Peter Rhodes on fiddling the Covid cash, a curious cream and a legal system putting us in peril

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Justice for whom?
Justice for whom?

“But for his mental illness, the attack would never have been carried out.” So said the defence barrister as Mark Brazant, 44, was sentenced a few days ago for the attempted murder of a young mother who was pushing her child in a buggy in London on December 30 last year. Maybe so. But as with so many random, violent attacks, there was more to it than that. Much more.

Like the fact that this attacker had 19 previous convictions and a track record of attacking lone women. And that he had been released from prison only six days before this vicious attack. And that he had simply vanished during “post-sentence supervision” and the authorities had no idea where he was. And that no-one was ensuring he was taking his medication. The judge in the case said Brazant, who stabbed his victim repeatedly in the face and neck, was “totally unpredictable.” Many people would take the view, given his paranoid schizophrenia, previous record and total lack of supervision, that this attack was not only predictable but a certainty.

Decent, law-abiding people simply cannot understand why such things are allowed to happen. The nation's despair was summed up in eight words after another trial earlier this month: “How on earth have we come to this?”

The question was asked by Elaine Wilson whose husband Robert was butchered in Huddersfield in January by two drug-crazed teenagers wielding a sword. After they were jailed for life for murder this month, it was revealed that one of them had been convicted of stabbing a fellow pupil in 2017. He had been placed under a rehabilitation order but six months later was convicted of possessing a bladed article in school. The sentence? Another rehabilitation order. This killer-in-waiting was regularly searched for weapons at school.

As one local newspaper put it: “The danger he posed to the public was known to authorities.” No surprises there, then. We live at the mercy of a criminal-justice and penal system which seems far keener on releasing ticking time bombs from jail than keeping them in. Politicians tell us lessons will be learned. They never are.

Billions of pounds has already been overpaid, misclaimed or stolen in a range of Covid-19 payments. Expect more of the same with the newly-announced £500 Test and Trace Support payment to ensure, in Whitehall's words, “that those on low incomes are able to self-isolate without worry about their finances.” At a time when the Government is hosing money at the pandemic, how closely will such small individual payments be monitored and how will irregularities be policed? Stand by for some organised, industrial-scale fiddling.

The big medical story of the week. A reader tells me his GP recently prescribed a cream to take away eczema-related itching. Turns out the cream is marketed by a company in Hitchen. He wonders whether the firm was started from scratch. Did I mention my bicycle bell from Tring?

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