Ham&High letters: Mary Hessell, CS11, vulnerable adults, Brexit, 100 Avenue Road, police funding, antisemitism and social media

Senior coroner Mary Hassell outside Camden Town Hall. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Senior coroner Mary Hassell outside Camden Town Hall. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Polly Hancock

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Apologetic coroner must quit

Yitzchak Freeman, full address supplied, writes:

When high-echelon public servants like Inner North London Coroner Mary Hassell get things as wrong as she did, they normally “consider their position”.

It’s time she did so.

Her apology is welcome: I am prepared to acknowledge her sincerity, and at a personal level, it goes some way towards redeeming her name.

But as a top-rank professional she has lost all public confidence.

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She stuck doggedly to her wrong-headed position for months, rejecting all criticism, and persisted in dogmatic policies that caused irreparable and lasting hurt and offence to vulnerable and powerless families.

Along the way she willingly squandered huge sums of public money on her mulish refusal to see reason.

Now, despite apologising for getting things so colossally wrong, she admits that she doesn’t know how to put things right without help.

Sorry, Ms Hassell, you’re clearly the wrong person for this job. Step aside and let someone else come in: someone who knows what to do and who can rescue the noble office of coroner from the disgrace and opprobrium you have brought upon it.

Car addicts must accept CS11 and safe cycling

Justin McKie, Regent’s Park Cyclists, writes:

As I sit drinking my flat white in Belsize Park, I can’t help feeling that our village inside London is an idyllic bubble - the north west London bubble.

But with air pollution killing nearly 10,000 Londoners a year early, it’s a shame we don’t actually live in a giant bubble.

If we are serious about taking this serious air quality problem, we need to listen to people like Heidi Alexander, the new deputy mayor for transport – who said that getting people out of their cars is her “number one priority”. That’s exactly what CS11 is designed to do.

TfL estimates there are literally millions of car journeys across London that could easily be completed on foot or bike, if people felt safe enough. It would save huge amounts of congestion, pollution and boost people’s health.

CS11 is just a very small part of a long-term plan by TfL to enable people to make that change, improving London for everyone, including those who have to drive their cars, or vans.

Westminster City Council’s last ditch attempt to scupper CS11 through a Judicial review on the plans to improve Swiss Cottage gyratory is utterly bonkers. No one in their right mind would think that junction is anything other than a nightmare to navigate, whatever their mode of transport.

What a Chutzpah Jessica Learmond-Criqui has, saying that enabling cycling will adversely impact the health of a future generations of kids. It beggars belief! CS11 also includes restricting rush hour vehicle traffic cutting through Regent’s Park, but importantly, not those who are driving to the park. The Mayor of New York has recently implemented vehicle bans in both Central Park and Prospect Park recently stating that it’s “because parks are for people, not cars”. London should do the same.

A few small changes to the road space, encouraging green and active travel would benefit all of us in the long term, even those addicted to the convenience of their cars.

We must protect vulnerable adults

Mary Langan, Haringey National Autistic Society Branch (Haringey Autism), writes:

News of the suspension of the planned closure of Osborne Grove Nursing Home in Tollington Park comes as a great relief to the families of the remaining residents.

It is a vindication of the valiant campaign waged by a small number of families and their supporters over the past two years in the face of determined intransigence by the previous council leadership.

Now that Osborne Grove has been saved – Haringey Council’s last surviving residential provision for frail adults with dementia and other disabilities – we need to ensure that it returns to high standards of care for all groups at risk.

One vulnerable group whose needs have been neglected in the past, is that of adults with life-long complex needs, such as those with autism and learning disabilities, often associated with other physical disabilities and mental health problems. Many such individuals are approaching old age, and experiencing increasing difficulties, often under the care of family members who are themselves becoming older and more infirm.

A growing body of research is revealing the challenge of ageing for people with learning disabilities. A recent study of adults with Down Syndrome confirms that they develop dementia, on average, at the age of 56 – around 20 years earlier than the rest of the population. Some 50 per cent of people with Down’s who reach the age of 60 will have dementia.

It is also recognised that people with Fragile X and Rett syndrome, both strongly associated with autism, develop dementia at a relatively early age. Other studies have revealed the greater risk of premature mortality among people with autism. On average, those with associated intellectual disability have a life expectancy 30 years less than those without autism (epilepsyis the most common cause of premature death). But even autistic people without learning disability die 12 years before their peers. It is important both health and social care services in Haringey are alert to the particular needs of older people with autism and learning disabilities. They need appropriate diagnostic, therapeutic and support services. This is an area in which Osborne Grove could provide a service of which Haringey could be proud.

Coroner acting with ‘fairness’

A Chelmsford resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

This is Great Britain and if other denominations choose to live here they should be aware that this is how Britain works with no exceptions.

All deaths referred to a coroner are usually dealt with in date of death order and that is how it should be dealt with, regardless of the religious aspect and that I feel is fairness to all, why should the Jewish and Muslim faith be made an exception, after all not all deaths are referred to the coroners office and it is the duty of the coroner to investigate all deaths referred to them, so why don’t these faiths allow a coroner to do their job?

There are hundreds of British families who have a loved one referred to the coroner and they should not be made to wait because of a Jewish or Muslim death.

Tories overseeing a Brexit disaster

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

Fifteen months ago I voted against triggering Article 50. I did so because I believed it was wrong to set the clock on negotiations before the government’s basic position was agreed. Fifteen months later, the government is mired in total chaos and division.

The fallacies that guide Brexiteers have been obvious to many from the beginning, and yet the prime minister has sought to placate them throughout. Though it is tempting to focus on the resignations of “reluctant conscripts” such as David Davis, her two years of fudged resolutions have had far-reaching implications for the country.

By obsessing over the divisions in her Conservative Party, Theresa May has paved the way for British business to consider their futures. Following the threats of Airbus and Philips, Jaguar Land Rover now says its £80bn UK investment plan may be scrapped in the eventuality of a hard Brexit.

At what point do the architects of this shambles admit that the so-called “Project Fear” is fast becoming a reality?

Every job and every penny of household income lost will be the responsibility of a prime minister who chose the ideological few in her own ranks over the best interests of the country.

In 2015, David Cameron offered the country a “simple and inescapable choice”. It was between “stability and strong hovernment” with the Conservative Party or “chaos with Ed Miliband”. Two years later, his successor also offered a “strong and stable” hovernment or risk of “a coalition of chaos”, led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Building upon their record of stagnant wages, record homelessness and the decimation of public services, the Conservatives are now facing up to a Brexit disaster of their own making. They must not be allowed to get away with it.

Take a stand and defend open space

Janine Sachs, Save Swiss Cottage, writes:

Despite the proposals of 100 Avenue Road developers to ride roughshod through our valued open space in the heart of Swiss Cottage, Essential Living’s Construction Management Plan (CMP) has been recommended for approval by Camden officers and is set to go to the planning committee on July 19​ ​for a full public hearing and vote from our elected councillors to either approve or refuse it.

The Swiss Cottage Open Space is the only available public space with a fountain for children to play in for the many local families in the area without gardens, yet Transport for London (TfL) have designated the open space, the busy pedestrian market area and Winchester Road, with its vulnerable residents, as a contingency route for the developers’ heavy 34ft construction vehicles - at the rate of one every 20 minutes for up to three years, in order to avoid any build up along the Finchley Road. They also propose an as yet unspecified secondary route which is most likely to be the rest of Eton Avenue.

Camden should not allow TfL to force developers to take a route because it is convenient to TfL and without regard to its impact.

The development could just as well take place entirely from the 100 Avenue Road frontage. This would not only minimise the harm and disruption to the Swiss Cottage community and amenity, it would also remove the inevitable danger to cyclists from lorries turning out of the park directly onto the southbound CS11 cycle lane, and prioritise the health and safety works of the Chalcots estates to go ahead unimpeded. A good attendance will show our elected councillors how strongly we oppose these plans and help inform their vote. Please attend the 100 Avenue Road Planning Committee Meeting, 7.00pm, July 19, 2018, The Council Chamber, Town Hall, Judd Street, London WC1H 9JE.

We are failing to resource police

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, Hampstead, writes:

Mr Dismore challenges me to propose a precept which should be balloted if a referendum on increasing funds to the Met is considered by Mayor Khan.

While this is an important question, I am not yet in a position to make such a judgement. If a referendum was to be held, there are many preparatory steps before any referendum can be held, which would include holding focus groups with Londoners from all over London to debate the issues with them and to get a sense of their appetite for this type of cost increase. The mayor has a number of different media for interfacing with Londoners to get their views on a number of important issues, of which this is one.

Londoners do not understand fully the impact of what is happening to their police force. When I began this correspondence with Mr Dismore in your pages, I explained that in Camden and Islington, one of our sergeants and one of our inspectors had been cut. I explained during the correspondence that the mayor issued a dictat via his budget for 91 officers in Camden and Islington to be cut this financial year which started in April, 2018. In fact 113 officer posts were cut in April, 2018. Over 1,000 posts were ordered to be cut by the mayor across London in his budget.

Policing is an invisible resource – no one wants to know about it until they need it. But now – today - when they need it, they will find that the resource is not there because they have not been paying attention to what is happening to the Met. In Camden and Islington, the focus of the Met has moved from anti-social and low level crime which they simply cannot resource, to violent and higher intensity crime which demands all of their available resources. They close many cases without investigating them. As a result, drug dealing is proliferating in our streets, moped enabled crime is out of control, knife attacks are commonplace and the Met is in lock down mode, able mostly to respond and less to be proactive.

While our bobbies on the beat are outstanding and try to do their best, they are under-resourced and cannot do the job they are assigned to do to the level to which they personally aspire.

You would think the Met would be able to shout from the spires about what is going on, but the Met are gagged and told they can’t stand up for their right to protect the public because they have to be non-political – yet, the politicians who are in charge of them use them mercilessly as political capital.

Mr Dismore has used many words over the past few weeks inaccurately to describe my charge that the mayor is responsible for the state of the Met. This belies the malaise at the heart of City Hall with a mayor and Assembly Member in Mr Dismore who continue to point a finger at the government while sitting on their hands. These are the people responsible for keeping us safe. No Londoner should feel safe in their beds while their inaction continues.

We need clarity on antisemitism

Cllr Barry Rawlings, leader of the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors, writes:

I am writing as the leader of the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors to express my anger and sadness at reports of the Labour Party’s decision to re-write the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism by excluding four examples of antisemitism set out in the IHRA’s full definition.

I cannot understand why these four examples have been excluded from the guidelines in the Labour Party’s adopted definition of antisemitism.

References to these four important examples appear in later paragraphs of the 16 point code of conduct on antisemitism, but the overall effect of these paragraphs is to nuance, caveat and weaken the examples.

The final paragraph of the code of conduct suggests that evidence of antisemitic intent is required, which inverts the Macpherson Principle - that an antisemitic incident is any incident perceived to be so by the victim or any other person. It is for Jewish people to define antisemitism, and Jewish community groups have done so by endorsing the full IHRA definition.

The full IHRA definition is the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism. It is the definition accepted by the British government, the British police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, and by local councils across the country including Barnet Council, the local authority with the largest proportion of Jewish residents in the country. I am proud that Barnet Council was the first local authority to adopt the full IHRA definition following a motion from the Labour Group passed at Full Council in January 2017.

It should be the definition accepted by the Labour Party, and I call upon the Labour Party NEC to review its decision.

CS11 is not the end of our days

Simon Atkins, by email, writes:

I note that Avenue Road is temporarily closed to through traffic, courtesy of Thames Water, and has been for the last week.

Yet it has barely rained, let alone frogs and toads. Jocasta, my first-born, is still alive, though as she’s a deep-sleeping post-GCSE teenager it can be hard to tell.

On investigation, the occasional cacophony in the street appears to be football fans, not blowing trumpets and clanging cymbals, although I’m sure one of them had an eight-year-old Vuvuzela. Perhaps the residents of Hampstead might concede, however remote the possibility, that the full implementation of CS11 cycle path may not herald the End of Days?

Social media under scrutiny

Maureen Paton Maguire, Hornsey and Wood Green Group, Amnesty International, writes:

Facebook has been in the spotlight over use of its users’ data. Twitter has been under scrutiny too.

A recent Amnesty International investigation into the platform revealed how it has become a toxic place for women, where online violence and abuse against them is thriving.

Twitter has a responsibility to respect human rights but is currently failing to properly address and prevent abuse against women on the platform. The social media company’s CEO Jack Dorsey must address this immediately.