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Why we all need to rally round and stop the changes to legal aid – sign the petition today

Last night whilst perusing the interweb I was sent a link to the A Barristers Wife blog and promptly spent the best part of the next hour fully taking in all the content on said blog. I won’t lie when I say it was an eye-opening read however it is one that doesn’t surprise me.

The blog is (unsurprisingly considering the title) the blog of the wife of a Legal Aid lawyer. She is writing about some of the cases that her husband has dealt with and why it is vital that changes to the Legal Aid system as proposed by Chris Grayling do not succeed.

The first one I saw was Exhibit C – the “paedophile”. This is a case her husband worked on where a young boy had claimed that his daddy had been abusing him. It seemed a pretty open and shut case until it came out in court that the young boy in fact called both his dad and his stepdad daddy and that he hadn’t seen his real dad in over a year (because of the charges) and wanted to see him and cried. That doesn’t sound like the actions of a kid who had been abused by this man. The lawyer had worked out that it was in fact the stepfather who was the abuser.

Had the lawyer not taken the case diligently and not strong-armed his client into accepting a guilty plea (because the evidence on paper was pretty clear cut) then a completely innocent man would have rotted away in prison only to leave the real abuser still in control of the young boy.

As an aside here I have been the foreman on a jury in a very similar case. The similarities are uncanny and we fund the defendant not guilty due to essentially we didn’t trust the mother’s account of what happened. Her behaviour didn’t add up to us and that was the key. It is strange that evidence counts for so much but behaviour of witnesses do have a real impact. In the other case I sat on during my spell as a juror we didn’t trust the account of the two alleged victims in a GBH case because of the elaborate way they acted in court.

Anyway back to the case in hand. I continued to read the blog.

Next Exhibit B – the “murderer”. This case was a major national case including a Crimewatch reconstruction. The defendant spent over a year on remand awaiting his trial. The lawyer had to spend two weeks (unpaid) to read through all the background information and on the tenth day found the nugget that showed his client could not have been the murderer. In fact in time the Crown’s own evidence would prove he was incapable of being at the murder scene at the time. If we see the proposed changes of legal aid go through then we’ll get to a state where lawyers are just in the business for profit and not to act in the best interests of their client.

At the end of the piece she writes a summary of ‘Why this story should matter to you’ and if you haven’t clicked on the above link (which I would thoroughly recommend) then here is the summary reproduced in full:

Police & CPS procedure – it is clear that the officer in charge of the case had not done what my husband had done, and sat down and read everything. Evidence is collated and summarised in reports, which are passed up and up through the police rank structure. By the time it gets to the top it is a case of “Chinese whispers”. What the top guy reads is not always an accurate reflection of the evidence.

Performance targets – it is unrealistic to expect the police and prosecution to read all of the evidence in every case under the current system. It certainly won’t be possible, even for the defence, under the proposed system. The allocated defence lawyer will be working to targets, working for profit. He won’t have the time to take two weeks out to find the golden nugget. He’ll take a quick look at the evidence, see that it looks pretty damning, and advise the client to plead guilty.

The real scumbag criminal got away with it – as far as we know the real murderer is still at large. The proposed system will lead to more of this. Because if lawyers are to be paid the same whether clients go to trial or not, there will be less trials. Less trials mean less opportunity for upcoming solicitors and barristers to cut their teeth. Less practice on the more simple cases will lead to less proficiency on the complex ones. This will hold for both the defence AND the prosecution. The end result more innocent people going to prison, more guilty people getting away, quite literally, with murder.

It could happen to you – Exhibit B got picked up for this because he had happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. The Crown’s own evidence showed he could not have been at the murder scene at the right time. He served over a year in prison on remand waiting for trial for something he didn’t do. I’ll spare you the details of what happened to him while he was there. And even though he was found not guilty, mud sticks. He was a young man, just starting out. His life was ruined.

Innocence is not interesting – there was a journalist in court for Exhibit B’s trial. Every day there were articles in the local and national papers saying what a nasty piece of work he was. Once the case was thrown out my husband collared the journalist and demanded that he write the story up, listing the points as the judge had directed the jury. Guess what? He didn’t do it. No wonder the public always believe people are guilty until proven innocent.

Innocence is not interesting. Arguably one of the most damning indictments of modern society and she is right. Do we care about people who are falsely accused? Do we heck. The only time we do is if it happens to us or someone that we know. Until that point in general we couldn’t care less and that is something that saddens me. I’m proud to say that I don’t sit alongside those people and think innocence should be as big a news story as guilt. If a defendant is found guilty of a serious crime it will be front page of the local papers but if the same person is found innocent then it’s a snippet on page 17. That isn’t fair but not only that, it isn’t right.

Next up we have Exhibit A – the “child pornographer”. A tale that starts with a granddad’s computer going wrong and taking it somewhere to be fixed. On the computer were images of naked children and the computer repairer called in the police who then arrested the granddad and charged him with possession of level 1 child pornography. Until the trial no-one (including the CPS barrister nor the defence) had seen the photos and the defence lawyer would not advice his client to enter a guilty plea until he had seen the photos. They were eventually granted access to the photos and the CPS barrister upon seeing them offered no evidence and the case was closed.

The whole incident came about because someone pointed a finger (which in this day and age is pretty standard and we all want to be vigilant on these issues) but instead of the police going to see the accused and going through the case properly they just went for it. It turns out the children were his grandchildren and they had come over one day and had forgotten their bathers so were playing in a paddling pool and shooting water pistols naked. A perfectly innocent explanation and one that could have been nipped in the bud before any serious cost to the public purse. Instead police hours, CPS hours, legal aid hours, the court’s time and costs were all incurred when there was never any need for any of it.

On another blog we see the blog post So you’re a football fan, and think the legal aid cuts won’t affect you? which tells of a common tale that could happen to anyone. As a matter of fact a very similar thing happened to me in my teens and it was only the fact that the copper’s colleague really couldn’t be bothered that I wasn’t arrested.

Now I do not know how I’d have reacted as a what 14/15/16 year-old (I can’t remember exactly how old I was) but the context was it was a school INSET day so we were walking through town towards Seaclose Park to play a bit of football. I was saying to the guys something along the lines of ‘I bet we get pulled over by the police asking us why we aren’t in school’ and literally as I said that a cop car drives past eyeballing us. I point and laugh and say to the guys ‘just like that’ and then about 30 seconds later the car has swung around the block and young copper wants to talk to me/arrest me. Older copper (the driver) just stood there leaning on the car and I saw him just shake his head of the younger officer and so I was told to go away. He said I had sworn at him. I knew I hadn’t. However it was effectively my word against his so I’m hypothesising that the advice given to me would’ve been to accept a caution and not taken it to trial had he in fact done what he wanted to do and arrested me.

Of course it didn’t come to that and it was one rather small run-in with the law but I’m not going to lie. Even that incident affected me for quite a while and even years later it would blindside me and I’d think about it. Essentially it was one coppers decision that he couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork that stopped me potentially having a criminal record. How insane is that?

If the proposed changes to legal aid come in and the emphasis changing from putting the clients best interests first towards providing the best value for money and creating profit for the legal aid accredited companies then something has gone seriously wrong in our justice system. Seriously wrong. The cheapest contract is not always the best. I could say that I could school a whole school for £50 a night but that doesn’t mean I could clean it to a level that they expect and the same goes for lawyers.

We can all find ourselves in legal strife through no fault of our own. It can happen to any of us and that is what is so vital about not only the ability to have legal aid but also quality legal aid. Not all defendants are criminal scumbags and until they are found guilty by a jury of their peers they should be allowed the best possible representation from a diligent lawyer who puts the best interest of their client ahead of their own personal views or profit.

If you believe that everyone has the right to a good level of defence when they are only accused of a crime then you can sign the petition here. I did so last night. I would implore you to do so and if this blog post hasn’t convinced you then please read all the pieces that I have linked to. The right to a good standard of defence and advice is something that we all deserve but because of the way the media like to portray all accused as guilty scumbags until proved otherwise and the way society in the main has moved from innocent until proven guilty to suspicious presumed guilty until proven otherwise then it is all the more important that we defend quality legal aid for all who need it. I don’t use libraries but I can see many people that do and therefore don’t mind my taxes being used to keep them open. The same goes for quality legal aid.

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Are judges ignoring the law and reaching verdicts based on public opinion?

I’m not sure just how worrying the fact that I have typed that title is. I think it’s extremely worrying that it is a legitimate question. Let me tell you the story behind the title as seven men are sentenced to jail for not predicting a deadly earthquake. Yes you read that right. Seven men have been sentenced to jail because they didn’t predict an earthquake.

An earthquake in the small Italian town of L’Aquila in 2009 led to the deaths of 309 people. A tragedy for all involved but how did the six scientists and one government official who visited the town six days prior after two minor shocks end up in the dock? Well they predicted that there wouldn’t be a major quake in the town. They felt that the two minor quakes were not a wake-up for a fault line but more of an adjustment. They didn’t make this prediction based on blind hope. They used all the available resources at their disposal but as we all know predicting things like earthquakes or volcano eruptions or tornadoes are not perfected as yet. Heck do the Met Office get the weather right every day?

So we all know this. We know that predicting events that haven’t happened yet is a bit of a lottery. So we couldn’t ever blame these scientists for getting it wrong, could we? Well the Italian justice system did and has and yesterday they were convicted of 309 counts of manslaughter. Due to the way the Italian legal system is set up the men are free until appeals are heard and in all likelihood they will be acquitted on appeal because the charges are just absurd but as it stands they all face two years inside for their role in failing to predict a deadly earthquake.

I know we all hate the Daily Mail but in Michael Hanlon’s blog on their website he makes some excellent points:

It has been argued that they could have been more circumspect. Perhaps, but even so a criminal conviction (let alone a jail term) is absurd. They will appeal, and will probably be acquitted, but even so this coming from a country which gave us the Renaissance (and which to this day has a hugely impressive record in science and engineering) is a chilling reminder that we cannot take the Enlightenment for granted. It comes on the heels of another Italian verdict, this time by the High Court that mobile phones can cause brain cancer – despite there not being a shred of evidence that they do. What is happening is that judges are reflecting public opinion, not evidence. A disturbing trend we are seeing, and not just in Italy.

The legal system is not in place to carry the will of the masses. We left that behind centuries ago. However events such as these make me believe that even in fully democratic and modernised countries judges are ignoring logic and common sense and making decisions based on both their own personal opinion and the feeling of the public around them. There is no way anyone could ever blame these men for not being able to predict an earthquake. Yes they said that they believed there wouldn’t be a major quake and they were wrong and it led to people dying but can you really lay the blame of an supposed ‘Act of God’ at the feet of these mortals?

No. No you simply cannot. This verdict was reached simply because that was the strength of public opinion in the area because so many had been affected by the earthquake. The verdict was not reached because it was the right verdict to give. This is yet another example of the way the legal system is going and it is extremely worrying.

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When you combine twitter with American morons you get depressed…

The internet is arguably the most depressing place in the world if you want to feel good about the human species. I could point to some of the quality of spelling and grammar on internet dating profiles but this piece isn’t about that. This is about stupid American’s who can’t comprehend that someone can have the same name as someone else and not just that – that someone who spells his name differently to someone else isn’t the same person as someone else.

This is the tale of two men – one Jerry Sandusky who is in jail and will spend the rest of his life there for despicable crimes against young boys over many years and one a Baltimore based broadcaster called Gerry Sandusky. This man is not in jail and has not been found guilty of heinous crimes against young boys but apparently many imbeciles on twitter can’t understand the difference between the two.

There is a fantastic piece entitled Gerry Sandusky Is Not Jerry Sandusky (Or: Why The Internet Is Just The Worst Sometimes) which is where I first saw this but if you can’t be bothered to view the link I’ll post a couple of examples here. These are real tweets that this Baltimore based broadcaster has received from people who think that he is the same man as the paedophile who is (and remember this) currently in jail and whilst my knowledge of the American panel system isn’t grand I don’t think too many life inmates have access to twitter.

Gerry Sandusky Twitter 1
And so we begin…

Oh boy…

Gerry Sandusky Tweet

So he’s no relation and now the tweeter thinks that he is his dad…

Gerry Sandusky
Gerry with a G is not the same as Jerry with a J…
Gerry Sandusky Tweet
Gerry with a G is still not the same as Jerry with a J…

Just too depressing sometimes. If you go to this poor blokes twitter feed you’ll see he is getting a lot of this. Even now when Jerry Sandusky is in prison. People are just so stupid that they cannot tell two people with similar names apart. I wonder how they would feel if it happened to them and a similar person to their name perpetrated horrific crimes and they were getting stick about it. However people don’t think like that. Heck some people don’t even think.

Some people have also been tweeting his picture and making web pages about him claiming that he is a paedophile and how evil and wrong it is that he has a twitter account from inside jail. Well I suppose it isn’t a surprise from a country that thinks universal health care is a bad idea that they can be this dumb.

I love twitter as it is a great tool but twitter is also a place where the moron can get a voice and that voice can cause damage. It makes me despair. It really does…

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My experience of a distraction burglary…

I was watching Crimewatch Roadshow this morning and they had the case of Robert Kerr – a man who seemingly defrauded many people who has prayed upon many members of the clergy to use their good nature to get money. However he hasn’t just gone after members of the church and has defrauded many a person so it seems.

He always asks for/demands money claiming that there is an emergency that he has to get to but can’t afford it. If this man (photo below) has tried to get money from you then please get in touch with the police as he is wanted by twelve different forces across the country.

Robert James Kerr Crimewatch
Robert Kerr – Mugshot

So anyway my experience of an attempted crime similar to this. As some of you may know I am the son of a now retired Methodist superintendent. Anyway in 2005 I had moved in with my mum and her husband in the manse after university and one day I was sitting in the living room watching baseball when the doorbell went. I did nothing and there was a couple at the door. They came in and from what I recall they gave some sort of spiel about not being able to afford a train fare.

Anyway I’m not really paying too much attention to this but I do notice my mum put her handbag into the living room. They were in the house for an eon and I’m quietly watching the baseball but think it is pretty strange. However I do know that people often do go to the church as a last resort when they need money. Anyway it must have been a good half hour later I notice the door open and a hand pop through and go into my mum’s handbag. That isn’t normal I think to myself and I hear the man say that they are going.

I go over to my mum’s handbag and notice that her cash card isn’t in there. Now I don’t know if my mum had taken it out or what so I go out and show her. This has all happened within twenty seconds and the two perpetrators had already left. My mum opens the front door and yells for her cash card and they say they have no idea what she is talking about but the commotion had caused neighbours to open their doors and the guy takes it out of his sock and gives it back before they disappear.

I can’t remember if it was reported to the police or not but it just goes to show how these people work. They clearly didn’t know there was another person (me) in the house who happened to see a hand going into the handbag. Had I not been there I’m guessing my mum would’ve found out but probably not for ten minutes or so as she’d of had a drink and a fag before checking I suspect and by then they would have been long gone.

The distraction burglary is on the rise and the only thing you can do to stop it is ensure you don’t let anyone into your home unless you know them. There was a case on yesterday’s show of two people doing these crimes with one in a full policeman’s uniform with a fake warrant card. The way they in general work is one person keeps the occupier busy whilst the other person searches for what they want.

Remember any real police officer is more than happy to wait for you to confirm their identity by ringing the police station. People will say that there are many more important crimes out there (which is fair enough) but when people get scammed and defrauded in their own home it knocks their confidence. So people like Robert Kerr and the others I have mentioned need to be caught. Crime affects us all and it is another reason why we should always look out for our neighbours.

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‘Kids for Cash’ judge gets 28 years inside. Justice.

I was going through the blog a few days ago and came across the following story that I had written entitled Cash for Kids Judges finally convicted and I wondered what his sentence was so I googled it and boy did they come down hard on him.

Last year 61 year-old Mark Ciavarella Jnr. was sentenced to 28 years for his role in the ‘kids for cash’ scandal where he sent young offenders often convicted of very minor crimes to private young offenders prisons because he was getting kick-backs from the prison to do so. He ruined the lives of many of the defendants that were brought before him just so he could earn a few quid through backhanders.

Despite being found guilty the former judge wasn’t repentent and decided to turn on the media for fanning the flames that led to his conviction by the jury, “Those three words (kids for cash) made me the personification of evil,” he told the court, according to the Associated Press. “They made me toxic and caused a public uproar the likes of which this community has never seen.”. So instead of apologising he was incensed that the media had dubbed it the ‘kids for cash’ scandal. Despite you know the fact that he was taking cash in return for sending kids to a juvenile detention facility when it wasn’t deserved. I actually think it might have been a fair headline and catchphrase by the media you know…

As someone who is known to get on the media’s back I will say they acted pretty responsibly in this case. They reported on the charges and the case but they didn’t overstep their mark. He was convicted in court by a jury in a fair trial and got his just desserts. His sentencing has led to over 4,000 criminal records being expunged and every case he sat on where a guilty verdict was reached has been deleted from record.

For six years this monster was able to roam free and undetected. He was able to abuse his power for financial gain and on the way ruin 1000s of lives. It is one of those cases that has really gotten by back up and I can see I was just as incensed last year when the guilty verdicts came out but before sentencing.

Take this example I read today on The Christian Science Monitor:

One of those cases involved 16-year-old A.A., who was arrested for gesturing with her middle finger at a police officer who had been called during a custody dispute involving her parents and her sister.

According to a 2010 report of the Interbranch Pennsylvania Commission on Juvenile Justice, A.A. was an honor roll student, a Girl Scout, and YMCA member, who attended bible school. She had no prior arrest record and had never even been in detention in school.

She was sent to Ciavarella’s court, and was told she wouldn’t need a lawyer since it was a minor issue.

After examining the paperwork, Ciavarella informed A.A. that she had no respect for authority. She later told the investigating commission that Ciavarella never gave her an opportunity to speak at the hearing. She was led out of the courtroom in shackles and held in juvenile detention for six months.

After her release, A.A. returned to school and, again, qualified for the honor roll. She is currently in college and plans to pursue a law degree. She told the investigating commission that she wants to defend the legal rights of children.

So let me get this straight. Officers turned up at her home whilst there was a custody battle involving her little sister and the judge decided that warranted six months in juvw? This was just one case of the 4,000+ that we know of.

I very rarely go as far as to call someone evil but this person is pretty darn close. To go out and intentionally try to ruin lives just to earn a few quid. I won’t say I hope he rots but I sure hope his time inside is long and arduous.

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Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito to walk free tonight

Some instant reactions as Knox and Sollecito are found not guilty of murder on appeal regarding the muder of Meredith Kercher.

First of all Rudy Guede is still in jail for the murder.

Secondly I have no idea whether either Knox or Sollecito are guilty or not. No idea whatsoever. However from all the reports the DNA evidence was all extremely unsafe and that is what the judge thought and decided to disregard all the DNA evidence in the case. After he did this he decided along with his fellow judge and the six jury members decided that the conviction was clearly unsafe and acquitted them both of the murder.

My gut instinct is she probably she involved but you have to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt and if all the DNA evidence is unsafe then you are really pushing it to convict someone on solely circumstantial evidence. You really are.

The Italian legal system has probably done the right thing. We’ll see how Amanda Knox deals with this upon her return to the United States and what her future holds. I remember the case of Louise Woodward and she kept her head down and has rebuilt her life successfully out of the public eye. Will Knox follow suit or will she try to cash in on her story?

I fear it might be the latter.

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I am a liberal sort but…

…I’m happy for new laws to be brought in where abouts being a complete pleb is a crime of some sort. These thoughts are prompted by stories such as this one I read earlier today in everyone’s favourite chip paper rag the Daily Mail. Sick joker facing jail for shouting ‘bang, bang’ and making gun gesture at policeman blinded by Raoul Moat. is the title and reading the piece you just have to think that sheer stupidity and disrespect deserves to be punished – and punished hard.

Now I don’t want to see her go to jail. That serves little purpose apart from scaring her straight. Will 12 weeks inside ensure that she doesn’t do it again? It might and that is all good. However another way of treating absolute Grade A morons is by making them do charity/unpaid work – and not just 80 hours that people get three months to do. Find out what job she has – if she has one – in this instance she doesn’t then make her work 40 hour weeks of unpaid work for six months unless she gets paid employment – then she has to do unpaid work on her days off. Also for cases like these make them have an alcohol ban.

Six weeks inside might scare her straight but six months of long hard unpaid work that will do something good for the community may have both a longer lasting effect and do something good for the local community. Everywhere things need to be done and with council budgets getting slashed then lets get an army of petty crooks working for free and not just some half-hearted effort. The debate about weekly bin collections could be sorted quickly and easily – bin collections to be done by people serving community sentences. Simple. The amounts of parks that need cleaning up, rivers with trolleys in, overgrown plants that need pruning, community areas not tidy.

Whilst I’m not advocating Chain Gangs (although in a way I’m not totally against them) there are clearly better ways to teach people a lesson than lock them up for a bit. Public humiliation I suspect works far better than a few weeks away inside where no-one can see them. The whole prison size issue can be sorted pretty easily but there are too many people that think prison works for everyone and quite frankly it doesn’t.

If these people are on benefits and commit crimes then I don’t think I’m wrong to think that they have to work for their benefits. There are people on benefits through no fault of their own and I’m far less harsh on them but benefits + petty crime surely has to equal work for their benefits..surely?

David Cameron has this quite pie-in-the-sky concept of The Big Society. Well I think The Big Society can start with getting petty criminals working for the state for free as punishment as well as teaching them a lesson it will treat them some humility. I’m also perfectly happy for judges to give young people especially who are getting into petty and more serious crime the offer to military service instead of prison. That too for me has more than some credence.

Lastly alcohol. Alcohol is not a human right. So many crimes are due to drunkenness and people acting like complete numpties. Commit a crime and alcohol is involved then give them an alcohol ban. That will teach them a lesson. If they can’t drink for x amount of time they’ll realise that is wasn’t worth it. If you want to drink and then act like an idiot then be prepared to pay the consequences. A night in the drunk tank in a local police station won’t stop most people from getting drunk the next weekend. Not being able to drink for six months might well make them wonder whether getting drunk in public is really worth it. People who get arrested for drunken behavior should be ordered to seek treatment at alcohol rehab centers, and not be thrown in jail.

Get drunk and walk home quietly causing no-one any problems then who cares. Get drunk and punch a car window in or start a fight then there is a huge problem. Alcohol is not an excuse for bad behaviour and the sooner we as a country face up to that fact then the sooner we can sort out a lot of the lesser crimes and make this country a better and safer place for all.

No government has yet to tackle anti-social behaviour with anything that will either work or isn’t a laughing stock. Things people who commit public order offences/partake in anti-social behaviour generally like:

Spare Time.

If you take those two things away for committing those crimes then I would bet a huge stash of cash that the reoffending rates would collapse.

Seems simple to me but what do I know?

PS: Armegeddon has reached the Essex Rivera. Boy it’s canning – absolutely canning it down outside.

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When is rape not rape? When the attacker is drunk

Now that isn’t a title of a blog post I ever thought I’d be writing nor is it the punchline to a horrific gag.

A small story only picked up my one of the nationals (depressingly it was the Daily Mail) says that a man who had sex with someone who didn’t consent has been found not guilty by a jury at Guildford Crown Court because he was too pissed to realise that it wasn’t his girlfriend. Haydor Khan from my old stomping ground of Farnham went into the wrong room at a hotel and proceeded to have sexual intercourse with a person whom he believed was his partner, however it wasn’t and when the accused realised this he fled the scene.

Now first things first. I have always lived under the belief that being drunk is no excuse for bad behaviour, whether it is criminal behaviour or just being an asshole. No-one forces you to get drunk so if you act like an ass then you have no excuses. Secondly even if this was his girlfriend, having sex with someone whilst they are asleep and haven’t consented is as far as I’m aware rape is it not?

What this does though is set a very dangerous and worry precedent that the ‘being too drunk to notice’ defence is actually plausible and can hold up in a Court of Law. Now obviously I didn’t hear all the evidence and no doubt there was more to this case than has been published but on the surface whilst it does seem like a genuine case of mistaken identity, the being drunk defence is scary. Now if you don’t know what you are doing then you can use that defence and in theory it should be successful. If you drunkenly punch a bouncer but say you thought it was your mate and he wouldn’t mind then bang – you should in theory have a solid defence.

My last point. He wasn’t so drunk that he couldn’t get it up and in my knowledge (I said knowledge not experience there – an importantly distinction to make) then that isn’t being too drunk to not realise who you are sleeping with. Still, what do I know? The jury found him Not Guilty and that as they say is that.

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Cash for Kids Judges finally convicted

We get horror stories all the time. Those of us with a passing interest in US Justice shudder whenever we hear the name Mike Nifong, the man who single-handedly tried to put three men inside on rape charges he knew full well weren’t true to ensure he kept his job as a District Attorney as he was up for re-election. Yes a man tried with all his might to ruin people’s lives for his own career. He is an evil man and the fact that he only ever spent one day in jail is nothing short of disgusting.

Anyway on to the latest story that has just left me sitting here shaking my head is belief. Two judges in Pennsylvania were sending kids to a private prison and receiving kickbacks for every kid they sent to the detention facility. So basically for every kid they sent down they got a big fat reward cheque for their actions. Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were the two men behind the scandal known as the Cash For Kids Scandal and the trial is finally over nearly two and a half years after prosecutors first rumbled their scheme.

Between them they are believed to have pocketed the best part of $3million over the years for doing this. The sad thing is because of how the case was conducted prosecutors weren’t able to convince the jury that they had on purpose judged too harshly and therefore Ciavarella got off on 27 of his 39 counts meaning that he could be out in 13 years instead of the minimum 157 that he was facing. Conahan has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and is expected to be sentenced shortly along with Ciavarella. Conahan is expected to face twenty years whilst Ciavarella is expected to receive slightly less.

Here is a video recounting some of the trials and tribulations that these judges have put people through for no good reason. Kids have killed themselves because of what these judges were doing.

If we can’t believe that judges will sentence criminals fairly then there is something extremely wrong with the system, certainly when it comes to children. I will blog on my thoughts about raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 another day, which the Lib Dems are proposing but even teenagers sometimes do not need to see the inside of a prison cell to be scared straight. Many teenage crimes are done for attention and lashing out. Criminalising them will only reenforce what they already think, that society doesn’t give a damn or has already given up on them. That is a blog for another day.

Today this blog is about people in high authority ruining lives just for a few dollar bills. People look at the USA and believe that it is the greatest democracy on Earth. Well I’m sorry folks but that’s horse shit. The United States of America is the land of the free but only if you grease the wheels. It is as corrupt as many other places but no-one ever wants to believe it. I’m just thankful that I don’t live there.

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Mohammad Amir banned. Call me selfish but I want to see him back – and soon.

So the ICC have banned three Pakistani cricketers for two different offences following the News of the World allegations of last year. Captain Salman Butt has been banned for ten years (five of them suspended) for failing to disclose information about a meeting and an agreement with a dodgy bookie. The two fast bowlers who bowled the no balls, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir (he was Aamer when he broke into the game – why has the spelling of his name changed?) have got seven (two suspended) and five respectively. So all three will at least be out of the game for five years but the likelihood of them ever returning seems low.

The only one who seems to have any realistic shot of taking the field again is Amir. The young left hander was like a breath of fresh air. A truly gifted swing bowler reminded many of Wasim Akram at his pomp. I first saw Amir during the Australian summer twelve months or so ago when he was the shining light in a pretty laborious Pakistani pace attack. He was making waves all over the cricketing world and every cricket fan thought a true great was being unearthed.

Then step forward to the English summer and the Pakistani tour. Again he impressed and showed he wasn’t a one-time wonder. The world was his oyster. He was set to become the poster boy of Pakistani cricket for the next decade or more. If there is one country where a great cricketer can truly have it all then it in Pakistan.

However a no ball later that seemingly was bowled deliberately in return for a few quid has ruined all that. Now these players will face a criminal trial in the UK and that trial will need to prove guilt whereas the ICC Panel didn’t. So I won’t be typing anything about any of them being guilty just yet but I know my heart sank when I read it was this kid involved last summer. I suspect others felt the same.

Now whether he felt pressured into doing it but senior players (if indeed he did do it) or that he was told it was the norm. The long and short of it is cricket is poorer that he won’t be around. Asif and Butt were fine players but neither was a great or had the potential to be one, Amir did. I feel like we are missing out on watching him play because of what happened and the world of cricket is poorer for it.

It makes me sad.

Criminal proceedings get underway in the spring and I know I’ll be watching them intently. If they are found not guilty it will be very interesting to see what happens next but I think the fear is that is less likely than the three of them spending time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

I might be selfish but I want to see Amir again. He’ll only be 22 by the time his ban is up but I fear his name has been tarnished too much. We shall wait and see but true greatness being taken down before it has time to shine is a sad situation for us all.

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