Health and safety straitjacket on emergency crews
Thousands of police officers and paramedics in Britain are prevented from helping members of public because of health and safety fears, an investigation has found.
Almost half of police officers and three quarters of paramedics told a survey that they had been unable to intervene in a situation because of the regulations.
But despite the risks to their safety and threat of prosecution, the investigation found eight in 10 officers had ignored health and safety guidelines while doing their job.
It found a large majority of emergency service personnel wanted an overhaul to the law and “greater freedom to act” amid claims it had created a “risk aversion” culture.
Currently only front line army personnel are exempt from health and safety legislation, introduced in the 1970s, which can lead to criminal offences if breached.
Ministers admitted the rules needed to change and will publish a review on health and safety laws later this year.
The investigation, due to be broadcast on Thursday night by ITV’s Tonight programme, was based on a survey of more than 2000 police officers and paramedics from the College of Paramedics (COP) and the Police Federation.
It comes in the wake of damning evidence of health and safety problems that was heard at inquests into last year’s Cumbria massacre and the July 7 terrorist bombings.
In March the coroner in the inquest of Cumbria gunman Derrick Bird criticised a policy which stopped ambulance crews entering a scene until it has been cleared by police after a jury found he had unlawfully killed his 12 victims.
A review into the emergency services’ response to the shootings found North West Ambulance Service employees were banned under health and safety guidelines from attending fire arm incidents until the scene was declared safe by police.
Fire fighters also came in for criticism at the July 7 inquest because they failed to enter the tunnels because of health and safety restrictions.
But giving her findings, Lady Justice Hallett, the July 7 coroner, said she hoped that employees were “reminded that protocols are designed to save lives”. She also said that neither the London Fire Brigade nor its employees should be unfairly criticised for adhering to policies and protocols.
Later this year, health and safety laws will come under scrutiny when three fire service managers face trial for manslaughter by gross negligence over the deaths of four Midland firemen in a warehouse blaze at a vegetable packing plant in Atherstone-on-Stour, Warwickshire in November 2007.
Assistant Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), admitted that health and safety laws had created “risk aversion within the emergency services”. “It does seem completely barmy to have a piece of legislation that says we can prosecute you for acting bravely in the interest of protecting the public,” said the West Mercia Police officer.
An ACPO spokesman later said that every “day, police officers disregard their own health and safety to protect the public and capture offenders”. He said the Crown Prosecution Service and the Health and Safety Executive had recently agreed a new “common sense approach” to guidelines.
“Officers join the service to protect the public and we are encouraged that there is agreement the legislation should not inhibit the degree of personal commitment they want to deliver,” he said. “No officer should be at risk of prosecution when they perform heroic acts in an effort to protect life or property.”
But Paul McKeever, the Police Federation chairman, denied laws hindered operational policing “or the actions of police officers”. The law as it stands serves both the public and the police effectively,” he said, adding that “clarity” of the law’s interpretation was needed.
Prof Malcolm Woollard, a spokesman for the College of Paramedics, the industry’s professional body, said ambulance officers already put their lives at risk. “But if we are asked to go into hazardous situations we need to ensure that we are adequately trained and equipped to minimise that risk.”
When he took office last year David Cameron, the Prime Minister, admitted that health and safety laws needed an overhaul and vowed to review the laws. He was backed by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who pledged during an interview with The Daily Telegraph to end the “health and safety culture” in the police.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling, who is charged with the health and safety review, admitted the law needed to change. He warned people needed to trust the “professional judgement” of emergency services, whom he praised for “putting their lives on the line”.
“I think there is absolutely no doubt that some people in the emergency services have been holding back from doing things in the course of duty, because of a fear of health and safety rules,” he said. He said the government wanted to prevent personnel from “feeling constrained by health and safety rules”.
One in four primary school pupils in Britain are from an ethnic minority and almost a million schoolchildren do not speak English as their first language
More than a quarter of primary school children are from an ethnic minority – an increase of almost half a million since 1997, it emerged yesterday.
The Government’s annual school census painted a picture of a changing Britain where schools are under mounting pressure from mass immigration.
In some areas, only 8 per cent of primary pupils are from a white British background. Nearly one million children aged five to 16 – 957,490 – speak English as a second language, up from almost 800,000 five years ago. And 26.5 per cent of primary pupils – 862,735 – are from an ethnic minority. When Labour took office in 1997, the total was 380,954. At secondary level, the total of ethnic minority children – 723,605 – has risen from 17.7 per cent to 22.2 per cent in five years.
The biggest group of ethnic minority pupils were Asians [from India & Pakistan & Bangladesh], making up 10 per cent of primary pupils and 8.3 per cent of secondary pupils. The number from ‘other white backgrounds’ in primaries has almost doubled since 2004 – from 74,500 to 136,880 – reflecting arrivals from Eastern Europe and other new EU member states.
In Manchester, Bradford, Leicester and Nottinghamshire white British primary pupils are in a minority. And in Luton just 30 per cent are classified as white British. In some London boroughs, such as Newham, only 8 per cent of children up to the age of 11 are from a white British background.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of think-tank MigrationWatch, said this was an ‘inevitable consequence of Labour’s policy of mass immigration’. He added: ‘We now have nearly a million schoolchildren whose first language is not English and who consequently need extra attention which can only be at the expense of English-speaking students.
‘This underlines the need for the Government to meet its commitment to get net migration down to tens of thousands by 2015.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Having English as a second language doesn’t always mean that English skills are necessarily poor. It only shows the language the child was initially exposed to at home – the evidence is clear that once English is established, children catch up and even overtake their peers.’
Overall, 24 per cent of children in primary and secondary schools are of an ethnic minority – 1,586,340. The DfE classification of ‘white British’ does not include Irish, traveller, gipsy or Roma pupils.
A record number of parents are lodging appeals after their children were refused places at their primary school of choice. DfE figures show there were 42,070 such appeals in 2009/10 – a 10.5 per cent rise on the year before and a doubling since 2005/6. Immigration and families trying to get into sought-after schools have been blamed.
British Conservative MEPs to revolt against the coalition’s environment policies
Conservative MEPs are planning to revolt against the coalition’s environment policies in an attempt to sabotage the proposed strengthening of Europe’s climate targets.
The revolt would be an embarrassment for David Cameron, who has committed Britain to some of the most ambitious greenhouse gas targets in the world.
Tomorrow the European parliament will vote on whether to toughen the EU’s emissions-cutting target from 20 per cent reductions by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, to a 30 per cent cut. The commitment to a 30 per cent cut has been agreed by the coalition, and has won support from other member states in the EU bloc.
British Conservative MEPs, however, have said they would vote to oppose the 30% cut, according to reports.
A survey found that only one out of the 23 replied to say they would vote in favour of the 30 per cent figure.
The leader of Britain’s Conservative delegation, Martin Callanan, said: “Conservative MEPs have always been sceptical of the EU unilaterally increasing its target to 30 per cent without a worldwide agreement … European companies will be unable to compete if the reduction targets are set too high.
“Many high energy consuming companies are already being forced to relocate to countries outside the EU, which have little or no environmental legislation, putting many Europeans out of work, and an increased target will exacerbate this trend.
“We are also concerned that the higher carbon costs from an increased target will feed through into energy price increases for domestic consumers, who are already facing steep rises.”
Last month the Prime Minister said the coalition wanted to be the “greenest government ever” as he committed Britain to halve UK carbon emissions by 2025.
He said: “When the coalition came together last year, we said we wanted this to be the greenest government ever. This is the right approach for Britain if we are to combat climate change, secure our energy supplies for the long-term and seize the economic opportunities that green industries hold … the UK can prove that there need not be a tension between green and growth.”
However it appears that Tory MEPs are set to scupper that commitment. Only Marina Yannakoudakis said she would vote in favour of 30 per cent while Julie Girling said she planned to vote for 20 per cent but might compromise on 25 per cent if it became an option that was offered.
Fury of former British mayor dragged through courts by yob, 13, who trampled his flower beds
Hours of effort had gone into preparing the soil and planting 250 daffodil bulbs. So Keith Gilbert was horrified when, every day for two months, he returned from work to find his cherished 30ft flowerbed had been trampled on by thugs.
By the time the former mayor caught one of the vandals in the act, he was at the end of his tether – grabbing the 13-year-old’s collar and giving him a piece of his mind.
The boy immediately apologised. But after months of being the victim, it was Mr Gilbert who ended up in the dock, not his tormentor.
The 62-year-old was summoned to appear in court accused of assault by beating, an offence that carries a maximum jail term of six months. Yesterday, after a six month ordeal, Mr Gilbert was found not guilty by magistrates who insisted that his case should never have come to court.
Mr Gilbert, an independent town and district councillor, described the verdict as a ‘victory for people who have to suffer all this mindless vandalism’. He added: ‘All I was doing was protecting my property.
‘This whole matter could have been sorted out through restorative justice, by sitting round a table at the police station and talking about it.
‘My partner could have explained how stressed she was about this boy walking over our raised flowerbed. He could have said he realised that he was being silly and apologised. That apology would have been accepted and I could have apologised if he thought I went a bit over the top. ‘We could have all shaken hands and that would have been the end of it.
‘Instead, after months of being the victim of mindless vandalism, I found myself in court charged with assault by beating, just because I stood up to a vandal.’
Mr Gilbert, a postman from Watton, Norfolk, said footprints appeared on the flowerbed almost every day for eight weeks until his altercation with the boy on December 3 last year.
His partner, Rita Lake, 61, who works at a horticultural nursery, had planted 250 daffodil bulbs in September and created the raised flowerbed from scratch.
‘The entire episode had left her ‘very stressed’, he said, adding: ‘I guessed it was one of the pupils walking to the school who was doing it for a laugh.
‘When I was coming home, I saw him jump on the end of the trough and walk along. ‘I grabbed him by the coat collar when he jumped off the other end.’ Mr Gilbert, who admitted swearing twice at the boy, told him: ‘That’s my garden and you don’t walk on it.’
But six weeks later, in January this year, police arrived at his four-bedroom bungalow and asked him to provide them with a statement.
Mr Gilbert was told that the boy’s friends had reported the incident to the headmaster at Wayland High School and a complaint had been made. He insisted he had acted lawfully to stop the boy damaging his property while walking to the school, which is on the same road. ‘I saw him jump on the trough and I grabbed him by the coat collar’
Police hoped to deal with the incident through restorative justice, an informal method of allowing alleged criminals to apologise to victims and avoid court.
But the boy’s father refused to accept the solution and insisted that Mr Gilbert, who was mayor of Watton four years ago, should face criminal proceedings.
Mr Gilbert was given the choice of accepting a caution, which would have involved him admitting a criminal offence and having his fingerprints and DNA taken at the police station, or going to court to clear his name.
When he refused the first option, he received a summons to appear before Norwich Magistrates Court accused of assault by beating. Philip Alcock, prosecuting, told the court: ‘He took the law into his own hands, and that’s not the way we’ve been playing the game for the last ten to 15 years. He was a boy not a man and he went a fraction too far.’
The boy claimed he had slipped on ice and steadied himself by planting his foot on Mr Gilbert’s flowerbed, despite photographs showing it to be nine inches above pavement level and behind concrete blocks.
His claim, said Mr Gilbert, defied the laws of gravity. After a five-hour trial magistrates rejected his story and found Mr Gilbert not guilty.
Presiding magistrate John Claxton questioned how the case had even reached his court, adding: ‘This bench believes that this could and should have been dealt with by restorative justice.’
Must not mention that blacks are hard to see in a dim light
“Chris Evans has been accused of racism after telling a black scientist he could not see her in a dim BBC studio. The presenter told Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a highly respected space expert and government adviser: ‘I can barely see you, to be honest.’
The remark came after he mistakenly said she was Caribbean when she is of Nigerian descent.
The Corporation received 56 complaints from viewers who interpreted his comments as a racist joke. One angrily condemned the words as ‘proper foot-in-mouth’.
Evans’s comment was made early in The One Show last Friday during a discussion about a week of ‘space spectating’ which had included a lunar eclipse.
Dr Aderin-Pocock, sitting next to singer Tom Jones on the studio sofa, was asked if there were more to come.
She replied: ‘There’s plenty out there to see, unfortunately not tonight.’
Mr Evans then said: ‘It’s terrible tonight, I can barely see you, to be honest.’