Letters: CCTV

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The Independent Online

CCTV helps to cut crime and ordinary people welcome it

Sir: Your leading article "A pernicious legacy of surveillance" (18 May) is right that we cannot have a "one size fits all" approach to crime and anti-social behaviour and that the needs of rural Suffolk are different from those of inner-city London. But to dismiss CCTV as "authoritarian apparatus" belittles the huge difference it can make to people's lives.

In my own borough of Hackney, for example, in the first three months of this year, our CCTV team was responsible for securing more than 200 arrests, recovering stolen property, including 26 stolen cars, as well as providing hundreds of pieces of evidence to the police to help secure convictions. CCTV is not, of course, our only tool in the fight against crime - we also have more police on the streets with the new Safer Neighbourhood Teams in every ward; we have a strong and well-funded youth service that supports young people at risk of offending, and we use the other weapons given to us by the Government, such as Asbos, which you also, bizarrely, criticise.

But our increased use of CCTV is one of many ways we can make sure that Hackney people feel safe in their homes and on their streets, and is one of the reasons why crime in Hackney has seen the biggest fall of all London boroughs - a 28 per cent reduction in the past three years.

What works in Hackney may not work in Suffolk or Hampshire but to criticise CCTV per se is to put metropolitan fears of a "surveillance society" before the needs of ordinary working people, who welcome its success in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.



Tory wars over selective schools

Sir: I am amazed that the Tories would want to bring back secondary modern schools. For every grammar school there have to be four secondary modern schools. Only 20 per cent of children are selected. Is that what we really want? Four out of five children being rejected at the age of 11?



Sir: David Cameron, as an old Etonian, may not appreciate the value of high-performing state schools. But Reading School (grammar) gave me the confidence to believe that I was every bit as good as someone who had been to Eton. Not only did we beat Eton at rugby but we also had a higher proportion of my final year gaining academic scholarships at Oxbridge. We of course had the benefit of being selected on ability rather than money.



Sir: I was quite enjoying Bruce Anderson's article on education (21 May) until I got to the bit where he reckoned that preferential treatment should be given to the middle classes, because "it is the middle classes who do the work and pay the taxes".

What an absurdity and insult to suggest, say, an accountant's contributions are more important than a dustman's and, as such, should allow for discrimination in the educational opportunities made available to their children. Thank God I live in a snob-free country where, educationally, one size fits all.



A trivial arrest, but a lasting distress

Sir: There is another serious and potentially damaging aspect to trivial arrests of children (Letters, 21 May). I am the chair of governors at a primary school. Each new governor is subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check. The local authority informed me recently that a new appointee has a criminal record, and the details of it were given so that I could decide if this would prevent the appointment.

The offence was minor, has no bearing on suitability to be in contact with children and was committed more than half a lifetime ago. I, as a volunteer, have information which I do not need to have, and if it became widely known in our small community, it could cause great distress. Now that CRB checks are necessary for almost all voluntary posts, information of this kind has the potential to be disseminated outside the control of the subject. The result is that this person will not volunteer to assist with any other community activities, and will carry this embarrassment for a lifetime.

Clearly children must be protected, but in this case and many others like it, no purpose has been served. Would the intentions of the CRB check be better fulfilled if authorities were not informed of details that obviously had no bearing on the post applied for, but only if the applicant had committed an offence which rendered him or her unsuitable to work with vulnerable people? The risk of disclosure of trivial indiscretions to those who have no need to know has the power to cause distress out of all proportion to the offence.


Small power plants need more help

Sir: You report on the DTI's announcement that the Low Carbon Building Programme will be significantly reduced in two ways (10 May). First, the grant available will be capped at £2,500 to householders; and second, time frame for installation has been shortened. Both of these measures have serious implications for the Government's declared objective of local energy playing a significant part in the UK's energy mix.

The £2,500 cap will limit the take-up from poorer households and even those with higher incomes will probably reduce the capacity of any installation, particularly photo-voltaic. From our own experience the total cost of a photo-voltaic system to generate up to 60 per cent of electricity for a four-bedroom house is in the order of £14,000.

Nor is it clear how these measures will support the development of an incipient and arguably fragile local energy industry. There are relatively few accredited installers for micro-generation in the UK. Will the DTI be monitoring the inevitable business fall-out from this decision? Recent reports indicate that renewables firms are already laying off staff.

A recent select committee report highlights the damaging effects of a stop-start approach to funding as well as arguing for a comprehensive review of the way local energy is treated within the fiscal system. Government needs to reward investment by householders and businesses in low-carbon energy production.




'Independent' Latin deemed infra dig

Magistri discipulique Scholae Paulinae salutem dant editori Independentis.

cum, domine, in libello tuo Idibus Maiis legissemus de eis qui linguae Latinae student in scholis Britannicis, primum maxime gavisi sumus nuntii felicissimi causa. mox tamen gaudium omne in lacrimas gemitusque versum est: foedissimum, taeterrimum, etiam turpissimum videtur hunc nuntium laetum scriptum esse a barbaro quodam, qui nec clivos Parnassi nec Musas colit.

exemplum praebeamus, ut omnes ignorationem huius perspiciant: si locutionem "qui vir odiosus" Anglice recte reddidisset, "what a hateful man" scripsisset; videtur tamen putare locutionem "what a bore" significare.

at oculis in titulum conversis, vix credere possumus rem tam atrocem, tam scelestam, tam nefariam in libello probo inveniri. nam "id quod circumiret, circumveniat" legimus, quae locutio, nescioqua ratione, praeterito subiunctivi modi utitur, tum praesenti; nonne "id quod circumit, circumvenit" scribere debuit?

ululemus, pectoribus percussis, genis laceratis, crinibus passis, hanc summam diem et ineluctabile tempus.



Sympathy for the prisoners of Gaza

Sir: I must confess a certain sympathy for the Palestinians (report, 18 May). I began my working life in 1949, in charge of a food-distribution centre for refugees in the Gaza Strip. These people, and their descendants, are still there, 58 years later.

Now they are at each other's throats. Hamas and Fatah are at war. People in prison who are powerless to fight their jailers will in the end inevitably fight each other.

For more than 50 years, Gaza has been denied economic opportunity, a functioning agriculture, finance and a working economy. It is deprived of land, of money, of natural resources, even of food and water.

Palestinians have been ignored by the British, who gave their land away, by the Israelis who occupy it, by Europeans and Americans who are so guilty about their treatment of the Jews that they do nothing at all, and by the Arabs so concerned about their own wealth and power that they ignore this divided and ravished people.

Gaza is a concentration camp without the gas chambers.



The MP who really needs a quad bike

Sir: Andreas Whittam Smith makes a disparaging remark about David Maclean's quad bike bought on expenses (Opinion, 21 May). I don't know David Maclean, I'm not one of his constituents, and I deplore his Bill, but I, like him, have MS. Mr Maclean has progressive MS, of a type that doesn't respond to the disease-modifying drugs.

He seems to be a pretty macho sort of chap who perhaps came to the conclusion that going around his constituency on a mobility scooter or in a wheelchair didn't give the same impression of capability and political thrust as thundering around on a quad bike. He doesn't play on the fact that he has MS and seems to be notorious for his politically incorrect points of view, rather than for his illness.

Apparently, he asked if he could buy this quad bike on expenses and was told that it would be allowable. So, no real scandal there.



No case for Blair to answer over Iraq

Sir: Michael Bentley thinks that a strong case could be made to arraign Tony Blair for the crime of aggression at the International Criminal Court (Letters, 22 May).

If Mr Bentley were to visit the ICC's own website he would be able to read the prosecutor's own determination that he does not have the mandate to address the arguments on the legality of the use of force or the crime of aggression, as the ICC does not yet have the power to try it.

Even if it did, there would be no case for Blair to answer either for violation of customary international law or under the UN Charter. By the time of the invasion there were already 16 Security Council resolutions in place under Chapter VII determining that Iraq was a threat to international peace and security. The UN Security Council's decision, in Resolution 1483, to legalise the invasion after the event has been overwhelmingly recognised by the international community as lawful.

The UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX), which is the standard definition of aggression, states in its Article 2: "The First use of armed force by a State in contravention of the Charter shall constitute prima facie evidence of an act of aggression although the Security Council may, in conformity with the Charter, conclude that a determination that an act of aggression has been committed would not be justified in the light of other relevant circumstances, including the fact that the acts concerned or their consequences are not of sufficient gravity."



Sir: Another one bites the dust. The World Bank's Paul Wolfowitz joins a list of US pro-war failures, including Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle and Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Those who have lost their jobs in this country as a consequence of Iraq include Greg Dyke, Gavyn Davies and Andrew Gilligan, all of the BBC; and Elizabeth Wilmshurst of the Foreign Office legal team. Poor Dr David Kelly, our leading bio-weapons expert, lost his life.

Compare and contrast the two lists. One consists of US political players. The other of UK truth-tellers destroyed by UK politicians, none of whom has been called to account for that war.

According to one US source, "If we had a parliamentary system, Bush would have lost a vote of confidence and have resigned by now." UK parliamentarians vote "no confidence" only in the Freedom of Information Act as it applies to them and place themselves above a law they impose on other institutions. There is in Erskine May an offence known as contempt of the House of Commons. Today, is it possible to have anything else?



Duck and dog

Sir: And if it is to be Mumbai Duck (letters, 12, 14, 22 May) then why not a Beijingese winning Cruft's?



Fat cats beyond the City

Sir: Peter Hain may be critical of "astronomic" bonuses paid to City fat cats but at least they are usually performance- related. Should he not be turning his attention to professional footballers and (so-called) entertainers who receive similarly "immoral" sums, very often for mediocre or poor performance? Or are these targets less politically desirable because they are the role models for rank-and-file "Labour" supporters?



Smoke signal

Sir: Woken this morning by the postman: oh joy! A letter from the car-leasing people that supply all our company cars. On opening: a hilarious letter enclosing a "No Smoking" sticker which "must" be displayed on the windscreen. Failure to do so will cost me a fine of between £200 and £1,000. Picked myself up from the floor whither I had dropped. What kind of ludicrous law makes this kind of missive necessary?



'Cutty Sark' theory

Sir: None of the reports in your paper have raised the possibility that the alleged arson of the great tea clipper the Cutty Sark might have been due to a mistaken belief that she had been used in the slave trade. Recent pictures in many papers showed the horrific packing in of slaves in the ships trading with Africa. The Cutty Sark was used in the tea trade with China and was not built until 1869, after the ending of the slave trade. A case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing?



Take no notice

Sir: To avoid a tirade of abuse I have started to ignore the many "Caution Men at Work" signs dotted around building sites - they don't seem to appreciate my input.