Letters: Unfair courts charge undermines faith in justice

The following letters appear in the October 15 edition of The Independent

Independent Voices@IndyVoices
Thursday 15 October 2015 09:41
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Concentrix is understood to be the only company being considered to become the Ministry of Justice’s debt collector (
Concentrix is understood to be the only company being considered to become the Ministry of Justice’s debt collector (

Well done to The Independent for running your campaign on the criminal courts charge. I am a magistrate in north London and, as in the rest of the country, we are very concerned about the charge.

For a criminal justice system to be effective it needs to be seen to be fair. The criminal courts charge is deeply unfair, with no allowance being made for ability to pay.

This unfairness undermines faith in the criminal justice system as a whole. Many offenders simply choose to put two fingers up to the courts and don’t pay. So the Government’s purported objective of covering court costs isn’t even met. Please carry on the campaign, and let’s hope Michael Gove listens to reason.

Cara Jenkinson JP
London N6

Wonderful news from your lead story (14 October): 93 per cent of JPs polled by the Magistrates’ Association think that the current criminal courts charge is unjust; not so good news is that only 42 per cent of them think it is wrong in principle.

The state sets up its system of justice and has rightly paid for it out of general taxation for more than 300 years. Defendants are obliged to use it whether they are rich or poor. Chris Grayling subverted that principle shortly before the last election and you have reported on the resulting anomalies in sentencing that have taken place since the courts charge was made law in April.

Let us all hope that Michael Gove really is “an unexpected human rights champion” and follows the advice of your editorial to “end this scandal”.

Anthony Young
Chidham, West Sussex

These paintings are no danger to children

I have worked with artist Graham Ovenden (“Paintings must be destroyed...” 14 October), one of the great ruralist painters, collector and historian of old jazz discs, photographic author and painter of all modern themes, including, yes, children.

We all want to protect our children, but the idea that Graham’s beautiful works will somehow endanger my children is ridiculous. For a court of law to order them destroyed is to put us back into the dark ages of censorship. To paraphrase the Lady Chatterley case: “Is this a painting you would want your servants to see?”

Our judges are not art experts and we should not put Judge Elizabeth Roscoe in that difficult position.

Jed Falby
Budleigh Salterton, Devon

Why we look down on maths and science

Rhodri Marsden wonders why Britons are so hopeless at maths (13 October). But the same is true of science.

Ask any reasonably intelligent person “What is the chemical formula for sulphuric acid?” or “What is Newton’s First Law of Motion?” and you will get blank looks or be asked “Why do you expect me to know that?”

At a recent quiz night organised by Carlisle Cathedral Choirs Association there were hundreds of questions, but not a single one on science. Maths and science are not perceived in Britain to be part of general knowledge.

I think there is a historical reason for this: originally “grammar” schools did not teach maths, and this attitude has persisted. When I was at school over 50 years ago, going into the sixth form to study science rather than languages or history was perceived to be an inferior option, and when I came to leave school and decided to study engineering at university, the teaching staff thought that was even worse.

I worked in the Netherlands for five years, and there attitudes are quite different.

Ian K Watson
Carlisle

Rescue Conrad from ‘Apocalypse Now’

It is sad that you should illustrate the announcement of the radio versions to be made from unmade screenplays, including Orson Welles’ treatment of Heart of Darkness (“Radio 4 uncovers lost scripts”, 12 October), with a still from Apocalypse Now.

Unfortunately, almost any reference in popular culture to Joseph Conrad’s monumental novella will be in terms of the 1979 film which actually traduced its source material, so that a story of European invaders being horrible to Africa became one of Asia being horrible to American invaders.

The same misrepresentation occurs whenever Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” is referred to as the music from Apocalypse Now; the memorable employment of that piece in the film (instead of, say, something by Cohan or Sousa?) looks a little like an attempt to foist on to the Germans the blame for destroying South-east Asia and (more importantly) hurting a lot of Americans.

Bryn Hughes
Wrexham

Warm British welcome for refugees

In my local town, people are running a crowdfunding campaign to provide a home for a traumatised Syrian family. I’m proud of the townspeople, and proud to say that my local council discussed the matter at a full meeting and unanimously endorsed the project.

It was (really) no doubt an unfortunate coincidence that a pair of Home Office vans, marked in large letters “Immigration Enforcement”, sat right outside the council meeting. But it was quite sinister.

Sam Butler
Fleet, Hampshire

The legal elite, who are calling for the Government to take more asylum-seekers above the agreed 20,000 over five years, are as unacquainted with life in the UK as an ostrich with Latin. We do not vote for judges, but it’s time that we did.

Collin Rossini
Dovercourt, Essex

Origin of life still guards its secret

The second recent letter from Professor Wickramasinghe (28 September) continues his theme of speculation rather than scientific rigour.

The ocean of Enceladus and the probable liquid water detected on Mars and indeed our own Moon demonstrates that one of the criteria for the development of life is present elsewhere in these parts of our solar system, nothing more. The discovery of organic molecules and gases does not show anything more than their existence.

Scientific advance is based on evidence and, thus far, there is no evidence whatsoever of life elsewhere than on our own planet. This does not, of course, mean there is none, merely that it has not been discovered.

Finally, even if life were to be found on another planet or moon this is no argument for the panspermia theory so favoured by Professor Wickramasinghe. Potentially more valid theories argue that the development of self-replicating organisms is a consequence of the organic chemical reactions, from initially simple to increasingly complex, that can take place in parallel on every prospective viable world.

That “life” then develops to any level of complexity above basic replication may be due to the local conditions and, perhaps, chance. Whether life is common or rare in the universe is unknown and awaits confirmation, not vague, quasi-religious pronouncements.

Dr Bernie Precious
Crail, Fife

Overcrowded pavements

You stated, quite rightly, that “there’s no place for hoverboards on public footpaths” (editorial, 13 October), but as our pavements become increasingly congested we need to broaden the discussion.

As you say, it is prohibited to drive a motor vehicle on the pavement. In many areas there is no enforcement and so pavement parking is becoming common. With cyclists and joggers also vying for space, and an increasing amount of traffic on the roads, walking is becoming hazardous. Is the only way to get exercise driving to the gym?

Elizabeth Cain
Liverpool

‘I’m gay’ isn’t an admission of guilt

I was appalled by the headline “Olympic hopeful is first GB track star to admit he is gay” (14 October). Admit? Tom Bosworth had nothing to admit and doesn’t use that word. He is gay. It is normal. I’m not gay but I am outraged on his behalf.

Using the word “admit” reinforces the views of those like the bullies who Tom Bosworth said smashed his head through a window at school. On the opposite page we read “Figures reveal shocking rise in homophobic hate crimes”. Words matter.

Jan Cook
South Nutfield, Surrey

Northern lights sighted in the south

Reading about how the aurora borealis may be visible in the Midlands in the next few weeks reminded me that an elderly friend told me once that it was clearly visible in Sussex during the Second World War blackouts. Was she mistaken or can anyone else remember it too?

Penny Joseph
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

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