Judge hits out at fence farce

THOSE who bemoan the absence of common sense in contemporary society will not be surprised that the criminal justice system has wasted so much time – and money – on pursuing a retired Army captain over claims that he caused £7.49 of criminal damage to a fence post in a planning dispute between neighbours which should never have reached the courts.

As district judge John Foster observed with succinctness and eloquence, this indefensible prosecution of a 55-year-old man of exemplary character is “the height of nonsense” and the Crown Prosecution Service “really needs to get some sense of what it important to the public”.

He’s right. This saga undermines the many plaudits that the CPS received for its determination to solve historic allegations of sex abuse, and illustrated by the recent prosecution of the shamed television and radio presenter Stuart Hall.

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Together with the pursuit of those criminals who inflict so much misery on others because of their drug or alcohol addiction, this should be the primary focus of the CPS rather than a fence farce that should be left to the civil courts to solve if either of the neighbours in question wishes to pursue a matter which appears to pose no threat to the safety of residents.

Given the pressure that the magistrates courts are under, and frequent complaints from the CPS over funding cuts, it needs to be established who decided that Timothy Hallam had a case to answer, and why it was deemed to be in the public interest. The only shame is that they will not be prosecuted for wasting time and money – they would almost certainly be guilty as charged.

Donors want value for money proof

THESE are challenging times for Britain’s charities. Damaging revelations about the excessive pay awarded to executives – some are paid more than the Prime Minister – are now compounded by concerns that the work of voluntary organisations across Yorkshire is being compromised by council cuts and dwindling donations.

Yet, while this region would be a much poorer place without the tireless work of those volunteers whose selflessness embodies David Cameron’s big society, the charitable sector certainly needs to address public perceptions that are far from favourable.

To many, the notion of charity – or volunteering – is giving something, whether it be time, money or a material possession, for free in order to assist the less fortunate, including those groups striving to improve their community’s vibrancy.

However, in recent times, charity has become big business. Many organisations close to the hearts of many are multi-million pound businesses with large corporate overheads – money which never reaches the intended recipients of donors. Some have also become political campaign groups, a significant deviation from their intended purpose.

These changes have then been compounded by successive governments looking for the so-called ‘third sector’ to run key services which were normally provided by local councils. As demand has risen up, traditional sources of funding – grants or donations – has dried up because of the economic slump.

In this regard, public donations are more important than ever. But charities need to remember this as the Yorkshire Post asks readers to nominate their favourite organisation ahead of this year’s Christmas Appeal. They can’t take the public’s benevolence for granted. They have to earn that right. And that means spending donations wisely at all times, even more so when the expenditure in question relates to management matters.

Football’s heritage is still priceless

FOOTBALL today is far removed from the ‘jumpers for goalposts’ era when the so-called beautiful game was at its zenith. In the upper echelons, it has become a corporate monster ahead of the world’s first £100m-plus transfer.

Yet tradition is still priceless – as exemplified by the response of fans to suggestions that Yorkshire’s sole Premier League representative is to be rebranded as Hull City Tigers, presumably to increase the club’s global profile.

While supporters of Hull City AFC, formed in 1904, will always be grateful to Assem and Ehab Allam for saving the club from financial oblivion, they would be advised to take heed of those supporters who simply know the team as ‘Tigers’ or ‘City’.

To them, the football chant ‘City Til I Die’ has symbolism – they view Steve Bruce’s side as representatives of the proud city of Hull, even though their club’s owners clearly have a number of grievances with the city council. That said, where will it end if owners meddle with the nation’s footballing heritage? Names like Bradford Bantams, Huddersfield Terriers, Leeds Whites, Sheffield Owls, York Minstermen, or even Manchester Red Devils?

It is a point that Mr Allam and his son, two men who’ve given so much to Hull, should consider. After all, Hull Sharks had a short-lived existence in the 1990s before the ‘Airlie Birds’ rugby league team returned to their original name – Hull FC – after a fan revolt.