Fed up with the World of Crap we live in? Then join Jack Havana as he scolds and harrasses the people responsible for consumer rip-offs, misleading adverts, Irish theme pubs, the England football, cricket and rugby teams, Davina McCall and loads of other things in the modern world that are extremely irritating........("Nice blog" - Guardian Unlimited, 20 Sept 2006. "A man of talent and experience" - The Independent. "A lovely boy" - Mrs. Havana)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Celebrities in Need (....of a Good Slapping)

This was first published on 17 November 2006, which just goes to prove: in the World of Crap, shit really does flow in cycles.....

CHILDREN WHO HAVE been bullied, sexually abused, forced into prostitution or who suffer a disability will tonight put their personal woes to one side to help people even more disadvantaged than themselves – vain, shallow, self-satisfied celebrities.
Thousands of children are allowing their personal tales of heartache and grief to be exploited so that a bunch of smug, overpaid TV presenters, soap stars and reality show winners can be given the fame and attention they crave. The BBC’s annual Celebrities in Need night will turn the spotlight on these pathetic, insecure outcasts from society who have failed to find contentment in their lavish lifestyles and obscenely huge wage packets. Though cunningly disguised to make it look like it is the celebrities who are helping the underprivileged kids, it is the children from broken homes and tragic backgrounds who are selflessly helping massage the celebrities’ egos. By allowing their stories to be told, they will be helping desperate cases like the stars of Strictly Come Dancing get the kind of publicity that other celebrities can only dream of – the kind that comes with a generous sugar-coating of “being for a worthwhile cause”.
So Matthew, aged 12, doesn’t mind his parents’ alcoholism being used by Natasha Kaplinsky to bolster a CV that already reads: ballroom dancer, wife of an investment banker and accomplished autocue-reader. And nine-year-old Sammy can laugh off the beatings he received from his drug-dealing dad knowing that he is helping bring Fearne Cotton to a wider audience. “Thanks to the suffering of children like these, more people than ever now know exactly what it is that Fearne Cotton does,” a BBC spokesperson might have said.
Samantha, aged 15, turned to drugs after leaving home following the death of her mother. As her addiction grew worse, she was forced into prostitution to finance her habit. But after hearing that Jonathan Ross had selflessly agreed to make a guest appearance in his showbiz buddy David Walliams’ stage version of Little Britain, she now realises that all those nights without food, spent sleeping in shop doorways and being used and abused by punters were worth it.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Annie has talked about the agony she suffered at the hands of school bullies, just to make a dream come true for the stars of Hollyoaks and Holby City, who, in a frenzy of self-indulgence, will be singing and dancing on tonight’s show. "I didn't have any friends and I hated going to school because the bullies made my life so awful. They called me names and wouldn't let me sit with anyone at lunch. I used to hide in the toilets. I only felt safe at home but I cried a lot, which made my mum sad, so I tried to hide it from her,” said brave Annie, before adding: “Does Terry Wogan really earn £26 a minute for his daily, two-hour radio show?”
Another bullying victim, 11-year-old Sam, said: "I used to be too scared to go to school. Kids used to say nasty things about me and took money off me. They also hit me and pushed me around.” But he takes consolation in the fact that if the bullies are watching tonight’s show, and endure it as far as Fiona Bruce and Dermot Murnaghan “presenting their unique tribute to James Bond” at 10.35pm, then he will truly have got his revenge.
Steven, now 14, was abused at the age of four by his grandmother's boyfriend. He also has cerebral palsy and finds it extremely difficult to communicate verbally. But thanks to the care and skills of trained counsellors and a modified computer, he is able to put his own torment to one side and let the cast of Bad Girls take centre stage to perform a Bananarama classic live in the studio.
But perhaps the most heart-warming moment tonight will involve a girl called Emma. She was only 11 when her milkman father and karate instructor mother divorced. For a while, little Emma’s life was in pieces. But she picked herself up, dusted herself down, and enrolled at the Sylvia Young Theatre School. Years of hardship and self-sacrifice followed as she pursued her dream of becoming a famous person who could have all her photographs airbrushed on demand. Finally, the day came when she was able to look at her mum through tear-stained eyes and say: “I’ve joined a group called the Spice Girls.” Tonight, thanks to the suffering of another little girl, eight-year-old Mary who has arthro-gydosis - which means she has no movement from her shoulders down, cannot play with her friends and has to be carried everywhere - Emma Bunton will get more of the fame and attention she has craved all her life, when she sings the official Celebrities in Need single.
Mary and the other brave youngsters can also take satisfaction from the fact that none of the celebrities will have to donate any money from their own massive salaries towards the charities that make the children’s lives more bearable. Last year, the public contributed £33 million to Celebrities in Need. That’s the equivalent of a state-of-the-art children’s hospital wing equipped with life-saving equipment. Or six kung-fu documentaries fronted by Jonathan Ross.
All the children recognise that so much money would never have been raised without the celebrities’ selfless acts of putting themselves in front of an adoring studio audience full of banner-waving grannies and people who still point at aeroplanes. They just wonder if a whip round in the BBC canteen might have raised just as much money and spared the rest of us six hours of televised celebrity self-love.
FOR MORE information on all the children mentioned above, and details of how to make a donation that doesn’t involve watching the cast of Two Pints of Lager And A Packet of Crisps pay tribute to Wham!, click here.
And don’t forget, the next big charity celebrity love-in will take place next March 16 2007, which has been renamed Celebrity Hand Relief Day.
© Jack Havana 2006. Reproduction in part or whole prohibited without a donation to a children’s charity of Jack’s choice.
This week, Jack Havana unsuccessfully applied for the job of……
……..Minister for Terror. Gordon Brown and John Reid are both playing the “terror” card in their bid to become Tony Blair’s successor, but not doing a very good job of it. Brown just wants to bang suspects up without charge for three months at a time, while Reid doesn’t appear to know what he’s talking about. When asked why no arrests had been made in connection with the 30 active terrorist plots revealed this week by MI5, he told Radio Four’s Today programme: “We have information that the plots are active, but no evidence.” Hmmm. Obviously this is a job for Jack Havana, as regular readers will know. (See Fear of Flying here)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

This Goverment Will Drive You To Drink....

I'M HAPPY the Lockerbie bomber was allowed to go home to die. I, like many people, including families of the victims, believe he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice anyway. It's a shame the incompetence of the Scottish legal system will not now be exposed at an appeal hearing. And this is the nub of the matter. It's not about trade agreements, and it's most definitely not about "Scottish compassion", as Kenny McAskill and Alex Salmond repeatedly claimed, as if the SCots have a monopoly on the trait. It's about the utter ineptitude of the SNP in particular, and Scotland's collective chip on the shoulder about it being a small player on a very large political playing field.
It's well chronicled that Scotland has one of the highest rates of drink-related crime and illness in the civilised world. There are lots of things it could do about it, like impose tougher sentences on offenders or launch realistic education programmes. Instead, it has done this, with effect from this week: banned the sale of alcohol before 10 am in supermarkets.
For the love of Christ, can someone please tell me how this will stop all those moronic drunks stabbing each other outside nightclubs at 1 am in the morning? In the name of Alex Salmond's sporran, can someone explain to me how preventing an honest, God-fearing citizen from trying to beat the rush and do his weekly shop early in the morning(including buying some wine) is going to stop a load of crusty-skinned jakeys getting high on Buckfast down at the local park?
And for the love of decency and common sense everywhere, please can we not vote SNP at the next Scottish election?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Extraordinary Case of the Englishman, the Racist and Sheriff Norrie Stein

A summary of a criminal court case heard at Arbroath Sheriff’s Court on Wednesday 25 March 2009.

“Sheriff Stein clearly has trouble recognising anti-Englishness as vile and offensive”

By a Special Correspondent

A 48-YEAR-OLD GRANDMOTHER was found guilty of racially abusing an Englishman – but walked free from court with an admonishment. (According to this correspondent’s legal dictionary, an admonishment is given only when “an offence is considered trifling”)
Valerie Mary MacKinnon, of Auchmithie, by Arbroath, had pleaded not guilty to a charge of racially aggravated breach of the peace against her neighbour Mr. Trevor Ward at an address in the village on 28 September last year.
Sheriff Norrie Stein ruled that it “was beyond reasonable doubt” that MacKinnon had used the words “fucking Englishman” towards Mr. Ward. He told her: “I’m afraid you now have a criminal record." But he then added: "Several years ago you would probably have been found not guilty, but these days people are more sensitive to these issues.”


Mr. Ward and his wife Catherine were visibly shocked at the Sheriff’s words.
Earlier in his summing up, Sheriff Stein had said: “I don’t think either of the two parties come out of this with credit.” He said he had found Mr. Ward’s manner in the witness box “overbearing”, and added: “The manner of Mr. Ward played a part in the escalation of this [incident]”.
I leave the reader to form their own opinion of the Sheriff’s words after first considering the facts of the case as agreed by both parties.
In her evidence to the court, the defendant MacKinnon admitted/agreed to all of the following:

  • That she had moved to the village just four weeks before the incident
  • That on the evening of Saturday 27 September last year, she had been hosting a party in her kitchen which was just inside her front door, and that her front door was less than ten yards from the Wards’ bedroom window
  • That she had been playing music, and it “may have been a bit loud.”
  • That she had been drinking
  • That Mr. Ward had knocked on her door at 1.30 am and, pointing at his watch, said: “I think it’s time to put a lid on it.”
  • That she replied “OK” and closed the door
  • That she then turned down the music
  • That the following morning at approximately 9.30 am, in a case of mistaken identity, she went to the house of neighbour Mrs. Margaret Spink and said: “Tell your son that if he has a problem with me playing my music, I don’t want him coming round to my door. Tell him to call the police instead.”
  • That she walked away before Mrs. Spink could say anything in reply
  • That shortly afterwards, Mr. Ward knocked on her door, but before he could say anything she told him he was “a freak” and repeated what she had said to Mrs. Spink.
  • That she closed her door before Mr. Ward could say anything in reply
  • That approximately 20 minutes later she went to Mr. Ward’s house and repeated that if he had a problem with her music, he should call the police.
  • That Mr. Ward sat down on his doorstep and said: “Can I say something?”
  • That she called Mr. Ward “an Englishman”.
  • That Mr. Ward said to her: “Welcome to the village”.
  • That before, between and since these encounters, there had been no contact between her and Mr. Ward.

All of the above was admitted readily by MacKinnon under cross examination from prosecuting counsel Ms Nicola Gillespie.
In his evidence, Mr. Ward had claimed that MacKinnon had sworn repeatedly at him, calling him “a fucking freak” and “a fucking Englishman”.
MacKinnon claimed she had not sworn at Mr. Ward. She admitted that calling Mr. Ward “an Englishman” was strange, but that she was “upset and angry.”
She had found Mr. Ward to be “aggressive” and “vindictive”, though agreed that it had been her who had sought him out twice the following morning.
Mr. Ward’s wife, Catherine, told the court she had been behind their living room door during the final encounter between her husband and MacKinnon. She had clearly heard the defendant call her husband “a fucking Englishman.” Her husband had been “calm” throughout.


For the benefit of the reader, I now repeat what the Sheriff said in his ruling: “The manner of Mr. Ward played a part in the escalation of this [incident]”.
And I now repeat the sum total of words spoken by Mr. Ward during his three encounters with the defendant, as accepted in court by both sides:
“I think it’s time to put a lid on it.”…..“Can I say something?”…..“Welcome to the village.”
In her closing remarks, prosecution counsel Ms Gillespie argued that the use of the word “Englishman” alone was sufficient to bring in a guilty verdict.
Defence counsel Mr. Nicholas Whelan meanwhile chose to remind the Sheriff of how, when asked in court what he thought of the defendant, Mr. Ward had described her as “a piece of scum.” He said: “Does that perhaps tell you anything about the type of person Trevor Ward is?”
The Sheriff ruled that it had been “proven beyond reasonable doubt” that MacKinnon had used the words “fucking Englishman”. (And thereby acknowledged that she had lied repeatedly in the witness box)


Before passing sentence, Sheriff Stein said: “This brings to mind a case in Auchmithie from 1905 involving the Spinks and the Swankies. Mrs. Swankie sued Mrs. Spink, but the Sheriff found in favour of a counter-claim from Mrs. Spink for £10 damages. It seems that this is almost such a case.”
Preparing for sentence, defence counsel Mr. Whelan told the Sheriff that his client’s husband “had sufficient income to meet any financial penalty the court may impose”.
But Sheriff Stein surprised counsel by telling MacKinnon: “Several years ago you would probably have been found not guilty, but these days people are more sensitive to these issues. However, you have no previous convictions and are clearly not one of the criminal classes, so I am admonishing you"

The Victim Responds

"Punishment is necessary to defend the honor or the authority of him who was hurt by the offence so that the failure to punish may not cause his degradation." - 17th century Dutch jurist and statesman Hugo Grotius.
"I WAS NOT ALLOWED to respond to the Sheriff's ruling in court, so here I give my opinion of his decision:
According to the index of legal terms at the National Archives of Scotland, the definition of an admonishment is: “If a person is found guilty, and the offence is considered trifling, or there are special circumstances associated with the accused or the offence, the court may dismiss the person with an admonition.”
If Sheriff Stein did not believe this offence of racial abuse to be “trifling”, then what were the special circumstances? Let us look at the possibilities.
Sheriff Stein says: “I don’t think either of the two parties come out of this with credit.”
He goes on to say that my manner had “played a part in the escalation” of the incident. What exactly had I done to merit such rebukes?
I was woken up by the sound of my neighbour’s loud music at 1.30 am on a Sunday morning. Should I have just let it continue, possibly for the rest of the night? Should I have called the police immediately? Was I wrong to decide to deal with the matter by going around to my neighbour’s door and, in a manner that was pitched deliberately midway between “meek and mild” and “aggressive” ask her to “put a lid on it”?
In court, defence counsel repeatedly suggested that I had been “aggressive”, and three times I had to correct him, describing my manner as “assertive”. It was 1.30 am in the morning. Surely, at the very least, I was entitled to be “assertive”? (My wife, in her evidence, also rebutted defence counsel’s suggestion that I had been “aggressive”. She described my manner as “forceful”.)
As agreed by both sides in court, the sum total of my words to the defendant had amounted to:
“I think it’s time to put a lid on it.”
“Can I say something?”
“Welcome to the village”
And yet the Sheriff deemed this sufficient for me to “have played a part in the escalation” of the incident.
The Sheriff then said that he had found my manner in the witness box to be “overbearing”, which is defined as “domineering” or “dictatorial”. Let us consider what may have made the Sheriff come to this conclusion.
First, the defence counsel, as described above, was repeatedly trying to put words into my mouth.
Second, when defence counsel asked me what my mood was the following morning – i.e. AFTER MacKinnon had abused me at her house, but BEFORE she racially abused me at my house – I had said it was one of “resignation” to the fact that we had a new neighbour who, it seemed, was “a piece of scum” - “inconsiderate” enough to play her music loudly at 1.30 am in the morning without having had the courtesy to warn any of her immediate neighbours. I make no apologies for my choice of language. Subsequent events – i.e. MacKinnon calling me a “fucking Englishman” – would appear to vindicate me. Yet in his closing remarks, defence counsel asked the Sheriff to consider what my choice of words told him about the “type of person Trevor Ward is.”
Thirdly, what did my manner in court have to do with my manner at the time of the offence? Could Stein have been embarrassed by my intervention from the public gallery when prosecution counsel began questioning my wife, and neither he nor counsel realised she referred to the wrong day in her opening question? There was a pause as my wife - already tense - was confused by the reference to the wrong day. Only when it became apparent that neither she, nor Stein, nor counsel, were going to correct the fact, did I interject - politely - from my seat in the gallery.
Fourthly, why were the police officers who attended the incident not called to give evidence in person? If they had been, they would have told the court that my manner throughout had been calm, considered and credible. They would have also told the court just how upset my wife had been.
Finally, if I came across as “overbearing”, could it have been anything to do with the fact that my wife and I – especially my wife – had endured six months of stress and worry since the incident; six months in which we had to read about MacKinnon pleading not guilty at two previous court hearings; six months during which my wife had been terrified to step outside our front door for fear of bumping into MacKinnon.
Before admonishing MacKinnon, the Sheriff was almost apologetic as he said to her: “Several years ago you would probably have been found not guilty, but these days people are more sensitive to these issues.”
I would like to place on record my sincere apologies to both MacKinnon and Sheriff Stein for being so sensitive about being called “a fucking Englishman” by a woman whom I had simply asked to turn her music down. (While I'm at it, let me also apologise for being sensitive when on 20 June 2008 at the junction of East Mary Street and Millgate Loan, Arbroath, I called the police after a female had taken offence at my English accent and told me to "get back to fucking England and get a fucking job down there". She was subsequently charged with breach of the peace, though I had no witnesses to confirm her racist abuse, and the case never went to court. Also, on Christmas Eve 2008 at Weatherspoons pub in Arbroath, when I remonstrated with a man who pushed in front of me at the bar, I was a bit sensitive when he replied: "At least I'm from around here." Though bar staff and customers saw the altercation, they all claimed not to have heard the racist's words......)
The Sheriff then referred to a neighbourly dispute between the Spinks and the Swankies in Auchmithie from 1905. His was, in effect, comparing MacKinnon’s offence of racial abuse with a neighbour’s tiff. He also implied that I was lucky not to be sitting in the dock myself.
Sheriff Stein is completely out of touch with the real world. He is a relic from the period he so lovingly recalled in court, i.e. 1905. His ruling makes a mockery of the Scottish government’s commitment to anti-racism initiatives.
Like many of his fellow Scots, he clearly has trouble recognising anti-Englishness as every bit as vile and offensive as other forms of racism. He has effectively said that it is OK for a Scot to racially abuse his or her English neighbour as they will not receive any financial or custodial penalty.
Sheriff Stein has no awareness of how anti-English Scotland is a on a day to day basis. I am referring to the subtle anti-English slant of so many stories in the Scottish press – tabloids and broadsheets – and the almost total absence of non-Scottish faces and voices from Scottish-produced TV and radio programmes.
His is not the message the courts should be sending out when the number of reported race and hate crimes in Scotland has almost doubled in the last five years(according to the Scottish Government Statistical Bulletin: Recorded Crime in Scotland 2006/07)
My wife and I put our faith in the courts, and have been badly let down. Not only has MacKinnon walked free without even a fine, she did not even recieve a stern word from the Sheriff. Instead it was me who bore the brunt of his disdain.
To add insult to injury, I only learned in the course of the Sheriff's summing up that a second charge against MacKinnon of breach of the peace had been dropped because of "insufficient evidence". This is despite the fact police were called to the scene twice within an hour and MacKinnon was arrested and taken into custody. On top of that, I gave police video recordings of her behaviour relating to the charge.
I have no resentment towards the police over this whole matter at all. I suspect they secretly share my resentment at Sheriff Stein's spinelessness and betrayal of the most fundamental principles of justice.
And finally, if Sheriff Stein has any problem with any detail of my criticism, I would welcome an invitation from him to resolve the dispute in a higher court."