Letters: Soviet-style terror crackdown

These letters appear in the Thursday 22 August edition of the the Independent

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The authorities are cracking down on all release of information which could conceivably be of help to terrorists, however distantly. I take it they will soon be banning all street maps, railway and bus timetables and other such irresponsible publications, and perhaps imprisoning the publishers.

Visitors to the old Soviet Union reported that there were no street maps of Moscow or other cities, and if anyone wanted directions they were required to go to a public information booth, where they were given information strictly on a need-to-know basis. What that inefficient and discredited dictatorship could do, we can surely do better.

Roger Schafir, London N21

However questionable the detention of David Miranda at Heathrow Airport under the Terrorism Act may be, I was wondering when someone would make an asinine comparison to Jean Charles de Menezes; so thank you, Matthew Norman (21 August), for not disappointing.

Let us just try to remember the atmosphere of fear and near-panic that had hold of London at the time: 15 days before, four bombs had exploded on three Underground trains and a bus; the previous day, four would-be bus bombers had only been thwarted because the way in which they stored their explosives caused them to become ineffective. 

The Met made mistakes, of course, but, especially given that the exact circumstances have never been properly established, to start talking about “staggering incompetence” completely ignores the context in which Mr Menezes met his shocking end. Even at the time, there seemed to be a total unwillingness on the part of the liberal left to recognise that the acts of terror on 7/7 had cost 55 lives, and wrecked many others; and that we had come so close to a repeat performance. Mr Menezes’ death came about through the unhinging effect that these two events had on 2005’s normality, and the fact that the police and security forces were having to come to terms with it so quickly.

Using public transport in London as I do, it was remarkable to see how casual people became about any thought of security while travelling within six months of the bombings: if you want to talk about “staggering incompetence” in terms of terrorism, that would be a good place to start.

Simon Jackson, Barnet, Hertfordshire

So the Metropolitan Police is protecting us from The Guardian. The Daily Mail will be ecstatic.

Peter Webb, West Byfleet, Surrey


Mentally ill sent to remand jail  for lack of beds

In response to your lead article “Patients sectioned unnecessarily just to get a hospital bed” (14th August), further evidence of inappropriate, albeit pragmatic, recourse to the law comes from my own experience of providing psychiatric liaison to a central London magistrates’ court.

Mentally ill defendants would on occasion have to be denied bail and remanded into custody in prison for their own safety and wellbeing because of the failure of the responsible health authority to provide a psychiatric bed within a suitable time.

There were also frequent delays of days or weeks while health authorities argued over who should be responsible for providing care for those of no fixed abode and those travelling through London; this too would sometimes lead to mentally disordered defendants spending inappropriately long in remand prisons. 

Complaints to the relevant health authority resulted in acknowledgement of the lack of sufficient psychiatric beds, particularly psychiatric intensive care beds.

The solution would appear to be in the hands of the Department of Health, who could easily operate a national bed management system for psychiatry, which would identify the few vacant beds, where there are wards not operating at 100 per cent capacity.

Perhaps such a national service would identify unmet needs which could then be provided for through commissioning of sufficient services.

Dr John Dent, Consultant Psychiatrist, Southall, Middlesex


Apartheid on  the West Bank

You reviewed Nigel Kennedy’s performance in the Proms (9 August). I have just seen that the BBC proposes to cut Kennedy’s reference to apartheid in Israel when the video is broadcast.

I have spent some time both recently in Israel and in the Occupied Territories and in South Africa prior to the end of apartheid. The treatment of Palestinians in Israel immediately reminded me of the latter. The fact that some Jewish people – far from all – might find the reference “offensive” is no reason to indulge them by  an act of political censorship by the BBC.

The UN definition of Apartheid agrees with my experience, and I am appalled by the BBC’s action.

George Roussopoulos, Hindhead,  Surrey

F R Dickens (letter, 15 August) thinks he is being original in sarcastically suggesting that the Israelis living in the West Bank should be offered Palestinian citizenship within a future Palestinian state and that they can then remain on their “hilltops”.

Indeed, this has been seriously suggested by Israeli politicians and would please most settlers, whose desire is not nationalistic, but who simply wish to continue to live in their historical homeland, which had a continuous Jewish presence for over 3,500 years.

It is President Abbas who has stated on many occasions that not a single Jew or Israeli will be allowed to live in his future state. So while it is acceptable for  two million Arabs to live in Israel, the future state of Palestine will have to be judenrein.

Alan Halibard, Bet Shemesh, Israel

Surely Stephen Glasse, in his letter (16 August) on the Israel/Palestine peace process, means the Israelis will “return” land, not “give” it, and the Palestinians will “regain” their land, not “receive” it.

I would refer him to the map of the Occupied Territories on the West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem, both settled illegally in defiance of United Nations Resolution 446.

Pamela Job, Wivenhoe, Essex


Rabbit-hutch houses

Nigel Morris reports that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DLG) is considering forcing architects to design bigger rooms for houses. Nothing could be further from the truth; architects have always been trying to get house-builders to build decently sized houses.

The fact is most modern housing has never had an architect near its design, being as it is, based upon standard house prototypes with names like “Balmoral”, “Windsor”, “Blenheim”’, etc. The allusion to a castle is particularly inappropriate.

Add to that the insane prejudice against terraced housing in the private sector, so that detached houses are built with a sliver of unusable and unmaintainable space between the units, and you get housing which is not only tiny internally but has poor site utilisation and inherently poor environmental performance to boot.

Now if the DLG really wants to improve housing standards it could insist that the mass housing market builders employ independent architects, preferably local to the development site, to ensure both good interior design and also sensible site layouts that promote low energy consumption and low maintenance costs for the eventual occupiers.

Of course we could bring back the old Parker Morris space standards, but I don’t foresee this government doing anything so sensible.

Dan Kantorowich BA BArch RIBA, Brigstock,  Northamptonshire


Social media in the cinema

Following Dennis Leachman’s letter (19 August) concerning the use of social media in cinemas, I think that the problem arises because of the restlessness of this generation. 

The phenomenon of four people round a cafe-bar table all madly thumbing away on their mobile phones has been remarked upon. I am old enough to remember when we concentrated on one activity at a time, giving it our undivided attention. I would suggest that such focused experience is deeper and richer than the scattered “byte-sized” pieces of trying to do several things at once. 

In those days, if one was bored by a film there were three options:  get a bit of kip in a warm, dark place; engage in some steamy necking on the back row; walk out. None of these involved much disturbance to anyone else (serious filmgoers avoided the back rows). I recommend them all.

Susan I Harr, Hull


Real men back feminism

I’m loath to enter Godfrey Bloom’s childish world of stereotypes (“Ukip MEP disparages women drivers, feminists … and mild-mannered men”, 21 August) but just to make a point I played in three consecutive rugby league Universities Athletic Union finals, am still involved widely in many sports, and also support the goals of feminism.

I admit I leave the toilet seat up, but my wife (probably known to Mr Bloom as “the little woman”) also refuses to conform to stereotype and never mentions it. Neither of us have knowingly had sand kicked in our faces.

Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex


Muzzled croc

Look closely at your front page photo of Boris Johnson kissing a baby crocodile in Australia (21 August) and you will see that the crocodile has a band around its jaws, presumably to stop it biting its admirer. Shouldn’t the band have been around Boris’s pursed lips? That might keep him quiet for a bit.

Paul Burall, Norwich


Political jokes

Politicians have never been so poorly thought of. Political parties have never had such low memberships. Italy has shown the way with Beppo Grillo harnessing social media and gaining 25 per cent of the national vote. Stand up, Mark Steel; your time has come.

Michael Brooke, Oxford