Bill's Comment Page

for the week beginning: Monday, 9th September 2002

Contents of this page (scroll down the page to see the full text of the article which interests you)

- Teacher in Surrey jailed for theft of exam papers (13 Sep 2002)

- The United Nations is given an ultimatum by President Bush (13 Sep 2002)

- Terrorism and the Twin Towers one year on (9 Sep 2002)

(If you wish to see other articles, please click on the 'Archives' link above to go there now)

Teacher in Surrey jailed for theft of exam papers (13 Sep 2002)

A teacher who stole GCSE examination papers and showed them to candidates prior to the exam was held has today been sentenced to three months in prison.

Sentencing Farzana Akbar, the judge at Kingston Crown Court in Surrey remarked that Ms Akbar's actions had undermined the integrity of the examination system and that a clear message needed to be given that such actions would not be tolerated. Ms Akbar has been a teacher at Archbishop Lanfranc School in Croydon for 13 years.

In mitigation, the barrister acting for Ms Akbar, Dame Helena Kennedy QC opined that her client had been under considerable stress at the time of her actions and this should be borne in mind. Whilst I accept that a lawyer must endeavour to put forward arguments that will paint a client in the most favourable light before the court, I think that the efforts on this occasion are ridiculous. The fact is that Ms Akbar stole, connived at cheating on the part of students at a private tutorial college, and has been found out - and rightly punished. The tutorial college in question, it should be noted, was run by Ms Akbar's husband and was the subject of a police raid, after a tip-off.

No doubt Ms Akbar will behave well in prison and receive remission of sentence so that the full three months sentence will not be served in prison; she has been treated fairly and quite leniently, I think.

The United Nations is given an ultimatum by President Bush (13 Sep 2002)

President Bush yesterday delivered a keynote speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations in which he asked that the United Nations take appropriate measures to enforce existing resolutions involving Iraq - amongst other things, this would involve UN weapons inspectors entering Iraq once more and for them to be given unfettered access by the Iraqi authorities.

The President then advised that should the United Nations not take action to enforce its own resolutions, the United States and its allies reserved the right to take action itself. In the presence of the gathered assembly, including the Iraqi delegation, he gave a blunt warning that the UN must compel Saddam Hussein to give up his weapons of mass destruction, otherwise the US would take whatever steps are necessary, with its allies, to depose him.

This clarity on the part of the United States, and the recent similar statements from our own Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is much to be welcomed. The plain speaking of these past days will force those who would seek to delay action to confront the inaction of the United Nations and the fact that calls for yet more resolutions, calling on Iraq to abandon the development of weapons of mass destruction and to prove that it has done so by allowing unlimited access to UN weapons inspectors, are pointless and pusilanimous gestures.

Terrorism and the Twin Towers one year on (9 Sep 2002)

This coming Wednesday it will be exactly one year since the destruction, by terrorist action, of the World Trade Center in New York and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington D.C.   In all, four civilian aircraft were destroyed and many innocent people in the air and on the ground were senselessly slaughtered.

During the last year there have been a number of incidents which indicate that further terrorist action, seemingly instigated by the al-Qa'ida organisation, has been attempted or planned and that security precautions have been tested in various parts of the world, possibly with a view to probing for weaknesses as part of the terrorists' planning process.

However, most people in the world simply wish to get on with their lives and I believe that this includes the vast bulk of Moslems, too; there is a real danger, in my view, that whole segments of the populations of western countries, quite apart from the populations of countries where Moslems are predominant, will be stigmatised en bloc. If our liberal democracies are to survive, our efforts to minimise the risk of further terrorist activity must be measured and rational. The scapegoating of people based on their ethnicity or their religion must have no place in these efforts. The history of the 20th century, and earlier centuries, is littered with examples of what can happen when prejudice overtakes reason.

More than anything though, I think that this coming Wednesday the 11th of September should be a time for reflection and sadness and the occasion for an affirmation of our determination not to allow our democracies to be subverted. This means ensuring that our lives should continue as normally as possible - and this obviously includes travel by air, whether on business or for pleasure, for example. Whilst it is sensible to take precautions as individuals, and for reasonable people to accept that a certain increase in security precautions is inevitable, the adoption of a siege mentality would hand those who wish us ill a victory which we can and must deny them.

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Copyright © 2002 William Cameron