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Leverhulme
17 December, 2008  
London Calling

Leverhulme’s 2008 law ‘n’ order round-up … British justice at its finest … Landmark decisions … and tragedies … A year to remember … and forget


imageThe Times reports the death of Sir John Wall, aged 78, whose repeated attempts to be appointed to the Bench over a period of nearly 34 years ended in failure.

He was refused on the grounds that he could not inspire the confidence of the public that he would preside effectively.

In was not a lack of grey cells.

At the age of 14, he defeated the former world champion, Dr Max Euwe, in a chess challenge.

He read jurisprudence at Oxford, where he also represented the university at chess.

To achieve his goal of becoming a lawyer, Sir John applied 400 times and attended 53 interviews.

In practice as a City solicitor, Wall earned admiration from his peers for speed and efficiency. They spoke of his capacity to complete complicated tasks quickly and in work outside his practice, he drafted the constitutions of nine organisations.

It was not until 1990, when Wall hit 60, that he was able to catch the judicial selector’s eye.

He served with distinction in various capacities in the High Court for 12 years.

Sir John Wall was blind.

* * *

imageMark Gilbert half-inched £845 from his boss, carpet fitter Simon Cremer, who found out.

He and three colleagues bound Gilbert’s hands and hung a crude sign around his neck which read “Thief – I Stole £845. Am On My Way to Police Station”.

Gilbert, 39, was then frog-marched past a horde of Christmas shoppers to the police station in Witham, Essex.

The thief was cautioned by the police and released into the wild.

Cremer and his pals were arrested for false imprisonment.

* * *

Another zealous copper was the former head of Greater Manchester Police, Mike Todd, who died in March by his own hand on a Welsh mountain.

An investigation uncovered that Hot Toddy had enjoyed liaisons with 38 women in his six years as Chief Constable.

It was enquiring into whether his activities affected his ability to carry out his duties: a case of rarely at work but always on the job.

* * *

One of the most disturbing sights in Britain last week was Detective Andy Brennan standing in front of the cameras after the conviction of Michael Donovan and Karen Matthews for kidnapping Matthews’s nine year old daughter Shannon.

Brennan described Matthews as “pure evil”.

He speculated that if the police hadn’t found Shannon in the nick of time and Donovan had escaped, Shannon would not have been found alive.

The pair had cooked-up a scheme to hide Shannon for a few days, wind-up the press and public and have Donovan “find” her at a market in the hope of netting a £50,000 reward and maybe the Hollywood film rights.

Despite a long history of misbehaviour from both defendants, everyone was convinced that young Shannon had been abducted and killed by a stranger.

The reptiles and the rod wallopers resented being duped for 24 days by two criminal masterminds, and it showed.

After the verdict, journalists and jubilant police threw the book at the Dewsbury pair.

Whenever a murder occurs in northern England, the telly journos like to find a concerned neighbour to say, “It’s disgusting” (pronounced “disgoosting”); and then for no related reason: “to think it could happen in my own back yard – and I’ve got two children.”

Karen’s sister, Julie Poskitt, 37, did not let the side down. She said, “I am sick and disgusted. She is unfit to be the mother of any child.”

Nanna Matthews said her daughter was the worst mum ever, telling how Karen had taped a carrier bag to the bottom of one of her babies instead of using a nappy. Karen must have been concerned about global warning.

In fact, until being locked up, Karen had produced seven children from five fathers. The sires ranged in age from a toey lad aged 16 years to an even more excited divorcee of 63. We’ll come to him in a minute.

Karen’s verbal dexterity rivalled the smartest of lawyers – even that of prosecutor Julian Goose QC.

When the TV reported that she had five husbands, she replied triumphantly: “That’s a fucking lie. I never married any of them.”

Her oldest beau, Eddie Clayton, 63, had been divorced three times when she snared him. The minx lured Eddie on to her sofa and told him not to bother taking his shoes off.

imageEddie was flattered. “She made me feel young again.” This was despite his asthma and acute angina. Asking her to take it easy, he bought an engagement ring from Argos worth £36.99.

Karen and her latest lover, Craig Meehan, 36, a connoisseur of kiddie porn and the nephew of Donovan, whipped up the public mood wearing t-shirts proclaiming “Have You Seen Shannon Matthews?”

At a press conference on March 3 the beastly Karen clutched her daughter’s teddy bear and said:

“Somebody’s out there that has actually got Shannon. It is somebody out there who knows Shannon, and probably me as well.”

Where’s the deception in that?

The press should have known. The Sun called Donovan a bug-eyed weirdo. The Daily Mail said he spent most of his time shut in his flat, “only venturing out to collect his benefits or to buy food or lager”.

His former boss, Colin Backhouse, said he had given Donovan a £20 note to fill up the firm’s van with diesel.

Donovan was seen driving back and forth on the road outside.

When asked what he was doing, he said:

“There was only enough room in the tank for £18.40 of fuel, so I drove around a bit so I could use the other £1.60.”

In its peroration, the Mail said he had run away from home; attended a special school; broken his wife’s cheekbone and “busted” her nose several times; committed arson and shoplifting; abducted his daughter and taken drugs.

Karen was clearly no fool. “As a crook with access to drugs and a record of abducting a child,” said the Mail, “Donovan had been the perfect accomplice for Karen Matthews”.

Oh the benefit of hindsight.

Well not quite. The public knew a lot about the bug-eyed weirdo’s shortcomings before he was even charged.

As yet, neither Donovan nor Matthews has been sentenced.

Shannon is now safe in the arms of Social Services.

* * *

In the interests of what Oprah Winfrey calls “closure”, I think it is time to report back on a few of the ishoos raised by this column in 2008.

  • Wonder Judge Sir Alan Moses was flattened by the House of Lords in the BAE case;
  • Leeds Bradford Airport is now being refurbished at a cost of £28 million. Authorities agree that the “terminal building suffers from congestion, insufficient circulation space” and more importantly “is poorly designed for segregating arrivals and departures”.
  • The High Court allowed Sarika Watkins-Singh to keep wearing her bangle but the precedent was not imagefollowed. Kioni Lansbury, 12, was forbidden from wearing a purity ring at school (signalling her intention to remain a virgin) because it was deemed by head teacher Faith Jarrett to be “extremely dangerous in PE, Technology or Science lessons”. Taking it off might be even more risky.
  • Lesbian Lance Bombardier Kerry Fletcher (pic) finally licked the Ministry of Defence with a £195,000 payout. Marine Ben McBean received £161,000 for a spot of bother in Afghanistan when he lost an arm and a leg.
  • Chris Hoy won the BBC sports personality of the year award on Sunday (Dec. 14) and it wasn’t just for plain speaking.
  • Oh, and by the way, Barack Obama won.

    * * *

    The best Christmas news was the striking off of solicitors James Beresford, 58, and his partner Douglas Smith, 52, for charging extra conditional fees (they made a measly £23 million in six years) to injured former miners and their widows.

    In the week when a vicar banned Oh Little Town of Bethlehem because it was not relevant to today’s Palestine-Israeli conflict, and another man of the cloth rewrote the Twelve Days of Christmas to include “Ten Hoodies Hollering”, it seems meet to pause and reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas.

    imageKevin Simpson (seen here), a road crossing official, was prevented by the Hampshire County Council from decorating his lollipop with tinsel in case ankle biters couldn’t see it.

    Kevin, a sensitive 45-year-old father of two said:

    “When I was told that the tinsel had to go I was in tears and so were the children.”

    What is the world coming to?

    Today Mary and Joseph would have been charged under the Health & Safety guidelines laid down by the Bethlehem City Council with exercising their birthing rights in unstable premises.

    The Daily Mail would have reported the event under the headline “Three Taliban Warlords Gate-Crash Historic Birth”.

    * * *

    At this time of year, some of us receive, or worse send, long and slightly nauseating circulars, which list the 2008 doings of the family.

    What about Harry Brook’s story in a letter to the Telegraph:

    “Sir – a few years ago, I received a letter from the wife of an old chum. It started, ‘I suppose the high spot of our year was John’s Nobel Prize’.”

    * * *

    From frosty England I say “Happy Christmas” to everyone and I refuse to say “Season’s Greetings.”