Violent Domestic violence offenders should always be prosecuted, by Jean Calder

Perpetrators of domestic violence in West Sussex are to be offered a 10 month programme to change their behaviour at a time when victims’ services are being slashed.

It concerns me that high-risk abusers will be diverted from the criminal justice system at a time when domestic homicide and other forms of violence against women are on the increase. And that failures in the criminal justice system are being blamed on victims’ reluctance to give evidence. In fact, more women would give evidence if offered the opportunity and better support.

It’s terrifying and exhausting for victims of serial attacks to bear the burden of a prosecution, especially at a time when they may be coping with the threat of further abuse and supporting traumatised children, sometimes in insecure accommodation. They shouldn’t have to, because this isn’t a private matter. Domestic violence is closely associated with homicide, child abuse, sexual assault and other criminal behaviour and social problems. It costs our country billions. It’s in the public interest to pursue prosecution.

Police should be required to pursue prosecutions without relying entirely on adult victims, gathering evidence using every means at their disposal and protecting the victims at all times. The late Ellen Pence, founder of the effective ‘Duluth Model’ in the USA – which by collaborative inter-agency working cut domestic homicides in Duluth to almost none – urged police to investigate every domestic incident, including the first, “as if it were a homicide” and prosecute even ‘minor’ offences. She advocated treatment for perpetrators, but only following prosecution – and after protection and support for victims and child witnesses was in place.

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Child sexual abuse: Bishop George Bell and the Diocese of Chichester, by Jean Calder

I’ve been saddened to see so many people rush to defend the reputation of Bishop Bell – and by implication suggest the elderly woman who accused him of child sexual abuse is a liar. The Church of England has accepted that the abuse took place and given its previous determination to keep abuse by its clergy under wraps, I suspect the evidence is compelling. I was pleased that Bishop Warner apologised for the abuse and defended the alleged victim from criticism.

In respect of prominent abusers, the modern Church of England has done better than the Church of Rome. Eric Gill, the famous artist and Roman Catholic adult convert was the son of a Church of England clergyman, also from Chichester. Over many years, Gill sexually abused his sisters, servants and then his daughters, socially isolating the girls while using them as models for semi-erotic religious art. The abuse is catalogued in his own diaries, but if you visit the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral, where his famous Stations of the Cross take pride of place and are publicised in the Cathedral shop, there’s no mention of his history or his victims’ exploitation.

The Churches’ responsibility – and our own, whether we have faith or none – must be to protect the living, defend the powerless (especially children) and treat survivors with compassion.  This being the case, Chichester Diocese should, out of respect to all clergy victims, fulfil its promise to change the name of Bishop Bell House – and ensure people understand its past actions and current position regarding child protection and clergy abuse.

Persistent begging is almost always linked to addiction, by Jean Calder

I’ve been pleased to see an increase in local concern about homelessness, but confess to irritation about recent debate on begging. Commentators seem very reluctant to acknowledge that persistent street homelessness and begging is almost always linked to alcohol or drug addiction. A cynic might suggest this is because of widespread recreational drug use among the city’s middle classes.

Certainly destitute addicts haven’t been helped by the city’s affluent opinion-formers, many of whom have for years minimised the role of addictions in homelessness, preferring to call for decriminalisation and ‘shooting galleries’, so that addicts can inject in comfort.

Affluent substance abusers tend to keep their homes and avoid the criminal justice system. Poor addicts, in contrast, have to find money for their costly drugs of choice in any way they can – usually on the street, by theft, begging, exploitation, prostitution or drug dealing. Some get arrested.

This isn’t fair, but there’s nothing others can do about that. It isn’t a human right to be able to pursue life-limiting addiction and fellow citizens have no moral duty to help with the costs of supply. In fact, the opposite is the case.

Addicts aren’t helped by kindly souls who give them money when they say they are homeless and desperate. Such people are desperate, but regrettably not for food and shelter. Sometimes they already have access to both. Addiction has them in its grip.

Our responsibility is to ensure addicts have access to the things that can genuinely save their lives – treatment facilities, long term specialist supported housing and the constant guidance of people committed to aid their recovery.

(This item was first published in the Brighton Argus in February 2016)

An alternative view to the Brighton and Hove Independent 100

The Brighton and Hove Independent last week (30th May) published a list of the “100 people who make our city what it is”. The Editorial Director, Greg Hadfield has said he “expects – and even hopes – that almost everyone will disagree” with the list.

Let me be the first. There are the predictable names but it is who Greg has missed that demands comment. For example, why is your Humble Blogger not included? No politician can hope for recognition and success without endorsement from this awesome blog.

It is all very well to have Martin Harris from the bus company, but what about former Mayor, Brian Fitch, who singlehandedly, in a career stretching back to when Methuselah was a boy in short trousers, has saved bus route after bus route, most recently the Number 5, from being callously axed without a second thought to those isolated on our estates. What hope is there for them now that Brian has moved to Eastbourne?

More seriously, in the media section, there is no mention of anyone from the Brighton Argus. I just can’t imagine why not! Adam Trimingham, at least, should be there.

Three politicians from each of the main political parties are listed although the Green, Major Druitt, is listed because of his business influence, and Katy Bourne appears to have transcended her party political affiliations to be listed under Public Services.

But how does one make a judgement on who has made a contribution to make our city what it is. When reviewing the list, I was hard pressed to say for over half of them one thing they have done to make or change the City. Merely holding a position, elected or otherwise, doesn’t mean that you have helped to shape a place.

A better list would be who, over the last 25 years or more, has helped to make Brighton and Hove what it is today. Who is the modern day Herbert Carden, Margaret Hardy, Lewis Cohen, Dorothy Stringer, John Morley, Denis Hobden, Tony Hewison, Asa Briggs, or Richard Attenborough? Their influence on the City remains even though they are no longer with us.

I could mention people like Linda Pointing, Dani Ahrens and Melita Dennett, who (amongst others) were pioneers in the movement for lesbian and gay rights and recognition, and opposition to Section 28. Or Shirley West who was, for many years, the backbone of the Women’s Centre. Jess Wood from Allsorts continues this work, particularly with children and young people.

For fifty years Patricia Norman was central to the Friends Centre and to its adult education arm. Into her nineties she continued with a group for pensioners run from the Friends Centre, as well as being involved in the work of Brighton Housing Trust for over 45 years, most recently as its Life President.

Kate Page has been at the Resources Centre for almost 35 years, helping countless community organisations shape their communities. And Faith Matyszak provided the backbone of BME services throughout the 1980’s, 90’s and noughties.

Local domestic violence services were saved by a group including the above-mentioned Shirley West and Jean Calder, who subsequently became the first Director of the Women’s Refuge Project (now Rise). Jean later led the successful campaign to save St Peters Church as a place of worship, alongside Janet King, Isabel Turner and others. (Jean now has the honour to be a regular contributor to this esteemed blog.)

Interfaith activities were championed by Tehm Framroze, and now by Anthea Ballam. They should be on the list. Andrew Manson-Brailsford and Ian Chisnall continue to make the Church relevant in the community. Rabbi Elli Sarah does likewise for Progressive Jewish community.

While he will no doubt write a strongly worded letter against his inclusion, Tony Greenstein should be included for being a public irritant of gargantuan proportions but, more so, for being one of the most consistent anti-fascist in Brighton and Hove.

What about the campaigners who helped to close down the Dolphinarium? Or Duncan Blinkhorn and Mark Strong for getting the needs of cyclists acknowledged.

Mushtaq Ahmed was pivotal in establishing Sussex CCC as a force to be reckoned with. Dick Knight could represent all those who helped secure a stadium fit for the 21st century at Falmer.

Michael Chowen, a local businessman and employer, has been a philanthropist with a particular commitment to women’s services. Peter Field has had a long history in charitable work, not least in nurturing and developing housing services for homeless people.

I could go on and on, and I usually do, but those named above would be 25 of my 100.

The Vampires at City Hall, by Jean Calder


When a government takes into public ownership something that was previously privately owned, it’s called nationalisation. Privatisation is the opposite process, whereby something that was previously publicly owned, is sold off into private hands. I’ve been struggling to define a rather different concept, somewhere between the two.

I’m looking for a word to describe how local authorities have come to use the work of charities and some statutory organisations as a means of income generation – not for the charities and other organisations, but for the local authorities themselves. Perhaps ‘vampirism’ might describe it best.

Once upon a time, local authorities did what they did – ran libraries, maintained parks, built and let out houses etc – and charities performed good works councils couldn’t do. The only substantial area of overlap between the two was in education, children’s and homelessness services and that was of longstanding. Both ran valuable services, but they did it separately. Councils employed one or two grants officers. Charities went to them for funding and either did or didn’t get it.

Some time around the early 1990s, everything began to change. Charities were told they had to compete for contracts, as if they were private sector companies, and be accountable to local authorities to ensure ‘value for money’. You might think this fair enough – except that many good charities went to the wall and the costs to the public purse increased – especially when central government funding was in the frame. Councils made bids for government funding, which, if successful, delivered some limited benefits to charities and community groups, but at the same time brought  additional layers of bureaucracy to councils – and a demand for liaison and ‘partnership’ with other statutory agencies, such as the police and health services, which was hugely expensive of time and money. 

Over a period in which many vital manual jobs disappeared, there was an eye-watering increase in white collar posts. Dedicated council officials and grants-officers were replaced by an army  of commissioners, development officers, co-ordinators, strategy and policy officers and financial administrators – all much better paid than the charity workers they were very often there to fund and monitor and, in many cases, with not enough to do. The result was interference and duplication – not just in the work of the charities, but increasingly, also in the mainstream work of other agencies and even departments of the council itself – and meetings, lots and lots and lots of meetings. Forums were set up to progress the work which, of course, needed ‘coordinators’ and if there were equalities implications – and inevitably there often were – yet more staff were employed. Every passing fad would be seized as an opportunity for ‘innovation’ and to employ more staff, set up more groups and hold more meetings. Partnership and community groups and local action teams provided a rich seam of opportunities for ‘liaison’ – and time-wasting – with councillors, colleagues, police officers and community leaders. 

The result has been that in many areas of endeavour, there has developed a parasitic ‘shadow’ structure, which delivers nothing, but, giving the appearance of expertise and authority, interferes, commentates and even investigates, while writing policies and attending meetings. Instead of supporting the real expertise of specialist organisations – and, in the case of charities, paying them properly for it – these grey shadows cannibalise other agencies’ work to justify their continued existence.

When cuts come, who can touch them, these well-paid, clean-fingered professionals? Productive  lower-paid posts may be lost, but not their jobs – for are they not engaged in vital work? They write the strategies that say as much.  Well no, they’re not, and it’s about time councillors realised this. If the money that has been spent on liberal fads and worthless posts had been used to fund real service delivery by traditional council departments and established specialist agencies, the city’s people – especially the very young or old, the sick, the vulnerable and the victimised – would have been far better off.


New Charges at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, by Jean Calder

I avoid public loos. I especially dislike the loos in the Pavilion gardens. I don’t care how many ‘awards’ they’ve received (I wonder who gives out these things and what contractors have to do to get them). They’re dark, depressing and terribly cold. And as any woman or child will tell you, temperature matters when you have to disrobe in the lavatory.  So I try to avoid them. 

My habit, for many years, has been to use the toilets in the museum and art gallery, though I admit it’s often just been an excuse to visit the museum. I love walking unimpeded through the stone entrance into the building, up to the purring Pavilion cat that my daughter and I used to feed with coins, past Salvador Dali’s red sofa shaped like Mae West’s lips (my daughter was always convinced she’d one day be rich enough to buy it) across to the stoneware bison and the Lalique table with the heavy glass bust of Beethoven. Then it’s on to the Voysey dresser and chair and brass lamp, a stop at the yellow glazed Minton pilgrim flask then right at the plate display and I’m almost there. Whatever my previous mood, by this time I’m happy. I’m walking on air. 

I look at other people peering at the displays and it occurs to me we’re like a family pottering around a well-loved family home that we haven’t visited for a while – along with visitors who haven’t been there before. I must admit I feel pride and a bit proprietorial. It occurs to me that that these are all our things, given, bought and paid for by previous citizens or by us. Sometimes I go upstairs and have coffee and a scone and read the paper and survey my, or rather our, domain.

As a child in South Africa, I visited the Durban library and museum each Saturday. I was too short to see over the library desk – and too young to understand why the only people there were white – but even then I had the same feeling of belonging and civic pride. The Victorian paintings were awful, but I loved the stuffed animals and birds, the lion and hyena, even an elephant and a hippo – and the model of a dodo bird, with a real dodo egg beside it. 

When I first came to this country in 1972, I lived in London and was terribly lonely and had very little money. Every weekend I’d leave my bedsit and visit the national gallery and the museums. They were all free and I’d mix with the people and look for hours at the portraits, especially the Rembrandts and feel just a bit less lonely.

In 1975, I came to Sussex University as a student. One of the first things I did was to visit Brighton’s museum and art gallery and make the acquaintance of its pictures and artefacts. Then my parents settled here and they too came to love the displays.

All this being the case, imagine my distress when, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to visit the museum, but was turned away. I strode in confidently, only to be stopped at a desk by several officials who told me the facility was no longer free to tourists – and that if I wanted to visit I needed to show proof of residence. A library card was not sufficient.

On that occasion, I rummaged in my bag and I was lucky enough to find a letter from my bank. My address was checked and entered on a computer (not a swift process) and I was allowed in, wearing a purple badge. In some distress, I left the museum through the Corn Exchange entrance.

Two days later, in a dream, I walked in again, only to be stopped again. I said “I’m on your computer”, but that cut no ice. I still had to show my letter. I said “This is an awful hullabaloo to go to the loo. Can’t I just go in?” Could I heck. “When was this decided?” I asked “Was there any consultation?”. “Oh yes,” one replied, while another said at the same time “I think they did try to keep it quiet”. Too true, they did – just before an election.

Two days later I visited again, but this time, I remembered. I went in through the Corn Exchange entrance where (note well) there are no barriers. I looked at the displays and visited the loo at my leisure, noticing with sadness how many people wore badges indicating they had had to pay. I somehow found it hard to meet their gaze. 

As I left by the main entrance, officials insisted on yet again checking my bank letter against their computer, presumably to make sure it wasn’t a fake address. As I walked out into the sunshine, past the sad little queue of people wanting to go in, I did not feel proud of my city.

Electoral Fraud and How to Stop It by Jean Calder


I hate electoral fraud, not just because it undermines democracy, but because it insults the memory  of those who have fought and died for the right to vote. 

When I first came to this country, almost all voting took place on polling day, in privacy and in the polling booth. Registration was determined by where you lived on a particular date – 10th October – and though that was overly restrictive, it had the benefit of not allowing people to ‘multi-register’.  Voters needed proof of illness (or a need to travel) to obtain a postal vote, the police guarded the  polling booths and it was unheard of for anyone to ‘assist’ someone to make their cross on a ballot paper. The only exception would be if someone was severely disabled and needed physical assistance, in which case it would be provided by a council official, observed by colleagues. These council officials strictly enforced rules preventing candidates or their supporters from harassing, or even approaching, people on the way in to the polling station. Even large posters could be removed.

Since then, the Electoral Commission’s obsession with widening the register and making it easier to vote, especially by post, has made the system wide open to abuse. Many regulations have been swept away while others are simply not enforced. It has made it far easier to ‘personate’ individuals; to pressurise people into voting in a particular way; and to commandeer or steal postal voting papers.

Over the past few years, evidence of fraud has been mounting. The Tower Hamlets case is only the most recent.  

I’ve seen nothing to convince me that former Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman is any thing other than what Judge Richard Mawrey QC, the Election Commissioner, said he was, a corrupt, ambitious man who blatantly broke electoral law for his own interests, using a section of the local community to do it.  If he appeals and presents evidence that the original allegations were wrong, I’ll be the first to acknowledge it, but I don’t think for a moment that will happen. I hope the police will finally act on the information they have held for so long.

I would suggest that the four individuals who put their careers and finances on the line by bringing the case against Rahman, whatever their politics, have in them far more of the Poplar Council spirit, than Rahman and his cohorts. It must have taken real courage to persevere in the face of allegations of racism and islamophobia. There has been a cowardly conspiracy of silence around electoral fraud and a shameful lack of action by most politicians, the police and Crown Prosecution Service. It needs to stop.

I hope that Parliament will:

  • return to the system of registering people according to where they live on a particular date
  • prosecute fraudulent registration and other breaches of electoral law
  • stop postal voting on demand and actively encourage people (especially women) to attend the polling station
  • stop the mobbing of polling station entrances
  • stop interference with voting inside polling stations, including by family members,
  • require voters to produce ID when receiving a ballot paper.

Tighter regulation in Northern Ireland has gone a long way to making elections fairer. Similar changes in Britain are long overdue. 

Jean Calder, electoral fraud, personation, postal voting, Electoral Commission, Election Commissioner, Poplar Council, Judge Richard Mawrey, mobbing of polling stations, Lutfur Rahman, Tower Hamlets