Friday, October 19, 2007

From Her To Modernity

If you live long enough, you can move from a different world ...

Deborah Kerr's image was of a refined, lady-like and level-headed person - the perfect English rose. She never liked the image, not least because she was born in Scotland. Within a few years, her family moved to the south of England, and she went to boarding school in Bristol. At first she studied for the ballet, but then decided on acting. An aunt taught drama in Bristol, and it was from her that she learned her stagecraft. Just before World War II, she had walk-on parts at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park in London.

To modern Britain ...

A man has been charged with murdering the 78-year-old brother of Hollywood actress Deborah Kerr. Retired journalist Edmund Trimmer died on Monday after an alleged assault outside a post office in West Heath, Birmingham, on Tuesday lunchtime. Mr Trimmer, who was known as Ted, was the former managing editor of Birmingham-based Central News.

It turned out that her brother was killed because somebody's wing mirror may have been clipped.

Mr Trimmer was attacked in Middlemore Road, Northfield, on August 23 last year after pulling up to post a letter at his local post office. Timothy Raggatt, QC, prosecuting, said Mr Trimmer had gone out in his Rover and there had been a "trivial" incident involving his vehicle and an Escort van driven by Warwood, which may have involved their wing mirrors clipping. Warwood, a grandfatherof-five, is alleged to have suffered six similar incidents in the previous 18 months and "saw red". It was also suggested Mr Trimmer may have inadvertently taken a parking space from Warwood.

Whatever the reason, Mr Raggatt said, it was " unutterably trivial". He added: "No one suggests that Mr Trimmer showed any semblance of resistance, hostility or violence to Mr Warwood." Mr Trimmer was knocked out with the punch and suffered a broken jaw. He died of a brain haemorrhage.

The killer, one Eugene Warwood, was convicted of manslaughter, not murder. No way anyone could have predicted that smashing a 78-year old in the face could kill them. Mr Warwood was "disabled", which I presume translates as "in receipt of disability benefits". He got a whole three and a half years (1 year 9 months to you and me). Apparently "Judge John Saunders said the length of sentence was based on guidance from the Court of Appeal in previous, similar cases" - but it was obviously too much for killing an elderly stranger in an unprovoked attack. On appeal it was reduced by a year. So it boils down to 15 months for killing an old man because you thought he clipped your mirror.

The Court of Appeal in London ruled yesterday that the original sentence could not stand and imposed a new term of two-and-a-half years. During the appeal against sentence before Lord Justice Keene and two other judges it was argued by counsel on Warwood's behalf that the three-and-a-half years was "manifestly excessive".

I try not to be vindictive. But I actually have a greater desire for bad things to happen to the aptly-named Mr Justice Gross than I wish them on Mr Warwood.

Mr Justice Gross said the aggravating factors in the case included the fact that the incident arose out of road rage, Warwood had struck an elderly victim with a blow of "significant force" and had not given any assistance.

You're OK so far, judge.

On the other hand, he said, the mitigating factors included Warwood's age, his early guilty plea and "the question of whether sufficient credit was given for that", his disability and "the fact that the offence was out of character".

Warwood's age ? He was 55 ! Too young to know what he was doing, perhaps ? Or prematurely senile ? It looks as if that band of life called 'the age of responsibility' is narrowing all the time.

Mr Justice Gross concluded: "Having anxiously considered the matter and having regard to the various matters of mitigation, not least the appellant's own physical condition, his plea and the fact that this was an offence where the consequences outstripped the intention, we are driven to conclude that the sentence cannot stand.

The defendant's own physical condition ? He was fit enough to kill an old guy with one punch. Receipt of disability benefit is not proof of disability. And as for "this was an offence where the consequences outstripped the intention", that had already been taken into account when the original murder charge was replaced with manslaughter. Let's hope the judge meets Mr Warwood's little brother when he next pops down to the stockbrokers.