Reports of sex offences on London transport up by a third

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Reports of sex offences on London’s Tubes, trains and buses have increased by more than a third, according to new figures. There were 1,603 reports made from April to December 2015, compared with 1,117 in the same period the previous … Continue reading

Army Veterans & Her Majesty’s Prisons

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There are a worrying number of veterans within the criminal justice system. MoD statistics err on the conservative side, quoting 2,820 veterans in prison in 2009/2010, or around 3.5% of the prison population. In 2009, the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) put the figures higher: 8,500 veterans serving sentences in UK prisons, and a further 11,500 on probation or parole. Two out of three ex-soldiers imprisoned in the UK have committed sexual, violent or drug-related crimes, according to the MoD. The research into the relationship between ex-soldiers’ PTSD and crime is inconclusive and often contradictory: a Howard League for Penal Reform inquiry in 2011 concluded that there was no link.

“It suits the MoD to minimise the numbers in order to reduce the extent of liability,” says Tony Gauvain, a retired colonel, psychotherapist and chairman of the charity PTSD Resolution. “But given the numbers of people suffering symptoms now, and the latency of the condition likely to result in increasing numbers, there would seem to be a determination to avoid admitting there is a problem.”

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The idea that PTSD can lead to violent crime is embarrassing for the MoD – and potentially costly. Those diagnosed with combat-related PTSD are entitled to a disablement pension, while victims of the crime could also potentially claim compensation. Between 2005 and March 2014, 1,390 claims were awarded under the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces Compensation Scheme for mental disorders (including PTSD) – but this figure could well spiral over the next few years as the army withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan. To put this into context, in America,20% of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have been diagnosed with PTSD; in 2011, 476,514 veterans were treated for it.

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Robert Kilgour scares his family, and he often scares himself. He has been imprisoned three times for violent offences. On the last occasion, he almost killed a man – his victim required 100 stitches after Kilgour attacked him with a bottle. We meet at his flat in Edgware, north London. On a table is a photograph of his former wife and his family. Kilgour is tense, on edge. He served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and the Gulf war, and returned to civilian life in 1993. But everything was different. “I just couldn’t keep it under control. I don’t want nobody to be close to me. I don’t want them to see what I’m going through. I’m 43, and every time I think about what I’ve gone through, it brings it back. It’s still raw. I’ve seen some of the best people you’ll ever meet in life put in the ground, and I’ve put people in the ground. It’s changed me.”

Kilgour says some members of his family disown own him – they tell people he’s dead. In a way, Kilgour says, they are right – he is dead, or at least the young boy who dreamed of being a boxer is dead. He doesn’t act, or react, like a rational man. He frequently gets into fights. “I don’t like no one. I don’t even like myself. I’m disgusted with some of the things I’ve done. You take someone’s life away, no matter if he’s going to kill you, and you don’t ever get over it.”

He talks about his nightmares; the screaming, the shaking, the sweating. What does he dream about? “That’s a bit personal, as it happens.” Silence. “No, I’m not going to shy away from nothing. Listen, if this helps anyone…” He stops again. “Mate, if I drop a tear and you laugh at me, I’m going to smack you straight in your fucking face, I swear.

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“My best mate Rob was from Norfolk, and we were in Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland. I was the lead in a four-man team, and my mate got shot in front of me. He was ripped apart. He looked like a lump of meat. I didn’t even know who it was. I just looked down and carried on firing. That’s my recurring dream. I was going to be his best man. He was supposed to be married the following week. I had to go up to Norfolk to see his missus. She said, ‘You said you’d look after him.’ And she slapped me round the face.” He laughs, but a strangled sound comes out. “I was crying my eyes out, and she wouldn’t even let me in the door.” Does he ever wish he had been the one killed? “So many times.”

Bluebell, his jack russell, starts barking. He jumps. “I’m very on point all the time. Anything that happens, the slightest noise, I’m like that. I’ve got a couple of friends going through this, and they’re doing lithium. They can’t look straight at me – they’re dribbling wrecks.”

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Rob was killed 20 years ago, but Kilgour didn’t begin to process his death until he started getting arrested repeatedly for violent assault. He says it was only when he was in prison that he found out what was wrong with him. “It took a prison officer, an ex-army bod, to come to my cell and say, ‘I know you’re suffering.’ Before that, I just thought it was me. I’m still having counselling eight years on.”

After his release, he received counselling from PTSD Resolution. Kilgour blames the army for failing to prepare him for life on the outside. “That’s why so many of my colleagues go to prison. It’s all due to violence. None of them can keep a relationship”.

 

Not That I Agree With Viscount Rothermere But….

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Nope! I won’t be talking about parliamentary expenses, because even though many politicians are still on the take, we the electorate have just about done that topic to death. So today I thought I’d touch on the sensitive topic of tax evasion, I thought I’d start with a little quote;

‘The respected Financial Times columnist Gillian Tett wrote a year or two back that it was deplorable that no banker was sent to prison following the 2008 big bust. Today, bonuses may have fallen a tad, but failure is still being handsomely rewarded. Beyond pay, many of Britain’s biggest earners are expert tax avoiders.

For instance, one private company with a sole owner declared an income last year of £12  million, but paid just £315,000 in corporation tax, after writing off ‘administrative expenses’ of nearly £11  million. Shocking, is it not? The owner, a Mr Blair, apparently conducts his business operations across several continents through a network of companies, most of which escape having to publish accounts.

Their activities are perfectly legal. But they create a stench in the nostrils to compete with any banker’s body odour.

This Mr Blair could not, surely, be any relation of the Tony Blair who said in a 1994 speech when campaigning to become Opposition leader: ‘We must tackle abuse of the tax system. For those who can employ the right accountants, [it] is a haven of scams, City deals and profits.

‘We should not make our tax rules a playground for revenue avoiders and tax abusers who pay little or nothing, while others pay more than their share.

His company Windrush Ventures is a pace-setter for those who earn vast rewards while contributing an astonishingly small proportion to the Britain he once governed.’

Alas, that much to the inordinate glee of the Daily Mail, it was indeed the self-same Labour politician. Who having twice been voted into government now saw fit to live (well out of the way of the common Englander) much as his forbears (amongst them Margaret Thatcher) had lived.

Now Labour would have us believe, that they are suffused with horror and indignation at the sight of Steffano Pessina stoutly asserting that to elect Labour would be ‘bad for business’. Bad for business Mr Pessina? By what stretch of the imagination? Mr Pessina elaborates;

‘If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe. The problem is, would they act that way or not? One thing is to threaten and to shout, but it is completely different to be in charge and to manage the country day to day.’

Deary me Mr Pessina, does the notion of Labour in power panic you that much? Were you not told about the hundreds of Labour politicians who trooped merrily through the yes gate in parliament, rubber stamping further Conservative austerity measures? Obviously not, or like the long-suffering electorate you would know beyond any shadow of a doubt that Labour has now become a party that are perfectly at ease, with stoutly declaring one stance, whilst passionately embracing another!

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Hard Times

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‘If you get on a jubilee train from Westminster, for every stop that you travel east, life expectancy in the capital falls by a single year. By the time you’re out in East London you’ve got nearly a decades difference in life expectancy. This is something that we should have outgrown by the end of the Victorian period. The gap between the rich and the poor is now greater than it was when Charles Dickens was writing ‘Hard Times’. After twenty five years of a Neo-Liberal economy this is where we’ve got to’

John Rees (A People’s History of London)

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England has one of the top ten largest economies in the world and yet almost a third of children in London are living below the poverty line. Three and half million children are growing up in poverty in Britain, and 1.6 million are facing severe poverty. More than half of families in poverty are cutting back on food, almost a third have nothing left to cut back on and a quarter say they some times skip meals in order to feed their children (Save The Children). Children going without a hot meal, the right shoes or a decent winter coat for school, whilst BBC Breakfast discusses the decrease in Winter coat and cardigan sales, attributing this decrease ‘Pravda’ style to global warming.

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Wages remaining stagnant with rising housing costs and zero hour contracts are contributing to this child poverty. Add to that the unexpected curve ball of sudden illness and you have a lot of households struggling to remain on the poverty line, let alone above it. One would think that the ‘cradle to the grave’ welfare system we have all paid into would lessen the worst effects of suddenly falling ill. But, after years of paying into the welfare state, there is a feeling for some people that the government isn’t doing nearly enough for those who have now fallen on hard times. In the words of one disabled claimant with a family,

“Children in your own backyard should come above everyone else. If my disability benefits get cut even further I don’t know what I’m going to do, because it’s either clothe your kids and they go without food or feed your kids and they go without clothing, which one are you going to do?”.

Reverend Bruce Thompson Methodist Church Lincoln District Chair had this to say,”The church mandate is not to neglect our brothers and sisters around us but to feed them”. Lucy Rigby, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Lincoln had this to say, ‘when tax credits were cut back, all of a sudden people found that though both of them were working, they were still struggling. Until the minimum wage some are being paid becomes a living wage, we won’t see an improvement in this problem’. The living wage, essentially making sure that people are paid an honest amount for the work that they do. I would have included something Lincoln’s MP Karl McCartney had to say on the subject, but apparently he doesn’t have much time for this sort of conversation.

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When Is Drive-By Abuse In A Safer Neighbourhood The Norm?

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One  assumes that expensive gear is solely the preserve of men and women working in expensive jobs or for expensive people, but slick expensive linen suits and custom made leather italian shoes are the norm for Harrow’s thieves. Or at least one could be deluded into believing that to be the case, judging by the stories that are being told by Harrow’s law abiding citizenry.

“I was approached by my neighbours and openly asked for a percentage of my monthly salary, they asked me to put it through their letter box. When I objected they suggested they were prepared to step right up to my front door on a daily basis and demand it. When I reported these demands for money to the local police I was subjected to drive-dy abuse, and threatened and intimidated on a daily basis by these criminals as I travelled to and from work. Alongside this behaviour the neighbours enlisted the help of friends who would regularly drive by my front door, roll down their car windows and hurl abuse out of them.

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“The family concerned (a mother, her partner and two full grown sons), intimated that they needed a large sum of money, I assumed for debts but they asserted for drug dealing. unsurprisingly I was horrified as I had never been in the business of funding drug dealers either willing or unwillingly.When I contacted the police, the family accused me of being a ‘snitch’ and then subjected me and my family to abuse over my garden fence, accompanied by the imitated sounds of a shotgun going off. When I reported all this to the safer neighbourhood team, they suggested that I might be in need of psychological counselling, as the family next door had feigned innocence when contacted by the police”.

A story such as this one would be considered extraordinary even in a neighbourhood where the lawless behaviour of gangs has become the norm, Harrow however is the home of choice to roughly three hundred millionaires. And this story is not an unusual one, it is not uncommon I am told to see well dressed thieves shopping at Marks and Spencers and lunching at the pub in the town centre, whilst their middle class counterparts are hunting for work and lunching at home. It is par for the course to find these same professional ‘Harrovian’ thieves spending the greater part of their day in betting shops, then looking to make up the short fall by robbing their neighbours, and hard working pedestrians on their way home from work.

One Harrow resident found themselves having constant visits at their locally run business, from a whole slew of thieves local to the neighbourhood. Their behaviour when they entered the shop was aggressive, intimidating and threatening. The business person in question found their behaviour to be a concern since as well as running a family business they also had a small family. However, they found an instant solution to their problems, they employed an elderly member of that criminal fraternity and thereafter the intimidating visits stopped. Now, the most sensible course of action would be to report this kind of obviously criminal incident, to the police in Harrow. But it would appear that following that course of action encourages, rather than deters, local thieves since they know that in these austere times the police will take little, if any positive action. Perhaps that is because they are leaving that up to the one thousand neighbourhood champions they have so far recruited.

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Post script: I was witness to a wonderful bout of effective policing a couple of weeks ago, would that Teresa May re-invested the £20 million pounds she has ‘leeched’ out of the policing budget, then we’d have effective policing all year round!

Post Script to the Post Script: The businessman in question has since found that it is advisable to sell his business and move on with his young family. Apparently the need for a strong show of police force, around an ordinary shopping parade is a sign of one thing, that incidents like this all over that small neighbourhood have been allowed to go unopposed for so long, that it takes dozens of police and police cars to restore peace in such a small location.  This businessman requires a safer neighbourhood for his family so he will be moving on.