John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Monday, December 31, 2007
  Vote fraud (in Kenya)

The above video is a good one for pointing out ballot box stuffing. We should not pretend that this sort of thing doesn't happen in the UK. One interesting thing about elections in Birmingham is that some polling stations have presiding officers working for the Labour Party. This may sound surprising given that the council is now run by a non-Labour partnership. However, it developed during Labour's control of the authority and is taking some sorting out.

Remember that 4,000 people's votes were defrauded by Labour in the Bordesley Green Ward in 2004. Totally unacceptable.

Labour must not be allowed anywhere close to power in Birmingham until they give up fiddling elections.
  John Hemming's New Year's Message
Its that time of year and I think there is some merit in doing a message for the new year. Normally I don't comment about constituency issues on this weblog. That is because the audience is a wider one than those people living in Yardley. People living in Yardley should get leaflets and reports. However, this time I will look at local issues as well.

One aspect of local activity that is always busy is dealing with local people's problems. I started a new casework system in 2004. The last case created in 2006 was 5597 and in 2007 7763. This gives rise to just over 2,000 new cases in each year. Some are simple and are resolved quickly. Others take a long time and are difficult to resolve.

Some issues affect more than one person. Issues like the redevelopment of The Swan have dragged on for almost 10 years now. We are, however, seeing the start of the practical work. Some of the buildings are being demolished and work should be starting on Bakeman House soon. This development is a major development including moving the road.

Other issues like the Boy Racers drag on. The use of the Coventry Road for street racing is not a good idea. I have been working with ACPO on proposals to extend Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 to make it easier to keep the roads safe for other road users.

Similarly Graffiti (particularly tagging) has been a big problem. We have now treated a lot of cable boxes and other surfaces with anti-graffiti paint which means tags can be removed with a cloth. We do have a graffiti removal kit in the Coventry Road office that can be borrowed as well.

It is good to see work happening at the old Glynwed Site. We are, however, suffering from planning gamesmanship over the Wagon and Horses. We should not be forced into accepting an unsafe retail proposal because otherwise the premises remain in a bad state.

The second runway proposals at BHX have now essentially been abandoned. It is important to see the blight removed from people living around the airport, however.

We have had a mixture of news for the city. We have had good news in that we are getting more of the funding that we were supposed to have. We also have the announcemnet of a scheme to replace NRF. We don't know what strings are attached to this as yet.

New Street Station's redevelopment always seems to be just about to be announced. It does look like rear guard actions are being fought in some government department. (probably transport).

The City Council's biggest problem is having to do a pay and grading review. All local authorities have to do this. However, because Birmingham is the biggest local authority it faces more problems. There were, however, some really silly deals (such as 52K to paint white lines) that had to come to an end.

West Midlands
The government have held back on creating the regional select committees. This makes it difficult to have a true regional agenda. The regional spatial strategy is still a mess and the government's figures for housing growth don't add up. Perhaps we will see some movement on this in the new year. I don't think the government have done sufficient to help people deal with flooding, however.

I have been on various Bill Committees and remain on the Procedure and Regulatory Reform Select Committees. I chair the New Media and Peak Oil All Party Parliamentary Groups and am vice Chair of Carers and Performance Alliance. I signed 1,400 Early Day Motions in 2006-7 and tabled 32.

Campaign Issues
Justice for Families
One of the areas that I have done a lot of work in is in trying to improve the way in which the judicial system treats families. This includes grandparents and other members of the extended family. In a year in which Sally Clark died the Angela Cannings Foundation has been launched to support victims of such miscarriages of justice.

There are many problems in this area of the law. The fact that children can be taken into care and adopted merely because their parents did not cooperate with the local authority or missed some school days is basically wrong. There are literally thousands of miscarriages of justice and there is a failure of accountability in the system. I am hoping to see some changes in the new year. The government officially, however, do not recognise that there is a problem. There is a massive problem in the Family Division and a smaller one in the Criminal Division.

Peak Oil
We are running a good number of peak oil events in the new year. With the failure of Milford Haven to come on line the UK is more vulnerable this year to gas problems than it was last year. However, although the system is still showing the error of taking gas from storage in preference to import, the weather has so far not been too cold. If it is like today's Daily Express (-17C) then we will face problems as a country. My objective is to get the government to recognise reality.

The campaign against the dual taxation of Bingo will continue.

Government Accountability
I am continuing to try to find mechanisms to reuqire government ministers to answer questions. The procedure select committee is looking at this issue.

I am aiming to produce a report looking at global conflict and how to reduce it. The neo-cons in the USA don't seem to have learnt anything and adding the oil shock to the global cooking pot creates more uncertainty.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
  George W Bush and the Rule of Law - (Top 10 dumb US legal arguments)
The link is to the top ten nonsensical legal arguments of the Bush Government and a detailed analysis of them.

This is a summary (in increasing level of stupidity):
10. The NSA's eavesdropping was limited in scope.
9. Scooter Libby's sentence was commuted because it was excessive.
8. The vice president's office is not a part of the executive branch.
7. Guantanamo Bay detainees enjoy more legal rights than any POW's in history.
6. Water-boarding may not be torture.
5. Everyone who has ever spoken to the president about anything is barred from congressional testimony by executive privilege.
4. Nine U.S. attorneys were fired by nobody, but for good reason.
3. Alberto Gonzales.
2. State secrets.
1. The United States does not torture.

We face some similar difficulties in the UK. Getting proper answers from the government remains very difficult. I am continuing to try to stop some of the cover ups that go on in the UK.

However, I think the USA government have the edge on us in terms of abuse of executive authority.

The idea of the "rule of law" is that the government has to follow the law as well.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
  You couldn't make it up
According to the Daily Mirror:

A top police scientist in charge of checking the qualifications of forensic experts has been suspended for allegedly faking his own CV.
  Congratulations to Andy Hamilton MBE
At the age of 89 Andy is still performing around Birmingham with his band "the Blue Notes". It is nice to have his contribution recognised. He must be one of the older recipients of honours today.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
  Youtube at Xmas
Time Lapse video allows an unusual thought to be worth watching for just over 1 min.
  Paediatricians and Child Protection
There has been much debate recently about Export Witnesses, Paediatricians, the GMC and Child Protection. A lot of the difficulties arise from the mismatch between medical decision-making and legal decision-making. However, there are other factors that need looking at. Given a bit of spare time today I will make a start at consolidating information about this.

It is worth looking at a few facts first. People who act as Expert Witnesses in the Family Court get paid substantial sums for their reports. The government is proposing to change the system. However, it is important to recognise that there is a financial interest in the system for expert witnesses.

Secondly, often Family Court judges will refuse second opinions. Even the Court of Appeal will refuse a second opinion. What this means is that if an expert states that a parent is guilty of child abuse frequently there is little that the parent can do.

A number of the theories which are used for expert opinion in the courts are simply theories. There has been no proper peer reviewed research to justify the claims. The theories that cause most difficulty here are the issue of fractures, Shaken Baby Syndrome, MSbP (FII by Proxy) and also salt poisoning.

There is, of course, a difficulty here that we must not simply go around shaking children in the interests of finding out what happens when they are shaken. The fact that the research is difficult does not mean that we should accept unproven assertions.

About a year ago Victoria Ward was lucky enough to win against expert allegations of fractures. That meant that she was not banned from being a mother. She was lucky that an additional expert opinion was allowed. Sadly there are many other cases that went the other way. The Eaton Foundation are aware of this.

However, we are not allowed to know who the experts were in that case. The argument that paediatricians use is that unless they can be immune from any consequences they will not raise concerns about child abuse.

The problem is that there is a substantial difference between having a suspicion, a reasonable suspicion or providing evidence to justify an allegation of child abuse. If someone is being paid thousands of pounds to provide evidence that they claim justifies legal action then they need to be accountable for what they are saying.

If someone was merely saying to a colleague that the situation looks iffy and needs a bit more medical investigation then that is one issue. However, if someone writes a detailed report for which they receive a large fee then it is a completely different situation.

We also face the situation where treating dcotors have been allowed to point the finger of suspicion for a child's death away from the hospital where the child was treated (negligence) towards a parent (manslaughter).

Happily the police are becoming more sensitive to this potential and procedures within the police forces and CPS are changing. We should not be surprised, however, if some doctors act in their own self-interest from time to time.

The case of David Southall had its own unique conflict of interest. David Southall enrolled the children taken into care into his research projects. He, therefore, provided the evidence to take them into care (later disproven) and used them as his lab subjects.

The special pleading by the RCPCH really does need to be properly challenged. Are they RCPCH really saying that there is no need for a doctor to be able to justify the allegations that they make merely because they are doctors. In theory the GMC requires that professionals only give evidence within their own area of speciality. We know, however, that this rule is not adhered to.

It will be interesting to see where the government's proposals go. When it comes to medical opinion being accepted as fact within court then there needs to be far more certainty. This is not yet proposed by government although they have been sympathetic to the points I have raised.

Doctors cannot be immune from being held to account for their professional opinion. If they want to be taken seriously (and to be paid for their opinion) then when they spout nonsense there needs to be an appropriate sanction.
Monday, December 24, 2007
  Thank you "liberal england"
Liberal England have kindly awarded me the accolade of "campaign of the year" for my campaigning for justice for families.

My test of a campaign is to what extent things change as a result. I am aware of some changes we have achieved, but we have a long way to go.
  Thank you to PC Pro
PC Pro have kindly stated that my quotation about the Government and IT was one of the top ten IT quotes of 2007: (see link)

9. John Hemming MP
The loss of 25 million child benefit records on a couple of CDs was an open-goal for opposition politicians. But hand the match ball to Liberal MP, John Hemming, who said the government couldn't even be trusted with CD burners and warned of worse to come.

"Normally what happens is that we close the door after the horse has bolted, but in this case we're leaving the door open for more horses to bolt."

He wasn't wrong, was he?
Sunday, December 23, 2007
  Essex Enquirer Story into Essex Childrens Services
The following story has just been published by the Essex Enquirer. They publish on the net using PDF so I have extracted the text:

IT’S USED up more than £90m per year for the last four years and has the power to save children’s lives or ruin families for ever.

It has overseen the adoption of about 450 youngsters since 2002 and investigated the home lives of 8,000 more.

And it employs more than 150 people with the power to investigate anyone’s home life answering only to itself.

But there are calls to make Essex County Council social services more accountable to the public over controversial cases hitting the headlines.

Just 18 people have launched formal complaints against the department since 2004 but the authority will not say how many of these have resulted in disciplinary action taking place.

A spokesman told The Enquirer: “The complaints procedure and disciplinary process are quite separate from one another and, therefore, do not become linked at any stage.”

Following its controversial decision in 2003 to start care proceedings against a Brentwood couple on the grounds of their learning disabilities, social workers in January 2006 were found to have withheld potentially vital information from the court.

The parents – who cannot e named for legal reasons– have not seen their daughter and son since they were taken in 2005.

In 2000 fostering manager Martin Thei committed suicide after being arrested over child porn charges.

In November 2006 social services director Liz Railton wrote to the grandfather of a child assessed for adoption by Thei admitting the department had not investigated all of cases he had been involved with.

In September a mother who had had four of her children taken away for adoption received a letter from social services telling her she was a “good” parent and “no further action” would be taken with regards to her fifth child. Her fourth child had been taken just days before she received the letter.

In October, social services received a threat of legal action from the aunt of four children taken into care in 2005. The woman applied to adopt the youngsters, asking her local authority for help acquiring larger accommodation, as she lived in a three-bedroom house with her partner.

He lawyers argued the authority had a duty of care to the children to try to keep them together if possible. But after a new home was not found, the children were uprooted from her home and taken back into council care.

Her solicitor Nigel Priestley called the situation “utterly, utterly appalling” and told The Enquirer a judge had given permission for the case to go ahead. And in November another woman was contemplating taking social services to court after her son was wrongly placed on the ‘at-risk register’.

Janette Everton, a 49-year­old cleaner from Vange, saw her son Nicky, now 17, investigated by social services, claiming he had been a concern her previous authority (Tower Hamlets) – a claim that council denies.

She lost her husband Graham to cancer in 2004 – around the same time as Nicky was placed on the register.

But still Essex County Council has refused to confirm to Mrs Everton the lad has been removed or apologise for their error. Brentwood Tory MP Eric Pickles heads a parliamentary campaign to make social services more accountable to the public by opening courts during care proceedings, where normal reporting is currently banned
under child protection

legislation. In 2005 he told the House of Commons: “There is almost a process of Chinese whispers, whereby that noble concept [keeping children anonymous] becomes

bastardised into an unwillingness to disclose, to justify, to listen to arguments, or even to see a need to explain decisions...

“Few people who initiate a serious chain of events are likely to admit it when it goes wrong. The temptation is to tailor evidence to fit the complaint...

“If adoption has resulted from fraud or seriously erroneous evidence, we should have a procedure to enable that adoption to be overturned.”

He this week said failure to “open up” family courts was “one of the great disappointments” of 2007.

“Anything so large and powerful [as social services] must be transparent and accountable, without being prurient,” he added.

An ECC spokesman was unable to comment as The Enquirer went to print.
Friday, December 21, 2007
  Sad case in Bristol
The link is to a story about a sad case in Bristol where a young baby was hurt by his birth parents. What mystifies me about this is that it went on over a period of 50 days. That is when there should be at a minimum a health visitor visiting.

It explains a good reason why we need to open up the work of the safeguarding boards to scrutiny.

Since prior to the Climbie case the decisionmaking process in child protection has been skewed. If we are going to get it right we need to know where it is going wrong.
  Another Family Courts Youtube Video

This is not one produced by me.
  Election Results: Thursday 20th December 2007
Castle Point DC, St Marys
Con 509 and 461 (41.0; -27.3), Lab 480 and 456 (38.6; +6.9), BNP 253 and 234 (20.4; +20.4).
Majorities 48 and 19. Turnout 24.8%. Con hold and Lab gain from Con. Last fought 2007.

Hackney LBC, Springfield
Con 1244 (59.0; +16.1), Lab 590 (28.0; +0.4), LD Brian Stone 113 (5.4; -4.8), Green 85 (4.0; -9.5), Christian Party 40 (1.9; +1.9), Communist 37 ( 1.8; -4.0).
Majority 654. Turnout 33.0%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Shepshed TC, East
Lab 275 and 259 (32.8), LD Sarah Fall 193, James Nasmyth 155 (23.0), Con 187 (22.3), BNP 183 and 173 (21.8).
Majorities 82 and 66. Turnout 14.5%. Lab gain from Con x 2.

Further Result from 13th December 2007, from Chris Nelson
Barton Seagrave PC, St Boltophs
Con 323 (65.1%) Lab 173 (34.9%)
Majority 150. Turnout 25.9%. Con hold
Thursday, December 20, 2007
  Clegg shadow Cabinet

Deputy Leader
Vince Cable

Chief Whip
Paul Burstow

The economy and business

Shadow Chancellor

Jeremy Browne
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Sarah Teather
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Home Affairs

Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department

David Heath
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor

The Rt Hon the Lord Thomas
Shadow Attorney General

David Howarth
Shadow Solicitor General

International affairs

Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Chair of Campaigns and Communications
Nick Harvey
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Mike Moore
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Public services

Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

Norman Lamb
Shadow Secretary of State for Health

Julia Goldsworthy
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Lembit Opik

Danny Alexander
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Chair of manifesto group
Stephen Williams
Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills


Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Energy, Food and Rural Affairs

Norman Baker
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Tim Farron

Families spokesperson, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office; and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Other Shadow Cabinet members

Simon Hughes
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons and Party President

Don Foster
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; and Olympics

Alistair Carmichael
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland

Lynne Featherstone
Youth and equality spokesperson

The Rt Hon Tom McNally
Leader in the Lords

Roger Williams
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

The Rt Hon the Lord Shutt
Lords Chief Whip

Willie Rennie
Chair of Parliamentary campaigns team

Also attending the Shadow Cabinet
Danny Alexander
Leader’s Chief of Staff

Mark Hunter
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader

Lorely Burt
Chair of the Parliamentary Party

Other apppointments announced today:
Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell will join the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and will be conducting a full review of Britain’s future military capability.

Rt Hon Charles Kennedy, as President of the European Movement will be campaigning across the country on European issues, and will contribute to major European debates from the front bench.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
  Keran Henderson - another juror speaks out
There is more media interest in this issue today. What I wonder is how many innocent people are locked up somewhere in the UK.

We are supposed to be short of prison places. Why then have an obsession with locking people up on the basis of unproven theories.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
  Keran Henderson - Medical Expert Evidence
The link is to a story about a Juror from Keran Henderson's trial believing that a miscarriage of justice "has occurred."

Keran's trial was essentially one about medical expert evidence. We had a useful discussion on Radio 5 yesterday about how the use of expert evidence needs to be improved to avoid miscarriages of justice.

The key point is that legal decisionmaking and medical decisionmaking operate at different levels of certainty. If people wish to introduce pet theories into court they need to have justified them in some way.

One approach is a form of Daubert hearing. However, there is a need to look in detail at many unproven theories to decide whether there is sufficient certainty for them to be used in court. These include Shaken Baby Syndrome, Classical Metaphyseal Lesions and FII by proxy. This should not be done on a trial by trial basis.

These are large sources of many of the miscarriages of justice in the Family and Criminal Divisions (mainly Family Division).
Monday, December 17, 2007
  CSV Child Protection Scheme
The link is to a scheme run by CSV much like Homestart.

I just hope that we don't see negative competition between CSV and Homestart.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
  A video about Charles Roy Taylor's case

I don't know who produced this video, but it helps in raising awareness of the situation.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
  Another miscarriage of justice reported on Weds
At least the medical evidence (opinion) was recognised in retrospect to be wrong. It would be nice if we put some effort in as a society to ensure that the opinion given in court is actually true.

This lady was imprisoned and had a child forcibly adopted away from her family, but was innocent.
  Newport case - taking children into care wrongly hurts the children
The link is to today's story in The Mirror about the Newport Case.

What those who defend the current system have to recognise is that taking children into care hurts the children. Where it was not necessary substantial damage has been done without good reason.

Yes there will always be times when children do need to be taken into care, but there should be good well argued reasons first.

The biggest trauma caused to many children is the step of taking them into care. In studying this it seems clear to me that the system is doing masses of damage to people (parents and children).
  Stop the Secret Jailings - release Charles Roy Taylor
The campaign to stop secret jailings is going well. The law is entirely clear people cannot be jailed with giving details in public of what is happening including the offence and jail term.

The fact that this hasn't been done doesn't mean that we will tolerate it from now.

Interestingly the reason the 1679 Habeas Corpus Act was brought in was judges jailing people for things that weren't illegal. What is happening is that illegal court orders are issued and then people jailed in secret for breaking them.

I really do think the law should apply in Family Division courts as well as the rest of the country.

Charles Taylor's jailing has now been reported in The Times (Thursday) and on Meridian ITV News (yesterday). The campaign for his release is also growing.
Friday, December 14, 2007
  Election Results: Thursday 13th December 2007.
Brighton and Hove UA, Regency
Green 749 (41.6; +8.7), Con 397 (22.1; +2.1), Lab 376 (20.9; -0.6), LD Simon Doyle 148 (8.2; -9.1), Ind 130 (7.2; -1.1).
Majority 352. Turnout 23.0%. Green hold. Last fought 2007.

Harrow LBC, Canons
Con 1208 (56.7; -11.1), Lab 389 (18.3; -0.1), LD Anne Diamond 296 (13.9; +0.1), Ind 182 (8.5; +8.5), BNP 56 (2.6; +2.6).
Majority 819. Turnout 24.0%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Hounslow LBC, Chiswick Riverside
Con 1207 (61.1; +16.1), Lab 414 (21.0; +3.2), LD Phyllis Ballentyne 250 (12.7; -7.1), Green 103 (5.2; -12.2).
Majority 793. Turnout 24.6%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Merthyr Tydfil UA, Treharris
Ind 405 (35.8; -9.9), LD John Pappas 328 (29.0; +29.0), Lab 317 (28.0; -5.1), Ind 81 (7.2; +7.2), [People before Politics (0.0; -21.2 )].
Majority 77. Turnout 24.0%. Ind hold. Last fought 2004.

Reigate and Banstead DC, Earlswood and Whitebushes
Con 421 (37.6; -3.9), LD Steve Oddy 380 (33.9; +4.9), Lab 152 (13.6; -1.9), UKIP 113 (10.1; +1.8), Green 54 (4.8; -0.9).
Majority 41. Turnout not known. Con hold. Last fought 2007.

Southwark LBC, Riverside
LD Anood Al-Samerai 1114 (49.8; +8.6), Lab 691 (30.9; +6.0), Con 260 (11.6; -7.0), Green 122 (5.5; -9.7), UKIP 49 (2.2; +2.2).
Majority 423. Turnout not known. LD hold. Last fought 2006.

Surrey Heath BC, Bagshot
LD Gret Woodason 720 (55.0; +5.2), Con 590 (45.0; -5.2).
Majority 130. Turnout not known. LD hold. Last fought 2007.

Test Valley DC, Cupernam
LD Karen Dunleavey 793 (59.8; +4.1), Con 460 (34.7; -9.6), UKIP 73 (5.5; +5.5).
Majority 333. Turnout 33.5%. LD hold. Last fought 2007.

Windlesham PC, Bagshot
LD Ruth Hutchinson 762 (58.2), Con 548 (41.8).
Majority 214. Turnout not known. LD hold.

Wychavon DC, Lovett and North Claines
Con 837 (71.0; +8.8), LD 342 (29.0; +2.6), [Lab (0.0; -11.4)].
Majority 495. Turnout 27.9%. Con hold. Last fought 2007.

Further result from 6-12-07

Chobham Parish Council
Con 357, Ind 224, No description 53.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
  Another petition about the Family Courts
This petition relates to Private Family law, but there is a considerable systematic overlap. See link.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
  Perceived Neglect?
The linked story from Yesterday's Guardian is an interesting one. It raises the question as to what parameters should permit the state to intervene. In this case a child was allowed to walk to school alone. (under a mile).

It raises another question about the subjectivity of our systems of child protection.
What is acceptable to one person, is risky to another. However, at what point should the state intervene. I believe that is a decision for parliament.
  Victoria Ward's Case
The link is to the story of the Ward family in Cambridgeshire. They were unusual in that they managed to win their case. What normally happens when totally innocent parents get trapped in the system is that they lose their children.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
  US tests of drunkenness
The US alternative to the breathalyser it appears
Formal administration and accreditation of the program is provided through IACP. The three tests of the SFST are:
the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
the walk-and-turn
the one-leg stand.
These tests are administered systematically and are evaluated according to measured responses of the suspect.
HGN Testing
Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball which occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Under normal circumstances, nystagmus occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, nystagmus is exaggerated and may occur at lesser angles. An alcohol-impaired person will also often have difficulty smoothly tracking a moving object. In the HGN test, the officer observes the eyes of a suspect as the suspect follows a slowly moving object such as a pen or small flashlight, horizontally with his eyes. The examiner looks for three indicators of impairment in each eye: if the eye cannot follow a moving object smoothly, if jerking is distinct when the eye is at maximum deviation, and if the angle of onset of jerking is within 45 degrees of center. If, between the two eyes, four or more clues appear, the suspect likely has a BAC of 0.10 or greater. NHTSA research indicates that this test allows proper classification of approximately 77 percent of suspects. HGN may also indicate consumption of seizure medications, phencyclidine, a variety of inhalants, barbiturates, and other depressants.

Divided Attention Testing
The walk-and-turn test and one-leg stand test are “divided attention” tests that are easily performed by most sober people. They require a suspect to listen to and follow instructions while performing simple physical movements. Impaired persons have difficulty with tasks requiring their attention to be divided between simple mental and physical exercises.

In the walk-and-turn test, the subject is directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps, the suspect must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. The examiner looks for seven indicators of impairment: if the suspect cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions, begins before the instructions are finished, stops while walking to regain balance, does not touch heel-to-toe, uses arms to balance, loses balance while turning, or takes an incorrect number of steps. NHTSA research indicates that 68 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.10 or greater. In the one-leg stand test, the suspect is instructed to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (One thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until told to put the foot down. The officer times the subject for a 30 seconds. The officer looks for four indicators of impairment, including swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting the foot down. NHTSA research indicates that 65 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more such indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.10 of greater. The effectiveness of SFST in court testimony and evidence depends upon the cumulative total of impairment indicators provided by the three-test battery. The greater the number of indicators, the more convincing the testimony. Because SFST is administered according to national standards and is supported by significant research, it has greater credibility than mere subjective testimony.

The defence saying people are set up to fail

I don't think this is real, but it is funny - a sobriety test in the USA
  Times Editorial - professionals need to be held to account
It is surprising how supportive the RCPCH are of David Southall. Today's Times Leader on the issue makes a number of valid points.

Professionals need to be held to account for their actions as professionals.
Friday, December 07, 2007
  Election Results: 6th December 2007.
Derbyshire Dales DC, Masson
Con 356 (48.2; +7.2), Lab 256 (34.7; -8.8), LD Tracy Steadman 126 (17.1; -1.6).
Majority 100. Turnout 30%. Con gain from Lab. Last fought 2007.

Maidstone BC, Shepway South
Con 251 (36.0; -9.7), Lab 240 (34.4; +34.4), LD Brian Vizzard 173 (24.8; -22.0), Green 34 (4.9 ; -2.6).
Majority 11. Turnout 16.1%. Con gain from Lab. Last fought 2007.

Richmond upon Thames LBC, Barnes
Con 1643 (56.2; +3.8), LD Barbara Westmorland 1103 (37.7; -5.8), Lab 91 (3.1; -1.0), Green 87 (3.0; +3.0).
Majority 540. Turnout 41.2%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Sandwell MBC, Princes End
Lab 796 (48.1; +12.4), Con 517 (31.2; +11.4), BNP 314 (19.0; -15.9), LD Dorothy Brayshaw 29 (1.8; +1.8), [Ind (0.0; -9.6)].
Majority 279. Turnout 18.6%. Lab gain from BNP. Last fought 2007.

Wokingham UA, Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe
Con 913 (70.6; -2.9), LD Martin Alder 237 (18.3; -0.5), UKIP 83 (6.4; +2.5), Lab 60 (4.6; +0.8).
Majority 676. Turnout not known. Con hold. Last fought 2006.
  Government introduces another counterproductive policy
This is from Yesterday's Hansard (see link for full details). The government are trying enforce a law so vague that people (including the police) don't understand the limits.

John Hemming: Obviously, this Christmas the Government are discouraging people from going to pubs and clubs, and encouraging them to drink at home by penalising such drinks as the yard of ale. People are likely to face a fine for drinking a yard of ale in any pub or club outside the House of Commons. Does the Minister not accept that it is better to encourage people to drink in controlled circumstances? Under what the Government call the responsible alcohol sales campaign, if people are argumentative—that includes a lot of hon. Members, I presume—they are deemed to be drunk, so serving them would be an offence punishable with a fine of up to £80.

John Hemming: My hon. Friend said that there was too much drinking in the home. Does he share my concern that someone who recently drank a single pint in Birmingham was told that he was drunk and threatened with a fixed penalty notice? That drives people from a controlled drinking environment into the home, where they drink cheap alcohol in larger quantities.

John Hemming: With his expertise from dealing with the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations, I am sure the hon. Gentleman has heard the concerns of members of that association about the uncertainty of the definition of the word “drunk” in the 2003 Act. According to the guidelines issued by the Home Office, difficulty in paying attention and not understanding what is said is a sign of somebody being drunk and could therefore result in a fixed penalty. I would argue, although the hon. Gentleman may not agree, that that could be said of many Ministers, who cannot understand what is said. The difficulty is that in Birmingham, very low level drunkenness has been deemed sufficient for fixed penalty notices.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
  How to spot a drunk
Across the land (apart from the bars in the House of Commons and House of Lords) pubs and clubs are going to have undercover policeman looking for drunk people. The Home Office have issued guidelines (thanks to The Publican for giving me details) to help spot drunks.

How can police spot a drunk?

Police have been told that the aim of the guidelines is “to present such compelling physical evidence of the person’s level of intoxication that it would be impossible for a court to accept that the person who conducts the sale did not know of this fact”.

Evidence police have been told to look for includes:

A noticeable change in behaviour
Bad tempered, aggressive;
Offensive language;
Becoming loud, boisterous or disorderly;
Becoming physically violent;
Becoming incoherent;
Slurring, or making mistakes in speech; and
becoming argumentative.

A lack of judgment
Being careless with money;
Annoying other persons, employees etc;
Exhibiting inappropriate sexual behaviour;
Drinking quickly or competitively (‘down in one’)

Clumsiness & loss of co‑ordination
Difficulty with walking;
Falling down;
Bumping into furniture;
Spilling drinks;
Difficulty in picking up change; and
Fumbling for cigarettes, or other items.
Decreased alertness
Drowsiness, dozing or sleeping;
Rambling conversation;
Loss of train of thought;
Difficulty in paying attention;
Not understanding what is said;
Glassy eyes and
Lack of focus.


Source: Home Office guidelines
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
  Birmingham's Single Status Motion about Pay and Grading
The following motion was passed yesterday by Birmingham City Council.

This Council wishes to thank its employees for their hard work and effort that have lead to the Council making progress in returning to its rightful, traditional position as the best run local authority in Western Europe.

The Council regrets that a situation was allowed to develop over many years where the pay and grading structure of the Council was not in accordance with Equal Pay Legislation and the "Single Status Agreement” with the trades unions. The Council notes that a number of legal actions were initiated against the Council in June 2006 which gave urgency in reviewing the pay and grading structure of the Council to ensure that it operated in accordance with the law.

The Council regrets that the review has resulted in a situation in which a number of members of staff who have been doing an efficient and high quality job now face the threat of pay reductions from 1st April 2010 as a consequence of needing to have a pay structure that satisfies legal requirements. The Council is concerned about those people and the adverse effect on morale which can result from having to take this action.

The Council supports the Executive in its concern to produce a pay structure which reduces inequalities amongst its employees, drives up performance and benefits all tax payers and service users. The Council endorses the efforts the Executive has made to balance different priorites and protect, as far as it can, the impact the new structure has on individuals.

The Council recognises the challenge in restructuring pay and grading across the Council and that this will have resulted in some anomalies as a result of the magnitude of the task and the speed at which it needed to be done. The Council, therefore, is pleased that all people facing pay cuts will have the opportunity to appeal against the grading decision and calls for the Executive to consider prioritising the appeals of those people facing the larger pay cuts.

The Council notes that the Executive is looking at those people facing particular difficulties to identify whether or not it may be possible to redesign particular jobs so that the difficulties faced by the employees is lessened. The Council also notes that the Executive will be establishing criteria through which employees will have the opportunity to progress up through the grading structure.

The Council recognises that scrutiny has already played an important role in ensuring openness and accountability in the process to date and welcomes the approval by the Cabinet Member for Equalities and Human Resources in his positive engagement of scrutiny to add value to the whole process. The Council notes that both the Human Resources and Equalities Sub-Committee and the Co-ordinating Overview and Scrutiny Committee have already and will continue to monitor the process.

The job evaluation bringing about this effects is as a result in part of the agreement pushed through by the Labour Government in 1997 known as the Single Status Agreement made with the trades unions. When the NHS carried out a similar exercise the Government provided billions of pounds to help with through Agenda for Change. The government has refused to match that commitment for the Local Government Single Status Agreement.

The Council calls upon the Government to provide at least matching support to Local Authorities to effect the Single Status Agreement as was done for the NHS.
  Southall - what about the research
My biggest concern about the matters releating to David Southall is that there has not been an independent investigation into his research and the impact it had on the subjects of that research.

That remains a concern notwithstanding the fact that he has now been struck off.

This issue is, however, raising another smokescreen. (with the RCPCH helping to generate smoke).

Paediatricians who report in the Family Court make substantial additional money from reports relating to alleged Child Abuse. If they did not get fees linked to each case I would be more comfortable with the situation.

Obviously some people maltreat children. There are people who Fabricate and Invent Illness, there are also people who do this by proxy.

The key question for a judicial process (be it family or criminal division) is
a) How much evidence is required to initiate an investigation.
b) What standard of evidence is required for findings to be made.

These are not zero sum issues. We are doing badly in this country at preventing the abuse of children. Many children are dying at the hands of abusers. If inappropriate investigations are occurring that are overwhelming the system with work that prevents it concentrating on the more risky situations then that is not helpful in achieving the objective of protecting children.

To get this right needs proper analytical thinking rather than the creation of a false dichotomy between two invalid logical positions.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
  Another horse bolts and the stable door starts closing
The linked story is about more lost disks. The government admitted during the week that they had not acted to stop data losses. There needs to be a ministerial signature for any more disk transfers. Then we know who gets sacked if disks get lost.

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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Published, promoted, and printed (well not really printed I suppose, more like typed) by John Hemming, 1772 Coventry Road, Birmingham B26 1PB. Hosted by part of 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043, United States of America. This blog is posted by John Hemming in his personal capacity as an individual.

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