Saturday, July 12, 2008

And On The 12th I Love To Wear ...

An exceedingly large Lambeg drum.

I've always been a sucker for pipes and drums of whatever form, although the bagpipes are my favourite (Bonnie Dundee ! That tune could raise an army). I love the clipped, military side drum style.

I wonder if there's a music package that emulates a flute band ? It seems to me that the style lends itself to being adapted to all sorts of silly tunes. I'd feel a bit nervous about asking these guys (watch Skilly, the amazing baton man) to take a stab at "Hips Don't Lie", for example - but on a computer one could try it out. Failing that, my daughter plays the flute and we have a half-size drum kit in the house !

How We Saved The Estate

Poll Pot thinks we need to throw a few more tens of millions at it.

Nightjack thinks that won't work.

However, he has an "evidence based", "what works" solution of the kind beloved by pointy-heads everywhere. I think. Read the whole thing.

The Way We Were ...

From Paul Stott's blog. Polly Toynbee please take note of Commandment 7.

Used in Socialist Sunday Schools around 1900, and committed to memory by the children.

1. Love your school companions, who will be your co-workers in life.

2. Love learning, which is the food of the mind, be as grateful to your teachers as to your parents.

3. Make every day holy by good and useful deeds, and kindly actions.

4. Honour good men and women, be courteous to all; and bow down to none.

5. Do not hate or speak evil of anyone; do not be revengeful, but stand up for your rights and resist oppression.

6. Do not be cowardly. Be a friend to the weak, and love justice.

7. Remember that all good things of the earth are produced by labour. Whoever enjoys them without working for them is stealing the bread of the workers.

8. Observe and think in order to discover the truth. Do not believe what is contrary to reason, and never deceive yourself or others.

9. Do not think that they who love their own country must hate and despise other nations, or wish for war, which is a remnant of barbarism.

10. Look forward to the day when all men and women will be free citizens of one community, and live together as equals in peace and righteousness.

Taken (a/c/t Paul) from "The Bolton Socialist Club & Party 1886-2005 - Celebrating 100 Years at Wood Street" by Lancashire social historian Denis Pye.

Sorry I'm Late

Trouble at mill down Harry's way. Now is the time for all good men etc etc.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Churchill's Education

The song about the wonderful giants of old is a Harrow school song and one of Churchill's favourites. I pinched the lyrics from this fine essay on Churchill's education.

(and while googling for it I also found it quoted by a Somali Harrovian)

One As Bad As The Other ?

More moral equivalence - from the Telegraph, of all places.

Still, at least Ehud Olmert isn't actually eating babies.

(via Adloyada. While she might be reading too much into the protagonists attitudes (I'm sure I've seen that 'in the pool of streetlight' iconography before - West Side Story ?), the general thrust of her criticism is pretty spot-on)

Deborah Orr - "maybe they're fat, poor and lazy ..."

"... because they're thick"

Hmmm. Certainly not a view you'll see often in an Indie column.

When it comes to nature/inheritance vs nurture/culture in all its different guises, IMHO its a case of more or less, not either/or. From just looking around, it's likely that to an extent bright parents will have bright kids and vice-versa - yet we all know bright parents with not-so-bright kids and not-so-clever ones with clever kids. You see this as a parent and governor. And as a governor it's wonderful to see a child from a poor background who shines like a star in the classroom, and makes you think 'there's no limit to what this child can achieve'. That feeling must be doubled and redoubled if you're his/her teacher.

But of course there may be limits. If that child goes to a dreadful secondary school, or starts to hang out with the wrong crowd at adolescence, all that potential may be unfulfilled - and I'd have thought that would break a teacher's heart.

Which is - or was - where grammar schools came in. A hundred and fifty years or more ago, class determined your future and only a determined or fortunate minority of the poor could succeed. I don't know if anyone did the research, or how they'd do it if they did, but you'd assume that intelligence was spread much more evenly over the whole population. Certainly the great Victorian flowering of autonomous working class institutions, from the trades unions and friendly societies to the Co-Ops and clubs, triggered by mass literacy, supports that idea.

Free education, grammar schools and university grants changed all that - although as late as the 1930s poverty in its purest sense was still holding children back. My mother had to leave school at 16 to help bring money in, despite being a very bright student. I look at her school notebooks and her teenage annotations in her prize copy of Palgrave's Golden Treasury and marvel at the high educational standards prevailing in a Welsh grammar. She only made it to teacher training college after the war, on a grant given for her war service in the WAAF.

I'm sure someone must have argued by now that the grammar schools moved a lot of working class children into the middle classes, and that a chunk of the reduced social mobility is down to the cleverest having been already taken. Yet while there may be some truth in that, I still see a lot of bright kids from poor families who I know would do much better in a grammar than a comp. So what if there are a lot of middle-class kids there ? And the point is that while there may be a hereditable component in intelligence, it's only one factor - chance or things we don't know about yet also play a part. The supply of bright kids from ordinary working families is in no danger of drying up (as long as we continue to have kids, of course - another topic). It's the supply of bright, well-educated kids that worries me.

UPDATE - a couple of links I forgot to mention :

Assortative mating - see this by Arnold Kling and this by David Brooks. The irony is that feminism may have increased inequality, as high-IQ females in high-status, high-income jobs choose high-IQ partners in high-status, high-income jobs.

Middle-class IQ - Bruce Charlton (note the idiotic and dishonest comments by Education minister Bill Rammell) and Chris McManus (note ditto by Health minister Ben Bradshaw and the Telegraph headline writer, who should be sacked)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What Laban said ...

... last time ... and the time before that.

"There were wonderful giants of old"

After nearly fifteen years, and thanks to these people (why not donate ?) and the thousands who have already donated, the Avro Vulcan flies again. It was greeted by 125,000 people at RAF Waddington last Saturday, and will inshallah be at Fairford near Cirencester this weekend (under-16s are free, massive show with loads to see and do, grand day out if you like big boys toys).

Yesterday a whole host of RAF jets were flying in formation towards Fairford, preparing for the Queen's display on Friday to mark the 90th aniversary of the RAF. You'd think for a short while even Philip Booth might consider paying his respects to the successors of the people who saved us in 1940. I agree with him about many things - we both wish to save the beautiful Severn estuary and its magnificent Bore from destruction by barrage, and we both like the Purton hulks. But while I agree that chucking huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, as so many Guardianistas do (we've had two flying holidays in 18 years) is in general a bad thing, there must be some beauty and grace in the world. And if that beauty and grace is also awesome, so be it.

There were wonderful giants of old you know,
There were wonderful giants of old
They grew more mightily, all of a row,
than ever was heard or told
All of them stood their six feet four,
And they threw to a hundred yards or more,
And never were lame or stiff or sore,
And we, compared to the days of yore, are cast in a pygmy mould
For all of we, whoever we be, come short of the giants of old, you see.
For all of we, whoever we be, come short of the giants of old.

"I am 16"

Therefore I didn't do it.

The teenager was arrested within a week of her death and a search of his home found a dog lead belonging to her, which was stained with her blood. Forensic tests also confirmed that her blood was on the teenager's training shoes and a barbell used to kill her, which matched one found at his home.


"I have told you I have no knowledge of this girl. You can ask me the same question but I will keep telling you the same thing," the teenager said during police questioning. "I am no murderer. I would not murder anybody. If I did I would not be standing here. I would top myself first ... It has been, like, tough, for three days now. I am 16, I am locked up with people telling me I have murdered someone ... This is beyond a joke. I am 16, I have got a job on Fridays, I enjoy the weekends and I party with my friends ... I am trying to be honest, but I do not know what the hell you are on yourself ... It makes me disgusted - I cannot believe that my name is down there for murder. I am upset ... I feel this is disgusting that I can basically be questioned like this... I would not be out of my house the next day laughing and smiling with my friends, partying basically... I am not a murderer, I would not have a clue. What would a murderer do, do you know what I mean. It's berserk."

Hmmm. In fairness, when you're 16 the world does tend to revolve around you. It's the mixture of truculence and self-pity that strikes me. But what about that evidence ?

The jury heard how during days of initial questioning by detectives after his arrest, the youth did not mention the lead. In police statements read out in court, officers then told him it had been found at his home and that the blood on it came from Ms Hyde. During the police interview the youth replied: "I do apologise. I panicked. I should have said from the start that I picked it up." He said he had discovered it while out walking along the bridle path where Ms Hyde was attacked, adding he had taken it home "and forgot about it."


Officers also questioned him about blood stains on his Lonsdale trainers, which, tests showed, had also come from Ms Hyde. But he was adamant he had not seen any blood on the path. He told detectives: "I walked the path and now I'm here for murder. There is something wrong here." He demanded that police test the paws of his own dog, and the hooves of a horse he had seen on the bridle path, to see if they had also walked through blood without anyone realising it.

He demanded ? There is something wrong here, isn't there ?

In an interview, the transcript of which was read out in court, the teen said he had seen the lead lying on the path as he returned from walking his own dog. He also claimed for the first time that he spotted a small amount of blood nearby. "When I walked down the path I did see blood and picked up the dog lead and put it in my pocket," he said. "I thought I had just found a dog lead." He told interviewers that when he heard of Kelly's murder three days after his discovery he did not come forward because he feared that he would be blamed. He also maintained he must have walked through a pool of the victim's blood as he made his way home. When told that more than 40 officers had conducted a fingertip search of the area and been unable to find a single drop of blood he said he could offer no further explanation. "Why would there be blood on my trainers?" he asked interviewers.

Why indeed ? I imagine that there's a bit of a backstory to this young man, which we'll find out about with one verdict, and not otherwise. There's a bit here.

The boy told officers that he had got out of bed at around 10.30am, ate breakfast and watched part of the police comedy movie Hot Fuzz. He said that although he was feeling a little under the weather he was delighted when his step-father received a phone call offering the teen work the following day ... He said that he left the house at around 11.40am to take his dog for a walk and to secretly smoke a cannabis joint away from his home. He claimed that he walked along the bridleway just metres from where Kelly's battered body would eventually be discovered. The teen said that he reached a concrete bridge some distance beyond the bridlepath where he smoked the joint and then returned home the same way.

Not every dope-smoking, unemployed teenager is a murderer, or there'd be an awful lot of them. But Huw Davies QC appears to be playing a pretty thin hand.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

You Learn Something New Every Day

Adultery is illegal in the Phillippines.

A Wiltshire man has gone on the run in Thailand after being sentenced to jail in the Philippines for breaking the country's strict adultery laws. David Scott, who fled to Thailand with his Filipina partner Cynthia Delfino, was facing a nine year prison sentence. Cynthia Delfino had separated from her husband when she met David Scott and they now have a baby daughter, Janina. South Swindon MP, Anne Snelgrove, said he had grounds for a compassionate case and is helping him to get visas. Under Philippine law it is illegal to have a relationship with a married man or woman, even if they are separated.

Nine years, eh ? It's illegal in Korea too. (And in Islamic countries, where the penalties can include death by stoning - as they did in New Testament Israel). I'm pretty sure it would have been illegal in Commonwealth days, too (apparently a capital offence under Cromwell).

While the Puritans appeared to take a loose position on fornication they severely punished adultery and they executed homosexuals.

I said the Taleban were modern Puritans !

I suppose it could be worse ...

... just about.

Seventeen-year-old Heather Trujillo was given an 18-year suspended sentence in the death of 7-year-old Zoe Garcia. However, she must spend six years in the youth offender program. If she does not violate the terms of her plea deal, she will not have to spend any time in prison. Trujillo will be sent to a facility in Pueblo, where she will stay until her six-year sentence is complete.

Trujillo did not speak at Wednesday's hearing, but spent most of the time crying.

Trujillo and her boyfriend, 17-year-old Lamar Roberts, told police they were acting out the video game "Mortal Kombat," when they kicked, karate chopped and body slammed the little girl in December 2007. Garcia later died of her injuries.

Have a nice day, y'all !

Monday, July 07, 2008

Things Fall Apart, the Centre Cannot Hold ...

It looks as if the plans are being put in place for when it all goes pearshaped :

7. At the same time we need to recognise that community tensions can escalate into violent disorder and that short-term and possibly unpredicted factors, in this country or abroad, have the potential to trigger conflict in normally cohesive communities. These factors may include a racially or religiously motivated assault, an act of terrorism, or military conflict.

8. Arrangements for monitoring and responding to rises in community tension already occupy an important place in ongoing local community cohesion activity. The Government believes that it is vital for every local authority and its partners to consider developing a local cohesion contingency plan which sets out the roles, responsibilities and processes to be activated should local community tensions be assessed as likely to result in serious violence or disturbance and in the event of actual disorder occurring.
The good news is that local authorities in general, and NuLab in particular, are legendarily incompetent.

This ghastly bureaucratic questionnaire reminds us of those mentioned in the satire The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek.

The similarities between the incompetent police state bureaucracy just before the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the First World War, and that which has been instituted by the failing Labour regime and with its "Community Cohesion" snooping and "intervention", are remarkable...

In the satirical novel, the bureaucratic Sergeant Flanderka mistakes The Good Soldier Švejk for an enemy Russian rather than a Czech soldier, and, in order to make himself appear more important to his superiors, even exaggerates this mistake by convincing himself that Švejk must actually be an elite high ranking Russian officer spy.

We expect that exactly the same will happen with this "tension monitoring" nonsense. Either people will just "go through the motions" and tick all the "everything is ok here" boxes, or else some apparatchik, ambitious for promotion, or fearful of having their funding cut back, will exaggerate and invent "community tension" where none actually exists, to cast themselves in a good light.

Will such Local Authority "little Hitlers" be tempted to make disproportionate use of their Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act powers for Communications Traffic Data and Directed Surveillance, using "tension monitoring" as an excuse ?.

Yup. (via the Englishman)

UPDATE - it's interesting to see the successful application of media pressure. Local authorities are among the biggest advertisers in local papers, so it wouldn't take more than a phone call or two to get the message across.

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council - Tameside holds regular meetings with local newspaper editors to gather information and stop sensationalist reporting which might otherwise start or add to rising tensions, e.g. in response to a Kick Racism out of Football campaign, an extremist political group wanted to picket a local football stadium. A local newspaper was going to print the story on its front page – an action that was likely to bring unwanted publicity to the picket and fuel rising community tensions. The intervention of the Community Cohesion Partnership prevented the story from being run and in the event no-one turned out for the picket.

Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Council - The Berwick Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) is working with the local press/media to vet stories involving migrant workers from eastern Europe and Portugal employed in the food processing and agricultural sectors to prevent stigmatisation.
Can't say plainer than that, can you ? And how about this ?

Monitoring political extremism
60. Local tension monitoring may take specific account of activities by members of any political group which increase community tension.
61. It is important that the gathering and use of such information complies with any legislation which might be relevant (for example the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 1998).
Now I seem to recall that RIPA was sold to the Great British Public as a means of preventing terrorism and organised crime, not for monitoring "activities by members of any political group". Silly me.

I Merely Report ...

because I'm lost for words ...

Scrub clearance work on Bristol Downs has raised concerns among some gay men who use the area for sex, the city council has said. The authority's lesbian, gay and bisexual advisory group said the action was "potentially discriminating".

Work on the Circular Road above Avon Gorge would open up the area to wildlife and visitors, the council said. The Terrence Higgins Trust said it was in talks with the police and council. Plans to clear the overgrown landscape follow consultations three years ago, when some Downs users complained about "inappropriate sexual activity".

A meeting of the Bristol Downs Committee on Monday was told: "Concerns were expressed by the city council's lesbian, gay and bisexual group that this action was potentially discriminating against gay and bisexual men whose activities on this part of the Downs were objected to by other members of the local community and Downs users."

Head of parks Peter Wilkinson said the council had strong equality policies to protect the interests of all groups, irrespective of their sexuality. "The general public are unhappy about people taking part in lewd behaviour in public spaces, whether it's between men and women or people of the same sex," he said. "We are working together with the Terrence Higgins Trust to make sure any work we will do is sensitive. We're making sure people know what we are doing so we are not seen to be discriminating."

Although having sex in a public place could give rise to a criminal charge such as indecent exposure, police have said they are unlikely to investigate unless a formal complaint is made.

A Solid Prediction

Mr Eugenides on the forthcoming Glasgow East by-election.

This is all about Labour and the SNP. The Tories and Lib Dems are nowhere in Glasgow East, despite both fielding able candidates. Predictions are a mug's game, so I repeat mine; the SNP will not win this seat. I simply don't believe they can. Even if the RAF sent a bomber with a Labour rosette painted on its tailfin to level Celtic Park with a carpet of cluster bombs, each one festooned with a Union flag, these bastards would still win (though they would at least have my vote).

I don't know enough about the area, other than that it's a smack-ridden disaster zone full of homicidal maniacs on disability benefit, to make a prediction.

Well Strike A Light ...

The Guardian does its bit for the struggle against fascism.

(hat-tip - CommanderKeen in the comments to this post)

"We are not a country crying out to be run by old Etonians"

So sayeth the Hon Jaqueline Ashley, daughter of an MP and life peer (Rosebery Grammar, Epsom - state selective at the time - now admission via postode - not exactly ASBO Comprehensive), wife to Andrew Marr (Loretto, private).

Let's take a look at the Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy High - state Scottish) cabinet. Gordo himself had a highly selective and academic state education and was at Uni when he was 16.

Alistair Darling (Loretto, private)

David Miliband (Haverstock comp - 3 B's and a D)

Jack Straw (Brentwood, private boarding)

Jacqui Smith (Dyson Perrins, comp)

Des Browne (St Michaels, Kilwinning, Catholic Scottish)

Alan Johnson (Sloane Grammar, Chelsea - state selective)

Hilary Benn (Holland Park comp)

Wee Dougie Alexander (Park Mains High, state Scottish and United World Colleges, private - scholarship)

John Hutton (Westcliff High, state selective)

Harriet Harman (St Pauls Hammersmith, private)

Peter Hain (Pretoria Boys High School, private)

James Purnell (Royal Grammar, Guildford - private)

Paul Murphy (West Monmouth school - state selective when he went there - it's actually a spin-off of the private Monmouth school)

Ruth Kelly (Millfield prep, Sutton Girls High and Westminster - all private)

Hazel Blears (Wardley Grammar School - state selective)

Geoff Hoon (Nottingham High School - private)

Ed Balls (Nottingham High School - private) Ed Miliband (Haverstock comp)

Andy Burnham (St Aelred's Roman Catholic High School - Catholic comp)

Shaun Woodward (Bristol Grammar School - private)

Cathy Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland (unknown - anyone know ?)

Yvette Cooper (Eggar's School, state comp)

So of the 21 our of 22 members of Gordo's cabinet we know about

9 went to public school

4 to selective grammar schools - the schools they don't want your kids to go to

2 to Scottish state-funded schools - which are generally much more internally competetive than English schools

6 went to comprehensives - and of these, two were the sons of an eminent professor (admittedly a Marxist), one the son of a Cabinet minister (admittedly a Marxist lunatic). Yvette Cooper is the daughter of the chairman of the British Nuclear Industry Forum and former general secretary of the Prospect trades union.

Only Andy Burnham and Jacqui Smith could be said to have risen from ordinary families to cabinet status via the comprehensive system.

Ain't the Labour classless society wonderful ?

(see also the educational backgrounds of Guardian journalists and 20th century Prime Ministers).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

"The garotting panic of 1862"

After some particularly hideous crime or series of crimes you can usually rely on a pro-criminal or anti-prison campaigner to pop up repeating the famous liberal 'moral panic' mantra, the basic theme of which is Ecclesiastes 1:9. Worried about x ? Well, people were worried about x as far back as ccyymmdd, and the sky didn't fall in. (You won't be completely surprised to find that the actual evidence for x back in ccyymmdd is usually remarkably difficult to find - for example, try finding any hard figures for the number of people killed by "Glasgow's notorious razor gangs". I seem to remember reading somewhere that about two or three people were killed in a ten-year period - stats that the current gangs could knock off in a few weeks.) Given the current news, I'm surprised CiF hasn't found a tame criminologist from the University of Gloucester (formerly Tredworth Sports and Social Club) to tell us about Glesga razor gangs or quote Grahame Greene at us. Give them time.

A year or two back criminologist David Wilson of the University of Central England (formerly The Breedon Bar, Cotteridge) mentioned the hitherto unknown to me Garotting Panic of 1862.

The "garotting panic" was in reality a response to a new phenomenon that Londoners had to come to terms with: the return of released prisoners into the community, which until the 1860s had not been something that was often experienced, given that most offenders had in the past been transported to Australia. And, of course, if you were transported to the other side of the world in the 1840s, 50s and 60s there was little chance that you would actually return to your native city, and so offenders were out of sight and out of mind.

The end of transportation therefore pushed prisons and released prisoners into the public eye, and crime committed by released prisoners - called "ticket of leave men" - were a staple of the Victorian media.

Very helpfully, the pro-criminal campaigning group (aka 'crime reduction charity') NACRO (National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) have produced a handy pdf of panics called The Dynamics of Panic, featuring contributions from anti-punishment activist Richard Garside and Professor Peter King of the University of Northampton (formerly Bellinge Community Centre) , who writes as follows - but first I must mention his opening line, which should give you an idea where he's coming from. Would you ever guess that "Pete" started life as a social worker ?

"Very few people have much direct experience of crime ..."
Well, would you believe it ? It's 2008 everywhere else, but in the King cranium it'll always be 1972. This guy is paid by the taxpayer to be an expert on crime. I read what he wrote - I read it again - and I still can't quite believe what's in front of my eyes. Bit like the good professor really - he obviously has the same difficulty.

I digress. Take it away, "Pete" !

The garotting panic of 1862

One of the best studies of this pattern (of moral panic - LT) is Davis’s work on the 1862 garotting panic (2) . On 17 July 1862, Hugh Pilkington MP was accosted after leaving the House of Commons. He was choked, struck on the head and relieved of his watch. In the parlance of the times, he was ‘garotted’. The press immediately began to fan the flames of panic. Two days later, the Spectator reported that ‘Highway robbery is becoming an institution in London and roads like the Bayswater Road are as unsafe as Naples.’

The press quickly built up a picture of garotters as ‘folk devils’. They were 'degenerate, coarse, brutal ruffians’, ‘a race of hardened villains’, ‘a species … of ... profound enemies of the human race’ and ‘an irredeemable criminal class’. Minor events were turned into garotting incidents. Indeed, some crimes were literally created by the panic. One unfortunate man walking home on a foggy night thought someone was following him and feared he was about to be mugged. He turned round and attacked his pursuer who was in fact innocently walking home the same way. This was reported as a dangerous mugging.

This panic was further fuelled by the police, who used it for their own purposes. They arrested many more men than usual as ‘suspicious characters and reputed thieves’ and expanded the definition of garotting itself. In one court case the police described a pub brawl as a garotting because they wanted the thieves involved taken off the streets. In another case, a policeman arrested John Boney Redwood for stealing £2, but also ‘imagined’ seeing him knocking his very drunken victim down. Redwood could see what was coming. ‘I know there have been a great many garotte robberies about’, he remarked, ‘and now you have me I suppose I must suffer for it.’ He got 10 years’ penal servitude rather than a few weeks in gaol.

Magistrates also tended to redefine minor crimes – such as pickpocketing – as garottings, and to send them on to the major courts. The result was a rise in reported violent street robberies, which in turn fuelled further panic. According to the metropolitan returns, the figure rose threefold from an average of 32.5 robberies with violence in 1860-61 to 97 in 1862. The increase came only after Pilkington was attacked on 17 July. Up to that date only 15 cases had been reported. The moral panic was not caused by an increase in garottings. On the contrary, the rapid increase in the number of garottings recorded was caused by the moral panic.

This ‘crime wave’ resulted in more policing, the redefining of minor crimes as more serious offences and tougher sentencing in the courts. It also helped to produce a number of legislative changes. An Act was passed which temporarily reversed the long-term movement away from corporal punishment by reintroducing flogging, along with imprisonment, for all robbery with violence. A year later, stricter sentencing policies were introduced in a further Act. The trend towards greater severity continued in the Prisons Act 1865 and the Habitual Criminals Act 1869.

The garotting panic served the purpose of the advocates of longer sentences, tougher prison regimes, and less freedom for those paroled under the ‘ticket of leave’ system (not to mention the return to flogging). These ‘moral entrepreneurs’ (Cohen) rode on the back of a media-created crime wave to get the changes they wanted.

The panic reached its peak in November. Following the trial of 23 alleged garotters at the Old Bailey, it gradually faded in intensity. It had lasted for less than six months. The consequences for penal policy were to prove far reaching.

(2) Davis J (1980) ‘The London garotting panic of 1862: a moral panic and the creation of a criminal class in mid-Victorian England’ in Gatrell V et al (eds) Crime and the Law. The Social History of Crime in Western Europe since 1500 and see Sindall R (1990) Street Violence in the Nineteenth Century.

Well. There you go. All that moral panicking - because one innocent man was killed. You wouldn't want to see something like that happen again, would you ?

Mr King, being a professional criminologist, is an expert at not seeing the wood for the trees. To stupid uninformed Laban, the key text is this :

Magistrates also tended to redefine minor crimes – such as pickpocketing – as garottings, and to send them on to the major courts. The result was a rise in reported violent street robberies, which in turn fuelled further panic. According to the metropolitan returns, the figure rose threefold from an average of 32.5 robberies with violence in 1860-61 to 97 in 1862. The increase came only after Pilkington was attacked on 17 July.
I don't know how you have half a robbery, but look at that. From 33 robberies to 97 - and apparently some of those are pickpocketing offences. In a year.

Let's take a look at the Met's most recent crime figures, shall we ?

May, 2008. Robbery, Person.

2,496. In a month (and I see that homicide is up 80% on last year - 18 as against 10 - in a month, remember - and rape has nearly doubled in a year). That's about (ignoring any seasonal variation) 29,000 a year, as against 100 a year in 1862 .

Why go over all this ? Because in 2007 strangling strangers in robberies is hardly noticed. I don't remember any national TV or radio news about these killings at all. A few beers with mates, a stroll home from the pub - and death at the hands of predatory strangers.

Two South Africans who robbed and murdered two strangers and mugged a string of others while living in the UK on expired visas were jailed yesterday for a minimum of 30 years each. Gabriel Bhengu, 27, and Jabu Mbowane, 26, used their brute strength to grab seven victims in suffocating headlocks before robbing them.

Both men were so strong that two of their targets died in the attacks, while two others told police they felt they were going to die as they were held in headlocks. Bhengu, at 6ft 4in the taller and stronger of the pair, usually grabbed their victims while Mbowane rifled through their pockets, the court heard.

Both are known to have entered the UK legally, but their visas had expired by the time of the murders last April and the five other muggings. Mr Justice Goldring recommended they be deported on their release from their sentences for the murders of Neil Williams, 41, from Telford, Shropshire, and builder Andrew Owen, 42, from Sedgley, West Midlands.

They were killed 20 miles and ten days apart in April last year. Both had been walking home from nights out when they were grabbed round the neck.

Police linked the murders after Mr Williams's watch was found close to Mr Owen's body. Detectives believe one of the killers had been wearing the watch, which had fallen off as Mr Owen fought for his life. Mr Owen - a father-of-five - died from neck injuries as a result of the struggle, prosecutor Roger Smith QC told Wolverhampton Crown Court. Mr Williams died of heart failure. His beige jacket, gold neck chain, bracelet, ring, watch and mobile phone had all been taken from him - but the muggers missed £950 in cash in his trouser pocket.

They were arrested in May last year after visiting a pawnbrokers to try to sell Mr Owen's jewellery. The trial heard the pair, living in Witmore Reans, Wolverhampton, initially targeted women laden with shopping before switching their increasingly ferocious attentions to men. They had admitted mugging Mr Williams and Mr Owen but denied intending to harm them or carrying out the other robberies. But they were convicted of the two murders on Thursday following a five-week trial and returned to Wolverhampton Crown Court yesterday for sentencing.

Kashia Allen, 22, Bhengu's girlfriend-drove them to the robberies. She was cleared of Mr Owen's murder but convicted of manslaughter. Bhengu and Allen, also of Wolverhampton, were found guilty on five robbery. Mbowane was convicted of four robberies. Allen will be sentenced later.

Outside court, Mr Williams's brother, Paul, 46, claimed Bhengu had been arrested and held in custody for two weeks in 2004 for a minor offence but had not been deported. "At that time he was an overstayer...they could have got rid of him then," he said. "Unless they put the system right it's going to happen again." He called Bhengu and Mbowane "cowards and parasites".

Bad Boys, Good Mothers

Posted by: DNT WATCH DAT, ENDZ INIT on 5:23pm Fri 4 Jul 08




Posted by: unknown, ldn on 7:02pm Sat 5 Jul 08
the gal dat was with the youth set up shakilas.
she was goin to meet him but she brought them boys to beat him up.

Posted by: me, pettswood on 2:29pm Fri 4 Jul 08
"i am a mum of a 15 year boy ,i cant bear it when he gos out ,i am scared to death."

Posted by: Mother, South East London on 11:16pm Fri 4 Jul 08
"I know I'am not the only mother in this country that has a fear every time her child leaves the house..
I don't think Iam the only one who is forever on the phone to check and make sure they are alright.
The fear of god goes through me when one of them is late in because they were having a good time..
My children don't lead normal lifes in this country and many other youths do not due to the way the streets are here."

Posted by: A concerned Mum, Orpington on 12:12am Sat 5 Jul 08
I am also a mum of an 18 year old I hate every weekend not being able to sleep until I hear the door close behind him. "

Posted by: Tracey, Orpington on 11:18am Sat 5 Jul 08
"I am a mum of two teenagers. I worry all the time,but one of my sons doesnt realise why I am the way I am. When he goes out the door,will he back? Will he get hurt? Its not fair on us parents and the responsible teens to feel so scared about the way this sountry has turned into. I cant even let my youngest son out due to the outside world."

Posted by: anita, dartford on 9:58pm Sat 5 Jul 08
"I am also a mum of an 18 year old boy, and I bet there are many mothers out there that when their child goes up the pub or clubbing they lie awake until they hear that key in the door. It scares me rigid when they go out and yes I invariably ring them to make sure they are safe, and I have been known to pay for a cab whereever they are instead of getting a night bus. We parents shouldn't be made to feel like this."

Posted by: Bag Lady, Bromley on 10:08pm Sat 5 Jul 08
"I agree with you. Its like the good youngsters are under curfew. None of them (or even middle-aged me) would dare to walk the streets round here at night. These scumbags rule our streets, make us live in fear of going out at night, and our government and the courts are doing nothing to help us."

Murder map here. SW London looks the safest. See also this post.