Letters: Attacks on the disabled

Attacks on 'vulnerable' disabled people
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The Independent Online

Ian Macrae feels that the courts describing a disabled victim of crime as "vulnerable", is tantamount to blaming the victim (Comment, 6 October). I hope I can reassure him that the use of this word by the courts is a reflection of the victim being limited in his ability to defend himself or run away. A victim's vulnerability is one of a list of aggravating features of an offence, which means the courts will sentence the offender more heavily in accordance with the criminal courts' sentencing guidelines

Disabled people should not feel that their being labelled in this way by the courts says anything negative about them as victims; in fact it is an affirmative step, acknowledging the extra pain and humiliation suffered by those picked on because of their particular weaknesses. It also applies where the victims can't run away because they are public servants, such as police officers or medical staff. If you attack someone for being disabled, or hit a paramedic, you are much more likely to be sent to prison.

The courts need to use words to describe people, and should be sensitive when doing so, something they are not always very good at; lawyers still routinely refer to victims of crime as "losers", which in the modern vernacular is highly pejorative and makes teenage offenders smirk whenever they hear it. But I hope disabled and other people will not feel put down in any way when described as "vulnerable".

Peter Groome

Solicitor, Bristol

Bailing out the banking crooks

The current bailout in the US and Europe will shape the type of capitalism during the next 50 years: Do we want to live in a world where profits are private, but losses are socialised?

We're living in an age when a vast excess of capital sloshes around the world, fuelling cycles of bubble and bust. When the capital floods into a sector or economy, it washes away sober business practices, and habits of discipline and self-denial. Then the money managers panic and it sloshes out, punishing the just and unjust alike.

Those responsible for the mess must clean up in a free-market system. Taxpayers cannot be expected to bail out yet another bunch of white-collar crooks. It seems scary, but in the end it will be less scary than to continue with the house of cards we have erected for ourselves.

Dr Kailash Chand

Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire

I used to think that the difference between capitalism and communism was that in the former, entrepreneurs and banks take risks and make profits or losses, while under communism, risks and rewards all belong to the state.

I now realise we have been misled. Under capitalism entrepreneurs and banks make profits but the state takes the risk and underwrites the losses. So much for PFI and "off balance sheet" activity to keep public-sector borrowing down. Ever think you have been suckered, Gordon?

Nigel Scott

London N22

It's ridiculous that politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are worrying about a credit crunch while denying the prospect of a runaway climate change that could occur in less than 100 months from today. The collapse of the odd airline and bank won't mean a great deal when we are fighting for territory and food on the flooded streets of London and New York.

Dr Michael Edwards

Haywards Heath, West Sussex

As a mere scientist, I know next to nothing about finance, economics and other global monetary issues. I am therefore very confused by your reporting of the present economic crisis. If the world's economy is in meltdown, how can there be a shortage of liquidity?

David Hill

Elsenham, Essex

It seems to be a bit unfair to blame Margaret Thatcher for the current financial turmoil when she has been out of power for 18 years, and New Labour have had ample opportunity to introduce any new regulation they deemed necessary. But while we're at it, if she'd allowed, even insisted, that the proceeds from council-house sales be used to build new houses, we would not have had such a shortage of supply, which made our house-price bubble much worse than any other country

Pete Barrett

Colchester, Essex

Now that the bluff of fat-cat bankers has been called, and their mystique and hopelessness exposed, who's next? Lawyers? The CEOs of lots of organisations whose profits and bonuses – and blunders and losses – are all borne by their clients and customers? Senior academics even?

Professor Richard Wilson


Charities backed by drug firms

I do hope that your readers will not allow the headlines in your issue of 1 October ("Drug firms bankroll attacks on the NHS") to obscure the invaluable work being carried out by charities such as Beating Bowel Cancer.

Quite unexpectedly in February 2006 I found myself diagnosed with bowel cancer. While absorbing this shocking news I tried to find out more about the condition. I contacted Beating Bowel Cancer for help and they provided me with comprehensive information, both about the cancer and what to expect during radiotherapy and surgery. Through their "Patient Voices" scheme I was quickly put in touch with two other people who had completed their treatment. Their kind and thoughtful support at such an anxious time was wonderfully reassuring.

Bowel cancer is Britain's second biggest cancer killer. Approximately 36,000 people are diagnosed with it every year. Throughout my "cancer journey" the NHS has provided an outstandingly good standard of care. It has been my privilege to gain strength along the way from the kind-hearted and compassionate staff and patients of Beating Bowel Cancer. Long may their work continue.

Peter Medwell

Broadstairs, Kent

To suggest that "Nice is pilloried by patient groups" does not reflect the close working between charities like Breakthrough and Nice.

We also work with the pharmaceutical industry – it plays a key role in ensuring that advances in medical research are translated to patient care. But that does not prevent us from criticising any practice we believe does not benefit patients. In our submission to the current government review of the consequences of additional private drugs for NHS care, Breakthrough highlighted the high cost of drugs as an issue which needs urgently addressing.

Our supporters know that whoever we accept funding from (including the less than half of 1 per cent from pharmaceutical companies), Breakthrough Breast Cancer is run by an independent Board of Trustees, and in any partnership, we always maintain our independence as a charity working in the best interests of those affected by breast cancer.

Jeremy Hughes

Chief ExecutiveBreakthrough Breast Cancer, London WC1

Price of selling off the nuclear 'silver'

For those of us who have been pressing the Government for the last 10 years to build new nuclear electricity capacity, the announcement that such capacity is to be provided by EDF is a bitter blow. Each time I raised the need for new nuclear build I was told that "we are looking into the question of disposal of nuclear waste". Let us hope that the French will supply electricity at the average EU price, and will be punctilious about repatriating nuclear waste.

Without external involvement there was no chance whatsoever that we could design (remember we sold Westinghouse only a couple of years ago) and finance new nuclear build. The death knell of the nuclear and other industries was sounded by Margaret Thatcher and repeated by all her successors in office with the sale of British businesses.

"Selling off the family silver" Harold Macmillan called it. He was correct of course, but we needed the money then and we need it now to support our debt-laden lifestyles.

Am I bitter? Emphatically, yes.

John Laird

Darley, North Yorkshire

Blair's resignation: why all the fuss?

Dudley Dean exaggerates (letter, 4 October). Nobody's blood should run cold or any other temperature because Sir Ian Blair resigns. He had a perfectly clear choice: he could have defied Boris Johnson and told him to do his worst. Then Johnson could have resorted to the disciplinary process (would he?) and Blair would have had all the safeguards Mr Dean refers to. Instead he chose to resign.

The truth is (as your reprinted editorial of 18 August 2005 makes all too clear) that Blair should have gone long ago. In his heart he probably recognised that and perhaps also – although the evidence is against it – that he should have gone after the Met was convicted of the Health and Safety offences arising from Jean Charles de Menezes' shooting. The case showed calamitous failings at high levels in the Met and an honourable Commissioner would have done the decent thing, accepted responsibility and resigned.

Peter Wadsley


Aside from the dangerous politicisation of the police, Boris Johnson's ruthless removal of Sir Ian Blair gives the lie to the so-called inclusiveness of Cameron's already highly suspect "liberal" Conservatism.

It is obviously back to the days of Thatcher, when "if you're not one of us, you won't be tolerated". Johnson lost three top advisers in his first three months in office; now he has claimed the scalp of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Soon London will be as disorganised as his hair.

The public – and the media – should not be taken in by well-spoken snake-oil salesmen.



Mistreatment of asylum seekers

I warmly welcome the Home Secretary's decision to open an independent inquiry into allegations of mistreatment of asylum seekers (report, 30 September). The Independent should be congratulated for highlighting this serious issue. Removals of failed immigrants should always be completely humane.

The key here is prevention and enforcement. Immigrants need to be fully aware when they come to the UK whether they have a right to be here and what will happen to them if they do not. The Home Office must draw attention to the rules and then enforce them in a robust way. We have to clear the backlog and deal with people's claims quickly so that lives are not put on hold.

Keith Vaz MP

Chairman, Home Affairs Committee, House of Commons

Mandelson disgrace

Peter Mandelson, with his dubious history of forced resignations, is invited back to the Cabinet yet again, and to boot is made a lord. It was disgraceful that this Blair crony was given the unelected highly paid EU trade commissioner post with almost unlimited expenses after leaving the cabinet in circumstances of shame. Now this!

Tom MacKinnon

London SW15

No sock solution

Apropos my husband's multiple sock purchase (letters, 4 October), this does not provide a solution to the missing-sock syndrome, since he has remaining, at last count, 23 individual socks. Having so many has just meant he can mislay them with impunity and remain unaware of the loss for longer. There is clearly a sock mountain somewhere.

Jenny Powell

Storrington, West Sussex

Climate campaigners

It was disappointing to see Christian Aid, Oxfam and the World Development Movement joining the Stop Kingsnorth bandwagon by arguing that it will exacerbate climate change (letters, 30 September). By not supporting replacement coal-fired stations they will simply contribute to the life extension of the existing less efficient, dirtier units. Renewables will fill some of the gap created by closing nuclears, but unless we take massive efforts to decrease our energy consumption we will still need to keep the old coal stations running. These organisations would be wiser to campaign for energy efficiency.

Nigel Fox

Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Lily Cole unclad

It isn't the nudity that bothered me in your report "Is this really art?" (4 October), but the fact that Lily Cole was depicted as a child – hair in bunches, little-girl face, cuddly toy, knee socks. If this isn't a paedophile's dream I don't know what is! Do we really need this sort of picture in a quality newspaper? From a very worried mother and grandmother.

Beryl Newton


Legal conundrum

A new legal aid form , which English solicitors have had to use since 1 October, now gives in the client details section under "Sex", in addition to the usual male/female tick-boxes the following option: "Prefer not to say." Modesty or what?

Ken Cohen

London NW6