Posts Tagged 'law'

Great expectations

In 1999 Tony Blair told the Labour Conference: “If we are in politics for one thing, it is to make sure that all children are given the best chance in life.”

A decade on, that dream seems even further away.

Last month, Gordon Brown announced a “national crusade” to improve social mobility for the country’s most underprivileged children.

In a controversial move, discriminating against people on the grounds of class will be made illegal, just as it is on the basis of sex, age or gender. Though exactly how it will be possible to identify such discrimination remains unsurprisingly unclear.

Former health secretary Alan Milburn will head a new commission aimed to widen access to professions traditionally seen as the bastion of the middle classes, such as law, medicine and the media.

So, in the wake of all this government bluster it’s good to know that, on the ground at least, some things never change. The Cambridge paper, Varsity, today published a list that shows the average weekly budget and annual parental income of the parents of students by subject.

And, thank goodness, there are no surprises here. Topping the list with an average budget of £182 and an average parental income of £118,000 are the HAGS: the History of Art Girls.

As in life, following hot on in their heels are the Management boys with an average budget of £171, though the second-highest parental income is in Economics at £117,000.

The group with the lowest parental income are the Education students, on £46,500. Other altruistic professions – the doctors and vets – are average in the parental income groups but sit at the bottom of the tables when it comes to weekly budgets.

All of these are rather higher than the national average salary of around £30k (which has no doubt plummeted since last year). And how many students actually know for sure their parents’ income?

Still, if it shows one thing for sure, it is that we are all still obsessed with money, who has it and how much. I just wonder how many of these students will grow up to have anything like the income of their parents.

The Varsity list in full:

Average weekly budget/Average Parental Income

History of Art £182, £118,000

Management £171, £67,50

Architecture £155, £83,100

Land Economy £153, £74,000

Geography £148, £104,000

Classics £137, £84,600

Economics £137, £117,000

Maths £134, £78,000

Philosophy £129, £57,700

Computer Science £127, £50,900

Oriental Studies £125, £87,800

English £122, £61,200

SPS £119, £77,600

Law £112, £80,000

Music £107, £80,000

MML £106, £62,200

History £106, £74,800

ASNaC £104, £63,300

Theology £103, £74,900

Engineering £92, £68,100

Natural Sciences £90, £64,600

Arch & Anth £89, £52,200

Medicine £86, £62,300

Education £78, £46,500

Vet. Medicine £76, £64,600


Protecting the victims of domestic violence

Last night a cabinet minister accused Britain’s most senior judge of defending “our own version of honour killings” as the government clashed with the Law Lords over reforms to the law on murder.

Harriet Harman, the Minister for Equalities, said that the government would not bow to pressure from the judiciary to preserve the age-old law of provocation, despite coming under criticism from Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Senior Law Lord.

“This defence is our own version of honour killings and we are going to outlaw it,” Harman said in an interview with The Observer.

“We have had the discussion, we have had the debate, and we have decided and are not going to bow to judicial protests. I am determined that women should understand that we won’t brook any excuses for domestic violence.”

Defence by provocation is frequently used by men who have murdered their wives, claiming they acted under provocation from infidelity or verbal aggravation. If it can be proved that someone has been “provoked to lose his self-control”, then the charge is downgraded from murder to manslaughter.

This form of defence is deeply problematic. Not only does it transfer blame from the killer to the victim, making it offensive toward the loved-ones of the dead, but because it only applies to murders that happen under the “red mist” of anger it intrinsically favours men and discriminates against the primary victims of domestic abuse: women and children.

On average one in four women in the UK will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime and two women are killed by a current or former partner every week. More shocking still, some criminologists estimate that domestic violence is up to 140 per cent higher than government statistics suggest.

Successful prosecutions for domestic violence rose from 46 per cent in December 2003 to 65 per cent in 2006/7. However, many forms of emotional and psychological abuse are not classified as crimes, although their effects can be as devastating and permanent as any physical scar: 64 per cent of women who have been the victims of domestic abuse experience post-traumatic stress disorder, 48 per cent have depression, and 18 per cent attempt or commit suicide.

Defence by provocation takes no account of the lasting psychological trauma suffered by thousands of victims of domestic violence every day. Because women and children are physically weaker than men, murders committed by victims tend to be premeditated and therefore subject to the full might of the law.

I do not believe that defence by provocation should be outlawed. It is important to acknowledge mitigating circumstances in every case to ensure that justice is served and the sword does not outweigh the scales. Nonetheless, domestic violence remains one of the most complex subjects in Britain today, with most victims suffering 35 assaults before they talk to the police.

If this is to change, the taboo must be tackled and we as a people must be more aware of the deafening silence that surrounds violence behind closed doors.

Sex, laws and video tape

Yesterday, porn protestors descended on Parliament in what must be the most impressive array of PVC I have ever seen.

Models dressed in gags and chains held up traffic as they paraded around Westminster in a protest against the Justice & Immigration Act (2008), due to come into force in January 2009. This law will make it illegal to possess or disseminate any image in which there is a perceived threat to a person’s body or life for the sake of sexual titillation.

Ben Westwood – Dame Vivienne’s son – whose book of “extreme” photography Fuck Fashion may be banned under the new laws, has taken a stand against the government. He is joined by the singer Gwen Stefani and the burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese.

He writes: ”The way I see it, some people like it and some people don’t. In my opinion S&M is just harmless fun. There is no anger or violence involved.”

Campaigners argue that the new law will criminalize thousands of relationships in which people use hardcore porn consensually in the privacy of their own home. Yet only last month, Max Mosley, the bête noir of the tabloids, was paid out a record £60,000 settlement in a libel case that may challenge EU legislation.

Mosley was famously outed as an S&M connoisseur by a video published by News of the World showing him being shaved and beaten by five women. In the judgement, which has caused equal outrage and smug applause among the British media, the Honourable Mr Justice Eady said:

“It is not for journalists to undermine human rights, or for judges to refuse to enforce them, merely on grounds of taste or moral disapproval.”

It’s a “matter of principle”, says Mosley in an interview with the Guardian, that people “whose sex life isn’t quite the same as the majority” should be entitled to do what they want in the privacy of their own home “as long as everybody involved is genuinely consensual, properly consensual, not just doing it for money or whatever”.

It is not the job of the law to engage in a “moral crusade” against what people do in their private lives, however bizarre or intriguing we may find them. Whatever scrutiny we subject ourselves to outside, we should be able to hope that behind at least one closed door, Big Brother isn’t watching us.

April 2020

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