Friday 31 May 2019

Robert Smith RIP - Skiff Skats banjo legend and thoroughly good bloke

Today saw the funeral of Robert Smith, best know as the Banjo player for the original Mill Hillbillies, the Skiff Skats. The Skiff Skats were a North London legend, founded by brothers Robert and Pete 'Pigmeat' Smith. They played just about every London venue and appeared on the Old Grey Whistler Test and Tonight. Their style was Hillbilly/Country played frantically and enthusiastically. The band also made a video of the track Cripple Creek.

After the band split, Roberts brother Pete went on to have a career as a successful blues guitarist, but sadly passed away in 1999. Here is an example of his work. Sadly he succumbed to liver cancer in 1999.

After the demise of the Skiff Skatts Robert, concentrated on his Landscape gardening business for a few years, before deciding on a radical career change. Robert took a law degree and qualified as a solicitor. In 2015, after much nagging by friends (such as me) Robert got the band together for a series of reunion gigs, the highlight being at The 100 club, where they were joined on stage by a whole bunch of well known London musicians including members of Madness.

This clip features a short speech by Suggs of Madness

Sadly Robert had been plagued by ill health for many years, require a kidney transplant around ten years ago. Whilst this gave him a new lease of life, enabling the reunion to take place and the chance to see his children grow up, eventually that too started to fail. I last saw Robert last year and sadly he wasn't in good health at all. We arranged to have a drink when he improved, he was hoping for another transplant. Sadly that was not to be.

As well as music, Roberts other love was Cricket. Robert was a member of the Mill Hill Village Cricket club. Many of his friends from the club attended the wake today. There was a lovely collection of memorabilia from the Skiffs on display.

So long old friend, safe journey.


The Federation of Small Business Calendar for June in Barnet

The Barnet Eye is a supporter of the Federation of Small Business. This is the largest organisation representing SME companies in the UK. The organisation lobbies hard for small business and organised all manner of regular events in our locality.

The organisation has an excellent strategy for High Street regeneration. I've been a member for over 20 years and I even met the designer of our websites at one of the networking events, as well as many sponsors for the local festivals we help run.

If you run a small business, why not come along.

Breakfast morning network events taking place during the next few weeks.

  • On Monday 3 June, I will be at Café Buzz 783 High Road N12 8JY from 8.00am Please come along to hear Dionne Williams of Get Set Go London about Developing a Mindset for Success
  • On Tuesday 11 June is the Brent session at The Delipod Hub in Willesden Library High Road - Willesden Green- NW10 2SF.  
  • The Enfield event is on 17 June the Enfield event takes place at Malone & Co. 6 Burliegh Way, Enfield EN2 6AE.
The evening women’s networking session (open to all) is now settled into its new home
  • The Buzzing Business Club will be on 27 May at its new venue – Refractions 363 Ballards Ln, North Finchley, London N12 8LJ.
There are other sessions too…
  • Networking takes place in Bromley, Newham and Hackney with sessions being planned for Harrow, Ealing and Hounslow.
Details of June events can be found on the events’ calendar.

Thursday 30 May 2019

How victims can report historic sexual abuse

A Barnet Eye reader contacted me today and asked me a very disturbing question “Ok rog do you no anyone who would pursue a historic child abuse case”. They went on to explain that the abuse happened to an adult family member when they were seven years old. I don’t know but as it is clearly a very serious issue, I called one of the legally qualified people who generously advises us when we need legal information. As this is important for many people who may not wish to contact me, I thought I’d share the response. I have to state I am not an expert and I am posting this as I felt it would potentially help people in crisis.

“If the person is over 18 and clear about what they want to do then they can call 101 or walk into a police station and ask to speak to someone privately. For further advice, for a child email/call NSPCC 0808 800 5000. Otherwise if its an adult male Survivors UK are well thought of.  For females try

If the problem is to do with a member of Barnet Council staff this may help

I do hope that if anyone out there needs this information then this has been helpful. Talking to trained counsellors and getting justice will be the first steps towards moving on.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

The Wednesday Poem and Arts round up

The Wednesday Poem

Been a bit busy today, haven't had the opportunity to scour the archive or write a new poem, so here is a classic track that sums up my mood right now. This is God Bless The Child as performed by Aretha Franklyn.  I rather like this version. This to me is proper poetry

Children are important, we need to protect them and make sure the world we leave them is one that they can thrive on.

Cultural Round-Up.

Mill Hill Music Festival

It is just over a fortnight until the Mill Hill Music Festival. Here is the program. Full details on the Music Festival Website. Click the link below for details of the individual event. Tickets are now on sale at Mill Hill Wines.

JUNE 14 - Fri 19:30
Hartley Hall,
3 Flower Lane,
Mill Hill, Lonodon,


Fri 20:00
Rocking Rhythm and blues with

The Ridgeway,

Free Entry

JUNE 15- Sat 19:30

Hartley Hall,
3 Flower Lane, 
Mill Hill, Lonodon, 


JUNE 16 - Sun 12:00
The Ridgeway,

Free Entry

JUNE 17 - Mon 19:30
Klezmer, Latin and Jazz Grooves 

Mill Hill United Synagogue,
Station Road, 
Mill Hill, London,         


JUNE 18 - Tue 19:30

Hartley Hall,
3 Flower Lane, 
Mill Hill, Lonodon, 


JUNE 19 - Wed 19:30

St Paul’s Church, 
The Ridgeway, 
Mill Hill, London, 


Wed 20:30
Quality Jazz at Mill Hill Jazz Club

Mill Hill Golf Club, 
100 Barnet Way, 
Mill Hill, 

£14 (Jazz club members £12)

JUNE 20 - Thu 19:30

Hartley Hall, 
3 Flower Lane, 
Mill Hill, Lonodon, 


JUNE 21- Fri 20:00

Mill Hill Golf Club, 
100 Barnet Way, 
Mill Hill, 

£13 in Advance £15 on door

JUNE 22 - Sat 20:30

The Ridgeway,

Free Entry

We would like to thank Mill Hill Music Complex for their sponsorship, Mill Hill Wines for their help with ticket sales and our many friends for all their support. 

We hope you will take time this summer to enjoy some wonderful music with us. 

Arts Depot

Phoenix Cinema


Tuesday 28 May 2019

Guest Blog - A tour around my Mill Hill Part 1 by Richard Wilkinson

By Richard Wilkinson.

Hi, I'm Richard. I've been a resident of Mill Hill for a few decades now. I retired last year and I recently put together a website to help residents and visitors find their way around. It has a directory of businesses, listings for our local restaurants and details of local sports clubs. You can find it by clicking this website

I spoke to Roger, who runs the Barnet Eye recently and he suggested that I put together a series of blogs for him, detailing some of my favourite walks around our neighbourhood. I often see Roger around and about in Mill Hill walking with his wife and dogs, and we compare notes on the best routes. There are several excellent walks around the Totteridge Valley, however, we start with the route on which I take visitors from abroad to introduce them to Mill Hill.

Angel Pond
When they visit London, most think of the Tower, Buckingham Palace and St Pauls. On arrival in Mill Hill, they are often pleasantly surprised to find a whole new side of London, one that isn't in the guidebooks.

Friends emerge from the Thameslink trains, to the dirty, polluted undercroft of the M1, where buses engines idle, and litter abounds, with scant expectations of a pleasant stay in our leafy hamlet. I well remember the construction of the M1. For a couple of years in the Mid 1960's, the centre of our town was transformed.

Once any baggage has been dropped off, we usually embark on a walking tour of the town. I always start the walk by the Library. I love the architecture of the fire station, a classic London Municiple building. If we are lucky, one of our impressive engines emerges. The road next to the fire station, Hartley Close, was originally built to house the families of firemen, in the days when we looked after our public workers. As a long time Mill Hill resident, it is sad to note that this road became known as widows alley. The exposure of our brave firemen to asbestos meant few made old bones. It seems I'm not alone in my appreciation of the building!

Next on our tour, we venture under the A41 through the subway. This gives a hint as to what is around the corner.

 We walk up with Mill Hill park on pour left. On our right is the University of London Observatory. This fine building is one of the few world class institutions left in Mill Hill. There are regular opportunities to visit, although these have to be pre booked. A new supernova was discovered at the observatory in 2014, keeping Mill Hill at the heart of the word of celestial research.

We then enter the park, often stopping for a nice cup of tea at the excellent cafe in the park. Autumn is perhaps the finest time to visit. Roger, who writes the Barnet Eye has caught some lovely autumnal images on his travels. This is my favourite.

We then cross Wise Lane to Arrendene Open space. By now, my visitors have realised that the brutalist architecture of the station is not the real Mill Hill!  If you are lucky, you'll spy one of the green parakeets that have taken residence.

You then emerge onto Wills Grove. A walk up the hill leads to the Ridgeway and Mill Hill High Street.  American friends are usually fascinated to learn that the Ridgeway was one of the haunts of famous Highwayman Dick Turpin!

If you head West, you can see the impressive frontage of Mill Hill School

If you head East, you can see Angel pond and the old Methodist Church, now an active bustle of activity on a Sunday for the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star. On a Sunday, you will see the amazing multi national congregation descend!

A stroll down the Ridgeway reveals Littleberries, the centre of the Daughters of Charity, a Roman Catholic Religious order. This is an impressive building with an interesting history. Continuing down the Ridgeway, on the left, is the Daughters old chapel, now converted into luxury flats. On the right is St Vincents School. At the gates, there used to be an impressive view of London, where on a clear day you could see the Post Office Tower! Sadly, due to child protection concerns, this has now got a large wooden fence. Continuing down, on the right is the former site of the National Institute for Medical Research. This was demolished in 2018.

Continuing down the road, we arrive at The Adam and Eve Pub. The Adam and Eve pub is popular with families and walkers. The food is of a reasonable quality, dogs are welcome and there are a couple of decent ales on tap. I have been having a pint in the pub since the late 1960's and it has undergone many incarnations. As a proud Mill Hillian, I am pleased to say that it is well used and well loved. Even the local Real Ale buffs appreciate it.

At this point we will stop for something to eat. Keep an eye out for the next instalment. Thanks to Roger for helping me with the Twitter pictures to illustrate the story.

Guest Blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye. Richard Wilkinson is a long time Mill Hill resident. Click here to email your blog. We publish Barnet related material and do not take paid content. We aim to keep any editorial input to a minimum, but will not publish racists or inciteful material.


Monday 27 May 2019

Euro Election commentary - Lib Dems win in Barnet

Last night, the Euro election count was finally held and the results announced. There are many conclusions to be drawn from the results. Lets us start locally

Barnet Analysis

This was a stunning result for the local Liberal Democrats. The message could not be clearer. Barnet is staunchly remain and the Lib Dems position was by far the most popular choice.

I did some analysis of the figures for the major parties. Only 20% of Barnet voters went for parties committed to Brexit.

Party Remain Leave Unclear Total
Change UK – The Independent Group 7,491 7,491
Conservative and Unionist Party  13,868 13,868
Green Party 9,761 9,761
Labour Party  15,980 15,980
Liberal Democrats  27,423 27,423
The Brexit Party  17,089 17,089
UK Independence Party (UKIP)  1,624 1,624
44,675 18,713 29,848 93,236
Percentage 47.91604 20.07057 32.01339

The Lib Dems were the only party that put any real effort into the campaign in Barnet. Leafletting, canvassing and social media campaigns were run to ensure that voters knew that the party were taking the matter seriously and that if you wanted a party committed to remain to represent you, then locally the Lib Dems were the sensible choice. The turnout in Barnet was a very respectable 42.5%. This is historically high for a Euro election in Barnet. Last year at the Council election, the turnout was almost the same at 43.7%.

This is a stunning result for the Lib Dems. To come from a distant 3rd locally last year, with no councillors at all, to topping the poll is a feat of some note. But I would caution all my friends in the Lib Dems to not get too carried away. I spoke to thousands of both Labour and Tory voters during the course of the campaign, who wanted to send their own party a message. Would these voters stay with the Lib Dems for council or a general election? At the last Euro elections UKIP topped the pile, only to get a single MP in the general election the following year. The Lib Dems in Barnet now have a platform and it is up to them to make the case. In 2014, the Lib Dems got 4418 votes. They put no effort into the campaign and got the result this deserved. Times have changed and from being seen as peripheral and directionless to being well organised and with a clear message. It is amazing what hard work and a focused message can do for you at the ballot box. Any analysis should also take note of the virtual media blackout on covering the Lib Dems since the 2015 general election. This result was purely down to grass roots boots pounding the streets to get the message out.

As to Labour and the Tories, there are a few rather interesting conclusions. They ran no campaign and did no work. They had nothing to say. So it is clear that there are 13,868 Tories and 15,890 Labour party supporters who would vote for a donkey, so long as it had the right colour rosette. Tribalism is not dead in Barnet, but it is on life support. It is worth noting that the Tories won in 2014 in Barnet. They got 32,234 votes so to lose around 60% of your vote is appalling. In 2014, David Cameron was leading the Tories and a year later would win an outright victory. That seems like a very long time ago. I knew the Tories in Barnet would retain their core vote. The one huge advantage they have is that they have got their core signed up for postal votes. I expected a Farage surge in Barnet with Tory voters, but knew from bitter experience that a lot of people who may be persuaded cast their votes early. In last years Council elections, many Tories were telling us that they would have voted Lib Dem having spoken to us, but they'd already posted their vote in. By my calculations from canvassing, I estimated that the Tories retained around 3,000 votes that would have switched.   Labour came second with 28,774. They lost nearly 50% of their vote. Ed Miliband was leader who got trounced in 2015. I doubt many in 2014 would have thought Labour could have performed much worse. Whatever you may think of Jeremy Corbyn, the only conclusion is that whilst he has a firm control on the levers of power of the Labour party, this is not working for Barnet Labour.

As to Change UK and UKIP? Both have demonstrated that the only purpose they have is to split the vote of  the cause they seek to further. Both should call it a day and join the larger groups that clearly do a better job of making the point they want to push. When UKIP got into bed with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson) they sent the message out that they had departed the mainstream. As for Change UK. They are the love island party of British politics. We all watch them when there is nothing else on that is more interesting, but we know they are a passing fancy.

The Greens pose a real dilemma. In Barnet, they made little impact. This was, if nothing else, down to an invisible campaign. The Greens do well when they campaign hard and have strong local candidates. They got 7,362 votes in the 2014 Euro's (on a lower turnout). Like the Tories and Labour in Barnet, they  have a core vote that turn out, but hasn't really moved.

And finally, the Brexit Party.  In the 2014 Euro elections, UKIP got 14,039 votes. The Brexit party added around 3,000 votes to this to finish second (they finished third locally last time). The Brexit party doesn't actually exist on the ground in Barnet. I saw no canvassers, leafletters etc. I saw no effort. But they had a huge advantage over the smaller parties. The BBC have made Nigel Farage the go to guy for hard Brexit. Whilst Lib Dems were knocking on doors in Barnet, Farage was on people's tellies. Not only that but papers like The Sun, The Mail and The Express have spent the last 20 years promoting him. Farage gets no real scrutiny from these fan rags. When he appears on TV, he polarises people. He is the face of Brexit and like the Lib Dems, his message was clear. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I believe the BBC to be broadly neutral and I believe that Farage know how to use this to his advantage. He laps up the coverage and as soon as he gets asked an awkward question he cries "BIAS". This plays well with his core, who believe that there is a massive conspiracy. In Barnet, the hard work put in by the Lib Dems locally meant that this narrative was opposed in a way it wasn't elsewhere in the country. My personal issue with Farage was that his party has no manifesto and no policy. I also believe that his party fails to recognise the risks to the smaller countries of Europe from an EU dominated by Germany and France. Interestingly, the EU Parliament now has a large block of people who agree with Farage from all over Europe. If he was sensible, he'd work with these people to try and transform the EU from within to something more of his liking, that protected our allies. What sickens me about the Farage appropriation of WWII imagery is the way that the contribution of Czechs, Pole's etc flying in the RAF during the battle of Britain is forgotten. He would happily throw our historic allies to the wolves.

National Analysis.

It has to be said that Barnet is not typical of the UK in general. In most places, the Brexit party topped the polls. They are crowing about a stunning win. I can't comment on the campaigns elsewhere in the country. What I can say is that if there weren't strong local campaigns, then the TV and media exposure of Farage is clearly a massive advantage for him. But even with all of this, the combined votes of the parties with a clear remain agenda (Lib Dems, Greens, Change UK, SNP and Plaid Cymru) had a clear lead on the #Brexit parties (UKIP & Brexit).

The national performance of the Tories at 8.4% supports my theory that in Barnet they benefited from early postal votes. Labour did marginally better in Barnet than nationally, but I imagine they will take scant comfort from that.

It is clear to me that the Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK  made a monumental error in not uniting under a Remain banner for these elections. They should have had alternate picks on lists and pooled campaigning resources, whilst maintaining separate identities. They should have published a full set of principles re Brexit and stated that for this election in these unusual circumstances, a united front was essential. Had this been done, the headlines would have been very different.

A personal statement

I have worked extremely hard since the Euro elections were confirmed. I've been leafleting, canvassing, telling and writing blogs etc. I believe that the results in Barnet have justified the effort that myself and my friends in the local Lib Dems have expended. Whatever else happens, we did everything we could to make a difference. If you voted for the Lib Dems locally, may I personally thank you. If you voted for another remain supporting party, may I implore you to keep supporting the cause and to work to pull our divided vote together. If you voted Labour or Tory, can I ask you to think long and hard as to what you really want to happen with regards to Brexit. Your parties have failed the UK with a head in the sand strategy and you got what you deserved. To all of my friends, neighbours and everyone else who voted for the #Brexit Party or UKIP. We are all in this together, whether we agree or disagree. There has been too much bile and nastiness on both sides. You are Londoner and a British citizen (or EU possibly). Both sides have to work harder than ever to ensure that our City, our Country and our children get the future they deserve. This is best achieved if we can find a way to work around our deep divide.

And to all. The country is split. A house divided is a house that will fall. We need to pull together somehow.

Saturday 25 May 2019

The Saturday List #219 - Ten ways to be happy with ten truly inspiring songs.

What makes you happy? I don't mean the transient feeling of bliss as you bite into a Magnum Ice lolly (other brands are available) on a blistering hot day, which is a marvellous experience, but is a very different thing to a deeper feeling of happiness. What this list is about are ten practical steps to being happy. Of course there are things that can make this hard, if not impossible, such as illness, bereavement, bullying, financial uncertainty. But even when coping with all of these it is always possible to change your mindset and be more positive. This will help you to cope and lay the foundations to happiness. As  I am a musician, and music is the fundamental source of my happiness,  I will illustrate this with some truly inspirational music.

1. All things must pass.
The first step to happiness is to remember that all things must pass. The good times will, the bad times will. So embrace the good music and hang in there. A song I listen to in times of crisis is All things must pass by George Harrison. I am not a Beatles fan, but I have a very soft spot for George Harrison and this song is, to me, his finest.

2. You can get it if you really want.

The second step to happiness is to realise that you can achieve your dreams, but it is hard. You have to work at it and keep going. If I need some inspiration, I always listen to "You can get it if you really want" by Jimmy Cliff

3. Tender

Appreciate those that love you. Show them love. That will get you through. If I need reminding of this, I listen to Tender by Blur. This song is a lush arrangement that is perhaps the most beautiful pop song ever written. I am amazed it is not covered by other artists more.

4. You can't put your arm around a memory.

To be happy you have to move on. You have to be able to leave the pain of the past behind. Johnny Thunders wrote this song, which is perhaps the saddest and most tragic song, but the message will help you, if you are struggling.  As Johnny says "You can't put your arm around a memory, don't try"

5. Get Up Stand Up.

When you are downtrodden, it is almost impossible for happiness to grow. Bob Marley's rallying call to "Get up, Stand Up, Stand up for your rights" and imploring us "Don't give up the fight" is something that always inspires. It won't make you happy, but it will lay the foundations for it

6. Aint no Mountain High Enough

Happiness is about realising that you can get there. You just have to believe. When Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell sung this, you believe. I love this song

7. When

When will I reach heaven? When will I see more? This is a question I think we all ask ourselves sometimes, even if we don't believe. Heaven is not necessarily an afterlife and seeing more is understanding, which is something I hope we all strive for. Spirit's When is a classic song to mediate and reflect to. Meditation and reflection, taking time out. This is a key part of finding happiness.

8. Wild Mountain Honey

Appreciate the amazing planet we live on. This masterpiece by The Steve Miller band reminds us that we should appreciate the good things in the world around us. Open your eyes to the gifts of nature and don't just see things as money making opportunities. "You run for the money, you don't even know about wild mountain honey".

9. Amazing Grace

Is there a more uplifting song that Amazing Grace. Is there a more uplifting version than Aretha singing it? Written by an Anglican Clergyman, detailing how his faith got him through his experiences as a conscripted sailor in the Royal Navy. But it is a song of humanity and overcoming adversity. It is about  the human condition and the human spirit. I am not quite sure what John Newton, who wrote it would make of Aretha's version, but the two of them managed to make the most amazing piece of music. Watch the film of the recording of this.

10. Celebration

As mentioned in 1, you must embrace the good times. Kool and The Gang sum this up in Celebration  "Celebrate good times, come on". Live for the moment when things are good.


Friday 24 May 2019

Exciting News - Barnet Eye to Broadcast Mill Hill Broadway Licensing Application live from Hendon Town Hall on Wednesday

John Gillett and Mill Hill Lib Dem Richard Logue inspect flytipping
Next Wednesday, there is a very important meeting at 10.30am at Hendon Town Hall. John Gillett, chair of the Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum has applied for a license to sell alcohol and stage events in the Town Square (Small paved area on the junction of Mill Hill Broadway and Brockenhurst Avenue). The Mill Hill Markets have been a regular feature of life in Mill Hill since 2015, with regular live music events and other functions. The Barnet Eye was instrumental in helping set these up and run them until the end of 2018.  You can read all about the application in the Agenda reports pack which details the case for the application and also the objections from local residents. There has been a lively debate in Mill Hill about several aspects of the application, which we believe is of interest to many people in Mill Hill. We will be streaming this on our live new streaming channel on youtube - Just click here at around 10am for the stream. We expect a lively and good humoured debate and you can be the first in your block to know the outcome!

Over the coming weeks, we will be having regular live streaming of important events in and around Mill Hill. Roger Tichborne of the Barnet Eye is a DBS checked volunteer with several charities and has received full training in Safeguarding. The Barnet Eye has a commitment to only video public meetings or events where full agreement has been sought from participants.

If you have an important event in Mill Hill which you would like to have featured in a Barnet Eye live streaming, please contact us via our email (in the sidebar) or via our Twitter account.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

The Wednesday Poem and Local cultural update - Only a month to go until the Mill Hill Music Festival

The Wednesday Poem

The Little Shop

The little shop on Shakespear Road,
Sadly missed, a long time closed,
Run by a good old mate of Dad
They've both gone which is rather sad

Sunday morning was the time for treats,
Smoked salmon, olives and  bags of sweets,
A friendly chat with Bill the owner,
Sadly curtailed by the local moaner,

Bills green mini van's long been scrapped
and the shop is now some luxury flats,
I still walk passed from time to time,
It lives on in these memories of mine

Copyright 2019 Roger Tichborne

Just a little ditty I composed as I walked past the site of a convenience store run by a friend of my Dad, in Shakespeare Road Mill Hill. I have to confess it is not luxury flats, that bit is artistic license, it is a rather nice house. Dad would take us their for sweets on a Sunday morning. There was a small deli counter and Bill would carve ham from a joint and also sold Smoked Salmon, which was unavaailable elsewhere in Mill Hill in the 1960's (can you imagine that today). My Dad was a man of expensive tastes. Wheras my mother would buy the thinnest, most tasteless ham if it was cheap, Dad would pay well over the top if it was to his taste. He'd let us all spend sixpence on sweets. Bill was a Watford fan and he had one of the little old mini vans that was olive green. It looked unfeasably small for a van. I loved it, thought it was great car, practical and well disguised if you had to hide it in the woods. My Dad had told me that they were painted that colour as after the war the UK had a surplus of green paint from disguising tanks after WWII. That added a whole new level of glamour to it, I have no idea if it was true. I really couldn't see that anyone would have a car that colour for any other reason.

The Mill Hill Music Festival

On Friday the 14th of June, the Mill Hill Music Festival will kick off, with an opening concert by The Hendon Band of the Salvation Army. That will be followed by a gig at the Adam and Eve featuring Rhythm and Blues combo The Ron Lewis Partnership. There will be another 8 days of music following that, with Jazz, Big band, Klezmer, Opera, Reggae, Classical and Soul music. Tickets are selling fast so check the festival website and get your tickets ASAP.

Mill Hill Jazz Club

Colindale Jazz

The Phoenix Cinema




Tuesday 21 May 2019

Child protection issues - Why we need more police resources for child safety in Barnet

Last night I attended a meeting of a local, Mill Hill based community organisation, of which I have been a member for some years. About half way through the meeting, the chair of the organisation did something which caused a huge amount of disquiet in the room. I think he rather likes being controversial. He put a slide up on his presentation, which effectively outed a paedophile who was sentenced in 2011. The slide was a news article from the Barnet Times dating from 2011. The article stated that the person in question lived locally. The nine people in the room were quite stunned by this action.  One member of the committee was extremely upset that this had been brought before the committee, as they felt this compromised the individuals privacy, however as the article is on a widely read newspaper, that was distributed free at the time throughout Mill Hill, the information was already clearly in the public domain. A Mill Hill Councillor, who was in attendance excused themselves at this point, presumably for legal reasons (they said nothing apart from excusing themselves, just upping and leaving) presumably as they may be privy to private information and did not want to get involved in speculation about such cases. I don't want to go into the why's and wherefore's of the chairs action or the individual case. What I do want to discuss is the how we, as a society, deal with such issues of public interest and how we deal with offenders who have done their time and have been released back into society. I also want to share some information as to what we, the public are and aren't allowed to know. 

For the record, I had been made aware of these rumours in August last year through a 'tip off' on a Facebook site from an anonymous facebook account, clearly set on making mischief for the said individual. My initial reaction was to seek clarification as to whether the individual in the news story was the same individual as one I knew, as suggested by the person who provided the tip off, as the name is not an uncommon one. Clearly if it was a different person, the whole thing was clearly malicious and rather unfair,  A polite enquiry to the Police was met with a response that details of individuals cannot be disclosed for data protection reasons, but advised that as a business, we should operate in such a way that any member of the public (not just those named in newspaper articles) are not put in a position to put vulnerable people in danger. On balance this was wise advice. I was also advised that if I believed that any of the young people who used my business were in contact with said individual, I should advise the parents/carers to seek an application under Sarah's law to find out and take the appropriate action. As this seemed unlikely in the case of my business, this should not be required, but clearly we have a duty of care should any individual visit our premises or any event featuring young children with which we are involved and we are given cause for concern. So I am not in a position 

Schools, charities, public bodies etc usually ensure that people involved receive a DBS check. The discussion last night sparked some debate over what constituted a volunteer for a charity and whether they need one. There is a website that gives advice on who should have one. I would advise all parents/carers to satisfy themselves that sufficient checks are in place. My take on it is that anyone who has nothing to hide should be perfectly happy to have a DBS if asked, for any role in the community. For the record, Parking offences and other trivial matters would not be flagged up. For some other offences, an organisation may take a view. There are many former offenders of a non sexual nature, who turn their lives around and do amazing work with young offenders and it would be crazy to prevent this. My view is that, within reason, such people's privacy should be respected, but there is also a duty of care, due to children and vulnerable people.

All of my children are now over 18, so fortunately this is not an issue for me directly right now. However at some point in the future, hopefully I will have grandchildren. At that point, it will doubtless be a very serious issue for our family. Researching this article, I was informed that there are 234 of  registered sex offenders monitored by the responsible Police team in the London Borough of Barnet and there are four officers dealing with them and monitoring them. That is around 500 hours of police time a month, or just a couple of hours a month each, by the time they've driven around to see them, there would be no time to actually monitor them. Some of those will clearly be taking up far much more time, which means that the craftier ones, who know how to keep their profile low, have very little monitoring. We need to know that our children are safe and those that pose a threat to them are properly monitored and supervised, as a very minimum. A friend of mine is a former prison governor. I was once discussing the issue of reforming criminals. He was saying that most burglars etc generally get fed up of being locked up after a while and turn their lives around. I then asked about sex offenders. He said in his experience, they stopped when they were too old or ill or infirm to carry on. That is why they need to be closely monitored.

I was thinking about this issue all day. It is clear that the Police do not have the numbers to do the job properly. With holidays and sickness there will be some days  when we have one officer for all 234 offenders. It strikes me that a minimum of a couple of hours a month police time is far too little, a day each would be more appropriate, to keep tabs would be a far more realistic figure. That would require around 16 officers. I think this would be money well spent. There is a huge body of evidence that young people who are sexually abused go on to have serious mental health issues, some go on to become offenders themselves, some fall into drug abuse and crime. I believe that it is a false economy to understaff this aspect of policing. Our politicians need to start properly funding many aspects of the Police service, but this is perhaps the most urgent.