‘Been slaughtering the innocent!': Facebook post of consultant facing medical malpractice probe
A surgeon accused of malpractice over the death of a patient joked about ‘slaughtering the innocent’ on Facebook.
Brendan O’Riordan, 52, wrote on the social networking site: ‘Back and causing chaos. Been on call this week. Been in theatre this week slaughtering the innocent’.
The remark shocked patients and ‘disgusted’ Liz Antoniazzi, whose husband Johnnie died while under the supervision of Dr O’Riordan at West Wales General Hospital last December.
Mr Antoniazzi was admitted to the Carmarthen hospital after suffering broken ribs during a traffic accident. He died four weeks later after developing a blocked bowel, bedsores and an infection. Dr O’Riordan was the consultant in charge of his care.
The offending message was posted in 2010, more than a year before Mr. Antoniazzi was admitted to hospital.
But it was recently discovered online by other Facebook users, who circulated it – bringing it to the attention of concerned patients, who complained to the Hywel Dda Health Board.
The surgeon quickly deleted the comment and released an apology. He said: ‘It was intended as a light-hearted comment between myself and a surgical colleague and was not designed for public consumption. ‘I apologise profusely if this has caused offence or upset anyone.’
But Mr Antoniazzi’s widow Liz said her family is ‘disgusted’ but Dr O’Riordan’s behaviour.
She told the Daily Star Sunday: ‘This has come at an especially difficult time for us while dealing with the loss of my husband and the atrocious standards of care that he was afforded in his final weeks.’
Hywel Dda Health Board, already probing the hospital and Dr O’Riordan over Mr Antoniazzi’s death, vowed to investigated the Facebook ‘matter further with the individual concerned’.
Baa Baa Little Sheep: How British private school abandoned nursery rhyme’s lyrics for Easter show sparking political correctness accusations
Quite what the little boy who lives down the lane would make of it is open to conjecture.
But parents at one school made their feelings plain when they heard their children reciting ‘Baa Baa Little Sheep’.
They accused the £2,700-a-term Park Hill primary school of changing the words from ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ for the sake of political correctness.
The school, in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, insists this was not the reason, and that the change was merely a way of teaching children to read by adding different words. Adults who attended its Easter concert, however, were unconvinced.
Andrea Craig, a councillor whose son sang in the show, tweeted: ‘At my son’s Easter concert I saw a song called Baa Baa Little Sheep which I assumed was new. Not so – not allowed black. Really?’
She said most parents in the audience were concerned about the change of wording.
‘It’s good they want children to think about what different words mean. But this is one nursery rhyme I personally don’t think should be used because it could be so easily misconstrued as political correctness gone mad. They have got to be a bit smarter about it.’
The school uses the phonic learning system to teach children aged three to seven word meanings through well-known songs and rhymes. Its marketing manager Holly Christie said Baa Baa Black Sheep had been changed ‘because it fitted in with the theme of what we were doing. It was about baby sheep.
‘We have always had adjustments to Baa Baa Black Sheep just because the children like to sing different variations of that. It’s a way of teaching phonics so that children understand these words that they are using and then reading.’
This is far from the first time the rhyme has been amended. In 2006, children at two nurseries in Oxfordshire were taught ‘Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep’ to promote ‘equal opportunities’. Some children in London have been taught ‘Baa Baa Green Sheep’.
And in 1999, Birmingham City Council said the rhyme should not be taught at all because it was racially negative.
Climate scientists are losing the public debate on global warming
Green campaigners and climate scientists are losing the public debate over global warming, one of the movement’s leading proponents has admitted.
Dr James Hansen, director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who first made warnings about climate change in the 1980s, said that public scepticism about the threat of man-made climate change has increased despite the growing scientific consensus.
Speaking ahead of a public lecture in Edinburgh this week, he admitted that without public support it will be impossible to make the changes he and his colleagues believe need to occur to protect future generations from the effects of climate change.
He blamed sceptics who are opposed to major social and economic changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for employing “tremendous resources” to undermine the scientific evidence.
Dr Hansen, who will receive the Edinburgh Medal at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, pointed to a number of controversies involving climate scientists, such as the leaked University of East Anglia emails, as being partly responsible for the shift in public opinion.
Critics, however, insist the public have become desensitised by decades of dire warnings by climate scientists.
Dr Hansen, who served as an adviser to Al Gore on his controversial documentary The Inconvenient Truth, said: “There is remarkable inconsistency between the scientific story and public story.
His comments come as recent surveys have revealed that public support for tackling climate change has declined dramatically in recent years. The British Social Attitudes survey published last year revealed that just 22 per cent said they are now in favour of green taxes compared to 31 per cent in 2000. Over a third said many claims about environmental threats were “exaggerated” compared to 24 per cent in 2000.
A recent BBC poll found that 25% of British adults did not think global warming was happening.
Environmental campaigners suffered a major blow in 2009 when emails stolen from computers at the University of East Anglia were leaked and were hailed by critics as evidence of scientists attempting to suppress evidence that contradicted the idea of man-made climate change.
An inquiry into the scandal failed to find any evidence of malpractice by the scientists and a review of the science also found it to be sound, although the findings were met with claims of bias from sceptics.
Dr Hansen will argue that by placing a global levy on all fossil fuels, including coal and gas, it would encourage a move towards alternative forms of energy.
Dr Benny Peiser, director of sceptical think tank The Global Warming Policy Foundation, said governments and the public had “more urgent problems to deal with” than tackling climate change.
He said: “People have become bored by some of the rhetoric from the green movement as they have other things to worry about.
“In reality the backlash against climate change has very little to do with the sceptics. We will take credit for instilling some debate but it is mainly an economic issue. Climate change is not seen as being urgent any more.
“James Hansen has been making predictions about climate change since the 1980s. When people are comparing what is happening now to those predictions, they can see they fail to match up.”
An example of secret “justice” in action
The debate over instituting secret trials for “security” reasons in Britain has thrown up under parliamentary privilege an example of the abuses such trials make possible
Despite the years of cruel reality, Margaret Bentham still seemed incredulous as she told her story, a story she once thought she could never share. But with quiet dignity she summed up the ordeal she and her businessman husband Stuart, a former British Army officer, have endured at the hands of the CIA.
‘We were robbed of a business worth millions,’ she said. ‘We were plunged into financial ruin. But the worst thing was, not only were we deprived of justice, we couldn’t tell a soul.’ In an exclusive interview, Mrs Bentham told The Mail on Sunday how the CIA decided a civil court case about the Afghan mobile phone company he had helped to establish was too ‘sensitive’ to air in public.
It used draconian legal powers to shut down the case – so destroying not only the Benthams’ livelihood, but any prospect of redress after Mr Bentham alleged the company had been stolen from him.
The background to the alleged fraud against Mr Bentham, 63, and his business partner Lord Michael Cecil, 52, a brother of the Marquess of Salisbury, goes back to 1998, when they went into business with Ehsanollah Bayat.
Mr Davis described him in the Commons as ‘a Kabul-born American citizen on friendly terms with the highest echelons of the Taliban government and particularly its leader, Mullah Omar’.
Mr Bayat had the connections to acquire the licence to build Afghanistan’s first mobile phone, internet and international call system – Mr Bentham and Lord Michael the business expertise.
But, as Mr Davis said, Mr Bayat had a secret: he was an informant for the FBI, the main US domestic counter- terrorism force. The link made an opening for Operation Foxden, a scheme the FBI planned to run jointly with the National Security Agency (NSA), the US electronic eavesdropping organisation.
The NSA offered $30 million and technical assistance, said Mr Davis. The plan was to build extra circuits into all the equipment installed, enabling the US to ‘record or listen live to every single landline and mobile phone call in Afghanistan’ and ‘monitor the telephone gateways channelling international calls in and out of the country – gateways already being used by Bin Laden, Mullah Omar and their associates, thanks to the satellite phones given by Mr Bayat to Taliban ministers as gifts’.
By the beginning of 2000, after all the main partners had made several visits to Afghanistan, the project was at an advanced stage, and could have been fully functional within months – 18 months or more before 9/11.
Recently, Mr Bayat has claimed he never had connections with US security agencies or the pre-9/11 Taliban government. But Mrs Bentham said that in the Nineties he seemed to make no secret of such links.
‘I remember one time when we flew in to Newark, New Jersey, and Bayat met us off the plane,’ she said. ‘He was with two FBI agents. We went to their office. Then they took me to the station so I could go shopping in New York while they had their meeting.’
But just as the project seemed to be on the brink of coming to fruition, it was wrecked by what Mr Davis termed a ‘turf war’ between the FBI and NSA on one side, and the CIA, which wanted to control it.
The consequence, as the agencies bickered in Washington, was that nothing happened for 20 months. By the time these bureaucratic obstacles had been cleared, it was too late.
A meeting to get the scheme going again, attended by Mr Bentham and Lord Michael, took place in New York in a hotel overlooking the World Trade Centre on September 8, 2001 – three days before the attacks.
Mr Davis commented: ‘Of course, we cannot say for certain that if US intelligence agencies had managed to tap the Afghan phone network sooner, we would have intercepted evidence in time to stop the 9/11 attacks, but it seems quite likely.’
After 9/11, the Taliban were toppled by US-led forces. Very soon after that, Lord Michael, Mr Bentham and their colleagues, working with Mr Bayat’s company Telephone Systems International (TSI), installed the very network that had been planned two years earlier. The Britons ordered and paid for most of the equipment and ran the project out of London.
Once operational in April 2002, the firm became a licence to print money and is now said to be worth about £700 million.
The Mail on Sunday has copies of official US documents, signed by Mr Bayat in May 2002, stating that Mr Bentham and Lord Michael each were entitled to 15 per cent of the shares: their holdings, in other words, should now each be worth more than £100 million.
Instead, said Mrs Bentham, she and her husband are in straitened circumstances, and live in a rented house, dependent for holidays on hospitable friends.
‘We were living a very comfortable life. And then it changed completely. We had no idea what we were dealing with, and the terrifying thing is what happened to us could happen to anyone.’
In the autumn of 2002, having offered to buy out Mr Bentham and Lord Michael for a ‘derisory’ sum that did not even cover the cost of the equipment they bought, Mr Bayat sued them for ‘deceit and conspiracy’, and, simultaneously, simply denied they had any legal entitlement to shares in TSI.
They had copious documentation, and, their lawyers believed, a cast-iron case. But as Mr Davis told MPs, this was no ordinary commercial squabble: ‘The US intelligence agencies feared the consequences if the truth about their infighting emerged and they were determined to stop that truth from emerging.’
First, they offered Bayat $1 million for his legal fight – part of a more general plan to exclude British citizens and British agencies from the ongoing phone intelligence operation. Then, when the Britons’ lawyers refused to back down, ‘CIA officers threatened them, warning the whole case would be shut down if they continued’.
Finally, in November 2004, came the use of the State Secrets Privilege. The effect was not only to close down the case immediately, but to expunge all trace from court records.
Lord Michael and Mr Bentham were subject to a gagging order so severe that when they tried to reopen the case in London, they were forbidden on pain of contempt of court from discussing any aspect of the intelligence background with their own lawyers.
Although there were hearings in London, which the Britons lost for technical legal reasons, the British courts had little idea of what had actually happened. ‘The State Secrets Privilege meant that the US agencies were restricting what could be said in court in England,’ Mrs Bentham said.
‘I couldn’t speak to friends, and I felt pretty sure our phone calls and emails were being monitored. Meanwhile, legal fees meant we were facing a colossal drain on our cash. Imagine: you have to sell your home, but you can’t tell anyone why.
‘So we just stopped going out socially, because people would ask, “How are things?” and we couldn’t even begin to answer. It’s only now, after the parliamentary debate, that at last people know.’
The worst moment, she recalled, was when the State Secrets Privilege was deployed. ‘They showed the judge some kind of statement that we couldn’t see, and he shut down the case next day for reasons we weren’t allowed to read. And that’s the kind of thing that’s going to happen here if the Green Paper becomes law.’
Later, she said, the Benthams’ American lawyers asked a US judge whether their British lawyers could see the secret judgment and gagging order in strict confidentiality, so that at least they could advise them whether they should try to pursue the case in London. The judge refused.
They also tried to get the State Secrets Privilege reversed in a federal US appeals court. They lost again – and the appeal court’s 17-page decision is also strictly secret.
Mrs Bentham said: ‘The lesson is that the US legal system is perfectly willing to condone the theft of our assets. What gets me is that one of the main reasons the British Government has justified the Green Paper is to protect American secrets.’
At the end of the Commons debate, Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne gave the Benthams a glimmer of hope. He said the Prime Minister had been aware of their plight for months and would in due course respond to their representations.
Meanwhile, Mr Davis said the case highlighted a fundamental inequality between Britain and the US: that American agencies could apparently dictate what British citizens could talk about in British courts – even the very use of the State Secrets Privilege which had enabled such secrecy in the first place.
‘It’s just not good enough to say that restricting the Green Paper proposals to national security cases will make them less obnoxious,’ Mr Davis said yesterday. ‘Once you let security trump the rule of law, injustice such as this is inevitable.’
More nastiness from small-time British bureaucrats
When Donna Air made an innocent mistake, she was labelled a Mini-Madoff and carted off to trial. Here she reveals the indignity of standing in the dock – only to be cleared on grounds of being a little bit ditzy.
Sitting in the dock at Isleworth Crown Court last week, the gravity of the situation became all too apparent for television presenter and model Donna Air.
Fortunately for Donna, however, she was not about to feel the full wrath of the law – the jury found her resoundingly innocent, and with astonishing speed, reaching their decision in just three minutes.
Their haste exposed Kensington and Chelsea Council’s pursuit of the Hotel Babylon star over an invalid parking permit to be as ridiculous as it was alarming. The 32-year-old mother of one and her family were put through seven months of worry after they failed to convince authorities that rather than fraud she was, in fact, guilty only of an honest mistake.
Quite simply, the jury found that Donna did not apply for parking permits for two different London boroughs in an attempt to save thousands of pounds in street parking fees. Rather, she had one property in each borough and did not realise that the rules forbid having two permits.
Trifling as it all sounds, the case has attracted attention from television and newspapers around the country. Their interest was stirred not solely by the clumsy way that councils can handle a simple error, but also by a quip made by Donna’s barrister, Benn Maguire. Addressing the bemused court, he said of the presenter: ‘There was not a lot going on in her head.’ Intent on whipping up a dramatic reaction, the affable barrister warned no one that he was planning to make the remark – not even his client.
The quip quickly led to a few predictable headlines about ‘Donna Airhead’, but if she was upset she has done well to hide it. Perhaps that is unsurprising, given it was one of the tactics employed by shrewd Mr Maguire to help secure the not guilty verdict.
‘I was like, thanks for that,’ says Donna with the characteristic jolliness that has helped her forge her successful career. ‘But I’m not offended. I fully understand the point he was making, that there was not a lot going on in my head at that time and certainly not the far-fetched, ludicrous crime I was being accused of.’
Scratch beneath her words, however, and it becomes clear that the months of strain created by a looming court appearance and the threat of a suspended prison sentence have taken their toll on the presenter.
Her experience is all the more shocking as it is a nightmare any one of us could find ourselves in over something as simple as failing to read the small print on an application form.
In her first and only interview about the trial, Donna, who is reluctant to talk about the case and has vowed never to do so again, has spoken exclusively to The Mail on Sunday.
She says: ‘I never lied. I never tried to cover up anything. We couldn’t believe that the council’s own legal team would let it go to trial. ‘I feel there should be steps in place to avoid cases like mine coming to trial at such huge expense to the taxpayer.’
This is a subject particularly close to her heart given that she has, she says, paid tax since she was ten years old and started her career as an actress on children’s television series Byker Grove.
Although it is not known exactly how much the three-day trial cost, as the prosecution was ordered to pay Donna’s defence fees, she is convinced the bill reached six figures. It seems an extraordinary amount for a case that began in January last year when Donna bought a £110 resident’s parking permit.
She had recently moved to an apartment she owns in Holland Park, Kensington and Chelsea.
Previously, she had been living in Pimlico, in the borough of Westminster, but when her tenants in the Holland Park property left in a hurry without paying their rent, she decided to change her main residence. After the move she applied for a second parking permit, which she says she had no idea was against regulations.
‘I displayed both parking permits on my windscreen at the same time, and after I moved to Kensington and Chelsea I didn’t use the Westminster parking permit again,’ says Donna, who still seems stunned at how seriously the council responded to the case.