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Sunday 30 September 2012
Letters: Licence to 'get rid of' burglars
I am surprised at the emotive language used by Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, in boldly stating that you have the right "to get rid of" the burglar in your house (28 September). What he conspicuously failed to mention is that the householder may only use reasonable force. No one is given free rein to shoot burglars with a firearm, killing or seriously wounding them in the process. As Mr Justice Owen said in the Tony Martin case, the householder too has responsibilities. I assume in the recent case the burglar who was shot received minor or minimal injury so that the shooting aspect could be discounted. But suppose the burglar had a leg amputated as a result of a lawfully inflicted gunshot wound; why shouldn't that be taken into account? Some might argue that the burglar would have received the comeuppance he deserved, but serious injury is a punishment in itself and should be taken into account on sentencing. The anti-gun lobby has every reason to deprecate the oddly one-sided and cavalier approach of our most senior criminal judge.
The debate about householder self-defence when confronted by an intruder seems to be predicated on the assumption that all intruders are burglars, and as such offer no personal threat to members of a home.
But how is someone to know that an intruder is a (non-violent) burglar? How would you know the intruder has not entered with the intent to sexually assault, abduct or murder someone? Even if the intruder is intent on burgling, how would you know they wouldn't kill if disturbed?
There is no way to predict the intentions or actions of an intruder. Therefore, the sensible option is to use whatever weapon is available and strike first to disable the intruder as swiftly as possible – so as to minimise the danger to the household.
Injury or death must be considered occupational hazards for the intruder. If they wish not to run these risks, then all they need do is not enter a home uninvited.
The Lord Chief Justice has defended the right of people to use force against burglars. The worry now is surely that some burglars will equip themselves with guns in anticipation of meeting an armed reception. How long before we see the headline "Burglar shoots two householders dead"?
We should follow French lead and tax the rich
I was delighted to read that the French President has followed up his election promise with the introduction of a 75-per-cent tax rate on salaries over £800,000 a year (report, 28 September). This is surely the best way for any country to pay off the deficit following the banking collapse. It is sad therefore that neither the UK Prime Minister, nor the Scottish First Minister, ever argues for higher tax for the rich during these times of cuts. Both men seem to surround themselves with rich businessmen who tell them to slash business and personal taxes for the rich in order to boost the economy.
Surely now that President Hollande has set the lead, we can ignore those who tell us that the rich will flee to the south of France if we put up taxes here.
François Hollande's first budget is by far the best that any European state has seen for some time. While spending cuts were unavoidable, the Parti Socialiste have been successful in getting the well-off to make a fair contribution, with a progressive income tax policy and real investment in public services where it is needed. At the same time, France has a budget deficit of just 3 per cent of GDP, compared with the UK's deficit of more than twice that rate.
It is a shame that more nations are not following France's prudential and socially responsible model for the economy. It is telling that there was no run on any French bank during the credit crises. We place far too much emphasis on the value of short-term profit in the free market, and too little on how the economy can sustainably improve quality of life for all.
I hope Ed Miliband is learning from Hollande's example.
Jack H G Darrant
Hamish McRae argues for less tax on the highest earners as a way of encouraging more growth and prosperity. This seems to lead inexorably to ever more inequality with supposed high-fliers threatening to go abroad if they are taxed at levels outside their comfort zone. I suggest a more reliable income-tax base would develop from a more equal spread of incomes and would have the benefit of giving income to those groups most likely to consume British goods. Given a large number of financial-service people have lost their jobs recently it would seem a good time to introduce a more Scandinavian approach to incomes and risk the financial elite fleeing to Singapore.
Foolishness of phonics tests
I was a teacher and cannot understand what the Department for Education is thinking about when it says the inclusion of artificial words in reading tests is to check that children are not just resorting to memory (28 September). All fluent reading involves pattern recognition of words and only unfamiliar words are mentally pronounced by reading the letters individually. A simple experiment will illustrate this. Cover a printed word with a sheet of paper and slowly slide it down to reveal the word. A familiar word will be recognised within a few millimetres of exposure whereas an unfamiliar word will require almost complete exposure until the letters become recognisable. This shows that familiar words are recognised holistically and not by letter recognition.
Half the words in the phonics test were not real because at least half of the simplest common English words contain some letters with variable pronunciations, like "o" in "only, once, other, woman, women", and cannot be entirely phonically decoded. The ablest readers learn very quickly that an essential part of learning to read English is trying to make sense of words, rather than mere decoding. Reading nonsense words makes no sense to them, and so they misread many of them.
The poor results of the phonics screening may suit Mr Gove. He has been persuaded that the poor reading skills of many school leavers are due to insufficient use of phonics, and he wants to force teachers to use more phonics, but reading failure is caused mainly by the inconsistencies of English spelling.
I am shocked that once again the Government is tinkering with spelling and reading. The justification for these tests is to avoid children having to learn to read and spell by memory. But I would argue that this is exactly how we learn, not by some mythical decoding. I would recommend the Department for Education reads Jude the Obscure. Jude's attempts to read by decoding are the best bits of the book in showing futility.
If a word is "made up" it does not exist, does not have a correct pronunciation and it does not have a correct spelling; any pronunciation and spelling are also "made up" along with any "meaning".
Prof Christopher Baker
Can mere words justify murder?
It is bizarre that D Hussain (letter, 29 September) should conflate "reacting with a certain amount of violence" when someone pokes you in the eye with the murder and mayhem that have been unleashed in response to the anti-Islamic video – however crass that may have been. If he truly thinks that such a response is justified whenever one's beliefs or values are offended then it is a very dangerous world indeed that he would have us live in. We have recently been reminded of some of the public utterances of Abu Hamsa which, to say the least, have caused offence to many non-Muslims. Does Mr Hussain believe that we should have responded by attacking the embassies of Islamic states and murdering their diplomats?
Newcastle upon Tyne
Our MPs should be truly local
I was dismayed to read (Andy McSmith, 27 September) of various "children of the Blair years" lining up for safe Labour seats. This practice of the central party foisting favoured members, sons, donors, and celebrities ( known as "parachuting") on to regional branches is undemocratic.
All the parties do it. It has contributed to the centralisation of power into each party hierarchy and diminished regional representation. All standing for parliament should have a minimum residential period in the area they wish to represent of three years.
Never mind who wrote the wretched ditty (27 September). As George Bernard Shaw said of "Rule Britannia": "When we learn to sing that Britons never will be master we shall make an end to slavery."
Vets vs badgers
PA Reid's faith in his/her vet is misplaced (27 September). Working with livestock does not automatically impart knowledge about wildlife population dynamics. Unless the vet in question has undertaken a scientifically robust study of the local badger population that has been subject to the usual quality control of academic society, any claims should be viewed as assumption and guesswork.
Mr Netanyahu wants the UN to declare a "red line" in Iran's alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Perhaps the UN should wait until nuclear-armed Israel complies with 45 years of UN resolutions requiring Israel to move its soldiers and settlers back behind the green line first.
So Andrew Mitchell's recent ancestors include a domestic servant and a charlady from the East End (report, 26 September). Perhaps the BBC could invite him to be in their next series of Who Do You Think You Are?
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