John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

At this time of heightened security, it's good to be reminded of the rock-like toughness of the police who guard our airports. During the tribunal hearing of a sex discrimination case in Brighton, however – in which a PC claims her Sussex colleagues hounded her out of a job – a less rigorous picture emerged. A (male) former cop told the bench his fellow flat feet spent long periods in the airport canteen, slept on duty and faked patrol reports. Most shocking was the news that officers sometimes mislaid their firearms, for which they had to be severely disciplined – by being sent to buy doughnuts for the squad. My sainted aunt, not doughnuts? I'm afraid so. They speak in whispers of the time one cop left his sub-machine gun in the canteen, and had to buy a whole cake for his team-mates. Institutionalised brutality, I believe it's called.

Spare a thought for European Maritime Events, who have been touring the UK with a mocked-up version of an 18th-century galleon, extracting £5 from punters with the assurance that it appeared as the Black Pearl in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. But when it docked in Torquay, 12-year-old Ross Winstanley – evidently a connoisseur of mizzen and poopdeck – loudly protested it was nothing like the Pearl. A crew member confirmed that it had appeared in the films, but in a walk-on part, so to speak, as the Edinburgh Trader; the screen Black Pearl was mostly computer-generated. Now the events company, the ship's US owners, the Torbay Development Agency, the Liverpool Culture Company and a few others are trying to decide who's to blame. If it hadn't been for that pesky kid...

It's been 18 years since former Czech president and playwright Vaclav Havel gave Prague audiences some drama to chew on – but he obliged some months ago with a new work, Ochanezi (Leaving). The Czech National Theatre were naturally delighted and offered to stage it – but after many discussions, Havel has now taken it from their hands. Why? Because the theatre refused to let Havel's wife appear in the main role. Havel retorted that he wrote the flipping play with his wife – Dagmar Havlova, a radiantly pretty comic actress – in mind, and wouldn't let it go on without her. Such loving uxoriousness, even if it recalls Citizen Kane's buying his under-equipped missus into the lead role in an opera, with disastrous consequences.

John Eady from Sheffield has been convicted of perverting the course of justice, fined five grand and disqualified from driving for a year after using a laser device to block police speed guns. The thing is, the device in question is perfectly legal – it's a Target LT 400, designed to open gates or garage doors with an electronic signal. By pure coincidence, it also alerts the driver to a police laser, and scrambles the speed reading. Sales literature helpfully points out that, "to use it to actively interfere with police laser guns may be deemed an offence." Quite so. The LT400 costs £290, in case you were wondering.

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