Letters: Britain's punitive culture

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Britain's culture is a punitive one

Sir: Your leader and report about the government's attempt to deport an EU national, Learco Chindamo, from our shores is not at all surprising in the light of our continuing punitive culture (23 August). We are on record of deporting even British children, allegedly for petty food theft, to our empire up until 1967.

As a retired member of the Asylum & Immigration Judiciary (1982 – 2004) I have often disagreed with my colleagues and have been publicly critical of some of the decisions. However, I wholly applaud the decision taken by my colleagues in this case, as wholly correct in law, facts and humanity.

The public outcry generated by our politically expedient leaders and Her Majesty's Opposition, to remove this reformed convict and undermine the judiciary is appalling. Such evil desires ought not to be allowed to succeed or interfere with our basic human rights as long as democracy and rule of law prevails.

It is very seldom that we rehabilitate criminals in our archaic and barbaric prisons but when, as in this case, we did succeed we ought to celebrate our success.

The same was true with the killers of James Bulger, whom Lord Chief Justice Woolf released, and many such home-grown criminals set free by the Parole Board from time to time.

Chindhamo is equally a victim of our broken society and it is quite irrelevant that he is technically of Italian birth. He must be allowed to remain here and settle down to normal life with his family in his adopted region of the European Un ion.

Apart from the glowing reports from the prison, we also have the expertise of the parole board in place who in my experience would not deliberately release anyone who is likely to endanger the public. This applies to all we send to prison, irrespective of Britons, Italians or others.

Victims are fully taken into account, as is the forgiving nature of Mr Lawrence's widow, and her confused message today. As for victims and offenders, the Prison Service has fairly recently adopted a traditional scheme aimed to restore justice to both parties. Restoration of justice would assist all concerned peacefully, and bring harmony within the angry world we live in.

Anver Jeevanjee

Asylum & Immigration Tribunal (1982 – 2004), Southampton

Sir: No one expects Mrs Law-rence to forgive her husband's killer. Indeed, she has every right to hate him. What she does not have the right to do, as your correspondent Paul Donovan so rightly points out (letter, 22 August), is to dictate, or even influence what happens to him.

The whole point of a justice system is that it acts on behalf of society to decide on and enforce good behaviour, and acts on behalf of the society against transgressors. We can see all too tragically in Iraq at present what happens when there is no enforceable justice system and groups and individuals punish and take revenge against each other.

In the Lawrence case, the nationality of the killer has no bearing. Mr Lawrence might just as well have been killed by a young British delinquent.

Chindamo is not a terrorist and if it is safe to release him, it is as safe here as in Italy. But I am beginning to think he would have a better chance of a reasonable life in Italy than in this country, given the illogical and vindictive attitude of much of the media and some politicians.



Sir: Nobody could fail to be moved by the anguish of victims of serious crimes such as the Lawrence family, and their plight inevitably becomes the focus of debates about "crime and punishment", like the one raging in your pages.

But it is a fallacy to think that whatever the criminal justice system does about individual criminals is crucial for tackling the problems of crime. Much research shows that criminal justice has, at most, a tangential effect on crime. The sources of crime lie deep in social structure and culture.

The Cameronian Conservatives correctly attribute the problem to society being badly broken. What they fail to observe is that it was their Tory predecessors who broke it.

The tragic pains of crime and punishment illuminate the heart of darkness beneath the consumerist glitter of Thatcher's neoliberal revolution, so eagerly espoused by Blair.

My book, Law and Order: An Honest Citizen's Guide to Crime and Control, analyses the sorry story of rampant crime and punishment over the past few decades, showing that neoliberalism is the prime suspect for the damage done.

Effective, yet humane and fair, criminal justice is vital for the individuals caught up in it, as victims or offenders. But for controlling crime overall it is as efficacious as prescribing aspirin for a tumour, as Raymond Chandler once observed.

Robert Reiner

Professor of Criminology, Law Department, LSE, London WC2

In defence of thepillow-pack salad

Sir: I represent the Fresh Prepared Salads Producer Group, the main producers of washed and ready-to-eat own-label salad bags, and was concerned by the comments about the sector in your article "What Are You Really Being Served" (Report, 16 August).

With regard to the comment "Salad bags are an environmental disaster", I feel I should draw your attention to the fact that during the UK salad season, which runs from May through to October, about 93 per cent of fresh-prepared bagged salad leaves will be harvested from the United Kingdom.

During the UK season, leaves are often harvested, washed, packed into bags and on the supermarket shelves in as little as 24 hours, one of the freshest products you can buy. As to packaging, unless the leaves are transported and displayed in a closed pack they will dehydrate and, when handled, can suffer bruising.

The simple pillow-pack has to be an example of one of the best instances of minimal yet essential packaging. And be assured, we are researching biodegradable films.

A salad leaf continues to respire after it has been harvested. Occasionally, the level of oxygen is reduced in the bag to slow respiration and therefore, optimise quality. This process is used for approximately 20 per cent of salad packs because only certain leaves benefit from modified atmosphere packaging.

A recent study confirmed that modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) has no detrimental effect on the nutritional content of salad leaves, and this process cannot be described as being an "additive."

Most bagged salads contain nothing but good, fresh salad leaves, carefully washed and ready to eat

Wendy Akers

Twickenham, Middlesex

The plight of parents when teenagers get out of control

Sir: Much has been made of poor parenting (letters, 18 August). No doubt there are parents who do not care, but it is a complicated situation. You can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink. My daughters were brought up to respect us and the law, work hard and invest in their own futures.

At the age of 12, both became foul-mouthed, aggressive strangers, who swore at us, refused to divulge their whereabouts or come home to agreed deadlines. Our 13-year-old often stayed out all night. We had no idea where she was or who she was with, and she refused to tell us anything. There is no lawful tool for parents to deal with this; good behaviour depends on mutual trust and respect. When this disappears, parents are backed into a corner where they have used all sanctions as punishment, and the teenager has no incentive to behave well.

The suggestion that such children be taken into care is not the answer. Our younger daughter has been in care for most of the past 12 months, but far from helping her, she lost the security of a loving home, gained a criminal record, was seriously sexually assaulted and, despite much work from the staff in her present children's home, has absconded 22 times in three months. So parental influence, or lack of it, cannot be the whole story.

I was forced to attend patenting classes (because of a crime my daughter committed in care). These were an abusive, humiliating experience which did nothing to help our situation and much to exacerbate it. Any remaining tatters of confidence I had as a parent were destroyed.

Our older daughter is now 17, stable, personable, working hard towards a university place, taking part-time jobs and living happily with us. She cringes at her earlier behaviour (and is highly critical of her sister). In fact, her past mistakes spur her on to make a success of her life and make us proud of her.

The past couple of years have put an intolerable strain on our health, our marriage, our careers and our lives. If we could have avoided or shortened our nightmare we would obviously have done so.

Name and address supplied

There is no 'friendly fire' in any war

Sir: The news that three more British servicemen have been killed in Afghanistan produced more national gloom, and the routine statement from Defence Secretary Des Browne praising their bravery in an essential mission to combat Taliban-backed terrorism.

It was reported as another incident of so- called "friendly fire". There is no friendly fire in war: it is all unfriendly to someone, often deadly. When Afghans complain that their village school, market or farm tractor convoy has been bombed by hi-tech warplanes, with consequent civilian injury and death, our spokespeople in Afghanistan tell us this is unlikely, because great care is taken aiming bombs at chosen targets.

But the latest incident involving British troop deaths demonstrates the fatuity of this claim. Independent MP Dai Davies tabled an early-day motion just before Parliament's summer recess, pointing out that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghan-istan (Unama) released figures on 25 June showing 279 Afghans had been killed by the Taliban and 314 by Nato forces or Afghan security forces. It noted that hese figures are distinctly different from those generally reported in the media, which emphasise the deaths caused by Taliban resistance fighters.

In an unusually frank press conference on 2 July, Major Chris Belcher, a Nato coalition spokes-man, admitted that the "remains of some people who apparently were civilians were found among insurgent fighters" after a Nato confrontation with local Afghans.

In the same press conference, Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and UN agencies in Afghanistan, said there had been a higher level of casualties in June than in previous months, and added that the overall number of deaths attributed to pro-government forces, which include the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, National Directorate of Security and international military forces, "marginally exceeds that caused by anti-government forces".

Dr David Lowry

Stoneleigh, Surrey

Labour's new power stifles our dissent

Sir: Under Labour, its new powers are designed to stifle dissent. Permission is needed for demonstrations within a kilometre of Parliament. The Terrorism Act is used to stop a wide range of non-terrorists, including trainspotters. The police seem unconcerned about the view of them we will form. But people do not feel the streets are safe.

The experience of Andrea Farndon on the families' march at the Heathrow climate protest (letter, 25 Aug) was no surprise.

Peter Salter


The original 'D'oh!'

Sir: The phrase "D'oh!" (Report, 25 August) originated years before ITMA. Dan Castellenata (the voice of Homer) said he used the phrase in honour of James Finlayson. Finlayson was among the great early Hollywood comic character act-ors, best known for his work with Laurel and Hardy, and often sharing their billing.

Peter Loschi

Oldham, Lancashire

Selective schools

Sir: Your list of "top 65 com-prehensive schools" (Report, 23 August) contains schools that are not comprehensive in the true sense of the word. Pupils wishing to attend Watford Girls, Watford Boys', Parmiter's and Rickmansworth schools all sit the same entrance exam. After a pupil has a place, their siblings may also attend; these schools are partially selective and should not be on a list of comprehensive schools.

Vivienne Simister

Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

Warriors' second visit

Sir: Adrian Hamilton may be correct about the Chinese state and its everlasting political conformity, whatever form its government may take (Review, 24 August). But he is not correct to say this is the first time they "have allowed such an extensive display to go abroad". Edinburgh, with its twinning partner Xian, arranged such an exhibition in 1985. "The Chinese Warriors" was shown at the City Art Centre from 11 September to 1 November of that year, attracting 225,000 visitors.


EdinburghA sour note

Sir: Your report on national GCSE results analyses the results, but I note that no candidates appear to have entered the music examination this year. I would have thought this more remarkable than the lamentable decline in modern language entries.

John Fryer

Hemel Hempstead

Locating Lowry

Sir: Contrary to what you say, LS Lowry did not "move to Salford"as a "middle-aged man" (Report, 24 August). He moved from Salford at 61 to live in the village of Mottram in Longdendale, which is on the opposite side of the Manchester conurbation.

Stephen O'Loughhlin

Huddersfield, West YorkshireNo bull here

Sir: John Lichfield's article "The Big Question: Are the French and Spanish finally turning against bullfighting?" (report, 17 August) is a fine example of balanced reporting. Mr Lichfield presented both sides of the story and simply told his readers the truth about the bullfight. The writer did not seem to have an agenda to promote. Mr. Lichfield did his homework and gave us his findings. Good job.

Rosamaria Garcia Chicago, Illinois

Have another

Sir: If this gin & tonic debate goes on much longer, I think I'll need a couple of large vodka & Cokes, or should that be vodkas & Coke?

Philip Moran

London N11

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