In the Media

Reporting a robbery? That will be ?50

PUBLISHED March 8, 2006

Two important police announcements last week; two tricks missed. The first was that dutiful citizens using their telephones to report low-level crimes will be charged 10p a call. That's not much of a sacrifice for doing one's civic duty. If the police really wanted to deter people from reporting crimes which would be a waste of time to investigate the rate ought to go up to at least ?5 a call (split 50-50 with BT).

But why include only minor crimes? What is needed is a sliding scale of deterrence. It should cost, say, ?20 to report an affray, and ?50 a bank robbery. And why should only telephone users be required to pay? Anyone reporting a crime ought to be liable. Only by such robust action would victims of crime, and witnesses, be persuaded to keep their experiences to themselves, thus leaving the police adequate time in which to do their paperwork.
Then there was the news that Scotland Yard is to set up 10 police cells in Selfridges, the Oxford Street department store. Why waste time transporting alleged thieves to police stations when they can be banged up on the spot? At first, the Self-cells will be used for other stores as well, but I assume that, eventually, all shops of a certain size will have their own criminal receiving suites. But why only shops?

I'm informed that there's quite a lot of fraud and corruption around, some of it (I can scarcely believe it) allegedly involving lawyers. The answer is surely to pepper all legal premises with police cells.

As I have often predicted, the new supreme court will not be ready when originally planned, in 2008. The builders have, surprise surprise, encountered structural problems in converting the listed Middlesex Guildhall into the new court. It will now not be open before October 2009, which probably means some time in 2010.

It is quite ludicrous that one of the most important constitutional reforms of our time - which abolishes the anomaly of our top judiciary being part of the legislature, the House of Lords, clearly contrary to the separation of powers - should depend on how quickly brickies, masons and decorators can finish a job of work.

There is nothing legal or constitutional to stop the law lords being turned into supreme court judges right now, and staying where they are until they can move into their new place. But Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, came to a deal with the judges that they wouldn't convert until the new building was ready to receive them.

Law lords have to retire at 75, which means that five of the 12 current ones will miss out on being on the new court, including Lord Bingham, the senior law lord, who will never, alas, be chief justice.

Lords Nicholls, Hoffmann, Scott and Carswell are the others, though I gather that not all of them are necessarily devastated by the prospect of their future loss.

I have been besieged with requests from readers wanting to know why, for several weeks, I have not provided an update on the fate of racehorses with legal names. Simple. None of our horses - previous winners all of them - have managed to repeat their successes recently. On Saturday two of them - Hors la Loi III and Marcel, both of which have made fortunes for us in the past - ran in the same race at Newbury. Neither fulfilled my hopes.

I am not downhearted. The Cheltenham Festival, which is usually kind to us, is near.