Leaders: Trident whistleblower | Phone tracking

A test firing of a Trident missile. Picture: PA
A test firing of a Trident missile. Picture: PA
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NUCLEAR weapons are a highly emotive issue, as is fitting for weapons capable of such devastation.

For many people their very existence is immoral and their creation and potential use a damning verdict on mankind’s intelligence and humanity.

The arguments are complex and any issue that arises is always seen through the prism of the polarised views that surround them, and any fears over safety are always used as more evidence in the case to erase their existence from our planet. It is very difficult to remove the strong feelings surrounding them and view issues in a more objective way.

Their potential for destruction is awesome. They have only been used twice. On 6 August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing an estimated 140,000 people. Three days later, it is estimated that about 80,000 people died after the US also bombed Nagasaki. Revulsion over such large-scale slaughter was amplified by the horrific illnesses radiation from the bombs caused survivors.

There is an argument that opposing powers being in possession of such powerful weapons has evidently been an effective deterrent as no bombs have subsequently been dropped.

The problem with that argument, however, is that it relies on the opposing sides having relatively common values on life and the taking of it. As has been often pointed out, rogue terror groups or nations that are capable of very different value judgments will see no deterrent in the possession of these weapons at all.

And it is a fact that conventional weapons – over which there is nowhere near as much moral outcry – are also capable of mass destruction. According to a 1956 West German government report, Allied carpet bombing killed 635,000 German civilians.

So nuclear weapons are a divisive issue and of deep concern to many.

So when Royal Navy submariner William McNeilly claimed Britain’s nuclear weapons system was a “disaster waiting to happen”, of course it was cause for concern. Now Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon says Mr McNeilly’s claims have been investigated and the safety of the public and of military personnel has never been compromised.

But the difficulty with that is, there is a large number of people who will respond to that by saying: “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

In the supercharged atmosphere of nuclear weapons, when allegations as serious as Mr McNeilly’s are raised by someone who, on the face of it, is in a position to know, the public cannot be effectively reassured by the government investigating itself. For any credibility, an independent inquiry must take place and report.

Phone tracking is damning evidence

WE have grown used to DNA evidence being presented in court to successfully achieve a conviction.

It was a factor again at the High Court in Glasgow yesterday, as William Paterson was jailed for life after being found guilty of the murder of gangland figure Kevin “Gerbil” Carroll, gunned down in an Asda car park in Robroyston.

Paterson’s DNA was found on the handle of a bag which carried one of the guns used in the execution, and the trial heard that the chances of that profile belonging to anyone other than Paterson was one in a billion.

But just as crucially, Paterson was also identified through a further piece of evidence –

mobile phone records, which put the accused at the scene of the crime because one of his two phones received a call just moments before the shooting took place.

It was accepted that Paterson owned one of the phones, but the detail which put him in possession of the other handset as well – the one which received a call at the scene – was the fact that expert evidence showed the two phones had a history of never having contacted one another and were always in the same area.

The use of mobile phone data to monitor our movements opens up contentious issues involving privacy rights and civil liberties, with concerns having been raised over an individual’s every movement being traced through the carrying of a mobile phone, which effectively becomes a voluntary tagging device.

On this occasion, however, no-one could argue that the end has not justified the means.