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Odd, isn't it, how surprised we still are when our legal system is shown to be a complete joke? We've spent so long trusting in "British justice" that it doesn't matter how many absurd and unjust convictions we read about, we are still shocked each time it goes wrong.
 
The latest travesty is the case of Michael Forsythe, the man given a suspended jail sentence for calling his neighbour an "English bitch" during a row - though she is in fact Welsh. His crime?
 
"Racially aggravated disorderly behaviour"!
 
Reading between the lines it's obvious that this was an unsavoury incident between two (probably) unsavoury protagonists. It may have been sparked off when Forsythe scratched Lorna Steele's car, but I'd be prepared to bet it had been simmering along for months, and this was just the tip of the iceberg.
 
But whatever the facts and whatever the true character of the people involved, and regardless of whether the man was guilty or not, this was still a travesty of justice. Justice should be impartial, justice should be sensible, justice should be reasonable, justice should involve the application of rational intelligence to circumstances that are all too often deeply unintelligent.
 
So, how does this apply to Michael Forsythe and Lorna Steele?
 

Not an English bitch - Lorna Steele & hubby

The woman is not English, she's Welsh. Does this mean that if I call my (white Anglo-Saxon) friend "a paki" that's being racist? I don't think so: it's being bloody rude and deeply insulting, but since my friend is demonstrably not of any kind of Asian origin, it's just that - an insult, not a slur against his race. Because it's not his race, get it?
 
And what of the term "English"? Are the English a race? I don't think so. England is a nation, and not even a sovereign state at that. African is a race. Asian is a race. Caucasian is a race.
 
"Black bastard" refers to the bastard's racial origin since only people of African origin have truly black skin, so certainly could be termed "racist". Not sure where that leaves the indigenous Australians, mind.
 
"Slitty-eyed Chink" refers to the Chink's racial origin and to a particular feature of his physiognomy that is not shared with most other races, so is certainly racist.
 
"English bitch" refers to the particular small area of the British Isles she comes from (well, actually, she didn't, but that's another matter ). If referring to someone as an English bitch is racist, then here are a few more racist insults - perhaps the Powys police and Welshpool Magistrates would like to write them down for future reference
 
• You Mancunian idiot!
 
• You Scottish git!
 
• You ginger tosser!
 
• You swine, you come from Saffron Walden!
 
• Why don't you go back where you come from? Toxteth, was it?
 
The dangerous side to this judgement lies in the legal system's habit of allowing previous cases to become precedents. If in future any judge or magistrate looks through the precedents for help in making a judgement and comes on this one, he's likely to assume that any mention of someone's nationality or place of birth is automatically racist. At least next time I'm stopped by the police and they ask for my address, I can refuse to answer on the grounds that they're being racist. For PC Plod to ask "So, which side of Acacia Avenue is that?" is just as bad as "All right, chummy, exactly which tree in Africa did you clamber down from?"
 
This is not to say, of course, that Michael Forsythe didn't deserve a suspended jail term. He may well have done. But there are a number of other offences that could have been used - "disorderly behaviour", "affray", "behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace", "insulting behaviour", "threatening behaviour" are some of them, I think, and any would have fitted the facts of the incident better than this "racially aggravated" nonsense.
 
Definitely NOT the courts' finest hour. The magistrate is seen to be an unintelligent person who doesn't understand the English (sorry, that's racist, isn't it?) language. The police ditto. The Steeles have attracted some pretty plangent criticism for their obdurate belligerence in taking the matter to court in the first place.
 
And Forsythe? Has this case made him see the error of his ways? Does his sentence encourage in him the desired feeling of humility, shame and a determination to behave better in future?
 
Not likely! He's all fired up with a fairly justified sense of having been unjustly dealt with. Mind you, he probably would be unrepentant in any case. He's Irish (oops, there I go again )
 

 
The GOS says: Of course there's another way of looking at the whole thing. It might be that the police and the magistrate were making an honest and praiseworthy attempt to uphold a piece of lunatic law perpetrated by our dear Neue Arbeit government.
 
But no surely not I mean, they're the government they must know what they're doing surely?

 

 
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