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Saturday 18 August 2012
Letters: Justice mocked in right-to-die case
How much longer is this cruel game of "pass the parcel" between the courts and Parliament going to be allowed to make a mockery of the system of justice and compassion they are designed to serve ("A fate worse than death", 17 August)?
There are plenty of ways that cases like those of Tony Nicklinson and "Martin" can be dealt with that enable them to fulfil their entirely cogent wishes to end their suffering with the necessary help without endangering the lives of anyone else.
The scaremongering of the disabled lobby and of those driven by personal religious or ideological dogma is entirely without foundation, and it is hard to see how they can look at Mr Nicklinson and feel comfortable with an outcome they themselves do not have to endure.
I don't think the citizens of Switzerland, Holland and Oregon live in fear of unwished demise being visited upon them – quite the reverse. This is because they have in place well-managed procedures which ensure the veracity and mental competence of the patients' wish to end their lives, and compassionate medical practitioners who see it as quite compatible with their duty to alleviate suffering, to ensure this is accomplished professionally. The sooner we follow their admirable example the better.
I am appalled by your front-page photograph today (17 August), showing a distressed Mr Nicklinson. So intrusive and so insensitive, it is the very worst of tabloid journalism.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Thank you for your brave front page. The world is horrified by human rights abuses. What has happened to the human rights, dignity and respect of Mr Nicklinson?
Assange fears more than rape allegations
Owen Jones (17 August) is right in saying that rape is a serious offence and that Julian Assange should not be immune from facing up to those allegations. However, this case never was solely about alleged rape.
Assange is on record as saying he is prepared to travel to Sweden to face further questioning if the US guarantees it will not seek extradition. Assange is seeking asylum fundamentally not to avoid facing up to the rape allegations: it is to avoid extradition to the US on a completely unrelated matter, in which the US has refused to guarantee that the death penalty would not be sought.
Owen Jones is right that immunity should not be sought from these rape allegations, but he is incorrect in claiming these are the allegations against which immunity is sought.
I would like to know what the useful outcome of the Wikileaks campaign has been. As far as I can tell, it has allowed one small country to look tough while two slightly larger countries seem stymied. It has allowed the self-aggrandising Mr Assange to make himself into some sort of martyr because of his paranoia and that of certain elements of the American security forces. Was this really what leaking those documents was supposed to achieve?
Mr Assange's residence in the Ecuadorian embassy is tantamount to prison anyway. Let him stay there, let the embassy pay for his upkeep instead of the Swedish taxpayer, and let the rest of the world get on with its business.
How about the American embassy granting political asylum to William Hague?
Vote for new police chiefs
Your leading article "These elections will just hold back police reform" (15 August) is right to raise concerns about turnout at November's elections for police and crime commissioners and about the exclusion of candidates with old convictions for minor offences.
But, at the Police Foundation, we have been tracking candidates as they put themselves forward and it seems unlikely that this new role will be dominated, as you suggest, by retired senior police officers. Of the 131 candidates that we know about so far, fewer than 10 per cent fall into this category.
The article also mentions the introduction of new "boards". It is not clear what this refers to (possibly the new police and crime panels that will scrutinise the work of each police and crime commissioner) but one of the key differences between police and crime commissioners and the police authorities they will replace is that the new arrangements will see a directly elected individual, not a board or committee, take responsibility for each area.
Polling suggests that most people still know very little about the introduction of police and crime commissioners. All those involved in debate about this significant reform must ensure that everything possible is done to enable people to make an informed decision in November.
Deputy Director, The Police Foundation, London SW8
The Home Secretary has herself said that the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 was not meant to prevent candidates with minor juvenile offences, such as Simon Weston, from standing to be police and crime commissioners. The election is now three months away and this issue must be looked at again urgently.
The case of Alan Charles in particular raises the wider issue of cautions appearing on people's records and brings to light the need to review the process for removing them. I will be raising this with the Home Secretary when she comes before the Committee on 11 September. With the election process now well under way, we must ensure the public have the best choice of candidates possible.
Keith Vaz MP
Chairman, Home Affairs Select Committee, House of Commons
The police are soon to fall under the control of the main political parties. We are led to believe that the elected police commissioners will have the power to sack a chief constable and set a budget as well as policing priorities for an area. We are also told the chief constable will remain operationally independent. What nonsense this is? They won't be independent in any meaningful way.
Sports for the unsporty
In the debate about making children do more competitive sports in school, there has been little mention that this might be putting some youngsters off sport.
When I was at school (many moons ago) virtually all of the sports we had to do in PE were competitive: netball, hockey, basketball, soccer, track and field. If, like me, you were a science geek with a lack of ability in any sport, being forced to compete against others in things you were never going to be any good at simply meant one more area where you would be ridiculed.
There was never any option of doing anything else, where the only competition was against yourself.
What every primary school needs is a PE specialist and the funding so they do not have their own class responsibilities. They are then able to teach every class in the school twice per week and run lunchtime and after-school clubs.
This single change would transform PE in primary schools. There are hundreds of primary teachers who could do this brilliantly if they were relieved of their full-time class-teaching responsibility. If we can find the money to put on the Olympics we surely can find a bit more for something which would benefit every primary school child in the country?
Atomic bombs on Japan
Phil Strongman (Comment, 6 August) had the joy of having a family with the woman he loves because her father survived by what he describes as a lucky fluke the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Well, I had the joy of children too but for the opposite reason, because my late father survived as a prisoner of war of Emperor Hirohito's Imperial army on the Burma railroad. My two cousins had families too because they survived as little girls in a civilian internment camp in Java.
The bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki stopped Japan's plans to exterminate all surviving PoWs and civilian prisoners as the Allies edged nearer to the heartland of Japan. Hirohito, in whose name my late father, his brother and his family were imprisoned, tortured and starved, not only escaped the Tokyo war crimes tribunal, but was allowed to continue his reign without even the faintest apology. The two atomic bombs saved hundreds of thousands of lives, Japanese as well as Allied.
Grade inflation at the Olympics
Pete Dorey makes an interesting comparison between the A-level results and the Olympics medals awarded to British competitors (letter, 17 August).
For those who genuinely believe that grade inflation is taking place, perhaps a fairer result would be that, rather than awarding a gold, a silver and a bronze, there should only have been three silver medals. Or, if you really think standards have dropped that much, perhaps all the medals should have been bronze.
I was delighted to hear that Cameron and Clegg are on holiday at the same time. In normal organisations the boss would trust his deputy and expect him to stay at home and assume control, so that the boss did not need to worry about anything while he was relaxing. The Prime Minister can chillax knowing he has left us in the safe hands of William Hague.
Could I help out Terence Blacker, who is mystified as to why cigarettes should be sold in plain packaging? ("The habit the world loves to hate", 17 August). The simple point which eludes him is that tobacco is a unique product and, unlike alcohol or junk food, kills around half its long-term users.
Policy & Communications Director, British Heart Foundation, London NW1
Darts of wit
In Jonathan Brown's collection of "Sid's sayings" remembering the late Sid Waddell (13 August), you missed a memorable one. Describing the then rather rotund Andy Fordham in a particularly tense game, Sid articulated in his Geordie twang: "He's sweating like a hippo in a power shower."
That's all right
Catriona Wheeler asks if "Y'alright" is a "new form of 'How are you' " (Letters, 17 August). In Ireland "are ye right?" is a salutation of very long standing, immortalised by Percy French in his catchy 1902 ditty, "Are Ye Right There, Michael, Are Ye Right?"
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