Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Column, February 12, 2008

HE probably won’t thank me for mentioning this but I think the Archbishop might have hit upon something with this sharia business.
I know that Lambeth Palace are tiptoeing about the whole business, hoping that yesterday’s speech that threatened to send communities around the country up in flames will be tomorrow’s chip paper, but I think they need to show a bit more gumption about it all.
Yes, sharia courts have got themselves a bit of a bad name what with the cutting off of thieves’ hands, floggings and the stoning women who have been raped. I know, I know, that’s just one reading of sharia and I’m sure there’s lots of sharia courts who let thieves off with a slap on the wrist rather than something altogether more surgical.
The national tabloids may thinks he’s a bit of a weird, beardy Welshman, but I think the Archbishop may have hit upon something with the idea of a return to the religious courts.
Let’s face it, the courts nowadays are not the crowd-pullers that they used to be. Oh, sure, we’ll pitch up like a bunch of tricoteuses when there’s a multiple murder on, but back when Dickens was reporting the courts they were packed to the rafters for every tuppeny ha’penny thief that was sent to the gallows.
With a return to the church courts we could have a return to real justice, red in tooth and claw, an eye for an eye and no eyes off for good behaviour.
Justice – if you can call it that, and let’s, just to make it a bit easier on the Archbishop – is a lot more entertaining the wall-eyed fundamentalist way.
Out in Afghanistan , before the lunatic Taliban was bombed out of power they came up with come innovative crime prevention policies. Sex offenders were put one side of a wall, a tank was put the other, tank knocks down wall and does wonders for your re-offending statistics.
Similarly, when you were hung there, it wasn’t from something as wimpy as a gallows, it was from a crane. When you were hung in Afghanistan , you stayed hung.
On top of that we had a return to stoning as a punishment, which has been much overlooked in the UK penal code, I think. It’s environmentally-friendly, using only natural materials, and it gives the participants plenty of exercise of the throwing arm.
And our police bound by red tape would suddenly find themselves unshackled where they allowed to employ the tactics of the Inquisition. The red hot poker, judiciously applied, would do a power of good to the detection rates, I warrant.
And it’s not just human defendants that a return to the church courts would sort out, oh no. We could keep the animals in line as well, after all, the church courts of Europe have a fine tradition of trying pigs, rats, dogs, beetles and weevils for all manner of crimes.
And of course if we returned to the church courts we could once again resume the hunting of witches too. It wasn’t long ago that we put a woman on trial for witchcraft. 1944 to be precise, when Helen Duncan, aka Hellish Nell, was put on trial by a government fearful her séances would give away secrets to the Germans in the run-up to D-Day.
The ducking stool was a much misunderstood vehicle of probative justice. Only the guilty need fear it and the innocent, well,
Now, there may be those of you who believe that we haven’t gone through centuries of painful separation of church and state, one of the cornerstones of our society, only to throw it away because it doesn’t suit one more devout section of the community.
You may feel that to yield up precious liberties to people judging you based on their interpretation of religious texts might just be a backward step of, ooh, three or four hundred years or so.
You’ll feel differently once the Inquisition have turned up on your doorstep. No-one expects them.

ANOTHER week and another report whioch shows how children in the UK are being failed by the school system.
This time reputable researchers from Cambridge University no less came to the conclusion that children in the UK start school too early and when they do get to school they are thrown into ‘stressful’ maths and English lessons and there is a culture of high-pressure exams.
To anyone who has paid even the scantest of attention to our school system compared to that of our European neighbours this would have been apparent for decades.
In Sweden and Finland children don’t start formal schooling until the age of seven, and do we see them lagging behind?No we don’t, in fact by age 11 they are outperforming their UK counterparts.
Successive British governments’ obsession with shovelling kids into school and cramming them for exams could just, only just, be excused if it were producing results, but it plainly isn’t.
And rather than listening to this advice the Government is figuring out new ways of getting pre-school children into new forms of lessons even earlier. They seem to think a child’s brain is some sort of barrel to be filled and the earlier you start filling it the better. Absolute educational garbage.
Isn’t it about time the Welsh Assembly Government looked at this and, like its abandonment of SATs, thought again about the age at which Welsh children start school?
It would take some nerve, but so did scrapping the tests. If it’s in their power, they should do it.

OH, you try not to dream don’t you, but then you look at the table and only two teams on there have played two and won two, us and the French and it’s only points difference that’s put them above us.
It’s a long, long few weekends to go, and you daren’t utter the two words in the same sentence. Grand is one. Slam is another.
The last game is against the French, and of course dreams could have been trampled in the mud by then. Alternatively it could be the greatest finale ever.

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