A Conservative MP has clashed with campaigners over the benefits of the criminal courts charge during an exchange in parliament.Members of four justice groups appeared before the House of Commons justice committee today to give their summary of the effects of an extra charge for convicted people since April.The witnesses said evidence is emerging of innocent people being coerced into pleading guilty because they would face a £150 charge rather than one for £520 if convicted in the magistrates’ court.It is estimated that defendants were required to pay around £5.7m from April to June – money which goes back into the financing of the courts system.Shipley MP Philip Davies (pictured), a member of the committee, accused some of the groups of struggling to ‘differentiate between personal and political opinions and evidence’.Addressing Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, who suggested that beggars convicted of minor crimes are subject to the charge, he questioned her evidence basis, adding: ‘You have no idea, you just made that up to be emotional.’Davies acknowledged the concerns that innocent people are forced to plead guilty, but he asked what evidence existed of the scale of that.The MP added: ‘Would you all say this is simply a one-way street?‘Would you perhaps concede that if [the charge is] encouraging innocent people to plead guilty, there’s half a chance that it may actually be encouraging guilty people to plead guilty? Does it only apply to innocent people pleading guilty? Or would anyone concede there is half a chance that it may encourage people to plead guilty rather than trying to work the system?’Phil Bowen, director of the Centre for Justice Innovation, said any system which introduces an element of ‘plea bargaining’ will convince some people to seek a ‘better deal’.He added: ‘[I’ve seen] innocent people with two or three convictions behind them who went ‘actually on this I’m innocent, but what’s the point as the system is loaded against me. There are aspects of the criminal court charge which are like that.’When Davies suggested the evidence basis for innocent people wrongly convicted was ‘one case’, Criminal Justice Alliance director Ben Summerskill replied: ‘It is a case we regard as reliable and I have to say, given my personal view of the importance of confidence in British justice, one case of someone pleading guilty to something they didn’t do is, with respect, one case too many.’Summerskill also stated that he had heard directly from a judge based in London who had reduced the amount of victim compensation the defendant was required to pay, in the knowledge that the courts charge had to be added further down the line.Malcolm Richardson, deputy chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, said judges and magistrates were supposed to consider the charge only after compensation, Crown Prosecution Service costs and any fine, but added: ‘We are only human beings and we work the sums out.’
INTRO: PublicationsTHIS ’beginner’s guide to rail freight’ from the Association of Community Rail Partnerships is intended to offer a guide to ways in which communities can help to get freight traffic onto rail, translating a ’vague idea into a practical project’.The 48-page booklet is aimed at non-specialist readers, particularly those involved in community rail partnerships (RG 12.05 p785). According to ACoRP General Manager Dr Paul Salveson, ’many people think it is really easy to put in a siding and start running freight trains. This isn’t so, and the guide offers a reality check to schemes which may, on the surface, seem like a good idea.’ú10 from ACoRP, Rail & River Centre, Civic Hall, 15a New Street, Slaithwaite, Huddersfield, HD7 5AB, [email protected]
GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES When life resumes its normal course, the 46-year-old knows she would like to act as a sports ambassador and help tennis occupy a predominant place in the country, but she is not sure whether she will ever choose a career in coaching.“Am I going to be coaching? This topic has come up a numerous times, even before I decided to retire. Being an athlete, I’ve experienced firsthand and know what a tough job being a coach is,” Date said.“Depending on the age of the player, your coaching strategy is different. If I were to coach, I would have to learn a lot because playing is different from describing how to play in words to other people. At this point, coaching is not part of my future plans.”Though she might not see coaching as a calling, Date has done her share of mentoring to younger female tennis players, including Kurumi Nara, Risa Ozaki and Nao Hibino, who have all been ranked inside the WTA’s top 100.It is no wonder fans are hoping to see her return to the court as coach after a first career that ended when she was 26 and seemingly at her peak, and a second that lasted nine and a half years, through which Date proved she is well qualified for a post-athletic career in coaching.But in her mind, all signs are pointing in different directions.“So if not coaching, what do I want to do? When I look at Japan, the environment for the sport of tennis is not perfect. The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are coming up so I believe the world of sports will change going forward, but it’s not just about the Olympics,” Date said.“We have Kei Nishikori who is one of the iconic men’s players and he is one pillar in tennis right now, but I want the sport of tennis to be much more deeply rooted in Japan, so that tennis isn’t just a tentative thing but a long-term established sport in Japan.”In order for that to happen, Date says improvements in facilities and software are needed, and these are areas she feels she can contribute by sharing her insight and experience.Date, who underwent knee surgery in April last year, said she got used to playing through pain after 41, when she felt like she suddenly hit the age barrier and needed more than a good night’s rest to recover from pain and fatigue.She feels like if she had the medicine, science and technology available to players today when she started her career — with a wooden racket — her first career would have lasted longer.But when she looks back at what she was able to accomplish, even without modern-day conveniences, she is proud to know she was able to age gracefully as a player, standing on the court until the very end and playing her game until the last minutes.Knowing how demanding a tennis player’s life can be with a very short offseason and hardly any break between tournaments, Date had to make a point about the tremendous pressure fans put on athletes like former world No. 4 Nishikori, which can be both a privilege and a burden.“I think it’s an extraordinary achievement for him to be in the top five considering his height and build. I know that some people think that his goal should be to become a Grand Slam champion, but I think he deserves credit for what he has already accomplished,” Date said.“I’m not saying he’s satisfied with his current situation, but please be reminded that he now has a wrist injury. All athletes, no matter how young, struggle with injury and even (world No. 1 Rafael) Nadal had to leave the tour with a knee injury. So I want everyone to understand how difficult it is to maintain one’s position.”When asked how she was able to become one of the few Japanese survivors in top-level tennis, Date said for her, like with every player she has seen at the top, hating to lose is a bigger factor than loving to win.“When I was 18 my coach told me to quit if I’m not able to participate in the Grand Slam within a year. I had just started my career and I didn’t understand anything about professional tennis then, but I believed I had to get there,” Date said.“It’s really that strong will that brought me there. It’s about having a goal. And to continue to win, I believe you have to have a strong hatred of losing. That’s the secret. People think I was born a champion but that’s not true. I placed third in the very first tournament I competed in when I was eight. I would always lose and cry as a child. But I’ve always hated to lose,” she said. IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 Kimiko Date KEYWORDS RELATED PHOTOS Former world No. 4 Kimiko Date said Wednesday she has yet to give life after sport a serious thought, as she is still going back and forth between strange emptiness and ecstatic relief now that she has retired from competitive tennis.“There’s a sentiment of sadness but at the same time, I’m relieved that I don’t have to worry about my condition every morning when I wake up. I do feel reassured and liberated,” said Date, who ended her career with a straight-sets loss at the recent Japan Women’s Open. Kimiko Date speaks during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Wednesday. | KYODO
Today’s quiz features questions about the O’Neill Cup, Alan Moloney, Silvermines and Tony Tonto Lanigan plus much more.To try it out just click here.