Letters: Boys and knives

Memories of the days when all small boys carried knives
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When I was a schoolboy in the 1950s, I carried a knife to school each day. You were considered rather odd as a boy if you didn't. I can remember the teacher in the classroom saying: "Take out your knives, boys" (for the purpose of cutting paper, etc), and in summer we would practise throwing our knives in various games on the school playing field.

Was this really such serious criminal activity as it is painted today? We are putting more and more emphasis on making illegal the purchase and possession of items which are freely available in everyone's kitchen and garden shed. We are giving the police draconian powers to stop and search people with no idea whether this will make the situation better or worse. Up to now, knife crime has worsened as the laws have tightened.

Once a person is labelled a criminal because he owns a knife, then he remains a criminal for life in the eyes of the law. This approach takes no account of criminal intent.

David Owen

Mold, Flintshire

How do we make our society safer? Apparently, by threatening with the rigours of the law a white-haired bespectacled retired schoolmaster, quietly visiting art galleries. On a recent visit to London, having suffered a dental breakage, I took with me a Picnicker Swiss Army knife to cut up my sandwiches.

At the Queen's Gallery, I was asked whether I had a knife and willingly produced it from the depths of my bag, along with evidence of a picnic. I was told that I had broken the law and was committing a criminal offence. If I did not accept the confiscation of the knife, they would call the police and there would be the possibility of a court appearance. I explained the circumstances and enquired what had happened to the principal of reasonableness. "We have to be above the law, sir," was the reply.

Nicholas Stanley

Leckhampton, Cheltenham

As we are repeatedly told that the evidence shows that young people are carrying knives due to the fear of becoming victim to violent crime, what better way to reinforce the need to carry a weapon to defend themselves than to drag them round A&E departments showing them the victims of knife crime?

John Middleton


You call it religion, I call it homophobia

Once again the dubious shroud of religious doctrine has been employed as an excuse to legitimise blatant homophobia (report, 11 July). The decision by the Central London Employment Tribunal to award a claim of discrimination to Ms Ladele, a Christian registrar who refused to perform same-sex civil partnerships, is deeply disappointing when so much valuable work is being done in many other areas to rid our institutions of old-fashioned bigotry.

I am at a loss to comprehend why Ms Ladele's religious beliefs can be considered an acceptable excuse for her homophobia and her refusal to carry out a duty for which she has been employed and is paid. Were she to claim that the idea of two men sleeping together sickens her, she would rightly be disciplined for her unsavoury and outdated beliefs, but as soon as the Christian angle is introduced, a quasi-respectability is afforded to her otherwise deeply unpleasant attitude.

I hope very much that heterosexual couples marrying in Islington will ask specifically not to be wedded by someone with such poisonous beliefs.

Hamish Dowlen

London SW19

I, along with myriads of others, am absolutely ecstatic that Lillian Ladele has won her case.

Despite approval in "law" of civil partnerships in this country, let it be known that it never has and never will have God's approval. Christians like Ms Ladele have nothing in their hearts but genuine love and concern for the salvation of sinners, whatever their background and however deep they may have plunged the depths of sin.

Gay-rights campaign groups like Stonewall may indeed oppose, ridicule and decry her honorable and noble Christian stand against immoral behaviour, but God and truth are on her side. She need not fear. She was a winner long, long before the Central London Employment Tribunal upheld her claims of discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of her Christian faith.

To try to silence Ms Ladele is an attempt to silence God and Christianity. It would be easier for them to keep the sun from shining or empty the sea of water.



Thank you to Deborah Orr (12 July) for highlighting the flawed arguments of Lillian Ladele. I only disagree with Orr where she suggests that Islington Council should have "quietly accommodated her stubborn views". If the council had not and does not continue to challenge Ladele it would send out the message to staff and the community that homophobia is somehow more acceptable than other forms of prejudice.

Penny List

London NW9

Lillian Ladele may be interested to hear about two evangelising Christians who came to my door (uninvited) to convert me to their way of thinking. Like Ms Ladele, they also held "deep and sincere orthodox Christian views". It transpired that these views were racist, espousing negative judgements against people of African descent. When I asked them to explain how they justified their claim that black people were "naturally inferior", they said – "As a punishment, God turned Negroes black to remind us all of their sins."

This appalling statement was uttered in Detroit in 1964. Although their perverted religious logic was at least challenged, back in those dark homophobic days, alas, I was not brave enough to argue comparisons between their bigotry and my own homosexuality.

Ms Ladele may claim to hold her "deep and sincere Christian views", but, in reality, she is just as much a bigot as the two religious racists.

Narvel Annable

Belper, Derbyshire

Sir: Registrars with conscientious objections to civil partnerships are mistaken: civil partnerships are not gay marriages since there is no presumption of a sexual relationship between the partners. A marriage can be annulled if it is not consummated; this does not apply to a civil partnership. This difference is exemplified by those priests who have contracted civil partnerships while upholding the church's traditional teaching on homosexuality by practising celibacy.

Julian Gardiner

Elstree, Hertfordshire

Registrar Lillian Ladele has won her case against conducting civil partnerships on the grounds of her faith. Yet the State cannot spiritually marry anyone. The height of its power amounts only to legal cohabitation. For almost 16 years, then, as far as her reported orthodox belief in marriage goes, Ladele has been inviting countless heterosexual couples to "live in sin". Strangely, she has no qualms about that.

Catherine von Ruhland

HAMPTON, Middlesex

Electricity: threats will solve nothing

The electricity industry is already changing as a result of tighter CO2 limits and incentives for renewable energy. Threatening disruption at existing power stations will do nothing to further this development ("Climate campaigners threaten to invade and shut down power plant", 11 July).

Companies want to invest in a portfolio of technologies which includes renewables as well as gas, clean coal and nuclear power. This is vital to ensure security of supply and avoid over-dependence on one fuel. Protesters should know that companies that invest in new coal-fired power stations have to run these within emission caps set by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and are planning to employ modern, efficient technology.

The move from today's world, in which fossil fuels account for 75 per cent of UK electricity production, to one in which cleaner fuels dominate will take time, but the electricity industry is committed to achieving a low-carbon mix. In the meantime, a dialogue would surely serve everyone better than threats.

Laura Schmidt

Communications Executive,Association of Electricity Producers, London Sw1

Wild beavers in Scotland

The Scottish Wildlife Trust and Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, not Trees for Life as you reported (10 July), are leading the six-year project to bring back beavers to Knapdale and must now raise at least £750,000.

This is the first formal wild reintroduction of a mammal to the UK and the trial will decide the future of wild beavers in Scotland. We believe that this historic, inspired and ambitious conservation initiative will restore a missing link in our wetland and woodland habitats. Twenty-four other European countries have successfully brought back the beaver and only time will tell if this very useful, and previously native creature, will become a permanent addition to Scotland's wildlife portfolio.

Allan Bantick

Scottish Beaver Trial, Edinburgh

No role for British Army in Niger Delta

You report that Britain is to train the army in Nigeria to combat Delta rebels (12 July). The one co-operation Nigeria needs from the UK is in ending the corruption in that African nation.

The crisis in the Niger Delta is political, an expression of the anguish of the majority at the greed and affluence of a tiny minority. Ordinary Nigerians in the Niger Delta know their nation produces oil only through the degradation of their environment.

When President Yar'Adua visits Gordon Brown, discussions should focus on what Britain can do to help Nigeria end a culture of corruption which has kept it underdeveloped for so long. Any military involvement in the Niger Delta could do great damage to Britain's standing.



Ministerial grammar ruthlessly scrutinised

Your previous correspondents (letters, 10 & 11 July) have been too kind to Education minister Jim Knight. His statement "Neither myself nor my colleague, Ed Balls, have ever referred to failing schools" contains five errors.

As has already been pointed out, "myself" should be "I" and "have" should be "has". Further, there should not be commas around "Ed Balls", as these suggest that Balls is Knight's only colleague, but there should be inverted commas around "failing schools", as their absence suggests that there are failing schools but that neither Knight nor Balls has ever referred to them.

Finally, where "I" is one of two subjects of a verb, it is good usage, out of courtesy, to place it second. So Knight should have written "Neither my colleague Ed Balls nor I has ever referred to 'failing schools' ".

Charles Scanlan

London NW8

Female high jumpers

According to Mike Rowbottom ("Jump to attention, 12 July) "since the 1948 Games, British women's high jumpers have struggled at the most exalted level". Has he forgotten Sheila Lerwill (silver, 1952), Thelma Hopkins (silver, 1956), and Dorothy Shirley (silver, 1960)?

Glenn Cox

Alcester, Warwickshire

Theatre's new fans

You report that some critics of reality TV shows linked to West End musicals believe that fans attending these shows are unlikely to become regular theatregoers (9 July).

I booked to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat after seeing Lee Mead win Any Dream Will Do. It was the first time in 15 years that I had visited the West End theatre. It was an amazing show and made me realise what I had been missing. I have since visited the West End 10 times in the past 12 months to see various shows.

M P Margrain


Computer glitch

A recent Microsoft update to Windows XP is incompatible with the software of a market leader in the provision of computer-security software. Once installed, internet access is impossible. The security software supplier has sent a message to their customers via email warning them of the problem and advising remedial action: maybe they are too young to have read Catch-22.

Luckily my wife has a Mac by means of which I could continue to access my email account and take appropriate action.

Professor Frank Fahy

Stockbridge, Hampshire

Thatcher's funeral

Since, according to Margaret Thatcher, "there is no such thing as society, there are individual men and women and there are families", I trust her individual friends and family will pay for any public funeral (Philip Hensher, 14 July).



Church split

The time has come to face the fact that the Anglican Communion is already split, both over gay bishops and over female bishops. Does it really matter if the African churches leave? The treatment of Bishop Gene Robinson by Rowan Williams is shameful and inexcusable; similarly, Williams's refusal to face up to the Africans over the ordination of female bishops is craven and pusillanimous, when it has been agreed and reconfirmed by the Church of England, his proper constituency.

John Hawgood


Film star gives birth

You are admirably self-denying when it comes to publishing stories about the royal family. So why do you waste most of page three and a large space on the front page just because some film star has had a baby?

Roger Clifton

Corsham, Wiltshire