Letters: Hamza faces the Queen's judges

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I hold no brief for Abu Hamza, but I do cherish the impartiality of our courts. We learn that Abu Hamza has applied to the High Court for an injunction to stay his extradition to US. I presume this will be heard in the Royal Courts of Justice, presumably in the Queen's Bench Division. Of course, all judges have sworn a personal oath of allegiance to the Queen.

We know that the Queen told her Home Secretary in 2008 that she was upset that Abu Hamza had not been arrested. It seems to me that her action now makes it impossible for Abu Hamza to obtain a fair hearing from the her loyal judges, who will be all too aware of her prejudice.

There could hardly be a more clear warning to the Royal Family to not to attempt to use their influence on politicians to bring about the fulfilment of their own prejudices, given their unelected status.

Imagine the reaction if, say, a fiery Jesuit priest was treated similarly in another country that has an unelected head of state, when the priest was in danger of extradition to a country with a record of torture and extra-national assassination.

Brian Basham

London EC2

The row over what the Queen might or might not have said to a Home Secretary about Abu Hamza is a storm in a monogrammed teacup.

Asking David Blunkett or Jack Straw (or whoever) why the law appeared powerless to deal with an alleged perpetrator of hate-crimes who leached off a society he professed to despise falls short of "lobbying" or an "intervention", surely?

Leaving aside the (perfectly valid) questions of unearned wealth and privilege, the Queen is an 86 year-old woman who had every right to wonder why Britain continued so handsomely to succour a violent demagogue who thinks it a "toilet".

Richard Butterworth



Bus passes are for everyone

The Lib Dems would apply a means test to pensioner bus passes. The bus pass actually benefits all of us.

It is self-means-testing as it only generates cost when it is used and many "well off" pensioners still use their motor cars. When it is used instead of a car journey, it reduces carbon emissions, reduces traffic congestion, helps keep bus routes viable (for the benefit of all of the local population), improves the health of users when they walk to bus stops and widens horizons for those without cars.

Can there be any other benefit that is so well targeted to the benefit of everyone in the world? There is even a case to extend bus passes to other groups!

Mike Cornick

Penhow, Newport

Clegg's call to remove the privilege for millionaires to travel free on buses is pointless. How many millionaires travel by bus?

Any reduction in support for pensioners' travel will ultimately lead to a further erosion of public services. When we all have to depend on our own transport we will be gridlocked.

Carole Lewis

Solihull, West Midlands

The intellectual feebleness and duplicity of the Liberal Democrats has never been so obvious as in their latest "big idea": to take universal benefits away from wealthy pensioners. Struggling to win back support from the disillusioned who were misguided enough to vote for them last time we now have this mess of populist politics.

The abandonment of universal benefits will contribute nothing to ending inequality and cost more to administer than it gets back. All it will do is employ more bureaucrats. The simple and obvious solution is called income tax. Ever heard of it?

Malcolm Naylor

Otley, West Yorkshire

Too many women in jail

Thanks for a serious and well researched investigation on mothers in prison last week.

Coincidentally, last Friday I visited Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire, one of the women's prisons mentioned in the articles. I was accompanying a team from Changing Tunes who send musicians regularly into prison to run singing and music workshops and who continue to work with prisoners on their release.

My visits have borne out the conclusions of your series: that very few of these women are a threat to anyone but themselves and that locking them up in such numbers serves little purpose. I hope the debate to which you have contributed will lead to a real policy change.

Stephen Kinsella

Stroud, Gloucestershire

It looks like misogynistic distortion for Thomas Wiggins to label "misandry" the concern to find better alternatives to incarceration for non-violent women (letter, 21 September).

The argument is not that it is wrong to jail mothers but not fathers. Rather, since most parenting is done by women, and without it children are unlikely to acquire the self-esteem and social skills needed to survive as law-abiding adult citizens, we especially need to find feasible ways of breaking the vicious cycle of abuse and neglect that jailing women serves to perpetuate. It is punishment of the innocent.

Richard Bryden

Craig-y-don, Llandudno

The true friends of badgers

Chatting to my vet the other day, while he carried out the routine eye-watering operations to turn my beef shorthorn bull calves into steers, I asked about badgers and bovine TB.

He comes from a big farming practice which would cover some of the most badly affected TB areas. He said that about 70 per cent of badgers have the disease and that in the last stages, emaciated and hairless, they die underground. At least infected cattle are not allowed to get to that state, which raises the question of whether it is the badger cullers or the badger-huggers who are the more humane.

P A Reid

Wantage, Oxfordshire

There is enough confusion in the controversy over culling badgers without Charlie Cooper adding to it ("Badger culls are crazy", 18 September). For a start, it was not Lord Krebs "who led a nine-year study into the effect of badger culling on rates of TB in cattle" – he merely recommended in 1997 that a formal scientific study should be undertaken. The ground-breaking study on which virtually all available culling information is based was led by Professor John Bourne, who chaired the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG).

The ISG's findings, published in 2007, were the first rigorous scientific evidence that badger culling could have a beneficial effect. That effect is now measured as a 16 per cent reduction in herd breakdowns in the study areas some nine years after the trial started – but was achieved only after a careful, systematic and intensive programme of cage-trapping of badgers by skilled operators.

The applicability of these statistical findings to the proposed pilot culls, where attempts will be made by farmers and others to shoot free-ranging badgers over wide areas is questionable to say the least. And Owen Paterson, who "very much hopes" this will lead to a full scale cull in England, is very much depending on hope rather than science.

Professor John McInerney

(Member of ISG)

Templeton, Devon

'Officious idiots' really do care

I was incensed by Grace Dent's tirade (19 September) against GPs following the results of yet another survey which reveals that the level of complaints against our lovely GPs has risen by 23 per cent in the past year. I have the dubious honour of being one of Ms Dent's "officious idiots on reception".

I work in a GP surgery in Brentwood and we take phone calls from 8am until 6.30pm every weekday, not just between nine and 10 on a Wednesday. The "idiots" here go out of our way to help patients, arranging appointments (of at least 10 minutes' duration, usually more), sorting out their prescriptions, generally "going the extra mile" in fact, because we care. The doctors, nurses and staff in surgeries really do care; we wouldn't work here if we didn't.

Lynne English

Wickford, Essex

Stand up for the plebs

Graham Shimell (letter, 24 September) suggests that if he had called police officers "f***ing plebs" who should "learn their place" he would be arrested.

There's only one way to find out. Is this a Spartacus moment?

Peter McKenna


Would David "call me Dave" Cameron care to explain to us plebs exactly what has to be done to be sacked by him?

Simon G Gosden

Rayleigh, Essex

At last, it seems that the "-gate" suffix has died, since there have not been any references to "Mitchellgate".

Oh, no, what have I done?

David Wheeler

Dalston, Cumbria

Fight for Tamils in Sri Lanka

The Independent deserves praise for being one of the few media to focus attention on the human rights violations by the Rajapaksa government in Sri Lanka. Thank you for this noteworthy report (19 September) on the treatment of Sri Lankan Tamil failed asylum-seekers in the UK.

The plight of these people is not often covered in the media , with the exception of Channel Four and yourself. The Independent has played an essential role to save some of these people from deportation and ensuing torture and internment in Sri Lanka.

Kumar Kathiramalai

London SW7

Lead thieves

Mary Dejevsky may have more knowledge of cable design than David Rushton gives her credit for (letter, 25 September). For the greater part of the 20th Century paper was the insulant for both power and telephone cables. Paper needs a lead sheath to protect it. Stealing such cables provides an opportunity also to realise the value of the lead.

Alan J Percy



The Lib Dems are a bit like the Belgians. To us the Walloons seem just like the French, the Flemish just like the Dutch. Yet they still hang together. I suspect the Lib Dems will do the same.

Robert davies

London SE3