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Tag Archives: London

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.

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Model Chloe Ayling kidnap case a publicity stunt, court told

Lukasz Herba and brother Michael HerbaImage copyright Italian Police
Image caption Lukasz Herba, left, and his brother Michal are suspects in the alleged kidnap

Lawyers for the brother of the alleged captor of British model Chloe Ayling say the entire case could be a “sham”, invented as a “publicity stunt”.

Michal Konrad Herba, 36, is accused of conspiring with his brother Lukasz Herba, who is in custody in Italy, to abduct 20-year-old Ms Ayling.

His lawyer told the extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court that the case had a “set of anomalies”. Mr Herba has denied involvement.

The court is set to rule on Friday.

Prosecutor Florence Iveson said Mr Herba has been requested by the court of Milan in relation to a single offence of kidnapping arising from events between 11 and 17 July.

“The allegation is that Mr Herba acted in complicity with his brother, Lukasz Herba, and other unidentified persons to kidnap the victim in Milan,” she said.

“It is said she was drugged and kidnapped and a 300,000 euros (£270,000) ransom was demanded.”

Michal Herba has been in custody since his arrest in the Tividale area of Sandwell, West Midlands, in August.

‘Tabloid press release’

Ms Ayling has said she was drugged and bundled into the boot of a car after being tricked into attending a bogus photo shoot in Milan on 11 July.

But Michal Herba’s lawyer, George Hepburne Scott, said: “There is a real risk that the entire case is a sham.”

Referring to “open source material”, Mr Scott said: “The same complainant, it seems, generated publicity from the fact she was near the scene of a terrorist attack at the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

“Prior to the release of the complainant, the kidnapper apparently issued a press release to a tabloid newspaper setting out that this lady was being held for auction.”

He told the court of an alleged incident during which Ms Ayling and her captor went shopping for shoes and called it a “wholly anomalous feature of a hostage situation”.

She also went to breakfast with the kidnapper before her release when they found the British consulate was closed, Mr Scott added.

“This case has a unique set of anomalies which might lead to the conclusion that the Italian authorities have been duped and that their process has been abused,” Mr Scott told the district judge.

Michael Herba’s lawyers argued that any extradition could breach his right to a family life under the Human Rights Act, as he has a heavily pregnant girlfriend in the UK.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Speaking after the alleged abduction, Ms Ayling said she feared for her life

Mr Scott also said there was a lack of “particularity” in the allegations, which refer to a “strong body of evidence”, including DNA samples, statements from the victim, and telephone wire taps.

District Judge Paul Goldspring said much of the material relied on by Mr Scott came from press reports, which he said did not prove any of the theories in the case.

Ms Ayling, from Coulsdon, south London, says she travelled to Milan on 10 July for a photo shoot.

Italian police say she was attacked by two men, drugged with ketamine and abducted, apparently to be sold in an online auction.

She is believed to have been transported in a bag to an isolated village near Turin, but was released on 17 July.

Speaking after the alleged abduction, Ms Ayling said she feared for her life throughout the “terrifying experience”.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the Italian and UK authorities for all they have done to secure my safe release,” she said.

Jessica Ennis-Hill has her second baby, a girl named Olivia

Dame Ennis-Hill announced the news on InstagramImage copyright jessicaennishill
Image caption The post shows baby Olivia’s hand touching the finger of her brother, Reggie

Former Olympic heptathlon champion Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill has given birth to her second child, a girl named Olivia.

The Sheffield athlete announced the news on her Instagram account.

“Reggie meeting his beautiful baby sister 😊 Olivia Ennis-Hill, she was born Saturday night. We are all so in love with her”, the post said.

Ennis-Hill, who won a gold medal at the London games in 2012 and a silver in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, has a three-year-old boy named Reggie.

The black and white picture, which was posted on Sunday evening, shows Reggie touching the hand of his baby sister.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ennis-Hill competed in the Rio Olympics in between the birth of her two children

Following her retirement from athletics last year Ennis-Hill was made a dame in the New Year Honours list.

She married her long-term partner Andy Hill in a ceremony at Hathersage, Derbyshire in May 2013 and gave birth to their son the following year.

Parsons Green attack: Seventh person arrested

A forensic tent on the platform at Parsons Green stationImage copyright PA
Image caption The homemade bomb partially exploded in a train at Parsons Green station

A seventh person has been arrested in connection with the Parsons Green Tube bomb attack on 15 September.

The 20-year-old man was arrested in Cardiff at 06:00 BST under section 41 of the Terrorism Act and is now being held at a south London police station.

Last week Ahmed Hassan, 18, of Sunbury, Surrey, was remanded in custody charged with attempted murder.

A bomb partially exploded on a train at the Tube station in south-west London during rush hour, injuring 30 people.

Three other men arrested over the attack have been released without charge; two further men, aged 25 and 30, remain in custody.

Monday morning’s arrest was carried out by officers from the Metropolitan Police‘s Counter Terrorism Command, supported by the Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit (WECTU) and South Wales Police.

Police are searching an address in Cardiff and say another search is ongoing at an address in Surrey.

Mr Hassan, who was arrested in Dover, Kent, on 16 September, is due to appear at the Old Bailey on Friday 13 October.

He is also accused of causing an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury.

On Friday, Westminster Magistrates Court heard the bomb, which failed to detonate properly, had been packed with knives and screws.

Prosecutors said Mr Hassan had intended to kill innocent people because of his “warped political view”.

Uber using aggressive tactics, says Sadiq Khan

London Mayor, Sadiq KhanImage copyright Stefan Rousseau
Image caption London Mayor Sadiq Khan chairs Transport for London

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says Uber has put “unfair pressure” on Transport for London (TfL), with an “army” of PR experts and lawyers.

The mayor says Uber has made “aggressive” threats about taking TfL to court.

On Friday, TfL denied it a new licence to operate in London, citing concerns over public safety and security.

However, Uber says it has followed TfL rules and works closely with the Metropolitan Police.

In a tweet on Sunday, Uber said it would challenge the TfL decision “in the courts to defend the livelihoods of drivers and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use Uber”.

What does the Uber ban mean?

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is also chairman of TfL, defended the organisation: “What you can’t do is have a situation where unfair pressure is brought on a quasi-judicial body, where there are officials working incredibly hard.

“I appreciate Uber has an army of PR experts, I appreciate Uber has an army of lawyers – they’ve also made aggressive threats about taking us to court.”

While Mr Khan chairs the TfL board, according to the organisation, he was not involved in the process of deciding whether to issue Uber with a licence.

That is handled by TfL’s taxi and private hire department.

Uber is keen to hold talks with officials from that department “as soon as possible”, Fred Jones, a senior executive with Uber in the UK, told the Today Programme.

Image copyright Getty Images

Mr Jones said that Uber was “not clear” about the issues raised by TfL when it denied the company a licence.

One of the points raised by TfL was Uber’s “approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained”.

That part of the process was not even handled by Uber, said Mr Jones. Instead, the drivers organised their own DBS check and took that paperwork to TfL.

TfL then reviews that application before giving the driver a licence allowing them to drive for Uber.

TfL would not elaborate further on its issue with the way in which Uber organises DBS checks, because that would be likely to come up when Uber appealed against the decision.

It would only repeat that it was Uber’s “approach” to DBS checks that was the problem.

More than 730,000 people have signed an online petition in a bid to keep Uber operating in London after its licence expires on 30 September.

Stratford acid attack suspect, 15, released on bail

Emergency services outside Stratford CentreImage copyright PA
Image caption One man said a victim ran into a Burger King to “wash acid off his face

A 15-year-old boy has been released on bail following an acid attack in east London that left six people injured.

Six people were injured in what police described as an “altercation” between two groups of males at the Stratford Centre, east London, on Saturday night.

Ambulance crews treated six males at the scene for their injuries, and three of them were taken to hospital.

The Met said the boy, held on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm, had been bailed until late October.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionFootage of police and other emergency services around Stratford has been shared on social media

Those reported injured were believed to be in a number of different locations, sparking initial fears that people had been sprayed at random.

However the Met Police said those injured were connected to the initial attack.

Ch Supt Ade Adelekan said: “I would like to be very clear concerning this incident.

“What initially may have been perceived as a number of random attacks has, on closer inspection, been found to be one incident involving two groups of males.”

No-one suffered life-threatening or life-changing injuries.

Brexit: Fresh round of negotiations to take place

EU and UK flagsImage copyright PA

Brexit Secretary David Davis will lead the UK team of negotiators into their fourth round of talks with EU officials in Brussels on Monday.

It will be the first opportunity for the European delegation to respond to Theresa May’s speech in Florence.

Mrs May aimed to restore momentum to a process that was stalling.

Key figures such as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier described her tone as constructive, which should improve the atmosphere of the talks.

But EU negotiators will be expecting more detail on, for example, what payments the UK is prepared to make as it departs.

Next month, EU leaders are due to decide on so-called separation issues – including the rights of citizens, the Irish border and the “divorce bill” or financial settlement – to allow talks to move on to the future of the bilateral trade relationship, as the UK would like.

For the moment, the odds seem to be against that test being passed at the first opportunity, said BBC Europe correspondent Kevin Connolly.

Budget black hole

In her speech on Friday, Mrs May offered to continue paying into the EU for a two-year transition after the UK leaves in 2019 to ensure the bloc is not left with a budget black hole.

The prime minister sought to reassure member states that they would not lose out financially during the current EU budget period, which runs to 2020.

She also confirmed there would be no restrictions on EU citizens coming to the UK during the transition period, but after Brexit they would be registered as they arrived.

Mr Davis has insisted that Mrs May’s speech was not influenced by a 4,000-word article by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in the run-up to the event, setting out his own vision for Brexit.

The speech “had been coming for a long time”, he said.

Meanwhile, the UK and Scottish governments are due to hold a fresh round of talks on Brexit in London.

Scotland‘s Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Brexit minister Mike Russell will meet First Secretary of State Damian Green to discuss concerns about the EU Withdrawal Bill.

And Mrs May holds talks in Downing Street with Irish premier Leo Varadkar, in her first meeting with an EU leader since the Florence speech.

Bradford Park Avenue book digs in for top award

A UNIQUE project that saw archaeologists digging into the past of a Bradford football club will be competing against some heavy hitters to be named best sports book of the year.

Breaking Ground: Art Archaeology and Mythology tells the story of an unusual historical dig at the former home of Bradford Park Avenue, and has been long listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

It means the book will be competing against books by tennis coach Judy Murray, former England cricket captain Mike Brearley and others about Bob Paisley and Muhammad Ali for the prize – the world’s oldest sports book prize.

Two years ago a group of archaeologists, scientists and photographers descended on the site, off Canterbury Avenue, which was home to the club from 1908 to 1973 but has since been abandoned to nature.

Funded by the Arts Council England and The National Football Museum, the group began excavating the grounds, which once boasted crowds of 35,000, to come up with the book and an accompanying exhibition, which took place at the museum earlier this year.

The archaeologists found themselves in the unusual situation of excavating a site that had been used in the living memory of a lot of people. Fans were invited to add their memories to the project.

The land was developed in the 1880s for cricket and rugby, but is mainly known for the football stadium it became in the early 1900s, with a main stand designed by Archibald Leitch. Due to a covenant that says the land can only be used for sporting use, it has never been built on.

Bradford Park Avenue was once a top-flight club and the first major club to go bankrupt, leaving fans without a home.

The book was made possible by the support of former and current fans of the re-formed club, who through subscription and pre-publication orders, funded its printing.

Items discovered included a a floodlight bulb from the ground and coins that were thrown to children collecting money using blankets.

Neville Gabie, an artist in the project and one of the book’s editors, said: “Being on the list is amazing when you look at the rest of the nominees, we’re really punching above our weight. We’re just really pleased for the many fans of Bradford Park Avenue. It has been absolutely fabulous to put together. We’ve been really happy with how people responded to the book and the exhibition.

“We got some really amazing stories from it. I was talking to one lady who came to speak to us who was the daughter of Chik Farr, a successful keeper for the club, who played for the club in the 30s and 40s.

“During one game the elastic in his shorts snapped and they fell around his ankles. Someone came on and put them back on using a safety pin. After that he used to wear them a lot, and people in the crowd would throw him spare safety pins.

“As she was telling me this story an archaeologist who overheard us came over and said he had just found a safety pin that had been buried for years. It was an amazing moment.”

The shortlist will be announced on October 24, and the winner announced at an afternoon reception at BAFTA, in central London, on November 28.

The book is available by visiting http://bit.ly/2fjrB00

Uber seeks talks with London mayor to renew licence

Uber appImage copyright Reuters

Uber is prepared to make concessions to ensure its licence to operate in London is renewed, its general manager for the capital has said.

Tom Elvidge told the Sunday Times: “While we haven’t been asked to make any changes, we’d like to know what we can do.”

He added: “That requires a dialogue we sadly haven’t been able to have.”

Transport for London told the ride-hailing app firm it was not fit to hold a private hire operator licence.

A TfL spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Uber has been asking to meet Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, since his election in May 2016 but those requests have been rejected, according to sources close to the US company.

More than 630,000 people have signed an online petition in a bid to keep Uber operating in London after its licence expires on 30 September.

It has 21 days to appeal TfL’s decision and can continue to provide its services in the capital “until the appeals process has been exhausted” – a point Mr Khan reiterated in a response to the change.org petition.

TfL made the same point in a tweet on Sunday:

TfL cited failures to report serious criminal offences, conduct sufficient background checks on drivers and other safety issues as grounds for not renewing Uber’s licence.

Concessions by Uber are likely to centre on passenger safety and benefits for drivers, limits on their working hours, and holiday pay.

Despite the more conciliatory language from Mr Elvidge, Uber said in a series of tweets on Sunday that it would challenge the TfL decision “in the courts to defend the livelihoods of drivers & the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use Uber”.

“Drivers who use Uber in London are licensed by TfL and have been through the same enhanced DBS [Disclosure and Barring Service] background checks as black cab drivers.

“We have always followed TfL rules on reporting serious incidents, with a dedicated team that works closely with the Metropolitan Police.”

Although there are apps such as Mytaxi and Gett that allow passengers to hail black cabs in London, as well as those from minicab firms such as Addison Lee, Uber has no direct rival in the capital.

Estonian-based Taxify was forced to suspend services just days after launching in London earlier this month because it did not have a TfL licence.

The situation is different in the US, however, where Lyft has won market share this year following a series of PR disasters by Uber that resulted in the ousting of founder Travis Kalanick as chief executive in June.

Uber’s share of the US ride-hailing market has fallen from 91% in 2014 to 74.3% in August, according to data from Second Measure, which tracks credit card purchases.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lyft replaced its pink moustache mascot with the Amp sign this year

Lyft has 23.4% of the market, with other apps such as Via, Juno, Gett and Sidecar on 2.2%.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that senior Lyft executives had three face-to-face meetings with TfL and City Hall officials in the past year, as well as two conference calls.

The meetings, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, do not indicate that Lyft is preparing to launch in London, however.

Lyft competes with Uber in hundreds of US cities and has styled itself as a more ethical and responsible operator than its bigger rival.

Patients complete Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust sailing challenge

Participants and supporters at the end of the challengeImage copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption Supporters and participants welcomed the crew of the final leg back to Largs on Saturday

More than 125 young people recovering from cancer have completed a round-Britain sailing challenge run by yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur.

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust project began in May and saw young people aged 10 to 30 visit 58 towns and cities in the UK, over 17 relay legs.

Ryan Campbell, who took part, has undergone treatment for osteosarcoma – a rare type of bone cancer.

He said: “It’s about surpassing what you think you can’t do.”

Mr Campbell, 22, from Gourock, Inverclyde, was on board the 44ft yacht for the final leg of the journey which ended on Saturday.

“It’s such an amazing cause and there’s nothing else like it out there,” he said. “It’s not focused on being ill.”

Another of those who took part, Hannah Spencer, said she “wouldn’t be here” without the trust.

Image copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption Ryan Campbell, who took part in the voyage, described it as “an amazing cause”
Image copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption The sailing challenge took place over four months

The 23-year-old, from Belper, Derbyshire, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in 2009 and worked as a volunteer mate on the voyage.

Dame Ellen, the charity’s founding patron, said the project was about “rebuilding the confidence, self-belief and independence of those involved”.

She said: “It’s been fantastic following all the adventures of the young people during Round Britain 2017.”

Image copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption The Ellen MacArthur Trust helps young cancer patients by introducing them to sailing and other water-based activities

Olympic sailor Luke Patience was among those who welcomed the crew back to Largs, from where the voyage began in May.

He described it as “an extremely humbling experience”.

The sailing journey took place in areas including Cowes, Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast, Plymouth, Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Hull, London and Southampton.

The crew also visited cancer treatment centres where they meet other young people who are still in recovery.

In 2005 Dame Ellen, who is based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. The current record holder is French yachtsman Thomas Coville.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dame Ellen MacArthur broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2005
Image copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption The sailing journey took in areas including Cowes, Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast, Plymouth, Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Hull, London and Southampton