Grandmother handcuffed and escorted from doctor’s surgery by police after demanding to see her medical notes
A grandmother was handcuffed and led away from her doctor’s surgery by police after a row over her demand to see her medical notes.
Mary Kerswell, 67, asked for a copy of her GP records after she was called in for a urine test for a kidney condition she did not have.
When the mother of two was shown a brief summary of her medical history she was shocked to see that as well as being wrongly listed as having chronic kidney disease, it said she was a heavy smoker with Alzheimer’s.
The incorrect summary of her notes also said the healthy pensioner had undergone a hysterectomy and a double hip replacement.
Concerned about the errors, Mrs Kerswell demanded a copy of her full 43-page medical notes – as patients are entitled to do – and was told it would take a week. But when the retired scientist returned to the surgery a week later after paying a £10 fee, she was told the notes were not ready.
Frustrated, Mrs Kerswell staged a sit-in and refused to leave until the receptionist printed the records and addressed the errors. But the surgery called the police and a community support officer attended, before calling for back up.
Mrs Kerswell was then handcuffed and spoken to in a police car. The pensioner, from Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, yesterday told the Mail that she could not believe the reaction to what she claims was a ‘peaceful protest’.
She said: ‘When I went back they were not ready. The receptionist insisted they could not print the records for me. ‘I was going to see my cousin the next day and then be away and I wanted to get the records sorted.
‘So I said I would wait. Anyone else would have just left me sat there until I gave up. They told me if I did not leave they would call the police. But I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It was a peaceful protest. I just sat there and sat there wishing I had my Kindle with me.
‘A PCSO came and called for reinforcements and then a policeman handcuffed me and led me outside. I just had to laugh. I could not believe what was going on. All because the receptionist wouldn’t press “print”.’
Yesterday, Bedfordshire Police apologised to Mrs Kerswell after admitting that the incident, in December, could have been dealt with ‘in a less intrusive manner’.
Chief Inspector Mark Upex said: ‘I have spoken with Mrs Kerswell on two occasions and while she does not wish to make a formal complaint, she did raise some concerns about the actions taken by the officers.
‘The officers involved have been spoken to and advised about their future conduct. Mrs Kerswell was satisfied with this outcome.’
Mrs Kerswell said she was called by Biggleswade Health Centre just two days after the incident and told she had been taken off their patient list. She has since had to find a new GP. She has complained about the inaccuracies in her medical records.
A spokesman for NHS Midlands and East said: ‘The investigation into this complaint is still on-going and therefore we are unable comment.’ The GP surgery was unavailable for comment.
Three staff suspended at top children’s hospital ‘after baby girl dies from huge morphine overdose’
Three staff at one of Britain’s top children’s hospital have been suspended and interviewed by police after the death of a baby girl, allegedly from a massive morphine overdose. A probe was launched following the death of eight-week-old Hanna Faheem who was admitted with breathing difficulties, and died in her mother’s arms.
The investigation is over the administration of a controlled drug and detectives are waiting for the results of pathology tests.
As her family prepared for her funeral, detectives arrived to halt the ceremony and Hanna’s body was seized for a post-mortem examination.
Her mother Naseem Akhtar, from Sheffield said she initially believed her daughter had lost the fight for life against rare genetic condition Edwards’ Syndrome, with which she had been born less than two months earlier.
But she was later told detectives were investigating whether Hanna was given 10 times too much morphine in Sheffield Children’s Hospital, a 3.5mg dose instead of the correct 0.35mg.
‘I feel as if my whole life has been turned upside down,’ said 38-year-old Ms Akhtar. ‘When the police came to the house and stopped the funeral that was the first we knew anything suspicious had happened.
‘They said she may have been given too much morphine, 10 times more, and it had been realised an hour later.’
Hanna was born on October 21 last year at Sheffield’s Jessop maternity wing, and soon afterwards doctors found she had Edwards’ Syndrome. The rare genetic disorder occurs when a child is born with three copies of chromosome 18, rather than the usual two. Most babies die before birth, and the condition often causes trouble with feeding and breathing.
‘They told me she had a limited lifespan, and that she needed to go home and spend time with her family,’ her mother said. ‘She was such a beautiful baby, and very much loved.’
Nearly two months later, at around 10.30pm last December 16, Naseem noticed Hanna had a chesty cough and sore throat, so called an ambulance as she had been advised.
‘One of the doctors said she was really poorly,’ said Naseem. ‘I said to the nurses, ‘Can’t you give her something to take the mucus out?’.
‘One of the drugs was morphine, and the other was to relieve congestion in her chest.It seemed she was getting better, but at around 4am we were taken on to the ward. I picked Hanna up, and I was crying, because I knew there was something wrong happening. She died in my arms.
‘When Hanna was born I was told that her life would be short. I was mentally prepared for that but she should not have died that morning.
‘I knew my daughter’s life would be short but she was loved just as much as if she would have lived a normal life.
‘If the hospital had not made the mistake I would have had more time with her and they robbed me of that. The police told me that the hospital admitted they had given her too much morphine.
‘But why didn’t they tell me what had happened me she died? Instead I was allowed to take Hanna for her funeral which was arranged for later the same day.
‘Then the police arrived and said it could not go ahead. It was heartbreaking. People need to be aware of what went wrong because mistakes like this should not happen.’
Hanna died at 5.30am the following day, and within hours the funeral was arranged at the Madani Masjid Mosque in Wincobank, with hundreds of mourners expected. But at 12.50pm CID came to the family home and stopped the funeral.’
An inquest has been opened and a police spokesman confirmed: ‘South Yorkshire Police is currently investigating the death of a two-month-old child following admission to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
‘The investigation regarding the administration of a controlled drug is ongoing, and officers are waiting for the results of a pathology report.’
A hospital spokeswoman said: ‘We have been notified by the police that they are investigating a death at the hospital on December 17. As this is a police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further.’
Top university, a great degree – but as for a job, dream on
Dreaming spires: a degree from a good university such as Oxford opens doors in some places, but it doesn’t seem to secure jobs
Few youngsters had more advantages than Sophie Strang. She attended some of the country’s best schools: first The Mount, an exclusive London day school, and then North London Collegiate, the £15,000-a-year alma mater of Anna Wintour and Esther Rantzen. Like many of her classmates, she achieved straight As at A-level and won a place at Oxford.
Yet, four years later, she is back at the family home in Totteridge. Eight months after she graduated from Keble College, the 21-year-old cannot find work. Her 2:1 in English was not enough to impress employers in her desired field of film and TV production, and she has received nearly 100 rejection letters from a range of job vacancies.
“I have done unpaid internships for more than six months,” Strang says. “I have been rejected from receptionist work and a lot of admin jobs. I don’t feel a sense of entitlement but I am definitely capable of doing that work. Employers are receiving hundreds of applications, even for these jobs that are far from glamorous.”
One in four 21-year-old graduates are unemployed, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. And those lucky university leavers who do manage to find work usually find that their degree is irrelevant, as The Daily Telegraph columnist Allister Heath pointed out last week. Indeed, a fifth of recent graduates are working as waiters, check-out operators, filing clerks or in other retail, catering and secretarial roles. Nor do those leaving the best universities, like Strang, necessarily find highly skilled jobs: in the past three years, Oxford has produced more accounts clerks than management consultants and more bar staff than young economists.
Yet university remains the default option for many British teenagers, even after most institutions nearly tripled their annual fees, to £9,000, last year. In 1982, universities received 171,000 applications, including those from foreign students. Under Labour, the number of places rocketed with the then prime minister Tony Blair’s cherished ambition to send half of our teenagers into higher education. More than 544,000 British students applied last year, a slight decrease on the year before, but tens of thousands more than four years ago.
However, as traditional degrees are failing to provide jobs for all in austerity Britain, a new breed of undergraduate is emerging who combines his or her studies with an apprenticeship. So-called “higher” apprentices split their university years between work and education – in the style of the old “sandwich” courses at polytechnics, but with even more time spent in industry – earning a wage and experience as well as a degree. Some employers will then pay for their apprentices to study for a master’s degree.
The scheme was launched in 2008 by the government’s Learning and Skills Council and, though little publicised, is proving popular with employers. That low profile is set to change. Today, the Department for Business publishes the first evidence of the scheme’s success: a poll of 500 employers showing that they would rather take on a higher apprentice than a conventional graduate. A wide range of companies offers the apprenticeships, from management consultancies and public relations firms to life sciences and engineering outfits. Last year, 3,700 youngsters embarked on a higher apprenticeship, two-thirds more than the year before. An advertising campaign that launches today is seeking to attract at least 25,000 more young people.
Holly Broadhurst, from Leek in Staffordshire, is one such student, having turned down offers to study a full-time degree in mechanical engineering at universities such as Loughborough and Sheffield Hallam. At 19, she is two years younger than Sophie Strang but has been working ever since she left school last summer.
“I was worried about the fees at university,” she says. “I would have had £50,000 worth of debt and no guarantee of a job at the end of it. This way, I get a job straight away, get paid well and get a degree on top.”
Her employer, JCB, pays for her to attend Sheffield Hallam one day a week. For the rest of the week she works for them as a troubleshooter, using her academic experience to solve customers’ problems.
Broadhurst says her work experience makes her a better student. “It puts everything in perspective,” she says. “There is not someone there with a textbook saying, ‘This works like that for this reason.’ I used to think, ‘Hang on a minute, I don’t understand.’ Now I see it in real life and think, ‘That’s where this theory comes in.’”
She insists that missing out on full-time university life is a small price to pay
“There are days when I think of my friends having a whale of a time at university,” she admits. “They are out partying all the time. But is that what university is actually for? Here, I’ve got a job, I’m learning at the same time and I’m having fun.”
Broadhurst’s decision is less surprising when one considers her alma mater, the JCB Academy. The school is named after its principal business partner and is based just round the corner from JCB’s headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire. It was the first of what are known as university technical colleges, a new type of technical school for 14- to 18-year-olds championed by Lord (Kenneth) Baker, the architect of the National Curriculum. They represent a challenge to the conventional model of a comprehensive, academic education followed by university, and are gaining ground: five are now open and last month the Department for Education approved proposals for a further 13. An expected 27 are to open within two years.
The schools are supported by a range of local companies and a university, with the aim of helping to meet skills shortages in a particular area of business. So while the JCB Academy focuses on engineering, others target biomedical science, health care, construction, design, digital technology, computer science and sport. GCSEs and
A-levels are integrated in eight-week projects devised by the sponsoring firms, which involve testing technical as well as academic prowess.
The first 16-year-olds who joined the school when it opened in 2010 left last summer (the first intake at age 14 leave in 2014). Jim Wade, the principal of the JCB Academy, is proud that the entire first cohort is now either working or in further education and, remarkably, half of that first year group of 32 has chosen a higher apprenticeship. “We were really surprised by the percentage going down that route,” says Wade. “But when you think of it from their perspective, they’re getting their degree alongside training. They are also providing crucial skills those industries need.”
Holly Broadhurst was head girl at the JCB Academy last year. The head boy, Aidan Rogers, is now an apprentice, too, turning down a full-time university place to work for Rolls-Royce on aircraft engine design, while studying for his degree.
“I think apprenticeships should be seen more widely as an alternative to university and not as a dirty word,” he says. “When I was telling my friends I was applying for one, they didn’t think it led through university to master’s level; they saw it as hands-on work. They couldn’t understand that this was what I wanted to do when I could have got into so many good universities.”
Apprenticeships are growing in appeal, with several of the largest graduate recruiters scrambling to set up their own schemes. PwC, the accountancy firm, hired 31 apprentices last year and plans to more than double the number it takes on this year. It says its scheme is the right route for talented students “who are clear about their career path and want to get straight into work”.
Accenture, the IT consultancy, has established a similar scheme. “We’re not going to stop taking on IT graduates but it [the apprenticeship scheme] is providing an alternative for us,” says Bob Paton, Accenture managing director in Newcastle. “University is great for some people but as a country we need to give young people other options.
“We have got some apprentices now who started a university course and then pulled out of it to join us. I can understand why people might in the past have thought an apprenticeship was something to do with becoming a plumber or a bricklayer, but more and more companies are offering these schemes. They are right for bright people with few qualifications but they are also right for people with great A-levels who are considering the university route.”
Meanwhile, Sophie Strang faces an anxious wait after her latest job interview last Friday. She does not regret going to Oxford, but is under no illusion now that a good degree will automatically lead to employment. “Oxford opens doors in some places – especially in small companies where the MD went there, too – but it doesn’t seem to secure jobs.
“In a lot of industries, people who have gone to less good universities but have studied a vocational subject, say TV production, are much more likely to get jobs in that industry than me with my 2:1 from Oxford.”
Many professions still require a conventional degree, but Strang thinks schools should educate pupils not to assume that university is their only option. “When I’m Googling jobs, these apprenticeships come up but I’m not allowed to apply for them because I have a degree,” she sighs. “There is an assumption among middle-class parents that all their friends’ children are going to university, so we have to go, too. But university isn’t right for everyone.”
We all need ‘nature’s Prozac’
Britain’s recent run of sunless summers and long, grey winters may be the cause of widespread vitamin D deficiency and a host of symptoms from lethargy to depression and poor immune health
For most of my adult life I have avoided doctors. They have been figures of fear for me since the day, aged eight, that I managed to convince my gentle and indulgent mother that I had such a bad stomach ache that I couldn’t go to school. It wasn’t the first occasion I had managed to pull off the “sick trick” – I was highly accomplished at faking symptoms that were not quite serious enough for a visit to the doctor’s surgery but allowed me a precious day at home.
But on this particular occasion I was so convincing that my alarmed mother called the doctor and, worried I would be found out, I so overdid the moans of agony when he examined me that an ambulance was called and I was rushed into hospital for an emergency – but quite unnecessary – appendectomy. As a result of that traumatic experience I have only ever gone near a doctor in the intervening years when I was pregnant or one of my three children was ill (or had pulled a “sick trick” on me).
Ironically it was severe stomach pain (real, not imagined) that forced me, for the first time in nearly 10 years, to see a doctor in late January. There were other symptoms: lethargy, loss of appetite and – something I had never suffered from before – depression. The doctor, a locum, diagnosed a possible kidney infection, and put me on antibiotics. But in the following weeks I developed unrelated infections, took two more courses of antibiotics and even underwent hospital X-rays as the locum sought to find the cause of what he called my “symptoms of a low immune system”.
When I Googled “causes of a low immune system”, I found a number of frightening results, such as TB, Aids, cancer and hepatitis. Finally, a simple blood test taken from me by the practice nurse identified a far less serious but increasingly common problem.
I had a severe vitamin D deficiency that had suppressed my immune system and was the likely cause of my depression. The cure was a capsule of pharmaceutical strength vitamin D (20,000 IU) to be taken once a week for three months.
One day, about six weeks into my course, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of wellbeing and I understood that I was not just cured, I was transformed.
But I was also angry. Why had I not known about the importance of vitamin D – which is essential for regulating the phosphate and calcium in our body so that our bones and teeth remain healthy?
Worse, why didn’t I know that the chief source of vitamin D (only a small number of foods contain the vitamin) comes from our skin’s exposure to sunlight?
Why hadn’t the Department of Health instituted a programme to educate an increasingly vulnerable nation – that has gone through two long, long cold winters and a predominantly sunless couple of summers – about the dangers of becoming vitamin-D-deficient?
Had the public been better informed, I would have recognised my own symptoms and self-treated my deficiency with a high-strength vitamin D supplement (which can be bought over the counter for around £35 for 30 once-a-week capsules) and would have saved myself from debilitating infections. That way too, rather like that appendectomy when I was eight, the three courses of antibiotics, the tests and the X-rays would have been entirely unnecessary.
At the end of the three months, I had a final appointment at my local surgery and instead of the locum I saw one of the permanent partners in the GP practice. The doctor, who had also suffered the effects of low vitamin D, told me that she thought there might be a link between a deficiency and the “epidemic” of women patients suffering from depression. Instead of prescribing anti-depressants, she was beginning to think, women should be given vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D could be “nature’s Prozac”, she said.
Scientist and award-winning medical journalist Oliver Gillie, who has long campaigned on this subject, believes that more testing could prove that in Britain – a country he describes as being “on the edge of the habitable world as far as sunshine is concerned and where it is not possible to get enough vitamin D from food” – everyone should be taking vitamin D supplements during the long winter months.
But there are other reasons why more and more women are suffering from low vitamin D counts. For a time, government-sponsored campaigns drummed into us that exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun (or sun beds) can cause skin cancer. As a result, we stopped going out in the midday sun and started to smother our bodies (and our children’s bodies) in high-factor sun lotion, unaware that in doing so we are blocking the vital production of vitamin D through our skin.
Women have also been subjected to anti-sunshine propaganda in the beauty pages of glossy magazines, warning of the danger of sun damage – the speeding up of the ageing process.
Sunbathing is now regarded as a habit almost as harmful as smoking 50 cigarettes a day or mainlining heroin. Even the cast of The Only Way is Essex are rejecting sun lounging and sun beds in favour of factor-60 spray tans.
But staying out of the sun – unless you are fortified with vitamin D supplements – could be almost as damaging as ultraviolet radiation. Several A-list celebrities have recently revealed that they have been diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency. Gwyneth Paltrow now lets the sun on her skin for a few minutes a day, because her very low vitamin D level prevented her from absorbing calcium and has made her vulnerable to osteopenia, a thinning of the bones. And last year Kylie Minogue told me that she too had a problem.
“I was the person in the shade with sunscreen, but then I discovered I was vitamin-D-deficient so I actually get a little sun on my body, not on my face, and I am taking vitamin D supplements,” she said.
Department of Health and cancer charities’ advice now puts the emphasis on avoiding sunburn and very strong sun rather than staying out of the sun altogether.
However, Gillie is worried that vital research into the long-term effects of a vitamin D deficiency – particularly the possible link to depression – will never be carried out because it is not in the interest of the drug companies. He says: “No one can put a patent on vitamin D and sell it.”
But now at least I – and you, dear readers – know the truth.
They used to put Vitamin D in the butter. I wonder what has become of that?
Geoffrey Lean is slowly reversing his lean
An environmentalist from way back, Mr. Lean is finding it hard to justify climate alarm these days. So he is starting to air some doubts. Even since last January (second article), he has come a long way. Under the heading “time to rein back on doom and gloom?” he writes in the London Telegraph as follows:
There are important, and possibly hopeful, developments in the complex, contentious world of climate science that might finally give us all a sense of spring. For some recent research suggests that climate change might not be as catastrophic as the gloomiest predictions suggest.
The research, moreover, comes at a time when many experts are beginning to despair that warming can be prevented from running out of control. Six weeks ago, for example, Prof Sir Robert Watson – the deeply respected former chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – said he believed the world had now missed its chance to keep the average rise in global temperature to less than 2C – the level at which dangerous effects are thought inevitable. But if the new research is right, it might be held below this ominous threshold after all, if determined worldwide action is taken.
Prediction, as they say, is tough, especially when it’s about the future – and that’s especially true when it comes to the climate, whose complexity we only partially understand. It is, as we all know, naturally immensely variable. And the effect of human intervention is subject to long timelags: it will be decades, even centuries, before the full consequences of today’s emissions of carbon dioxide become clear.
As a result, scientists and policymakers draw on the past to predict the future. Until now, they have therefore placed much weight on the rapid temperature increases in the Eighties and Nineties. But for at least a decade, these have dramatically slowed, even as carbon dioxide emissions have continued to increase.
None of this justifies the frequent claim by climate sceptics that global warming has stopped, and may now reverse. Long lulls have occurred before, only for temperatures to resume their relentless rise. And eight of the nine hottest years on record have still all occurred since 2000. But it does suggest that the rapid recent warming may have been as anomalous as the present pause.
It also raises the possibility that carbon dioxide may be less potent than has been thought in heating the planet. Again, this is not to say, as some sceptics attest, that it is innocent – the science showing that it is a greenhouse gas has been established for more than 150 years and accords with the very laws of physics. But it may be less guilty than once supposed. And this is reinforced by recent findings that emissions of soot, or black carbon – which patient readers may remember I have been banging on about for years – are causing twice as much warming as previously estimated, meaning that the contribution of CO2 must be correspondingly less.
The new research focuses on the arcane but crucial issue of “climate sensitivity”. This is normally expressed as the amount of warming that would eventually result from doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from its level before the Industrial Revolution – something which, on present trends, we will achieve in the next few decades.
The resulting increase has long been put at between 1.5C and 4.5C (the threefold range itself gives some idea of how little is known): the best guess has been 3C, which would be likely to have devastating effects on the climate. But the latest findings – which stretch over several papers from different, well-established scientists – suggest that the rise may be towards the lower end of that big range, possibly less than the 2C danger level.
The researchers themselves are quick to emphasise that their results should not diminish attempts to combat climate change. Their research could be wrong; after all, other equally distinguished scientists have concluded that climate sensitivity is much greater. Even if it is right, their new estimates for temperature rise still range widely, and the upper end still exceeds the danger mark.
Furthermore, the actual effects of temperature rises in the real world can blow away such calculations. Sea ice in the Arctic, for example, has already shrunk to levels not expected to occur for decades – and has done so during the current slowdown in overall global temperature rises.
Besides, a broader problem remains: on present policies, atmospheric CO2 levels will not stop rising when they reach the doubling point, but go on soaring past it – meaning that the world will still reach the danger point, even if more slowly.
So while governments must urgently adopt measures to cut emissions of black carbon – mainly from diesel engines and inefficient Third World cooking stoves – they will also have to do much more to control carbon dioxide.
The new research might just give the world a much-needed breathing space. But it would be foolhardy to breathe out for long.
‘Secret arrests’ fear as police seek ban on naming suspects: Plan threatens to turn Britain into a ‘banana republic’
Fears were growing last night that a draconian crackdown on the public’s right to know who the police are arresting was close to being finalised.
Police chiefs are looking to ban the Press and public from being told the identity of a crime suspect who has been arrested.
The Association of Chief Police Officers is drawing up the plans as it considers implementing a recommendation by Lord Justice Leveson in which all police forces would be banned from confirming the names of suspects to journalists.
Critics yesterday called the plan an assault on open justice and said it threatened to turn Britain into a ‘banana republic’.
They suggested that such a move could, in theory, lead to people being arrested and locked up in secret as is the case in brutal totalitarian regimes.
The plan for ‘secret arrests’ is being opposed by the Law Commission, the Government’s own adviser on law reform. It believes that it is in the interests of justice that the police release the names of everyone who is arrested, except in very exceptional circumstances.
It argues that there are cases of clear public interest in which arrests should be reported, and it opposes a blanket ban on releasing names.
Trevor Sterling, the lawyer representing Jimmy Savile’s victims, said the publication of a suspect’s name helps to encourage other potential victims to come forward. ‘It is difficult to strike a balance, but if someone like Savile’s name is not published, victims of sexual abuse would not have the confidence to come forward,’ he said.
Padraig Reidy, of Index On Censorship, a civil liberties organisation, said: ‘You can very quickly find yourself in a situation where you have secret arrests. We have a concept of open justice.
‘What is being proposed is very scary because if you do not know who has been arrested or why, people can be taken off the streets without anyone knowing and the police would not be accountable or properly scrutinised.
‘This sort of thing happens in other countries. People are arrested, they disappear and no one ever knows why.’ Under current arrangements, police release basic details of a person arrested. In some cases police will confirm a name to journalists, but this practice varies from force to force.
Some forces have effectively introduced the new practice in the aftermath of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.
It has led to a situation where a well-known celebrity arrested as part of Operation Yewtree, the investigation into the Savile scandal, cannot be named by the media, although he has been widely identified on the internet.
The 83-year-old was arrested on March 28 in Berkshire on suspicion of sexual offences, but the Metropolitan Police refused to release his name to the Press.
By contrast, the names of other suspects accused of historical sexual offences have been published in the Press after their names were confirmed by other forces or by lawyers.
Members of the Law Commission and ACPO will meet in the coming weeks in an attempt to find common ground.
Yesterday Law Commissioner David Ormerod, QC, said: ‘It is imperative that we have confidence that our legal process is transparent.
‘In drafting our provisional proposals, we considered freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act, which covers the Press’s right to report and the public’s right to know.
‘Clearly this has to be balanced with an individual’s right to privacy. But it is not hard to imagine cases of clear public interest in which arrests should be reported.’
Andy Trotter, chief constable of British Transport Police and the lead officer on media policy for ACPO, disagrees with the Law Commission’s position because it does not take account of the circumstances of a suspect whose reputation was damaged by identification but who was later found to be innocent.
He said: ‘It is not correct to say police are looking to keep arrests secret, but rather protect the public in line with Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.
‘A member of the public could be arrested and then have no further action taken against them. ‘An arrest does not mean someone is guilty and their release might not achieve the same publicity.
‘There will most likely be exceptions to this in the interests of justice and to prevent and detect crime. We are still in the process of drafting guidance and we are still talking to a range of parties and any decision will have to be approved with the College of Policing.’
A chilling new threat to the right to know
The old East Germany will always live while there’s an England. Not quite the England of old, however
In the latest disturbing example of the State’s ruthless assault on the public’s right to know, it yesterday emerged that police could soon be banned from identifying people they have arrested.
Chief constables have been driven down this secretive route by a recommendation of the Leveson Inquiry, supposedly designed to protect the innocent from publicity.
Yet isn’t it the innocent who will suffer most from this chilling plan, which is opposed by both the Index on Censorship campaign group and the Law Commission?
If the public are not allowed to know a person is being held in custody, how are they supposed to come forward with any information they hold which could clear them, such as a cast-iron alibi?
Sweeping people off the street and secretly throwing them in a cell is the terrifying hallmark of totalitarian regimes – not mature democracies like Britain.
However, the brutal truth is that, post-Leveson, such secrecy is becoming the norm in the state sector.
Consider the Home Office edict – certain to deter officers from speaking to the Press – which says that senior police should record all their contacts with journalists in an official log.
Or the plan to change the law to make it easier for police to seize confidential material given to reporters and force them to reveal the identity of whistleblowers.
Or the demand by Lord Justice Leveson that public sector whistleblowers should report their concerns only to their employers – and NOT the media.
Steadily, the State is assuming the power to crush all dissent, cover up wrongdoing and corruption, carry out arrests in secret and even convene secret courts. The implications for democracy, accountability and our open society could not be more grave.
Migrants get jobs because Britons are not prepared to work as hard
By Boris Johnson (Trust Boris to tell it like it is)
Do you know what, I think the longest, coldest winter I can remember is finally on the verge of packing it in. I can see a pretty little vixen gambolling in the garden. Some pigeons are doing heavy petting in the tree. And the pedestrians of London are getting more talkative as I pass by on my bike.
For months they have had their noses in their scarves, heads down, eyes weeping. Now they are shouting at the traffic lights again, and revealing the most interesting things. The other day a woman came up to me, as I waited religiously for green, and gave me a clear insight into why Labour doesn’t deserve to win the next election — and why, indeed, it almost certainly won’t.
She was called Katie and she was a recruitment consultant for a group of swish restaurants. In other words, she was on the lookout for people to be chefs, waiters, sommeliers, hat-check people: that kind of thing. The restaurant business is one of many in which London now leads the planet, and I was keen to know how things were going. If the tables at London’s top-end eateries are full of people chomping through foie gras, then that is good news for many hundreds of thousands of families, on modest incomes, who depend on a thriving catering industry.
As the top chef Raymond Blanc pointed out the other day, the catering world has amazing opportunities for young people to get started on good careers, and Raymond is helping, with Tim Campbell, to lead our campaign to create 250,000 new apprenticeships. A booming restaurant trade is potentially very good news for the 100,000 16 to 24-year-olds who are currently out of work and on benefits. So I was agog to hear from Katie. “How’s business?” I asked.
Katie said that things were very good — never better, in fact. She had 20 vacancies in just five restaurants, and her services as a talent-spotter were much in demand. “Fantastic!” I said, and made a mental note that this chimed with recent statistics showing that employment in London was now at 70.3 per cent, an all-time high.
Then a thought occurred. “Er, tell me,” I said, “what proportion of the people you employ are, you know, from London? I mean, how many of them are, ahem, British?”
Katie looked embarrassed. She knew exactly what I was driving at.
“To be honest, about 10 per cent,” she said. “But why?” I asked. “Why is it that these jobs are not being done by London kids? What can I do about it?” The restaurant recruitment consultant looked thoughtful. “It’s the schools, I think,” she said. “They teach the kids that they can earn all this money but they don’t explain that they will have to work hard. The people I recruit — they have a different work ethic.”
Now we all know that what Katie is saying is true, and we all know that it isn’t enough to blame the immigrants. For starters, we can’t kick people out when they are legally entitled to be here under EU rules. Second, and much more important, it is economically illiterate to blame Eastern Europeans for getting up early and working hard and being polite and helpful and therefore enabling the London catering trade to flourish.
There isn’t some fixed “lump of labour” that means these jobs would otherwise be done by native Britons. The chances are that there would be fewer restaurants, since the costs would be higher and the service less good and the reputation of London as the world capital of posh tucker would be less exalted than it is today.
The failing lies with the last Labour government, which did not do enough to reform our education system and to make sure that young people were prepared for the jobs market.
London schools have been getting better — and it is a fact that even in some of the poorest parts of the city, schools are now performing better than those in many other parts of the country. Some good work was done by Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis in trying to free up education — and yet they were blocked at every turn by Gordon Brown and the teaching unions. As Blair once said, he had the scars on his back to prove it.
The result is that huge numbers still leave primary school — about one in four — unable to read or write properly or to do basic maths. No wonder they will lose out, in the jobs market, to industrious people from Eastern Europe who can take down a telephone message correctly.
Labour spent its time in government — a long period of economic plenty made possible by the Thatcherian supply-side reforms — on a protracted borrowing binge.
They borrowed people from other countries to fill this country’s skills gap and to keep costs down — and did nothing like enough to reform our education system to enable young people to cope with that competition. They borrowed astronomic sums to maintain the welfare state and all its bureaucratic appurtenances — and did absolutely nothing to reform the system so that we could cope when money was scarcer.
All these reforms must now be carried out, by Conservatives, against a tough economic backdrop. It is not easy, and it means saying some hard things. We need to explain to young people that there can be glory and interest in any job, and that you can begin as a waiter and end as a zillionaire. And it is time, frankly, that London government — boroughs and City Hall — had a greater strategic role in skills, so that we can work with business to make sure that (for instance) catering gets the home-grown talent it needs.
Above all, we must support Michael Gove in driving up standards in schools — and what does Labour have to say? Nothing, except to join the chorus of union-led obstructionism. What does Labour have to say about welfare? Nothing, except apparently to support every detail of the system that gave Mick Philpott the equivalent of £100,000 a year. Well, nothing will come of nothing.
Why would anyone give the Treasury back to the people who wrote these vast blank cheques against the future? Why give the key back to the guys who crashed the car?
The mutinous anger of Labour voters over benefit scroungers: A disturbing dispatch from a Manchester estate
Let me introduce you to two women I met on Friday. The first is Kathy Barratt, 33, a jobless hairdresser.
She looked tired as she told me of her tough life, perhaps unsurprisingly as she is bringing up alone six children aged three to 17; the fathers are not around.
She ran up £2,000 debts buying the children games consoles and televisions at Christmas and says she struggles to get by on benefits of £300 a week.
‘I would love to work,’ she insisted. But she then revealed she was recently offered a job in a supermarket – and turned it down as she would have been £10 a week worse off.
‘I would have been pleased to take the job but there’s no point working if you lose money.’
So what if it had been £50 more than her benefits, I asked. ‘Maybe if you make it £100,’ she replied with a smile.
Then there was a friendly woman a decade or so older who I will call Mary. I met her just down the road in the market at Wythenshawe, a sprawling suburb of Manchester.
A mother of two, she lives on her own after fleeing an abusive relationship three years ago. Mary also looked tired, again unsurprisingly given she gets up every day before dawn for her part-time post with the city council.
For this, she earns £440 a month – of which £50 goes on getting to and from work.
‘It’s all bloody wrong,’ she said. ‘I have to get up at three in the morning to get to work, my bus fare has just gone up, and there are all these scroungers around the place who do nothing and get more than me.
‘The bloke living in the flat above me lies in bed all day, yet his girlfriend can afford a car.’
She has a point. Indeed, in a perverse way both women have a point – for the pair perfectly illustrate the way our benefits system has spun out of control.
This week we learned that Mick Philpott, the depraved man who killed six of his children in a house fire, was receiving so much in benefits for his brood of 17 kids by five women that he would have been in the top two per cent of earners if his cash came from a taxed salary.
This revelation exploded like a bomb on the political frontline, coming in the week the Left was raging over a range of benefit cuts introduced by the Coalition.
Chancellor George Osborne said that the case raised issues for society over why taxpayers were subsidising this workshy man’s lifestyle – a fair question that provoked a furious response from Labour, accusing him of cynically exploiting a terrible tragedy.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls launched a bitter attack on Osborne yesterday on Radio 4’s Today programme, spluttering with rage yet again over Tory welfare reforms and accusing the Chancellor of ‘nasty, divisive, sectional politics’.
Yet the truth is that Labour has been flailing around on this issue. Indeed, it has looked so timid and out of touch that it is possible we may look back at this week as when the party failed to win the Election.
For one thing is clear from my trip to Wythenshawe – those angriest with the iniquities of the welfare system are the working people who have traditionally been the bedrock of Labour support. People such as Brenton Thomas, a greengrocer whose earnings have fallen to £120 a week – yet sees others on the dole drinking all day in the pub.
Or Paul Brooks, a firefighter who earns only slightly more than the £26,000-a-year benefit cap despite his risky job and long hours. Or Lianne Burns, a young mum who puts in 15-hour shifts at a care home to provide for her only child – but who sees other women having endless babies at the State’s expense.
Perhaps most dispirited of all was a shaven-headed taxi driver out shopping with his son. ‘My friends ask me who is the fool: them doing nothing and getting all the cash they need or me working 60 hours a week? They might earn a little less, but they have a very good life and ask why they should ever work.’
Wythenshawe was the place where David Cameron urged us to hug hoodies, but it is far from Tory terrain. A garden city filled with two- storey semi-detached houses, it is home to 70,000 people – with more than half on benefits in the most deprived areas – and is rock-solid Labour.
Yet there was no sympathy for the party’s complaint that benefits are rising only one per cent, well below the inflation rate. Indeed, most people thought the Coalition was still too soft, suggesting those who refuse to work should get all benefits stopped – an idea that would make a Guardian leader writer blanche.
Even some of those on benefits took a tough line. Sarah, a jobless veterinary nurse, supported the Government’s stance, saying: ‘It would be so easy to have more babies, but I have two kids and no work so I should not have any more. I don’t go out, have cut out Sky TV and spend everything on the kids.’
One other point was made repeatedly: the failure of politicians to set a decent example. As one tracksuited man put it: ‘If they are stupid enough to let us have all this money, we’d be stupid not to take it – as they did with their duck houses.’
In many ways the rhetoric of some on the Right belittling everyone on benefits is almost as absurd as the Left’s refusal to face the reality of a country with a bloated welfare system that has tripled in cost in 35 years.
The key message from Wythenshawe is the need to put pressure on those who will not work – while protecting people with disabilities and genuine job seekers.
This is essential to restore faith in a fair welfare system.
And this is where the Coalition is getting it wrong. Not just by protecting wealthy pensioners from giving up their bus passes and free TV licences – while hitting impoverished people on disabilities keen to work and failing to tackle the feckless.
But also with the new bedroom tax that penalises people on benefits with spare bedrooms.
In an area such as Wythenshawe, where most homes are much the same, it is difficult to downsize.
Go back to those two women at the start of this story. Which one of the pair has been hit by the Coalition’s benefits clampdown?
It is not the single mother of six who turned down decent work to stay on the dole. Instead it is Mary, the council worker, who is being stripped of £10.50 a week from her housing benefit as officials deemed a room in her flat used for her younger son’s weekend visits a spare room, surplus to her requirement.
As she says, it’s all bloody wrong.