IoS letters, emails & online postings (5 June 2011)

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The appalling images broadcast by the BBC's Panorama last week, of the abuse of learning-disabled people at the Bristol residential hospital Winterbourne View, raise a further dilemma.

Undercover reporters obtaining covert evidence of abuse run perilously close to collusion with the abusers to obtain a video recording suitable for broadcast. It does not diminish the bravery and commitment of these journalist to ask "who decides when to call a halt?". Even ceasing filming an hour earlier, and contacting the police, might have spared victims from more torture. Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections, on the other hand, are conducted in plain view, thus affording abusers every opportunity to cover their tracks.

The answer must surely be for the police and CQC to operate both random and targeted covert surveillance of care facilities.

Professor Bob Peckitt

Consultant forensic psychiatrist

St Clements Hospital

Ipswich, Suffolk

Janet Street-Porter highlights the low percentage of donations given to the cause by some charities ("The giving sector is a mess...", 29 May). But I do not agree that the Charity Commission's responsibilities should be given to the Secretary of State for Business. Instead, it should be compulsory for charities to have annual general meetings with members elected from donors, who will be far more demanding on charities than any Business Secretary could be.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

Joan Smith's view that the former Haringey social services boss Sharon Shoesmith had been made a "public sacrifice" in the Baby P case has parallels to the "Pindown" episode in Staffordshire, where a number of social services employees where sacked to appease the newspapers ("Shoesmith's humiliation was not justice. It was vengeance", 29 May). Scrutiny of a subsequent inquiry commissioned by Staffordshire County Council concluded that the inquiry also failed to observe "due process". However, it provided Staffordshire with the justification for sacking a number of employees who were blamed for "Pindown". Those familiar with Staffordshire social services realised it had been a show trial, and that some very decent people had been scapegoated. In both cases, if the politicians had been frank, they would have pointed to the lack of funding and, therefore, inadequate numbers of social workers. And if the tabloids really cared for children at risk, they would campaign for the proper financing of children's services.

Mike Shone

Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

Occasionally, military intervention works ("Road to Libya runs through to Srebrenica", 29 May). Mostly, it does not, and politicians, often seeking short-term political advantage, are rarely the best judges even if things turn out well. But I am not in favour of doing nothing about brutal regimes. Not selling arms to them, as Britain invariably does, would be an excellent start.

Keith Flett

London N17

D J Taylor is both right and wrong about circus animals (The bottom line, 29 May). Yes, the issue of a ban, which some MPs are trying to resurrect in Parliament, is not as important as a debate on people trafficking or child poverty. But that is not a reason for doing nothing about animal suffering. Abusers don't much mind who or what they abuse, as long as the victims are weaker than themselves; and the link between the abuse of animals and of people is now well established. Deal with abusers of animals, and you'll have dealt with a lot more besides. All cruelty must be tackled.

Sue Berry

Bedlington, Northumberland

It is rightly illegal in this country to sell cigarettes to children under 18, and tobacco advertising is not permitted in any of our media. So why can children walk into a cinema and see advertisements that glamorise the activities of the armed forces, and how can the Army be permitted to recruit 16-year-olds and even send under-18s to battle zones ("One in six recruits to Army is aged 16", 29 May)? Why do some organisations that deal in death have their recruitment activities strictly regulated, while others are subject to no such control and are even permitted to recruit potential victims in our schools?

Giles Watson

Uffington, Oxfordshire

Australia is the first country in the world to table a bill making cigarette manufactures sell their toxic product in plain packs ("The unstoppable march of the tobacco giants", 29 May). When will we see the UK or the EU impose plain packaging? Soon, I hope.

Robert Pallister

Punchbowl, New South Wales


Endeavour is not the "last active shuttle" ("Astronaut takes a final walk...", 29 May). Atlantis is due to be launched on 8 July as the very last shuttle flight.

Eric Davies

Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire

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