I had to go into Barnstaple recently, something that happens rather rarely, and a couple of things caught my eye.
First, the Oliver Buildings. As far as I am concerned, they have little or no aesthetic or architectural merit and not much historical interest. However, others look at them differently and see something in them that is worth preserving, and that’s fair enough – I wouldn’t want to impose my taste on the rest of Devon. But take a look at the plant life that has colonised the buildings –
The other thing was prompted by Asda. It didn’t seem terribly busy when I went there, and it struck me that Barnstaple and environs are rather well supplied nowadays with supermarkets, a bit too well supplied if truth be told. Of course, once all the new housing that has been planned and approved for the region has been built, the number of supermarkets may seem more appropriate. Unfortunately. what we are now likely to see is a price war, which will escalate the destruction of independent shops in the vicinity. If the supermarkets came after the housing, independents might stand a better chance.
I try not to comment on legal cases – I know from my own experience that what we see in the papers or on line is no more than a brief summary of what went on in court. The case of Sgt Blackman, Marine “A”, is especially difficult, involving, as it does, questions of law, international law, the Geneva Convention, morality, ethics and what we expect from and owe to our soldiers.
Towards the end of last year, Blackman applied for bail. This was refused, the reasoning being that the Court preferred to expedite hearings rather than set a convicted person free, only to have to bang them up again if the appeal failed. In Blackman’s case, I am not convinced of the logic of this. If Blackman is not guilty, and the Criminal Cases Review Commission says this is a realistic possibility, he will have spent an unnecessary extra 2 or 3 months in prison. That 2 or 3 months may seem a trivial amount of time to the judges; I bet it doesn’t to Blackman and his family and friends. What is the downside if he is released? Any time he has spent on bail could be added to his sentence, so he does not benefit from it. The usual reasons for refusing bail are that the accused will abscond or might commit another crime. Given Blackman’s family situation and previous record, the former is highly unlikely, while the latter is virtually inconceivable.
On the basis of the information available to me, that decision seems cruel, heartless and unworthy of our judges.
Have you read about the ruling by the Supreme Court that bus drivers must try to persuade other passengers to make room for wheelchair users? In a way, it’s a bit of a cop-out in that it enables both parties to claim victory and doesn’t give either party all that they wanted. However, it does establish an important principle in English Law, which could have implications for the disabled way beyond the question of whether or not someone should make room for the disabled on a bus. It seems to me to be saying that, where there is a facility for the disabled, the person responsible for that facility has a positive duty to try to ensure that others do not interfere with its use by the disabled. Perhaps, among other things, this will encourage car park operators to be more active in dissuading the able from parking in disabled spaces!
Last week’s Journal carried a long piece by Dr Alison Diamond, the exceptionally well-paid CEO of the Northern Devon NHS Healthcare Trust (total pay, including pension contribution, for 2015/6 was £250,000), in which she or her PR department eloquently defend the Trust’s activities. When you read that, keep in mind her past record of accuracy. Dr Diamond repeatedly said that the closure of in-patient beds in the Tyrrell was temporary and due to a shortage of staff until, mere weeks after her last such statement, it suddenly became permanent and due to money, too few beds (only 12, ignoring the fact that at one time there were at least 38!), it would cost too much to bring it up to modern standards, it would bring in oodles of cash if sold for housing, money , and more money. (To be fair, she didn’t admit to all of the reasons quoted; no doubt you can guess which). Anyway, before you believe her, look at her record!
Whilst on the subject of who to believe, this is taken from a post by John Wardman on the Save Our Hospital Services Devon Facebook group:
At the scrutiny committee meeting [of Devon County Council], a member of the public (MOP) confronted Angela Pedder leader of the STP group.
MOP "Hi Angela, this STP you are rolling out, you do realise people will die ? How do you feel about this?
Pedder "I dispute that fact"
MOP "Don't you realise young women will die in childbirth on the way to Plymouth?"
Pedder " Don't point your finger at me"
MOP (finger removed)" You do realise Stroke victims will suffer brain damage before they get to Exeter"
Pedder "I dispute that"
MOP "You're living in dreamland Angela"
Were it not that there is documentary and recorded evidence of this exchange, I would find it difficult to believe that the lady could be either so deluded or so mendacious. Either way, she should be sacked.
There’s not much time left to support https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/988709253/the-last-days-are-coming-musical-4-track-ep?ref=5gvdd6 or https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1473817166/black-lord-of-eagles/comments. If you can, please consider pledging something, however little.
And finally, 1st February, 2pm at the Lantern, an auction in support of the Victorian celebration. I look forward to seeing you there.