Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 12/12/08


This piece was originally intended to have two parts. Today's events have added a third, which I'll put at the start because it refers back to a previous item (see the first part of this).

The jury in the hamstrung inquest into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes delivered its verdict today. Given that the only truly accurate verdict they could deliver had been prohibited by coroner Wright, it stands to the credit of these fellow citizens that they reached the only verdict left to them which would not exonerate the police; an open verdict.

Moreover, the jury stated that they did not believe the Met's version of events. The lawyers for the organisation which must now surely be re-named The Assassination Bureau claimed that:

To all of these attempts at excusing the officers' conduct, the jury has now returned a resounding cry of "Liars!".

Not, of course, that it will make any difference. Justice has been - and will continue to be - denied. Consider the comments from those in authority after the verdict was announced. The Acting Commissioner of the Met said that he "deeply regretted" what had happened, but that it was just a "most terrible mistake". The chairman of that ongoing restricive practice known as the Police Federation claimed that, "The officers...believed their actions were proportionate and necessary...". The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers said that the killers, "...did what they sincerely believed to be right to protect us." (though who the 'us' are in this case is not clear). The chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (which used to be called just the Police Complaints Commission until someone had the bright idea of sticking the word 'Independent' at the beginning in case we'd have not realised it otherwise - rather like the People's Democratic Republic of Korea) said that the slaying was "deeply shocking" and said that the Met needed to make "operational changes", but ruled out investigating the officers who testified at the inquest for possible perjury. Then the Home Secretary 'Wacky Jacqui' Smith herself said that the killing of an unarmed man by a bunch of wannabee SAS men merely, "...reminds us all of the extremely demanding circumstances under which the police work to protect us..." (again, the 'us' bit remains undefined).

No doubt 'lessons will be learned'. In fact, they have already been. Not only has the State obstructed the course of this inquest, it has - as I mentioned previously - put in place legislation which will make it a cinch for the government to order secret inquests run by hand-picked coroners whenever it suits their purpose (or 'national security', which amounts to much the same thing). In fact, this hearing could almost have been a trial run for the future.

Because what has also emerged today is further evidence of the unfitness of Michael Wright to chair the inquest in the first place. Not only did he forbid the jury to consider all options it should have had available to it, he also refused to allow the jury to be told that Mr de Menezes' family and their legal team had withdrawn their co-operation and presence from the hearing. This was at the behest of the Met's barrister, no less. "The less said the better", said the brief. The reason for their withdrawal was that Wright had ordered the media and the general public out of the court during his summing up, because he claimed he had reached a "sensitive point". We are not vouchsafed which of His Dishonour's points was sensitive (though I hope the ointment doesn't work and he has to have it cut off), and chances are we'll never be permitted to know. Clarification was asked for, but Wright refused to give any, and refused to come out of his room until all those nasty people had gone away.

Moreover, Wright issued a gagging order preventing any reporting of his shenanigans until after the conclusion of the case, when of course it would be too late to have the clown removed and a proper inquest convened.

Perhaps I'm being nave, as the powerful have always sought to protect the powerful in preference to fulfilling their supposed duty to the rest of us, but I don't remember so many cases of official corruption and arrogance coming along at once in the way that we have seen them in the last two or three years. Unfortunately, we are not a society given to standing up for ourselves when it really matters (unlike the people of Greece at the moment), so they can go on quite comfortably without having to worry.

Speaking of corruption and arrogance brings me back to what I had intended to talk about today. Two stories have appeared which sum up the ethical decay which invariably attends those in pursuit of immense wealth and those who then seek to use it to try to exercise power to which they are not entitled.

Jim Beresford is a solicitor in Yorkshire. Or, rather, he was until yesterday, when the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal struck him off. This is why:

Some years ago, the government of the day set up a scheme to compensate coal miners for illnesses and injuries caused by their work. They had to do this because the mine operators (a state body at that time) was woefully lacking in the safety standards department, and this had left ex-miners suffering from a variety of disabilities relating to coal dust inhalation and the crippling effects of using vibrating equipment.

Beresfords in Doncaster was one of the firms who acted on behalf of miners (and their families) who were seeking recompense. However, they deliberately misled claimants, and tricked them into signing agreements which would in effect mean that most of the compensation would end up in the pockets of Beresford and his business partner Douglas Smith. One miner's widow received just 217 after Beresfords deducted a 'success fee' from the final payout. All this in direct contravention of the rules of the compensation scheme.

As a result, the joint earnings of these two shysters went from less than 200 000 a year to over 23 million a year in the six years to 2006. The company made millions whilst the people they were supposed to be acting for received sums which averaged just 2000. The two men lived in the lap of luxury on the proceeds of their scam.

Despite the fact that Beresford has now been debarred from practising as a lawyer, it seems that it won't matter too much to him: for one thing, he described himself as an 'entrepreneur' rather than a solictor, so he will no doubt find it easy to find another way of ripping people off for his own benefit in due course; and for another, no attempt has been made to confiscate the illegally-gained wealth of these two scum-suckers, and it's unlikely that any attempt ever will be made (the Seriously Fraudulent Office says that it is investigating in collaboration with those true friends of the miners, South Yorkshire Police, so Beresford and Smith have nothing to fear there, then).

The island of Sark off the coast of Normandy had its first genuinely democratic elections this week. This marked the formal end of what had been termed 'the last feudal state in Europe'.

The electorate (which numbers just under 500 voters) had, basically, two main groups of candidates to choose from. One supported the former feudal lord of Sark, Michael Beaumont, the other represented the interests of the shadowy Barclay brothers.

The Barclays, 'Sir' Frederick and 'Sir' David are the owners of the right-wing Daily Telegraph newspaper in London (amongst other interests). The septuagenarian twins have a combined wealth estimated at 1.8 billion, and have a mock-Gothic castle on the island of Brecqhou which lies just off the coast of Sark (although they give their domicile address as Monaco for tax-dodging reasons). Since they arrived on Brecqhou fifteen years ago, they have repeatedly clashed with the population and rulers of Sark, and claimed that their campaign was motivated by their desire to bring democracy to the island.

This week, they got their way. Or, rather, they didn't.

Yes, there was a democratic election. Yes, the Barclay brothers fielded a slate of candidates which supported their views. But out of the twenty-eight seats in the Chief Pleas (Sark's parliament), the twins' favourites gained only two.

Democracy in action, then, and something which people with the democratic instincts of a couple of multi-billionaire incomers would no doubt accept, yes?

Well, no actually. Scarcely were the results in than the Barclays announced that they were closing down all their operations on Sark, throwing an estimated 140 people on the dole - except that there is no dole on Sark; no welfare system of any description, in fact. Two hotels, numerous shops and a restaurant have already been shuttered.

So, in short, these two arrogant twats lost, and decided to pick up the ball and take it home with them. That's a true commitment to democracy for you. It reminds me of the behaviour of the US and Europe with regard to the Palestinians: "Oh good! The Palestinians are holding an election. What? They've elected a government we don't approve of? Blockade them!"

Witness the firm attachment to principle exhibited in this remark from the Barclays' shyster, one Gordon Dawes: "They [i.e., the Barclays] feel they cannot work in a place where there is such an anti feeling against them."; and this from their estate manager Kevin Delaney (who failed to win a seat in the Chief Pleas): "There's a very real price that is going to be paid for this". He might have added, "We'll make sure of that!".

The pro-Barclay campaign issued a newsletter during the campaign in which those veiled threats were made, and which attacked one of their opponents as being a 'feudal talibanist', and another as having a 'socialist streak'. This yah-boo-ism obviously didn't go over well with the rather traditionally-minded Sarkees, and resulted in the humiliating defeat of the pro-money slate.

So, to the Barclays and their ilk, 'democracy' merely means "the sort of feudalism we control".

Let us hope that the people of Sark weather the coming storm and send an even bigger FU to these twaddling thugs.

In the meantime, I have no hesitation in declaring Judge Michael Wright, Jim Beresford, Douglas Smith and the Barclay brothers joint winners of The Judge's Cunt Of The Week award.