Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Spring for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Murder in Nairn 11+ years ago - police reiterate it remains an active case

There is a very interesting and lengthy interview and article published yesterday in The Press & Journal, the main regional newspaper in this part of Scotland - you can read it here. Some quotes from the article:

The interview was with Julian Innes, who was a detective inspector in Inverness at the time of the murder of Alistair Wilson the murder victim, and is today chief superintendent and area commander for the north in what is now "Police Scotland"

“I was a detective inspector at the time of the Alistair Wilson murder, so I feel this one quite painfully that we haven’t brought his murderer to justice.

“I would expect the public and the communities of the Highlands and islands to keep challenging Police Scotland to get this solved. That’s a reasonable expectation.

“I can tell you there’s lots of police officers in Scotland that would love to get this solved as well.

“So when we get criticised for not solving it, my position as divisional commander is to accept that criticism absolutely.

“But they can be assured that if we have any information that would lead to the murderer of Alistair Wilson being caught, we would be all over it.

“The police as well as the communities, particularly of Nairn, are keen to make sure this person is caught.”

So much has been known for some time and apart from mentioning that as a result of a Freedom of Information request that "close to £15,000" has been spent since April last year (i.e. during this financial year) specifically on efforts to identify the murderer and that "close to 2,700 people have been interviewed" with the aim of taking the inquiry forward, the article contains nothing "new". The article ends with a quote from Police Scotland Specialist Crime Division major investigation team, which insists it “remains active and ongoing”.

So far as I was aware, there was no real doubt about this. Which begs the question , in my mind at least, why this interview and article has been felt necessary now. In principle it is good of course for this serious crime to be kept in the forefront of people's minds, specially those in the area where it happened. However, I wonder if it may be something more than this. Has there been some kind of criticism of Police Scotland for insufficient rigour in their efforts, or do the police themselves feel under more than usual pressure to justify themselves? For myself, I cannot imagine that anyone would be more anxious to find the culprit than the family of Alistair Wilson and the police. One imagines the only person not keen on the murderer being identified is the murderer.

The only other comment I would make is that I have no idea whether to spend "close to £15,000" is about right, too much or too little. However, I would be somewhat sceptical about any organisation's "cost centre analysis" mechanisms being sufficiently robust to come up with such a figure in the first place. Yes, it's easy enough to quantify hotel, food, overtime costs etc. for those specifically allocated to this case, but what about the odd telephone call or memo written by those not directly involved, not to mention a portion of the salaries of those on this case team? The real spend is probably therefore significantly greater I suspect. However, to try and quantify this - the declared spend of about £15,000 represents probably only somewhere between a fifth and a half of one police personnel's annual remuneration and as I imagine the person most closely involved and 'responsible' for the case is probably a fairly senior individual with annual remuneration to match, quite apart from the others in the team for this case, that would give a more accurate impression of the targeted effort being made to this one case, albeit a very serious one. This is in no way a criticism of the police, whose resources are obviously finite, simply my desire to place the figure quoted in context.

Like most others, I continue to hope the murderer will be caught sooner rather than later. I hope some member of the public who has new and relevant information to offer will come forward to help the police and everyone else solve this crime and lead to the conviction of the person who committed it.

You can visit the page for this unsolved crime in the Police Scotland website here:


Alistair Wilson

Anyone with any information in connection with the murder of 30-year-old banker Alistair Wilson should contact Police Scotland on 101, or Crimestoppers in confidence and complete anonymity on 0800 555 111.

Contact Us
Contact Police Scotland on 101, or Crimestoppers in confidence and complete anonymity on 0800 555 111

My most recent previous article on the murder is here. There are links to all my posts on this murder, so close to where I live, in the right-hand column under the heading 'Murder in Nairn' articles.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Schengen Agreement faces risk of two year suspension

The Schengen Agreement is in grave danger of at the very least suspension and perhaps complete dissolution if the intitial two-year suspension being considered becomes more permanent. The "crisis" leading to this possibility/likelihood has been developing since last summer, when large numbers of migrants began arriving by sea in Greece and Italy, from places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (often via Turkey), although there are also arrivals from parts of sub-Saharan and eastern Africa (either to Italy or some suggest by more circuitous means via Turkey). Although migrants had been arriving in both countries for at least a couple of years, pleas for help and assistance from the EU in Brussels had largely fallen on deaf ears in practical terms until the numbers arriving last summer became so large and television reporters began filing reports back to their audiences throughout Europe and beyond, that the EU could no longer feign ignorance of what was happening, nor avoid some kind of response. It is even being suggested, by a senior Dutch representative in Brussels, that some of the immigrants are in fact Moroccans or Tunisians who have used fake Syrian or Iraqi passports to pose as refugees and travel via Turkey and then Greece, with the hope of arriving in northern Europe, indeed this same official has quoted from an as yet unpublished official EU report that fully 60% of the "refugees"/"asylum seekers" so far in the Schengen Area are in fact "economic migrants" not in real danger or needing to flee for their lives - which is what the status of "refugee" or "asylum seeker" implies. Establishing the true identities of individuals allegedly travelling under false documents is not an easy matter, though.

One of those responses, from Germany and its Chancellor, was to say that these migrants (immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants or however you choose to describe them) would be welcome to come to Germany, so naturally large numbers began to flood across the borders leading to Germany and other northern European countries, via the intervening countries. Some of those countries initially allowed free passage across their territories, but quickly realised they could not cope with the volume of people and Germany and Sweden, two of the countries which had initially been receptive to receiving these newcomers, began to experience difficulties in coping with the influx at a practical level, not to mention that certain segments of their own populations began to express very negative opinions about what was occurring, so both started to reimpose the border controls which Schengen had supposedly abolished forever. There have also been numerous well-documented cases in Germany, Sweden and others such as Belgium and France, where some recent arrivals have behaved in a way that is totally unacceptable in a European country, particularly involving aggressive sexual or other anti-social behaviour towards women.

One proposal is for Greece, which alone has no common land border with any other participating country, to be excluded completely. The Greeks are not, to put it mildly, particularly happy with this turn of events. The latest I am reading is that the European Commission has issued what amounts to an ultimatum to Greece to "fix" the "serious deficiencies" in its border control procedures. Given the way the issue of Greece remaining, or not, within the Eurozone was dealt with by the European Commission I shall be surprised if this threat is carried out within the current time-frame, but no doubt further "huffing and puffing" will happen as the 3-month deadline approaches and some new arrangement is cobbled together. Meantime it seems that many other countries in the Schengen Area are already re-introducing border checks, for example the recent check imposed by Germany on those coming from Austria, or those by Sweden on those arriving from Denmark by the road and rail bridge which connects them, which resulted in Denmark imposing similar controls on its southern border with Germany. There are, I understand, other border controls in place in the Schengen Area. Hungary, itself in Schengen, has just completed a fence between it and Croatia, not a member of Schengen.

The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 completely separately from the then EEC, and implemented fully in 1995 when it was incorporated into what had by then become EU Law with opt-outs for two countries, the UK and Ireland. Currently there are several EU member states which, although obliged to participate eventually, do not yet do so. There are in addition several non-members of the EU which do participate. The various news media that I have consulted are somewhat contradictory at this stage on what precisely has been agreed and what is merely being proposed and negotiated and at present the EU official website is silent on the matter.

Of course the UK, along with Ireland, is not a member of Schengen Area and the opt-outs agreed when it was created mean that it is highly unlikely the UK at least will ever join, and probably this applies to Ireland too, although what it does is ultimately not my concern. What this current "crisis" does indicate however, I think, is that if not "dead", then Schengen is in "critical condition". Being an island it is relatively easy for the UK to have moderately secure border controls, not so easy across the land borders of most of Europe, where in many cases the border check-points that used to exist have been removed completely, with only road-signs signalling that one has passed from one contry to another. I have myself driven across parts of continental Europe on numerous occasions and found the ease of crossing borders very convenient, but I also remember having driven across various borders before Schengen was created, for example between Switzerland and France and on other journeys between France and Italy or Switzerland and Italy and found the border checks only a little inconvenient. Of course the growth in traffic, private and more importantly commercial since then will probably make a general re-introduction of border checks highly inconvenient. I can certainly foresee a time when the only open borders remaining will be those between the three Benelux countries, which abolished them for internal travel within the three in 1970, and perhaps France and/or Germany. As for the rest, well I wouldn't care to express a view about the longevity of open borders in any other part of the Schengen Area as currently defined.

Sources:
- EU migrant crisis: Schengen agreement "to be suspended for two years" as Brussels told to reinstate border controls (City A.M.)
- Migrant crisis RIPS EU apart: Schengen agreement SCRAPPED amid final bid to avert chaos (Daily Express)
- 60% of refugees are economic migrants: Dutch EU commissioner (DutchNews.nl)
- Greece pressed to improve Schengen checks (Deutsche Welle - dw.com)
- European Union (Official website of the European Union - Please choose a language)
- The Schengen area and cooperation (EUR-Lex Access to European Union law)
- Schengen Agreement (Wikipedia)

Friday, 27 November 2015

Murder in Nairn - almost 11 years and fears hope may be fading of finding the killer, or even a motive?

In advance of the 11th anniversary of the murder of Mr Alistair Wilson, which will be tomorrow, regional newspaper The Press and Journal has published today a very interesting and detailed article, which apart from a detailed timeline of events since the murder, reiterates the belief of Police Scotland that they have "enough data and evidence" to find the shooter, and that they were just awaiting the "final piece", also that the "investigation remains active and ongoing". Police Scotland state "We will consider all forensic and investigative opportunities. We remain absolutely committed to tracing the person responsible for Alistair’s death and continue to ask the public for any information which might assist us."

On the other hand, former Highland Council Convener, and Nairn Councillor for more than two decades and a former Provost of Nairn, Sandy Park, is quoted as saying that that he was "very doubtful" that the banker’s killer would be found. He is also quoted as saying: "Obviously there have been cases that have been solved 20 or 30 years later with the modern DNA, and I’d like to think the police case is not closed and that there are on-going investigations. I would like to think it would be solved but it is 11 years so you would think it would be less and less likely. I’m still living in hope that they will get the culprit eventually, but I’m very doubtful. As far as the community is concerned I think it has moved on quite a bit since then. It’s just when the anniversary comes along that it makes you think about it again." That sums up pretty well how I feel about this sad matter, too.

On the other hand another Nairn Councillor and the current Provost of Nairn, Laurie Fraser, is quoted as saying: "I don’t think the community will ever forget about it. I think eventually there will be a resolution of some kind in the future but we may have to wait 10 years. It has always been a very difficult case for the police. They must have exhausted every single line of inquiry and they must just be waiting for something to happen. I think technological advances will be difficult. We’ve pretty much seen all the advances."

Ms Mary Scanlon, a Conservative MSP, has apparently criticised the failure to trace the murderer: "This was a deeply tragic case and despite years of searching for answers it is disappointing that Police Scotland have not came close to catching Alistair Wilson’s killer. Nairn is such a close-knit community and his murder has affected everyone. After 10 years, the police should be stepping up their operations rather than scaling down to solve this crime once and for all. I had hoped that the forming of Police Scotland would allow expertise from the force across Scotland to be drawn in to fully investigate this tragic death of a young man and father. It is very disappointing that Alastair Wilson’s name is now added to the list of unsolved murders in the Highlands." Whilst I share her frustration, it seems to me that Northern Police and its successor Police Scotland have been working diligently on this case and cannot be criticised for not being open to examine all lines of investigation they become aware of and for continuing to solicit the assistance of the public to try and find further clues and/or evidence about why this crime happened and who carried it out. Unfortunately the crime sleuths of fiction, whether Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Inspector Morse are just that, creatures of fiction.

One can only hope that one day, hopefully soon, progress will be made so that a suspect can be identified, taken to court and if found guilty, convicted.

You can visit the page for this unsolved crime in the Police Scotland website here:


Alistair Wilson

Anyone with any information in connection with the murder of 30-year-old banker Alistair Wilson should contact Police Scotland on 101, or Crimestoppers in confidence and complete anonymity on 0800 555 111.

Contact Us
Contact Police Scotland on 101, or Crimestoppers in confidence and complete anonymity on 0800 555 111

My most recent previous article on the murder is here. There are links to all my posts on this murder, so close to where I live, in the right-hand column under the heading 'Murder in Nairn' articles.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Hiring a car using a British driving licence - procedures are changing

(Please see UPDATE at end)

If you are going to be renting a car any time after 8th June 2015 using a British driving licence, then you need to be aware that things are changing.

There are new DVLA procedures for when you are hiring a vehicle from next Monday (8th June), whether you are renting it in the UK or abroad. The paper counterpart is being abolished on 8th June 2015 and from then, in order to be able to hire a car, etc, in the UK or abroad, the car rental company will need to check on-line that your licence is valid and that you are not disqualified.

Until now they might have asked to see the paper counterpart (as I usually rent from the same company in Spain, they just ask to see the photo-card licence, but they never actually look at the paper counterpart or at least I don't recall them ever doing so in the last few years although I keep it in the same licence wallet as the photo-card); now you need to generate a code to give to the car rental agency so they can check it on-line if they wish. However, as the code is valid only for 72 hours (see UPDATE at end), you will need to do this within that time period and the code generated may be used once only and is 'case sensitive' - so there's a lot that can go wrong, if the desk clerk keys the code wrongly. Obviously if you will be renting a vehicle only for a part of your trip, you will still need to go on-line to generate the code within 72 hours (see UPDATE at end) of when you will be hiring it, so you need to think about this if you will be away from your usual internet connection during that critical period.

I'll be renting a car from my usual firm at the end of this month, so I've checked my details on-line with the DVLA and all seems to be in order. Here are a couple of links that may be useful in helping you to follow the required procedure:
- How to share your driving licence information (you can download a .pdf guide here).

To generate the required code, visit this page:
- DVLA’s Share Driving Licence service is available - and click on 'Share Driving Licence' - you need to know your driving licence number, your NI number and your postcode to use the service.

In theory it seems relatively straightforward, if an infernal pest. Good luck to all who need to use this service, including me!

NB/ This article is cross-posted from my other (Spanish) blog, because of its general applicability.

UPDATE (21JUL2015 RST/UTC+2 15.35) On 10th July the British Government (DVLA) published an amendment to these regulations (link - click here), extending the driving licence check code period from 72 hours to 21 days, a much more sensible and practical time-limit, to avoid last-minute panics just before people are about to travel and perhaps require to hire a vehicle.

Monday, 23 March 2015

In Scotland? Vote tactically in May 2015 General Election - Keep SNP Out!

As I indicated in an article here posted during February 2015 (link here), I indicated that it is my intention to vote "tactically" at the forthcoming general election in May 2015 and that in the context of my own constituency this means I shall in all probability vote for the Liberal Democrat candidate, based on my own assessment of the political dynamics of this area, with the aim of trying to ensure that the SNP does not win here.

Recently I have 'liked' a Facebook group called Scotland's Big Voice ("SBV" for short), which like me has the aim of thwarting the disaster that too many (or any) SNP MPs at Westminster would represent, plus the aim of removing the SNP as Scotland's government at next year's Scottish Parliament election and obviously I would be happy to see that happen too. There's an interesting analysis of the SBV here in the politics.co.uk website.

For the General Election in May 2015, SBV have drawn up a 'wheel' of all Scottish constituencies with suggestions of how people should vote tactically to minimise the number of SNP MPs elected and I am happy to say their assessment of my constituency (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey) tallies with my own. Below is the full chart:

- obviously to make this work effectively, people will to a greater or lesser extent have to vote "through gritted teeth" for a Party they might not normally choose to vote for; in many constituencies this will obviously involve a vote for Labour, anathema for me of course, or indeed for the Conservative or Liberal Democrat candidate, which for some natural Labour supporters would be similarly unpalatable under normal circumstances. But we are not in normal circumstances - if you want to maintain the long-term integrity of the United Kingdom and retain Scotland's position within it, some discomfort for a good cause will be essential if we are to prevent the SNP continuing its machinations to tear our country apart. Once the SNP is consigned to the trash-heap of history where it belongs, normal political business can be resumed.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Wind farms - a misplaced "in-", hopefully just poor sub-editing

The British government announced funding decisions a few days ago for wind farms in Scotland, with 11 projects gaining approval, however a major project in the Outer Moray Firth was not one of those to be approved.

My own views on wind farms are fairly simple - unlike many people I find the turbines and their towers quite elegant, when seen from a distance (as I do from my home and indeed did from my previous home too), although I am very doubtful of the wisdom of investing so much, specially because it is so heavily-subsidised with public money, in this rather unreliable method of generating electricity. One hears it is becoming more cost-effective (I heard someone say in support of it on television a few evenings ago when this funding was announced, that it is now competitive with nuclear power generation, but I don't know if this is true or not, and I suspect that the person interviewed and making that claim had a pecuniary interest in the wind-farm industry), but the harsh reality, which cannot be explained away, is that when the wind isn't blowing the turbines don't turn and no electricity is generated, so alternative methods of generating electricity must be maintained for 100% of wind-farm generation capacity. That is the truth.

Anyway today is Tuesday, so it's Nairnshire Telegraph time again; this is our local weekly newspaper, but unfortunately does not have an on-line presence. In its main editorial today it covers this story, specially as it means that a local former oil-rig manufacturing facility, now unused for some years, will miss out on what some had hoped would be a new use for the site just west of Nairn. Generally, I share the views expressed in the Nairnshire, although unfortunately what I suspect is a small sub-editing error has crept into the article, specifically in the penultimate sentence of the final paragraph, where I feel certain the that the phrase "bigger and more inefficient" should more logically have read "bigger and more efficient", or possibly "bigger and less inefficient":


A BAD BLOW
- editorial appearing in "Nairnshire Telegraph" 3rd March 205
(Unfortunately our local weekly newspaper in Nairn
does not have an on-line presence.)


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Who ya gonna vote for? (GE May 2015)

For some months the pace has gradually been accelerating with the pieces being moved on the political chess board and for the next now slightly less than three months we are all likely to be bombarded with claim and counter-claim by the different parties for our votes.

Whilst our 'first past the post' (FPTP) electoral system for UK general elections does usually provide a clear result, the last time in 2010 it did not and the polling information recently seems to indicate that it may provide a similarly inconclusive result this time too. A bid by coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, to have a form of proportional representation ('Alternative Vote') put into law was decisively rejected in a referendum held during 2011. Personally I am very pleased that it was rejected, because I think the introduction of an Alternative Vote for general elections would have institutionalised coalitions, which I think would have been retrograde for our politics - I prefer to see the governing party, whichever it is, given a reasonably free hand to pursue its policies so that the results, good or bad, and who was responsible for them, can be more clearly seen and attributed.

In my particular constituency (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey) our current MP is a Liberal Democrat, the quite prominent cabinet minister in the coalition government, Danny Alexander MP. Anyone who has been reading my blog over the years will know that I am definitely not a Liberal Democrat, nor am I a supporter of this political party, but I am happy to acknowledge that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition has been a moderate success and that Danny Alexander MP has played a fairly prominent role in this success, being No.2 in the Treasury and generally supportive of government policy. More recently he, and other Liberal Democrat MPs, have been keen to differentiate themselves from their Conservative colleagues and I think this is perfectly understandable ahead of the 2015 general election. I am, at the very least, grateful that we have had at least a partially-Conservative government these past almost five years, so that more rational policies have been implemented when compared with the many idiocies and plain incompetence of the previous awful Labour government. However, it is possible that a heavy electoral price may be exacted of the Liberal Democrats, according to the opinion polls, for their participation in the coalition government. I think this is grossly unfair, because at least they have helped save us from the disaster of another Labour government, something I am very happy about.

Nominations for the May 2015 general election have of course not yet closed, but so far (as at the time of writing) the 3 major UK national parties, Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats, plus the SNP and and the Green Party have chosen their candidates, but there may well be more candidates declared before nominations close. You can see the currently-known candidates in the YourNextMP website here:
- Alexander, Danny (Liberal Democrats);
- Hendry, Drew (Scottish National Party [SNP]);
- Mountain, Edward (Conservative Party);
- O'Reilly, Isla Macleod (Scottish Green Party);
- Robb, Mike (Labour Party).

Normally my voting decision would be pretty straightforward, I would vote for Edward Mountain for the Conservatives or perhaps abstain; basically I am a Conservative, but am no longer a member as a result of earlier anti-gay policies during the leadership of William Hague MP and his successor Iain Duncan Smith MP and, to a lesser extent during the leadership of the Scottish Conservatives of the late David McLetchie. However, although I have not rejoined the Conservatives as a member, their earlier anti-gay policies have been abandoned and replaced by an altogether more positive range of policies and actions, even if some of their MPs and MSPs remain as anti-gay as ever they were; within Scotland (the area that obviously concerns me most directly) there are a number of similarly and notoriously anti-gay SNP MSPs, a fact that the SNP doesn't really like to talk about and whenever the topic has been raised by me in the past I have been howled down by irate SNP supporters (aka 'dupes' and/or 'shameless apologists)'. Their are fewer similar Labour and no or almost no Liberal Democrats, to the best of my knowledge. Of course, there are other issues beyond 'gay rights', I readily accept, but this is a matter of such fundamental importance for basic human rights that I make no apology for awarding it a certain prominence - tough if anyone reading this takes issue!

Beyond that of course, I am for free enterprise and against any form of 'socialism' or 'collectivism' because 'socialism' and similar philosophies have produced such abysmal results wherever in the world they have been tried, it really is the archetypal 'dead parrot' of political philosophies so far as I am concerned! (with acknowledgement to 'Monty Python').

Anyway, where does this leave me and my voting decision for the forthcoming general election? I could vote for the Conservative Edward Mountain quite happily, but being realistic he is likely to garner only between 13 and 16% of the vote (worst and best case scenarios based on recent history) and is 'highly unlikely' to be elected as our next MP, even if he manages to increase the vote somewhat; that is the harsh reality, sadly; here is the result at the 2010 general election to illustrate this. So under an FPTP system those 6 to 7 or 8,000 votes are effectively wasted. The two likely realistic alternativea to the Liberal Democrats in this constituency are Labour or the SNP (formerly we had a Labour MP and our current MSP is from the SNP, for example); I would find either very unpalatable, but based on recent opinion polls the main 'danger' seems to come from the SNP and I certainly wish to avoid that outcome at all costs - so my present intention would be, through somewhat gritted teeth, to vote for Danny Alexander of the Liberal Democrats. The question that those who would normally vote Conservative need to ask themselves is - do you really want to see the SNP (or potentially Labour) win in this constituency? Given that it is highly unlikely (i.e. next to impossible) that a Conservative can realistically have any hope of winning here, would you rather have one of the unholy duo of the SNP or Labour win or would it not be less unpalatable to have a Liberal Democrat instead? Honestly? I know some will find my arguments anathema - but don't come complaining to me on the morning of Friday 8th May 2015 if instead we have an SNP or Labour MP, when some of the usual 6 or 7,000 Conservative votes could have been more usefully directed to the Liberal Democrats. I have never met Edward Mountain and if I thought he had a realistic chance of winning would happily vote for him, so I hope he will forgive me for writing so candidly about my feelings.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

My attitude to "junk" and unsolicited mail

Like most folks, I receive my fair share of junk and unsolicited mail of various kinds; one good thing that has come out of the economic downturn that has affected many parts of the world since 2007/2008 is that the volume of spurious commercial junk mail has lessened considerably.

Another major category of unsolicited mail is political leaflets. For some years I have "immortalised" these in my blog, irrespective of the source, because although I have quite partisan political views, I see no reason not to acknowledge in my own fashion all such propaganda. However, my strong feeling is that I cannot imagine that anyone's voting decision has been or will ever be swayed by political leafleting. So the question is, why do political Parties utilise their funds in this way? I can only imagine they have been seduced by the peddlers of dreams, because I doubt there is much empirical evidence that this expenditure has much if any effect

Saturday, 31 January 2015

My take on the "Gay Pardons" campaign

A campaign to "pardon" about 49,000 men who were convicted under laws outlawing male homosexuality (no such law ever existed for females) has recently begun to achieve a much higher profile than formerly, specially since the brilliant code-breaker Alan Turing was the object of a public "unequivocal apology" by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP in 2009, then in 2013 he was granted a Royal Pardon by Her Majesty the Queen. Alan Turing died by suicide in 1954, after having been convicted of "gross indecency" in 1952 and offered a choice of prison or "chemical castration" as punishment for his crime (i.e. what was considered a crime at the time).

The basis of the campaign, apart from being a desire to right a wrong, or "gross indecency" (geddit? -Ed) in fact in the law then and its application, is because it is contended (rightly in my view) that every person convicted under this unfair law was just as wronged by it as was Alan Turing. A new film production of the life of Alan Turing, called The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch who plays the role of Alan Turing, has obviously raised the profile of this historic injustice.

So, what do I think of all this? Well I am generally in favour of the campaign, although I have certain reservations about it and similar pardons for other historic injustices. Specifically, Alan Turing was driven to commit suicide in 1954 by the atrocious treatment meted out to him. Comforting as it may be to some of his family now living for this recognition of the wrong he suffered, he is himself no longer in a position to care one way or the other. A wrong has been done which can NEVER be righted, however many times a government of our time says "sorry" or Her Majesty grants a Pardon, no doubt issued on the recommendation of the government in place in 2013 under David Cameron, as it tries to make amends.

The same applies to any of the other 49,000 who are, like Alan Turing, dead. If any of these individuals are still alive then a Royal Pardon might have some real value to them, but for those of them who are dead it serves no real purpose, other than to try and salve the conscience of "the country" collectively. As readers here know, I am a cynical soul, so I cannot refrain from pointing out that one of the principal reasons, in my opinion, for waiting until most or all of these individuals are dead is because compensation claims can be avoided. Granting the Pardon during a person's lifetime would almost inevitably leave the government open to substantial compensation claims.

I feel the same about other historic apologies or Pardons where those directly affected are no longer alive (e.g. US citizens of Japanese descent automatically interned during WWII without looking at individual cases, similar internments of German citizens here during WWII, including some Jewish people who had fled Germany to save their lives).

No, what would be of more value, would be cessation of certain government policies today that are just as awful, for example the repatriation of asylum seekers who are gay to countries where homosexuality is not tolerated, with the near certainty that such people will be abused or in extreme cases even executed in their home countries:
- Two gay asylum seekers deported from UK (a case from 2008);
- Ugandan woman branded by iron over sexuality faces deportation from UK (a case from 2011);
- Report tells Home Office: Don’t ask gay asylum seekers ‘sexually explicit questions’ (report from October 2014).
(Whilst I accept it may be difficult to ascertain fully if claims by an asylum-seeker that he or she is homosexual and in genuine fear of returning back to their home country for that reason are true, we know enough about the policies and practices in many of the relevant countries to be sure of what would probably happen if their homosexuality were to be discovered; telling someone to "behave discreetly" so as not to draw attention to himself or herself is laughable and insulting. It seems that the desire of mainstream political parties of the left and right to placate the "anti-immigration lobby" and political Parties such as UKIP is perhaps making our government blur the lines of what is acceptable.)

In summary, it is all very well for our government to issue rather meaningless apologies and Pardons to people who are for the most part dead, but a more concrete illustration of a real change in behaviour would be the righting of current rather than historic wrongs as they relate to homosexuals. In other words, by all means Talk the Talk, but you must also Walk the Walk.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Paris Terrorist Outrage

(Please see UPDATE at end)



An attack on well-known satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has killed at least 12 people, including the editor and 3 other cartoonists and 2 police officers, with at least 4 seriously and a number of others less-gravely injured. It has been reported that two (later amended to three) gunmen used assault-rifles to kill those in the office before engaging in a gunfight with police outside and using a vehicle to escape, later found abandoned in a northern Paris street. The magazine obviously lampoons many targets, but it seems clear that its satirical cartoons mocking Moslem extremists have provoked this latest awful outrage. Free speech must be defended and maintained and terrorists not permitted to prevail!

Fuller details may be read in the BBC website here, with a regularly updated news and comment feed here.

I have added this awful outrage to the permanent memorial page in my personal website; the list of crimes marked there grows ever longer unfortunately.

UPDATE (Sunday 11JAN2014 14.15 GMT) Events moved swiftly after the first killings on 7th January, so this update attempts to summarise concisely the events of the next two days until resolution of the initial and later outrages was achieved. Summary - death toll in 4 separate locations; 17 victims and 3 of the terrorists. It began on 7th January with an attack on well-known satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed, including the editor and 3 other cartoonists and 2 police officers, with a further 11 injured. The attack was carried out by two Moslem extremist gunmen and after a hide-and-seek operation across a wide area north-east of Paris, two were cornered in a printing works in Dammartin-en-Göele (Seine-et-Marne) and very close to the main Paris airport of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle two days later; they were killed by police when they exited the building firing weapons. On 8th January a police officer was shot dead in the Paris suburb of Montrouge by one or two terrorists. On 9th January, two different terrorists took hostages in a Kosher (i.e. Jewish) grocery store, resulting in the deaths of 4 of the hostages. One of these two terrorists was shot dead, the other has escaped and is being searched for although various reports indicate she may already have left France and perhaps have travelled to Syria. Free speech must be defended and maintained and terrorists not permitted to prevail by intimidating us into silence!