Linda Colling: Flogging a dead horse

Poppy pride

Poppy pride

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THE predictable outrage at the paltry, politically correct £50 fine meted out to the Muslim extremist who set fire to poppies on Remembrance Day yelling “British soldiers burn in hell,” should fire us all to put the pride and patriotic fervour back into our country.

Fly the flag is the rallying call of Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, who is calling on us all to raise high the St George’s Cross on May 2.

Given that we are a nation bankrupt in personal pride, never mind national, I reckon he’s flogging a dead horse.

It’s a brilliant idea but we have lost our national identity and passion for all that made this country great.

And maybe that is why Emdadur Choudray, 26, knew he dare so offensively insult the most symbolic of services for the men and women who laid down their lives for our freedom from tyranny or terrorism.

Political correctness means it’s not just our hands that are tied but our mouths that are gagged.

Judge Howard Riddle placed more importance on upholding Choudray’s right to demonstrate than cracking down and handing out a maximum £1,000 fine. That sent out all the wrong signals.

And the danger is we can expect more of the same from extremists like Choudray, who are the enemy within.

This was a flagrant and calculated political protest by a 26-year-old father of two on £792 a month benefits who is laughing up his sleeve that he got off so lightly and sees his pathetic sentence as one he’ll “wear as a badge of pride”.

While earning £480 a month as a satellite engineer, Choudray is happy to live off taxpayers to the tune of £240 working tax credit, £432 child tax credit and £120 a month child benefit.

And yet he dares to defile our war dead because he believes he has a right to make his political point saying: “The poppy disgusts me. It’s not to do with World War One or World War Two veterans, it’s all about shock and awe, to get these soldiers out of Muslim lands.”

Well, I’m not racist and whatever colour someone is this should not be happening in our land. And given Choudray has declared: “I don’t take any acceptance of the law of this land,” he shouldn’t be here. And why is he, if not to stir up racial hatred?

We are the mugs. He should be sent packing back to Bangladesh. Other countries wouldn’t tolerate this. So why do we?

Time we stood up for what we believed in, instead of bowing and allowing our country to fall further into the pit of political correctness. It has swallowed up all that we once stood for – pride, patriotism and redoubtable backbone that had us renowned the world over when this really was Great Britain.

MORE courtroom consternation that made my blood boil is the disgusting case of Stanley Clifton, 31, a Darlington father of four who has never worked in his life and who couldn’t be ordered to fulfil a community order for assault because he is on incapacity benefit for his alcoholism.

Judge John Walford was incredulous and branded the former alcoholic, who he reckoned looked perfectly able-bodied, “the embodiment of welfare-dependent culture”.

The sponger claims he’s not well enough to carry out his sentence but he was fit enough to assault someone.

The judge at Teesside Crown Court gave Clifton a verbal lashing and initially wanted to jail him, but after being advised that this would mean more taxpayers’ money would be wasted on keeping him behind bars, he reluctantly imposed a three-month supervision order but warned he could be jailed if he committed further offences.

The judge said: “Alcoholism is normally a euphemism for someone who doesn’t want to give up drink, but he actually has done so.

“It seems to me his incapacity benefit no longer should be available to him. He has never worked, never seems to have done anything to help anybody else.”

And why would he, when he can rake in £100 a week in incapacity benefit and with jobseekers’ allowance and child benefit net an annual income, likely to be £18,000 for him and his partner Leanne Nelson, 30, who is unable to work due to depression? No wonder she’s depressed.

It’s scandalous that Clifton can choose to opt out of work, father children and live off the State for a drink problem he no longer has.

Good on the judge for telling him that he would be an “admirable candidate for unpaid work”. But was he shamed? Back home he could afford to launch a rant at the judge and claim their benefits are barely enough for them to afford school uniforms for their children. But he has money for drink – “the odd drink when I get stressed out”. Unbelievable.

IT’S high time we put a stop to the ridiculous amounts of money wasted in court costs by any individual who sees fit to have their day in court.

Take Dexter Ferguson, who stole two £14.50 bottles of Aftershock. It eventually cost taxpayers £1,200 for his appearance at Newcastle Crown Court.

To add insult to injury, the 35-year-old serial offender from Guildford Street, Hendon – after electing for Crown Court trial – then proceeded to plead guilty to theft.

What an appalling waste of money. While a person’s right to justice should never be compromised, there really ought to be a commonsense limit imposed to avoid crazy court costs far outstripping the value of whatever has been stolen.

We still don’t know how much this charade cost in total because as well as the prosecution costs, Ferguson’s defence team clocked up a hefty bill.

“These are obviously the most expensive bottles of Aftershock – it is about £600 a bottle,” said Judge Brian Forster, who gave Ferguson a conditional discharge for three months and ordered him to pay a measly £150 towards court costs at the rate of a tenner a month out of his £90 a week disability benefit.

By which time, Ferguson – who has more than 100 convictions and was the fourth person in the country to get an Asbo – will doubtless be exercising his legal right yet again to crank up more costs in another scenario like this one.

It should never have been allowed to go to Crown Court – he was collared red-handed in a drunken stupor in Asda with a bottle under each arm.