Confederation Report (April 2010)

“Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the birdies is?” Well, Dear Reader, here at Maison Mumf, they are leaping about in serried profusion. I am particularly pleased that my “intensive winter bird feeding regime” has produced a  particularly welcome newcomer-the Long Tailed Tit. Cheeky things they are. The last time I saw one was in Brittany. So Spring = Bird= Paris in springtime= France. So today I shall be mostly trying to put French references into this missive. I do like a theme. Quelle Fromage.

On Sunday morning I found myself doing something that I hadn’t done for a very long time. Non, Non. Not that, Madame. Buying a Sunday newspaper at the crack of dawn. Normally my Sabbath am’s are spent pottering about (at my age that is what I now do-

potter) with some mundane task like putting peanuts in the bird feeder (or squirrel feeder in reality), bunging the accumulated soiled nether garments into the Hotpoint or embarking on the latest doomed DIY task that I have set myself. (Although as I speak my most recent creation- “traditional log cabin and clear plastic influenced utility room” -still stands having beaten the ravages of the past Met Office Mild Winter”! OK- a couple of leaks and a couple of bits have become detached, but nothing that a good whack with a hammer and a bit of expanding foam didn’t cure,) Tres Practical, Moi.

As a “lark” I like the mornings. And Sunday seems to be a particularly good morning for getting things done. The morning stroll into the bustling Metropolis that is Narberth (recommended for its magnificent variety of shops and restaurants for those planning a day out “Dowwnn Wearst”), comes at around 11.30 normally.

But last Sunday I was Duty Sol, and a 7 am finish at the Gendarmerie meant I was feeling worthy enough to re-mortgage the house and purchase the half a rain forest, three free DVD’s that go straight into the bin (one of which, coincidentally, had that Gerard Depardapardeparde ... bloke with the nose and the hair) and the three dozen sofa brochures that make up the Thunderer these days. It was to be tea and toast, watch the morning Match of the Day and doss time. Bliss. Felicite. (Sorry-can’t find les accents on my 1920’s Remmington.)

And, since I was altering from my normal routine, I did not, as per my wont, dive straight into the Sports pages, followed by the motoring section, the Style Mag (who am I kidding?) and the Appointments pages (do I really have the qualities or desire to be the Children’s Operational Director for Brent Council? Je ne pense pas!). No I plunged straight into the news. The main bit. The part that usually lies on the floor until about 6pm, when all the best bits have been consumed, considered as important enough to be read again. And discarded. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions n’est pas?

So: “No 10 in Spin Doctor row” (Yawn. Baillement.); “Ashcroft plans to be media mogul” (ici ou 1’etranger where he stashes his tax free dosh?); “Too many GCSE’s make children ill” (11 plus made me ill. By the time I got to Law Society Part 2’s I was a gibbering hypochondriac! Malade comme un chien!); “Vegans and teetotallers to get discrimination rights” (Incroyable!); “Balls targets school clubs in £500m cuts” (let the pesky little varmints pick okum, break stones, fill potholes and clean the streets I say. Bring back national service. Stop free milk! Or have they already done that? J’oublier.)

By the time I’d read “Sex Romana-if you thought the TV series Rome was lewd, wait till you see Spartacus!” (Ooh la la! And Oui, I did read it-avidly.) on page 14, my goldfish-like attention span had reached its sell by date.

And just as I was about to reach for the Sport section the phone went. Who on earth rings on a Sunday morning? Have they no savoir faire? Salud le Mec! (Don’t know what that means, but it’s very rude.)

I’ll tell you who. Radio Pembrokeshire. Some listener had e-mailed an urgent request to be told about the John Venables story. Had I read it. Could I explain what it was all about? Could I pop in to go on air? Well, Non, Non and are you off your tete? I eventually agreed to attempt an answer on my regular Wednesday morning slot. Much less dangereuse-no one listens then anyway.

So, back to the front page of Le Temps, and a two day scroll through all the material I could find, watching and listening to TV and radio debates by the score. Which led to THE QUESTION.

“Why doesn’t life imprisonment mean just that, and what is a tariff, and why should this man have anonymity, and why don’t we just string him up as we should have in the first place?”

Four questions then. All of which have been answered by luminaries ranging from High Court Judges via Probation Officers to Bert Grungesprocket of Cleethorpes (who suggests that chemical castration and a good bucket of sulphuric acid over all criminal deviants would obliterate criminality and obviate the necessity for prison expansion. Solution tres Elegant!)

Having trotted out the boringly standard response a l’homme de loi (‘Cos some crimes are worse than others, tariffs are not set in stone and some prisoners don’t get out at that point, they have to go before the Parole Board.) I reached the anonymity stage. And that is where it gets a tad tricky.

The problem with the Jamie Bulger murder, is that virtually everyone who was capable of conscious thought when it broke was horrified. Firstly how could anyone hurt such a tiny, trusting, lovely little boy. Even hard-nosed cynics shed a tear to see him being led out of that shopping centre. To die as he did would have been monstrous anyway.

But that his killers were only ten years old, was just inconceivable. How could CHILDREN do that?

The case led to the demise of the legal maxim of Doli Incapax. It led to the death of “childlike innocence”. These evil boys had to be punished. And rehabilitated.

So here’s the rub. After nine years in an, admittedly low level, institution, could they be released? If so, how could they possibly live as normal a life as possible? They had to be given new identities, otherwise some vigilante would have rubbed them out. That is not what British Justice is about.

Having been given this fresh start, and remember the terms of their licence meant they were never going to be truly “free”, what happens if they re-offend?

I suppose it was inevitable that the media circus would become a feeding frenzy. But could it not have been unleashed AFTER the due process of law had taken place? I don’t have the information to point fingers at anyone, but that leak was a disastrous error.

It isn’t just John Venables who will suffer the probability of not having a fair trial, it’s every single man between the ages of twenty to thirty five, accused of whatever Venables is charged with (IF he is charged), because he, Venables, has to stand trial under his new identity.

And does that mean that each jury is told by the trial judge that they must NOT jump to the conclusion that this is Venables? Will they really believe that? Will we have the prisoner in the dock screaming at the end of the trial not only that he is innocent, but also that he is not John Venables?

And how many Appeals will be mounted on the fact that the jury misdirected themselves that the defendant they tried was in fact a monster who deserved everything he got. Frankly it is a ghastly situation. I just feel for the poor Bulger family, who have been pitched back into their nightmare.

As to the “Hang `em High” Brigade- could we really countenance executing two, admittedly psychopathic, ten year olds? No. I didn’t think so.

So having got that off my potrine (that may actually mean bedside cabinet, but c’est la vie) on to more matters of a lighter nature.

This year the Confederation is going to increase the number of courses we run, kicking off with the Complaints Seminar on 12th May (see page 12) – this is a MUST to attend. We have top-notch speakers and this area is only going to get nastier, mes amis! This is followed by a talk on the Assisted Suicide Guidelines on 19th May (see page 10) - tres topical!

We are also going to try for two superieux soirees, maybe even with a touche originale. So please look out for announcements in this august journal.

We had the AGM, and a very jolly dinner thereafter, where we “dined out” Lord Roy Morgan, who has been on our council for donkey’s years. As he pointed out, he had actually only been to one council meeting, but he’s worth it! Despite my attempts to get Fishy promoted to Monsieur Le President, he refused and you’ve got me encore.

We do want a new Equal Opportunities Sec, the brilliant Eleanor Williams having ascended to her much more important role (Thanks again for your exceptional contribution, Eleanor) so any volunteers are very welcome. And we will try to provide as good a service to our members as possible.

Please don’t forget that membership is still FREE to any Solicitor, Barrister, Legal Exec, Paralegal and student. An application form is on page 7 of this magazine.

Finally, I leave you with a tale from my exotic travels. Last week I found myself in delightful Hereford, defending a gentleman from Yorkshire (Don’t ask-c’est trop, trop difficile!). I am always a little nervous in Hereford, as the English residents are free to murder any Welshman who invades their realm with perfect legal immunity. OK, it has to be by a long bow, but I am a natural coward. How do I know whether the Herefordshire Archers Guild aren’t waiting for the ideal target-a fat, slow, white haired Taff in a cheap suit?

Whilst there I fell into conversation with a delightful local advocate, who told me that he had learnt Welsh in his sixties as he had crossed the border to become a Cymbrogi. He tells me he was prompted to do this by a story of an even older English Gent who, when asked why he had learnt Welsh, said that he wished to pray in Welsh. “Why would you want to pray in Welsh?” came the question. “To save the Almighty the trouble of translating!”

And on that rather neat reference to language, I bid you all a fond Adieu. Comme le plus proche. Bon Chance.



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