April 18, 2003

What Local Councils are Good

What Local Councils are Good For

When we moved house recently, we tried to find a public park near us. Not being familiar with the area, we rang the local council. No one there seemed to have a list of local parks. We were hoping to find a park better than the one across the street from our old flat. It had so many hypodermic needles and so much broken glass that we could let Aidie play.

Mrs Holford remembered seeing a park not far from the Whitecross roundabout, so we went exploring and found it. It is not particular close to our current residence, but it has become our park.

We took Aidie there today. There is a fenced in play area where he can run around freely. With him constantly getting into everything in the house, it is good to set him free to run off some energy. It is amazing how much energy can be trapped inside such a little body. Sometimes I think he is made out of the same stuff as those little superballs that we used to have – little rubber balls that seemed to bounce forever and in all directions.

Aidan is all boy. The even at 15 months, he wants to do the slide himself. He doesn’t want interference in making sure he doesn’t flip out of the groove, even though one time he managed to turn himself from his seat to his belly on the way down. The swing is his favourite. He likes everything higher and faster. The wilder the ride, the harder he laughs.

We remembered to take the digital camera with us on this trip to the park. I have posted the pictures on the Photos of Aidan page over on Holford Web. I even had to create a second photos page to fit everything.

So thanks to Herefordshire Council for the park off Whitecross roundabout, even if they don’t know it exists.

And now back to politics…

If you only recently discovered these Daily Diversions, you might be surprised to learn that I don’t reserve all of my criticism for Tower Hamlets Council.

In 1979 cousins Vincent and Michael Hickey were jailed for a murder they didn’t commit. It took until 1997 for the Court of Appeal to quash the convictions, so the Hickeys spent 18 years as tenants of HM Prison Service. Or at least that’s how the Home Office sees it. When Vince and Mike, now 48 and 41 years old respectively, were awarded compensation for the inconvenience of losing the prime of their lives, the Home Office (the UK department responsible for criminal justice) deducted £60,000 for room and board.

I know you think I must be joking. Surely this is unthinkable. Surely the Government wouldn’t be a crass as this. This is the same Government that initially demanded repayment of 10 days pay from an Army widow after her husband was killed in the Gulf, because they took too long to identify his body and therefore didn’t stop his weekly salary from going into his bank account. (The Government changed its tune after the Leader of the Opposition brought it up at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Common.)

But back to the Home Office. You might want to think that the Hickeys’ situation was unique. No. Michael O’Brien from Cardiff was jailed for 11 years before his conviction was quashed. The Home Office reduced his compensation by £37,000 to pay for his keep. Fortunately, Mr Justice Maurice Kay determined that this sort of thing is, in typical British understatement, a “misdirection as to the common law”.

Posted by david at April 18, 2003 10:15 PM