Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Extract from my latest thriller

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Friday, 5 June 2009 – 7.30
Bethel was nineteen – too young to remember the Sixties and too bored to care about her grandparents’ reminiscences – like how her mother was conceived at the Woodstock festival.
       But the sound of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” was ringing through her head, via the earphones of her iPod, as she stood by the roadside, waiting for help. She knew little of the context of the song and nothing about the closing of the Pandora’s Box nightclub or the Sunset Strip Curfew Riots. But the voice of Neil Young was haunting. It was easy to sleep through high school civics classes – even to sleepwalk through the assignments and exams.  She knew a bit about the Vietnam wat and the civil rights struggles of the Sixties.  But it was all superficial academic knowledge, of the kind she picked up almost by default while daydreaming about the football team quarterback.
       It stayed in her mind not as a coherent picture, but as a collection of sound bites: “We shall overcome,” “I have a dream,” “Power to the people,” “Burn, baby, burn!” The voice of anger still echoed across the decades. But it echoed faintly. A time gulf separated Bethel from the turbulence that had almost ripped her country apart. And the time gulf was ever widening, so all that was left of the ringing timbre of history’s voices were the fading reverberations of barely remembered heroes: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Chicago Eight. Names and slogans to Bethel, but no substance.
       But she liked the song. It had a pleasant hook that made it stick in her mind. What really sent shivers up her spine was that haunting phrase at the end of chorus, urging the young listeners to pause and assess the situation. She had no more than the merest inkling of what it meant. Whatever it was had gone down already. It doesn’t really matter, she told herself. It belonged to her grandparents’ generation anyway. She belonged to another generation, the one that was more concerned with finding a job than changing the world         
       Her full name was Bethel Georgia Newton and she was a mixed bag of human elements. In the looks department she was all bleached blonde and classic cheerleader figure, a carefully cultivated complexion and polished-tooth smile. Neither svelte nor buxom, a kind of perfect “in-between” for her height of five foot six; athletic, but in that soft, not overdone sort of way, with well-toned leg muscles, but not rippling ones. She was middle class and far removed from the culture of the street, yet when it came to experience of life she wasn’t entirely na├»ve. She might not exactly have been streetwise, but she had tasted the bitter side of life.
       She stood by the roadside in her tight-fitting white t-shirt and denim shorts that showed every curve of her firm body, holding out her thumb every time a car went by. She thought it would be easy hitching a ride, with her breasts thrusting out in front, straining against her t-shirt, and the perfect ripe complexion of her thighs showing like white silk in the California sunshine. But people were paranoid about helping strangers by the roadside, she realized now.
       A few yards away, her car had broken down and she couldn’t even call for help because the battery of her cell phone was flat. She had made a half-hearted effort to fix the car herself, but she didn’t really have a clue when it came to car engines. So all she could do was flag down a Good Samaritan and ask them to take her to a garage where she could get proper help.
       Secretly she was hoping that some good-looking man with technical skills and a cool family fortune would stop and rescue her, not just from the roadside but from the aimless drifting boredom that seemed to have engulfed her life lately. But she would settle for an elderly couple taking her down the road to a pay phone if necessary. Only she wasn’t even getting that. Life was unfair.
       But then her luck changed.
       An aquamarine Mercedes slowed down as it approached her. A recent model and from the up-market end of the European car industry, the owner was clearly affluent and probably young. By the time it had pulled over by the roadside she could see that the driver, in his late twenties, was a black man.
       What would my parents think? she wondered with a smile at the fleeting fantasy of turning up on her liberal parents’ doorstep with this young man in tow.
       Think rather than say. She knew that they’d be warm and welcoming. But she wondered if they were capable of walking the walk as well as they could talk the talk. It occurred to her that she didn’t really know her parents. And yet here she was away from home, trying to find herself.
       As the young man leaned out, smiling, and asked if she needed help, she could tell from his confident voice that this someone who was going places. She was drawn to his youthful good looks and quiet, cool self-confidence and she warmed to him instantly, even if his diction betrayed the lingering traces of a background that she half suspected he was trying to conceal – or maybe just forget.
       He took a look under the hood and after about a minute shook his head and said, “I’m not really all that good with engines. I’m better with people.” He won her over with that line and a disarming smile. Two minutes later she was in the Mercedes and they were rolling along down the road, getting to know each other better. Then, somewhere along the line, she noticed that he had turned off the main road.
       She was about to ask where they were going when she caught a glimpse of his profile and saw his lips twist upwards into a smile. But she couldn’t tell if the smile was friendly. And as the first traces of apprehension formed into a knot in the pit of her stomach, she realized that she was too afraid to inquire further.

Click here to read the rest of  No Way Out - this exciting thriller...

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Monday, 26 July 2010

Bulger killer gets off lightly

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John Venables, one of the two murderers of two year-old James Bulger got off lightly with only a two year sentence for serious child pornography offenses.  This is despite the fact that he was already out on life license ("parole" to Americans) for the Bulger murder in 1993.

The amazing thing is that he seems to assume that he will be released on completion of his sentence - or even before that.  In fact, because he committed a crime while on license, he breached the terms of said license and consequently his license was revoked.  That means that he can only be released if a new license is issued.

Whether that will actually happen depends on the courage of the Home Secretary.  I suspect that somewhere along the line, we will be told that under a judicial interpretation of the European Convention of Human Rights, the mere act of putting him on a life license (for the murder of James Bulger) instead of a short finite sentence, was itself a "violation" of his "human rights."  While such a ruling would obviously be a misinterpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights, it is the kind of interpretation that I can see our criminal-friendly judiciary handing down before they retreat behind gated communities with their police bodyguard.

It is also the kind of argument that I can also see rolling off the tongue of some highly-paid, smooth-talking shyster - highly paid by the taxpayer that is.  But if it does happen, then it is only a matter of time before he re-offends.

On the hand, Robert Thompson (the other murderer of James Bulger)  is entirely different.  Although he received pretty soft treatment at the de facto boarding school to which the authorities sent him, he seems to have gone straight.  He is living with his girlfriend and baby and a close female blood-relative.  He is quite polite - on one occasion even letting me get on the bus ahead of him despite the fact that he was already at the bus stop when I arrived there.

He doesn't know that I am onto him - although I think he suspects.  But I have mixed feelings when I see him.  On the one hand I believe that he is a genuinely reformed and rehabilitated character.  But on the other hand none of this vitiates the fact that he has the blood of an innocent child on his hands.  Moreover it was a long drawn-out vicious murder, not merely a spontaneous lashing out with fatal consequences.  He saw his two-year-old victim suffering and heard him crying and pleading with him to stop: yet he carried on.  His rehabilitation does nothing to ease the pain of his victim.

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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Rapist gets off lightly - AGAIN

Once again, Britain's criminal-friendly judges have let a rapist off lightly.  This time the rapist is an 18-year-old man who, when he was a 12-year-old boy raped a teacher.  She is still receiving therapy for the psychological trauma that the dirty little scumbag inflicted on her.

The original trial judge correctly stated that the rapist posed a "grave danger."  This might be because in addition to being a rapist he was also a drug junkie, a solvent addict, a pyromaniac and a violent young thug.  However Lord Justice Hughes, vice-president of the criminal court of appeal, decided that eight years with an extended licence period after release, was sufficient to protect the public from this death-deserving yob.  He was backed in this corrupt and depraved decision by Mr Justice Wyn Williams and Mr Justice King.

But what prompted this miscarriage of justice?  (And make no mistake, this reduction in the rapist's sentence IS a miscarriage of Justice.)  Well it is tempting to speculate that male judges have a "there but for the grace of God go I" attitude when it comes to rape.  But we must also acknowledge the significant contribution of the rapists lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, who used the best of his abilities to cause his rapist client to be unleashed on society as early as possible.  Fitzgerald told the Appeal Court that the original sentence should never have been passed.

Now we should remember that barristers operate according to the so-called "taxi rank" principle of accepting the first "fare" that comes along.  Personally I would call this the Red Light District streetwalker principle of going with the first punter that comes along.  But I can understand why members of that august profession prefer to compare themselves to skilled workers who have "done the knowledge" rather than members of the oldest profession whom they more closely resemble.

In any event, no one can deny that Fitzgerald did a good job in securing an earlier release for this rapist client.  Whilst it is quite likely that he was paid by the taxpayer (through the legal aid system) he was serving not the taxpayer, but his client.  And if that means that other women will be raped by his client in the future - something that is highly probable - that is not Mr Fitzgerald's problem.

And what of the victim?  Well it is all too easy to forget the victim in all of this.  Victims are not entitled to any representation in criminal proceedings.  Even victim impact statements are largely ignored by the judges and any change in this policy has been opposed by those who support the criminals.  The only "redress" that the law purports to allow the victim is the right to bring a civil lawsuit for financial compensation.  But no matter how much money is awarded, if the rapist hasn't got the money (or is able to conceal it) he will not be obliged to pay it.  or if he pays it will be a couple of quid a week.  And then he can duck the debt by having himself declared bankrupt.

Is it surprising then that in another case going before the courts involves a 15-year-old girl (then 14) accused murdering a man she accused of raping her?  As a rape victim says to the man who raped her many years later in my latest thriller No Way Out You think the pain of your victims ebbs into oblivion just because you turned your life around. You think it’s that easy? Don’t you know that for the victims the pain never goes away!"

The answer is: it doesn't.  So may be it's time to inflict some pain on the rapists.  As a modest first step, if anyone knows the identity of the rapist in this case, would they please reveal it on a website hosted outside the United Kingdom.