Letters: How did pranksters get through?


The tragic outcome of the Australian prank has spawned a deluge of ire and condemnation which now verges on a tasteless parade of moral indignation. The agony of the nurse who has ended her life, and of her family, isn't respected by the endless churning of opinion and interviews.

Moreover, in the midst of the furore about the broadcast there is no focus on the role of the hospital in ensuring the privacy of its patients. Experience must have taught the management that there will always be attempts to breach privacy, and perpetrate pranks, not least when there is a royal patient in the building.

The key question is what protocols were in place to ensure that all inquiries were handled with skill and discretion. It should not have been possible for a duty nurse to think that she had to deal with an incoming call about a royal patient.

Statements about supporting the nurse after the event are simply ducking the question of why she found herself in that position in the first place. A question that some patients might well be asking also.

Paula Jones

London SW20

Broadcasters and journalists pursuing the phone hoax "story" have perhaps been too busy to ask themselves if their actions have aggravated the extremely unhappy situation that has resulted.

For the hoax to bite in this country, it was necessary that the media should give it air-time and column inches. These were afforded with alacrity, and apparently without thought for the consequences.

Forget Leveson and legislation. We need common sense, imagination and restraint – current affairs, not an ugly sideshow; and we certainly do not need to hear about minor royal illnesses in any case.

M L J Blatchly

Godalming, Surrey

It may be true that "no one could reasonably have foreseen" the tragedy arising from a stupid "prank". Anyone, however, could have foreseen that the nurse might lose her job: other hospitals might not have been as understanding as the Edward VII.

It is all very well for the presenters to protest tearfully that they thought they would be seen through immediately, with the implication that they thought they would get nothing to broadcast. They were very well aware that the poor nurse had made a mistake and they gleefully exploited it.

Sara Neill

Tunbridge Wells

The Australian Monarchist League condemns any person, whether in the media or otherwise, making phone calls falsely pretending to be someone else, whether the person imitated is the Queen or Mrs Bloggs down the road.

League officials have personally encountered these sorts of hoax calls during the republican debate. It seems that radio presenters think that any monarchist or royal is fair game, regardless of the outcome. We had already written to the Chief of Staff of the 2DayFM Studios requesting that this practice be banned.

Philip Benwell

National Chair, Australian Monarchist League, Sydney

Mega-companies cheat the UK Government out of millions of pounds, but excuse themselves on the grounds that what they are doing is legal. Now the same defence is applied to a couple of news-hungry Australian DJs. Whither morality?

Jane Gibbs


Human rights still violated in Burma

The Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire is leading a trade delegation to Burma. He should take this opportunity to address serious human rights issues.

We welcome his visit to the Rohingya people in Rakhine State, where there have been reports of oppression, violence and massive displacement of civilians. We hope that he will also raise the deeply disturbing, but less widely publicised, situation in Kachin State, where the military broke a 17-year ceasefire in June 2011. There are now an estimated 60,000 Burma Army troops engaged in military offensives; there have been serious human rights violations, with rape used as a weapon of war, civilians tortured and an estimated 100,000 people displaced.

The ethnic national peoples fear that promotion of trade and investment could lead to continuing exploitation of their resource-rich lands, with widespread land confiscation, large-scale development projects, hundreds of thousands more civilians displaced, irreversible destruction of the environment and loss of natural resources. Local populations fear they will continue to bear the costs of foreign investment without receiving any benefit.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

Jonathon Ashworth MP

Baroness Cox of Queensbury

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

Lord Steel of Aikwood

London SW1

Masters of the world's weather

Because of the inability of the international community to agree meaningful measures to combat climate change, Richard Mountford (letter, 7 December) suggested that it was already "too late" and that we should turn to technology to reduce atmospheric carbon or otherwise control temperature. But who will control this?

Nobody ever agrees at what temperature the central heating should be set, so how will the world cope any better? Will countries close to the Equator demand that the temperature be turned down substantially, while colder countries complain that it is already cold enough and a slight increase would be welcome.

Whoever controlled the climate would have significant control over the fate of all nations, their agriculture and access to water. Chances are that an artificially managed climate will not mirror exactly the climate of today, let alone the ideal climate. This may indeed be the only solution, but it sounds like a recipe for bitter dispute.

Goff Sargent

Loughborough, Leicestershire

While populations soar uncontrollably and states rely more heavily on international trade rather than self-sufficiency, chaos and warfare seem an almost inevitable outcome to the increased competition for resources (report, 10 December). The need for an international governmental institution to exercise control over multinationals and global supply chains is essential to reduce the risk of further exploitation of the world's poorest countries as resource demand rises.

Laura Young

Newcastle upon Tyne

A terrible irony hovers over the talks about global warming. If the warming continues unchecked, probably millions of people are going to be displaced. Where they will go is anybody's guess, but they cannot be sure of a warm welcome from those who have escaped the flooding.

If the talks succeed and global warming is checked, then the world's population will go on rising, putting ever more pressure on the world's resources. Perhaps the most single important one of these is water, which is vital for all life. It is certain that wars will be fought over water.

We believe that life began in water, and it looks as if too much or too little of it will play a major role in the ending of who can say how many people.

Bill Fletcher


Courageous Labour leader

Your columnist Philip Hensher's dismissal of George Lansbury as a "limp and self-regarding pacifist" (1 December) cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged.

George Lansbury was a man of remarkable ability, integrity and courage, who rose from the humblest of beginnings to become leader of the Labour Party. Throughout his life he worked tirelessly for London's poor, and in the process suffered violence and a term in prison. Lansbury's life was rooted in his deeply held Christian beliefs, hence his uncompromising pacifism, his rejection of materialism and the austere life he imposed on himself, while bringing up 12 children.

Lansbury could legitimately be charged with naivety in the face of Hitler and the rising tide of fascism in the Thirties, but in most respects his life was exemplary.

Michael Foss

Teddington, Middlesex

Starbucks taxpayers

In the discussion of non-payment of corporation tax by Starbucks and others, no one seems to have asked who ultimately pays the tax.

Every payment falling to any company is actually paid by the company's customers. The beneficiaries of Starbucks' tax arrangements were the people who drank Starbucks coffee. Corporation tax is a way of taxing people unawares, whereas VAT is always overt. Compared with government waste of our taxes, Starbucks' misdemeanours seem very modest and anger should be directed at politicians and the Civil Service.

Ray Wilkes

Shipley, West Yorkshire

Jeeves the butler

I say, hang on a moment! The clue to 8 down in the Concise Crossword was "PG Wodehouse butler", not "Mr Wooster's butler" (letter, 8 December). Jeeves will no doubt recall that in Stiff Upper Lip, he took on the (temporary) job as butler to the horrid Sir Watkyn Bassett JP as a ruse for keeping Bertie out of prison for allegedly stealing his Congolese statuette. The clue was accurate and so, Mr Editor, there is no need to sack the compiler.

David Ashton

Shipbourne, Kent


The Chandler quotation cited recently (letter, 5 December) is not the only one that seems relevant to our current situation. In The Lady in the Lake, Captain Webber of the LAPD says to Marlowe: "Police business is a hell of a problem. It's a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there's nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So we have to work with what we get – and we get things like this."

James Steadman


Kitchen junk

May I be the first reader to claim that we are the proud owners of all 32 of John Walsh's gadgets ("Get over your gadgets", 7 December), both useful and useless? We also possess a melon baller (a 1970s hangover), an ice-cream scoop (kid's passing whim 10 years ago), a cutter for lattice pastry (thanks to St Delia), a strawberry huller (in active use, amazingly) and a yoghurt maker (although that now lives in the utility room, on its way to the bin).

Nick Haward

Havant, Hampshire

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