Sulking at missing out on a gong today, and musing on the need to grow a beard to get one, Alf bypassed local newspapers and their stories of Kiwis who profess modesty and insist they don’t really deserve the honours they have been accorded.
In too many cases Alf is apt to agree – no, they don’t deserve them.
Not as much as he does, anyway.
By the way, he does wonder about Sir Pita Sharples professing to be embarrassed by his knighthood.
And he wonders about the title “Ta” given him by the NZ Herald.
Ta Pita Sharples is the first to acknowledge an honour bestowed by the Queen is not the most traditional of Maori ceremonies.
“I don’t know when we had knights running round our country,” he laughs. But he did not turn it down. “I didn’t dare. The tribes like to see that they’ve got a knight. My iwi have been on to that for a while, and so have the Maori Party. So I just go along with the flow.”
He was “embarrassingly honoured” by it. “I really do get embarrassed because I know everyone else out there is doing the biz as well.”
Ta Pita was made a knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Maori and as a MP. It follows his retirement from politics last year after nine years in Parliament for the Maori Party. He was Minister of Maori Affairs in a National-led Government for six years.
Alf can only imagine “Ta” means “thank you”.
As for being embarrassingly honoured – well, Pita could take care of his embarrassment by “No, ta”, instead.
Anyway, by casting his eye abroad for inspirational stories Alf came across news of a judge who certainly does deserve a knighthood.
He is Judge Michael Stokes and he has had a gutsful of the human rights pap that dominates what is acceptable and unacceptable in modern society.
The Daily Mail reported the judge launched an attack on human rights laws after being told a murder suspect was too stressed to leave his cell and attend court.
This is Alf’s ideal of a judge who knows what he’s doing.
An exasperated judge launched an attack on human rights laws after being told a murder suspect was too stressed to leave his cell and attend court.
Quoting Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry, Judge Michael Stokes attacked the mentality that allowed James McCarthy to refuse to travel in a prison van ‘because his anxiety was too great’.
McCarthy, 24, is accused of killing his girlfriend Julie Semper, a 47-year-old teacher who was found with stab wounds at her Nottingham home in February. He had been due to enter a plea at Nottingham Crown Court last week.
But when defence barrister Allister Walker informed the judge why his client was absent from the dock, Judge Stokes remarked that in days gone by the defendant would have been dragged to court ‘in chains’.
Alf is greatly comforted that nowadays we have a judge who can refer to an Eastwood film.
This judge condemned McCarthy for not appearing and said:
‘We live in a world where his human rights are such that nobody will force him to come to court.
‘No one thinks about the human rights of the victim or the victim’s family. To quote [police detective] Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry, “I’m all broken up about his human rights.”
‘I don’t understand why he’s not made to come to court. Twenty years ago, this would not have been tolerated. He would, metaphorically, have been brought here in chains.’
The plain-speaking judge said McCarthy’s failure to turn up was ‘grossly unfair’ to the family of the victim.
He warned that the defendant would be tried in his absence if he failed to attend the next hearing.
When the defence lawyer insisted that ‘the importance of coming to the hearing has been spelled out to [McCarthy]’, Judge Stokes replied:
‘Alternatively, he will languish in Nottingham prison for ever more unless he comes to court.
‘I will give him one further opportunity to attend but, if he doesn’t, a not guilty plea will be entered and a trial will proceed. I want it made plain to him.’
Yep. That’s the way to handle a tosser.
Dirty Harry would approve.
A district attorney in the movie cited by the judge told Harry the evidence he had gathered on a suspected murderer was inadmissible because Harry had tortured him to find out where he was keeping a kidnapped girl.
District Attorney Rothko says: ‘Where the hell does it say that you’ve got a right to kick down doors, torture suspects, deny medical attention and legal counsel? Where have you been? Does Escobedo ring a bell?
Miranda? I mean, you must have heard of the Fourth Amendment. What I’m saying is that man had rights.’
Callahan replies: ‘Well I’m all broken up about that man’s rights.’
As the Daily Mail reminds us, this human rights stuff has gone beyond the beyond.
The European Convention on Human Rights was given legal effect in the UK when Labour enacted the 1998 Human Rights Act. Article 6 of the Convention grants defendants the right to a fair trial and includes giving them time to gather evidence, the right to defend themselves and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to a free interpreter.
Although it does not explicitly give the accused a right not to turn up at court, critics say it has helped create a general ‘rights culture’ which even prisoners have attempted to exploit.
In 2011, burglar Wayne Bishop was freed from prison after serving just a month of his eight-month sentence when his legal team successfully cited human rights legislation guaranteeing respect for family life.
The Appeal Court in London was told that Bishop – who was also originally dealt with in Nottingham – was sole carer to his children. Judges agreed jailing him was not in their ‘best interests’ and suspended the sentence instead.
And guess what?
Within a month, Bishop assaulted a bloke in a convenience store and was again jailed – by Judge Stokes – for eight months in February 2012.
The judge told him: ‘I’m afraid, Mr Bishop, you have to learn that other people have rights apart from you.
‘We all have the right to walk in the street without fear of being attacked. The rights that are set out in the European Convention are not to be produced like the ace of trumps to avoid prison.’
The Tories have pledged to replace the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights.
This would acknowledge that with rights come responsibilities.
It would also curtail foreigners’ ability to avoid deportation on human rights grounds if they have committed a serious crime.
As for the magnificent Judge Stokes, he has previously called for burglars to be given harsher sentences after seeing ‘numerous’ cases of re-offending while they are on parole.