Letters: Police spies in a murky world


The Home Affairs Select Committee report on police spies has shone a light into the very murky world of undercover policing and makes for uncomfortable reading.

I have been told by the Met's Deputy Commissioner that it will be another three years before the Metropolitan Police Service completes its investigation into what its undercover officers have been doing. Perhaps they need that amount of time to get all the facts, but the longer this case drags on, the more damage is done to the reputation of the Met, and the public's trust is even further eroded.

The Mayor doesn't need to wait for the investigation to finish. He can begin to restore trust in the Met by immediately making clear that it is never acceptable for police spies to have sexual relationships with the people they are targeting. Plus, the public has a right to know what has gone wrong in the past with undercover policing and the Mayor must commit to making public the findings of the Met's investigation as they emerge, rather than leaving it three years.

Only when we know the mistakes of the past can we be sure the Met has learnt the lessons needed to restore the public's trust.

Jenny Jones

Green Party Group Leader

London Assembly

Several police Sapphire units have routinely persuaded women to retract accusations of rape. This was merely to improve their crime solution figures (Mary Dejevsky, 1 March). It allowed rapists to go free to attack again and even murder. I think clearer examples of perverting the course of justice would be hard to find.

Why is it that those involved with swapping points for speeding offences are charged with perverting the course of justice, when the police routinely pervert it with impunity with terrible effect? The police can be assured of merely having to say that they will "learn lessons", or, extremely rarely and at worst, being asked to retire with their pension.

Dr Mark Scott

Sittingbourne, Kent

The tactics that brought victory at Eastleigh

The Eastleigh by-election seems to have been more about excessive media coverage than the political turmoil this country finds itself in. All the talk about recriminations by the Tories is predictable but misses the point.

Thanks to Lord Rennard the Lib Dems developed a strategy years ago where they got involved in helping local people, and took over many local councils and gained seats in the House of Commons. Chris Huhne was, it appears, a fairly well regarded MP, notwithstanding being foolish over his poor driving habits.

The Tories have done nothing but make superficial changes to themselves and thought that they would get in. What has been established is that the Lib Dems, by working from the ground up rather than waffle from the mouth down, have kept voters' loyalty.

Martin Sandaver

Hay-on-Wye, Hereford

The spinning by the political parties following the Eastleigh by-election beggars belief. Despite all the ballyhoo, 48 per cent of voters failed to register a vote. Whether anyone is concerned about this, or not, they jolly well ought to be.

John Humphreys

Milton Keynes

The reaction of the Tory right wing, after Eastleigh, to David Cameron's moderation emphatically proves the Lib Dem claim to have been very effective in coalition in holding back Tory extremism.

Mike Brayshaw

Worthing, West Sussex

Drug regime in nursing homes

It's a funny old world. Brian Daniels (letter, 26 February) holds psychiatrists responsible for the over-prescribing of antipsychotic medication to older people in nursing homes.

However, psychiatrists don't run nursing homes, and GPs do most of the prescribing for their residents. It was a leading psychiatrist (Professor Bannerjee) who clearly documented this issue in a review for the Department of Health. Since then, the rate of prescription of antipsychotics for patients with dementia has decreased – in fact, it more than halved between 2008 and 2011.

Psychiatrists are well aware of non-drug interventions for dementia; the evidence suggests that using a psychiatric liaison service can actually reduce the prescription of such medication to people with dementia.

So, it looks as though psychiatrists might be, at least, part of the solution rather than the problem. And let's not forget that the staff of care homes – and relatives – need (and deserve) better training to manage behaviour problems in other ways.

There's still a way to go, but psychiatrists have done as much as anyone to reduce such inappropriate prescribing. The ill-informed mud-slinging of this letter seems to me to reflect the "Citizens Commission for Human Rights" objection to any form of psychiatry, rather than any serious consideration of this important matter.

Dr Philip Timms

Consultant Psychiatrist, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Myths about the Lionheart

Your piece on "Richard I's heart soaked in holy balm" (1 March) raises again some well-established myths about Richard the Lionheart. The first is that he was homosexual. This idea came about in the Sixties and Seventies and, based on supposition and a misreading of a chronicle source, reflected the new social liberalism of the time. Another chronicle actually reports Richard ordering women to his deathbed.

The other suggestion is that Richard may have been repentant for his massacre of Muslims. This occurred in 1191 at Acre, when he had between 2,500-3,000 Muslim prisoners decapitated in full view of Saladin. As I explain in my book, By Sword and Fire: Cruelty and Atrocity in Medieval Warfare, Richard's brutal actions were prompted by military necessity and Saladin's cynical attitude to his captured men.

Besides, the dispatch of non-believers in the Holy Land was considered by both sides as an act of divinely inspired purification, and would have, in keeping with the thought of the time, put Richard in St Peter's good books at the pearly gates.

Sean McGlynn

University of Plymouth at Strode College

Scotland in Europe

The debate over whether an independent Scotland will automatically be an member of the European Union or will be forced to reapply is rather perplexing, in that there is an obvious solution (letter, 27 February).

Those in favour of Scottish independence argue that things will continue subject to "renegotiation". Those against argue that Scotland would have to reapply, a process that could take a considerable period of time.

The UK Government as the member state could simply write to the European Commission about Scotland's continuing EU membership in the event of a yes vote next year. The Commission has made clear that it will only give a detailed opinion if presented with a "precise scenario" by an EU member state. The ball is therefore clearly in the UK Government's court to make a submission to the Commission and end the debate once and for all. Its failure to do so speaks volumes.

Alex Orr


Cost of cuts to legal aid

As a retired legal aid solicitor. I am appalled at the further withdrawal of legal aid from family law work. A good family law solicitor does work of huge importance to society, and this applies especially to those working in poor areas and within the legal aid system.

My generation fought hard to achieve the right of legal aid and to improve the legal service in family law. Having the skills required to use the court system, and to understand the strong emotional structure to family breakdown are the requirements of a good family lawyer. These skills will now be largely unavailable to those who cannot afford to pay.

Ignorant politicians, in their need to balance the books, have simply attacked the easy targets of the poor and the legal aid lawyers. Democracy has no value if it works without proper regard to fairness and justice.

Hugh Beresford-Webb

London SE12

Next step for the Lib Dems

George Osborne believes that choking the economy twice as hard is the only way to save it, Michael Gove is intent on forcing through ill-considered education reforms, and Jeremy Hunt is trying to force GPs to privatise more health services using new "NHS competition regulations".

Given the pledges that they made at the last election, if the Lib Dems have even one shred of honour or decency left then they must dissolve the Coalition immediately and force a general election while there is still something left to save of the country that we love.

Julian Self

Milton Keynes

I'd vote for the Italian 'amateurs'

I would hardly term the new intake of Italian MPs amateurs, as described in your headline of 28 February, possessing as they do real job and life experience as nurses, as electricians, and as the unemployed.

Of course, they just could have come from narrow, social strata as career politicians and policy wonks, as MPs do in this country. As a UK voter I would even take one of their so-called clowns, as long as he didn't own a football club and half of the media.

Angelo Micciche

St Erth, Cornwall

Childcare is a business expense

Anthony Hilton (2 March) is absolutely right about the impact of childcare costs on working mothers who wish to pursue a career and thus contribute to the future of the country.

It is incomprehensible that such people have to pay crippling childcare costs out of taxed income. This often means they are in effect working for nothing. It is a huge disincentive and a fundamental cause of a loss of seriously productive talent.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

Shonky side

In response to A C Bolger's dig at the assumed London-centric use of "shonky" in Grace Dent's piece (letter, 1 March), I offer the opening line from "Clown Punk" written by none other than the Yorkshire-born poet for all seasons, Simon Armitage: "Driving home through the shonky side of town..." Shonky sides of town are, I humbly submit, everywhere.

Michael Liddy

London SW20

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