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29 July, 2009  
London Calling

Britain sinks into a mire of hopeless bureaucracy and political correctness, according to Leverhulme … Crown Prosecution Service strives for efficiencies by using more in-house barristers … Large proportion of prosecutors are found to be “lacklustre”

imageThe prize for the year’s best headline must go to The Times for “Berlusconi Ruined My Reputation Says Prostitute”.

It brightened the day as we sank into the humourless mire of political correctness and trodden-on individuality.

I received a letter from the local council asking me to apply for the re-authorisation of my residential parking permit.

This enables visitors to park outside my house. The authorisation costs £2.50 and a book of 10 parking tickets costs 10 quid.

My cheque was returned because the council said I hadn’t proved I lived in the house.

But you wrote to me here, I replied.

Not good enough was the response. We need better proof.

What? I asked. Your council tax bill, they replied.

But didn’t that come from you?

I haven’t heard a peep from them since. My authorisation is in abeyance. I am being punished for asking questions.

* * *

Landlords who let their property to a new tenant must now obtain an EPC or Energy Performance Certificate costing £70.

It helps the tenant to compare the energy efficiency of one property over another.

Is a one bedroom dive housing 20 Somali sightseers more energy efficient than a two-up two-down dope den in Grimsby?

Like the Somalis, it’s all relative, I suppose.

* * *

Kids have never been safer.

There are clogged streets in Britain each day while children are dropped off or picked up at school by Yummy Mummies in Chelsea Tractors.

However, it’s doubtful how safe the arvo runs are because quite a few maters prefer to do the rosé rah-rah in the local Slug & Lettuce while they wait for Ethan or Lily to finish judo.

A risk assessment conducted for the Sandy Upper School in Biggleswade recommended a ban on spectators at the East Beds School Sports Partnership Athletics day because it was impossible to prevent unsavoury characters from attending.

Don’t you just love the use of that word “partnership”?

Paul Blunt, the development manager at the school, said the “ultimate fear” is that a child could be abducted. He added sagely:

“If we let parents into the school they would have been free to roam the grounds.”

imageTeenagers are faring better. Helpful and caring professionals are handing out leaflets in Sheffield telling students that an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away.

It’s sound advice, although judging by his name one of the authors of the leaflet, Steve Slack (seen here), might be missing out himself – poor sod.

* * *

The government is doing its bit too.

It wants to make sure that paedophiles don’t come on to school premises and do beastly things, like read poetry.

It has set up the Independent Safeguarding Authority. It costs £64 to get on the Vetting and Barring Scheme database and the government has its beady eye on the 11 million adults who work with kiddies in the UK.

The famous author Philip Pullman is cross. He told Radio 4:

“It’s the assumption that anyone who comes into contact with children for any reason whatsoever is up to no good and likely to be a rapist or a murderer and has to be checked out in advance to show they’re not.

It will encourage children to believe that no adult will ever approach them than to prey on them or do them harm.”

imageArtist Quentin Blake (pic), who did illustrations for books by Roald Dahl, is also protesting against the vetting scheme and he too will decline to visit schools.

* * *

It’s not all one way though. Children, especially foreign children, are under scrutiny too.

Ankle biters as young as six who apply to come to school in Britain are asked questions like this:

“In times of peace or war has the applicant ever been involved, or suspected of involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide?”

Can you imagine young Sentwali writing “Yes, I must confess I chopped up a few aunties and uncles back in Rwanda but I’ll be no threat at St Ethelred’s. By the way, how did you find out about me?”

* * *

Another minority group is under threat: the criminal bar.

It is losing more and more advocacy work to in-house advocates in the Crown Prosecution Service.

The DPP Keir Starmer was crowing in early this month that the CPS had saved £11.5 million last year by using employed barristers.

imageIt was also announced that Crown prosecutors across England and Wales are to undergo advocacy assessments to ensure quality. Starmer (pic) said:

“The delivery of high quality advocacy is a mark of a modern public prosecution service and I therefore am determined that quality will be at the heart of the advocacy service the CPS provides.”

But is it? By the middle of the month, the Law Society Gazette was reporting that a third of all prosecution advocates were “lacklustre” or “less than competent”.

This was according to a review carried out by the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.

The report concluded that overall, external counsel performed better in trials apart from the closing speech (dull again) and in-house advocates shone in non-contested hearings such as pleas and case management hearings.

imageThe chairman of the bar, Desmond Browne QC (snap), disputed the figure of £11.5 million saying it was the product of Alice in Wonderland accounting.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the CPS had ignored the fixed overheads of employing in-house barristers – particularly accommodation and administration costs. He said:

“This leads to a skewed comparison – what they call loading the dice – in that the cost comparison will always favour the in-house advocate over the self-employed.”

The ghost of Jack Lang stirs at times like this.

As the Big Fella said, always put your money on Self-Interest because at least you know it’ll be trying the hardest.