Polish brain surgeon suspended after patient’s death scored record low of just 17.5% in exam
The NHS sure can pick ’em. How was he ever let loose on patients?
A Polish brain surgeon who was suspended following the death of one of his patients scored a record low in a performance test.
Neurologist Wlodzimierz Szepielow had been working at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee until his contract was terminated last year.
A panel in July 2011 had found Dr Szepielow’s fitness to practise was impaired as a result of his poor professional performance, but agreed he could continue to work under supervision for 18 months.
Last year he sat a knowledge test and needed to achieve a mark of 52 per cent to pass. However, he could only manage 17.5 per cent, the lowest mark an assessor with more than 15 years’ experience could recall.
His performance in the knowledge test and in medical exams was so poor that the assessment team decided it would be inappropriate for Dr Szepielow to continue to practise and he was suspended.
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service found his expertise was so poor that it felt Dr Szepielow could have brought the profession into disrepute.
Tribunal panel chairman Dr Malcolm Phillips said: ‘Dr Szepielow’s performance has deteriorated since his previous performance assessment in 2010. ‘The panel finds little evidence of effective remediation by Dr Szepielow. It notes that he has attended some training but considers this did not appropriately address his deficient performance.
‘The panel finds that should Dr Szepielow be allowed to return to clinical practice, due to his lack of insight he may be liable to bring the medical profession into disrepute.
‘In the circumstances, the panel has determined that Dr Szepielow’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of his deficient professional performance.’
Dr Szepielow’s performance was also found to be unacceptable in the areas of assessment, treatment, investigations, maintaining good medical practice and relationship with patients.
The panel must now decide what sanction to impose on the doctor, the most serious of which would be to strike him off the medical register.
Dr Szepielow arrived in the UK in 2005 and over the next two years received several complaints from patients, while concerns were also raised by colleagues.
A review of a selection of Dr Szepielow’s outpatients led to his suspension by Tayside NHS Trust in 2007 after the death of a patient with status epilepticus, a prolonged seizure.
But Dr Szepielow did not come to the attention of the General Medical Council until 2009, which led to an assessment of his professional performance.
Dr Phillips said: ‘The assessors concluded that Dr Szepielow is beyond remediation. The panel has noted the timescale for remediation as judged by the assessors. Their view was that remediation would take an excessive amount of time with little possibility of success.’
The tribunal decided his performance was incompatible with being a doctor and his lack of insight posed a risk of serious harm to patients.
Dr Phillips said: ‘The panel noted that there were a number of clinical scenarios in which Dr Szepielow’s performance was found to be unacceptable, and some of which, if repeated, in a real-life scenario could lead to the death of patients.
‘Dr Szepielow’s serious departure from good medical practice, as concluded by the assessment team, demonstrates behaviour fundamentally incompatible with being a doctor.
‘His lack of insight into his deficiencies may result in serious harm to patients through incompetence.’
Dr Phillips added: ‘Erasure is the only means of protecting patients and the wider public interest, which includes maintaining public trust and confidence in the profession.’
Dr Szepielow was not present or represented at the hearing, which continues.
As crisis in NHS 111 helpline deepens… A&E chiefs fear bank holiday meltdown
The new NHS 111 system faces meltdown this weekend, doctors fear.
The warning came as it emerged that at least three patients may have died because of failings in the helpline. As well as the deaths, a further 19 cases involving poor care are being investigated – even though 111 has been running for only a few weeks.
Hospitals have already been inundated with patients with non-urgent conditions sent by unqualified call centre staff manning the new line. This weekend is the first bank holiday since the helpline was launched last month and there are concerns it will not be able to cope with the extra demand brought about by GP surgeries being closed for three days.
Many hospitals have drafted in extra doctors and nurses to deal with a surge in admissions expected this weekend and back-up plans are in place to set up temporary wards.
The 111 system has replaced NHS Direct and local GP out-of-hours numbers. But the lines are manned by call centre staff with no medical training using a computer system which is liable to crash.
Some critically-ill patients have waited 11 hours to be called back by a nurse and the British Medical Association has warned that lives are being put at risk.
Figures obtained by Pulse magazine confirmed that at least three patients are feared to have died due to failings in the helpline. But the true number is likely to be higher because many organisations contracted to run 111 refused to provide data.
One 83-year-old patient died in the East Midlands after their friend called 111 and said they had collapsed with severe abdominal pain. It is feared that the call centre employee failed to summon an ambulance quickly enough and when paramedics eventually arrived the patient was dead.
Another patient died in the West Midlands after they dialled 111 and were told to go to their nearest GP clinic.
NHS Direct, which runs the helpline in that area, would not provide details but said it was being investigated along with six other non-fatal incidents.
A third death involving a suspected overdose is being looked at in the East Midlands. The family called 111 and requested mental health assistance but the patient was found dead at their house.
A total of 22 ‘serious untoward incidents’ – including the three deaths – are being investigated although the true number is likely to be higher as most organisations refused to provide figures.
Dr Peter Holden, a senior GP at the British Medical Association said: ‘We don’t know how serious these incidents have been. More to the point, we don’t know how many calls have been abandoned.
Dr Taj Hassaan, vice president of the College of Emergency Medicine, who works at Leeds said: ‘We’re worried that this is the first bank holiday following the launch of 111. At a time where 111 in parts of the country is fragile, we need to plan as well as we can.’
The concerns come as the Government is considering making GPs take back responsibility for out-of-hours treatment. A controversial contract negotiated under Labour in 2004 enabled them to opt-out of working evenings and weekends even though their salaries soared.
NHS England, the new body running the health service which earlier this week announced an urgent review of the 111 helpline, said fines would be handed out to organisations responsible for ‘seriously poor performance’.
Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘It has collapsed. What’s happening is that because people are not able to get through they are giving up and self-referring to A&E. ‘Waits of between 12 and 24 hours [in A&E] are now commonplace.’
UKIP win freaks Greens in Britain
The Green Party was this morning celebrating a “positive night” following yesterday’s local elections, securing gains across the country despite a headline-grabbing surge from UKIP.
The Greens secured two new council seats in Essex and also made gains in Bristol and Worthing. With fewer than half the number of councils being contested having declared a result, party sources said that they were confident of an increase on the 16 council seats they held going into the election.
However, the Greens’ gains were overshadowed by those for UKIP, which by midmorning had secured 42 council seats across the country and commanded around a quarter of the vote.
Concerns are mounting among green groups that the UKIP surge could have a knock-on impact on energy and environmental policy, given that David Cameron is now under mounting pressure to tack to the right.
However, UKIP leader Nigel Farage has taken a vocally anti-green stance, slamming wind farm developments and questioning whether manmade climate change is happening.
Westminster observers are convinced that the growing popularity of UKIP is one of the main reasons some Conservative MPs have become more openly hostile to environmental policies.
Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg this week gave an interview ahead of the elections when he admitted that battling with his Conservative coalition partners over green policy had dominated much of his time in recent months.
Europe’s Green Agenda Goes Up In Smoke
Environmentalists, businesses and carbon market investors were watching last week’s conclave of environment and energy ministers in Dublin closely, hoping to see a plume of white smoke emerging to signal that the ministers had agreed to step in with bold support for the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). But no such signal of support came.
The proposal by the European Commission to rescue the flagging ETS by delaying some allowances in the next trading period, rejected by the European Parliament by just 19 votes on 16 April, was not revived by the ministers. It would seem that the dire warnings from analysts, who have said that the EU’s flagship climate policy faces extinction unless the low price of carbon in the scheme is fixed, were not enough to sway the reluctant ministers. The price of carbon in the scheme is now under €3 per tonne of CO2 – far lower than the €30/tonne that it is estimated is needed to reduce emissions.
Reacting to the ministers’ lack of support, carbon market analyst PointCarbon last week revised its price forecast for the next ETS trading period, 2013-20, down by 45%, predicting an average price of just €6/tonne until 2020. “[At this price] the EU ETS will not bring about any additional greenhouse-gas reductions”, said Stig Schjolset, an analyst with PointCarbon. The low pricecould actually provide incentives to invest in coal-fired power plants.
Ministers came out of the meeting insisting that the ball is in the European Parliament’s court, as the proposal has been referred back to the environment committee to be amended in the next two months before a second vote. “They have to act first,” said Phil Hogan, Ireland’s environment minister. “The matter is for the European Parliament, not for the Council at the moment.”
But analysts as well as MEPs on the committee say that the proposal is unlikely to pass a second vote in the Parliament unless the Council comes out in favour. “What can the environment committee do?” asked Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout. “It’s a one-line change. Finding a compromise there is difficult. We need other dynamics in the other institutions.”
Running out of time
Ireland, which holds the presidency of the Council of Ministers, says that ministers and MEPs need time to digest the vote on 16 April. A Council working group will discuss the issue on 27 May. But with little prospect of another vote in the Parliament anytime soon, real movement is unlikely until the autumn.
Even if the proposal were passed by the end of the year, that would probably be too late. “While there remains the possibility that the proposal may come back to plenary for a new vote before summer, it remains unlikely that backloading will ever be implemented,” concluded Haege Fjellheim, an analyst with PointCarbon, on Monday (29 April). Backloading was supposed to begin this year.
While the Parliament vote was preceded by fierce lobbying against the proposal from energy-intensive industries, in the Council the lack of support is more political. A majority of member states support the proposal, but the German government has refused to take a position.
UKIP: monster raving loonies?
The political and media classes’ pathologisation of the UK Independence Party exposes their own cowardice
UKIP party leader Nigel Farage. His party has just got 25% of the English vote
Nutters. Nutcases. Loonies. Morons. Crackpots. Cuckoos. Oddballs. Fruitflies. Fruitloops. Fruitcakes. When it comes to slang used to suggest that members of the right-wing libertarian UK Independence Party (UKIP) are mentally ill, mainstream politicians and the media have lobbed the entire urban dictionary at them.
UKIP’s latest diagnosis came at the weekend from polo-necked Conservative minister Ken Clarke. In light of the upcoming local elections, Clarke dismissed UKIP as a ‘collection of clowns’, full of ‘waifs and strays’ not sufficiently ‘sensible’ to become local councillors. His comments echoed UK prime minister David Cameron’s oft-quoted remarks from 2006 when he dismissed UKIP as a bunch of ‘fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists’. Cameron has refused to retract these comments, adding earlier this year that he still thought UKIP was full of ‘pretty odd people’.
Almost since its launch in 1993, politicians have chosen to paint UKIP as the successor to the Monster Raving Loony Party, full of – as Michael Howard, Cameron’s predecessor as Tory leader, put it – ‘cranks, gadflies and extremists’. The message is clear: on no account should UKIP be taken seriously as a political force. It deserves only ridicule. After all, how could any party that calls for the abolition of the smoking ban, or for the UK to leave the EU, be considered to be of sound mind? If you support UKIP, you need your head examined.
The volley of insults against UKIP has been ramped up in anticipation of this week’s local council elections, where UKIP looks set to gain its largest number of seats ever.
All the same, the insults keep coming. Many in the media seem especially keen to dig a disproportionate amount of dirt on UKIP, casting improperly vetted candidates as the norm (helpfully assisted, as suggested in a recent Telegraph blog, by the Conservative Campaign HQ). UKIP’s members are revealed not only as far-right sympathisers and Holocaust deniers, but also as climate-change sceptics peddling ‘cuckoo conspiracy theories’. And their irrational hatred of foreigners – UKIP calls for stronger immigration controls – often leads them to being diagnosed as ‘xenophobes’.
You don’t have to be a fan of UKIP to recognise these attacks on the party as being the lowest trick in politics: depict your opponents as mad and thus remove the need to engage and argue with them. After all, what would be the point? They’re suffering from all sorts of psychological conditions from rampant denialism to proliferating phobias. They are therefore utterly incapable of engaging in rational debate.
This cheap tactic of pathologising political opponents in order to avoid debate is widespread today. Take, for example, environmentalist campaigners’ branding of anyone who deviates from what they deem to be cold hard facts as ‘climate deniers’. Pro-gay marriage campaigners have used similar tactics, calling opponents prehistoric ‘knuckle draggers’ who, as ‘homophobes’, have an irrational fear of gay people. Now the same approach is being taken with UKIP: portray them as loons with fantastic ideas (and, yes, many are critical of climate-change orthodoxies and gay marriage) borne of irrational prejudice.
Such ad hominem slurs are both cynical and cowardly, reflecting the extent to which UKIP has managed to get under the skin of the Tories and the political class as a whole. It’s now reported that Labour leader Ed Miliband is opposed to the idea of UKIP leader Nigel Farage being allowed to appear in televised debates in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Apparently UKIP’s ‘brand of anti-politics could damage all three main parties in unpredictable ways’. The fear, it seems, is that UKIP may infect voters with its madness and upset the normal business of sensible mainstream party politics. The public needs to be kept away from the lunacy of Farage for its own sanity.
Ironically, in his attack on UKIP, Ken Clarke argued that ‘they don’t know what they are for’. Perhaps if the Tories – and, indeed, Labour and the Lib Dems, too – possessed a stronger sense of what they are for, they would feel less threatened by UKIP. And perhaps then, rather than cheap smears, a genuine public, political debate could take place.
Why the Left hates families: MELANIE PHIILLPS reveals how the selfish sneers of Guardianistas made her see the how Left actively fosters – and revels in – family breakdown…
For the Left, I am the target of deepest hatred. For my trenchant views, expressed in this newspaper, they call me ‘insane’, ‘reactionary’, ‘racist’, a ‘Nazi’, a ‘shroudwaver’, a ‘witch’ and a ‘warmonger’. I have been accused of ‘unmatched depths of ignorance and bigotry’ and being the ‘queen of mean’.
It was even suggested (in a particularly extreme spasm of hyperbole) that I eat broken bottles and kill rats with my teeth.
This resort to crude insult against anyone who dares to challenge their shibboleths is typical of the Left.
It doesn’t argue its case. It simply tries to shut down debate by bullying its targets and labelling them as extremists and enemies of humanity in order to frighten people away from listening to them.
But they reserve a special loathing for me. This is not just because I refuse to be cowed. It’s because I was once one of them, one of the elect, a believer.
I come from the kind of family in which it was simply unthinkable to vote Conservative. For my parents, the Tory Party represented the boss class, while Labour supported the little man — people like us.
My father was haunted all his life by the poverty he endured growing up in the old East End of London in the Twenties and Thirties. His family of six lived in two rooms; he never had enough to eat. He left school at the age of 13.
As a university-educated young woman with hippie-style hair and an attitude, I, too, generally toed the standard Leftist line in the late Seventies and early Eighties.
Poverty was bad, cuts in public spending were bad, prison was bad, the Tory government was bad.
The state was good, poor people were good, minorities were good, sexual freedom was good.
And pretty soon I had the perfect platform for those views when I went to work as a journalist on The Guardian, the self-styled paper of choice for intellectuals and the supposed voice of progressive conscience.
The paper and I fitted each other perfectly. If I had been a character in one of the Mister Men books, I would have been Little Miss Guardianista.
Those of us who worked there had a fixed belief in our own superiority and righteousness. We saw ourselves as clever and civilised champions of liberal thought.
I felt loved and cherished, the favoured child of a wonderful and impressive family.
To my colleagues, there was virtually no question that the poor were the victims of circumstances rather than being accountable for their own behaviour and that the state was a wholly benign actor in the lives of individuals.
It never occurred to us that there could be another way of looking at the world. Above all, we knew we were on the side of the angels, while across the barricades hatchet-faced Right-wingers represented the dark forces of human nature and society that we were all so proud to be against.
But then Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979; and although at The Guardian it was a given that she was a heartless, narrow-minded, suburban nightmare, I found myself listening, despite myself, to a point of view I had not heard before.
These Thatcherites were not the usual upper-class squires, but people whose backgrounds were similar to my own.
They were promoting the values with which I had been brought up in my Labour-supporting family — all about opportunities for social betterment, hard work, taking responsibility for oneself.
I always believed a good journalist should uphold truth over lies and follow the evidence where it led.
Trudging round godforsaken estates as the paper’s special reporter on social affairs, I could see the stark reality of what our supposedly enlightened liberal society was becoming.
The scales began to fall from my eyes. I came to realise that the Left was not on the side of truth, reason and justice. Instead, it promoted ideology, malice and oppression. Rather than fighting abuse of power, it embodied it.
Increasingly, I saw how journalists on highbrow papers write primarily for other journalists or to impress politicians or other members of the great and the good.
They don’t actually like ordinary people — especially the lower middle class, the strivers who believed in self-discipline and personal responsibility. They dismiss them as narrow-minded, parochial and prejudiced (unlike themselves, of course).
But I always wrote with ordinary people in mind. Just as they were sceptical of intellectual abstractions, fantasies or Utopian solutions, so was I.
Bit by bit, I saw through the delusion of the Left’s supposedly ‘progressive’ politics. Increasingly, I turned away from their stupidity, hypocrisy and moral blindness. They, of course, dismissed me as contemptibly ‘Right-wing’, as if that was sufficient to destroy my argument.
But I am not ideologically driven. I hate the way political debate has been polarised into warring camps, with each side circling its wagons and striking ever more inflexible, dogmatic and adversarial positions.
My battle with the Left has never been from ‘the Right’, despite what they say. How can I be ‘Right-wing’ when I am driven by the desire to make a better world, stand up for right over wrong and look after the most vulnerable in society?
Rather, I fight the Left on its very own purported moral high ground, which I once believed we all shared, but which I came to realise it had most cynically betrayed.
The defining issue for me — the one that launched me on a personal trajectory of confrontation with the Left and with my colleagues and friends — was the persistent undermining of the family as an institution.
By the late Eighties, it was glaringly obvious that families were suffering a chronic crisis of identity and self-confidence.
There were more and more divorces and single parents — along with mounting evidence that family disintegration and the subsequent creation of step-families or households with no father figure at all did incalculable damage to children.
‘Too many children lack a consistent mother or father figure,’ researchers told me.
Poverty, the Left’s habitual excuse, could not be the culprit since middle-class children were also not receiving the parental attention they required.
For me, the traditional family is sacred because it embodies the idea that there is something beyond the selfish individual. But it was being turned into a mere contract that either side could break more or less at will.
I listened to the evidence of those with no particular ideological fixation or agenda, but who simply spoke of what they saw was happening.
From Zelda West-Meads of the marriage guidance counsellors Relate, I learned that, though many single mothers did a heroic job, it was the absence of the father that did such terrible damage to their children. So I described how fathers were vital to the emotional health of children.
Fatherless families were also at least partly responsible for a national breakdown in authority and rising levels of crime.
My view was backed in 1992 when three influential social scientists with impeccable Left-wing pedigrees produced a damning report.
From their research, they concluded that children in fractured families tend to suffer more ill-health, do less well at school, are more likely to be unemployed, more prone to criminal behaviour and to repeat as adults the same cycle of unstable parenting. But instead of welcoming this analysis as identifying a real problem, the Left turned on the authors, branding them as evil Right-wingers for being ‘against single mothers’.
Their sanity was called into question. ‘What do these people want?’ one distinguished academic said to me. ‘Do they want unhappy parents to stay together?’
Eventually, he admitted that the authors’ research was correct. But he said it was impossible to turn back the clock and wondered why there was so much concern about the rights of the child rather than of the parents.
He turned out to be divorced — revealing a devastating pattern I was to encounter over and over again. Truth was being sacrificed to personal expediency. Evidence would be denied if the consequences were inconvenient.
Self-centred individualism and self-justification ruled, regardless of the damage done to others.
Surely, though, the essence of being ‘progressive’ was to protect the most vulnerable? Yet these ‘progressives’ were elevating their own desires into rights that trumped the emotional, physical and intellectual well-being of their children — and then berated as heartless reactionaries those who criticised them!
The more this was being justified, the more it was happening. Rising numbers of people were abandoning their spouses and children, or breaking up other people’s families, or bringing children into the world without a father around at all.
Yet I, of all people, knew at first-hand what damage and anguish could be inflicted when a father’s influence was missing, even within an apparently model family like mine.
My roots were in a typical post-war British Jewish family that originally came to Britain from Poland and Russia around the turn of the 20th century. My Father, Alfred, was a dress salesman and my mother ran a children’s clothes shop.
We were not overly religious, but my parents had strong Jewish values of family obligation, a fierce sense of right and wrong and the unquestionable assumption that the more fortunate among us had a duty to help the worse-off.
My mother Mabel — witty, elegant, capable, intelligent, sensitive and beautiful — was the formative influence on my life. I was an only child and we were inseparable.
I adopted her views, her mannerisms, her likes and dislikes. She was the largest thing in my life, the sun that blotted out all other planets. She poured everything she had into me. She made all the decisions about my life.
It was she who decided that, despite the family’s modest income, I would be educated at private schools. It was she who gave me a love of books and of reading. It was she who imparted the values by which I have lived my life.
But she was emotionally very frail. When she was 16, she’d had a nervous breakdown after her father died of TB. Because she was so fragile, it fell to me to be her guardian and protector.
In my childish mind, I was responsible for her. I became what psychologists call a ‘parentified child’ — burdened with adult responsibility, and not a child at all. It never even occurred to me that this role was properly my father’s.
But he was just a figure in the background. I loved him — he was gentle, kind and innocent. But he never intruded into the sealed relationship between his wife and his daughter.
As a child, I never had an independent conversation with him about anything important. All such communication was mediated through my mother. He seemed to be no more than an overgrown child himself.
Physically present in my daily life, as my other parent he just wasn’t there. But nor, it seemed to me, were any of the other men in our extended family. Fathers tended to be bossed around as though they were children.
My grandmothers were strong women who laid down the law. Various uncles appeared to be squashed by their wives, from whom they retreated for a quiet life.
And my father — well, he seemed to my childish self to be just a shell. From infancy onwards, I would observe this and silently grieve.
Having experienced how the absence of proper fathering could screw up a child for life, I believed I was doing no more than stating the obvious when I deplored the explosion of lone parenting, female-headed households and mass fatherlessness.
But, to my amazement, at The Guardian, I found that over this and many other issues, I was branded as reactionary, authoritarian and, of course, Right-wing.
The result was social ostracism. One of the mentors I had looked up to — a thoughtful person, independent-minded and intellectually curious, or so I had thought — simply walked off rather than talk to me about these issues.
All this was very painful. I was accosted angrily by someone I had previously thought of as a friend. ‘How can you possibly say that family breakdown hurts children?’ he spat out at me. ‘The worst damage to a child is always done by the traditional nuclear family!’
I could only gaze at him, defeated by the stupendous shallowness of such an attitude. The ones who were the most aggressive and offended, I noticed, were those who had walked out on their families or were cheating on their spouses.
This revealed another sad truth about the Left. What matters to them above all is that they are seen to be virtuous and compassionate. They simply cannot deal with the possibility that they might not be.
They deal with any such suggestion not by facing up to any harm they may be doing, but by shutting down the argument altogether. That’s because the banner behind which they march is not altruism, as they kid themselves. It is narcissism.
It was increasingly clear that the Left, the movement whose goal was to create a better society, had lost the moral plot — and not just over the family. It embraced the doctrine that all lifestyles were equal and none could be deemed to be better than any other.
The more those around me demonised those of us who were clinging to moral precepts based on duty rather than self-interest, the more important it became to me to try to open people’s eyes to what was thus being ignored, denied or misrepresented.
I was particularly aghast when, in May 1993, a single mother of a six-year-old boy, who had been treated with a fertility drug, gave birth to sextuplets.
I wrote of the ‘reckless amorality’ of a society in which there was general jubilation among the NHS staff involved ‘for the brilliant masterstroke of creating a single- parent family of seven’.
There were whole communities where committed fathers were almost totally unknown. Children as young as five were becoming highly sexualised from the example of their promiscuous mothers.
Family breakdown was dissolving the bonds of society and civilisation itself.
According to teachers, doctors and social workers I spoke to, young men were fathering children indiscriminately and children were growing up in unbridled savagery and lawlessness to despise their mothers and disdain men and all authority.
What really horrified these professionals was these disastrous consequences were being ignored.
The idea that a woman could be mother and father to her children — more, that it was her ‘right’ to choose such a lifestyle — led directly to the hopeless plight of often inadequate women struggling to raise children while the men who fathered them were, in effect, told they were free to do their own thing.
I was as perplexed by this as I was appalled. I had been brought up to believe the Left stood for altruism rather than selfishness, community rather than individualism, self- discipline rather than the law of the jungle and the survival of the fittest.
Instead, society was worshipping at the shrine of the self, and this was causing a rising tide of juvenile distress, crime, emotional disturbance, educational and relationship failure.
The fact that I continued to write along these lines regardless of all the abuse hurled to shut me up seemed to drive the Left nuts.
Yes, they espoused a doctrine of being tolerant and non-judgmental, but not when it came to me. I was branded a ‘moraliser’, which appeared to be a term of abuse.
Most of the time, those hurling insults provided no contrary evidence or even arguments, just blanket denials and gratuitous abuse.
Those of us who inhabit the world of intellectual combat should not be too surprised by the missiles that are hurled our way.
But I believe my experience is symptomatic of what has happened to British society and western culture as a whole over the past 30 years.
Our cultural and political elites have simply turned truth and justice inside out and, with argument replaced by insult and abuse, taken leave of reality itself. They have destroyed rational discourse, polarised opinion and thereby undermined the possibility of finding common ground.
The result is that there are two Britains — the first adhering to decency, rationality and duty to others, and the second characterised by hatred, rampant selfishness and a terrifying repudiation of reason.
No more jailings in secret: Judges issue new ruling on contempt cases after Mail exposes sentencing scandal
Senior judges are to ban the secret jailing of defendants for contempt of court, the Daily Mail can reveal.
The decision comes after emergency talks over the way a woman was given a prison sentence for trying to take her father out of a care home.
Wanda Maddocks, 50, was handed a five-month jail term by the Court of Protection in her absence – and without being represented by a lawyer.
New instructions for judges will lay down that no one should be sentenced to prison for contempt of court behind closed doors.
A judge ruled that Miss Maddocks’ efforts to remove her 80-year-old father from the care home where she believed his life was in danger amounted to wilful defiance of the court.
The sentence was imposed by Judge Martin Cardinal at the Court of Protection in Birmingham without naming any of those involved.
No record of his ruling was published, and secrecy rules forbade anyone to name Miss Maddocks, her father, the local council that asked for her to be imprisoned or the social worker who gave evidence against her.
Judge Cardinal opened his court to the public for the sentencing, but the unlocking of the courtroom doors was announced only to passers-by who happened to be in the corridor outside.
The Mail’s report of the Maddocks case provoked a major row over the Court of Protection, which decides on the affairs of individuals too ill to make decisions for themselves. The Court habitually sits in secret and few of its hearings have ever been subjected to public scrutiny.
The depth of political concern became clear yesterday when it emerged that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wrote to Sir James Munby, the judge in charge of family justice, to ask him to include the Court of Protection in a review currently under way into the workings of the family courts.
The family courts – which handle cases of divorce and child custody, and which rule when children are taken into care or put up for adoption – are rarely open to the public and usually publish only anonymous details of judgements. Sir James is currently exploring ways to make them more open.
The talks on the Maddocks case and secret imprisonment involved both Sir James, who is head of the Family Division of the High Court, and Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, who is the head of the judiciary.
Their decision to ban secret sentencing for contempt was taken before Sir James received the Grayling letter.
Judge Cardinal sentenced Miss Maddocks last August after hearing that she had repeatedly broken orders not to interfere with her father’s life at the care home.
He found she had helped take her father to a court hearing and had also taken him to see a solicitor; that she had tried to publicise the case; had left offensive messages for social workers; and that she had given the 80-year-old former painter and decorator a wooden cross to ward off evil at his care home.
The judge said she had ‘the attitude of someone who is simply not going to obey court orders’. Miss Maddocks was arrested 11 days after her sentencing by police and court officials who waited for her when she visited the care home. She has said she was assaulted in Foston Hall prison in Derby by a fellow inmate who would not believe she had not committed a serious crime or had a public criminal trial.
She served six weeks before being released after apologising to Judge Cardinal.
The judge also imposed a two-month suspended sentence for contempt on Miss Maddocks’ brother Ivan for his role in taking their father to a court hearing and to see a Birmingham lawyer. The suspended sentence, which was also imposed in secret, was handed down at a separate hearing in July.
Last week, after the Mail learned of the case, Judge Cardinal agreed that Miss Maddocks and her brother could be named, along with the council, Stoke-on-Trent.
The judgment in which sentence was handed down was also published for the first time.
Miss Maddocks’ father John died in January.
Miss Maddocks is thought to be the first person imprisoned by the Court of Protection. However no one can be certain because of the secrecy under which the court regularly works.
Family courts also have powers to sentence those who fail to obey court rulings with imprisonment. However the power is rarely used, not least because in family separation cases judges believe that to jail a mother who defies a court would harm her children.
One notable recent case of a family court imprisonment involved fixer to the rich Scot Young, jailed for six months by a High Court judge in January for persistent failure to account during his divorce case for the disappearance of his £400million fortune. The sentencing decision was made in open court.
Current civil procedure rules which govern the operation of the courts say that anyone sentenced to jail should be named.
Sir James Munby yesterday replied to Mr Grayling to say he would consider the Justice Secretary’s letter about the Court of Protection. Sir James is expected to wait before sending a more detailed response.
White men must not wear turbans?
A [British] headmaster is facing calls to resign after he posted a picture on Facebook of himself wearing a turban with the caption: ‘Nearly gone native in Leicester.’
Dr Tim Luckcock, 49, is head of Uplands junior school in Highfields, Leicester – a city where fewer than half of the population consider themselves white British.
He is thought to have posted the picture as a joke, but it has been seized on by members of his staff who say it is ‘inappropriate’ in a ‘multi-faith school’.
A spokesman for the Leicester Sikh Alliance said: ‘We applaud anybody who is seeking a different religious experience in the genuine quest for understanding and appreciation.
‘But it is incumbent that such an exercise should be performed with respect and not in satire.’
Dr Luckcock, a father of two, said last night: ‘The picture was taken at a school Divali celebration more than a year ago. ‘Most members of staff were wearing similar headgear or Indian clothes.