The security experts have been at work.  Take a walk around Stratford and you’ll probably be aware that all eyes are on you, with cameras sited everywhere and a huge number of half-trained half-wits, otherwise known as security staff, guarding the place.  How much has been spent, sorry, invested in keeping the Olympics safe will no doubt emerge in time when we have to start paying the bill, but  the private security companies, whose pockets the money has been invested in, are all smiling.

Not to be outdone by the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games we are now going in for super-duper security to fend off these pesky terrorists, murderers, rapists, kidnappers, thieves, protesters and other ne’er-do-wells.  If you cast your mind back a few years you may recall the measures the Chinese government was taking to ensure its event was kept safe – surface to air missiles, Peoples Navy patrolling the seas and more soldiers deployed than America had sent to Iraq – much of which was duly ridiculed and laughed at.  Of course, nothing like that could possibly happen here in the liberal west where we have democracy,  freedom and no big brother government keeping us in constant state of fear of any invisible enemy.

Just exactly how many suicide bombers, gun men or nail bomb throwers can be shot down with an HVM system I really don’t know but aren’t these weapons for use against jet airfcraft – and how many gangsters/terrorists/thugs own warplanes?

However, on the advice of an ‘expert’ [who I guess must now be laughing his socks off at our gullibility] the British Army are now in the process of mounting surface to air missile batteries around the Olympic park. Personally I would have thought the worst and most likely threat would be from hooligans and drunken yobboes but maybe I’m just out of touch with reality.


This letter was submitted the ‘The Friend’, a Quaker periodical publication, recently Still awaiting the editor’s decision as to whether or not it will be published.

Dear Friends

At present we, in the Central Yorkshire Area Meeting (CYAM), are being urged, on instructions from Britain Yearly Meeting, to adopt a policy which will safeguard children and vulnerable adults.  I refer to the society’s intention to have at least two members of each meeting CRB checked and ‘cleared’ for ‘child safety purposes’.

If I may begin by relating some of my own experiences of the Criminal Records Bureau and the certificates it issues.  I am a member of a large recreational association with branches throughout the country some of which have already been pressured into CRB checking their leaders and administrators.  The results have been notable as many long standing leaders, well known and respected by other members, declined to take such checks and as a result no longer participate in social events; one can only wonder what dark secrets they had to hide. If they were the only ones to disappear maybe that would not be so bad but not only the refuseniks but their friends have gone with them, depleting numbers somewhat.  However, if a reduction in numbers is anything to judge by I think we can say those groups are now far safer than they ever were in the past.

In addition to the effect on numbers, CRB checks introduce an unhealthy and unwholesome atmosphere of distrust to whichever organisation chooses to use them.  The implication is that everyone is guilty and poses a potential threat to vulnerable people [almost a reinvention of ‘original sin’]. The way to lift one’s self above such guilt is to undergo a CRB check. In this manner those with certificates are deemed ‘safe’ and the others, not so; in this way CRB checking also has a divisive effect on a group or society.  If CYAM gets its way and each meeting complies with the ruling we will have two people at each meeting house who may be entrusted with the care of children and other vulnerable people – and no one else.

In reality a CRB disclosure certificate achieves nothing. It doesn’t show a person is trustworthy, has done nothing wrong and, most important, of all says nothing about what he/she will do in the future.  Even the phrasing used on a ‘clean’ certificate raises doubts, for example  ‘Police Records of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands and Warnings – NOT RECORDED’. Why not a straightforward ‘NONE’? ‘NOT RECORDED’ has a subliminal message ‘no record found but he/she may have offended, we simply don’t know’.  It certainly doesn’t tell you that this person will not murder, assault or molest someone in the future.

Why are some people so enthusiastic about such a useless measure?  For those with a desire to keep others under their thumb the appeal is obvious as it is way of controlling people, of sifting out those you like from those you don’t while under the pretence of doing something good.

I have yet to see one benefit of this procedure but so far I have only seen negative effects – financial cost to clubs and societies, loss of membership, loss of participation within the remaining membership, further reinforcement of the deep-seated distrust and suspicion which pervades society as a whole and yet our Elders and Overseers, who I understand are selected for their deeper understanding of Quaker values, far from demanding that we find a way forward to a more sensible method of our own and thus set the standard,  are urging us to follow the sheep.  Our society has a long history of dissent, of standing up to unjust or unfair laws, of saying ‘no’ to imposed procedures and being prepared to take the consequences. This is surely such an occasion to insist on being different.

At risk of stating the obvious we are the Religious Society of Friends, we seek the truth, we endeavour to stand for the truth, we accept nothing but the truth and in our quest for the truth we develop a sharp eye which enables us to accept that which is of value and worth and reject that which is puff.

I feel our myopia is reaching chronic levels.

It’s uncertain which of the three schools of thinking, creationist, intelligent design or natural selection, if any at all, would claim John Darwin, the undead canoeist, as the final proof of their theory, maybe no one at all, as he doesn’t seem to do much credit to any of them.


It is a while since we last heard of Mr. and Mrs Darwin but on Thursday, 13th March 2008, a hearing was held at Leeds Crown Court at which they both entered pleas to the various charges brought against them. Mr Darwin pleaded guilty to seven charges of obtaining money [possibly as much as £250,000] by deception and one of obtaining a false passport and not guilty to nine other charges. Mrs Darwin pleaded not guilty to all of the charges brought against her. That’s the dry bit of the tale over with, and summarised here in this article on The Times website.


There has been much speculation about the whole story but in particular around the possible motivation. As might be expected, the investigative journals of the world have been digging deep to see what insightful nuggets of muck can be found. One novel theory as to why he gave himself up to the police is that by so doing he would force his wife into giving herself up, but this has is its variations – and drawbacks. The first story, posited by the Glasgow Daily Record, is that he believed his wife was being unfaithful to him but The Sydney Morning Herald goes further than this saying that Darwin believed his wife was about to leave him for another man and leave him penniless, further details here. While this may be plausible, doesn’t it seem a little OTT to put yourself at the mercy of the fuzz, especially after committing a string of frauds, just to stop your spouse having an affair? Would this fit in with Darwin’s previous patterns of behaviour? If other stories are to be believed he regularly indulged in affairs himself so would he be bothered if his wife did the same. Maybe, but maybe not. Does this fit in with the initial story heard last December when he entered a London police station? To all intents and purposes he seriously expected to get away with his amnesia story, although a moments serious thinking might have told him otherwise.


The News of The World has another story to tell, not of any planned scheme but of a penpal affair between Darwin and a female prisoner – someone had to find a seamy element to this sooner or later. How he met up with someone else while behind bars is left unexplained but if this is correct it will not be the first time he has been involved with other women or confused reality with fantasy as shown in this article in the the Daily Mail.


Guessing from these stories and allegations it would seem that John Darwin is more comfortable in a fantasy world than in the real world. Maybe he himself realises this and is looking forward to a long stir of porridge, it could be just what he needs to avoid getting himself knotted up in further harebrained antics. Or perhaps, as an ex-prison officer, he is feeling a little homesick and wants to return to more familiar quarters. Who knows?


But to return to the initial question of this article, if JD were presented as the ultimate proof of the theory of life then intelligent design would come a very poor third in the race JD having displayed a total absence of IQ, natural selection staggers home in second place after failing miserably to do its job in eliminating a seriously weak link from the gene pool and on the basis of all the stories and fantasies involved in this tale Creationism wins by a mile.

This is question close to the heart of many people.  Money and what happens after someone steals, embezzles or obtains it in a dishonest fashion and is subsequently caught. It seems that there is no simple answer to this; how society responds depends on a lot of rather complex, largely unwritten, rules. For instance, the type of crime you commit and how much you have stolen both have a bearing on the outcome but also where you have stolen it from, who you are and who you are connected with.

Take the recent case of the MP who allegedly misused Parliamentary allowances to feather his nest, reported here in The Times and here in The Independent. Over a period of 3 years he paid his eldest son, Henry, a salary as a research assistant, while he [Henry] was studying at Newcastle University. More recently he entered into the same scheme when his second son, Freddie, went to university. After the second time around someone blew the whistle and it was claimed that the money was being paid for no real purpose whatsoever. An enquiry was held into the matter and the committee could find no evidence of any work being done. The only supporting evidence was the say-so of the Conway family members.

Reports are a little fuzzy and confusing regarding how much money was involved, a lot depends on which newspaper you read, but so far as I can gauge the figures below are somewhere in the region.

HC £11,773 per year for 3 years, plus 4 £10,000 bonuses. Total £75,319
FC £10,000 per year for 3 years, plus pension contributions. Total £45,000

For siphoning off a sum of money in excess of £120,000 from public funds Derek Conway was suspended from Parliament for 10 days, must repay £13,161, and has now lost his place in the Conservative Party. No prosecution, no instant dismissal from employment, none of the of the penalties which would have applied automatically had a canteen worker or cleaner stolen a few supplies from the storeroom. Apart from the loss of party membership and the 10 days lost pay, it is now back to ‘service as normal’ for The Honourable Derek Conway, having made a net gain for his offspring of over £100,000.

A few articles covering this . . . . .
The Daily Telegraph
Guido Fawkes’ blog
The Guardian

The saga of John Darwin [not much indication of Intelligent Design there] is priceless. As it continues to unravel every new snippet of information, adding to the twists and contradictions, brings more entertainment into the dark days of winter and raises more smirks and smiles. The allegations already made by the police and those which they are considering are serious enough but that’s not what has grabbed everyones’ attention; it’s not everyday that a story so fascinating, so funny, so breathtakingly loopy comes to light . . . and there’s still lots more of it to come . . . In addition to the story itself everyone has been finding their own angle and digging up their own meaning.

First, in 2002, Darwin does his Reggie Perrin act and apparently gets away with it. Then he resurfaces more than 5 years later, looking very svelte, suntanned and well-presented, claiming to be a missing person but having no memory of any events after 2000. His wife, who has cashed in his insurance policies and sold their UK properties has done a bunk to Panama and, when contacted by the press, says she is delighted to hear of him being refound. Then things start unravelling as sightings of the ‘dead’ man come to light and even photographs. So both Anne and John Darwin begin to adjust their stories. Both sons, meanwhile, have claimed they knew nothing of their father’s disappearance or their mother’s involvement in the alleged fraud, but both apparently left their jobs before John Darwin reappeared.

Only someone from Britain could be so stupid and so amusing at the same time. What a shame that the Darwin Awards are only given to those who succeed in genuinely killing themselves. Couldn’t the organisers set up a new category Least Best Attempt or some such? Or maybe we need to establish something entirely new, a Reginald Perrin Award. Any volunteers for the panel of judges?

There’s obviously a lot more to come from this story, enough to keep us entertained during the coming months.