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Evening Meeting With Amanda Mckean, Director Canterbury Festival

30th April 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground

Evening meeting with Amanda McKean, Director, Canterbury Festival.
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Lunchtime Meeting Agm & May Business Meeting

7th May 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground
Lunchtime meeting 12.30pm for 1pm meal Annual General Meeting to be followed by the May Business Meeting.
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Lunch talk: Nick Biddiss – Hang ‘Em High

When former Detective Superintendent Nick Biddiss came to talk to our members and guests recently, he certainly got them thinking deeply about the topic of crime and punishment.

After an introduction by PP Peter Hermitage (himself a former Chief Constable for Kent Police), Nick started his talk with a picture of himself as a fresh-faced policeman in uniform at the age of 21, back when he joined the police service in the 1960s. Nick, who is now retired, spent 27 years in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) working on a range of investigations including several murders. Notably, he led the team that caught Kenneth Noye – the so-called “M25 murderer”. 

At the outset Nick asked us to consider the following: “Do you support the dealth penalty as part of the punishment that may be available for certain crimes?” He took a straw poll of those who said “yes” and “no”; there was a clear split among the audience which Nick said reflected that of the UK population (see the 2022 YouGov poll  (https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/03/30/britons-dont-tend-support-death-penalty-until-you-)

During the talk Nick gave us some facts and stats about crime and punishment. Capital punishment, we learnt, was suspended in the UK in the mid-60s and abolished altogether by an Act of Parliament in 1969. Currently, the mandatory sentence for the offence of murder is life imprisonment.

It was interesting to hear that the current UK prison population is around 85,000 – higher than that of France, Germany and Italy put together. Of this, a small number (51 prisoners) are serving “whole life orders” under which the prisoner serves the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Only two of the latter are female prisoners – one of which is Rosemary West, wife of serial killer Fred West.

The audience also learnt that the average cost of keeping an inmate in prison per annum is approximately £50,000; these costs are of course higher for maximum security inmates. Nick went on to discuss quite few cases that have caught public attention at a local or national level, several of which have been highlighted in recent news:

  • Kenneth Noye (who has been released recently after serving a life sentence for the murder of Stephen Cameron in a road rage incident)
  • Anthony Swindells (jailed for life for murdering retired town clerk Ken Speakman in Ramsgate in 1996)
  • David Fuller (currently in the news in relation to necrophilia, but who was convicted of the murders of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce in 2021)
  • Michael Allen (jailed for life in July 1995 for the murder of Cara Hepworth)
  • Levi Bellfield (a serial killer on two whole life orders who hit the news recently as a result of his bid to get married)
  • Colin Ash-Smith (sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 21 years for the murder of Claire Tiltman)
  • Colin Picthfork (sentenced to life imprisonment in 1988 for the murders of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth)
  • Michael Stone (sentenced to three life sentences for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell and attempted murder of Josie Russell in Chillenden)
  • Patrick Mackay (a serial killer sentenced to life imprisonment for the death of Father Anthony Crean)
  • Ian Huntley (sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment for the murders of Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman)
  • Wayne Couzens (the former policeman sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order for the murder of Sarah Everard).

Nick’s discussion touched on a range of issues, including the toll on the families of murder victims when murderers come out of prison after serving their sentences; mistakes made by witnesses that can delay criminal investigations; advances in technology, especially DNA technology; the tricky topic of “life” sentencing for crimes and the role of parole boards; and crimes committed by convicted criminals following release from prison after serving a life sentence.

During his talk Nick was clear about his own thoughts on capital punishment, but was happy to hear the views of others. From the number of questions asked after his talk it was clear that his talk had the audience thinking deeply about the issues raised.

Picture: Talk by Nick Biddiss. Picture credit: Nick Biddiss/Rotary Club of Canterbury. 

 

 

 

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