SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: New year issues and lasting causes

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley

How should I wish to be judged when this year comes to its close next Christmas? The important tasks are always to prevent harm and to promote good, by working with others. There are also housekeeping, office and personal targets.

Long-term justice issues might come to right conclusions. One of my first constituency causes was the case of a young man jailed after a wrongful conviction for an alleged attempted theft. Everyone, including the bank that employed him, knew he was innocent. He served his sentence so he could return to work and rebuild his life. Five years later, the lying ‘witness’ was exposed and delayed justice was achieved.

Clive Stafford-Smith of REPRIEVE still has my support in working for a new trial for Krishna Maharaj, wrongly convicted for murder in Florida in 1987. Thirty years on, his case is to be reviewed but there will still be a problem if he is judged innocent: the requirement for release appears to need a declared fault in the system that caused the conviction. I have seen him in his death-row prison. Always, he was remarkably quiet, determined to survive and to be released.

In this country, I will support former police sergeant Gurpal Virdi, now a Labour councillor in Hounslow. He was acquitted of ludicrous serious charges. Before the trial, I had explained in detail to the prosecutors, the head of Scotland Yard and the Home Office the obvious facts that contradicted the accusation and that demonstrated his innocence. Now, each authority should face those facts, acknowledging what went wrong. That is the way to prevent future injustice to others.

The problem with non-stop campaigning for local people, for constituency community causes that often lead to national activity is that my attempts to catch up on housekeeping have failed. I do realise that the deep litter of papers is bad for me and worse for those who kindly work with me.

I realise that completing my tax return would be easier if all relevant papers are immediately collected in the right place. Yesterday, when searching for my favourite walking stick, the one with the sheep horn handle, I found the iPad that I mislaid two months ago. There is treasure amid the piles of press cuttings, booklets and inspiring tracts.

A medium term target is to have a clear desk by Easter. During Lent, I will re-read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s book ‘Dethroning Mammon’. One of his many good points is that we have a track record at playing Mammon at his own game, defeating him in our decisions at the checkout. In 1997 local campaigners organised by Ron Thick gained my help in giving prominence to the new Fairtrade mark. Now nationally every minute we eat 3,000 Fairtrade bananas.

Justin Welby reminds us of the sustained support by Christians and others around the world that led to the cancellation of £100 billion of debt owed by 35 of the poorest countries. On tax, we can say what tax does for human flourishing, providing money to help the state ensure the dignity, safety, health and education of us all, guaranteeing our common good and showing solidarity abroad. There is a separate argument about the sensible level.