Richard Ingrams: How meanings change in the hands of the police

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

According to the Collins English Dictionary kindly presented to me some years ago by the editor, my Oxford contemporary Patrick Hanks, the word redact means to compose or draft or "to put a literary work in appropriate form for publication".

But this week it seemed to have acquired a new and somewhat sinister meaning when it was announced by the police that the names of those officers suspected of killing teacher Blair Peach at a street protest in 1979 had been "redacted" from the internal report into his death which has finally been published. For redact, read censor or suppress.

Such redaction, if that is the right word, is commonplace where the police are concerned. We have never been told the names of the men who shot Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell station even though they were widely suspected of giving perjured evidence at his inquest. We will never know the name of the female police officer who tried to lure Colin Stagg into confessing to the Wimbledon Common murder. And so on.

As for the Blair Peach report, released 31 years after the event, it reminds me more than anything of the Russian government's release this week of documents showing that the Soviet Politburo authorised the murder of 22,000 Poles at Katyn during the Second World War.

As with Blair Peach, the facts have been known for some time and it all happened so long ago that no one will now be called to account, and anyway they're all dead. We can only be grateful for the fact that Joseph Stalin's name has not been redacted.

Lessons in covering up school scandals

The reason why so many Irish priests have been found guilty of child abuse is that for years they combined the role of priest and schoolmaster. In this country we have had isolated cases involving paedophile priests but nothing on the scale of Ireland's. But if you wanted an equivalent scandal I should think it would be quite easy to find it in the annals of our private education system. Anyone like me who experienced the joys of prep and public school life will know that it attracted all manner of perverts who could indulge their sexual and sadistic tastes with relative impunity.

And like the Catholic Church, the public school system was skilled in covering up any kind of scandal. If problems arose, errant masters would quietly leave and might, like those Irish priests, get a post in another school where their misdemeanours would not be known about.

I remember well the case of notorious flogger Anthony Chenevix-Trench. Trench achieved the pinnacle of his profession when he was appointed headmaster of Eton. But even after he was forced to resign following disquiet about his distasteful habits, he was appointed to a headmastership at the Scottish school of Fettes (Tony Blair's alma mater). I doubt if the Irish church could come up with a scandal to rival that one.

Skies get quieter as birds disappear

At various intervals I have suggested in this column that the reason the number of small songbirds is falling is that the number of big birds is increasing. My suggestions have generally been pooh-poohed by the RSPB, which has been instrumental in encouraging the breeding of birds of prey, in particular the red kite and even the sea eagle.

The most noticeable decline in population of small birds has been that of the house sparrow, once a familiar sight in the country and in towns. And now a group of Cambridge scientists led by Dr Christopher Bell blames the disappearance of the sparrows on the growing number of sparrowhawks, which as their name suggests prey on the sparrows.

These scientists point out that the decline of the urban sparrow coincides with the move by sparrowhawks into cities. At the same time those pesticides like DDT which led to the near extinction of sparrowhawks have been banned.

It comes as no surprise to learn that the RSPB refuses to accept the Cambridge report, continuing to insist that there is no evidence that birds of prey are in anyway responsible for the decline in our songbirds.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee