Letters: The Madeleine McCann case

Madeleine: leave it be
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Am I alone in being dismayed that Scotland Yard is being drawn into the Madeleine McCann case?

In my view, when British citizens go abroad they have to accept that bad things sometimes happen and should not expect the British authorities, presumably at UK taxpayers' expense, to intervene, except on strictly consular matters.

The overwhelming probability is that we shall never know what happened in this case, and, however distressed the parents may be, matters should be left as they are.

Rodney Taylor

Barton-Le-Clay, Bedfordshire

The article by Christina Patterson, "Kate McCann is in media purgatory" (11 May), has done nobody any good.

To put the matter in perspective, consider if two nurses had been in charge of the three McCann infants, and they had gone off together at the same time to have a meal and a drink.

Would Kate McCann have thought the child had had justice, and the proper steps had been taken to protect such infants from such risk in future, if the nurses' sole punishment had been the remorse over their actions? Of course not. And would Patterson have written a sympathetic article about them, bewailing the way they had been questioned by the police, or reported in the media? Of course not.

Tony Pointon


Bickering over refugee crisis

No European government jumps at the chance to fulfil its refugee obligations, and no one would argue that the Coalition Government should take a major share of the refugees fleeing North Africa ("Britain declines to share the burden of refugees", 13 May) . But UK citizens are entitled to ask how it is possible that we can take a lead with France in the Nato military action in Libya, then leave all the refugee implications completely to other EU countries.

The "assistance" provided to Italy for refugees by the UK is hard to distinguish from the military campaign, and from the EU perspective it is hard to see what assistance has actually been given.

The lack of "refugee burden sharing" however has deeper roots than the opting out of the UK and the politically opportunistic revision of the Schengen Treaty attempted by some member states at this week's European Council.

Schengen is being abandoned because the EU has no comprehensive asylum policy to formalise refugee burden-sharing at our external borders. When refugees come, each affected member state tries to contain them by closing its borders or forcing the refugees to other EU countries by literally starving them out or giving them papers to enter another EU member state.

At the Tampere European Council in 1999 member states agreed to formalise "burden sharing". The European Parliament and European Commission have led from the front to create the legislation now on the table. Yet member states such as Denmark and the UK have consistently helped block any progress. Italy and France have then taken the inevitable step of closing Schengen as a reaction to the absence of any formalised "burden sharing" mechanism.

The EU's member states ought to tell their citizens that they refused to take the hard decisions on common asylum policy over the past decade, and we are now faced with chaotic individual approaches, "emergency measures" which never materialise, while refugees still arrive and are thrown from one EU country to another (with some inevitably coming to the UK through irregular routes) with no plan in sight.

Claude Moraes MEP

Labour, London,

European Parliament


Scotland's own banks

Your leading article on Scotland (10 May) seeks to attribute to Scots the cost of rescuing the Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS from collapse. Quite apart from the fact that it was the UK Government which was responsible for the arrangements for regulating these banks, you have failed to take into account another issue, namely the ownership of the assets of these banks.

While it is true that the head office of RBS remains in Scotland the large majority of shares in the bank are held by the Westminster government. In the case of HBOS it is Lloyds TSB which owns the assets. This means that in independence negotiations Scotland is unlikely to accept any apportionment of rescue costs unless equivalent assets are repatriated to Scotland. We could do with a real Scottish bank in Scotland and we might be prepared to pay for it.

You repeat again the English view that Scotland has for many years enjoyed a disproportionate share of public spending. So far as the block grant to Scotland for devolved responsibilities is concerned this may be true, but government expenditure as a whole may show a different picture.

Why should Scotland have its taxes (including North Sea oil revenues) spent on invading other countries and on projects such as Trident nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers which we do not support and which would be unnecessary in an independent Scotland? In any event Scotland has its own priorities and it should not be a surprise if we choose to spend our money on educating our young people and pursuing the ideal of a free health service.

Charles P Gordon

St Andrews

It is extremely unlikely that the Scots would vote to leave the Union. After all, they would have to give up so many of those little luxuries provided for them by the long-suffering English taxpayer, and their politicians would have to give up their right to come down to Westminster to interfere in England's domestic affairs.

As England is now the only country in Europe which does not have home rule, surely the time has come to ask the English electorate – for their views. Whether Scotland decides to stay or go, England needs a referendum of its own to decide on the matter of a Parliament for England.

Annie Palmer

Stapleford Tawney, Essex

If the Scots want independence, I presume they'll want their Royal Family back. Not that I propose that England should cease to be a monarchy, but given that the royal role is largely ceremonial and a tourist attraction, shouldn't we hire them as needed, rather than give someone a job for life. Say Helen Mirren for an opening of Parliament or Colin Firth to meet a visiting head of state. Think of the savings.

Sean Barker


David Laws gets away with it

That David Laws will soon be back in Cabinet is an indication of the degree to which the political class remains detached from the rest of us.

For whatever reason, this man lied. Had he been an employee he would have been lucky to get away with a warning as against dismissal; and had the lie been from a member of the public on a matter of tax, or a housing application, or a benefit claim, that person could have been prosecuted. His constituents, interviewed on television, were as angry and appalled as we all were when all this fiddling first broke, yet all he has got is seven days away from work.

Our politicians still occupy a bubble where a few platitudes about regret and "accepting responsibility" – whatever that means – makes it all right again, and the way David Cameron and Nick Clegg are seen together joking about the matter shows how they still just do not get it.

What happened to that idea about being able to get rid of politicians mid-term if we don't like what they're up to?

Vaughan Thomas

Usk, Gwent

Stone-age nightlife

The article on artificial light (12 May) was very interesting, but rather sweeping in its presumption that, in earlier times, sunset meant bedtime. We know humans have had fire for almost the entire span of our existence, and one can envisage our ancestors chatting long into the night sitting round even dimly glowing embers. When one's eyes have adjusted to less light, a full moon can be ample illumination.

I feel street lighting is a double-edged sword. It helps me see my way home at night, but a would-be assailant can see me clearly too. In the dark I could easily hide, or walk a well-known way undiscerned.

Vivienne Cox

London W4

Another case for the ICC

Thank you for the excellent article by Geoffrey Robertson ("Assad should face international justice", 13 May). Assad's alleged crimes should certainly be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where they would be examined by professional investigators.

Yet this argument loses some of its power in the light of your own front page story, which points to a much more serious alleged crime ("Campbell 'misled' Chilcot over dossier"). The ICC with its professional investigators is the appropriate body to examine the deceptions leading to our participation in the Iraq war, rather than the Chilcot amateurs with their emasculating brief.

Jim McCluskey

Twickenham, Middlesex

Tesco choice

Surely the threat to local shops referred to in Samiha Abdeldebar's letter (11 May) comes not from Tesco but from the great British public who choose Tesco over the existing shops. If they don't like Tesco they won't go there; if they do they are exercising their choice – consumer democracy if you will.

Mark Thomas

Histon, Cambridgeshire

Bully for him

As a Flashman fanatic, I resent David Cameron's being compared to my literary hero. George MacDonald Fraser himself felt the same way about Tony Blair's being compared to him. Flashman did once think of entering politics but believed politicians to be beneath contempt.

Mark Taha

London SE26

Perspectives on media morality

Police are to blame too

Stephen Glover's analysis (13 May)of the case being brought against The Sun and the Daily Mirror by the Attorney-General alleging contempt of court over the arrest of Chris Jefferies following the disappearance of Joanna Yeates, studiously ignores the role in this case played by the Avon and Somerset police force.

While there exists a legitimate osmosis between media and law enforcement agencies, no such legitimacy can justify briefing by the police against a person who has yet to be charged for an offence. Such negative spinning is invariably due to pressure to be seen to be "doing something" about a heinous crime, such pressure often coming from politicians as well as red-top papers.

Mike Abbott

London W4

Some British tabloids are facing contempt of court proceedings over their coverage of the questioning of the innocent Christopher Jefferies during the Jo Yeates murder investigation. Mr Jefferies is also contemplating taking legal action himself.

No such recourse is available to Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who have been similarly vilified by much of the British press during the investigation and trials following Meredith Kercher's murder in Perugia in 2007. There can be no doubt that the media both here and in Italy played a significant role in swaying public opinion against the couple.

Nigel Scott

London N22

Forget privacy and go for profit

Privacy is dead and buried. Internet data has no national boundaries.

Perhaps the intrusion in to personal lives (Steve Richards, 12 May) can best be addressed by the market place by giving every individual a share in the copyright on information concerning them and a default position that publishers can keep only a small percentage of the proceeds of exploiting that information. Publishers would then have to get the agreement of every party involved in order to make a profit.

There could be an exception for the very rare genuine cases of public interest, perhaps with a share going to charity instead of the individuals.

Jon Hawksley

London EC1