June 4, 2017


Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 5:35 am

I very nearly wrote this article following the Manchester Arena attack, but given events in London overnight it really has to be written now.

It seems that the country is, unfortunately, going to have to endure a period under direct attack from so-called Islamic terrorists. I say so-called because these arseholes have sod all to do with your local mosque, and in truth are blighting the name of a long respected religion. Make no mistake, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country are every bit as pissed off with these wankers as we so-called Christians are (I don’t have much to do with the church either…).

Before you can deal with terrorists, you have to understand their motivations – what’s in it for them… Islamic fundamentalists would love nothing more than for our country to turn against its Muslim citizens – they want to be able to portray the Islamic faith as under attack. The best response to these attacks, therefore, is to simply not fall for it, to recognise our Muslim neighbours for the innocent victims they are in all this, and move on.

To the media, I say we shouldn’t be making a song and dance about the attacks. Yes, they are a tragedy, and I in no way wish to denigrate the memory of the victims of such attacks, but days of rolling news and national headlines are precisely what the terrorists want. I say we tell them to Foxtrot Oscar instead. Report attacks, fine – but then move on.

Finally, to the “terrorists” themselves…

This is Britain – we’ve been here before and we know the drill. You are an irritant, and like any other irritant, you will in time be dealt with. In London you are dealing with a city that came through The Blitz, night after night of carpet bombing from the air, with a steely determination to take the fight back to those who brought it here in the first place. The Luftwaffe didn’t break our spirit with thousands of bombers, so you’ll forgive us if we don’t cower in fear at the prospect of some mush with a transit van. That’s not who the British are.

London is a multicultural city, where we choose to live together in a common society. We know how much that annoys you, and we don’t apologise. Got a problem with that? We don’t care…

After the Manchester attacks the local community, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, pulled together in countless ways to address what happened. We need to see more of that – more solidarity, more defiance, more “with respect, shove it!” for terrorism. Want to strike at the very heart of the terrorists? It’s easy – the communities, Muslim and non Muslim alike, just need to pull together. Trust me, they’ll hate that…

As for the so called English Defence League and other associated nutters out there who will be foaming at the mouth to get stuck into the “muzzies” over this, I have two messages. First of all, stop – you’re an embarrassment. Secondly, you’re going to have to come through the rest of us…

The only thing that beats hate is love.




March 22, 2017

Tomorrow Is DDay for Jacqui

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 4:22 pm

Tomorow, Jacqui Thompson will find herself in court, where she will be desperately hoping for a route, any route, to prevent her home being sold from under her, making the family homeless, by Mark James, the Chief Executive of the local council.

How we’ve arrived at this point has been well documented, both here at Madaxeman and on Jacqui’s own blog. Mr. James won the libel case and is therefore entitled to press his claim for damages, and everything is all very above board and ship shape…

The only problem is, I don’t believe it is.

I was a witness at the original trial at The Royal Courts of Justice, and can only conclude we turned up on a morning when Justice had popped out for its shopping. I’m an intelligent man, but I cannot even begin to comprehend how the judge came to conclusions he did given the evidence before him. I consider myself to have borne witness to a HUGE miscarriage of justice, though of course the law, quite properly, has little regard for what I think…

What is beyond question though is that Mr. James should not have had access to council funding for his countersuit. The Derbyshire Agreement and years of established practice make it clear that a council cannot sue a member of the public, and nor can it have a member of staff sue on it’s behalf. So, you might find yourself wondering why the council provided an indemity to cover Mr. James’ expenses in bringing his counterclaim – something it plainly should not have done if the counterclaim were indeed purely a private matter…

The Wales Audit Office came to a similar conclusion, which has resulted in the council “suspended” (not removing, and with no clear guidance on what suspension actually means) a clause in it’s constitution used to assist Mr. James in bringing his action. To actually remove it of course would be to admit wrongdoing, where as to leave it in place would be unacceptable to the Wales Audit Office… So we have this fudge…

This is a fudge that should no longer be tolerated. If the council has engaged in wrong doing, it should simply own up to that and move on. The persecution of Jacqui Thompson should cease immediately, and the constitution should be clarified – or what is the point of it?

Noone, with any sense of justice at all, can be happy at the prospect of the Thompson family now being made homeless, whereupon the council will rather ironically come under a duty to rehome them anyway! This is madness, and it needs to be brought to an immediate halt.

October 27, 2016

I Take Exception

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 3:15 pm

Right then – techie time…

There is a special circle of hell for people who think it’s a good idea to throw instances of the System.Exception class, and I am going to make it my mission in life to ensure they find there way to it. What am I talking about? This:

throw new Exception(“Some wittering message”);

What’s wrong with it?

The biggest problem is that should I decide I actually care about your wittering exception, I am unable to catch it directly… Sure, I can write the catch block, but what happens if another type of exception is thrown within the try block? Chaos ensues… Even if I do catch it, how am I supposed to know what to do – lacking a custom exception class as it does I have no idea as a developer what you are claiming happened, and therefore how I might respond to it…

If you are going to mark yourself out for my fury, you need to know that I don’t give a shite about the text you pass in the message – only idiots make buisness decisions on natural language text like that.

What should you be doing then if you want to remain my friend? Simplez – declare your own Exception class and inherit from either System.Exception or System.ApplicationException. It’s not exactly a time consuming task, it gives me confidence that when I catch the exception we are talking about the same thing, and it allows you to pass information to me, the innocent victim of your code, in a structured manner that I can use to decide what to do…

I’m sorry, but I’m sick and tired of this crap. Sort it the fook out.


October 26, 2016

Enough Already

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 12:40 pm

I have followed the case of Jacqui Thompson closely for a number of years, not only because this blog was directly involved, but also out of general interest in what I believe to be a huge injustice.

2016 has been a very stressful year for Jacqui. Both Mr. James and the Council itself have obtained separate charges against Jacqui’s home, and Mr. James went still further and tried to have Jacqui face criminal prosecutions… Fortunately, and following many behind the scenes interventions from all manner of right thinking people, the police eventually came to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

Troubling times then – but at least Jacqui can look forward to the coming festivities of Christmas – spend some quiet reflective time at home with her family.

I hope this year is particularly memorable for Jacqui, because it’s looking like this will be the last Christmas she gets to spend at home… Mr. James has, good natured Christian that he is, decided to try to sell her home from under her and make her homeless.

Happy Christmas.

Jacqui does not deserve to be treated like this. All she has ever done is to speak out about the problems with the council – and there are many. She has performed the role of armchair auditor with distinction, and has selflessly devoted herself to the cause of the community. 

The people of Carmarthenshire owe her better than this. It might well be too late to resolve the legal position, but there is a moral dimension to be considered here as well. For heaven’s sake Carmarthenshire , wake up, smell the coffee, and act! Speak out… Discuss… Don’t allow the council to treat a civic minded citizen like this in your name.

Finally,  looking beyond Jacqui, never, ever allow this shite to happen again. Start taking local democracy seriously, and elect representatives worthy of the role… Many of the current shower come up some way short of the mark…

April 26, 2016

Tips For New Software Developers

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 10:27 pm

I have been writing software that other people have been using now for just over 20 years, and it occurs to me that I really should have some useful advice to impart to other developers who are at the start of their own careers. It is in that frame of mind that I therefore offer the following to the profession, in no specific order:

Be Engaged.

Being the guy who punches in at 9am, leaves a 5pm having done eight hours of the same old stuff is a road to nowhere. We are creative individuals in a rapidly moving profession, surrounded by colleagues of a similar mind. If you are happy to just plod on with the job whilst making no effort to improve yourself, the community will pass you by and your skills will stagnate. So, be engaged in software development, read about it, listen to podcasts about it, run naked through the streets proclaiming your love of it if you must, but don’t just “plod on”.

The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t take a lot of keep abreast of what is going on, as there are no shortage of people shouting about it whichever platform you are working on. Websites abound, quality online training is now available at a reasonable cost to all (Pluralsight, Eggheads etc…), and if all else fails there’s always Youtube…

You are not a God!

We developers tend to see the world in absolutes, and form firm opinions easily. We convince ourselves that our approach is the smartest way of achieving most given tasks (easily done – it is after all the best way we know of) and we are always, at least in our own minds, one step ahead of our colleagues. Newsflash – all of your colleagues have gone through the same thoughts and feelings as well, and we can’t all be right!

Be open to the ideas, approaches and solutions of those around you, Cast a critical eye over their ideas, and if you’re mature enough, an equally critical eye over your own. Discuss strengths and weaknesses, and don’t obsess over having to be recognised as the best developer in the room – you’re not, and neither is anyone else. We all have strengths and weaknesses.

Don’t drink the management kool aid…

Some newcomers believe it’s their job to go along with whatever management wants – and they’re wrong. It’s your job to work together with management toward meeting the goals of your projects. That doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they say, and it certainly doesn’t mean letting them dictate solution designs to you…

In my experience, good managers are like rocking horse shit, because once they’ve climbed the greasy pole they tend to want to throw their weight around. A good manager will limit their role only to helping to ensure the team delivers as promptly and cost-effectively as possible – and in such a role they are an ally! A truly exceptional manager will foster a culture in the team that there are no sacred cows, nothing that is not open for discussion, and no one on the team who is beyond challenge. These managers are rarer still…

Stay away from the developer kool aid as well!

That is not to say that you should ally yourself with other developers rather than managers, but rather that you shouldn’t really be thinking in those terms at all… If you find yourself working in a team where the developers are all allied against the management, then it’s time to ask how that situation has arisen, and what can be done about it. At the end of the day, we’re all supposed to be on the same team and working to common goals, and internal bickering isn’t getting the job done.

A well functioning software team is one where nobody is afraid to raise ideas, flag concerns, or talk to one another. There’s nothing wrong with disagreement – it can be a very healthy thing in terms of considering different ideas. What matters is how disagreements are handled.


Don’t suffer fools – lightly or in any other way…

A few years ago, I worked for a company (I’ll spare their blushes and not name them) who had, and there’s really no other way of saying this, the technical architect from hell. How bad was it? A few quotes from the chap:

  • “In all the time I have worked here, we have never employed a developer I actually respect” – spoken in a room filled with eight (fortunately non-violent) developers.
  • “Our developers are too stupid to understand branching and merging…” – they were not stupid at all – the problem was that the technical architect didn’t understand it.
  • “What does Private mean in C# again?”


Other notable events:

  • Calling one of our junior female developers “Sugartits”.
  • Banning the use of Entity Framework or any other ORM because “I’ve heard they can be slow.”
  • When complaining about me in a meeting with my boss and I, getting so out of control yelling that my tactic (which worked) was to simply sit there quietly until the tirade ended, turn to my manager and ask “Do you see my problem?”.


Enough about this one specific chap – but something to note is how much text I wrote before returning to the general case – years after the event, I still instinctively rail against the guy. Clearly this wasn’t a productive relationship.

The mistake I made was staying in the relationship. The man in my view had some “issues” that I was never going to be able to have an impact on, so his behaviour would not change. I’ve spent entire days dealing with him when I could have been productively writing code instead – elsewhere if needs be.

What this episode did teach me was that such behaviour cannot be tolerated, and allowing it to continue was a mistake. If I’m ever treated like this by someone again in my professional life, I will try to constructively address the issue with them. If I’m unable to do that, I’ll find another job… Life is too short to suffer like this…


Don’t be the idiot.

For this first half of my career, I never encountered a female developer. I even began to wonder if such people existed – women are certainly under represented in IT. When I encountered my first female colleague (Waves at Linda) it came as something of a shock, all the more so being that my last position had been around the very male orientated world of automotive parts supply.

I initially treated Linda as some kind of curiosity – well done you for sticking to your guns and making it in a man’s word, ya big girlie girl!

This was shameful, because Linda was just another developer trying to get the job done, and her gender should have been neither here nor there… I eventually realised what I was doing, how Linda was being treated, and stomped it out – but it took months. For months she had to come into work and deal with the stupid idiot who had a nonsensical issue with something she couldn’t, wouldn’t and shouldn’t change. I was Linda’s idiot.

We soon recovered our working relationship, but through an act of sheer dickery I could have lost Linda, and here’s the thing – I liked her. She actually helped me in my career, because she was always very good at playing devil’s advocate, and wasn’t afraid to tell stupid people when they were being stupid.

In short, if someone has a problem with you, do something about it. DO NOT assume they must be wrong, and try to look on the situation dispassionately.

Variety is the spice of life…

Consider getting involved with an open source project, and seeing how a different collection of developers do things. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the things they are doing are right, or in some cases even sane, but that’s not the point… You will only learn so much from working within one team, and getting involved in something else will expand both your horizons and your thinking…

Personally, I’ve spent years working in environments where everyone with commit rights to the code was sat within 100 yards of my desk. Distributed, open source development works in an entirely different way – you have to think about branching, you have deal will Pull Requests… You have to manage your relationship with others on the project differently, and everyone has to act professionally or nothing gets done.

In my open source work, I have even been heard to utter “You guys really, really need a business analyst here…”. Normally, that would have required electrodes on my testicles before I would begin to contemplate such craziness. Think BAs are a pain in the ass? See what happens when Project Managers work without them!

Software development is an exciting industry, and as with any other industry has it’s share of visionaries, it’s share of “plodders” and it’s share of assholes. As a new software developer, you need to continually challenge yourself in terms of am I being professional?, am I being diligent?, and of course the big one, what can I do better?


March 7, 2016

Prohibition in Doncaster?

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 12:51 pm

I am as many of you will know something of a fan of Mark Thomas, a well known comedian, protester, and thorn in the pimply backside of the establishment. Last year a friend kindly look to me one of his gigs, where we examined the issue of Public Space Protection Orders.

Public Space Protection Orders are basically laws that councils dream up, and then implement over a geographically defined area, and came to us in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act of 2014. In and of itself it’s not such a bad idea, giving the ability for problems to be addressed locally, operating under the careful scrutiny of those champions of democracy, local councillors…

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, somewhat bored on the train the other week, I fired off a Freedom of Information request to my local authority, Doncaster, to get a list of any PSPOs they had enacted. For the most part common sense won through, issues had been foreseen and mitigated, and all was well. Then I found this:


Person(s) within the area outlined in the attached map 2 will not ingest, inhale, inject, smoke or otherwise use intoxicating substances. Intoxicating Substances is given the following definition:- Substances with the capacity to stimulate or depress the central nervous system. Exemptions shall apply in cases where the substances are used for a valid and demonstrable medicinal use, given to an animal as a medicinal remedy, are cigarettes (tobacco) or vaporisers or are food stuffs regulated by food health and safety legislation.


To be in place for the whole of Hexthorpe


At all times.

Congratulations – we’ve brought back prohibition to the streets of Doncaster. You will note there are no caveats or exceptions allowing people to drink in the public houses in the area, or indeed within their own homes…

This is what happens when you give a body powers but nobody provides adequate scrutiny.

Perhaps it’s time to have a word with the local constabulary, to point out all these “drinking establishments” that exist within the zone. Every customer is committing a criminal act. The bar staff are technically dealers… Now if I can just persuade old plod to pop around to the council offices to arrest the licensing committee for aiding and abetting…

February 11, 2016

Hello Northern Rail Chappies!

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 1:02 pm

Last night, I found myself at in Leeds Railway Station with a little unplanned free time on my hands, seeing as Northern Rail had cancelled my train. For the second time in three days I was going to have to catch a later train home, be late for dinner, and not get so long with the kids. I was, shall we say, rather annoyed…

I decided to have a look at Twitter to see how my fellow passengers were getting on with their journeys, and came across a lady who said both her journey to work and home again had been on overcrowded trains, pointed out the potential for people to be injured, and asked Northern Rail’s Twitter bod to at least acknowledge that the service was indeed overcrowded based on a photograph she took.

They failed to do this, and why that should be is not exactly a mystery – we only have to look at what the Twitter Bod is there for. From what I have seen over recent months, they have the following functions:

  1. When asked, they will try to assist passengers with information about timetables, connecting services etc.
  2. If people complain, they will say that it “has been passed to the relevant department” and then try and end the discussion.

Option 2 is a bit sneaky though, isn’t it. I appreciate they would rather not discuss “difficult” or “awkward” topics over Twitter where there response is there for all the public to see. I understand they want to protect their reputation. But deflecting questions on safety? Is that really on?

I jumped into the conversation about overcrowding, and pointed out that their response did not address the lady’s very direct question. They invited me to contact them using the “Contact Us” facility on their website. This would limit me to a mere 2500 key presses (for no good reason), but that’s not my main reason for not playing ball. My real gripe is their motivation for asking me to take the conversation to the Contact Us page – and it can be summarised thus:

“Get this the hell away from our social media account! We don’t want other people reading this!”

That’s a problem.

The truth is, a lot (though not all) of the problems with Northern Rail’s service are actually beyond their control… They’d like to run more trains, but can’t get hold of the rolling stock (which has to be released from the DoT) and even then they have to sort out pathing on the timetable. With the best will in the world, they are not able to address everyone’s concern / complaint effectively… They should simply bloody say so – rather than pretending that some manager will review the passenger’s concerns in the morning…

Sticking feedback in the suggestions chute (because I suspect it effectively leads straight to the skip outside) does not fix the problem. Denying the problem exists does not fix the problem. But recognising that you have a problem is the first step toward a solution. Then passengers can direct their fury where it really needs to be (MoT), and we can all work together for a better service in the future.

Northern Rail have lost the franchise, so business as usual shouldn’t be an option for Arriva when they come on board – Northern have proved it doesn’t work. We need an operator more concerned about service delivery than their image on social media. We need an effective champion for genuine improvement. We need someone who accepts the current situation is poor, but is prepared to work with passengers to improve it.

Here’s hoping.


January 31, 2016

The Togmeister has Ascended…

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 11:26 pm

Like many of my cohorts, I was stunned this morning to learn of the death of Sir Terry Wogan – courtesy of a shocked phone call from a close friend who was perhaps even more of a fan than I… It was the kind of news that just slaps you in the face and makes you stop what you’re doing – and when my friend mentioned that Radio Two were broadcasting a tribute show, I knew I had to listen…

As I write this, thanks to the magic of the BBC IPlayer, I’m listening again. At the side of me I have a cup of tea mixed with something a little more potent, and a box of tissues. Both are getting some use.

You see, from late 1999 until about 2007, I was, in common with millions of other people up and down the nation, one of Terry’s regular listeners – or a TOG to those in the know… For most of the time in question I had jobs that involved about a 40 minute commute, so the “Wake Up To Wogan” show became a big part of my day. The irreverent humour of the team (the show was never simply about Terry), the banter between Terry and his producer Paul Walters, the finely tuned musical selection – all came together to get me fired up for the day, and to make sure I’d had a few smiles before finding my desk.

Listening to the tribute show now, I am inevitably reminded of listening to the tribute show Terry himself organised to mark the passing of Paul Walters. I can still remember lying in the bath listening to that show, how poignant it was, the “comforting pain” I felt as I listened to “He Ain’t Heavy”. Well, it’s even more intense now that we are marking the passing of Terry himself – but there IS comfort there…

Muscially, well – he had Paul Walters had amazing taste. They introduced me to several stars – people like Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua, the remarkable thing being that they were not the “known” figures of  today, but rather “unknowns” who made the playlist simply because of Terry and Paul’s love of quality. Listening to the tribute show, there are so many of these tracks that I would never identify as being amongst my favourites – but I’m struck by how good these records are… Exquisite was an everyday thing on the show.

Terry was, as they say, only human – and at seventy seven years of age, we should all be able to admit, as Terry certainly would, that the road ahead was somewhat shorter than the road behind. I’m sure, the humour of the man being what it was, he wouldn’t want to think of nation wailing in despair; rather, he would want us to remember all the fun we had…

So, to Terry, to Paul(ie) Walters, to Fran Godfrey, to Alan “Voice of the balls” “Deadly” Dedicoat, to John “Boggy” Marsh – Thank You. There’s much more to be said, but it doesn’t need to be – I’m sure they know… If God exists, his mornings have just got a little more interesting…




December 1, 2015

Why are we doing this?

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 12:54 pm

It is likely, by the end of the week, that the RAF will be attacking ground based targets in Syria – in an effort to quell the continued rise of the so called Islamic State. I’d like to discuss why I personally think this is a huge mistake.

To start with, our record in recent military adventures has hardly been an unending story of success. The forces have performed magnificently, but the Taliban are taking back the territory we fought for in Afghanistan, Iraq continues in civil war… This isn’t how we saw it all ending, and that’s one of the problems with military campaigns – their ends are so difficult to predict.

Which isn’t to say that I am card carrying pacifist – I support our forces even when I do not agree with their deployment, and like anyone else I’m singularly impressed with their exploits… We are lucky to have one of the finest bodies of fighting men and women in the world.

Personally, I would have no problem sending them into harm’s way – that is after all what they are there for – but I wouldn’t do it on a whim, or when the goal was unachievable, or for political reasons back home. They deserve more respect than that.

The stated aim of the forthcoming air campaign is to protect our National Security by degrading Islamic State – a band of despicable terrorists who quite deliberately hide within civilian population centres. Can someone explain to me why a bomber is the weapon of choice for a job like that? Whilst it’s true that from time to time you’ll get a chance to wipe an ISIS land vehicle from the face of the Earth, is it really that simple?

How are we to avoid killing innocent civilians? What of our obligations under the Geneva Convention if we have forces on the ground (and you’re a muppet if you really think we haven’t got SAS soldiers on the ground doing recon work now…). If we do injure or kill innocent civilians, what effect would that have on Islamic State’s ability to recruit? Does attacking their forces in theatre make them more motivated to launch attacks on UK soil?

If we are to act against Islamic State, then we need to confront the basic reality that in order to be effective we will have to put boots on the ground – and lots of them. There is no other way to deal with a body like Islamic State – they won’t fight a conventional war, and sadly dealing with them will require ground forces in significant numbers. It won’t, so soon after Afghanistan and Iraq, be popular politically, but there you are. If you’re going to give the forces a reasonable chance to completing the task, that’s what’s needed.

But that isn’t what Cameron is about to do. Conscious of his political standing here at home, he will only commit to an air campaign. At best this will be ineffective, and at worst, counter productive. He hasn’t got a problem sending our aircrews into harms way to achieve very little, but at great risk to the crews involved. That is shameful.

We should do the job properly, or not at all.


August 3, 2015

What of Justice?

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 11:06 pm

What of Justice?

In recent years, I have taken an interest in three court cases that have been heard before the High Court at the Royal Courts Of Justice in London. My experiences have been varied, but one thread that runs throughout is that justice via these hallowed halls is now only for those who can afford it – and that troubles me greatly…

Let’s start with the case of Paul Chambers, the now infamous #TwitterJokeTrial – where a man had his life blighted with a criminal conviction simply for making a joke about the fact his local airport had closed due to adverse weather. Whilst it is true that Chambers was eventually cleared at the High Court, it should not be forgotten that this was the culmination of a very long fight throughout the Magistrates Court, the Crown Court, and the High Court. His defence was possible partly though the benevolence of a number of legal professionals who worked on his case on a pro bono basis, partly because the community on Twitter came together to raise funds, partly through a number of high profile comedians holding a benefit gig. The sincere support of people like Stephen Fry, Al Murray and Graham Linehan, who were prepared to very publicly stand by both Chambers and his cause, did his case no harm at all.

What would have happened though Chambers not had these assets to bring to the fore, on a freedom of information case, and instead found himself contesting say a charge of assaulting a police officer. Could Chambers have pursued a campaign to establish his innocence without such a support movement behind him? Of course not.

Now, this raises for me two important points. First of all, I believe that the genuinely innocent man / woman should have the basic right to appeal their conviction, and finance ought not to come into it. For this reason, we had the system of “Legal Aid” in this country, but it is now been watered down to such an extent that it is barely recognisable, and certainly lacks the efficacy it once had. It is no longer properly resourced, and until this is remedied, neither is justice in this land.

The second point we must consider is that where the courts have convicted the wrong person, not only does the innocent suffer an unwarranted conviction, but the actual perpetrator is left to commit further offences. It is for this reason that I feel the genuinely innocent actually have a moral obligation to fight – but in a courts system so ruled by money and resource, many are not in a position to do so.

The second case I would invite you to consider is that of Jacqui Thompson, a Welsh Political Blogger who ended up fighting a libel battle over comments on this very blog, and indeed her own. The High Court managed to conclude that Thompson was conducting some form of personal vendetta against her local council’s Chief Executive, a Mr. Mark James. They also ruled that that Thompson had attempted to pervert the course of justice – a finding that resulted in the insurers backing both Thompson’s case and her defence from a countersuit backing out.

There are many interesting aspects of this case, and I don’t want to focus on this case too closely in this post, so we’ll just cover a couple of them. First of all, an attempt to pervert the course of justice would be a criminal matter, triable under the criminal burden of proof, and not by the judge in a libel trial, which is of course civil law. Secondly, it’s interesting that Mr. James managed to secure an indemnity against his legal expenses from his employer, the legality of which appears highly questionable indeed.

Although Thompson has had an appeal, which incredibly she lost, she is now in a position of owing hundreds of thousand of pounds, has a charge against her home, and will in all likelihood eventually lose it. What’s remarkable here is that now the mainstream press are beginning to take an interest in events around the council, they seem to agree with the overwhelming majority of the points that Thompson has made. Rather than pursuing a grudge, she is merely scrutinising (and incredibly effectively) the local council who act in her name. The woman deserves the freedom of the city, not losing her home!

Unfortunately though, finance alone means that Thompson will almost certainly never be able to clear her name. A woman who has tirelessly campaigned against waste and corruption will lose her home, merely because she refused to let them get away with it and lacks the financial resources to fight the case.

Cases should not be brought and fought merely on the basis of who can afford justice – justice is a right.

Finallly, let’s consider the case of Tim Ireland, a candidate in the recent general election who tried to bring a petition against Nadine Dorries MP. Dorries and Ireland have a lengthy history, and for a number of years Dorries has maintained that Ireland has been stalking her. The police have repeatedly found that Ireland has no case to answer, and Ireland has asked on a number of occasions that Dorries should publish evidence (such as emails she claims to have received…), without success.

In the run up to the election, Dorries repeated in the media her claim that Ireland was stalking her, even going to far as to suggest it was unsafe to attend a hustings event because Ireland would be present. She did however send a number of supporters, including her own daughters, to this “unsafe” event, who then distributed material Ireland considered to be libelous to those gathered at the event. Ireland also noticed that this material did not comply with certain aspects of election law, such as bearing the candidate’s address and details of where the leaflet had been printed.

At the High Court, the matter was thrown out because Ireland’s legal team not not served Dorries with legal papers correctly. The matter of whether or not Ireland is a dangerous stalker was not even considered, much less decided by the court. Surely, if the claims were genuine, Dorries should be entitled to have Ireland exposed. Similarly, if the claims are lies, Ireland should be entitled to have the matter settled as well.

Rather than allowing for the procedural mistake in serving papers, allowing Ireland’s legal team to serve Dorries again, and reconvening a further hearing in say a couple of month’s time, the court simply struck out the petition. This has a number of consequences – besides the lack of a proper scrutinly of the claims Dorries has made, we also now have an electorate unsure of whether or not she conducted herself unlawfully in the lead up to the election. Isn’t Dorries herself entitled to have that issue put to bed at the very least? Isn’t Ireland entitled to have his accuser’s claims tested in open court?

The most serious consequence however is that Ireland is now reportedly saddled with over £150K of debts in the case, and that sends a very negative message indeed to anyone else thinking, quite properly, of bringing a similar case in similar circumstances in the future. The effect therefore is that rather than being exposed, dodgy practices are indirectly actually PROTECTED by the judicial system! What a tangled web we weave…

If justice is to mean anything, then our courts need to focus on the task of ensuring it is delivered, irrespective of cost, and delivered consistently to all members of society, great and small. Justice isn’t a budget – it’s a principal and a right. Sometimes expensive, sometimes inconvenient perhaps, but absolutely essential if we are truly to live in a fair, free and hopefully just society.

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