Bikers, Blunkett and others

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Born-again bikers risk harming others besides themselves

Born-again bikers risk harming others besides themselves

Sir: Tim Luckhurst ("Leave the blokes on their bikes alone", 9 August) has failed to acknowledge a fundamental principle of legislation, namely that laws are there to regulate society for the benefit of the majority; nor has he considered just how many people are grievously upset or severely inconvenienced by the behaviour of the minority he supports.

I live in an area, like many others no doubt, which the local bikers treat as their private race-track, riding at speeds well in excess of the limits - bunches of flowers at regular intervals at the roadside bear testament to the carnage. Whenever there is an accident, many people are inconvenienced - local residents whose lives are made a misery by the noise, ordinary road-users whose journeys are badly disrupted, members of the emergency services.

But worst of all are those who end up severely traumatised. Recently a friend of mine was first on the scene after a biker had lost control on a corner and ended up dead under a car coming in the opposite direction. It was later estimated that his speed was in the region of 90mph. My friend said that the unforgivable thing was the utter traumatisation and desolation of the innocent elderly couple in the car.

Harmless pastime? Mr Luckhurst should reflect that it is no such thing, and that we should always be aware of the consequences of our actions, and be prepared to take responsibility for them.

KEVIN WILKES
Beverley, East Yorkshire

Sir: Who is Colin McKenna calling a fool (letters, 12 August)? No one in this country is entitled to ride a motorcycle without training. No party to this debate has mentioned that "born again" bikers already have licences.

I passed my motorcycle and car tests some years ago, and can assure Mr McKenna that after my motorcycle training passing the car test was a bit of a doddle. I haven't ridden or driven since 1997, and whilst I recognise that some "refresher" lessons might be in order before I go out on the road in either again, is he really suggesting that I ought to take my motorcycle test again?

Motorcycles are not inherently more dangerous than cars, and neither are the people who ride them. Oh, and by the way, I'm not a bloke.

RUTH ARUNDELL
Brighton

Sir: Sue Arnold has got it wrong (14 August) - middle-aged men and motorbikes do mix. They consist of an interesting group (along with female bikers) of intelligent, well-educated non-conformists who like to come out of their comfort zone as often as possible and do something different.

My partner, his mates and mine are middle-aged bikers and nothing like the description of the bikers portrayed. Those who share Sue Arnold's views should try biking. They would probably enjoy it; and no, you can't go as fast in a souped-up Fiesta.

HELEN PAVITT
London N8

Blunkett flouts lottery winner's legal rights

Sir: Yet another high-profile example where David Blunkett seems to have confused what he may legally be empowered to do with what he would politically like to do: this time regarding his desire to find a way of confiscating the £7m won on the lottery by a convicted rapist.

Whilst I am sure no decent member of society would believe that someone who has committed such a heinous crime deserves to win the lottery, the fact remains that the ticket was bought in an unquestionably legal and legitimate manner, and as such any winnings that follow are undeniably the legitimate property of the purchaser. Regardless of the bad deeds that this man has committed in the past, in buying a lottery ticket he was merely exercising his legal right, and to turn round after the event and retrospectively deny him the exercise of that right is simply unfair.

The British legal system endeavours to be a bastion of fairness and transparency, a fundamental part of which is that retroactive laws are not made. By attempting to remove the winnings of this man after the event, such a principle must be compromised, thus diluting respect for the legal system that put this man in prison in the first place.

As has been seen on numerous occasions recently, the Government, and Mr Blunkett in particular, appear to have forgotten that if laws are to command the respect that they require to be effective and enforceable, they must be passed in a legitimate manner, and in accordance with certain fundamental principles of fairness and predictability. In disregarding these principles when framing, or attempting to frame new legislation, the respect for the laws upon which any legal system is so reliant is severely damaged, to the detriment of everyone.

EDWARD CRAVEN
Newbury, Berkshire

Sir: Recent knee-jerk government pronouncements following "news" stories are worrying . From "lottery rapists" to "easier A-levels", it seems there's always a government spokesperson to respond to the media's concerns on any given subject.

This is ridiculous. The "Fourth Estate" should be informing the public, not claiming to represent its views. I have an MP to do that for me.

That government policy is apparently formulated with one eye on how the editor or proprietor of a national or international media group may react is obscene. The danger inherent in this approach is exemplified in poorly conceived legislation, from the Dangerous Dogs Act right through to the Criminal Justice Bill. The right to silence has been consigned to history, soon to be joined by the presumption of innocence if successive, increasingly authoritarian Home Secretaries continue to over-react to media scare-mongering.

DON MATCHETT
Liverpool

Sir: Should we not call a spade a spade, and admit that it is the mortal sin of envy which inspires the furore over the lottery win of a rapist who is near the end of his time in prison?

Prisoners who have served their sentences have paid for their crime, and it would be wrong to impose further punishment, such as disallowing a lottery win, simply to alleviate the discomfort of the nation. Envy is arguable the most deadly and destructive of sins, and it is not conducive to clear thinking.

JENNY LOWE
Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire

Sir: I am considering buying a lottery ticket; however, in the Eighties I gained a police record for criminal damage. I am concerned that Mr Blunkett will try to take any winnings should the press kick up a fuss. Obviously I'm not to be trusted, but might it be a good idea to have a Home Secretary who focuses on his job and the bigger picture, and not on being flavour of the month and "nailing" individuals?

JON TAYLOR
London N8

US restraint in Iraq

Sir: Robert Morrow argues (letter, 9 August) that the "Battle of Najaf" should not be so called because of the lack of American casualties.

History shows that battles often end in uneven numbers of casualties, and this is especially so when one side is technologically and organisationally superior to the other. When Suetonius Paulinus defeated Boudicca's rebellion, his men suffered around 1,000 deaths for perhaps 80,000 inflicted on the enemy, about the same proportion as we have here.

The idea that the occupation of Iraq is "brutal" is laughable. Were it really so, resistance would long ago have been suppressed by fear, as Saddam would not have hesitated to do. The existence of continued fighting demonstrates not brutality on the part of the authorities but, if anything, over-restraint.

ALEX SWANSON
Milton Keynes

Sir: In 1991 when the Iraqi Shias rose up against Saddam we were informed that they were a heroic bunch and Saddam was a tyrant for putting the uprising down. Now however when the same people rise up they are a bunch of terrorists and the enemy of the Iraqi people. Funny old world!

JOHN DICKSON
Bristol

Brink of victory

Sir: I found it unbelievably irresponsible of you to run the report "Venezuela's Chavez on brink of referendum defeat" (16 August), which I read on the internet many hours before the polls were set to close in Venezuela.

Firstly because, for very good reason, the government of Venezuela had issued a gag on the media publishing results until the polls were closed (which in itself makes those figures quoted suspect).

Second, the tally that early couldn't possibly be meaningful as, overwhelmingly, votes in richer neighbourhoods throughout Venezuela get tabulated far sooner than in poor neighbourhoods, where there are more obstacles to voting and there were, as was widely reported, much greater line-ups (as long as a mile and a half).

MARQUE BRILL
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sir: Why is it that so many British journalists find it so difficult to report, or identify with, anybody but the elite in the Third World? Is it because most journalists live in the plusher parts of town and speak to articulate English-speakers of the elite? The elite and their supporters were soundly trounced in the Venezuelan referendum, as in the recent Indian elections, by a coalition of the poor and progressives.

Another world is possible!

JOHN PINTO
Birmingham

'Feral' teenagers

Sir: By blaming high public spending on children for their alleged "homicidal ferality", Bruce Anderson ("Blunkett and Howard are right", 16 August) gives a classic example of correlation not being equivalent to causation.

As someone who was a teenager more recently than Anderson, I experienced a phenomenon which he probably didn't, and which may give some explanation of today's concerns over teenage anti-social behaviour. The behaviour and aspirations of today's young are overwhelmingly influenced more by a remote media than they are by the adults they interact with on a daily basis.

Not only do advertisers and pop culture industrialists push to teenagers a poisonous propaganda that status, money and looks are the sole purpose of life, they are rich enough to avoid the social consequences of such messages. Furthermore, through the media, teenagers see that easy celebrity is more respected than tenacity, hard work, education or altruism.

If press commentators and politicians don't acknowledge this, they must be too old to understand.

HELEN JOHNS
London SE1

Euthanasia policy

Sir: Responding to your Health Check article on assisted dying (9 August), I would like to confirm that the Royal College of Nursing has not officially stated that we are changing our stance on assisted suicide.

The RCN's policy position is to keep the current legal position, which outlaws euthanasia or assisted dying. In our evidence to the Lords Select Committee on assisted dying later this year, we will make clear that the majority of our members who have taken part in this discussion have stressed the importance of providing equitable and effective palliative care services for all patients who need such a service. One of the drivers behind the assisted dying discussion is the intolerably poor provision of palliative care services in some areas of health care and in different parts of the UK.

With such an emotive and complex issue, we are committed to dealing with this issue in a measured and sensitive way, to respect the needs of dying patients and their relatives and friends and also to legally protect nurses caring for all patients.

LIZ HEWETT
Executive Director, Service Delivery
Royal College of Nursing
London W1

Failure to condemn

Sir: Why is it that Neville Nagler (letters, 16 August) is unable to see the heavy irony in Naeem Malik's letter?

Furthermore, while I have often seen prominent members of the British Muslim community condemning terrorist attacks on television and in print, I have yet to see the Chief Rabbi or a member of the Board of Deputies condemning the violations of international law in the Occupied Territories, something which rather emphasises Mr Malik's point.

PAUL BLAKE
London SE13

Ethnic identity

Sir: So the Labour party is to "win back Muslim voters" by creating ethnic groupings within the party (12 August). Since when was "Muslim" an ethnic and not a religious category?

TERRY SANDERSON
Vice President, National Secular Society, London WC1

A-level grading

Sir: Is not the simplest solution to A-level grade inflation (editorial, 16 August) to abandon the pretence that they denote an absolute level of achievement? What users of the grades need to know is how a candidate compares to their peers. This would best be achieved by awarding each grade to the same percentage of candidates each year. The only disadvantage would be for teachers and politicians, who would be unable to use the results to support claims of perpetual improvements.

ANDREW ROONEY
London W4

Mum's the word

Sir: Ivan Waterman in his profile of Alan Ayckbourn (review, 12 August) credits Hermione Baddeley with being the mother of Stephen Joseph, founder of the Scarborough theatre. I shudder to imagine the reaction of Hermione Gingold to this news, if she were still with us.

TUDOR WILLIAMS
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Headline horror

Sir: With regard to your headline (14 August): "Continent-wide force to counter terror planned by EU defence chief". I hope that the EU defence chief has been put behind bars under the anti-terrorism legislation.

FRANCIS SHAXSON
Winyerborne Kingston, Dorset

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