26 February, 2008


A jury of one's peers

I recently completed a period of jury service in South London. In many respects the experience was much improved from my previous service about 15 years ago. On that occasion, where I tried a murder case at the Old Bailey, the judiciary and the lawyers treated jurors, witnesses and defendants with equal disdain – as intrusive and irritating riff-raff of the lowest order who got in the way of them having a jolly convivial time exchanging recherché quips in court while the wheels of the feeometer were whizzing round satisfyingly. This attitude extended to the "other ranks" among the court staff; the usher treated us like a particularly moronic flock of sheep. The only notable exception to this generalized atmosphere of contempt was the demeanour of the judge towards the pathologist who had conducted the post mortem on the victim, to whom His Lordship deferred so sycophantically that I was half expecting him to descend from the bench and enter the witness box, unzip the good professor's fly and make full obeisance à la Lewinsky. We got our own back by raising a supplementary question that resulted in the pathologist having to return the following day to give clarification. The noble judge was absolutely, delectably, furious. If it had been within his powers to order a 12-noose mass gallows erected for the jury in West Smithfield that morning to punish our plebeian impertinence, I would not be here today to write this post. (To the satisfaction, I have no doubt, of some of my readers.)

On the present occasion I was in the less elevated surroundings of the Elephant, where I participated in several cases. Treatment of jurors was much improved. It was recognized that we were there, often at considerable personal inconvenience, to carry out a necessary and difficult civic duty and there was a definite display of respect which had previously been missing. A couple of judges seemed genuinely embarrassed when apologizing for the frequent periods of inaccurately predicted duration while we kicked our heels in the jury room or the waiting area while "points of law" were taken off-line.

As the reader will be aware, there are legal restrictions on what I can say about the cases themselves, certainly as far as discussions within the jury are concerned, and I will not risk even accidentally crossing that boundary here. In any case the matters were the usual sordid fodder of rape, robbery, incest and violence which you can read about every day in the South London Press.

What I do want to comment on, as befits the primary theme of this blog, is the demographics. The juror pool (probably about 150 so a fairly respectable sample) were a good mix of age and gender and, to use an out-of-fashion but still well understood term, socio-economic class. This led to excellent and effective jury room dynamics. What was however clearly noticeable was that the jurors were predominantly White. That is not to say that there were no non-Whites present. There was a sprinkling of Oriental, South Asian and Black jurors present, but the juror pool appeared to be about 95% of "White British" or at least North European stock.

The defendants, however, were overwhelmingly Black and other non-European. Obviously I never saw them all assembled in one place for convenient enumeration as was the case with the juror pool, but judging from the cases I took part in, the people shiftily hanging around with their lawyers in the corridors and the court lists, I would say that the defendants were as much as 80% - 90% non-White and/or non-British. The names on the court lists were overwhelmingly foreign, with Muslim, South Asian, Middle Eastern and West African names predominating heavily. Of those with plausibly British surnames, the preponderance of characteristically Black (Afro-Caribbean) forenames was noticeable.

How do we account for this? Well, it has to be said that jurors are not a fully representative sample of the whole adult population. To qualify, you must be on the electoral register and you must have lived in the UK for at least 5 years continuously. This excludes recently arrived immigrants and immigrants who are not from the Commonwealth or the EU but have not yet acquired UK citizenship. Even allowing for these adjustments, the disparity between the juror demographic and the general observed demographic of South London is curious and begs questions. Certainly there is a transient population who tend not to appear on the register, but these are likely to be spread across the racial spectrum. Is there a significant non-White element that is reluctant, even if qualified, to make itself visible on the electoral register? If so, why? Is there a significant number of non-Whites who are disqualified because of their illegal status? Just how many illegals are there in London? On the other hand, what does this say about the view, commonly expressed by bloggers of the Right, that immigration is a plot to import more Labour voters? I’ve never believed this and, apart from the special block voting arrangements of our more clannish resident “communities”, who seem to be turning to the LibDems anyway, it clearly isn’t working anyway.

There are, of course, no comparable qualifications applicable to the defendant population. Commission of and arraignment for an offence sufficiently serious to merit the attentions of the Crown Court is open to all comers regardless of residential, national or ethnic status. Certainly, simply keeping your eyes open in the streets of London leads to the conclusion that the non-White population of London is significantly higher than The Powers That Be would have us believe, but even that adjustment cannot account for the disparity I observed at court.

Either the criminal justice system is biased against non-Whites, or criminality among non-Whites and particularly among recent immigrants is disproportionately high. You may be surprised to learn that I have some sympathy with the first of these options, but certainly not to the observed extent and I suspect that the latter element is paramount.

Benefits of mass immigration, anyone?

17 February, 2008



I have just passed through Trafalgar Square, where a couple of hundred people are milling around in the square itself, waving flags. Around the square and the surrounding streets, numerous cars are circulating, blaring their horns, with young men leaning out of passenger windows clutching full-sized flags. Traffic in the surrounding streets is gridlocked, even more so than usual, despite this being a Sunday afternoon. Despite this disruptive and ill-mannered behaviour, our own dear Metropolitan Police do not seem to be much in evidence, though a few minutes ago I saw a police helicopter go over.

The flags, of course, are those of Albania and the enthusiastic celebration is for the Kosovar unilateral declaration of independence. So far, I haven't seen any celebratory (or indeed, opposing) Serbian flags. In the light of this turn-out, one does have to wonder how many Albanians and Albanian Kosovars live in wonderful hyperdiverse London, and if the demonstration, for such it is, was unauthorized, where are the police to restore order to the streets.

I freely admit that I do not know enough Balkan history, from whomever's perspective, to form a view, but my instinct is that the EU, USA and NATO's keenness to get the Kosovo issue "off their books" is going to lead to tears, most definitely well before bedtime. How long before Kosovo (or Kosova) declares its intention to integrate into Albania? How long before the remaining minority Serbs, Bosniaks and others are driven out? How long before the Basques, Catalans, Macedonians in Greece, Northern Italians, Corsicans, Abkhazians and all the rest are making renewed demands for "independence"? How long before the Pakistanis of Bradford and Luton demand their own ministates?

Interesting times.


At about 16:30 I walked back down Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square. Flag-waving cars are still cruising round, causing traffic chaos and incipient gridlock. The Old Bill are beginning to take a bemused, indulgent and decidedly hands-off interest. There are relatively few police in evidence. In the Square itself, the numbers of "demonstrators/celebrators" has risen to perhaps one or two thousand, in my entirely untutored estimation. Certainly they fill the paved area in front of the NPG. As well as Albanian flags, English (St George), Union and very occasionally US flags are on display. What this betokens I am not entirely sure, but my instinct is to regard it as a provocation and an insult. If they are thanking "us" for our support for Kosovan independence, that is an affront to those who do not support it. If they are displaying their dual allegiance to the UK as well as to Albania/Kosovo, that also is an affront. Do not attempt to associate people like me with your foreign cause.

The episode is disgraceful. By all means let the Albanians and Albanian Kosovars celebrate to their hearts' content in Tirana and Pristina, but leave London out of it. Let us enjoy our city in peace and let our traffic circulate freely. Kindly fuck off.

There will definitely be tears as the tiresome denizens of the Balkans and their diaspora once again inflict their tedious internecine and intertribal squabbles on Europe and Russia. Oh well.

11 February, 2008


Damage limitation

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Prof Steve Jones was wheeled on as an expert interviewee to discuss the issue of genetic damage due to first-cousin marriages in the UK Pakistani "community". What, seemingly, he was supposed to be talking about was the genetic and medical consequences of inbreeding. What he actually spent the entire slot doing was playing down the numerical significance of the problem and attempting to divert attention from the particular cultural issues of the Pakistani and other South Asian and Middle Eastern "communities" by spurious references to cousin marriage in Southern Europe.

Ann Cryer, a woman for whom I have increasing respect, at least quoted material if anecdotal evidence. One case she referred to involved three children of a cousin marriage, all of whom had suffered liver failure. One of the girls in this case had had four successive liver transplants. As cousin marriage among UK Pakistanis runs at about the 80% mark and the practice is endemic and chronic, I would venture to suggest, Prof Jones, that this is not a matter that can be simply dismissed as insignificant.

Later, on the dreaded Woman's Hour, a couple of "spokeswimmin" from the Muslim "community" were interviewed, one of whom intimated that it was unhelpful to raise the matter as it victimized Muslims, who were already under pressure from the nasty unsympathetic British meejah.

At least the South Asian young people, clearly untrained in the political arts, who were interviewed in a vox pop, got a little closer to the heart of the matter. Cousin marriage with partners from the old country was a family obligation, to get relatives into the UK for their economic benefit.

Frankly, if a died in the wool (pun accidental) multiculturalist like Phil Woolas feels driven to get up on his hind legs and raise a taboo subject like this, the situation must be pretty dire.

Presumably, all of this is an enrichment of our vibrant and diverse culture and represents a significant contribution to the British economy.

09 February, 2008


London Life

The day being clement, I betook myself and my bottle of finest Polish lager to the outside seating area of the Ledger Building pub in Canary Wharf. An elderly chap dressed in distinctly rural working attire approached the building, carrying a curved-handled walking stick that might well have served as a crook, and accompanied by two clearly well-trained border collies. He entered the pub as they obediently remained outside. With difficulty did I manfully suppress the temptation to call out, "Your flock's not in there mate, they've been baa'ed" or something similarly inane.

Welcome to the less depressing parts of Tower Hamlets.

05 February, 2008


Little things that oil the wheels

I was crossing a busy central London street at the lights, when I heard the shriek of a siren and saw the reflection of blue flashing lights a little distance away, their source hidden by traffic. The pedestrian lights changed in our favour. I and the other middle-aged geezer waiting to cross stood our ground, both of us clearly reasoning that either the waiting traffic would wish to move forward out of the way or the emergency vehicle would find a way through, or indeed both. Five seconds later the unmarked police or security car which was the cause of all the ruckus appeared, steaming through the junction. The officer in the passenger seat waved his thanks to us patiently waiting pedestrians.

Curiously, that little gesture was very welcome.

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