Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Death

It's amazing how little publicity a murder can get. Some get the full BBC treatment - others get a couple of lines in a local paper.

If anyone knows anything else about the death in Bilston, Staffs of Irene Norman, or about her killer Donald Edward Benion, I'd be interested. What prompts a 37 year old man to attack his 84-year old neighbour and drown her in the bath ? Sort of thing a disturbed teenager might do. Poor lady.

I can find stuff here :

4th. December 2002


An 84-year-old woman has been found drowned in her home in the Black Country. Officers discovered Irene Norman at her address in Fairway Green, Stowlawn, Bilston, after a neighbour became worried and raised the alarm. A post-mortem into her death revealed she had also suffered facial injuries, said West Midlands Police.


A man has appeared at Wolverhampton Magistrates' Court charged with the murder of an 84-year-old woman who was found beaten and drowned in her home. Donald Benion was accused of killing Irene Norman at her home in Bilston. The 37-year-old father-of-two spoke only to confirm his personal details. He was remanded in custody and will reappear in court next week.

Various pay-links to Evening Mail stories at this site :

OAP, 84, killed for no reason.(News)
Birmingham Evening Mail (England); Apr 5, 2004; 105 Words ... hospital. Judge Frank Chapman told Donald Benion at Wolverhampton Crown Court: 'You killed ... robust old lady for no reason whatsoever.' Benion, 39, of Fairway Green, Bilston, admitted ... order. Rachel Brand QC, prosecuting, said Benion's mental problems were characterised by ...
A MAN who beat up his 84-year-old neighbour before drowning her in the bath has been told he will ...
OAP bath murder charge.(News)
Birmingham Evening Mail (England); Dec 6, 2002; 67 Words ... an elderly neighbour found drowned in her bath. Donald Edward Benion, 37, was remanded in custody at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court ... November 27. She had suffered facial injuries. Father-of-two Benion, of Fairway Green, Stowlawn, will appear at Wolverhampton Crown ...
Man on bath death charge.(News)
The Birmingham Post (England); Dec 6, 2002; 83 Words ... elderly neighbour who was found drowned in her bath. Donald Edward Benion (37) was remanded in custody at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court ... at her home in the Stowlawn area of the city on November 27. Benion, of Fairway Green, Stowlawn, was ordered to appear at Wolverhampton ...

And here :

Carers failed to spot killer

A HEALTH worker was unaware for more than a year that she had responsibility for a mentally ill patient who went on to kill a pensioner, a damning report found.

Irene Norman, aged 84, was drowned in the bath at her home in Bilston, Wolverhampton, by neighbour Donald Benion on November 27, 2002.

Benion admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility when he appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court in February 2004. Two months later he was sentenced and ordered to be detained indefinitely in a secure mental unit outside Wolverhampton.

A report to the NHS West Midlands board yesterday highlighted "a range of concerns that collectively allowed" Benion to fall out of contact with mental health services.

In September 2001 his care coordinator left the trust and his case was allocated to another care worker but, according to the inquiry, she did not become aware of this responsibility until October 2002, a month before he killed Mrs Norman.

The report - compiled by Consequence UK, Hampshire Part-nership NHS Trust and South West London and St George's NHS Trust - does not identify Mrs Norman or Benion, who it refers to as W1.

It says: "W1's care and management fell short of the standards one would have expected between September 2001 and November 27, 2002. Whilst there are no guarantees contact with W1 would have revealed any behaviour suggestive of an increase in risk factors, the fact he was not seen leaves this open to question."

Mrs Norman's granddaughter, Kerri John, yesterday criticised Wolverhampton Primary Care Trust and the SHA for delays in the report.

In a statement yesterday, she said: "Although the report has exceeded expectations and provides answers, I remain disappointed we had to be persistent to ensure the independent investigation occurred. It took me 16 months of phone calls and letter writing before the investigation was commissioned."

Wolverhampton PCT has drawn up an action plan in line with the raft of recommendations, primarily to improve training for care coordinators over care programmes.

And here :

A health worker did not know for more than a year she was supposed to be responsible for a mentally ill patient who became a crazed killer and drowned a Black Country pensioner, a damning report has revealed.

Widow Irene Norman, aged 84, was kicked and dragged into her bath by her neighbour Donald Benion in Stowlawn, Bilston, on November 27, 2002.

Benion will remain in a secure mental hospital for the rest of his life after pleading guilty to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility in February 2004.

An inquiry, which took 16 months of complaints by the victim’s family to be commissioned, revealed he received inadequate mental health care from Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT).

It highlighted “a range of concerns that collectively allowed” Benion to fall out of contact with mental health services, the West Midlands NHS board heard yesterday.

In September 2001 Benion’s care co-ordinator left the trust and his case was allocated to another care worker, but she did not become aware of this responsibility until October 2002 - a month before he killed Mrs Norman.

The investigation referred to Benion as W1. Among the failures highlighed were:

The hand-over of care co-ordination responsibility in September 2001 was ineffective.

The requested and required review of how his care programme was dealt with did not happen.

The report said: “Whilst there are no guarantees contact with W1 would have revealed any behaviour suggestive of an increase in his risk factors, the fact that he was not seen leaves this open to question.”

By Health Correspondent Andy Rea

Leafy, white and conservative

Billy Bragg is the archetype of all those right-on rebels or PC exemplars who, when the kids come along, up sticks from the vibrant multicultural melting pot of the city to a leafy, conservative area.

The Bard of Barking is touring yet again.

"Coming from Barking as I do, the fact that the BNP are now the main opposition party in the area is a source of deep disappointment."

He's coming from Barking alright, but where's he going ?

Let's compare the average primary school league table results for Barking and Dagenham :

With the results for Burton Bradstock CoE Primary in leafy Dorset, where the most multicultural feature is the occasional Gambian drummer performing at the school.

The kids must be heading for secondary level by now. My money's on this little place up the road.

Rodney Parade

A cold Friday night, left work early to watch my youngest play rugby (lost, alas) - what better way to spend the evening than packing the car with children (£3 for kids - absolute giveaway) and heading across the border to Newport?

I don't think it's being unfair to say that the town's had a reputation as a) not being the most scenic bit of Gwent b) having some pretty rough boys - and girls too. But watch out - yuppification is coming. I havn't worked out where the marina and its associated flats will be, but the whole west side of the river is a mass of diggers and traffic cones - with the east side, including the Parade, next up. Close to the M4 corridor - I see another Cardiff or Swansea-style future for those with the money.

I must admit I rather like the old Parade as it is. Interesting layout - you enter through an area which once looked to have been a banked cycle circuit, with a bowling green (there once were tennis courts) in the middle, as seen in this old photo. There was until recently a cricket ground at the far end, too - where Glamorgan used to play.

Gwent Dragons beat the amateurs of Bucuresti 66-10, though the game was marred when the Romanian No 8 Cosmin Ratiu was taken off with what looked like a serious neck injury. The latest report from hospital last night was that he had regained movement in the upper part of his body. "He's not moving" said my son within seconds of him going down. Hope he'll be OK.

If we can get tickets we may well be back for the Bristol game on 12th Jan.

It was worth the trip just for Kevin Morgan's terrific running from fullback and to see the great Colin Charvis, Welsh icon and son of Sutton Coldfield. Apologies for the picture quality.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Remembrance Of Crimes Past

One of the favourite arguments of the 'moral panic' school of criminology is that crime was just as high in the past. Easy to refute while the generation who were there can testify, harder when they're gone.

So I'm trying to take note of sources - like 'The Road to Nab End' and 'A Ragged Schooling'. If anyone has links to anything relevant - pro or anti - I'd appreciate them.

Feom a Dalrymple interview with Ray Honeyford.

His own personal history would suggest some direct insight into the problems of the disadvantaged. His father was an unskilled laborer injured in the First World War and able to work only intermittently thereafter. His mother was the daughter of penniless Irish immigrants. His parents had 11 children, six of whom died in childhood. They lived in a small house in Manchester with no indoor lavatory (and not a single book). He was brought up in a place and in times when the next meal was not guaranteed to appear. Yet despite the poverty, theft was unheard of: everyone felt able to leave his front door unlocked.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Channeling Madeleine

Ms Bunting may have left Demos, after a reign of Clough-like brevity, but "you can't kill the spirit".

They've just produced a pile of waffle (pdf file) on "Community-based approaches to counter-terrorism", promoted as ever by the BBC, which positively reeks of the old, appeasement days before the Jack Straw putsch, when multiculturalism was laid to rest and 'community cohesion' replaced it.

What qualifications have the three authors, Rachel Briggs, Catherine Fieschi and the fetchingly tilted Hannah Lownsborough ?

Hannah has produced such insights as "For the integration of services to work at a local level, the implementation of the new policies must be truly local. In part, that requires central government to take a genuinely "hands-off" approach to its introduction, trusting the local knowledge of officials to shape solutions tailored to meet local need. Every Child Matters represents one of the most important changes to children's services in the last 20 years"

Catherine Fieschi's finest hour is undoubtedly her 2004 Fabian essay "the resistable rise of the BNP" in which the Director of the Centre for the Study of European Governance at the University of Nottingham explained why the BNP threat was overblown - just as they got 4.8% in the Euro elections, quadrupling their 1999 vote.

Rachel Briggs advises on corporate security, so you might expect her to be a little reality based. Alas the link to "Viva La Revolution - An article in Renewal, November 2005, on the social revolution taking place in Spain" doesn't work. I'm assuming she sees the coming replacement of the Spanish people as a triumph for feminism. Her blog entries show standard Guardianista attitudes :

After the usual questions about think tanks - independence, funding, government influence - the penultimate questioner caught me off guard.

Did I, he asked, believe that the 'axis of evil' is actually an anti-Chinese policy in disguise?

Without further consideration you might think he's just as barmy as Bush.

Don't hold back - tell it like you see it. Just the kind of person we need at the FCO-funded Wilton Park, 'established in 1946 as part of an initiative by Winston Churchill to help re-establish peace and democracy in Europe'. I'm sure she'd get on well with him.

"Ms Briggs has declared that she has no involvement in any political activities." Really ?

There are a few rough and uncut gems to be found in the liberal alluvium.

One of the reasons that the government is getting things wrong is because it has a shallow and partial understanding of the communities with which it needs to engage, which makes it behave schizophrenically.

On the one hand ‘communities’ are the stuff of multicultural Britain – they are benign exotic groups that add a cultural je ne sais quoi to the UK. The priority for policy-makers is not necessarily to understand the differences, but to celebrate them.

Well, yes. The whole point was to import lots of exotic people to prove how cool and multicultural you were - and to cheese off the evil Right. The actual culture of the people you were importing was irrelevant - the point was that it wasn't 'ours'.

Maybe tonight I'll get round to a proper fisking. Suffice it to say that the conclusions amount to 'you know what you did before - after 9/11 - that didn't work ? Do more of it. And make the process of foreign policy formulation totally transparent. That'll be fun. And institute ethnic policing for ethnic areas. And fund more enquiries like this one.'

Straighter Scots

Total "civil partnerships" in UK - 15,672.

England - 14,084 - 90% of them, against 83.6 of UK population.

Scotland - 942 - 6%, against 8.5% of UK population.

Wales - 537 - 3.4%, against 4.9% of UK population

Northern Ireland - 109 - 0.7%, against 2.9% of UK population.

Fiji Coup

The military commander of Fiji has announced he has taken over control of the country.

Cmdr Frank Bainimarama said in a televised address he had assumed executive powers and dismissed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

Interesting one, this.

The BBC's Phil Mercer in Suva says the military's action is certain to provoke widespread international condemnation.

Dunno. As I understand it, the Commander objects to the planned amnesty for the 2000 coup plotters. After all, they might have killed him - as an officer who stayed loyal to the elected government.

In 1987 a coup by indigenous Fijians overthrew the elected, Indian-dominated coalition. This triggered a series of adverse events, including the introduction - and subsequent withdrawal - of a constitution enshrining indigenous Fijian political supremacy.

A further coup in 2000, led by businessman George Speight, saw the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister, his cabinet and several MPs held hostage for several weeks.

He stayed loyal to the democratically elected government in 2000 - now he's overthrowing the democratically elected government in 2006.

Rancour over the 2000 coup persists, with bitter divisions over proposals to amnesty those behind it.

Fiji's population, which resides mostly on the two main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, is divided almost equally between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, the descendents of indentured labourers brought from India.

Mixing between the two groups is minimal, and informal segregation runs deep at almost every level of society.

Strangely the Fijians don't seem at ease in their multicultural island paradise. Must be something wrong with them. Either that or the island should be a warning to the UK, and particularly England, where at current levels of demographic change natives will be a minority by the century's end.

(Doubtless Mark Holland will soon have further updates.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Some weird and wonderful council by-elections.

Analysis of 14 comparable results over November suggests a projected 21.6% Tory lead over Labour.

A calculation based on 10 contests where all three major parties fought both times suggests a line-up of: Con 43%, Lib Dem 27.7%, Lab 23.2%.

Hmmm. But these seats aren't representative. What intrigued me was :

Skegness St Clements: - UKIP vote stopped the Tories winning from Labour - assuming UKIP vote is ex-Tory.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Lemington: - BNP vote stopped Labour winning from Lib Dems - assuming BNP are ex-Labour.

The collapse of the Labour vote in Maidstone and Northway. And the general volatility.

Political Policing

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I thought that the politicians legislated, the police enforced the legislation impartially, and that rarely the twain should meet. That's the theory - but since 1997 we've seen the unedifying spectacle of the new breed of sociology-grad, fast-tracked, politically correct Chief Constable desperately trying to earn brownie points with their political masters.

Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom (aka 'the Mad Mullah of the Traffic Taleban') doesn't seem to believe in keeping at arms-length from the politicians.

On Monday I went to Cardiff for the day by train (0430hrs start in the office, back at 2130hrs; I can’t do my job and comply with the Working Time Directive - it just isn’t possible).

The purpose of the trip was two-fold. First to hold one of our regular quarterly meetings between the four Chief Constables and Edwina Hart, Welsh Assembly Minister for Social Justice. These meetings have become increasingly useful, and a real commonality of approach is developing.

The second purpose was really exciting. Through Mrs Hart we had arranged for the four Chiefs to meet with the entire Cabinet of the Welsh Assembly Government, a real first. It was a very constructive meeting, lasting nearly 50 minutes. Although not a devolved organisation it is very clear to us in the police that we have a major and growing part to play in the future of Wales. The Cabinet agreed. We wanted to ensure that our style of policing matched hand in glove the strategic vision of the Cabinet - we emerged convinced that it does, and that an even closer and more productive relationship is going to develop as a result. When the Minutes of the meeting are published (government in Wales is commendably open) you will be able to see what we discussed and decided in more detail. This meeting has changed policing in Wales to a significant degree. The future looks really exciting.

It is this sort of thing that convinces me beyond doubt of the benefits of devolution. The ability to engage personally with the entire government as well as with individual ministers is of immeasurable value, and it simply does not and cannot happen across the border in England. Government in Wales is closer to the people and to public servants like me, and as a democrat I like that very much indeed.

Hmmm. I'm all for the police being democratically acountable. I wouldn't mind if Chief Constable was a directly elected post. My worry is that he'll focus on what the politicians are worried about rather than what the people are worried about. The days when their concerns coincided are gone, to return I know not when.

More State Surveillance

Hot on the heels of the news that the government wants the details of patients opting out of the wonderful new NHS computer system to be sent to the Health Secretary (so that he can tell them they have no choice in the matter), comes the news that the government is buying up the Rightmove database - containing details on most of the property advertised in the UK over the last 10 years. I believe a majority of estate agents are signed up to Rightmove - 10,800 according to their website.

Government officials have been given access to a vast database of properties, revealing their sale prices and detailed floorplans, under a deal with the website

The site, run by four of Britain's biggest estate agents, contains information on 800,000 properties - and the contract, which runs until 2008, also gives inspectors access to old records.

The Valuation Office Agency - the department of HM Revenue & Customs that allocates a council tax band to every home in England and Wales - will be able to use the data to find out about improvements such as double-glazing and conservatories that may increase tax bills.

Open Britain Part 1,936

From the BBC. Fair play to them. Monday's Panorama may actually be worth a look. But is this news going to suprise anyone ?

It took me just five months to get 20 fake EU passports.

Some of them were of the very best quality and were unlikely to be spotted as fakes by even the most stringent of border controls.

This meant that once in the UK I could start a new life with somebody else's identity, find work, open a bank account and eventually become a British citizen.

I met many immigrants in the UK on fake identities and passports.

Many of them were here only for work, but I also met quite a few dodgy characters who are dealing with banking scams and benefit fraud.

What, like this chap ?

When police, immigration officials and benefits investigators arrested him in December 2005 they found an Aladdin's cave of crime-related items.

These included more than 35 forged credit cards and 30 passports, numerous envelopes stuffed with hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash and two copies of Home Office stamps used to allow immigrants permission to stay in Britain.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds were found to have passed through bank and building society accounts in his name and those of his wife, children and immediate family.

In one Westminster bank account alone funds totalling £555,474.96 were cleared shortly before his arrest and another Halifax account saw transfers totalling £267,000.

In all he had at least 13 different bank accounts.

Investigators believe Nawaz Sharif was charging illegal immigrants between £2,000 and £5,000 to mark their passports with the counterfeit stamp. This allowed them to remain in the country illegally after they had been "doctored" by Sharif.

Sharif arrived in the late eighties as a taxi driver, and has been 'unemployed' for the last 11 years. His five year sentence will be two and a half years - in an English prison. For two million quid I'd do his sentence myself and think it well worth it.

Unspeakable Love

Brian Whitaker, reviewed by Alexandra Simonon in Democratiya says that those homosexual activists who diss "Islam" are in some ways the mirror image of the intolerant imams who diss homosexuality, and looks to a more hopeful (in his terms) future.

Fifty years ago, Muslims, Christians and Jews generally agreed that homosexuality was evil. While one could not say that Judaism and Christianity as a whole have come to terms with it, major bodies of opinion in these faiths have since moved forward and adopted a more tolerant approach to homosexuality. This is not the case in contemporary Islam, where, broadly speaking, there is no real debate on issues of sexuality.

You could say that. British understatement is not dead. Although the "major bodies of opinion" who have "moved forward" no more illustrate the position of the faithful than the views of Home Office officials on crime and punishment represent Dave Average. What that shows is the capture of institutions by the cultural left.

Western scholars, political commentators and gay rights campaigners who push an essentialist vision of Islam, or of Arab culture, as inherently homophobic, rely on claims and assumptions that they share with the fundamentalists ... Both sides acknowledge 'one' Islam, and both sides agree on its violently intolerant nature.

Sounds about right.

Whitaker proposes a more constructive way of addressing the problem, which is to place the focus of attention on the similarities between the West and the Arab-Islamic culture rather than on their differences. The homophobic rhetoric used in the Arab world today, which claims that homosexuality will lead to the collapse of civilisation and to social decay, is little different from the rhetoric used in Western countries until not so long ago (and sometimes still used).

Ah. These Islamic chaps are just a bit behind the curve. True enough again.

Acceptance of homosexuality in the West is only recent. It is also partial, and potentially reversible. Contemporary Arab attitudes to homosexuality were commonplace in the West fifty years ago, and those who single out Islam as being uniquely and essentially reactionary might do well to remember that Britain repressed homosexuality in the name of religion and social order over many centuries.

Absolutely. The 1967 speeches in favour of decriminalising homosexuality would today get their authors expelled from their parties - and probably prosecuted.

British society has come a long way in terms of sexuality, and no one would argue that either policy or public opinion in the 1950s were essentially Western, or essentially Christian.

You do have to wonder about that last bit. Up to the 1950s, and for at least a thousand years before that, disapproval (often expressed violently) of homosexuality was characteristic of 'Western' nations - and of Christianity for nearly two thousand years. Most Christians disapprove of it now - you just don't hear them on the BBC.

What Mr Whittaker (the Guardian's Middle East editor - I'd keep my head down if I were him) seems to be saying is "give these guys time - Rome wasn't built in a day". As he says in the linked Guardian piece, he hopes for "the moment when the tide of reactionary puritanism that has plagued their country (Egypt) for so long finally turns".

Only one problem. You can make this cheerful argument to secular Westerners, but I wouldn't try it on an intelligent Muslim. You'd be suggesting that Islam be - effectively - destroyed. Because what has happened in the last fifty years in the UK, the liberalisation which so pleases, is the result not of a change in Christianity, but a collapse of Christianity. People like Ekklesia and Thinking Anglicans do not represent the average Josephine in the pew of the shrinking Anglican or Catholic congregations - still less the average Olewayu in the rapidly rising black evangelical churches.

Take your intelligent, pious Muslim. Hold up the Christian Churches in the UK as an example of what Islam could be in 50 years. Watch him laugh in your face.