Coleen Rooney vs Rebekah Vardy in court, police officer to decide Labour leader Keir Starmer's fate, ex-officer gets £1m damages. There are truly strange times for justice – Tom Wood

We live in interesting times and for our justice system there is no exception. Here are just some of the headlines.

In London we have been treated to the unedifying spectacle of two rich footballers’ wives knocking lumps out of each other at the High Court.

"So what,” you may say, it’s their money that’s being wasted, who cares if celebs choose to wash their dirty linen in public. Except this frivolous libel case is taking up court time when the backlog has never been longer. Make no mistake, we all pay a price for such nonsense.

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Moving north to Durham, we face the prospect that a senior police officer will decide the future of the Labour leader. To some extent, Sir Keir Starmer has brought this potential disaster on himself by stating he would resign if served with a fixed-penalty ticket under the Covid regulations.

As a former director of public prosecutions, perhaps he knows something we don’t. Or maybe he is a high-stakes gambler.

The truth is that enforcement of lockdown regulations has been far from consistent across the country. In some areas, tickets were handed out by the dozen while in others verbal warnings were given in similar circumstances.

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Sir Keir Starmer promises to resign if he broke Covid laws

Then there’s the issue of a senior police officer making such a decision alone. Setting aside the chance that they may have political leanings, what of their character? Just last week I was reading the obituary of Sir James Anderton, aka God’s Policeman. I certainly wouldn’t have liked to have had to throw myself on his tender mercies.

Rebekah Vardy arrives at Royal Courts of Justice during the so-called 'Wagatha Christie' libel case (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)Rebekah Vardy arrives at Royal Courts of Justice during the so-called 'Wagatha Christie' libel case (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Rebekah Vardy arrives at Royal Courts of Justice during the so-called 'Wagatha Christie' libel case (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

That, of course, is the reason we have checks and balances in our justice system, why police do not make decisions on prosecutions and why only judge and jury decide on guilt or innocence.

It is entirely wrong that a decision like this is left to a single officer or police force. It goes against all the principles of the checks and balances that form the foundation of our justice system.

Moving to Scotland, a former police officer who had been discriminated against was awarded nearly £1 million in compensation. The officer took offence at her bosses’ suggestion that mixed male and female teams be deployed on firearms duties whenever possible.

Subsequently she was unable to work and was awarded an ill-health pension, and has now been awarded her bumper compensation. Setting aside the rights and wrongs of this latest skirmish in the gender war, how was the enormous sum of £1m considered proportionate on top of a gold-plated pension?

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It is more than a constable would earn in a 30-year career. It’s public money, and since there is no bottomless pit, it means that somewhere down the line we will be deprived of £1m-worth of policing. It is time these massive payouts were brought under control, it makes our public services look like a soft touch, and we, the public, cannot afford it.

Finally a bit of good news. After months of propaganda and racist smears, after dozens of organised events for an unquestioning media, we are hearing evidence in the Sheku Bayoh inquiry. At long last, we’ll hear some facts. We should listen and hope for balanced reporting of the proceedings. It’s important.

Tom Wood is a writer and former police officer



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