Baby born on pavement outside hospital in -4C after maternity staff “didn’t hear” mother-to be pressing the buzzer
A pregnant woman gave birth on a hospital pavement in freezing temperatures after it took nurses almost four minutes to answer the buzzer on the maternity unit door, it has been claimed.
Traumatised Lisa McNeil delivered her baby boy on the doorstep of the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on one of the coldest nights of the year as she waited for help from maternity staff.
Despite repeated attempts to alert staff, she was forced to remove her underwear and give birth on all fours – on the ground in front of strangers – because midwives were unable to hear the buzzer.
The temperature was -4C in the early hours of Sunday when the 25-year-old gave birth to Jackson.
Lisa was helped by her mother, 46-year-old Karen Barnes, who used her cardigan as a safety net to stop the baby hitting his head on the concrete.
The family insist they waited six minutes before midwives arrived, and that Karen even used her fingernails to try to prise open the doors. NHS Fife blamed the delay on the wrong buzzer being pressed, which midwives were unable to hear.
Hospital bosses said the call system used by the family was for the assessment department and not the delivery suite and that staff were on the scene within two minutes once the second, correct buzzer was pressed.
Phone and video evidence shows at least three minutes and 49 seconds between the first buzzer being pressed and help arriving.
The delay came just 25 minutes after hospital staff had themselves advised the expectant mother to come in to the maternity unit.
Jackson, who weighed a healthy 8lb 14oz, was doing well last night but his mother said the experience was humiliating and horrific.
She said: ‘It was like a horror movie. I was in a lot of pain and bleeding. It was surreal. They knew I was coming but no one heard us buzzing to get in or our screams for help. ‘We were trying to get in for six minutes before I had no choice but to give birth there and then.
‘I don’t think anyone should be put through the humiliation of having to give birth on a pavement outside a hospital in front of strangers. ‘I dread to think what could have happened to Jackson if my mum hadn’t caught him in my cardigan. He could have hit his head on the pavement.
‘It still hasn’t sunk in and I feel a bit dazed about it like it happened to someone else. I can’t take it in. It is quite unbelievable really.’
NHS Fife issued a statement last night in which it said the family called at two minutes to midnight and were advised to go to the maternity unit. It said: ‘Midwives were with the lady within two minutes of her arrival at the door.’ It added: ‘NHS Fife appreciates that this will have been a difficult time for the family, however, it is not always possible to predict the speed of delivery.’
Timings show that Lisa, her mother and 22-year-old partner Ryan pushed the buzzer at 27 minutes and five seconds past midnight.
NHS Fife said in its statement this was the buzzer for ‘assessment’ and not for the delivery suite. The right button was pressed just over a minute later.
Midwives arrived at Lisa’s side at 30 minutes and 54 seconds past midnight, by which time Jackson had arrived.
Lisa said the situation was a ‘disgrace’ but she did not blame the nurses for what happened. She added: ‘It is not their fault that the buzzer is in the wrong place and they can’t hear it. ‘The buzzer is linked to a video intercom which is placed in the maternity ward but the nurses are busy and they didn’t hear it.
‘I don’t think they should lock the maternity unit at night at all. Something needs to be done to make sure this never happens again.’
She said of the nurses: ‘They were fantastic and very apologetic when they came down and saw me on all fours on the pavement.’ But she added: ‘I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t speak out about this. I am still in shock but I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else.’
Her mother called for an investigation into the issue. She said: ‘This should never have been allowed to happen in a new state-of-art hospital which just opened last month. It was a nightmare I will never forget.
‘My poor daughter was forced to pull down in her underwear in front of passers-by and get down on her hands and knees on a frozen pavement to give birth to her child at the door of a maternity unit. ‘It is scandalous and must never, ever happen again. I kept my hand on that buzzer for six minutes and shouted and screamed and even tried to prise the door open with my fingernails but no one came.
‘I don’t blame the nurses either. They are very busy and didn’t hear the buzzer but the whole system needs to be looked at and they need to make sure that it is manned round-the-clock. ‘I will be calling for an investigation into this to make sure no one has to suffer and be humiliated like my daughter.’
Why are we so soft on dodgy doctors? There are 7,000 complaints about them in a single year – yet just ELEVEN are struck off
Doreen Williams had a chest infection — it wasn’t serious but her GP thought it best to admit the 71-year-old to hospital so that she could have stronger, intravenous antibiotics. Seven days later, Mrs Williams was dead as a result of a pulmonary embolism — a blood clot on the lungs which had developed while she was in hospital.
Her death was entirely needless, says her daughter Karen Rutland. ‘My mother was a busy retired teacher who had visited Wales and Cornwall in the two months before her death,’ she explains. ‘She had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a long-term lung condition, but it never seriously affected her daily life. ‘It just meant she had to be careful to get proper treatment for chest infections.’
Mrs Rutland, 56, has no doubt what was to blame for her mother’s untimely death. ‘She was not given the intravenous antibiotics or standard blood tests until five days after she was admitted to hospital. ‘And although she was at high risk of a blood clot because of her age and her lung condition, she was never given the blood-thinning medication that would have prevented it.’
The doctor in charge also issued a ‘do not resuscitate’ order — without discussing it with the family. So, as Mrs Williams lay dying, neither the doctors nor nurses intervened to save her life.
Shocked and distressed by this betrayal of her mother, Mrs Rutland, a former management consultant from Cornwall, did what most people would do. She tried to complain. She got nowhere.
The doctor denied any responsibility for her mother’s death. And Luton and Dunstable Hospital Trust, where Mrs Williams spent her last days, refused to accept any wrongdoing.
Perhaps most frustrating, however, was the response of the General Medical Council. This is the only medical regulatory body in the UK with the power to suspend or strike off doctors in the interests of patient safety. Initially, the GMC’s senior investigating team recommended the doctor in charge of Mrs Williams’s care should face a Fitness to Practise hearing. But the hearing was cancelled — twice — because the GMC’s medical advisors said there was ‘an insufficient case to answer’.
However, the coroner who later examined the case said he found it ‘inconceivable that vital steps were not taken to follow up’ particular warning signs that something was seriously wrong. ‘There was every reason to believe that after a short stay in hospital, Mrs Williams should have been well enough to return home,’ he said.
So why didn’t the GMC take action? It is a question being asked in an increasing number of cases of alleged medical negligence. The concern is that the GMC, which is funded by the doctors it regulates, is biased in their favour and shields those it is supposed to discipline.
Furthermore, it is accused of treating whistleblowers who try to expose malpractice as pariahs.
Five years ago Sir Liam Donaldson, who was then the government’s Chief Medical Officer, described the GMC as ‘secretive, tolerant of sub-standard practice and dominated by professional interest rather than that of the patient’.
It’s a criticism that won’t go away. Last year, the Parliamentary Health Select Committee described the GMC in a highly critical report as ‘overly lenient’ to doctors — while just a few months ago, the chair of the Patients’ Association, Dr Mike Smith, accused the organisation of ‘clearly under-investigating complaints submitted by patients’.
The statistics speak for themselves. There were 7,000 complaints to the GMC last year. Only 17 per cent of those by patients were investigated — with only 11 doctors struck off as a result of these patient complaints. It is worth noting that once the GMC makes a decision, there is no right of appeal from the complainant.
Even when decisions do go against doctors, the criticism is that the disciplinary process takes far too long, allowing incompetent doctors to continue putting the public at risk.
In January 2010, Dr Jane Barton was found guilty of serious misconduct after a GMC investigation found she’d given painkillers at six times the recommended dose to 12 elderly patients, causing their death at two wards she ran at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire. Yet it took 12 years after the first complaints were made for the GMC to initiate the investigation.
‘If Dr Barton had been suspended by the GMC in 1998 when her actions were first questioned, then many of these patients would have been saved, including my mother,’ says Ann Reeves, 57, whose mother Elsie Devine died aged 88 of a ‘substantial overdose’ of opiates administered by Dr Barton in 1999.
Incredibly, despite finally finding Dr Barton guilty of serious misconduct, a Fitness to Practise panel — who are appointed by the GMC — still allowed her to continue working as a GP (she has since retired).
Indeed, in 2010, 39 other doctors were permitted by panels to remain on the medical register even though the GMC’s own investigators recommended they be struck off.
One of these was general surgeon Gideon Lauffer, who was found guilty of serious misconduct after a series of botched operations that caused the death of two patients and injured 18 more.
Yet a Fitness to Practise panel ignored the advice and imposed a six-month suspension allowing him to return to work ‘under supervision’. By November 2011, he was back at work.
Karen Rutland had little idea of the failings of the GMC when she decided to complain to the organisation about her mother’s death in 2006. While Doreen Williams was in hospital, her husband Ralph had become increasingly worried. Mrs Rutland recalls: ‘He told me the consultant in charge of my mother, Dr Tariq Mirza Rehman, hadn’t started her on the intravenous antibiotics.’ So, the next day, the concerned father and daughter spoke to Dr Rehman. ‘He told us in a reassuring voice how very seriously he was taking our mother’s care.’
But after her mother’s death, Mrs Rutland learned that from the moment Mrs Williams was admitted, Dr Rehman was responsible for a series of glaring omissions in her care. The full extent of neglect was revealed at an inquest in January 2011 — five years after Mrs Williams’s death.
The inquest heard that not only did Dr Rehman fail to prescribe Mrs Williams antibiotics, but he didn’t give her medication routinely prescribed to hospital patients of her age and health background to prevent the blood clot.
There were other more serious failings too. The level of oxygen in Mrs Williams’s blood dropped — a warning sign of a pulmonary embolism — and fell further on the day of her death, which should have resulted in her emergency transfer to intensive care.
At 3pm on Mrs Williams’s final day, Dr Rehman issued a ‘do not resuscitate’ order, a step that is supposed to be taken by doctors at the end of a terminally ill person’s life to stop resuscitation in the event of a cardiac arrest — thereby preventing unnecessary suffering.
Such a step was ‘entirely inappropriate and unwarranted’, according to Dr Vincent Mak, a respiratory medicine and intensive care consultant at Central Middlesex Hospital, North West London, and an independent expert witness at the inquest.
He noted Mrs Williams’s health prior to admission was ‘of reasonable quality’, adding that ‘she had recently had an echocardiogram that showed her heart was working well’.
By issuing the ‘do not resuscitate’ order, Dr Rehman breached two sets of legally binding guidelines, including failing to record the reason for taking this drastic step — which is mandatory. Nor did he consult with Mrs Williams, later insisting that she did not have mental capacity — another claim denounced as untrue by the coroner.
It is also mandatory for doctors to notify a coroner if a death is unexpected —Dr Rehman did not do this. Instead, he allowed Mrs Williams’s death certificate to carry the cause of death as septicaemia and pneumonia.
The coroner summed up his concerns as Dr Rehman stood in the witness box as: ‘You failed to pay attention and treat the patient in front of you’.
Despite these findings, the hospital trust supported Dr Rehman and denied any wrongdoing. So Mrs Rutland turned to the GMC for help.
‘We saw it as our duty to ensure no other family would suffer as we have,’ she says. Yet in 2008, the Fitness to Practise panel, a group of medical and non-medical volunteers, appointed to investigate Dr Rehman’s behaviour, was cancelled — because an independent medical expert claimed ‘none of the points in respect of medical management reflect either incompetence or malpractice’.
Astonishingly, the same thing happened a year later when a second hearing was set up following a complaint from the Rutlands.
Despite the coroner’s unusually critical verdict last January, the GMC insists its own rules prevent it from ‘reviewing a decision to cancel a hearing’.
Chief executive Niall Dickson recently defended the organisation’s record, claiming problems often lie with flawed perceptions of the GMC’s responsibilities. ‘Our job is not to punish doctors but to protect patients by taking action against a failing doctor,’ he said.
‘We look closely at every complaint to see if the doctor’s fitness to practise could be impaired but will only take a case forward if the complaint indicates serious concerns about the doctor. In the majority of cases where a doctor has made a single mistake, this is not indicative of a bad doctor, however catastrophic the consequences.’
So what exactly does a doctor have to do in order to provoke ‘serious concerns’ by the GMC? The worrying answer may be to tell the truth — there is growing concern that doctors who try to blow the whistle on unsafe practice could can end up facing disciplinary action themselves.
Two weeks ago, the GMC issued new guidance reminding doctors they have a duty to raise concerns about poor patient care. Yet it’s an empty warning for Dr Kim Holt, a consultant community paediatrician at Haringey Primary Care Trust.
In 2006, Dr Holt was suspended by Great Ormond Street Hospital, the trust that then employed her, after blowing the whistle on staff shortages and a ‘chaotic’ appointment system at the clinic where, months later, Baby P (Peter Connelly) was treated days before his death.
‘It didn’t ever get to the stage of a complaint to the GMC. But there was an attempt to discredit me, to force me out of medicine as a damage limitation exercise,’ she recalls. ‘I was lucky in that I’ve now been reinstated in my job. But I’ve met several doctors who have been reported to the GMC by their trusts after they became whistleblowers, and a handful who have even been struck off the medical register. ‘Hospitals use threats of referral and actual referral to the GMC as a means of ensuring silence from medical staff.’
Brian Jarman, professor of primary health care at Imperial College, London, agrees changes are needed. ‘There is precious little evidence the GMC supports doctors who speak out when they see failing practice. Why doesn’t the GMC have a confidential helpline for people who see problems at their hospitals? That would be a start.’
Later this year, the GMC will supervise the launch of a revalidation scheme under which doctors’ performances will be evaluated every five years.
Katherine Murphy, of The Patients’ Association, is not impressed. ‘Unfortunately the GMC’s record on managing complaints makes you wonder how revalidation will work — and whether it’s going to be friends revalidating friends,’ she says.
‘We have many experiences of good care and unsung heroes in the NHS,’ adds Mrs Rutland. ‘But there has to be a way of taking action against the bad ones — otherwise standards slipping and people dying unnecessarily becomes acceptable.’
Luton and Dunstable Hospital Trust was unable to provide a comment.
Killer’s ‘family life’ plea is thrown out meaning Nepalese thug CAN be removed from Britain
Judges have quashed a notorious ruling which allowed a Nepalese killer with no wife or children to stay in the UK to protect his right to a family life. Campaigners hope the ruling in the case of Rocky Gurung will be the first step towards restoring some common sense to the country’s deportation and human rights laws.
Gurung was one of a group of thugs who killed an innocent man by throwing him into the Thames on a drunken night out. The victim, Bishal Gurung – no relation – was the son of a hero Gurkha.
The Home Secretary wanted to remove the killer from the UK once he had served his jail sentence for what the trial judge called ‘wanton and inexcusable violence’. But, in a judgment that provoked outrage, the Upper Tribunal of the asylum and immigration court ruled that deporting Gurung would breach Article 8 of Labour’s Human Rights Act – the right to a family life.
His parents live in Britain, and he successfully argued that if he were deported, his father would have to go with him to look after him, breaking up his family here.
Critics said it marked an alarming extension in the scope of Article 8, which is blocking more than one deportation every day.
Now, the three senior Appeal Court judges have overturned the tribunal’s verdict.
They said the tribunal seemed to have spent its time looking for reasons why they shouldn’t deport Gurung, now 23. A different panel will look at the case afresh. Gurung will remain here while it is considered.
Last night, the verdict was welcomed by Tory Dominic Raab, the MP who represents the victim’s family. He said: ‘This ruling highlights the shambles in our deportation system. The immigration tribunal allows far too many serious criminals to avoid deportation on inflated human rights grounds.’
The Appeal Court judgment describes Gurung, who was given indefinite leave to remain in Britain in 2005, as a ‘physically fit and intellectually sound young man who had lived in Nepal in the past’. It went on: ‘There was no objective need for his father to return with him, save perhaps briefly, if he was now deported there.’
Bishal Gurung, 23, was a waiter whose father served with the Gurkhas for 16 years. In April 2008, Bishal was chased along the Embankment in London by up to 15 men before being forced to the ground and kicked repeatedly in the head, then hurled into the Thames.
Following a trial in 2009, Rocky Gurung was convicted of manslaughter, along with an associate, and jailed for three years.
Will the Church of England ever find peace?
Unlikely. The dressup queens in its clergy are killing it
Arguments about women bishops will dominate public proceedings of the Synod, but gay marriage is one of the burning issues behind the scenes.
Across the country, the 477 members of the Church of England’s governing body are bundling reports, agendas and background papers into suitcases ready for next week’s four-day General Synod in London.
But while the wood-panelled walls of the circular chamber at Church House, Westminster, echo to the sound of debates on such matters as the Draft Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order, the real decisions will be made furtively in the tearoom during breaks and, for those lucky enough to have received their gilt-edged invitation card, at the white-tie Dinner to the Archbishops and Bishops held at Mansion House every two years.
At the heart of the most important discussions is the question of whether the Church wants to go along with the increasingly liberal mood of English society, or whether it chooses to stick with its traditions.
There is, as always, a list of contentious issues gripping the Church, but such is the speed at which its bureaucracy moves that only one of them – the decades-long argument over women bishops – is on the order paper at General Synod. Meanwhile, at the top of the “shadow” agenda, and certain to be the subject of heated argument, are same-sex partnerships – specifically, the urgent question of whether or not clergy should be allowed to host civil partnership ceremonies in church.
Thanks to an amendment attached to the Equality Act at the last minute in the House of Lords, and passed into law last December, civil partnerships can now be held in places of worship. But because of fears of lawsuits against conservative clergy, the rules require that the governing body of a religion voluntarily agrees to “opt in” to host the events.
The Church of England’s lawyers say it is under no obligation to perform civil ceremonies, using the memorable analogy that a “gentlemen’s outfitter is not required to supply women’s clothes”. Even blessing services for such unions are banned by the Church of England, although that did not stop one rector from allowing two male priests to exchange vows and rings in his church, the picturesque St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London.
But now 100 clerics in the diocese of London, among them Giles Fraser, the former Canon of St Paul’s who resigned during the Occupy London protest, have signed a letter stating that they should have the right to host civil partnerships on grounds of “individual conscience”, just as they can choose to marry divorcees in their churches.
Their letter follows remarks made by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph last week, in which he insisted that the state did not have any power to change the long-settled definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. “We’ve seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way,” he said.
Although he was immediately branded “Archbigot” by equality campaigners, despite his making clear he did not disapprove of civil partnerships, no senior clerics have spoken out publicly against him. Many are no doubt weighing up the effects on their existing congregations, and the likelihood of attracting new churchgoers, if they were to declare themselves open for gay weddings. Church of England attendance is now down to 923,700 on an average Sunday. And despite a 4 per cent rise in 2010, the number of church weddings has been in decline for years, so gay couples who have resisted civil partnerships as “second-class” could provide a welcome boost.
However powerful the voices of the 100 London rebels may be, they must know that any move to grant them rights of individual conscience would have to be considered by Synod first and would also wait on a House of Bishops review of policy on civil partnerships in general.
While that issue fizzles in the corridors and tearoom next week, the Church will once again put its arguments about women bishops centre stage. Although most in the Church now accept that women will soon be fitted for mitres, about 1,000 outright opponents have departed for Rome over the past year and more are expected to follow, and it is still by no means sure that the lengthy legislative process will proceed smoothly. The Synod will be an opportunity for substantial revisions to the plans, which could see them sent back to the 44 dioceses for further consideration rather than sent forward for the deciding vote at York this July.
Yesterday’s visit by the Prince of Wales and the Bishop of London to a bastion of traditionalism, three Anglo-Catholic churches in north London where no women are allowed to preach, may be seen by liberals as a glimpse of the vanishing world of “smells and bells”. But others may view it as supportive of an important statement made by both Archbishops in the Synod background papers – that they want the C of E to remain a broad church “in which conscientious difference of theological judgement is fully respected”.
The question of how the Church is perceived by the outside world is of crucial importance to its future, though it is likely to be ducked at Synod. There will be much back-slapping in the corridors over the recent performance of the Lords Spiritual – the 26 bishops who sit in the House of Lords. Long regarded by the Left as an embarrassing anachronism in multicultural, democratic Britain, they became the toast of liberals last week for leading a defeat of government plans to cap benefits at £26,000 a year (though that has since been overturned in the Commons).
What most bishops will be talking about is the intervention of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who missed the Welfare Reform Bill debate but then used a newspaper article to declare that benefits dependency encourages “fecklessness”.
A remarkable degree of unity was on show in the Church as clerics weighed in against their former leader, who faced accusations of buying into evil Tory ideology as well as being “yesterday’s man”. But few seemed to consider that Lord Carey, who previously had a column in the multi-million-selling News of the World, was expressing the views of many ordinary people, as well as government ministers.
Next week will also be the first gathering of Synod since the “debacle” – to quote Lord Carey again – at St Paul’s, another example of how the leadership of the Church, convinced of its moral superiority and used to getting its way, was unable to see how it looked to the outside world. First it welcomed the protesters, then it tried to blackmail them into leaving by closing the cathedral doors, then it sided with the Corporation of London in trying to have them evicted, then it backed down and was forced to deal with the resignation of its dean and canon chancellor.
Since then, we have been treated to a stream of articles by bishops declaring that Jesus would have camped out with the Occupy crowd and denouncing the robber barons of capitalism (who for years have funded their cathedral restoration projects). Again, of course, none of this will be discussed on the record at Synod.
All present will be wondering if the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will be making his last appearance in the chamber. Lambeth Palace has noticeably failed to deny reports circulating since October that Dr Williams is to return early to his natural home of academia, and the choice of his successor will help determine how the Church is seen by the public as well as affecting its internal wranglings.
Dr Sentamu is the bookies’ favourite, with opinion divided over whether his strident opposition to gay marriage will dent or boost his chances. Despite his meteoric rise through the Church’s ranks, he accepts that Canterbury is a near-impossible job and he would likely be happier were he to remain in York.
After all the unwanted headlines generated by Dr Williams – such as his comments on sharia law and the democratic illegitimacy of radical Coalition policies – Church officials are now expected to put up younger bishops who rarely express their opinions on contentious issues and are not associated with either the conservative or liberal wings.
But it remains unclear if this stance will be welcomed by the people who still make their way to the pews every Sunday, whose average age is now 61 and who have long been characterised as the “Tory party at prayer”.
But, of course, none of this will be discussed in public at the General Synod next week.
Trial by jury: The case for the defence
We should fight hard to defend the right to a jury trial, which remains the ‘lamp that shows that freedom lives’
This week, the UK Ministry of Justice revealed plans to save £30million by restricting the right to trial by jury in ‘minor cases’. The reforms would target offences currently referred to as ‘either way’, because the defendant has the right to choose between being tried by a jury in the Crown Court or by a magistrate in the Magistrates’ Court.
The reforms have been championed by the Magistrates’ Association and the ‘victims’ champion’ Louise Casey, a one-woman quango who in March 2010 was appointed by the New Labour government to represent the interests of victims in the criminal justice system. In November 2010, Casey called for identical restrictions to trial by jury in her report, Ending the Justice Waiting Game: A Plea For Common Sense, in which she derided ‘the administration of law that concerns itself with due process and the rights of offenders’. Speaking to The Times (London) this week, she said: ‘We should not view the right to a jury trial as being so sacrosanct that its exercise should be at the cost of victims of serious crime.’
Many have pointed out that Casey is just the latest in a long line of members of the English establishment who have sought to limit trial by jury. Lord Roskill’s 1986 report on trial by jury in cases involving serious fraud advocated abolishing juries in fraud trials to make the process more ‘expeditious’, despite finding no evidence that jurors were less capable of understanding fraud than judges were. The Runciman report in 1994 recommended abolishing the right to elect trial by jury for certain offences, saying that for many crimes the view of the jury was ‘unnecessary’. Jack Straw called the right to trial by jury ‘frankly eccentric’ in his failed bid to push his doomed Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill on to the statute book in 2003.
Judges, politicians and quango-staffers may see the system of trial by jury as an ‘eccentric’ waste of time and money. But at a time when successive governments have engaged in a prolonged assault on the rights of defendants in criminal trials, standing up for the jury system – famously described by Lord Devlin in the 1950s as the ‘lamp that shows that freedom lives’ – has never been more important. Its value in rebalancing the hugely unequal relationship between the accused citizen and the powers of the state cannot be underestimated.
Juries ensure that the law is applied in a way which is consistent with the social values of the day. This is why juries have the power to acquit a defendant in the face of overwhelming evidence of their guilt. In the nineteenth century, juries in the United States used this power to acquit law-enforcement officers charged with offences under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 for harbouring escaped slaves, even when they had been directed to convict by the judge. These acquittals led the Wisconsin High Court to become the first state court to rule the Fugitive Slave Act to be unconstitutional in 1854. Later, in the 1930s, many juries acquitted those charged with producing alcohol during the days of Prohibition. These acquittals eventually forced prosecutors to stop taking Prohibition cases up in the first place.
More recently, juries have acquitted defendants accused of murder even on overwhelming evidence of their guilt, if they have taken the view that they are not deserving of punishment. For example, Kay Gilderdale was cleared of attempting to murder her 31-year-old daughter, who was suffering from chronic ME, despite clear evidence that her daughter was unconscious when she injected her with morphine. The unfettered discretion afforded to juries enables them to hold the black letter of the law up to contemporary social norms and to make a democratic decision as to whether the defendant is guilty or not.
The jury also represents one of the last areas of public life where we, as members of the public, are absolutely trusted to make important decisions for ourselves. The judge is highly restricted in what he can ask a jury about their deliberations; if he is seen to be putting undue pressure on them to convict, the verdict will be overturned. This esteem has ancient roots. The Athenian speech writer Lysias described the jury’s verdict as ‘sovereign over all the city’s affairs’ and said juries had the power to decide whether the law was ‘powerful or powerless’. In the Roman republics, the decision of the single magistrate was only appealable to the citizen courts made up of up to 1,000 citizens, the verdict of which was absolutely final.
Today, however, the idea that a defendant’s guilt should be determined democratically is being eroded. More and more criminal offences are punishable by way of a fixed-penalty notice, dished out without any need to go before the courts. Bureaucratic organisations like the Independent Safeguarding Authority can effectively punish individuals by restricting their right to work without the need for any criminal conviction. Reams of new legislation encourage defendants, through discounts on their sentence or with prohibitive restrictions on legal aid, to plead guilty as quickly as possible.
All of these measures, along with the attacks on the jury system, are part of the same anti-democratic trend that places efficiency and cost saving before the rights of defendants to a fair trial. We should resist this trend by standing up for the principle of the jury trial, as one of the last remaining guarantors of our stake in criminal justice.
Two glasses of wine a night triples risk of mouth cancer, Government warns
Another rotation of the merrygoround! Wine is both good and bad for you, apparently. No science is cited below so I have my doubts about this latest pronunciamento. Mediterranean people drink a lot of wine and they are usually held up as a good diet example. Do they have runaway rates of oral cancer? I think we would have heard of it if they do
Drinking two large glasses of wine a day triples the risk of developing mouth cancer, a government campaign will warn. Television adverts which start running on Sunday evening will say that drinking “just a little bit more” than recommended daily limits for alcohol increases the risk of serious health problems.
Government advice states that men should drink no more than four units a day and women should have no more than three. A large 250ml glass of wine is classed as three units, as is a pint of continental lager.
The adverts will say that those who regularly drink six units in a day double their chance of high blood pressure and triple the risk of developing mouth cancer.
Mouth cancer is diagnosed in more than 5,000 people a year, leading to about 1,800 deaths, while about 12 million people have high blood pressure, increasing their chances of strokes and heart attacks.
The adverts, run under the Change4Life banner, will encourage drinkers to cut down by having alcohol-free days, not drinking at home before going out, swapping to low or alcohol-free drinks and using smaller glasses.
Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is uncommon, but cases have risen by 20 per cent in the past three decades. It affects twice as many men as women.
High blood pressure is far more common, with about 12 million sufferers in the UK, about 7 million of whom are diagnosed.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said the campaign was being launched “to alert people that it is not just binge drinkers who damage their health”.
David Cameron has recently indicated that he might back a minimum alcohol price in England to deter excess consumption, overruling the advice of Mr Lansley, who believes the move would have little impact.
Conceited young far-Leftist insults the Queen
The Queen is much-loved in Britain so you would have to be full of yourself to say such things. But Leftists ARE generally full of themselves. He also appears to be of Maltese extraction so may not like Britain generally.
“An aide to a shadow minister was yesterday forced to apologise for a ‘shameful slur’ which likened the Queen to a benefit scrounger.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, who works for shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter, provoked outrage by suggesting the Queen had been ‘scrounging benefits off the taxpayer’ for 60 years.
As the Queen marked 60 years on the throne, Mr Zarb-Cousin wrote on Twitter: ‘Congratulations this morning to Queen Elizabeth II. 60 years of scrounging benefits off the taxpayer without being caught.’
But Mr Zarb-Cousin, who is also on the left-wing Fabian society’s youth committee, was later forced to apologise after he was given a dressing down by his bosses.
Labour sources said that the aide had been given a ‘carpeting’ after Mr Slaughter became aware of his controversial remarks.
Describing his behaviour as ‘totally unacceptable’, the Shadow Justice minister said: ‘The Queen has given great service to our country and these comments are totally unacceptable.
He is of course entitled to express his opinion but he also must wear any condemnation of it. As it is he appears to have suffered little in the way of consequences, other than having killed off any future political aspirations he may have had. Even a return to Malta might not help him. Malta is a member of the British Commonwealth and the Queen is generally held in high esteem there.
Academic sparks outcry for comparing Britain’s colonisation of New Zealand to Holocaust
“A leading academic has sparked outrage after comparing the Holocaust that killed six million Jews to Britain’s colonisation of New Zealand. Language lecturer Keri Opai claimed that New Zealand’s native indigenous Maori were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following the ‘holocaust’ of British rule.
But last night the President of the New Zealand Jewish Council slammed the Maori academic for ‘trivialising state sponsored genocide’.
During the New Zealand Wars of 1845-1872, which saw the Maori defended their tribal lands from British colonial forces, 20,000 Maori were killed while hundreds of thousands more were driven from their homes.
The debate on national identity was part of a special broadcast on Waitangi Day – the holiday that marks the signing of the first treaty between representatives of the British Crown and Māori chiefs in 1840.
The document has always been disputed because the English and Māori versions of the treaty differed significantly. The British believed it gave it sovereignty over New Zealand and gave their appointed Governor the legal power to rule the country.
But Māori believed they ceded to the Crown a right of governance in return for protection, without giving up their authority to manage their own affairs.
What is usually glided over is that it was Maori killing Maori that was the major cause of death after the British arrival. The Maori were vastly impressed by guns and gladly traded land for guns — which they then used to kill off neighboring Maori tribes. It was in fact only British influence that eventually brought peace.