Sunday, January 23, 2005

Lance Armstrong - Doping Allegations

Lance Armstrong says that he is nothing to hide after it is revealed a French prosecutor is investigating allegations made in 'LA Confidentiel'.

Following Thursday’s report in Le Parisien that Annecy prosecutor Philippe Drouet is undertaking a preliminary investigation into allegations made about Lance Armstrong in the book ‘LA Confidentiel’, the American rider has told L’Equipe he has “nothing to hide”.

Contacted in the US, where he is training for the start of his season, Armstrong said when asked about the investigation: “Although we haven’t officially been made aware of the inquiry, I will be available at any time and in any place.” He also affirmed that he is still aiming to line up in Paris-Nice, the first event in the ProTour, at the start of March.

Drouet confirmed to L’Equipe that he is heading a preliminary investigation into alleged doping by Armstrong based on comments made by former US Postal soigneur Emma O’Reilly in ‘LA Confidentiel’. O’Reilly confirmed comments made in the book when she appeared, with her lawyer, before a Paris-based inquiry last summer. Armstrong is suing O’Reilly for defamation.

According to L’Equipe, Drouet and his team are most interested in the relationship between Armstrong and an Annecy-based osteopath/nutritionist, Benoit Nave. Contacted by L’Equipe, Nave said that he had not spoken to the police about his working relationship with Armstrong.

“I have worked on several occasions with Lance Armstrong since October 2002,” said Nave. “At that time he had already won four Tours de France. We met in San Francisco and he underwent a nutritional consultation with me. There is nothing to hide in all this, and it is always interesting to work with people like Armstrong.” Nave said that he had also been attended to Armstrong in 2003 in his role as an osteopath after the American suffered a series of crashes.

Drouet’s investigation is designed to ascertain whether there is sufficient need to open a judicial inquiry into this matter


Book Review - Climbing

Mountains of the Mind – A History of a Fascination: - (Robert MacFarlane, (Granta Books, paperback, 306pp, 8.99.)

O the mind, mind has mountains…………..

Gerard Manly Hopkins. c.1880

In this unique book Robert MacFarlane presents us with mountains both as physical/ geological construct and, as the title would suggest, the mental construct of modern man.

His very persuasive standpoint being, that mountains and our attitudes towards them owe as much to mindscape as they do to landscape.

MacFarlane cleverly blends the two in a progression from 16th century ‘terra incognita’ and a ‘There be Dragons’ mentality, through the ‘sublime’ mountain worship of Shelley, Ruskin et al, to the scientific endeavors still linked with mountaineering at the beginning of the 20th century, arriving finally at the noble pursuit of mountain climbing and the consequent courting of danger as a laudable end in itself. And all this, running in parallel with the acknowledgement of ‘Deep Time’ inherent in the ongoing decoding of geological encryption.

His description of landscape and geological forces in what he calls ‘The Great Stone Book’ is fascinating and is achieved in such a way that it is both simple and at times poetic in its rendering of information more normally associated with the technically prosaic.

He is eclectic in his literary references with quotes ranging from Petrarch to Simpson - Joe and all points in between, sampling freely from poetry, prose, diary and letter. He also draws heavily on the artistic endeavors of many across the ages and it is in this department that the book displays what is, for this reviewer, its only weakness, poor quality photographic reproduction.

Mountains Of The Mind could be said to be truly, and indeed literally, visionary in its conception and MacFarlane has succeeded in telling a wonderful tale of the evolution of the mountain world in the consciousness of modern man.

Jodie Jones Conviction - When Is Specialist Knowledge Not Specialist Knowledge?

Looks like I was wrong in the Luke Mitchell case then. He was found guilty and will be sentenced next week. The trial judge Lord Nimmo Smith (for background – see Lothian and Borders Police – Evidence Of Shred) decreed that the exceedingly tenuous chain of circumstantial evidence,( more like a thread of dubious weave!) was sufficient to allow the jury to convict. The main cornerstone of this was the assertion that Mitchell had ‘Specialist Knowledge’ of where the body lay.

Now my understanding of this term as used in this context is being where a suspect displays knowledge to the police or others which only the killer could have known. So, for example, this would be relevant where a suspect gave information to the police about the whereabouts of a body not hitherto traced. This however, was not the way things were in the case of Luke Mitchell. He formed part of a group specifically motivated to search a path and an adjoining wooded area which he knew well and it was Mitchell, the only one accompanied by a dog, who found the body. Much was made of the fact that Mitchell left the group and climbed through a tumbledown wall into the wooded area and was alone when he found the body but I would submit that any other member of that search party climbing through the wall to continue searching could have come up with the same result and that consequently the trial judge was wrong to allow this part of the evidence to be considered by the jury as ‘Specialist Knowledge.’

I feel sure we will be hearing from Donald Finlay in the near future and it may well lie with the Appeal Court to examine this further.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Book Review - Climbing

The Joy Of Climbing: - Terry Gifford, (Whittles Publishing, 2004, paperback 192pp, ISBN 190-444-5063, 15.00)

Being editor of a climbing journal, the resounding clunk heralding the arrival of a review book tends to lose its excitement after five years. And it is a very rare occasion indeed that the first skim through the pages results in the newspaper being cast aside and the rest of the morning spent captivated by the volume on offer. The Joy of Climbing by Terry Gifford is one such book.

Much of climbing literature suffers from the fact that it tends to be formulaic and quite frankly boring. The intricate moves and wrinkles of a rock face are only of abiding interest in themselves as lists in a guidebook and it is only when one places them in the context of landscape and perhaps more importantly mindscape that they can truly captivate and inspire. Terry Gifford achieves this admirably in what could arguably be called a new genre in the literature of climbing.

His use of language in evoking place and emotion is of the first order and I include his poetry in this. I accept that many people on seeing any verse form immediately turn the page but even the uninitiated will not fail to get something from his works.

This is a book full of humour, of history, companionship, life, death and joy, written by a man at ease with himself, with his climbing life and with the craft to convey the real joy of climbing to his readers.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Not a Shred of Evidence - The Not Proven Verdict

Donald Finlay QC leading the van in defence of the peculiarly Scottish verdict of not proven’ could hardly have wished for a better showcase than his present remit at Edinburgh High Court – that of defending Luke Mitchell on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Jodi Jones.

Today's front page in The Scotsman, as the jury retire to consider their verdict, has him proclaiming 'There is not a single piece of evidence' to link his client to the killings.
Given the evidence led, few would disagree with the general feeling that in Luke Mitchell we are dealing with a strange boy, one who tends to stretch the boundaries of the socially acceptable, indulging in practices which many find abhorrent.Neither is he big on emotion, a deep and, some might say, disturbed boy who is destined always to be an outsider. But these facts, coupled with a very thin plea for ‘specialist knowledge’ of the whereabouts of the body, and a shaky alibi, singularly fail to provide the chain of evidence from which only one conclusion – the guilt of the accused – can be drawn.
Given the nature of the case and the publicity generated prior to the trial, I would not be surprised if the jury feel under pressure to refrain from returning a not guilty verdict and perhaps not guilty is not quite right either. I feel that Luke Mitchell may well have killed Jodi Jones but ‘feelings’ of that nature have no place in the High Court where, not so long ago, Mitchell may well have been on trial for his life.The Crown have failed to reach the required burden of proof – that of ‘guilt beyond reasonable doubt’ and therefore only two verdicts are open to them. The case of Luke Mitchell is a timely reminder of why the ‘Not Proven’ verdict should be retained in Scots Law.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Lothian and Borders Police - Evidence Of Shred!

There has been a well publicised increase in the countrywide use of the shredding option among corporations and public bodies alike following the January 1st adoption of The Freedom Of Information Act in Scotland. Not surprising I suppose given that such bodies will now be obliged, by law, to reveal their darkest secrets to anyone who expresses an interest. It is a little known fact that more than ten years ago, the forward looking Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, Sir William Sutherland introduced his own ‘shredding policy’ during the so called ‘Magic Circle’ affair in which allegations of wrongdoing in Edinburgh legal circles linked to rent –boys and contained in a leaked document, caused a wee bit of a stooshie in the upper echelons. His motivations for so doing were, I think simple, to save his own butt, at which, it has to be said, he was successful. Unfortunately this was at the expense of the reputations of some of his most experienced detectives, myself included, whose careers were ruined by his lack of ‘bottle’. But hey, in his favour, the stakes were high!

The well publicized ‘Whitewash’ enquiry given under parliamentary privilege to ensure immunity for its author William Nimmo-Smith QC – now Lord Nimmo-Smith QC ( or to give him his SUNday name ‘NIMMO THE DIMMO’ which surfaced in that newspaper when he himself leaked information on his report to a well known criminal posing as a journalist. But to be fair, he did say he was from the Telegraph ) agreed and put all the blame on ‘a few rogue detectives.’ How very convient – and predictable!

So, to the present and the Freedom of Information Act. An internal police enquiry was launched by the bold Sir William in an attempt to find out who was responsible for this terrible state of affairs and it was as a direct result of that enquiry – which proved inconclusive - that myself and a number of other very experienced detectives found them selves back in uniform bringing that experience to bear on domestic disputes and traffic accidents. Since that time I have requested of Sir William and his successors the right of access to the report concerned but this has been denied. The reason given being that it was an internal report made for the Chief Constable and as such, was for his eyes only.

Well no longer, I have taken advice on the matter and I am told that under the new legislation this stance is no longer sustainable. Eight days ago I posted a letter to Sir William’s latest incarnation Tommy Padkins sorry Paddy Tomkins asking (again!) But,
being a realist I think my only hope is that they were still using the Sutherlandian Shredder and that the recent feverish activity sent it into overload before they got to the report in question!

Watch This Space.


Surprise,surprise it was destroyed before the Act took effect. They did give me what they call a reportcard(takes you back doesn't it) which states in terms that I was strongly suspected of being the 'leak' as I had voiced strong opinions about the Crown Office decisions - dangerous things strong opinions! - However the crime that led to my return to uniform was that heineous one of 'failing to keep my pocketbook up to date!!!"

Lets have a go at the Crown Office now -see what they've got in their locked cupboards!

to be contd.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

End Of The World Is Nigh - Official

There have been many false dawns in the prophecy of doom field but now there can be no doubt. Sit on a low stool,place your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye - it's coming - GERMAINE GREER IS ON 'BIG BROTHER!!!!!!!!!!'