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Justice catches up with the wrongdoers, wherever they are – and whatever they are riding

Your Expert Witness blog logoNews from Italy has concerned the guilty verdicts in the manslaughter trial of five crew members of the ill-fated cruise ship Costa Concordia. Sentences ranged from one-and-a-half years to two years and 10 months for the ship’s first and third officers and helmsman and the company’s cabin service director and crisis unit director, although it is thought unlikely any will serve any time. The separate trial of the skipper of the vessel is another matter, with a possible sentence of up to 20 years if he is found guilty.

The sentences were greeted with dismay by campaigners for justice for the five people killed in the disaster. They are angry at the leniency of the sentences. Compare that to the way we in this country deal with those responsible for disasters such as Hillsborough and the scandal at Mid Staffs, or Barrow, or…or…or.

• It has been concluded that undercover police officers who used the identities of people of a similar age who had died in childhood as their cover did not act illegally, although an apology has been issued by the Met. The technique was used, apparently, by members of a “very, very secret” squad, the Special Demonstration Squad. MPs are up in arms, of course, and there is a very real concern among families of infant mortalities that their lost one’s name and identity may have become associated with serious criminal gangs. However, the role of the SDS was to infiltrate ‘subversive’ anti-war and latterly anti-capitalist and environmental groups.

The officers concerned are reported to have found the process “distasteful”. One former Special Branch commander told the Beeb: “People felt very awkward about doing it. People thought of the parents of the children who had died. But against that was the sense of mission and work for the country.”

• If the assuming of dead children’s identities wasn’t illegal, plenty of activity by members of the various constabularies has been. It has been reported in the London free paper Metro following a Freedom of Information request that more than 4,000 officers in England and Wales were disciplined for misconduct over the past five years. Some cases involved serious criminal behaviour, from drug trafficking and possessing firearms to sexual assault and distributing child pornography.

Over the period – from 2008 to 2012 – the annual instance of such behaviour rose by 56% nationally, according to the report. Let us hope the increase is due principally to a greater assiduousness on the part of forces to root out the bad apples.

• Usually, to find the wackiest stories of unlawful behaviour you have to peruse sites from the US, but this week the prize resides just down the road from here, in Greater Manchester. A woman rode her horse up to the ‘drive-in’ counter of a Macdonald’s – to place an order, it appears. Rather than see the amusing side, the staff refused her service, whereupon she rode the horse INTO the restaurant. The horse, presumably in some kind of comment on the situation, promptly did “its business on the floor”. The woman was issued with a fixed penalty notice.

A spokesperson for the chain, resorting to the always-unconvincing safety elf excuse, said: “The health and safety of our customers and staff is our top priority, and for this reason we are unable to serve pedestrians, bicycle riders or customers on horseback through the drive-thru [sic].”

Chris Stokes

Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 15:55