Friday, August 31, 2007

The Fall Out Continues

It was grimly ironic that the first game at Anfield I attended after a 14 year gap should be remembered for the support that was shown for the family of Rhys Jones. I recall the playing of "You'll Never Walk Alone" at a Goodison derby not long after Hillsborough. The playing of the Z-Cars theme ("Johnny Todd") at Anfield on Tuesday was met with respectful silence (credit, here, to the travelling Tolouse supporters who were briefly informed of the circumstances by an interpreter over the PA system).
The tune was immediately followed by "You'll Never Walk Alone". On this occasion, however, the crowd's rendition was aimed at the Jones family. Sung more as a secular hymn than as a football song, it carried a raw emotion & poingnancy not felt since Hillsborough.

Meanwhile, more arrests have been made ( ), although most of those arrested over the last week have been released on bail. There is news this morning of another four arrests made last night.

This week's New Statesman dropped through my letterbox this morning. Casually leafing through the pages, I was suddenly struck by a piece written by its political editor, Martin Bright ( ).
It puts the Croxteth murder in a wider historical context, laying the blame for the increase in gun crime on Merseyside on a hitherto unlikely source: Michael Howard. Yes, the man who told a gleeful hang 'em & flog 'em Tory conference, "Prison works!" was Home Secretary in 1996 when he agreed to award a royal pardon to two well known Liverpool gangsters, John Haase & Peter Bennett.
The kernel of Bright's piece is worth quoting at length;
"In three months at the beginning of 1994, over a hundred weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were discovered after tip-offs from informants. According th 'Powder Wars', a chilling account of the Liverpool underworld in the 1990s by the Sunday Mirror's Graham Johnson, these were not just the handguns and sawn-off shotgus that had always been available to British small-time gangsters, but an armoury more suited to a Balkan warlord. They included Uzi sub-machine guns, AK-47 assault rifles and even an elephant gun. At the time, the police didn't question the fact that no one was ever found at the scene of the caches: usually abandoned cars or empty houses. The seizures ere hailed as a triumph in the war against violent crime.
"In fact, police now believe that the arms caches were an elaborate scam carried out by Haase and Bennett to secure thir early release from prison. If that is the case, far from marking a victory for the forces of law and order, the seizures reinforced Liverpool's gun culture by allowing those involved in the scam to operate with virtual impunity in the years that followed.......Following information passed to him by Customs and Excise, the trial judge wrote to the Conservative home secretary, Michael Howard, asking for a royal pardon. When this was granted in July 1996, Howard justified his decision by saying the information provided by Haase and Bennett 'had proved to offer quite enormous and unique assistance to the law-enforcement agencies'."
Bright notes grimly that Haase & Bennett's testimonies "had led to no major arrests."
I suspect that Howard will be "unavailable" for media interviews over the next few days.

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