We need career detectives
Sir: Your lead article (Trial and error, 29 February) rightly condemns Tom Watson for pressurising police into investigating the spurious allegations of Carl Beech. What should urgently be abandoned is the fast-tracking of police officers into senior positions, and the promotion of uniformed inspectors into detective ranks without them having the necessary experience and training to be effective investigators.
It was well known in junior police circles that Operation Midland was a non-runner virtually from the start, but pressure from on high demanded that the investigation continued. The senior officers responsible for that, lacking detective ability and nous, seem to have heeded Tom Watson’s exhortations and ordered equally inexperienced middle-ranking officers to proceed with the flawed inquiry — with the devastating consequences we are now aware of. Mistakes like this will continue to be made, to our detriment, unless there is a return to career detectives.
The case of Cyril Smith
Sir: The suggestion in your editorial (‘Trial and error’) that Lancashire Constabulary ‘took no action’ after investigating Cyril Smith for child sex offences in 1969 gives a slightly false impression. In fact, after an exhaustive investigation, in 1970 Lancashire Constabulary recommended that Smith be prosecuted. But because of Smith’s status, they felt obliged to seek the views of the DPP, who overruled the recommendation after a cursory consideration of an 80-page dossier of evidence: a decision that Cyril Smith seems to have known about in advance.
While the police can be criticised for failings in other cases, they deserve some credit for wanting to prosecute Smith five decades ago. Lord Steel has justifiably been castigated for his failure in 1979 to consider whether Smith was a fit person to remain in public life. This should not obscure the fact that throughout the Smith saga, there were others who tried to do the right thing.
Sir: Katy Balls refers in her article (‘A new angle’, 29 February) to Keir Starmer’s discussions with Sadiq Khan, described by her as ‘Labour’s most senior elected representative’. It would seem that my country is even lower in the UK’s pecking order than I had assumed — and that Sadiq’s London has a higher status than Wales, currently governed by the avuncular First Minister Mark Drakeford AM (Labour). But there are more important things in life; I must get back to tending my sheep, daffodils and Welsh cakes.
Only hearing Heard
Sir: Congratulations to Mary Wakefield for having the courage to challenge the zeitgeist (‘Why did no one believe Johnny Depp?’, 29 February). I admire her humility in acknowledging how her own prejudice inhibited her ability to judge fairly the matter of Depp vs Heard. The default reaction to so many recent accusations is that the man is at fault — and sometimes that is the case. However the media and wider modern culture do little to remind us that the Crime Survey for England found that one in three instances of domestic abuse are against men. Misogyny pervades our society but when it comes to domestic abuse accusations, misandry dominates. Neither should be acceptable — bullies of both genders damage our society.
Sir: Alasdair Palmer asks what organised crime is doing disposing of rubbish (‘Dirty business’, 29 February). Is it really any surprise, considering disorganised councils don’t appear to have much idea about the proper disposal of it? There are not enough local council-run tips, especially considering not everyone has transport, and the ones that do exist don’t allow tipper trucks loaded with building waste. As the main purpose and priority of a tip today is the processing of recyclable materials, where and how exactly is someone in possession of a load of largely unrecyclable material realistically supposed to dispose of it?
Sir: I partly agree with the outgoing Royal Opera House music director Antonio Pappano that opera is not for the young (Arts, 29 February). I remember the agony of being taken as a child to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Leeds Grand Theatre and praying that it would soon be over. Likewise Shakespeare at school. But that didn’t stop me enjoying opera or the Bard as an adult. As a teacher, I used to take my sixth-formers to see opera and ballet. Some loved it and some hated it; but like so many things, it’s important to be introduced at an early age, because once planted the seed will grow.
A century to grow
Sir: Charles Moore’s reflection on the digging up of the lawn at Trinity, Cambridge (Notes, 22 February), reminds me of the morning after the 1970 Garden House riot, when, as a young reporter, I asked a porter at King’s about the desecration of his lawn. ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘we will seed a new lawn, roll it, water it and seed it again, and roll it. Then, we wait. In 100 years, sir, the lawn will be like it was yesterday morning.’