Last weekend we were supposed to be attending the opening of the new Buddha Grove at Albany Prison, but the governor cancelled at only a few days' notice on the feeble grounds that the plinth for the Buddha Rupa wasn't ready. As we had booked the hotel and the ferry and had arranged to stop off at a meeting of the Bahraini community being held in Portsmouth, we decided to go ahead. After a useful discussion with the Bahrainis including several old friends, we crossed on the 13.00 ferry and checked in at the elaborately 19th century Villa Rothsay, which had been used by King Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales during his visits to the island. He was Duke of Rothsay so the house was named after him.
In the afternoon we visited Osborne [www.english-heritage.org.uk/server.php?show=nav.14479], Queen Victoria's pad on the island where she enjoyed playing the housewife, free of any public commitments.
Monday we did Carisbrooke Castle [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carisbrooke_Castle] where Charles 1 was imprisoned for 14 months before being taken to London for his trial and execution. Then Quarr Abbey [www.quarrabbey.co.uk] where as it happened we attended the first half of vespers. Bhante had stayed there 20 years ago when there were 30 monks compared with only nine there for the service. Probably not so many people have vocations nowadays, and they may have some difficulty keeping the place up with dwindling numbers in the next few years, though the grounds and buildings seemed in good condition. Then back on the 18.00 ferry.
Tuesday I had a morning meeting at the House with some 40 Bahrainis, and fielded a Question on Darfur.
Wednesday, fielded a Question by Raymond Hylton calling for an independent review of the decision to detain asylum seekers, then spoke to an amendment on the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill on facilities for the treatment of young people with a dependency on or a propensity to misuse alcohol. The Government aren't proposing to allow any additional resources for the new treatment orders, once again demonstrating that they don't take alcohol seriously.
Thursday I fielded a Question on Zimbabwe, and spoke on two Orders dealing with the early release of foreign national prisoners who are being removed or deported. On the TV news this evening it was announced that the previous early release scheme had allowed a couple of convicted terrorists to be released early, and Jack Straw had said he was going to see that this didn't happen again. As in the days of Henry VIII with his Statute of Proclamations, it seems that laws are now being made by decree, except that Mr Straw is mow the monarch.
Today I have been trying to clear backlogs of paperwork, though sidetracked by a case reported by the Kent Police to which Nick Tolson of Churchwatch drew my attention:
Arrests made at Canterbury Cathedral
Protesters attempt to disrupt service
Police arrested two men at Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday 23 March after they attempted to protest during the Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter Sunday service.
Their protests centred around the Archbishop's recent comments on Sharia law.
Kyle Spotswood, 26, of Dagenham Road, Sheffield and Sidney Cordle, 52, of Knowle Lane, Sheffield, were later charged with a disturbance in church under the 1860 Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act. The offence under the Act carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.
They have been bailed on condition they do not come into Kent except for their appearance at Canterbury Magistrates Court on 7 April.
Posted on: Updated Monday 24 March
Having attempted twice to repeal S 2 of the 1860 Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act, and spent a year in the Select Committe on Religious Offences [www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld200203/ldselect/
ldrelof/95/9501.htm], I have more than a passing interest in this case, and spent a couple of hours making telephone calls to find out whey the police (or the Crowm Prosecution Servive?) didn't think to use S 4A or S 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. It appears that the police didn't consult the CPS, as perhaps they would have needed to with such a small maximum penalty. But if they were under the impression that the offence carried a two year prison sentence, they certainly ought to have done so. If one of the objects is to deprive the protesters of the oxygen of publicity, its certainly a mistake to prosecute under the ECJA, because the use of this archaic legislation is bound to attract extra media attention.