Saturday, 24 September 2011

Feminist Webs

It was with great pleasure that I took part I a residential weekend last Saturday 10th September at a youth centre near Oldham. The weekend was sponsored by Children, England and Children’s Workforce Development Council. The weekend was part of a year long project. At the end of the project the young women involved will produce an exhibition in the Peoples Museum Manchester and also publish a book about themselves and their journey throughout the year.
The two themes they considered over the weekend were “feminism” and” resilience”. They listened to the stories of three resilient women of today, Pauline Pearce who confronted young people looting in the recent riots in Hackney, Helen John, one of the thirty six women who walked from Cardiff to Green ham in 1981 and who has set up a Peace Camp earlier this month outside RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire to protest against the use of Drones and Vedanta Shiva who is striving for a better deal for the starving poor of India. The young women showed a lively interest and a grasp of what is happening in the world around them that I am sure would have astonished Mr. Gove.
They were members of three separate Youth Clubs and came together with a real spirit of friendship and tolerance. Their demeanour, thoughtfulness and eagerness to learn defied any description of feral youth. I am eighty two years old and I found being with them inspiring and a privilege.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

3rd Anniversary of Pauline Campbell's Death

“Remembering Pauline Campbell died May 15 2008 Suffragette for Penal Reform.”
It is three years since Pauline died so tragically. It is difficult to imagine what she would have made of the controversy going on today about the overcrowding of prisons. There is no doubt that she would have welcomed any reduction in numbers. But she wouldn’t have been happy if this went hand in hand with fewer resources to put right the appalling conditions which exist in many of our prisons.
Nothing much seems to change where children are concerned. As late as April this year Dr Margaret Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner, called on Britain to outlaw the use of physical violence on children in custody. But yet again we wonder – when will action be taken?
Pauline’s voice is sorely missed.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Remembering Chernobyl 25 Years On

Genny Bove and I held a stall at the Cross in Chester on Tuesday 26th April 2011 to remind people of the accident that happened at Chernobyl on that day 25 years ago. It was even more poignant this year following the explosion at Fukushima, Japan. The threat of nuclear disaster is still the most immediate threat to the people and the planet in this the 21st century. It is staggering that this government, for political reasons, can even contemplate a new generation of nuclear power stations and the replacement of the nuclear missile system.
As long ago as 1978 a small group of dedicated people led by Bridget Gubbins set up the Druridge Bay Campaign. Druridge Bay is a beauty spot on the Northumberland.
Coast and was threatened by the building of a nuclear power station. The common thread that brought the campaigners together was concern for the planet and the need to expose the dangers of nuclear power. No matter how much government ministers felt they were serving the national or global interest by building nuclear power stations, the campaigners could clearly see the threat of radio active waste (deadly for tens or hundreds of thousands of years), of radio active cores being cemented up on our beaches for at least 135 years, the ever present risks of accidents and the fear of living next to an outwardly innocuous building with deadly contents inside. Bridget’s book “Power at Bay” was written at the end of this incredible campaign.
I think it is worth noting that Ronald Sampson wrote an article in Resurgence Nov-Dec 1979. He says “the response of the Thatcher administration to the horrifying warning from Harrisburg (Three Mile Island) has been to announce plans for the construction of a similar reactor at Druridge Bay, barely 20 miles from Newcastle on Tyne. Arrogant contempt for people, their opinions and their elemental safety could not be more brutally expressed. The government also announced plans for drilling operations at 11 different sites in England, Scotland and Wales to find deep accommodation for nuclear wastes. But they hasten to reassure us they will not be needed until the 21st century.”
It is the 21st century. Is the government to be allowed, along with the nuclear industry to play fast and loose with the future of our children and our grand children?

Monday, 14 March 2011

Adam Rickwood's Inquest

Saturday, 12 March 2011
I n 2004 Helena Kennedy wrote in her book “Just Law” p.292;
“Despite the advent of the Youth Justice Board with its supposed ‘child centred’ approach, and the warm words from the Prison Service about child protection, the conditions experienced by thousands of children sent to prison each year should shame us all. Recent reports from Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, are shocking. On page 293 Baroness Kennedy says the Prison Service we are told complies with the ‘principles’ of the Children's Act rather as, according to George Bush, Gantanamo Bay complies with the principles of the Geneva Convention.”

Ever since I had spent a day at the week long inquest of Joseph Scholes 2002 I continued to be concerned about conditions in children’s jails. The coroner had recommended that an inquiry should be held into Joseph's death. No inquiry was held. The practice of restraining children is barbaric. I read more and more damning reports about conditions and treatment.
In January this year the second inquest for Adam Rickwood who died in Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in August 2007 was held in Easington, Co Durham. Adam was fourteen. At his first inquest the coroner said that Adam had taken his own life. His mother struggled for six years and finally this second inquest took place. That jury unanimously condemned the running of Hassockfield as an unlawful regime with serious system failure in relation to the use of physical control in care. The jury criticised the Youth Justice Board. (How on earth could this sort of thing have developed? Secure Training Centres were set up as places of excellence.)
I had written to the Prime Minister in 2007 when I heard that wider powers of restraint were going to be given to so-called “care” officers. My letter was passed to the Ministry of Justice and a reply explained that the Secure Training Rules set up in 1998 had been amended and that anyway, they were not to be used except as a last resort. During the two days I spent at Adam’s second inquest it was crystal clear that these rules were not being followed before or at his death. In July 2007 Gareth Myatt had died at Oakhill while being restrained. It beggars belief that in 2008 Anne Owers Chief Inspector of Prisons called for Oakhill to be closed because of the staggeringly high level of force being used by the staff.
How dare we go on betraying our most vulnerable children? They need more than these overcrowded, under resourced Secure Training Centres with such poorly trained staff.
Posted by Joan Meredith at Saturday, March 12, 2011 0 comments