Thursday, October 05, 2006

Column, September 26, 2006

JOURNALISTS and judges have to put up with people’s prejudices against them.
Alright, few tears will be shed about the fact that every journalist is viewed as a whisky-sodden doorstepping hack even if he’s a celibate, teetotal ecclesiastical correspondent for the Methodist Recorder.
Judges likewise are going to attract little sympathy when they complain of their image as stuffy, ex-public school, wealthy representatives of the establishment.
Neither has a reputation for being easily moved to tears. Yet Elizabeth Davidson, a grieving mother managed to do just that to one judge and this journalist in the past week.
Judge Julian Hall had to leave his court halfway through the case against Nolan Haworth when he read the victim impact statement given by Mrs Davidson, whose daughter, Margaret, was killed by Haworth, who was driving a car that crashed head on into hers as he raced to reach court for another crime he had committed.
The court had earlier heard that the 19-year-old had been driving like a joyrider, overtaking on double white lines and blind bends, before he passed a lorry on the brow of a hill and crashed into Dr Davidson’s car killing her instantly.
Her mother was the only person able to speak for her at his trial and it was what she wrote that reduced the judge to tears. A few days later she read it on Radio 4 and I’m not ashamed to say I wept too. If you’re a parent, try putting yourself in her position and see if you don’t do the same when you read some of what she said in that statement.
“How can I explain the impact the loss of my daughter Margaret has had on my life to someone who didn't know her. I would ask you therefore to bear with me for a moment to allow me to introduce her to you. ”Margaret was physically beautiful, fiercely intelligent and a caring thoughtful girl who loved fun, good food and wine, and especially the company of family and friends. ”How much time can I spend telling you about the two summers she spent working in dreadful conditions in Bulgarian orphanages; of the hours spent working for KEEN, which is an organisation in Oxford , helping disabled youngsters to have fun and reach their potential. “How do I feel knowing I will never see her smile again? “How do I feel knowing I will never see her arrive off the train, toss down her bag and wrap her arms around me and hear her say "how's my wee mum?" “How do I feel knowing I will never hold her child in my arms. “On the 16th of July 2005, we as a family had one of the happiest days of our lives. After years of studying and hard work on her part and financial struggles on ours, Dr Margaret E Davidson BM BCHMA graduated from Oxford University . On her way up to receive her degree, she turned to me and smiled a smile of sheer joy, love and gratitude. “Less than a year later I collected a very tasteful carrier bag containing a cardboard box labelled the remains of the late Dr Margaret E Davidson. “I don't know if these words have conveyed to you my sense of loss. Maybe there are no such words. Perhaps I should just have saved your time and said I loved Margaret from her first breath, and I will love, mourn and miss her until my last. Elizabeth R Davidson Mother”
That is an abridged version of what Mrs Davidson said and it is probably one of the most powerful and affecting statements of the loss caused by such offenders that I have ever seen.
That the judge was moved by her words is undoubted, which makes the sentence all the more odd. Just four years.
Four years for a man, who witnesses estimated was travelling at 70-80mph on a road with a 50mph speed limit as he sped to another court appearance. Dr Davidson was on her way home from a long night shift at a hospital in Banbury.
As her mother pointed out when interviewed, she is all in favour of new laws to try to tackle drivers like Haworth, but wondered why, when maximum sentences of 14 years are available for this offence, why they weren’t handed down more often.
A good question, and one which those who seem to make it their entire life’s work to oppose any restrictions on drivers’ freedom to go where they please at whatever speed they please to boot.
Whenever I have written on this subject I can rely on one of theses apologists for murder emerging from the woodwork with pathetic lines like ‘it’s not speed that kills it’s irresponsible use of speed.’
The sort of people that claim any police enforcement of road traffic laws is a ‘money-making scam’ and not an attempt to prevent them causing the sort of grief suffered by Dr Davidson’s family.
When one of their turgid e-mails arrives next time, I’ll refer them to the simple, heartrending words of Elizabeth Davidson and if their hearts aren’t made of stone perhaps they’ll give it a rest.

INEVITABLY last week’s sermon on the naming of Welsh children attracted a bit of reaction.
Gafyn Jones’s temperament as he wrote was perhaps indicated by his order to ‘please pay some attention to this.’
I duly did and this is some of what he said: “I found David Bank’s article in Tuesday’s (19th Sept) Daily Post one of the most offensive and derogatory pieces of journalism that I have read.
As a Welshman, I have lived in England for 6 years and have been at times, the butt of many a joke and it has always been taken in a light-hearted manner.
This article however, I find an ill informed and insulting piece of work directed towards the Welsh and their language.
It ridicules the most precious form of ones identity, the name given to them by their mother and father. We are privileged by our welsh language, most of our names have a true meaning and some names commonly used date back 2,000yrs before any “Banks’s” ever came to these isles.
Would David Banks ever contemplate putting into writing the fact that he thinks to call someone Mutjaba or Aikaterina is an excuse to mock them, simply because it is awkward for the English to pronounce?
I am not a welsh nationalist, I am simply a patriotic Welshman, proud of my language and it’s history and have justified concerns regarding it’s future.

I ask one thing of David Bank’s and others like him…a little respect please.

G Jones
Llandrillo Yn Rhos”

BUT then a letter arrived from Einir, aka Nin, who perhaps understood better than Gafyn what I was on about.
“Hello my name is “Einir”
I had no trouble with my name for the first 15yrs of my life when I lived at a small town in Merionethshire, but it has gone from bad to worse since then.
I met my husband, no problem with my name as he is also “Welsh”, BUT I moved to Flintshire not many people could say my name there except the few Welsh speakers I was called all sorts Enia, Eneer but I refused to answer to ENA, they asked if I had a second name, I have, it’s Euronwy! (I don’t think my mother expected me to move from the sticks).
We now live in a rural part of Lancashire where the friends I have made know I have a Welsh name but it’s far easier for them to call me “Nin” and I am getting used to it. We have joined the Welsh society and it is nice to hear people pronounce my name perfectly. I miss Wales but I have also made new friends here. “Cymry am Byth”
Einir E Edwards
PS We still have the Daily Post welsh edition delivered to our door from the local shop!”

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