in the Fifties he instructed his publishers to give his royalties from the song to Linda, and he was shocked, shocked to discover decades later that they hadn't in fact been doing so. Evidently, it never occurred to him, as an unworldly anti-capitalist, to check his royalty statements. It was, on his part, supposedly a sin of omission. Whatever one thinks of that, his associates can't plead the same accidental oversight. Having persuaded Linda to sign away his copyright, the relevant parties made sure to slide some forms in front of his illiterate widow in 1982 and his daughters some years later to make sure the appropriation paperwork was kept in order. was, in the end, a legacy of colonialism that ended the injustice. There are significant differences between US and British copyright law, and one of them is that the latter attempts to restrain the damage a foolish creator can do to himself. Under British Commonwealth law, the ownership in any intellectual property reverts to the author's heirs 25 years after his death regardless of what disadvantageous deals he may have signed. In the courtroom, the quiet courtroom, the lawsuit slept for decades, until Solomon Linda's daughters were apprised of this significant feature of Commonwealth copyright law, and took action. The sleeping lion also took on the Mouse - the Walt Disney corporation, whose film The Lion King had introduced the song to a new generation of children. In America, Linda's family really had no legal leg to stand on, but, faced with potentially catastrophic complications in Britain, South Africa, Australia, India and other key markets, Disney were only too keen to settle. In 2006, Solomon Linda finally received his due.

It's Schadenfreude Time ...

Heh :
Supervisors of offenders on unpaid work schemes are increasingly being subjected to threats, and verbal and physical abuse, with many complaining of feeling intimidated and afraid, according to a new survey.

The report, by the probation officers' union, Napo, details hundreds of incidents in London, Merseyside and Hertfordshire over recent months. In Hertfordshire, one offender told a male supervisor he was going to kill him and rape his four-year-old-daughter. Another slashed the car tyres of a female supervisor and told her: "I know here you live and I'm going to get you and your family."

At least two supervisors have had to lock themselves in a vehicle to escape physical violence and one member of staff was left cut and bleeding after a stone was thrown at him by an offender.

The situation has become so serious that a protection system has been set up for supervisors in the south-west of England.

But ... I thought these were the guys who didn't need to go to prison - the nice chaps that Ken Clarke knew how to deal with !

You can see why so many probation supervisors allow their charges to sit around and do damn-all except skin up - as this ITV programme (available for next 25 days) shows us. The report (download is Word doc) is exceeding revealing of just how much contempt the 'clients' have for the organs of the state :

An offender was instructed to work on a garden site and clear weeds. Later in the day the supervisor used the gents toilet, was not able to get out and it became apparent this was because the offender was holding the door shut. Eventually the supervisor managed to get out of the toilet. The offender told him it was a joke. He was told this sort of behaviour was not acceptable. The offender became very aggressive and started to shout at the supervisor saying ‘You don’t know what we do here. Don’t look at me like that, I am going to thump you now you ******* idiot. Are you going to breach me? You can’t do a ******* thing’.

Can't do a thing, eh ?

"The offender was subsequently sent home".

That chap might be a scumbag, but there's nothing wrong with his powers of analysis, nor with those of the criminal who asked his supervisor "why don't you get a proper job you fat ****?"

There is of course a subtext to all this. NAPO wouldn't give the people who pay their wages such a revealing glimpse of what goes on, were there not a pressing need to increase the number of probation officers and to pay them more.

Community service came into being in 1976. The idea was that as an alternative to custody offenders would complete up to 240 unpaid hours of work in the community. The thinking then was that the work would contribute toward rehabilitation, that it would not replace paid employment and that it would be of benefit to the community. Last year over 55,000 individuals were sentenced to unpaid work in the community. About a third were given individual placements, such as in a charity shop, the rest were given group work placements. However Napo has observed that groups that were originally supposed to be at a ratio of one supervisor to six offenders have grown; often over a dozen offenders now attend one group with the same number of supervisors. Staff have also complained that it is now rare to have a probation officer (or even a probation service officer, who has less training) on site. Indeed, placements are increasingly staff by sessional workers who are not contracted employees but are paid on an hourly rate. Often the only contact the offenders have with the service is through hourly-paid, sessional, supervisors who are paid on average £8.50 per hour and who often have full-time paid work elsewhere and use the unpaid work to supplement their income... sessional supervisors are increasingly reporting that they are scared on site and reluctant to report bad behaviour for fear of reprisals.

The report shows not only the increasing anarchy in the non-custodial criminal justice system, but the increasing influence of non-anarchist actors - gangs - in the inner city :

The most recent serious incident occurred on 31 July in Hackney where, as a 19-year-old offender was leaving the community service site at Brook House College in London E5, he was shot five times by an assailant using a handgun...It is thought quite possible that one of the offenders on the group phoned the assailant with relevant information. All the offenders on the placement have been interviewed by officers from Trident. This follows two other recent incidents in North London... Staff are now unable to send known gang members to do placements other than in the individual’s postal district. There are similar constraints on placements in other cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

Note also that the guys getting the crap are at the £8.50 an hour end of the spectrum. If Rod Morgan or Professor Peter King got threatened or had their tyres slashed on a more regular basis I like to think we'd see some radical new crime reduction initiatives being proposed.