Wednesday 07 February 1996
Tomorrow John Wood, the first director of the Serious Fraud Office, will call for jurors in serious fraud trials to have at least an O-level in English and Maths and preferably also an A-level in maths. His speech at a seminar on the London markets held by solicitors Denton Hall follows much debate on the subject in the wake of the verdict in the Maxwell trial.
So how qualified are the people in the SFO? The SFO is made up of policemen, accountants and lawyers. According to an SFO spokesman, the accountants and lawyers would all be qualified at least to civil service executive officer standard, which would mean O-levels and probably A-levels in many cases. Not so with the police. All police in the UK are judged for entry by a unified "Police Initial Recruitment Test", and need not have any formal educational qualifications at all.
We reproduce part of a leaflet which tells applicants what to expect in the two-hour, five-section test. You may like to try the questions yourself. The leaflet adds helpfully: "Before the session - Don't stay up all night. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the session so you don't have to rush. If you wear glasses, be sure to take them with you." The fraudsters don't stand a chance.
Carnage at the British Gas press conference yesterday to announce Cedric Brown's departure and the amoeba-like sub-division of the company.
More than 150 journalists, including a dozen TV camera crews, rioted when denied access to the outgoing chief executive at the beginning of the meeting at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster. One embattled conference centre employee threatened to call the police as camera crews punched and kicked each other. Jon Snow, representing Channel Four News, took the role of Robespierre as he led the mob in demands for Mr Brown's presence.
The hero of the TV studio sandpit rallied the hoard of hacks, crying: "Well come on everybody, join in. Is this just a one-man band?" Eventually Mr Brown appeared - and spoke in a calm and dignified fashion, befitting a deposed monarch on the scaffold. One policeman said it was "just like the poll tax riots".
Pink faces all round at the Central Office of Information. Yesterday afternoon the COI put out the text of a speech on the state of the economy given at lunchtime by Ken Clarke, the Chancellor, to the Centre for Economic Performance.
Just over two hours later the following message popped up on the COI screen: "Important Important Important Please note: This supersedes copy issued at 13.47 hrs 6/2/96. Earlier copy of previous speech, given last year, sent in error. Please destroy."
Apparently it had taken a good 120 minutes for anyone to notice that they had sent out last year's speech instead of this year's. A COI spokesman explained: "It was a computer glitch. Did you see Wallace and Gromit on the TV over Christmas? We're feeling like a bit of a wally after a gromit got into the system." Definitely the wrong trousers.
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