Joan Smith

Known for her human rights activism and writing on subjects such as atheism and feminism, Joan Smith is a columnist, critic and novelist. An Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a regular contributor to BBC radio, she has written five detective novels, two of which have been filmed by the BBC.

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2012: A year I won't forget, for all the wrong reasons

I can't remember when I've ended a year so angry. Goodbye 2012 and good riddance. In this country, a “much-loved” entertainer with a warm relationship with a former prime minister was exposed as possibly the UK's most prolific sexual predator.

Lives are at the mercy of quacks online

The most surprising people go in for magical thinking. Faced with a devastating diagnosis, they ignore medical advice and try alternative treatments they've heard about from friends or on the internet.

Leveson: The battlelines are drawn

This is a long game and the Leveson recommendations will become law eventually

Leveson: As someone who was hacked by the News of the World, I believe this scandal is about abuse of power

Leveson said the press is exercising unaccountable power which nobody holds to account.

This squabbling sect has no place in the Lords

Imagine a body with a female hereditary leader, a male chief executive and an all-male board which women aren't allowed to join. Obviously we're talking about a dysfunctional organisation which, you might suppose, is crying out for a challenge under equality law. Now imagine that this body has an automatic right to put its directors in the country's legislature, where they are able to lecture us on controversial matters. Some mistake, surely?

The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

Our zombie church has a new leader. So what?

As events go, it's not exactly earth-shaking. A couple of days ago, a pressure group announced the name of its new boss, a white bloke in his 50s who used to work in the oil industry.

Is £624 the price of a rape victim's anonymity?

Some friends and supporters of Ched Evans wrote the name of the woman he raped on Twitter - all they got was a measly fine.

You can't run a fair society from the Gents'

David Cameron has nothing against women, I imagine, in the right place. He's married to one, and he's got a couple of daughters, although he did once leave one of them behind in a pub. I don't suppose he gives much thought to the other women in his life – or rather their absence. He is leader of a political party which has woefully few women MPs, he has a poor record of promoting women to Cabinet and he's notorious for patronising Labour women during Prime Minister's Questions. Remember when he told a Shadow Cabinet minister, Angela Eagle, to "calm down, dear"?

Dave picks a Euro-fight, and society is the loser

It's so obvious it shouldn't need saying: all prisoners are not the same. Some are in jail because they've committed motoring offences or fraud, and they're hardly in the same league as serial killers and rapists. That's why the criminal justice system has different categories of prisons, from open prisons to high-security establishments, and I've never heard anyone argue that all inmates should be treated exactly the same. That, though, is the Prime Minister's assumption when it comes to the question of prisoner voting, which he got on his high horse about last week.

Why won't Leveson ask to see Dave's emails?

I don't suppose David Cameron is looking forward to the publication of Lord Justice Leveson's report on the press next month. The Prime Minister squirmed through an uncomfortable day at the inquiry in the summer, when his close friendship with the former Sun and News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks, was revealed in a series of texts and emails. But he must have breathed a sigh of relief last week when the inquiry did not order him to hand over another cache of messages between himself and Brooks, which is said to include embarrassing exchanges.

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