Letters from The Northern Echo


A GRAPHIC front page picture of a dead man was prominently exhibited (Echo, July 21) to illustrate the serious rioting at the G8 summit in Genoa.

Whilet I recognise that this was both newsworthy and an appropriate headline story, I objected to the sensationalist use of a tragic death where a more circumspect pictorial account would have sufficed.

In response to my telephoned complaint to the editor that my nine-year-old and six-year-old children had been subjected to a gruesome portrayal of death which offered no opportunity for parental discretion, I received a reply which, while gracious, upheld the editorial decision to publish in this manner, citing that its shock value was necessary to affect public opinion.

Adults among your readership are now bombarded by all sections of the media with graphic images which seem only to de-sensitise us and, even more so, our children at a younger and younger age.

Unlike television, no watershed exists for parents to use with papers like The Northern Echo where front pages are concerned. Sadly, it seems tabloid standards are becoming the norm. - Name and address supplied.


TJ TOWERS, of Langley Park, repeats the all-too-familiar mistake of anti-Europeans (HAS, July 24). The European Court of Human Rights is nothing to do with the European Union. We signed up to its conventions well before we entered the Common Market. It protects the individual against over-mighty governments. It is a bastion of liberty.

The European Central Bank would not set national VAT rates or any other taxes. Its interest rates have been lower than those in the UK throughout its existence.

Those who proclaim the eternal independence of the UK would do well to remember it is a federation of four nations whose people had precious little say in its formation. Any move to joining the single currency would be approved by all the people, and so would have a good deal more democratic legitimacy.

They will only vote yes if it can be shown to be in their and the country's best interests. Myths and scare stories have no place in that evaluation.

Those who wrap themselves in the Union flag should remember that patriotism isn't narrow nationalism - as demonstrated regularly recently by burnings and beatings in our streets. - Robin Ashby, Secretary to North-East in Europe.


RAGWORT is a very poisonous weed that grows on neglected pastures and on the roadsides in this country. It is poisonous to cattle, sheep, horses and humans. Should anyone pick it without wearing gloves its poison, jacobaea, will enter the body and progressively and irreversibly damage the liver. It does the same to animals, causing them eventually to die as it is untreatable. There is no known test, at present, to check to see if anyone has been poisoned in this way.

The flowers are bright yellow, in clusters and are very attractive to both children and adults alike. But they can kill.

Under the Weed Act, in force for over 40 years, it is illegal to grow it or have it on your land.

Is it not time this deadly killer is removed from this country for good, to safeguard humans, cattle, sheep, horses and any other animals that touch or eat it?

One plant can produce over 150,000 seeds each year and it is about time we protected all from this illegal plant by pulling it up and burning it or by prosecuting those found growing it. - RL Groves, Howden-le-Wear.


IT IS wonderful that, with the launch of the Regional Cultural Strategy in Stockton (Echo, July 11), cultural needs now have the opportunity to be addressed. For too long the North-East has had very little to take pride in its culture - is it any wonder we have some of the worst statistics in the country for educational achievement, health, unemployment etc, when we live in such an exploited, dirty, cut-price community?

The launch of the strategy gives the public an opportunity to comment on how it would like to see the riverside at Stockton. This gives Stockton the most exciting opportunity to develop into a vibrant desirable quality town which people can feel proud to belong.

The unique heritage that works so well in some parts of the district surely could be applied to appropriate new development. The new town by-pass road which will link up to Ingleby Barwick supersedes the riverside road in the town centre, which could be removed to re-establish the traditional wynds and courtyards right down to the river front. This would connect up with the new high quality development in Teesdale and the river would be the focal point.

Housing could be limited to the existing built-up area and the surrounding countryside could be protected by designated Green Belt for all to enjoy. The chance is there now. Regeneration is a buzzword but it could transform Stockton if we have the vision and aspiration.

Hopefully, the people who make decisions will realise that it is better to be a thriving attractive small town, which people enjoy living and working in, rather than aspiring to a sprawling, faceless and tasteless, collection of arbitrary, new-built and empty premises because it apparently fulfils an economic dream. - Jan Arger, Chair, Stockton Group, Council for the Protection of Rural England.


IT IS not my normal practice to respond publicly to criticism of my column. However, I feel I must correct the statement in AM Mitchell of Stocksfield's letter (HAS, Aug 1), that I "whinged about not being allowed to walk on certain parts of moorland where grouse shooting will be allowed to take place". Far from "whingeing'', I said that if I were a farmer in or near an infected area I would not want walkers traipsing over my land. As for Mr Mitchell's broader charge that I am "anti-rural'', I am content to let my body of writing on rural topics over more than 40 years stand for itself. - Harry Mead.