Category Archives : Politics


“Its My Rights To Squander Benefits” – Tracey Macdonald

Yesterday Ms Macdonald took to the ITV Daybreak programme to vent her frustration on the fact that Eastlands Housing Association suggested she cut back on luxuries such as cigarettes and alcohol, and instead spend her £71 a week benefits on necessities. My fellow readers this is what is wrong with society!


UK Prison Sentences, Are They Too Lenient?

Today Chris Huhne and his ex wife were sentenced to 8 months in prison for perverting the course of justice. Apart from the fact that the average annual cost per prisoner = £40,000, meaning that 2 x 8 month sentences = £52,320.00 plus £148,000 to prosecute, there is a very real possibility that both of them could be released after just half that sentence. As many of you will know I am studying law, however even after two years this being released after half of your sentence for ‘good behaviour’ just seems backwards to me. If you are given an eight month sentence, that should mean eight months. If you are good then you are released after the time of your sentence, and if you are bad you should get extra time. Being good in prison should not be used as a reward for reducing a sentence of a crime, it should be expected! A few months ago there was a program on TV called ‘Inside: Russia’s Toughest Prisons‘ (available to watch on Vimeo), and things are significantly different to that in the UK. For a start most of them are required to work, not for payment, but to give something back to the society they have taken from. They address the guards as “sir” or “miss”, and they don’t have any form of entertainment within their cells. I know that some reading this will think this is inhumane, but when you look at the statistics and hear what people who have been in a Russian prison have said, they don’t want to go back, why, because its not a nice place to be. The chances are, if you asked a prisoner in the UK if they would be happy to serve half their sentence but a in Russian prison they would turn down the offer as they know that compared to other countries life in prison is easy going. Bringing this back to Chris Huhne, its probably not feasible to keep him or other criminals in prison for their full sentence for the simple reason that it costs so much. However the danger of letting people out or giving them lenient sentences (or reducing them after half the time served) is that the public lose faith in the judiciary as a whole, especially with the majority of the public are already being of the mind that ‘life should mean life’.


The Foundation Of Innocent Until Proven Guilty Is Worth Defending, Not Necessarily Defending The Defendants Themselves

Last week I completed a three day mini-pupillage at a set of Chambers in the north of England. I was fortunate to follow one barrister for two and a half of these three days, and get myself involved in a criminal trial. This was an interesting experience as up until then the majority of court cases which I had been involved in were that which took place in the Magistrates courts, and so by its very nature, were cases which involved less serious offences. So one could argue that the view which I had of ‘defendants’ (either rightly or wrongly) was built upon by a mixture of a middle-class, reading of The Daily Telegraph and the opinion that the majority of those hauled up before the courts were there because of their own doing. I can not of course go into detail of the specifics of the case which I was involved in, however the key issue involved a matter of self defence, with the main question being was the force that was used ‘reasonable’ within the circumstances. Along with meeting family members, and prosecuting counsel, I did got to meet the defendant, whom we shall refer to as Mr X. His list of previous convictions were in double, almost triple figures, and someone I would almost certainly not like to meet in a dark alley. However in these convictions Mr X had plead guilty, in this trial he was pleading not guilty. Upon entering the cells I didn’t really know what to expect, having read the files I was surprised to find Mr X calm, relaxed and very receptive to the advice given to him by counsel. This got me thinking. Previously I had always thought that prosecuting in criminal cases would be what I would enjoy, after all based on my previous thoughts Mr X was before the court for his own doing. Even though his past and childhood were less than normal, he would know the right and wrongs of the world. However Mr X, a man, who yes had previous convictions had always raised his hands and admitted his guilt, if I applied my then views, it stands to reason that Mr X is guilty here, and so the trial would have just been a formality. Thankfully our justice system works on the basis of innocent until proven guilty, and that everyone has the right to be defended. I found myself in the cells, not warming to Mr X as such, but realising the importance of innocent until proven guilty. If we didn’t have the criminal justice system that we do, Mr X would be in the position where every crime that was committed had the potential to be blamed on him, purely for his past guilt, in other words he had done something wrong in the past and so must have done something wrong now. I would have thought that under no circumstances would I have wanted to defend, I would have wanted to stand up in front of a court and explain why the jury should convict the Mr X’s of the world. After my mini-pupillage I have come to the conclusion that yes, there are some people in the world that do deserve the weight of the law to land on them, and that if I had to defend such a person I would find it hard to sleep at night. However this is no longer the case. Listening to only one side of the argument may prevent Mr X’s from walking the streets, however I’ve come to the conclusion that if there is one thing that is more dangerous than a guilty man walking, it is that of an innocent man being convicted of a crime he did not commit. So having said that, should I make it to the criminal bar, would I still mind defending? No I would not. Yes I may like the idea of prosecuting more, however should a brief land on me that requires me to defend, it wouldn’t cause me the mental moral arguments that I once had. After my three days I walk away with a new respect for the lawyers that are tasked with defending Mr and Mrs X’s, knowing the foundation of innocent until proven guilty is what is worth defending, not necessarily defending the defendant themselves.


One Small Crack In The Euro Zone, One Giant Hole For The European Union

Studying EU Law at university as one of my modules, it is quite exciting that we are in the middle of such developments with regards to the Euro Zone. It is true that I can’t help but think all this work (and indeed pain) that comes with studying EU Law will be for nothing if the European Union begins to collapse. Personally I am not a huge fan of the EU, the very fact that it costs the UK taxpayer over £50m each day is perhaps one of the biggest reasons. Whilst we do get free trade as being part of the EU, some countries are prevued to this agreement however have not signed away their powers to the EU and costing the this amount in the process. The Euro was the first single currency that aimed to unite and bring those member states of the EU closer, encouraging international trade further by abolishing currency conversation rates and further limiting trade restrictions – however this has since been called into question. With several of the Eurozone countries in serious economic difficulty, the cost of all EU member states to keep this single currency has increased from hundreds of millions to billions. The EU in my opinion has always been a charity project, taking money from the richer states, and giving it in the form of CAP and other benefits to less economically stable. Whilst philanthropical activities are encouraged, it is my view that this should be determined on an individual basis, and not burdened on the tax payer as a whole under the vial of it being a treaty. Gordon Brown, quite rightly decided to keep Britain out of the Euro, and over the past several hours David Cameron has stated that he will not back any Euro bailout plan that does not protect the UK; and whilst I fully support the action taken by David Cameron, this lack of willingness to support the Euro, which is in affect the EU’s baby – has cast doubt on the strength of the EU as a whole. The EU was created in the time of war, in an attempt to bring countries closer together; however the economic crisis has had the opposite affect. Countries who have taken risks financially are having to depend on those who have not in order to bale them out – which has caused outrage for those countries footing the bill for other members recklessness. It is the case that in most cases, those who are bailing others out are also in financial trouble, so bailing others is likely to put them in difficulty. If the Euro is to collapse either entirely, or reformed but with fewer more stable countries this will be the first part of dismantling the EU, after all, if states have had enough of supporting the currency, what hope does the Commission have to implement further changes? The controversy that the Euro bailout has caused, does cast doubt on the effectiveness of the EU as a whole, as it has proven that unity may good upto a point, however expecting others to consistently pay for the risks you have taken is a liberty that takes generosity too far.


Getting Ones Hands Dirty

The wealth of consumer complaints programs both on TV and Radio, coupled with recent life experiences have perhaps made clear to me the lack of willingness for members of the public, in what ever walk in life to take a stand in what they truly believe in. Yes I am aware that industrial action over the past few months and years has increased, however with the last display of public strikes (whom the majority were teachers) only ¼ of those eligible to strike actually took part, with the remainder choosing to cross the picket line. Whether you agree with the method of striking politically, the very fact that it has become accepted that when ever the ‘ordinary’ person is to enter into a battle, in order for them to proceed they have to be 100% certain that they are going to win. Personally I think this is wrong. No matter what situation you come up against in life you can never be 100% certain of the outcome, and with the case of political debates, there will almost certainly be an expert who knows more on a given topic than yourself; so why bother? The reason why you should bother is because large companies, bosses, teachers, politicians all expect you to back down; they know that you either don’t have the time and energy to continue fighting your corner, and so will eventually back down. If this is the case, you may as well firstly not have taken up the complaint in the first place, and secondly just put the welcome mat on the floor and ask them to walk all over you. It is true, that in todays world that we do have less time, energy (and in some cases funding) to continue to fight what we believe is right – so we turn to unions for support. The aim of unions is that one voice is quiet, where as a union of hundreds of voices carries a lot more oomph, and the threat of any action carries a lot more weight behind it. However unions can not do the work for you. Unions are there to assist you in getting your point across, not to do all the work for you. In the case of trade unions – the threat of striking is useless of no-one acts upon it; in the case of student union the threat of taking something further is pointless if people don’t stand behind it; and in the case of the work place, the threat of going above your line managers head and taking it to the MD is pointless unless the support is behind you to do so. So where am I going with this? Firstly society as a whole needs to start standing up for what they rightfully believe in, accept that you may not win all the battles you choose to fight; the person you are standing up against depends on your self doubt for you to back down. Secondly refuse to give up at the first hurdle; in the case of making a complaint to a company don’t give up when the first person you speak to says no. Ask to speak to someone else who is more senior, and if required call back on a different occasion. Thirdly don’t expect unions to do all the work for you. Yes they are there to help you, but they are not there to do all the work for you. Why should a union put their money/public image at risk, if you are not happy to assist them in fighting your corner? If you’re not happy to get your hands dirty, you will never end up winning.