"Prank", "jape" and "practical joke" are terms that have been used to describe the phone call made to the King Edward VII hospital when the Duchess of Cambridge was a patient. All these are euphemisms for bullying, because the purpose of these pranks, japes etc is to cause amusement to one group of people by publicly humiliating someone else. Those who are amused by such behaviour are complicit in the bullying.
It is time we recognised that when an action is described as a prank or jape the perpetrators are bullies, setting out to humiliate someone, and they must accept responsibility if their bullying drives their victim to take an extreme action like that of Jacintha Saldanha.
Let us be precise about causes of the death of the nurse after the hoax phone call.
The joke itself could have been harmless enough if her voice and gullibility had not been mockingly broadcast and reported throughout Britain by the media. The media, once again, showed no sensitivity for an individual.
It is not hard to imagine what she must have felt when she heard her voice, and saw the written conversation, held up to the public for all to laugh at. The perpetrators of this stupid joke should not feel much other than infantilism. But the media have, once more, wrecked a human life.
Buying my Independent on Saturday morning I glanced along the row of newspapers displaying the headlines "Kate's tears", "Kate's agony", "Kate's shock". The supposition would seem to be that their readers would more readily identify with royalty's concern than with the agony of nurse Saldanha's family, the tears of her colleagues and the shock of her patients.
The BBC takes quite a bit of criticism but perhaps we should all be more thankful on the whole for its high standard of broadcasting. As we watch the unfolding of the Australian radio station hoax, which has resulted in the death of a dedicated nurse, the standard of professionalism and integrity set by the BBC becomes more starkly obvious.
With the occasional slip-up, as in the Brand/Ross case, which was dealt with very swiftly, we do not have to suffer the sort of crass, unprofessional behaviour demonstrated by this outfit who obviously are driven by competitive commercial concerns, which mean a headlong rush for the lowest common denominator.
Hope House, Suffolk
My heart goes out to Mrs Saldanha's family but it also goes out to the Duchess of Cambridge. So far the joy of her pregnancy has been blighted, first by illness, then an invasion of her privacy, and now suicide. What a difficult start to what should be such a happy time in her life.
I can't imagine any circumstance in which a prank directed at a person lying in a hospital bed could be seen as acceptable. What happened to the principle "Do unto others as you would have them do to you"? If the perpetrators find themselves in hospital I hope they will remember this.
Without the royal element, the hoax would probably not have been perpetrated. But did the royal element also play a part in the ghastly consequences? I have always partly acknowledged the magic of monarchy. I now wonder if it is accompanied by a dark shadow, the miasma of monarchy.
If only the jokesters had heeded Proverbs 26:19, which reads, "Like a crazed archer scattering firebrands and deadly arrows is the man who deceives his neighbour, and then says, 'I was only joking'."
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Starbucks and the morality of tax avoidance
If John Day (letter, 7 December) thinks that a company's duty to maximise profit for shareholders is a moral one then he has a strange understanding of the word "moral".
It must now be clear to anyone that maximising profits not only involves the exploitation of employees and suppliers to minimise costs, but also the exploitation of governments to pay as little as possible in taxes while the company happily avails itself of all the infrastructure and services that those governments supply. If that is to be called "moral" then we are all in even bigger trouble than I thought we were.
Multinational companies have been minimising their tax payments through transfer pricing for years. Transfer pricing is the arbitrary setting of prices for goods or services provided by one subsidiary to another. It's simply a mechanism to shift profits to the country with the lowest tax base. As the level of inter-company pricing is not determined by the market, it allows multinationals to act both above the market and above nation states.
China has a more sensible approach to this, requiring that companies with a high level of inter-company transactions disclose this, prior to filing a tax return. It's unlikely that a single national Western government would follow suit, for fear of losing the companies and the jobs they provide. Tory posturing against the "baddies" should be seen for what it is.
I wonder how many of the people demonstrating outside Starbucks in protest about the amount of corporation tax paid have money invested in ISAs, have brought duty-free goods home from holiday or have taken advantage of any other legitimate tax-avoidance measures. Those that have are doing exactly what Starbucks do, using perfectly legal, ethical and logical means to minimise the amounts they pay in tax.
And so, by their own flawed logic they are every bit as immoral as the coffee company, but are also the worst type of hypocrites.
Recompense for Savile lawyers
Proper recompense vital to the legal process? While no one would disagree with Liz Dux's assertion (letter, 8 December) that victims of sexual abuse crimes need (and deserve) treatment to move on with their lives – as well as our sympathy and understanding – my recollection of the early interviews in the Savile case is that the victims were simply asking for recognition for their suffering and sense of shame, as well as acknowledgement that they had not been lying all these years; they were not, we were told, interested in money.
The industrialisation of legal recompense has seen the growth of claims for everything from accidents at work to the PPI feeding frenzy, as the American phenomenon of ambulance-chasing takes hold over here. Am I alone in thinking that the "proper recompense" being sought here is more vital to the legal bank balance than the legal process?
Who owns the Holy Land?
Julian Charles (letter, 1 December) makes the assertion that Israel cannot be deemed a white settler society in the manner of America because Biblical mythology refers to a Jewish identity in the region. I look forward to his follow-up letter, presumably suggesting that immigration policy in Scandinavian countries should be determined by reference to the narratives of the Norse god Odin, and that Arthurian legend demands that Britain be handed back to the Welsh Celts.
To suggest that the Westerners who conquered Palestine were not proper Europeans is surely to make the argument of the period's anti-Semites – who maliciously claimed that Jews weren't proper citizens and their loyalty and allegiance was based elsewhere?
Another bout of teacher-bashing
Oliver Wright (6 December), reports that poorly performing teachers could have their pay frozen for years. Has the Government learnt nothing from history? Payment by results, introduced under the Forster Act of 1870, was abandoned in 1902 as damaging to education and wholly disastrous.
The present regime of excessive testing and league tables has not only reduced education to arid cramming but damaged the prospects of thousands of young people. Add payment by results to this and it would be hard to imagine a more uninspired and depressing view of education.
However, to take up the point about poorly performing teachers, no one goes into teaching with the aim of doing it badly. That there are underperforming teachers is undeniable, but rather than the Government engage in another round of teacher-bashing, it would do better to try to understand why some teachers do badly. The reasons are complex but being obliged to work outside their area of expertise or teach courses which they feel unsuitable or ill-conceived will destroy even the best of teachers.
Thornton Hough, Wirral
Tories get nasty with disabled
Esther McVey, the minister for the disabled, seems to think that shutting down Remploy factories and throwing a few hundred disabled people out of work is going to save the country. Margaret Thatcher took on the miners, big men, but McVey the disabled. Oh, dearie me, what is the Tory party coming to?
Some of us used to call the Conservatives the nasty party. With the closure of the Remploy factories we now need a stronger word to convey our loathing, contempt and shame.
Fate of fivers
Further to the letters on £5 notes, recently my husband and I went to an ATM in Bexleyheath, Kent, to withdraw £200 each. The transactions were paid out in £5 notes. Maybe this will answer the question "Where have all the fivers gone?"
C A Mornington