The Week in Review: Home News

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR, Labour's home affairs spokesman, has clearly forgotten that it is Conservative politicians who are tough on crime. As two 10-year-old boys were being charged with the murder of toddler James Bulger in Bootle, Merseyside, Mr Blair was stealing the Tories 'law and order' mantle. All week the Tories have fought to restore it to its rightful owner.

Mr Blair called on the Government to introduce emergency measures to combat juvenile crime but advocated tackling causes as well as tougher punishment. Labour may have shifted but it stopped short of supporting plans by Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, for a new generation of approved schools.

An Independent survey showing that the number of crimes being detected and cleared up by police had slumped (later confirmed by Home Office figures), inflicted another blow on the law and order party. Mr Clarke laid into 'laggard' police forces; proof, if any were needed, that the once cosy relationship between Conservatives and coppers is no more.

The 'law and order' label might be slipping but there did seem to be a little relief on the business front. A survey by the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) suggested that, at last, manufacturing may be on the verge of recovery but its impact was weakened by the announcement by ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) and British Gas that they were axing more than 7,000 jobs.

Still, young Brits were demonstrating their new high-tech skills. In the first court case of its kind, Paul Bedworth, 19, computer hacker and artificial intelligence student at Edinburgh University, denied three conspiracy charges under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 - the unauthorised modification of computer information, securing unauthorised access to computer information and obtaining telegraphic services unlawfully.

The charges include claims that, while still a schoolboy, Mr Bedworth used a pounds 200 microcomputer at his home in Ilkley, West Yorkshire to dial up the Financial Times network and introduce a rogue program into the system. It is alleged that he caused considerable disruption and cost the company nearly pounds 25,000. He is also alleged to have hacked into confidential computer records for thousands of cancer sufferers, which held details of their life expectancy.

The week began and ended with extraordinary demonstrations of public emotion. Seven people were arrested after hundreds demonstrated outside the courtroom in Bootle where the two children appeared charged with James Bulger's murder.

It ended with hundreds turning out at West Ham United's ground in east London to pay tribute to Bobby Moore, captain of the England football team that won the 1966 World Cup, who died just 10 days after revealing he had cancer.

(Photograph omitted)

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