Tough on crime, tough on the Lord Chief Justice

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The Independent Online

Recent comments by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, have caused widespread huffing and puffing which shows no sign of letting up.

Last month, Phillips angered right-wing commentators when he called for a new regime where thousands of offenders should be given community services instead of being sent to jail.

His comments have now sparked off a particularly furious reaction from the Monmouth MP David Davies, who last weekend was the victim of an unfortunate burglary at his constituency home.

Speaking to Pandora, Davies says he holds Phillips partly responsible for the break-in because of his apparent soft approach to crime. He is particularly irked, since the fall-out has meant him cancelling a family trip to Hungary.

"The Lord Justice is part of the problem and I would tell that to his face," says Davies. "Apart from the remote chance of burglars getting caught, they now live in the knowledge that if the police do catch them, they will then spend a few hours painting walls in the community rather than going to prison."

Davies tells me he is planning to voice his complaints in a strongly worded letter to the Chief Justice's offices.

"I want to ask Lord Phillips how much time the Lord Chief Justice spends talking to criminals about their experiences inside jails compared to the ordinary people who find themselves the victim of crime," he adds.

Princess Tamara is boxing no-show

Princes William and Harry were snapped out on the town last weekend when they attended a boxing gala in aid of the paediatric charity Sparks.

But despite the Princes' attendance at the £100-a-head event, one royal figure was notably absent.

Princess Tamara Czartoryski-Borbon, a reality TV star who claims lineage to the Spanish royal family, was supposed to be taking part in one of the evening's boxing bouts. Instead, just days before the event, word apparently reached organisers that Borbon would no longer be competing.

Fortunately, a replacement was found, but organisers are thought to be fuming at Borbon's no-show.

A spokesman for Borbon is adamant she was never due to take part in the first place.

"Tamara is on holiday - there was never an issue of her taking part," I'm told.

Artistic licence

Behind the comedian Vic Reeves' eccentric on-screen persona, there lies a serious artist struggling to break out.

Next week, Reeves will be showing two of his own paintings at the Royal Academy's summer exhibition. Exhibiting under his real name, Jim Moir, Reeves apparently trained as a painter at the John Cass school of art in Whitechapel.

Whilst prize money for the exhibition totals around £70,000, Reeves might not want to get his hopes up just yet. One art critic has described one of the offerings, Darwin Jones and his Bloodhounds, as "manic, slapdash, mucky, in-yer-face - a trillion times removed from the refined and tasteful images so often submitted to the Royal Academy show."

Fag end

This year's winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, Fleur Adcock, will collect her prize from Buckingham Palace tomorrow.

But besides nerves from meeting the Queen, Adcock will have another reason for feeling anxious. She has given up smoking.

The news will come as a disappointment for campaigners for smokers' rights, as Adcock, author of Smokers for Celibacy, has long been a great supporter.

"I feel like a bit of a traitor for giving up because of the freedom issue," she tells me. "But smoking affected my work and it became impossible to concentrate on anything serious without a fag in your hand."

Hard man McNab takes a leaf out of Trollope's book

As a former SAS soldier who was captured and tortured during the first Gulf War, Andy McNab can rightly lay claim to being the hardest man on the literary circuit. So imagine his fans' surprise last week when McNab declared his greatest literary influence to be none other than the "Aga Saga" queen, Joanna Trollope.

Speaking at last week's Hay-on-Wye literary festival, McNab told audiences: "I try and copy her [Trollope's] dialogue. It's great, really, really good. It's probably the best in the country."

McNab and Trollope's literary outpourings could not be more different. Where McNab's adventures tend to draw inspiration from his time in the SAS, Trollope's tales are usually centred around the quiet rural lives of the green welly brigade.