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Category Archives: BBC 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.

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.”

Oxford student Lavinia Woodward spared jail for knife attack

Lavinia WoodwardImage copyright Facebook
Image caption Lavinia Woodward had ambitions to enter the medical profession

An “extraordinary” Oxford University student who stabbed her boyfriend in the leg has avoided a prison sentence.

Lavinia Woodward, 24, admitted attacking the man at her student accommodation at Christ Church College after drinking heavily.

At an earlier hearing Judge Ian Pringle QC said he believed a custodial sentence would damage her career.

On Monday she was given a 10-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months for inflicting unlawful wounding.

During the attack in December, medical student Woodward punched the man, lunged at him with a bread knife, threw a laptop at him and stabbed him in the leg.

‘Relatively minor’ injuries

Oxford Crown Court heard Woodward had become addicted to drugs while in an abusive relationship with a previous boyfriend.

The case was the subject of huge debate about inequality in the criminal justice system, prompted by the judge deferring sentencing and describing the attack as “a complete one-off”.

He had described Woodward as “an extraordinary able young lady” and said a custodial sentence would damage her hopes of becoming a surgeon.

Handing down a suspended sentence, Judge Pringle said there were “many, many mitigating factors” and the injuries inflicted were “relatively minor”.

He said she had shown a “strong and unwavering determination” to get over her class A drug and alcohol addiction.

“I find that you were genuinely remorseful following this event. whilst you are a clearly highly-intelligent individual, you had an immaturity about you which was not commensurate for someone of your age.”

Woodward faced a possible maximum sentence of three years in prison.

Bobby Knutt: Benidorm and Emmerdale actor dies on holiday

Sheffield comedian Bobby Knutt
Image caption Bobby Knutt also hosted a request show on BBC Radio Sheffield in the 1990s

Comedian and actor Bobby Knutt has died on holiday in the south of France, his agent has confirmed.

The 71-year-old from Sheffield starred in ITV comedy series Benidorm, played Albert Dingle in Emmerdale and was the voice of a Tetley tea advert.

Mr Knutt’s agent, Tim Scott, said the star died in France on Monday morning.

“Knutty” – real name Robert Wass – had a long career on stage. He appeared in The Comedians and Coronation Street and voiced numerous TV adverts.

More stories from across Yorkshire

A tweet from @BenidormTVShow said: “Benidorm star and Sheffield legend Bobby Knutt passes away aged 71. Good night Knutty, your Benidorm family loves you. X”

Derren Litten, writer of Benidorm, wrote: “Very sad Benidorm news guys. The wonderful Bobby Knutt has passed away suddenly aged 71. Sending our Beni love to his family.”

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Derren Litten, writer of Benidorm, tweeted his condolences to Mr Knutt’s family

Mr Knutt also hosted a request show on BBC Radio Sheffield in the 1990s.

His wife, Donna Hartley-Wass, a former Olympic athlete, died suddenly in 2013 at the age of 58 in the couple’s back garden in Barnsley while she was sunbathing.

MPs to assess Paralympic cheat claims

Great Britain won 39 medals at the 2017 World Para-Athletics Championships in London in July

A Parliamentary committee will look into whether the classification process for Paralympic sports is fair.

It comes after a BBC investigation uncovered claims of tactics being used to cheat the system in Para-athletics.

The claims included the taping up of arms, taking cold showers in trunks and even surgery to shorten limbs.

MP Damian Collins said: “These allegations risk tarnishing the success of our medal winners.”

Radio 4’s ‘File on 4’ special also revealed lawyers for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) are investigating whether several athletes and coaches have deliberately exaggerated disability to boost their chance of winning.

“It’s important that British Para-athletes can demonstrate ethical behaviour. The athletes deserve to know their gold medals are secure achievements – in the eyes of fellow competitors and the wider world,” said Collins, the Culture, Media and Sport select committee chairman.

The 11-time Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson will appear alongside Michael Breen, father of Paralympian Olivia Breen, and Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the British Paralympic Association, at the hearing on 31 October.

Thompson has previously raised concerns over Para-athletes abusing the system, while Breen described the classification as “not fit for purpose.”

Hollingsworth has rejected claims the system is being manipulated to boost medal chances.

Yoga and butt lifts

Gwyneth Paltrow and Jenifer AnistonImage copyright Reuters/Getty

Did your day begin with a workout, meditation and a breakfast worthy of an Instagram showing – all before getting to work? If not, you’ll need to shape up to make it on to the glossy pages of magazines.

We’ve all rolled our eyes while reading those celebrity day-in-the-life interviews – with the inexplicably early starts, heavy exercise and distinct lack of caffeine as standard.

Beauty editor of Red Magazine, Rosie Green, is one of the latest to share her morning rituals. Hint: there’s not a soggy cornflake in sight.

After rising at 06:00, there is an early morning run, “lots of cuddles”, “pimped-up porridge” – think fruit and nuts rather than golden syrup – a school drop-off and “just enough time to tong my hair”.

This insight led fellow parent and children’s author, Pip Jones, to think about her own routine.

“04:30: I wake up because I need a massive wee,” she wrote. “05:30: I flop out of bed and go downstairs to make builders’ tea. It tastes like crap without sugar in, so I put loads of sugar in it. 06:30: We start the day doing some grunting and arguing. I feel really grateful that no-one is biting anyone else.”

Similarly, Twitter user @Tillyecl’s routine involved less “pimping” and more Marmite.

But others manage to find the time for far more than dressing or feeding yourself.

A LinkedIn post from a US professional called Mark Sloan went viral after he revealed how he spends the three hours before he heads to the office at 08:15. The tight schedule included “language learning” and drinking a whole litre of water.

Early starts seem to be a non-negotiable for many successful people. After all, how would businessman Sir Richard Branson fit in a spot of kite-surfing before breakfast unless he got up at 05:00?

The Virgin founder, who lives in the British Virgin Islands, also said being an early riser means he can check his emails “before most of the world logs on”.

Most of the world that is, except for supermodel Cindy Crawford, who’s awake and checking emails at 06:30 before her first cup of green tea. Then it’s workout time.

“Often I’ll take a Jacuzzi outside for 10 minutes first; it’s like my meditation,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. Then there’s cardio, 10 minutes on a trampoline and another 10 running stairs. By 08:00 it’s time for her second mug of green tea to match a green “shake”.

Image copyright cindycrawford Instagram
Image caption Supermodel Cindy likes her breakfast juice how she likes her tea: green

It’s not just celebrities, but royalty too, that are slaves to the alarm clock.

“I get up around 06:45 to start exercising by 7,” Princess Eugenie of York said. “I go to the park from 7 to 8. I do circuits, which I love because they’re quick… Or I go with my best friend to this amazing, women-only gym called Grace Belgravia. If I need to pick up some groceries, I go to Waitrose, right next to my gym.”

Music royalty Simon Cowell keeps pumped to his prime with the help of 500 daily push-ups.

“Then I have a steam and a bath, but I always have breakfast in bed,” he added. It remains unclear whether Cowell prepares this himself.

Getting back into bed for a bacon sarnie is not an option for US actor Jennifer Aniston. She begins her day with hot water and lemon, before 20 minutes of meditation.

Breakfast is a shake – which involves something called maca powder and “dynamic greens” – which is followed by a workout to rival most people‘s weekly exercise: spin for half an hour, yoga for 40 minutes and then the gym.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 500 push-ups a day give Simon Cowell the X-factor

For actor-turned-lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow, multi-tasking is key to morning productivity.

“Did dance aerobics for 45 minutes then all of the butt lifts and the like. Rushed upstairs to have a shower, doing my post workout stretch while the conditioner was doing its magic on my hair to combine activities,” she wrote on her website Goop.

But very occasionally these interviews offer some common ground from a world more familiar to mere mortals.

Author and columnist, Caitlin Moran confessed most mornings she wakes thinking: “‘UGH this is too early. This is GHASTLY.”

“I pack the kids off at 8.30am, then go swimming for 45 minutes. The bottom of my local pool is endlessly fascinating. Clumps of hair moving like jellyfish; scrunchies; leaves. I once thought I saw a poo there,” she told Stylist magazine.