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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Henry VIII, the Saddam of the Tudor court

Whenever anyone sets about compiling a list of great figures in British history, Henry VIII is a cert. A few years ago, he was at number 40 in a BBC poll of 100 great Britons, and more recently he's played a leading role in Hilary Mantel's prize-winning historical novels. The final instalment of the trilogy will have to deal with Henry's decision to execute Mantel's hero, Thomas Cromwell, who was despatched on the same day Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. She lasted less than two years before following Cromwell to the scaffold, and I'm not remotely surprised to hear that Henry has now been diagnosed as a psychopath.

Stuart Hall got off lightly. Jeremy Forrest's sentence proves it

Had the broadcaster Stuart Hall been in any doubt that he got off lightly after admitting 14 charges of indecent assault, he would have known better by the end of last week. The 15-month sentence he was given on Monday reflected the law, and the assumptions, of the period in the 1960s and 1970s when he began abusing children and teenagers. Four days later, Jeremy Forrest, the maths teacher found guilty of abducting an under-age girl, got five and a half years in total for that offence and five more (which he admitted) of sexual activity with a child.

Turkey's prime minister addressing supporters last week

My chance to halt violence against women

I've spent a great deal of my career writing about violence against women. The first big story I covered was the series of murders committed by the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, and since then I've tackled rape, domestic abuse, prostitution and sex trafficking. So I didn't think twice when I was approached to become co-chair of the Mayor of London's Violence Against Women and Girls Panel. It brings together numerous organisations, including the Metropolitan Police, London councils and rape crisis centres, with the ambitious aim of eliminating abuse of women in one of the world's great cities. I'm not convinced we can get rid of violence completely, but anyone who wonders why such a body is necessary should look at the up-to-date statistics for London.

Education secretary Michael Gove

Don't force children on to porn sites, Mr Gove

The internet has done many wonderful things, but delivering porn to children isn't one of them. Everyone from women's groups to the Daily Mail is worried about this development, for somewhat different reasons. Now they've been joined by the Children's Commissioner, who has just published a review of the effects of pornography on teenagers and even younger children. You can get a flavour from the title, Basically… Porn is everywhere, which concludes that growing numbers of children are accessing pornographic material via smartphones and tablets.

Angelina Jolie went back to work just four days after her double mastectomy

Angelina Jolie's bravery has little to say to everywoman

Her experience is always going to be very different from a single mother being treated in an overstretched NHS hospital

August's child is behind the curve

You know those parents who can tell you exactly how old their children are? Three years and four months, they say proudly, and if you're like me you mentally round it up to three-and-half. Now it turns out they're right to be so precise, as a difference of a month or two can be measured later on in exam results.

Joan Smith: 'Until Hall suddenly changed his plea to guilty, he lied through his teeth about his assaults on girls'

Our disbelief is the sexual predator's great asset

The problem was not tolerance of abuse but disbelief of anyone who dared complain

Garment workers matter more than burgers

Eating a bit of horse won't kill you. You're unlikely to become even mildly ill from eating burgers laced with horsemeat, despite a media storm of massive proportions. Buying clothes manufactured in sweatshops in Bangladesh won't hurt you either, but it's a different story for the people who work in the industry. Yesterday, survivors were still being pulled from the ruins of an eight-storey building in the capital, Dhaka, which collapsed on Wednesday morning, killing hundreds. Rana Plaza housed four clothing firms which have in the past supplied Western chains, including, in Britain, Primark and Matalan.

Warning: Bad science can damage your health

In the intensive care ward of a hospital in Sierra Leone, I once heard a young man moaning in agony. His body was going into spasms and I was shocked to discover that he was suffering from tetanus. On the same trip to West Africa, I met more than a dozen men with hugely developed shoulders and withered legs – polio survivors, who propelled themselves on hand-driven wooden carts. It made me realise how lucky I am to live in a country where successful vaccination programmes have all but eradicated such diseases.

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