For once we can't blame anyone but ourselves. That is if you take the view that a jury, 12 officially good citizens, represents us all.

So responsibility (on second thoughts make that "blame') for the inadequate verdict of manslaughter on four members of a gang who set upon and beat to death a bar manager as he walked along London's South Bank, can't be laid at the door of the police, prosecution service, the judiciary, or the criminal justice system. It was us wot did it. And we must have been out of our tiny minds.

For to most of us, surely, if the kind of gang violence indulged in by these feral teenagers, who had set out for the night to attack people, with the luckless bar manager becoming their eighth victim, tips over into killing, then it becomes murder. And that's even when the assault lacks the prolonged character of this attack, in which one of the thugs, a 14-year-old girl God save us, kicked the bar manager's head "like a football".

Could it be reasonably argued that she didn't understand there was a good chance the victim might not survive this brutality? Tell me another one.

But within days of this perverse verdict, we the people, or at any rate our 12 jury-box proxies, failed in our duty again. We returned another manslaughter verdict, this time on a 24-year-old man who was involved in the doorstep killing of a London banker.

Since he and his fellow killer carried knives, violence can be regarded as a pre-meditated part of their planned robbery. Most of us probably feel that if a killing occurs in these circumstances, all involved are equally guilty. Certainly, if decent citizens are to be protected, members of gangs prepared to resort to violence must be given that message. So the jury in the London banker case, who convicted only his principal attacker of murder, let us down badly.

The assault on the bar manager featured the grotesquely misnamed phenomenon of "happy slapping", videoing a physical attack on a mobile phone. This sick activity ought to be made a criminal offence in its own right. Any jail sentence for the primary offence would automatically be lengthened. All who took part in the incident would serve it.

Tony Blair has announced that he will not accept a peerage when he leaves the House of Commons. Of course not.

Peerages are small beer these days. While some see Tony Blair's retirement as a matter of when he will cave in to pressure from Gordon Brown and his camp, I see it as a matter of waiting until a suitably big international job - secretary-general of the UN perhaps - appears. That is when Tony will CHOOSE to go.

A tradesman's van in my village this week promised "Fluid Transfer Solutions". Plumbing I guessed - wrongly. The "plumber" and his mate were clearing a drain.

More seasonally, a sign at several homes commands: Santa Stop Here. No "Please" or anticipated "Thank You" for Santa's (usually) unfailing annual visit - and the year-long hard work it entails.

And when did you last hear anyone wish Santa himself a Happy Christmas? Perhaps setting a universal precedent, this column includes him in the seasonal good wishes it gladly extends to all.