Letters: Women still jailed for petty crimes

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 17 July, 2013

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Over six years, successive governments have failed to implement the sensible recommendations made by Baroness Corston in her review commissioned after the deaths of six women in Styal prison.

During these years, as before, tens of thousands of vulnerable women, often victims themselves of serious crimes, domestic violence and sexual abuse, have trudged through prison gates to serve short meaningless sentences for petty offences, shoplifting and receiving stolen goods. So many lives have been blighted and money wasted by the casual cruelty of delays and failure to join up solutions across government.

Effective community sentences for women, which enable them to tackle the underlying causes of their offending, face a very uncertain future due to the upheaval of probation services. Many women’s centres are already experiencing reduction or loss of funding and are struggling to survive financial insecurity.

The Justice Select Committee (“Too many women prisoners, MPs say”, 15 July) is right to call now for “political courage” and leadership to go further  to divert women from  crime and faster to reduce women’s imprisonment.

Juliet Lyon, Director, Prison Reform Trust, London EC1

When those empowered to impose custodial sentences refer to an offender’s gender to decide whether or not they should be jailed, how does this represent justice? Could someone please explain?

If five male and five female defendants are convicted of the same crime, why should the five who are considered for custodial sentences necessarily be men?

Robert Bottamley, Hedon, East Yorkshire

To walk or not to walk: the ethics of cricket

As usual, Dominic Lawson makes some very perceptive points, this time about the Stuart Broad affair and how cricket has changed in recent times (16 July). However, one area he does not touch upon is the example set to the wider world.

To impressionable young people watching cricket and many other sports today, the message appears to be: if you want to get ahead don’t be too scrupulous in interpreting the rules, and “if you can’t prove it I didn’t do it’’.

Peter Spilman, Snitterfield, Warwickshire

I am sure that Brad Haddin was fully aware that he had hit the ball that was caught by Matt Prior. Any top-class batsman knows. The fact that it wasn’t obvious to us did not make it any less culpable than what Broad is alleged to have done.

The easy way to sort this out would be to make “walking” illegal in the rules of the game, making it a level playing field, so to speak.

Ian Wilkinson, Derby

Critics of Stuart Broad for not walking should bear in mind that this practice goes back to W G Grace and probably earlier.

In 1898 the doctor was facing the Essex fast bowler Charles Kortright. Grace was hit on the pads exactly in line with the stumps but was given not out. Kortright charged in furiously for the next ball which W G edged to the wicket keeper but stood his ground Broad-style and was again given not out. 

Kortright raced in again and this time knocked middle stump out of the ground and sent leg stump awry. As Grace reluctantly departed, Kortright said: “Surely you’re not going, Doc? There’s still one stump standing.”

Gordon Elliot, Burford

I  have just read the holier-than-thou letters from Mike Cannell and Gerald Sinstadt (16 July) claiming that Stuart Broad should have walked even though given “not out” when he almost certainly would have known that he touched the ball with his bat, glove or lower arm.

Perhaps they both could tell us what they think a batsman should do, when given out on appeal, when he knows the ball only clipped his pads when given caught at the wicket, or touched the bat before the pad when given out LBW. Should he argue with the umpire and stand his ground?

Of course not. Umpires can make mistakes both ways, so cricketers and pundits must and should accept these honest umpiring decisions as part and parcel of the game.

Robin Wright, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Care pathway for the dying works

I am disappointed that the Liverpool Care Pathway is going to be phased out, following the Neuberger inquiry. If there are incidents of poor practice in hospitals, then address them – don’t scrap a system that works for countless individuals.

From our perspective – running one of the largest care homes in Manchester – the LCP has been a useful tool and has provided guidelines to steer us through what can be a very challenging and heartbreaking period.

Our staff have received extensive training in this area. Why can this level of training not be possible elsewhere? We achieved this in partnership with Macmillan nurse trainers and it has been crucial in our ability to provide high-quality care to residents and their families.

No decision on end-of-life care is made at the Fed and Heathlands Village in isolation. Care pathways are developed in partnership with GPs, medical teams and families, wherever possible. The LCP is not viewed as a quick way to end life, but as a way to reduce pain and suffering, and maintain dignity.

I felt compelled to write to help dispel the anxieties and myths that are gathering around the LCP – not as a medical professional, but as someone who sees this in practice every day and has seen the LCP first-hand in the case of my mother-in-law, who passed away peacefully in our care.

Surely it is about investing in training and ensuring the right resources are there to make the LCP work. Perhaps the failure sits in the NHS structure and the inadequate resources that prevail.

Karen Phillips, CEO, The Fed and Heathlands Village, Manchester

Good neighbour but no Samaritan

Julian Baggini (16 July) and much of the recent reporting on the murder of Graham Buck have got the Good Samaritan wrong.

The point about the Good Samaritan is not that he was good but that he was a Samaritan, an outsider from a community at odds with the Jews. From a right-wing polemicist point of view, a Good Samaritan in this context would have been, perhaps, an illegal immigrant hiding in a shed who came out to help.

It was not, of course, Jesus who asked “Who, then, is my neighbour?” but a certain lawyer. The answer from Jesus was the parable, concluding, “Who do you think was the neighbour?” The neighbour was the one with impartial compassion (we are not even told whether the victim was a Jew or an Israelite or a Roman, just “a certain man”) and the fact that he was an outsider turned the smug certainties upside down.

If Graham Buck was “cast to type”, it was as a good man or a good neighbour but not as a Good Samaritan. I’d like to think that anybody would have helped, and not through law or religion, but always worry whether I would have the courage.

Colin Standfield, London W7

Unqualified staff in class

Fred Jarvis is right to point out the iniquity that teachers in free schools and academies aren’t required to be qualified, while this is in effect illegal in local authority schools (“Why this old-school plan doesn’t add up”, 11 July).

However, the real crime is the growing army of teaching assistants (TAs) in all schools who do not hold Qualified Teacher Status but are increasingly being asked to cover lessons.

Schools often claim that TAs are adequately supervised and that there’s a qualified teacher on hand, but that is like having a trainee doctor diagnosing your grumbling bowel while the specialist is otherwise engaged at the other end of the hospital.

It’s a daily battle in most schools to ensure lessons are covered, but TAs are often seen as a cheap and flexible alternative to qualified subject specialists rather than working in their original roles in pupil support.

This is a particularly attractive solution to some academy trusts who may be top-slicing schools’ budgets more than local authorities ever did.

Neil Roskilly, Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire

Austerity Tories target babies

Your front-page headline on 16 July was “Tories prepare to get tougher still on single teenage mothers”. That should have read: “Tories prepare to get tougher still on the babies of single teenage mothers”.

Madeleine Webb, West Malling, Kent

How blatant can they get? The 40 Group of Conservative MPS openly admit their ideas stemmed from “listening to key swing voters on the doorstep”. In other words, government policy should be decided by what will attract votes from a small percentage of voters in non-safe seats. What a perversion of democracy.

Mark Miller, Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria

So the Government has £100bn for Trident nuclear missiles, £50bn for the HS2 rail link and money to back Sabre, the super-fast space rocket engine. But the benefits which the disabled, unemployed and poor rely on to live have to be capped and scrapped in the name of “austerity”.

Sasha Simic, London N16

Opinions for sale

Like Nigel Jarrett (letter, 16 July), I read Simon Usborne’s piece on Katie Hopkins, but unlike him I found it illuminating: she may be opinionated, but she is a professionalised opinion-giver, has an agent, and sees herself as a purchasable commodity; this told me a lot about the way opinion-giving on TV happens; and it confirmed my suspicion that the amazement at guests’ views expressed by presenters is, as Usborne says, disingenuous.

John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire

Deaths in training

I find it appalling and obscene that soldiers can die during a training exercise. Who had a duty of care for them?  Who screwed up badly? I cannot agree with Julian Brazier, MP,  who says: “One’s got to say these kinds of activities can’t be risk-free. If it becomes risk-free, it wouldn’t do the job.” What if it was his son?

Dave Johnstone, Crowborough, East Sussex

What was that?

When the Director-General of the BBC has stopped his own actors mumbling and muttering (report, 16 July), could he please have a word with authorities at the Royal Shakespeare Company

Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon

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