Howls and wry laughter in court

'A Bill will be introduced,' said Her Majesty, in that polite but faintly surprised tone perfected for reading out her various governments' wheezes, 'to strengthen the administration of magistrates' courts.' They are, on the whole, solemn places, magistrates' courts. Yet strange noises echoed within the panelled walls of half the magistrates' courts in the country on Thursday, as Her Majesty opened Parliament. 'A howl of depression,' said one London magistrates' clerk, 'mixed with a wry laugh.'

Extra cost of NHS changes challenged: Nicholas Timmins reports that 30,000 new posts have brought no obvious care benefits

PRESSURE on health ministers to justify the extra costs of the National Health Service market mounted yesterday when a health authority chairman broke ranks to say there was no evidence that more patients had been treated as a result.

Health Update: Deadly chickenpox

CHICKENPOX in adults can be fatal, a researcher from the University of Birmingham has warned. Dr Neil Steven reports in MIMS Magazine the recent death of a young man who caught the disease from his five-year-old daughter. The most common complications in adults, says Dr Steven, are inflammation of the lungs and brain. Acyclovir, an antiviral drug, has just been licensed for use for chickenpox in all adults and children and may reduce the severity of an attack.

Judges of history in the making: A group of academics who foresaw Soviet collapse reconvened recently. Julian Bullard was there

CHAPTER XVI of Baroness Thatcher's memoirs is entitled 'Men to Do Business with'. It opens with an account of a seminar she convened at Chequers on 8 September 1983 'to pick the brains of experts on the Soviet Union' - meaning not the reigning ministers and mandarins in Whitehall, but specialist academics.

Health: My God, he asked for carrots]: Eileen Fursland offers parents tips on weaning a child off sweet foods

Who hasn't resorted to bribing a child at some time? 'Just a spoonful of carrots and then you can have some lovely pudding . . .' But, says an American psychologist, bribery is one of several mistakes parents make when it comes to persuading children to eat 'healthy' food.

Private care for mentally ill shows abrupt rise: Increase revealed as fear over costs grows

A rapid rise in private hospital beds for the mentally ill was revealed yesterday by a government-commissioned study.

Home Computer: Open Forum

I think that I may be able to help your correspondents Jane Dalton and M Davies over their problems with diacritical signs (accents) in foreign-language word-processing.

Law: Training the advice squad: Fiona Bawdon reports on new plans to give police station suspects better help improve the advice given to suspects

THE TAPE of a suspect being harangued and bullied by police until he falsely confesses to a murder - with his solicitor sitting by saying nothing - is to be used in training to try to improve the quality of police station advisers.

Errors by judges key to appeal success: Quashed convictions often due to mistakes

JUDGES' mistakes are by far the most common ground for successful appeals against convictions, it was disclosed yesterday.

Letter: A curriculum that fails in teaching English

Sir: The Council for University English held its annual general meeting on 17 April at the University of Birmingham. The council is the national representative body for all university teachers of English literature and language. At that meeting we had the opportunity to discuss in detail the current revision of the Order for English in the national curriculum. We wish to place on record our strong opposition to that revision.

Battle lines drawn in the fight to decide future of tourism in the Lakes: Malcolm Pithers reports on the moulding of Cumbria

SOME of nature's jewels lie hidden among the hills, often shrouded in rolling mists, giving only captivating glimpses of the angry beauty of the place. These magical places are the very essence of the Lake District. But nowadays more and more people are seeking such hideaways, and therein lies the problem.

Letter: High price of change in public services

Sir: It is usually going to be funny when a thousand words of journalism promises to give meaning to otherwise meaningless abstractions. Andrew Marr did not disappoint (23 February).

Ending right to silence 'will not increase convictions'

ABOLITION of the right to silence of suspects under police interrogation would affect only a small number of cases and would be unlikely to increase convictions of guilty people, according to research conducted for the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, writes Terry Kirby.

Letter: Legal leeches

Sir: Your obituary of US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (26 January) quotes his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, who 'insisted that we be social engineers rather than lawyers'.

Letter: Courts add insult to victims' injury

Sir: There is a glaring omission in the survey of criminal justice for the Royal Commission (9 December): neither victims nor other witnesses were asked for their views. An independent survey by researchers from the University of Birmingham, published by Victim Support in 1991, found that prosecution witnesses felt fear at the prospect of appearing in court, exacerbated by inadequate notice of hearings, lack of information about court proceedings and shared waiting areas. In particular:
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Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before