Girl, 8, paid £8.75m by hospital after blunders at birth left her with permanent brain damage
An eight-year-old girl who was left severely brain damaged at birth following blunders by maternity staff was today awarded £8.75m at London’s High Court. Darcie Hooper was born at St Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth, on March 16, 2003, having been starved of oxygen in the womb, due to clinical staff missing vital signs on monitoring equipment indicating foetal distress.
The ‘affectionate’ little girl suffers from tetraplegic cerebral palsy as a result of her birth injuries and will be dependent upon others for the rest of her life.
Her mother Janet Hooper sued Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust on behalf of Darcie. The Trust admitted liability for her tragic injuries at an early stage, and have released funds to the family in a series of interim payments.
Today Mrs Justice Cox approved the final settlement of her claim, which consists of a £4.2m lump sum, plus annual, index-linked and tax-free payments, bringing the total value of the settlement to around £8.75m.
Neil Block QC, representing the Trust, today apologised to the family for what happened to Darcie. ‘I would like to take the opportunity to apologise – it is a matter of profound regret that Darcie was so gravely injured and also the circumstances that led to that injury, and we apologise to the family for the mistakes that were made,’ he said. ‘We hope that some assurance has been given that such mistakes will not be made in the future,’ he added.
‘Clearly money cannot ever replace what Darcie and her family would most wish to be replaced, but at least this settlement will provide for her financial future, and her parents will know that her future is secure, in terms of care and accommodation.’
The judge, giving her seal to the agreement, said: ‘I approve this settlement – I have no doubt it is in this young person’s best interests. ‘It is clear that Darcie is an affectionate little girl and had clearly benefited from all the input she has received to date, and that is in no small part due to the efforts of her parents,’ she concluded.
In a statement outside court, the family’s solicitor, Alison McClure, said: ‘This is an excellent settlement for Darcie, which will provide the help and assistance that she will need for the rest of her life. ‘Her parents are delighted, and are now able to move forward with confidence in caring for their daughter.’
NHS bosses see their bonus pot double in 5 years … as staff face cuts
NHS chiefs have seen their bonuses double in the last five years even though tens of thousands of frontline workers face the axe to save money. Some officials at the Department of Health on six-figure salaries are receiving performance-related awards that exceed the average nurse’s wage.
The payments are being dished out despite the fact that up to 40,000 posts in hospitals and health trusts will go over the next year as part of attempts to save billions. Last year 1,162 senior officials at the Department of Health shared £2.5million in bonuses, taking home an average of about £2,150. One civil servant was paid £27,500 on top of their six-figure salary; the average nurse earns just over £26,000 a year.
The pot has more than doubled since 2004/5, when just £1.15million was handed out.
The bonuses are usually only given to the most senior staff on the highest salaries, and are typically awarded if the department believes it has met certain targets, such as keeping waiting times down, reducing superbug infections, or making efficiency savings.
The department refuses to name the recipients of its top bonuses, but two of its highest-paid employees who may benefit from performance-related pay are Sir David Nicholson, NHS chief executive, and Clare Chapman, its director general of workforce.
Sir David earns between £255,000 and £259,000 – over £100,000 more than the Prime Minister. His pay package includes up to £50,000 for a rented flat in London and living expenses. Two years ago he instructed the NHS to make £20billion of efficiency savings by 2014. Hospitals have resorted to scrapping thousands of posts to meet the targets.
Mrs Chapman earns around £245,000. She has seen her pay increase by up to a fifth since her appointment in 2006.
The revelations will further anger frontline workers who say they are being stretched to the limit. Nurses made their discontent clear earlier this week when they backed a vote of no confidence in Health Secretary Andrew Lansley at the annual Royal College of Nursing conference. Many say that because of cuts they are too busy to assist elderly people with their food or help them to the toilet.
Despite the strains being placed on the NHS, figures from April to October last year show that almost £1.8million has already been given out, meaning bonuses for 2010/11 are on target to be higher still. The payments, condemned by critics as ‘indefensible’, are only a fraction of the bonuses handed out across the health service among various quangos and local health trusts.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary for the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘The inexorable rise in bonus payouts will leave frontline staff reeling, especially the news that the Department of Health is paying out bonuses higher than a nurse’s starting salary.
‘At a time when those earning above £21,000 are being subjected to a pay freeze, frontline nurses and others will feel that there is one rule for them and another for us. This appears at best insensitive and at worst, during a time of financial austerity, indefensible. ‘We need to know what improvements those receiving bonuses have made to health services and patient care.’
Conservative MP Priti Patel, who obtained the figures, added: ‘The levels of pay and bonuses overseen by the previous Labour government showed utter contempt for Britain’s hard-pressed taxpayers and those who work on the frontline in the NHS.’
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The Coalition Government has announced that in light of the financial difficulties facing public services, the number of performance-related payments made to senior civil servants overall will be significantly reduced.’
Why is the BBC STILL so hideously biased on immigration?
David Cameron has just made the most important speech on immigration of any Prime Minister for many years. He tackled the subject in a frank, open, comprehensive and factual manner, while remaining sensitive to the delicacy of the issues. He set out a clear aim — to get net immigration down to tens of thousands — while disposing of the myth that EU migration would render this impossible.
He didn’t shy away from describing the widespread abuse in the immigration system, whether by forced or sham marriages, bogus students, dodgy colleges, or dubious work permits.
This was a very significant contribution from a national leader addressing a sensitive issue that troubles a huge number of people in this country. Yet if you had listened to Radio 4 you would not have known it. Their treatment of this story was abysmal.
The Today Programme, the so-called jewel in the BBC’s crown, introduced the item with a sound-bite from the BNP claiming that the Government had adopted their policies, but 20 years too late. How is that for a smear?
This was followed by a hostile interview with the Immigration Minister, Damian Green, in which the presenter accused the Prime Minister of making ‘an anti-immigrant statement’. What was he referring to? The Prime Minister’s sin, apparently, was to say that ‘real communities are bound by common experiences’.
His speech went on to say that ‘communities are forged by friendship and conversation, knitted together by all the rituals of the neighbourhood, from the school run to the chat down the pub. All these bonds can take time. So real integration takes time.’ Most of us would think that this was a statement of common sense — not to say the blindingly obvious. But not, it seems if you work for Radio 4.
The rest of the interview bore so little relationship to the Prime Minister’s speech that one wondered whether the presenter had even read it.
Next to weigh in was the BBC website which ignored a sensible contribution from the Lib-Dem spokesman, Tom Brake, later on the Today Programme. Instead it led with a headline in which Vince Cable described the Prime Minister’s speech as very unwise and risked ‘inflaming extremism’. Nobody who had read the text could possibly draw such a conclusion, but the headline suited the BBC’s agenda. No surprise then that the World At One followed up with a discussion in which racism and extremism featured prominently.
One is left wondering how it is possible to have a sensible debate on immigration when the largest news organisation in the country is so hideously biased on this subject — to adopt the terminology of its former Director General Greg Dyke, who complained memorably that the corporation was ‘hideously white’.
It would be wrong to tar the whole of the BBC with a Radio 4 brush. The BBC is a huge organisation. Some of their journalists are entirely professional, so are some of the editors.
Radio 5 Live, for example, are a good deal more responsive to public opinion on this issue; they know from their phone-ins where public opinion lies and they seem to be less inclined to talk down to their audience. Nevertheless, there is a strong and widespread reluctance, particularly on Radio 4, to tackle the issue of immigration.
Like many on the Left — and I make the connection advisedly — they believe that anyone who raises the subject must have some racist motivation. The fact that 77 per cent of the population want to see immigration reduced, that 50 per cent want it reduced by a lot and that a majority of the ethnic communities also want it reduced, is simply waved away. The public, it seems, are racist or stupid or both.
British government solar project cancelled
An ambitious plan to put solar panels on schools, hospitals and other public buildings has been cancelled in an embarrassing climb-down for the Government.
Buying solutions, the Government quango responsible for taking forward major new projects, wanted to install solar panels on the roof of town halls, army bases and other land or buildings owned by the public. The scheme was considered value for money because the Feed in Tariff (FIT), that pays those who install panels to generate electricity, offered a good return.
However following changes to FIT, which mean larger solar installations will not earn so much money, the project was pulled.
Solar companies say the Government have ‘shot themselves in the foot’ by reducing the green subsidy for medium sized projects like schools and hospitals.
An ongoing consultation proposes reducing subsidies for any solar panel project more than 50 kilowatts, the equivalent of panels on 20 houses.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change insist that FITs had to be reduced to stop large solar farms taking all the money before households could cash in. But solar companies claim medium-sized projects on schools, hospitals and community centres are also losing out.
Katie Moore, co-founder of the Solar Club, a community whose members are planning to invest in a solar project, said she was in contact with the Government last year after proposing to put panels on a navy base. However following the review of FITs she was told that the solar project was no longer going ahead. She suspects the reduction in tariffs for medium-sized projects was the cause.
“The Government were withdrawing from their own project,” she said. “If the government estate can’t do it – and they know more than us – then how are other medium-sized projects expected to make money?”
A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office admitted that Buying Solutions was looking at the possibility of installing solar panels across the government estate. However the idea was never taken up. “They realised it was not going to work,” she said. “It turned out it was not viable.”
The Unteachables: The violent pupils who have sexually assaulted teachers – yet are being let back into Britain’s classrooms
Pupils who have sexually assaulted teachers, threatened other children with knives and attacked police officers have been allowed back into the classroom, a shocking dossier reveals. In most cases, exclusion orders were lifted by their head teachers, school governing bodies or independent appeals panels. In a handful of schools, the child was not even removed in the first place.
The dossier on the 16 ‘unteachable’ youngsters was compiled by teachers who warned that their authority is being undermined by allowing such children to return to school.
In all the cases, ballots for industrial action were launched last year by members of the NASUWT and the National Union of Teachers in an effort to force schools to protect staff from troublemakers. They threatened to refuse to teach the child involved, and in most instances the boycotting tactic resulted in the pupil being transferred to a different school. Dozens more discipline cases were resolved without the need for industrial action.
The NASUWT report, unveiled before its annual conference in Glasgow, features a horrifying catalogue of violence by classroom hooligans including the sexual assault of a female learning support assistant and an attack on a police officer.
The union’s general secretary, Chris Keates, said: ‘We are seeing a trend whereby in over 50 per cent of our cases, it’s either head teachers not taking strong action or governing bodies overturning the professional judgments of heads and teachers.
‘All that pupils see is that someone either assaulted a teacher verbally or physically, or caused a major incident of disruption. They leave the school for a short time, then come back and it looks as though that behaviour’s OK because all they get is a few days off school. It’s completely the wrong signal that’s sent. That’s why teachers are very keen there is zero tolerance.’
Mrs Keates said that early intervention to combat low level disruption was vital. ‘It’s important schools take a very strong stand at the outset and make sure that not just the pupil concerned, but other pupils have an example of what the consequences are for unacceptable behaviour,’ she said. ‘However, teachers feel that their head teachers are often divorced from the daily realities of the classroom.’ She added: ‘Teachers shouldn’t have to resort to taking action to have their professional judgment about behaviour taken seriously.’
Mrs Keates said that heads should continue to have some classroom experience to help keep them in touch.
Shane Johnschwager, of NASUWT in Brent, north-west London, claims that head teachers’ reluctance to discipline pupils has left some schools ‘ghettoised’ and abandoned by the middle classes. He is putting forward a motion at his union conference claiming that lessons are being ‘ruined for the majority by a minority of poorly behaved pupils’. He told the Times Educational Supplement: ‘Middle class parents are more likely to hold schools to account over issues such as behaviour; the loss of involvement means behaviour in the school might get worse.’
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said the majority of schools had good behaviour and discipline procedures in place. She added: ‘Where there is inconsistency in the application of such policies the union will take action.’
Last October, Education Secretary Michael Gove unveiled wide-ranging plans designed to restore discipline to schools. Head teachers will be granted the right to expel pupils without fear of independent appeals panels reinstating the child. However, they face fines of thousands of pounds if they make the decision unfairly.
Schools will have a duty to make alternative provision for the expelled pupil, for example by ‘buying’ provision for the child at a special centre.
Other measures aimed at boosting class discipline include powers to frisk pupils for pornography, tobacco and fireworks. Children could also be checked for mobile phones and cameras if teachers fear they will be used to harm others or break a law.
Too many heads are wasting money by attending junkets in expensive hotels while their schools face cuts, staff claim.
Heavy-handed and unrepentant British council order a couple to apply for planning permission… for their daughter’s WENDY HOUSE
Over zealous council officials took bureacracy to the extreme when they ordered a couple to apply for planning permission – for their daughter’s Wendy house. The bijou Wendy house measures 6ft by 8ft and was a birthday present for three-year-old Abigail Gent, from Shropshire.
None of the neighbours raised any objection to the 7ft tall structure, but because of officials’ ‘crazy’ red tape it still needed planning permission. It has left parents Richard and Olivia Gent scratching their heads over the bizarre move.
Wrexham County Borough Council said permission was required to ensure no ‘additional development’ was carried out.
Mr Gent, a company director in London, said he was ‘puzzled’ by the council’s red tape. “I thought it was crazy and I couldn’t understand the reasoning behind it. I really thought the world had gone mad,’ he said.
The couple said they initially built the Wendy house in a paddock – which is part of their property – when they moved in about a year ago. It stood there unchallenged for three months but when officials visiting another property nearby spotted the offending structure they sent the Gents a letter.
It told them either to move the Wendy house from the paddock to their garden or apply for planning permission to keep it in the paddock – which they were advised would cost £169 and probably be refused as the paddock was classed as agricultural land, the couple said.
Instead, the Gents said they dismantled the Wendy house and moved it to the garden. But they still had to apply for planning permission and spend hours dealing with bureaucracy. Mr Gent added: ‘We thought the paddock seemed a sensible place to put it until someone from planning wrote saying we couldn’t have it there.
‘Technically the council are right and are only doing their job – but I cannot understand why in these austere times for the public sector, officials are worrying about such a trifling thing as this.’
A spokeswoman for the council said: ‘The reason planning permission was required was due to previous planning conditions, when approval was granted for a barn conversion and a change of use of land for grazing of recreational horses.
‘Due to the restricted application site, and its relationship with adjoining properties, it was considered important to ensure that no additional development is carried out without the permission of the Local Planning Authority. ‘Permission for this structure was granted on March 8, 2011.’
Britain’s 1981 Brixton riots are now being hailed by the Left as a heroic uprising. The truth is rather different
Easter was around the corner and a grand Royal Wedding was being planned. The Government was struggling with public spending cuts, young jobless totals, and control of immigration. But this isn’t 2011. It was 30 years ago, as Brixton in South London burned almost to the ground in the ugliest British riots of the 20th century.
For three days, battle raged across this inner-city Lambeth borough already brutalised by Hitler’s bombs. Over one balmy April weekend, thousands of West Indian youths fought 3,000 Metropolitan police through every alley and street.
The windows of television, furniture and jewellery stores were smashed and looted, even though many belonged to the rioters’ families, who had settled in post-war Britain from the Caribbean. By the Monday morning, 60 bystanders had been hurt, some pulled from their homes for a beating by the mob. In all, 149 police were injured, and 224 people arrested. In the mayhem, the predominantly white fire and ambulance crews sent into Brixton to save lives had been attacked with bricks and bottles too. There had been no such event in English memory. The country was swept up in a wave of shock and recrimination.
Brixton was a catalyst for copycat riots by young blacks — often egged on by Left-wing agitators — in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester, Leeds and other parts of inner-city London.
The Communist Party of Great Britain stated that Brixton was an explosive reaction to the unfair treatment of ethnic minorities and the ‘particular consequences’ of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies. It was a view many in the Labour Party hungrily endorsed.
Today, in the minds of the liberal Left, a mythology has grown up promoting the belief that the Brixton rioters were justified in their behaviour because they were racially oppressed. To celebrate the anniversary, the BBC produced a naively one-sided account of the riots for Radio 4’s Reunion programme — in which people who have taken part in an event are brought together years later to discuss it.
The Reunion’s line-up featured five people — Brian Paddick, then a police sergeant, later a controversial Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard famed for telling police in Lambeth to ease up on drug arrests; Darcus Howe, a Left-wing black ‘thinker’; ‘Red’ Ted Knight, who led Lambeth Council at the time; Alex Wheatle, now a novelist and then a young rioter; and Peter Bleksley, then a junior policeman caught up in the riots who went on to become a ‘community’ copper in the area.
‘This selection was a parody of BBC bias,’ proclaimed the commentator and journalist Charles Moore after hearing the programme. ‘We were not reminded that Knight declared, in the aftermath of the Brixton riot: “We want to break the Metropolitan Police.” He was probably the hardest-Left of all the Labour leaders in London.’
The BBC offered no ordinary residents — black or white — of Brixton to describe the fear, crime and disorder meted out on that once-peaceful community. Nor did the programme invite anyone to pass comment on the havoc that poorly planned mass migration had wreaked on Brixton all those years ago, as well as on other traditional working-class inner-city communities.
In Lambeth this week there was even a questionable ‘celebration’ of the Brixton riot 30th anniversary. Councillors renamed the event the ‘Brixton Uprising’ and provided ‘first-hand witness accounts’ along with ‘special guests’ for entertainment. Among them was the Jamaican ‘poet’ Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose writing contains graphic descriptions of alleged police brutality during the Eighties, including one poem entitled Ingland Is A Bich.
But what really caused the Brixton riot? And what did the events of that weekend say about a Britain which had absorbed 1.9 million non-white immigrants since the Fifties?
Brixton in the early Eighties was a tinderbox. Unemployment in the area stood at 13 per cent overall, and 25 per cent among the West Indian community. Half of young black men were jobless and, understandably, discontented with their lot.
In those days, it was a place of black council tenants, many hardworking older immigrants, and white squatters living cheek by jowl.
Many of the young blacks smoked dope, listened to reggae, and spoke an almost impenetrable patois. Empty houses, still not renovated after war bombing, were taken over as drinking and gambling dens and all-night party venues. Crime was soaring, with 90 burglaries, muggings and assaults being recorded each week.
Relations between the police and Brixton’s black community had never been good. In 1966, a report published by the Commonwealth Institute, with the foul title Nigger Hunting In England?, reported that the police used dogs to chase black people, and that ‘reliable sources’ confirmed how constables left Brixton police stations with the express purpose of hounding West Indians and other ethnic groups.
Even 15 years later, on the eve of the riots, the area was awash with unconfirmed stories that detectives working there wore ‘Ace of Spades’ ties, and sported BNP badges on the inside of their jacket lapels. At the time, just 286 of 117,000 officers in the England and Wales forces were black or Asian, a far smaller proportion than in the population.
Determined to stamp out violent crime in Brixton, the police launched Operation Swamp 81 that April. They sent in hundreds of officers to stop and search 1,000 people in just two days, using outdated 19th-century vagrancy laws.
These ‘sus’ laws were hated. The 1824 Vagrancy Act had been passed to stop soldiers from begging on the streets after they returned from the Napoleonic wars. Anyone could be convicted on the sole testimony of the arresting officer for being a ‘suspected person loitering with intent to steal’.
Among the hundreds of policemen sent into Brixton as part of Operation Swamp was Steve Margiotta. On Friday, April 10, 1981, he was patrolling not far from Railton Road, a main street in Brixton which was to become the ‘Frontline’ of the riots.
A black teenager, 19-year-old Michael Bailey, ran towards him. The policeman wrestled him to the ground and found Bailey had been stabbed. As Margiotta, then 27, recalled recently: ‘I was on a busy street and I could see this person running towards me. He was coming at quite a speed. He was coming straight for me, so I had to stop him. ‘We collided, and as we got up his shirt came off the shoulder and I could see he was bleeding. I was also covered with blood.
‘He kept on running and I set off in pursuit — just to help him, as I could see he was badly hurt. Some others there thought I was trying to arrest him. They were saying: “What are you doing?” ‘It all started from there.’
Bailey ran to a flat where a white family tried to help him. The father of the house put some kitchen roll over the wound and bound it tightly. When he asked Michael who had caused the injury, he simply said: ‘Blacks.’
Bailey was put in a mini-cab for the hospital. But, fatefully, a police car saw the cab moving away at speed and stopped it. When an officer from the police car, realising Bailey was injured, tried to bind his wound more tightly, trouble ensued.
A group of 50 youths began to shout for Bailey’s release. ‘Look, they’re killing him,’ claimed one. And with that the crowd descended on the police car and pulled him out. They dispatched him to hospital and told officers: ‘Let us look after our own.’
By now, rumours were spreading through Brixton streets that it was the police who had hurt Bailey. And within an hour, the riots had begun.
It seems astonishing now that a misunderstanding, even a small act of kindness from the police themselves, should have sparked an event that would have such huge political and social consequences.
At the height of the fighting, in what many took as a racist gesture, a tailor’s white-skinned dummy had been pulled from the broken window of the men’s shop Burton’s, thrown to the ground, then stripped and set alight by the rioters.
The smouldering, naked effigy was still lying on streets covered with shattered glass and next to upturned Panda cars, when Prime Minister Thatcher was whisked from 10 Downing Street for tea at the local police station during a lull in the riots.
She asked the West Indian tea ladies who served her what they thought of the rioting. ‘They were clearly as disgusted as I was with those who were causing the trouble,’ she recalled later. ‘I had gone to the canteen to thank the staff, as I had thanked the police officers themselves, for all that they were doing.’