Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How do we cure our sick society?

How do we cure our sick society?

Events during the last couple of weeks have left me depressed as I have come to realise just how sick is the society in which we now live. Every day we are confronted by yet another example of the deplorable sub-culture of anti-social behaviour that is slowly pervading our lives.

Binge drinking, rampant drug taking, burglary, shop lifting, threatening behaviour, vandalism, swearing in public and the verbal abuse of anyone who has the audacity to upbraid the perpetrators, are simply different sides of the same coin; lawlessness, and the most worrying aspect of this disorder is the seemingly unstoppable increase in the incidence of unprovoked violent attacks on innocent people.

The ghastly murder of 11 year old Rhys Jones, allegedly shot by a 15 year old youth on a BMX bike, is the latest high profile crime to hit out national TV screens. But such crimes are not confined to Liverpool, Leeds or London; locally we have our seen more than our fair share of violence, indeed not a week goes by without yet another appalling story appearing in our local newspapers.

Who can ever forget the senseless killing last year of 16 year old Michael Chapman as he walked across a Sittingbourne playing field, or, the more recent vicious attack on a Sheppey pensioner, which left him battered, bruised and hospitalised?

At the weekend my depression deepened because of a very minor incident, but one that I believe is hugely significant because it epitomises the problem that is ripping the heart out of communities up and down the country. It is the lack of respect many youngsters have for authority, for older people, including their own parents, and for their fellow citizens.

The incident happened as I finished clearing all the litter out of our front garden; I looked up just as two teenage girls walked out of the alley opposite my house. As they made their way down the road one of them simply threw an empty crisp packet over her shoulder. I was incensed and shouted at her to pick it up. She looked at me as if I was mad, laughed and walked away.

Thirty years ago I would have chased after her, grabbed her by the scruff of the neck, marched her back to the crisp packet, made her pick it up and put it into the nearest litter bin. Today if I had taken such action I would have been arrested for physical, and, quite likely, sexual assault.

What can we do on such occasions? Call the police? Hardly! They are not going to be interested in a single crisp packet when they are so short of manpower that they cannot even respond to calls about a burglary if the culprit is not still on the property!

Contact the girl’s parents? Not possible, because I had no idea who the girl was and she was unlikely to tell me even if I had asked her name, anyway, if I had discovered her identity it is very unlikely I would have received a sympathetic hearing from her parents!

The truth is that in today’s Britain we can do nothing but fume about such insolence. No wonder decent citizens are becoming so frustrated and losing respect for the law and those who are charged with upholding it.

Now you might well ask what that crisp packet has to do with the shooting of an 11 year old in Liverpool or the murder of a 16 year old in Sittingbourne. There is a clear link.

The problem is that if people get away with dropping litter without fear of punishment, some of them will believe the same goes when they bend a car aerial, daub graffiti on a garage door, throw empty beer cans at somebody’s window, urinate in the street, or even “do a bit of shoplifting”. And, unfortunately, too often they are right, because even if they are caught, the police increasingly refuse to prosecute for such a “minor crime”.

But often those “minor crimes” lead the perpetrators to more serious crimes. The problem is that failing to punish people for the little things makes them feel they can do what they like, including attacking those to whom they take a dislike. And sadly, our current sentencing policy is such that they almost certainly will get away with little more than a slap on the wrist for even the most vicious assault. Just remember, young Michael Chapman’s killer was sentenced to a derisory four years in prison!

So what can we do to reverse this increase in lawlessness? In two words: Zero Tolerance. I know this is a concept that has been talked about on and off for years, ever since Mayor Juliano used it so successfully to bring crime under control in New York City a few years back, but we have never really embraced it in this country. I believe the time has arrived for us to practice Zero Tolerance.

If we crack down on the minor criminals such as litter droppers and graffiti writers then we might just discourage them from progressing to more serious crimes.

Of course, schools have a big role to play in teaching our children the right way to behave, but over the years we have slowly reduced the avenues of discipline open to schools and now teachers have to enforce rules and regulations with both arms tied behind their back!

Some schools do have good discipline, however, teachers in those schools would tell you that they only have pupils in their care for a relatively short time; the rest of the time they are at home, where very often all the good work of our schools is lost because of indiscipline or disinterest by parents. That is another problem. Some parents simply refuse to accept responsibility for their children. Those parents must be brought to book and should be prosecuted for the misdemeanours of their children.

In my opinion, the breakdown in social cohesion and the increase in anti social behaviour began the day that Parliament voted to abolish Capital Punishment. Doing away with the ultimate deterrent sent out entirely the wrong message and undermined the whole sentencing system. That particular decision was further exacerbated when corporal punishment was banned in schools. Of course, there are some who are now trying to have corporal punishment banned in the home. God help us!

I know there will be many who disagree with me on this, and I respect their right to differ. I hope they respect my right to hold an opinion different to their own, without trying to brand me as some hang and flog ‘em monster!

Indeed, I would simply say to my critics that it cannot be a coincidence that the increase in anti-social behaviour and violent crime has happened at exactly the same time that we have done away with capital and corporal punishment.

In Singapore anyone caught dropping litter is caned, which could have something to do with why it is one of the cleanest cities in the world! These days, schools cannot use the cane or the slipper; the maximum punishment that can be metered out is “exclusion”, but what sort of punishment is that to a teenager who doesn’t want to be in school anyway? It is hardly surprising that the current level of truancy in our secondary schools is quite scandalous, with one local school having an appalling 25% truancy rate. 25%! That means that on average one pupil in four is absent every day!

Perhaps the time has come to set up special “detention” schools to which pupils who are excluded from their current main stream school, or, who habitually play truant, are sent. Those schools could offer a robust secure disciplined environment, with a properly structured educational day, but a tough regime of physical recreation once the academic day was finished. I suspect that discipline levels in our secondary schools would soon improve and truancy rates would drop dramatically!

Now such a scheme might be impractical, or, politically impossible, but at least we should have the debate about how we are going to combat the current lack of discipline in schools. I know that many teachers are frustrated with the lack of support they are given when they try to solve this problem.

Similarly, the police are frustrated when they see criminals for whom they have spent a lot of man hours to obtain a conviction, being released early because the Government simply has not built sufficient prisons. And on the subject of police, so bogged down are they with the paper work needed to obtain that conviction, that they simply have no time to do what they should be doing, which is preventing crimes form happening. Which leads me to another problem; when was the last time that you saw a policeman on foot patrol in your area?

We are told repeatedly that foot patrols are not the best way of using police time and that car patrols are more efficient. I am not convinced because the facts simply do not support this argument. Once again, it cannot be a coincidence that incidence of anti-social behaviour has increased as the number of foot patrols has reduced. Certainly, residents would sleep better in their beds if they knew that their local streets were being patrolled regularly by a policeman.

I believe we have reached a watershed; unless the decent majority start to fight back with determination and firmness, our country will become an intolerable place in which to live. To succeed in that fight we need to increase the number of police on our streets and bring discipline back into our schools and homes. Such measures will cost a lot of money, but that is a small price to pay if it means saving Britain from the anarchy that David Cameron spoke about last week.

Gordon Henderson
Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman
Sittingbourne & Sheppey



Date: 27th August 2007
Release date: Immediate
Subject: Gordon “frustrated at the way in which the level of tidiness and cleanliness is rapidly deteriorating across Swale”.

The director of the Swale Community Action Project (SCAP), Gordon Henderson, has written to Kent Highway Services to complain about the poor service being provided to the residents of Swale.

In his letter Gordon highlighted a number of issues including:-

· The poor standard of road sweeping, particularly on Sheppey.

· Blocked drain culverts that cause flooding.

· Overgrown and litter strewn alleys.

· Badly overgrown roundabouts and verges on the A249, which are unsightly and a hazard to motorists.

Gordon said:
‘I am becoming increasingly frustrated at the way in which the level of tidiness and cleanliness is rapidly deteriorating across Swale.

‘As the director of the Swale Community Action Project (SCAP) I am doing all I can to encourage members of our various communities to take ownership of their areas and help keep them clean and tidy. But it would make my task much easier if those agencies with a statutory responsibility for keeping our highways, verges, alleys and footpaths clean, set a better example by fulfilling their obligations with more diligence!

‘The situation has certainly become noticeably worse since the highways agreement with Swale Borough Council was ended a couple of years ago. Perhaps it is time to revisit that decision!’

In his letter Gordon also raised again the problem of speeding in Queenborough Road and Minster Road, and the lack of proper white lines in the area.’

Enc: Copy of letter to Kent Highway Services

Friday, August 10, 2007

Planning is a Nonsense!!!

The two photographs attached have been taken on the land next the Swale Martial Arts Club in East Street Sittingbourne. Photo no 1 shows a long lean to shed where the club houses some of its equipment, it a very neat affair with recently refurbished roof, painted front and parts decked with hanging baskets. SMAC decided to keep this ground in reasonable good order because it was the first thing people who come from Faversham side see of Sittingbourne. It seems that the planning authorities at Swale Borough Council did not like our shed as a few weeks ago they sent an enforcement officer ( who was in all fairness very pleasant and helpful) to SMAC telling us that the Sheds and our bird aviary did not have planning permission and had to come down. It was true that the big shed and aviary did not have planning something I did not realise I needed the club had no option but to agree.
The questions one must ask oneself are as follows:
1) Why did we have to knock them down, planning departments answer was no planning, yet the sheds were more attractive then what is left, they did not ruin the look of the area, they were not affecting anyone in terms of a hazard, they were not a danger to anyone and not in a state of disrepair. Surely common sense can prevail when this sort of things happen or is that beyond the remit of planning department?
2) Is it necessary to send a Planning Contravention Notice with fine of £1000 if you do not reply in 21 days?
3) A 8ft x 6ft garden shed is also part of the order, yet this stands in the garden of one of the flats on land that has been residential and in continual use as such for over a 100 years, in that time there must have been scores of garden sheds. So why now is it that contravenes planning regulations could it be planning are flexing their bureaucratic muscles it will not be the first time SMAC has been singled out someone, years ago we were taken to court because we had a banner which did not have planning permission yet all the major stores had banner adverts without planning, for nearly 100 years there has been a roadway to what used to be stables and a barn at the rear of the buildings, when the new roundabout was erected our entrance from the road was taken away so we were told to use another route from the road after doing this for 20 years some KCC officials tell us we are breaking the law and must cease. Are the SMAC being harassed by some at the council or is it we are not one of the big companies and an easy target?
4) The planning department tell me you need planning permission for a garden shed and do this you must have proper drawings so for an 10ft x 8ft shed you will have to have a set of drawings which will cost £100 or more. So if you have had a shed erected in less then 4 years you could be breaking planning laws.
Local Councillors seem to have less and less powers and in reality we are governed and administered by a unelected autonomous organisation, Councillors must start clawing back control of Council affairs and return power to the people.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Immigrants Must Adapt "take it or leave it" veiw from Australia

Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told onWednesday to get out of Australia , as the government targeted radicals in abid to head off potential terror attacks.
A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia and her Queen at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his Ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown. Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state, and its laws were made by parliament. 'If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you', he said on NationalTelevision.
'I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two lawsgoverning people in Australia : one the Australian law and another Islamiclaw that is false. If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independentcourts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity togo to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that's a betteroption', Costello said.
Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, he saidthose with dual citizenship could possibly be asked to move to the othercountry. Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslimswho did not want to accept local values should 'clear off. Basically peoplewho don't want to be Australians, and who don't want, to live by Australianvalues and understand them, well then, they can basically clear off', hesaid.
Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques.
Quote: 'IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians.'
'However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the'politically correct' crowd began complaining about the possibility that ourpatriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I holda grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia.' 'However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to ourcountry, and apparently some born here, need to understand.' 'Thisidea of Australia being a multi-cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. And as Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle.'
'This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trialsand victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom'
'We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese,Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to becomepart of our society ... Learn the language!'
'Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing,political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christianprinciples, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It iscertainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If Godoffends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as yournew home, because God is part of our culture.'
'We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why.. All we ask isthat you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.'
'If the Southern Cross offends you, or you don't like 'A Fair Go', thenyou should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We arehappy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don'tcare how you did things where you came from. By all means, keep yourculture, but do not force it on others.
'This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE'.'
If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here.You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.
’Maybe if we circulate this amongst ourselves, British citizens will findthe backbone to start speaking and voicing the same truths!*