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Category Archives: UK News

Snorkelling benefits cheat sentenced for ‘barefaced lies’

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Media captionHoey was photographed snorkelling on holiday while claiming she could barely walk

A benefits cheat caught out by holiday photos showing her snorkelling has been given an 18-month suspended jail term.

Linda Hoey, 58, deceived authorities for 15 years, wrongly claiming £65,244 in disability benefits as well as using a motability vehicle to dodge £15,690 in M6 Toll fees.

The judge at Stafford Crown Court said Hoey told “barefaced lies” and is “someone whose word cannot be trusted.”

Hoey, from Amington, Tamworth, had her jail sentence suspended for two years.

See more stories from Stoke and Staffordshire here

Image copyright PA
Image caption Linda Hoey had been claiming benefits for degenerative arthritis and a back problem since 1995

She was also made the subject of a six-month electronic curfew.

Hoey falsely claimed she could barely walk and suffered back pain bad enough she had to walk backwards down the stairs and needed to use furniture for support.

Medical evidence showed although Hoey had what Judge Michael Elsom described as “a degree of disability”, she was found to have exaggerated her condition.

Photos of her snorkelling on holiday and accounts from colleagues who said she would carry trays of cups of tea exposed “15 years of dishonesty”, Mr Elsom said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Hoey used a stick when leaving court on Monday

A Department for Work and Pensions investigation found despite claiming more than £65,000 in disability payments, Hoey had been in paid employment since 1997.

Mr Elsom said: “At the time you were telling those lies, you were actually going to work every day, driving yourself to work every day and you were observed walking.”

Image copyright DWP
Image caption Another picture showed her on holiday on a quad bike

Her claims “were nothing more than bare faced lies which you continued in this court”, he told her.

The judge said her conduct “merits harsh words” and told Hoey: “I hardly think you merit the description your daughter gave you, as someone to whom she can look up to as a role model.

“If that’s the sort of role model that your daughter thinks is appropriate – that’s a very great shame indeed.”

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Third of state schools in cash deficit

School playgroundImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are 9,000 schools in deficit, according to an answer revealed by ministers

“We’re trying to operate on a shoestring,” says Tim Rawling, chair of governors of a Gloucestershire school.

Staple Hill Primary School is expecting to go into budget deficit this year, with fears of cuts and job losses.

It will not be alone as there were more than 9,000 state schools in England in a similar position last year, according to figures revealed by ministers.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the government wanted schools to “have the resources they need”.

The figures were revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question about school finances, against a background of warnings about budget cuts.

‘Frustrating’

The government’s figures showed there were more than 9,400 schools which had been in deficit in 2015-16, more than a third of the total.

At Staple Hill, Mr Rawling said there were concerns about whether such budget pressures would lead to staff cuts.

“It’s frustrating, we’re not being given enough money,” he said.

The reply from Mr Gibb said such a deficit within the year was “not an issue in itself unless it is symptomatic of a trend towards a cumulative deficit”.

“Schools may draw on their reserves in a particular year – for example to spend on capital projects,” he added.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption School leaders have been running a campaign over funding shortages

But the figures show that almost 4,000 schools have been in deficit for two years, nearly 1,600 for three years, more than 400 for four years and 100 for five years.

The question was put by Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran, who said: “It is shocking to see thousands of schools across the country reporting budget deficits year after year, and perhaps more shocking still that the minister has played down the issue by claiming in-year deficits are not a cause for concern.

“It should be seriously concerning to this government that 4,000 schools have now reported deficits for two years in a row, and that nearly 4,000 more schools have in-year deficits this year than did five years ago.

“We know parents are being asked to contribute to school funds out of their own pockets, that schools are considering closing early and that subjects are being dropped from the curriculum, as they try to make ends meet,” said Ms Moran.

A coalition of teachers’ unions has also warned that funding problems have not been resolved – publishing figures that 88% of individual schools will have lost funding in real terms between 2015 and 2020.

Head teachers’ leader Geoff Barton said ministers needed to “recognise that the overall level of education funding is totally inadequate”.

In his parliamentary answer, schools minister Mr Gibb said the government wanted to ensure schools “have the resources they need to deliver a high quality education for their pupils” and would have an additional £1.3bn up to 2020, as part of a new funding formula.

Shock as sinkhole the ‘size of a small room’ appears in street

MONTHS of traffic disruption could take place after a large sinkhole appeared in a pavement on a busy main road.

The hole is on a pedestrian crossing in Brow Gate, Baildon, and though from the road surface looks quite small, the area it extends to underground is much larger.

A Belisha Beacon at the side of the pedestrian crossing has fallen into the hole where the ground has given way beneath it.

Mark Scrimshaw, environmental warden with Baildon Town Council, said: “This sinkhole suddenly appeared at around 11am today. A pedestrian had walked past and everything was normal. When they walked back a few minutes later the hole had appeared. They immediately contacted Bradford Council highways.

“The hole doesn’t look very dramatic from the pavement, but underneath the space it has left is the size of a small room. No one knows yet what has caused it to happen. It may be erosion from an underground beck that runs near here from the moors.

“Because of this it is important that no one goes beyond the barriers for a closer look because more of the ground could give way. It is around three metres deep at the moment and no one knows yet what is underneath. These types of work can take a long time to complete, sometimes months, depending on what is involved,” he said.

A spokesman for Highways who was at the scene this afternoon said there was an added complication in that the subsidence had exposed a gas main.

“We have to wait until the gas engineers from Northern Gas Networks have assessed the damage and whether the gas pipes are safe before we can put proper barriers round,” he said.

He added: “Without being able to get into the sink hole it’s difficult to saw what has happened. We will be getting out old maps to see what buildings used to be in this spot to suggest this may be an old cellar which has collapsed and also where the services run, such as mains water pipes.

“There are electrical cables exposed and two gas pipes. One could possibly feed the buildings in the locality while the other may be a main supply to Bradford. It is all speculation at the moment but we are being cautious because the Council has a duty of care.

A spokesman for Bradford Council added: “This is a considerable hole and we are working across Council services and with affected utilities to assess the situation. It is too early at this stage to say how long it will take to repair.”

University appoints honorary professor in bid to open medical school

THE first Honorary Professor of Medical Education has been appointed by the University of Bradford.

Dr Alex Brown is director of Undergraduate Medical Education at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, and a key member of the university’s widening access into medicine working group.

He has played a leading role in the development of high quality medical education at the university and has worked extensively in schools in Bradford to encourage pupils to study medicine who might not have otherwise considered it.

His appointment also supports Bradford’s ambition to develop a medical school.

Prof Brown said: “I was very pleased and surprised to receive this honour from the University.

“It has been very rewarding to be a part of the team developing plans for the medical school which will be a great addition to both the University of Bradford and the local population.”

Professor Shirley Congdon, deputy vice-chancellor, added: “Alex has a real passion and commitment for widening access to medical education and has played a key role in the development of our proposed innovative medical school curriculum.

“He has created and sustained an outstanding approach to supporting medical students on placement at Bradford NHS Teaching Hospital Trust. I am delighted that he accepted this position and he will be instrumental in our bid to develop a medical school.”

Hong Kong gay rights: British lesbian wins spousal visa case

Participants of Hong Kong's annual pride parade walk through the streets with a large rainbow flag on 26 November, 2016Image copyright AFP
Image caption Attitudes towards homosexuality remain conservative in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s court of appeal has ruled that a British lesbian who moved to the territory with her partner should be granted a dependent visa.

The visa, usually given to the husbands and wives of foreigners working in Hong Kong, was denied because she was not considered a spouse, the woman said.

Same-sex marriage is banned in the territory although discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal.

Campaigners say this is a landmark case that could lead to greater equality.

The woman, who has been identified as QT, entered into a civil partnership in England in 2011 after more than seven years with her partner.

In the same year, the couple moved to Hong Kong after QT’s partner was offered a job there.

QT said that applications to the Immigration Department had been rejected after officials refused to recognise her UK-registered partnership.

In a unanimous ruling by three judges, the Court of Appeal said immigration authorities had “failed to justify the indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers”.

“Times have changed and an increasing number of people are no longer prepared to accept the status quo without critical thought,” chief judge Andrew Cheung wrote.

The decision overturned a ruling by a lower court last year and ordered Hong Kong’s Immigration Department and QT to work together on an agreement and submit it to the court within 28 days.

Hong Kong’s LGBT campaigners welcomed the decision with Ray Chan, the city‘s first openly gay lawmaker, describing it as a “big win for same-sex dependents to apply for visa to stay in Hong Kong”.

The Equal Opportunities Commission said it was time for the government to consider a legal framework and policy measures to recognise same-sex relationships and protect LGBT rights, the South China Morning Post reports.

It is not illegal to be gay in China but homosexuality was considered to be a mental disorder until 2001 and attitudes towards it remain conservative.

Prince Harry and Trudeau’s photographer are lookalikes

Prince Harry (L) and photographer Adam Scotti (R)Image copyright Courtesy Adam Scotti/Twitter
Image caption Prince Harry, right, and photographer Adam Scotti, left – or is it the other way round?

Prince Harry has found his Canadian doppelgänger and it is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official photographer.

Adam Scotti was photographing his boss at the Invictus Games over the weekend when Mr Trudeau grabbed the camera to snap a picture of the two redheads.

Mr Scotti then posted the image showing the uncanny resemblance on Twitter.

Prince Harry is in Toronto for the games and was sitting near Mr Trudeau and US First Lady Melania Trump during the opening ceremony.

The Canadian prime minister was not the only person to notice the striking resemblance between the shutterbug and the prince.

Another Twitter user posted a video of fans waiting to spot the prince outside a Toronto hotel, shouting “Harry!” when Mr Scotti walked through the doors.

Mr Trudeau, walking behind him, goes almost unnoticed until he jokingly points to his photographer and waves.

Mr Scotti kept having fun with the resemblance on Monday, posting an image of another Canadian photographer next to a portrait of Prince William.

He also joked about how he was waiting to be asked to play Harry in a biopic about the royal.

Mr Scotti has achieved a profile of his own in Canada even before people noticed he looked like Harry.

The young photographer has been called a “power player” in Canadian politics for helping craft Mr Trudeau’s savvy social media image.

Prince Harry created the annual Invictus Games for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women and veterans.

About 550 men and women athletes from 15 countries will compete over eight days.

‘White wallaby’ spotted on the Suffolk/Essex border

A “white wallaby” has been filmed hopping down a country lane.

It was spotted at night on the Essex/Suffolk border, between Liston and Glemsford by Julian Eley.

Mr Eley said the animal was a “pure white albino with pink eyes”.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust says it “certainly looks like a wallaby”.

“It has probably escaped from a wildlife park,” a spokeswoman for the charity said. “It would be unlikely to survive long in the wild.”

Police pursuit laws under review as moped crime soars

Metropolitan Police BMW X5 carImage copyright Getty Images

The Home Office is to review the law around police pursuits following a rise in crimes carried out on mopeds.

Police have raised concerns about the potential risk of officers facing charges if a pursuit ends in a crash.

In 2016/17, 28 people died in police pursuit-related incidents.

Policing Minister Nick Hurd said it was vital officers were able to pursue criminals, while the Police Federation of England and Wales hailed the review as a “significant step”.

Figures from the end of last year found crime involving the mopeds, scooters and motorbikes had risen by 600% over two years.

Meanwhile, Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) figures show there were 24 police pursuit-related incidents in 2016/17 in which 28 people died – more than double the 13 deaths in 2015/16.

Crimes such as snatch thefts and acid attacks are often conducted on stolen motorbikes or scooters, and ridden by people without helmets.

Skilled officers

The Home Office review will look at whether current arrangements need to be changed to ensure officers who engage in pursuit have the correct legal protections.

“While it is clearly vital that we protect public safety and that officers are accountable for their actions, it is also important that skilled officers have the confidence to protect the public by pursuing offenders where it is safe to do so,” Mr Hurd said.

At a motorcycle-related crime forum earlier this month, ministers heard there is a perception among the public and some police officers that the police will not pursue suspected offenders riding vehicles at high speeds.

In addition, there is anecdotal evidence that criminals are deliberately removing – or not wearing – helmets because it is wrongly believed that police will not continue a pursuit if that happens.

The Home Office emphasised that there is no ban on the police pursuing motorcyclists who are not wearing helmets.

Momentum gathering

Currently, the conduct of vehicle pursuits is an operational matter for the police and are set out in the College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice (APP)

The APP states pursuit should only be carried out by “pursuit-trained” drivers where “it is in the public interest to protect life, prevent or detect crime, or to apprehend an offender”.

“Staff must discontinue a pursuit as soon as the risk becomes disproportionate to the reasons for undertaking it.”

“Motorcycle and quad bike pursuits clearly present higher risks for suspects than conventional vehicle pursuit,” the APP states.

But adds: “Where such vehicles are used to facilitate serious crime or used repeatedly as the mode of transport for organised crime groups then, to minimise risk to the public from criminality and to secure public confidence in policing, a pursuit may be justified.”

Tim Rogers, from the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Momentum has been gathering in recent months and this marks a significant step in bringing about the change we feel is necessary.

“Trained professionals are being judged by the same standards as a member of the public in any normal driving situation with no differentiation in law to recognise the professional training emergency response drivers undertake.”

Motorcyclist suffers serious injuries in collision with lamppost

A motorcyclist was injured in a collision with a lamppost today.

The collision happened in Keighley Road, Steeton at about 12.30am and involved a black Mutt Mongrel motorbike.

The 30-year-old male rider was taken to hospital with serious injuries and is said to be in a stable condition.

Anyone who witnessed the collision or the movements of the vehicle beforehand is asked to contact the Safer Roads and Neighbourhood Support team on 101, quoting log reference 0035 of 25 September.

Shisha lounge and nightclub ordered to shut down

A SHISHA lounge and nightclub which opened without planning consent has been ordered to shut down.

Phantom Lounge, which describes itself as “the best shisha experience in Yorkshire” on its website, is understood to have been operating from a building behind the Campus House student accommodation block in Hey Street, Listerhills, Bradford, since summer 2016.

But Bradford Council has now ordered it to close, citing a breach of planning rules.

Officers say its owners never obtained planning permission for the change of use of the building to a night club and shisha lounge.

The Council claims noise from the shisha lounge is disturbing people living in nearby homes, “particularly late at night and into the early hours of the morning”.

In a report which will go before Bradford Area Planning Panel on Wednesday, officers say: “The Council received a complaint regarding the material change of use of the building to a night club and shisha lounge for which planning permission is required and has not been obtained.

“Despite requests, the owner/occupier of the property has taken no action to rectify the breach of planning control.”

Now planning enforcement bosses have written to the owners, demanding that they shut down the business and remove from the land “all materials and equipment” associated with this use.

Representatives of Phantom Lounge could not be contacted for comment today and the premises was closed with the shutters down when the Telegraph & Argus paid a visit.

The building previously hosted a cafe called Hookahs, which itself had faced run-ins with the authorities over allegations it was operating as a shisha lounge illegally.

In 2014, Bradford Council’s environmental health officers accused Hookahs staff of allowing customers to smoke shisha pipes inside, despite the smoking ban.

But its then-managers disputed this, saying customers were only smoking shisha pens, an electronic alternative to a shisha pipe which is similar to an e-cigarette.

Shisha is the smoking of flavoured tobacco through a hookah, or waterpipe. Some experts say a single shisha session is equivalent to smoking 100 to 200 cigarettes.

Shisha is covered by the smoking ban but some premises get around the regulations by creating large openings in their walls or roofs.