Father-of-three died after doctors mistook aneurysm for heartburn and sent him home with Gaviscon

A father-of-three died from a burst blood vessel the day after being discharged from hospital with Gaviscon to treat heartburn, an inquest heard.

Daren Hooper, 42, was rushed to hospital after collapsing at work and was diagnosed with gastro-oesophageal reflux and given antacids as treatment.

But doctors failed to carry out a CT scan which might have spotted that a leaky artery was slowly filling his chest with blood, the hearing was told.

He collapsed at his home in Ruishton, Somerset, less than 24 hours after being discharged and died en route to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Michael Rose said that ‘not enough consideration’ was given to his diagnosis and that a CT scan could have saved his life.

The inquest in Taunton, Somerset, heard how Mr Hooper had suffered from gastrointestinal problems for more than a decade.

Three days before he died the project manager collapsed at work and was rushed to the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

He was diagnosed with gastro-oesophageal reflux and – despite suffering from severe chest pains – was not given a CT scan that may have spotted any damage to his aorta.

Mr Hooper collapsed at home on January 16, 2012, where his young son Archie called an ambulance.

He went into cardiac arrest en route to Musgrove Hill hospital in Taunton and neither the paramedics nor the emergency resuscitation team at the hospital were able to revive him.

His wife Kath, who was with him in the ambulance, told the inquest: ‘I was leaning over Daren and his eyes went. They just went.’

A post mortem examination recorded his death to be haemorrhage caused by a ruptured aortic aneurysm – a massive amount of blood which filled his chest.

The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body and a rupture is a catastrophic medical condition which carries just a three per cent survival rate.

The inquest heard evidence from five doctors who treated him at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

Dr James Ritchie was a junior doctor at the time and flagged up the possibility Mr Hooper’s condition may have been more serious than originally thought.

He told the inquest: ‘I considered the possibility of aortic dissection. ‘I asked the nurse to check Mr Hooper’s blood pressure in both arms and I checked that his right and left pulses were equal in volume and synchronous, which they were.’

He added: ‘I was aware that these were possible signs of aortic dissection but I was unsure how reassuring the normal findings were.’

Dr Ritchie and senior medic Dr Alasdair Macrae checked the chest x-ray, which showed no sign of aortic aneurysm or dissection – where part of the lining of the aorta breaks apart and splits inside the artery.

Coroner Mr Rose said: ‘This is a tragic case. The deceased, Daren Mervyn Hooper, was 42 years of age and I would hope he would have a good life ahead of him.

‘My assessment is I feel not enough consideration was given to what admittedly is a rare but not impossible consideration that something had gone wrong with the aorta.

‘We do not think that full consideration was given to the actual matters that subsequently led to his death.

‘When he was discharged from hospital, he was not the man his wife knew two days earlier.”

Ruptured aortic aneurysms in the chest affect only one in 100,000 patients, but the chances of suffering one are dramatically reduced with age.

Mr Hooper was in an age bracket where the NHS see perhaps only two or three cases a year, the inquest was told.

Mr Rose added: ‘Had the consideration that Mr Hooper was suffering from an aortic leak been fully considered, a CT scan would have been conducted. ‘His leaking aortic aneurysm would have been discovered and this may have led to successful surgery.’

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Hooper’s wife Kath said: “I am satisfied that today’s inquest has acknowledged that there are some serious issues for the Trust to address following the death of my husband.

‘Expert opinion states that his death could have been avoided if he had been given a CT scan when he visited Bristol Royal Infirmary. ‘Indeed, the doctor dealing with him raised the possibility of such a scan but was informed by a senior that it wasn’t necessary – that fateful decision has completely devastated my family.

‘It hasn’t been helped by the minimal psychological support offered for myself and my children. ‘I will now campaign for better support for bereaved parents and children who really need it to help them rebuild their lives.’

Mr Hooper is survived by his wife Kath and their three children, Joseph, 15, Archie, nine and Darcy, four.

Kath’s solicitor Andrew Hannam commented after the case: ‘We will now consider our options in terms of pursuing this matter further with the objective of securing the kind of support the Hooper family deserve to help them cope without a husband and a father.

‘Meanwhile, it is important to point out that this tragic event has been investigated thoroughly by the Trust who accepted that Darren Hooper’s death was regarded as a Serious Untoward Incident.

‘The Serious Untoward Incident investigation has resulted in training for staff at Bristol Royal Infirmary to ensure this ‘knowledge gap’ is closed and these circumstances don’t occur again.’


Coroner slams NHS Trust for ‘lamentable failures’ after two mental health nurses left man alone to hang himself despite seeing noose

Mental health staff have been accused of ‘lamentable failures’ by a coroner after they left a man alone to kill himself despite having seen a noose on a visit to his home.

Bryan Jobson, 44, was visited at his home in Leeds by nurses David Bibbings and Paul Oates after being called to the house by Leeds Partnership Foundation Trust’s crisis team.

But Mr Jobson was found hanged the following the day after the pair left him alone in the house despite his ‘suicidal state of mind.’

Wakefield Coroner’s Court had heard that Mr Jobson’s relationship with his wife had broken down and he had been in relationships with two men who both died in tragic circumstances.

Coroner David Hinchliff said that Mr Jobson had probably been left depressed by personal tragedy, but added that his death could have been prevented had the nurses acted differently.

Following a two-day inquest, Mr Hinchliff said in a narrative verdict: ‘Bryan was the victim of lamentable failures of two experienced key workers from the Crisis Resolution Home Treatment Team who, despite visiting Bryan and observing a ligature in place and Bryan’s suicidal state of mind, left him alone in the house – placing the responsibility of Bryan’s safety on him, which enabled him to deliberately end his life by and act of self suspension at his home address.

‘Bryan Jobson’s death could have been prevented then had those key workers removed the ligature and remained with Bryan, or alternatively arranged Bryan’s admission to hospital, either informally or pursuant to a Section of the Mental Health Act or made immediate contact with Bryan’s family to stay with him until he could be seen by the Acute Crisis Service the next day.’

Following the verdict, Mr Jobson’s sister Teresa McDarby, also criticised the mental health workers. She said: ‘If they had done their jobs right he would have been alive the next day.’

Mr Jobson had been diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and was said to be drinking heavily.

Both Mr Oates and Mr Bibbings had been interviewed under police caution following Mr Jobson’s death and were investigated to see if a charge of gross negligence manslaughter could be brought against them. But the Crown Prosecution Service had decided against a prosecution due to a lack of evidence.

Earlier in the hearing, Mr Bibbings said that he was worried that he had no legal right to remove the noose from Mr Jobson’s house. He said: ‘I have been told previously that we had no legal right to do things like that and that was in the forefront of my mind.’

When questioned by Mr Jobson’s sister, Teresa McDarby, about why the noose was left where the carers found it, he added: ‘It does seem very damning but we were thinking about legal aspects of our behaviour as we do when we are in someone’s home. ‘That is that person’s home and they own everything in it.

‘I know it seems ridiculous but we do have rules to abide by, we are not happy about it.’

Speaking after the verdict Mr Jobson’s sister Teresa McDarby said: ‘It’s good to see that see the coroner identified the failings.

‘Bryan had presented historically as not engaging with the services so if he is not engaging with the services why didn’t they take him away that night? ‘They weren’t professional, they didn’t behave in a professional manner. ‘If they had done their jobs right he would have been alive the next day.

‘Who knows what would have transpired but the fact is we are talking about that day and that could have been and should have been avoided.’

Dr Guy Brookes, a psychiatrist and associate medical director with the trust, gave evidence at the inquest on Monday.

Coroner David Hinchliff asked Dr Brookes: ‘What these two nurses did was to try and seek reassurance from Bryan that he wouldn’t do anything inappropriate and he would engage with the service the next day.’

Dr Brookes replied: ‘Yes.’

Mr Hinchliff said: ‘He has set up a ligature hasn’t he, which they saw?’ He added: ‘Would you agree with me that it was foolish in the extreme to leave a person with Bryan’s history and mental health alone in his home when he has set up a ligature in the way he has, expecting him to voluntarily engage with the service the following day in the light of him being un-cooperative?’

Dr Brookes said: ‘I think without reducing the risk significantly, yes, I would agree with you.’


Michael Gove is winning the hearts of state school heads

Teaching unions don’t want you to know, but head teachers support Michael Gove’s education reforms

Michael Gove gave a seminal though little-reported speech last Thursday, his clearest statement yet of his aim for politicians to hand back the education system to the professionals, as long as they maintain the highest academic standards and prove worthy of the trust placed in them. The national curriculum he is introducing should perhaps be the last imposed from the centre; thereafter he wants schools themselves to develop a variety of high grade curricula.

Mr Gove is going way beyond anything Margaret Thatcher achieved in her 11 years of devolving power from government at the centre. No education secretary in the modern era has matched his vision of a largely autonomous education system in which individual schools, heads and teachers are given back their independence and creativity. Only by releasing dynamism in this way does he believe that British schools will be able to compete with the best in Shanghai, Singapore and Scandinavia.

As Mr Gove told his audience in Nottingham, he wants to sweep away the whole structure that has underpinned schools since the war. Schools themselves should conduct research into what produces great teaching and learning, rather than leaving such studies to universities, which he believes have offered little of practical value in terms of improving schools. Leaders should be trained within schools rather than being sent away to acquire abstract diplomas. Teachers should equally be trained within the schools themselves, rather than learning how to teach in university education departments. He wants schools to help each other to raise standards rather than rely on local authorities. All of this is to be achieved by schools becoming “teaching schools”, a system he conceived and which he sees as akin to teaching hospitals. He was in Nottingham to address the latest cohort of heads whose schools had been accepted on to the programme.

I was in the audience because Wellington College is among the first independent schools to join this programme. I was surprised and delighted by what he said, but was even more astonished by the reactions of my 150 fellow heads from the state sector in the audience. I have been used to state school heads denigrating education secretaries, above all if they are Tories. But most of the audience listened appreciatively, and the questions were supportive and enthusiastic.

Mr Gove hated the close relationship the trade union leaders had with Labour before 2010 – the union leaders even had a pass to roam anywhere in the Education Department. His principal targets in his speech were thus the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT, which he described as “increasingly out of touch with the profession as a whole… The leadership teams of the NUT and the NASUWT have demanded their members take industrial action – a work-to-rule – for reasons that are obscure to me but seem to amount to: ‘We don’t like the last 25 years of education reform, why can’t we party like it’s 1968?’” He senses that the public are becoming tired of the constant negative attitude of the unions to academies, free schools, lesson observation by teachers and curricula and exam reforms. His solution is to undercut the unions with a new body called the Royal College of Teachers, which would lead teachers as a profession just as the Bar Council and Law Society do with lawyers, and the 15 or so Royal Colleges do with different parts of the medical profession. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, is contemptuous, believing such a body could not replace a union in fighting for the best conditions for teachers and learners.

“The best thing this Government could do for education,” one state head told me, “would be to abolish the teaching unions outright. The NUT and NASUWT are the worst.” Another said: “The trade union leaders are 100 years out of date: the world has moved on. We are now professionals and they have to reform or die.” An independent school colleague who does much work with state schools said: “The biggest reason why independent schools are so far ahead is that we have so little to do with unions at national level: their negativity and time-watching has held back the achievement of state school children.”

Heads are frightened to say this in public because of fears of reprisals by unions. “They can be very intimidating. If a union decides to target your school, you’re in trouble,” a head told me. Most of those I spoke to draw a distinction between the union leaders and the representatives on the ground, for whom they have much more time. This is certainly my experience: I have often found union representatives to be sensible and constructive. Many heads think they deserve better leaders at the top, who fight for the interests of children without the baggage of ideology, and who don’t resort to strikes. Old-style teaching unions may well be drinking in the last chance saloon unless they can modernise.

A battle royal is being fought for the heart and soul of schools. Mr Gove’s vision, which is shared by some key Labour figures, including Lord Adonis, will probably win the day. A significant number of state school heads and teachers still loathe it, but he is making headway. If Mr Gove can listen as carefully and respectfully to heads as he did last Thursday, he may well carry the day.


Drinking alcohol regularly could LOWER your risk of arthritis

This is a meta-analysis, offering no new data. Pretty hard to critique without re-doing the whole study. But probably just epidemiological speculation

Drinking alcohol in moderation could slash the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, according to new research. Some regular drinkers were nearly half as likely to develop the crippling condition as teetotallers or those who rarely drank.

Researchers discovered the connection after carrying out an extensive review of previous studies that looked into the role of alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis.

The results, published in the journal Rheumatology, suggest a few drinks a week could have a protective effect against a disease that affects around 600,000 people in the UK.

Although the latest investigation did not look at the reasons why a regular tipple might offer some protection, earlier research suggested it could be because alcohol appears to dampen down inflammation in the body and also has a mild pain-killing effect.

Rheumatoid arthritis is triggered when the immune system, the body’s in-built defence mechanism, goes into action unnecessarily, attacking joints and sometimes other parts of the body. The reasons why remain a mystery but some evidence suggests exposure to mild infection may be enough to launch this over-reaction.

As a result, joints become inflamed and swollen, causing pain or stiffness, and many sufferers also experience flu-like symptoms. In very severe cases, they can end up crippled and unable to live a full or active life.

Several small studies in recent years have hinted that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol could reduce the risks of developing the incurable condition.

Animal studies, for example, indicate mice are less likely to suffer arthritis if they have small amounts of alcohol added to their drinking water.

Now researchers from King’s College London have carried out a meta-analysis, where data from earlier investigations are pooled to provide a more definitive answer.

They gathered findings from nine different studies involving a total of nearly 12,000 patients.

When they combined all the results they found that regular drinkers were 48 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

However, the benefits were confined to patients who tested positive for anti-citrulllinated protein antibodies.

These are proteins that are released into the bloodstream when the disease in emerging and can often be detected before any symptoms appear.

They affect around two-thirds of arthritis sufferers and their presence indicates a more severe form of the disease.

Patients who tested negative for the protein, which suggests they have a milder form of the disease, saw little or no benefit from regular drinking.

In a report on their findings the researchers said: ‘Alcohol intake is inversely associated with ACPA-positive rheumatoid arthritis, suggesting a protective effect. ‘But further research is needed to confirm this relationship.’


‘Smart’ technology will cost Britons billions – and thousands of lives

The electricity industry is at the forefront of the Government’s eco-plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, and at least 80 per cent by 2050. To achieve that, our dependence on fossil fuels must be drastically reduced in favour of electricity generated by a mix of nuclear and renewables – which will involve defacing our country with at least 7,000 additional wind turbines.

The obvious problem with this ‘decarbonisation’ is that the wind doesn’t blow all the time.

In fact, it is common during the coldest periods in winter for there to be no windmills turning anywhere in the UK – just when energy demand is at its highest.

The simple answer is to build dozens of flexible gas-fuelled power stations, says Richard North

The simple answer is to build dozens of flexible gas-fuelled power stations to provide near-instant electricity when the windmills fail to deliver, so guaranteeing cheap and reliable electricity for industry, schools, hospitals and homes. But these have failed to materialise and it has become clear that what is in store for us is ‘demand management’ – effectively an advanced form of rationing.

‘Demand management’ turns the accepted priority of the electricity industry on its head. Rather than adopting a system capable of meeting flexible demand from a varied network of power stations, the nation’s electricity supply will be fixed, even though this means it cannot always meet demand. Instead, demand must be ‘managed’ by stopping customers from using electricity.

This is done by changing the price of energy, at five-minute intervals, according to supply-and-demand principles. Rates at peak times may be ten times or more that of the dead of night, when electricity use is at its lowest. And in an extraordinary Big Brother move, energy suppliers will effectively reach inside your homes to shut down appliances or prevent them being turned on.

To achieve this unprecedented degree of control, suppliers need to invest billions in a ‘smart’ grid, ‘smart’ meters, and ‘smart’ appliances. Unsurprisingly, consumers will foot the bill.

It is common during the coldest periods in winter for there to be no windmills turning anywhere in the UK – just when energy demand is at its highest

For the National Grid to become smart, it has to be modified at a cost of an estimated £27 billion – the price of two giant nuclear power plants – to enable it to collect information about the behaviour of customers and micro-manage power distribution.

This grid will talk to the smart meters, supposedly to be fitted to all of Britain 30 million homes by 2019, at a cost of at least another £12 billion, but probably much more.

When there is not enough electricity to go round – which will be routine in only a few years’ time – power cuts will be avoided by shutting down millions of individual smart appliances, using computer chips fitted by manufacturers.

These appliances will also be programmed to switch themselves on and off according to the electricity price, leaving the washing machine, for instance, only able to run at 2am or 3am when prices are rock-bottom – unless the owner pays a punitive premium.

If this all sounds like science fiction, it isn’t ….

At the end of last year, on the Danish island of Bornholm, a four-year, £17.5 million EU-funded experiment, EcoGrid, was set in motion. More than 2,000 homes were kitted out with smart meters, and washing machines, TVs and computers were networked, ready to be controlled by the local utility company.

The project hopes to tackle the problem of unpredictable wind by providing each household with an electric car. When the wind blows at times of low demand, the smart grid will divert this ‘wrong time electricity’ to charge the batteries of the cars. When the windmills stop turning and no electricity is produced, the grid finds all cars still coupled to the mains and takes the stored electricity back, a concept known as ‘V2G’ or ‘vehicle to grid’.

This, they hope, means black-outs will be avoided. The consequence is that at peak times, the cars may no longer be available for use.

But then there is the other side of the coin, the dark side of this ‘seismic shift’ in energy policy (the phrase used by former Energy Minister Chris Huhne before his career came crashing down around his ears.)

The plan is to double the price of electricity by the end of the decade, even though it is already twice as costly as it was a decade ago.

This will be done through George Osborne’s carbon tax, windmill subsidies and other levies, all to make the investment in the technology economically attractive – for those who can afford it.

That is where the fantasy falls down. Already, thousands of pensioners and families are being driven into fuel poverty. As a result of this year’s freezing conditions, more than 6,000 extra deaths were registered in February and March.

Campaigners at Age UK say 26,000 people die needlessly in winter every year, and for every one degree drop in average temperature, there are about 8,000 extra deaths.

The Government’s disastrous energy policies will cripple our industry and prove ruinously expensive for all but the wealthiest householders. Millions of us will be forced to choose between eating and keeping warm. But for hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens, the so-called ‘green revolution’ could be fatal.


Why are the French so much better than the British at deporting terrorist suspects?

Abu Qatada: in France, he would have been on a plane to Amman as an act of judicially endorsed political will. The European convention would not have come into it

One of the great mysteries of the Abu Qatada saga is why this country finds it so difficult to deport suspected foreign terrorists while France has no such problem. Here are two nations, both Western liberal democracies, both in the EU, both signatories to the European human rights convention and subject to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Both face threats from Islamist extremists; and yet their approach to dealing with them is dramatically different. Between 2001 and 2010, the UK deported nine alleged jihadis who were deemed to pose a threat to national security. Over the same period, France removed 129.

Why the contrast? Many of those packed off by France were sent to countries such as Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, whose judicial systems are not widely thought to be paragons of compassion. Many of the deportees from France were Islamists whose only offence was to make disparaging remarks about the country rather than fanatics bent on fomenting violence.

Yet we are apparently unable to remove Abu Qatada, who arrived here under false pretences and was identified by MI5 as the most significant Islamic fundamentalist in Britain and an “inspiration” for terrorists both in this country and abroad. He chose his destination well when he came to Europe in 1993. Had he settled in Paris, he would certainly not still be there making a mockery of the French judicial system.

This disparity is the subject of a timely new book written by the counter-terrorism expert Frank Foley. He, too, had long been baffled by the varied approaches. And one thing that has become clear from his research is that the reason has little to do with the European court and much more to do with the different recent histories of the two countries and how their institutions have developed.

In the Commons last week, Theresa May became the fifth home secretary in succession forced to jump through a series of legal hoops to try to get rid of Abu Qatada. She announced that the UK had signed a treaty with Jordan aimed at persuading the Strasbourg court that if the imam were returned for trial the evidence against him would not have been extracted under torture. How that could be proven is anyone’s guess; but why do we have to go to such lengths at all? Is it to convince European judges or our own?

As Foley points out, in France “individuals only have limited means of preventing their deportation because of the relevant legal regulations and because of the swift expulsion practices of the French authorities”. Furthermore, an appeal does not suspend expulsion: the individual can still be deported to his home country and the appeal takes place in his absence. It is possible to petition the domestic courts to suspend a deportation but, says Foley, “the French authorities have pre-empted such legal moves by putting the individual on a plane home within just a few days of the order being issued”.

In Britain, by contrast, an appeal automatically halts a deportation; but that has nothing to do with Strasbourg and everything to do with the way we do things here. Since 1999, in the case of Algeria – whence most extremists come for historical reasons – “the French courts have not overturned any of the government’s deportation decisions on the basis that radical Islamists face a risk of torture or mistreatment if they are returned”.

However, in Abu Qatada’s case, neither have our courts. In fact, twice since 2001, British courts have upheld Home Office efforts to deport him. In 2007, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission said assurances from Jordan about his treatment were enough to override human rights obstacles. This was upheld in 2009 by the Law Lords, who also ruled that whether or not evidence against him might have been extracted under torture was irrelevant. It was not for the British courts “to regulate the conduct of trials in foreign countries”, and the use of such material would not amount to a “flagrant denial of justice’’.

If this country’s supreme court said he could be deported, why on earth is he still here? As soon as Qatada’s lawyers lodged an appeal, his removal was stayed; but in France, he would have been on a plane to Amman as an act of judicially endorsed political will: the European convention would not have come into it.

Here, the case went to Strasbourg, which found against the British government – and our courts have since gone along with that decision despite previously taking a completely different view.

The UK was slow to react to the jihadist threat in the Nineties (or, rather, we turned a blind eye to it). But there are aspects of the French approach to terrorism that we would not wish to adopt here (or at least I wouldn’t), such as the police making mass arrests or rounding up the usual suspects.

The judiciary in France are also much more tightly locked into the process through their investigating magistrates, who take over the case from the outset. Our tradition of free speech and civil liberties acts as a constraint on the more authoritarian instincts of the state. When it comes to removing from their territory suspected foreign jihadis who might do them harm, however, everyone in France sings from the same hymn sheet. We can’t even agree on the tune.


Teachers and parents must do more to prevent crime, British police watchdog says

Teachers and parents must do more to instill what is right and wrong in children, a police watchdog warned as he accused public services of “abdicating” their duties to prevent crime.

Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said too many bodies, such as education, health and social services, are happy to leave problem to a police service that can “never say no”.

He said crime prevention was the obligation of everyone in society and that schools and families had a responsibility to ensure children became law-abiding citizens.

In his first speech since taking on the role last year, Mr Winsor, a former rail regulator, revealed that police were using technology that was “next to useless” and was hampering their ability to fight crime.

He said it was “remarkable” that officers had to use “rudimentary and primitive” equipment in the modern age and called for urgent action.

He also warned that police forces would have to privatise more of their services if they are to protect the front line in the face of budget cuts.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), Mr Winsor said crime prevention should be the priority for police but that it was not the sole responsibility of officers.

He said: “Parents and families, as well as schools and other educational institutions, must instill in children a strong appreciation of right and wrong.”

“Prevention is also an obligation of health professionals, particularly in the field of mental health where undiagnosed or untreated illness can, as we know, lead to the commission of serious violent crime.”

He added: “And the quality of interaction and cooperation between the wider public and protective services, including social services, health and education, needs to be improved, with each service fully and properly discharging its responsibilities rather than abdicating duty in favour of the one public service which will never say no.”

Mr Winsor said dealing with mental health issues was the biggest frustration for officers.

He also attacked the state of “slow and patchy” technology among police forces. One officer used a personal digital assistant device, which Mr Winsor said he had not seen “in 10 years”. “It was next to useless,” he added.

Speaking afterwards, he said that police officers would often put their own hi-tech smart phone in their locker when they put on their uniform and then go out with some “antiquated and primitive” device.

He also warned that police forces would have to consider more collaborations with each other and with the private sector in the face of cuts if they want to protect front line policing.

He said the provision to forces from the private sector and other public bodies would have to “increase markedly” for efficiencies to be found.

“Forces and police and crime commissioners will, as a matter of necessity, need to find new ways of exploiting opportunities to save money while maintaining operational integrity and increasing effectiveness,” he said.

He went on: “However big a force may be, it has neighbours, and offenders of course do not respect police force boundaries.”

He added that “a police force which takes an isolationist view is not operating efficiently”.


End of a cushy life in British prisons: Convicts ‘will be denied Sky Sports and 18-rated DVDs’

Prisoners will be forced to work to end the culture of ‘holiday camp’ jails. They will also be denied access to Sky Sports and 18-rated DVDs and will no longer win privileges simply for keeping out of trouble.

Instead, offenders will start their life behind bars adhering to a spartan regime, wearing prison uniform and having to earn any perks.

Only by hard work or study will they be allowed television, full access to the gym, the right to wear their own clothes and to be able to spend any money they earn in the prison shop.

Inmates who wreck cells, start fires or damage prison property will be forced to pay compensation.

Announcing the shake-up in an interview with the Daily Mail yesterday, prisons minister Jeremy Wright said: ‘Prison is there to punish, it’s not there to be comfortable.

‘It’s there to be somewhere you don’t want to go back to and what we are doing in changing the regime is to make sure that message is there and heard loud and clear.

‘But it’s also a place where we expect rehabilitation to happen. We expect people to do those things that make it less likely when they come out that they reoffend.’

Inmates used to get full entitlements simply by avoiding violence; if you ‘kept your nose clean and didn’t punch the officers’, said Mr Wright.

But, in future, offenders will go on a new entry regime for the first fortnight of their sentence, during which they will have to wear uniform and be denied TV and use of the shop.

They will be required to join a work programme, education or drug rehabilitation course or some other purposeful activity. To mirror life outside, the ‘working day’ in prison will be extended to 9am to 5pm. If prisoners fail to comply with the new rules, they will be left on the ‘Basic’ new entry regime.

The changes follow a review ordered by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who has criticised the ‘frills’ available to prisoners but unaffordable for ordinary families.

The ‘Incentives and Earned Privileges’ scheme will mean inmates no longer languish in their cells watching television.

They will be expected to ‘engage in their own rehabilitation’, Mr Wright said, in the hope fewer inmates offend when they get out. ‘Most people would expect that prisoners were engaged in work or purposeful activity when they are in prison and aren’t sitting around watching television.

‘We are going to expect prisoners to play their part and if they don’t they won’t be getting the privileges that previously they have had. If you show no willingness to engage with the regime, no willingness to engage in your own rehabilitation you will go down to basic.

‘If you don’t want to bother, if you don’t want to go to work, if you don’t want to go to education, if you don’t want to do the drug treatment that has been recommended for you, you will stay on basic, you will stay in the prison clothes, you will stay without a television and the money you have access to will be limited.

‘The choice is in your own hands.’

From the end of next month, 18-rated DVDs will join extreme video games in being banned in all jails.

Sky Sports and other subscription channels, which are permitted in private prisons, will be switched off permanently during the summer.

‘We just don’t think it’s right that prisoners should have access to subscription TV channels,’ said Mr Wright. ‘We don’t think it’s right because there are plenty of my constituents who struggle to afford those things and they don’t see, and I don’t see, why prisoners should get them.’

An enhanced regime will exist for convicts who show good behaviour and ‘give something back’. This could include higher spending limits.

He said prisoners shouldn’t be able to damage property ‘without consequences’ and officials would claw back the cash.

The announcement was condemned last night by Frances Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform. She said: ‘The fact the prison population has doubled in the past 20 years has left prisons overcrowded and staff overstretched, with little choice but to lock people up in their cells all day with nothing to do.’


Huge benefits shake-up to make sure work always pays gets underway as Labour finally admits it is a ‘sensible idea’

Labour signalled an embarrassing climbdown over welfare reform yesterday, as the biggest ever shake-up in the benefits system got under way.

In a surprise move, shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne indicated his party now backed the introduction of the new universal credit system, designed to ensure it always pays for people on benefits to go back to work or accept extra hours.

Labour voted against the scheme when it was debated by Parliament last year. But yesterday Mr Byrne said the universal credit system was a ‘fine idea’, albeit one with some details still to be ironed out.

Shadow employment minister Stephen Timms also said the scheme was a ‘sensible’ idea which would ‘potentially simplify’ the benefits system. The climbdown came as the huge change was launched yesterday with a modest pilot scheme in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester.

Fresh claimants will be required to sign up to the new system, which will see them receive a single benefit payment linked to their income.

Ministers believe the system will make it much easier for people to see that they would be better off in employment. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith hailed the new system as ‘nothing less than the start of a fundamental cultural shift of the welfare system’.

He dismissed Labour claims that the system was suffering from delays, insisting it would be rolled out in full by 2017 as planned. But the tiny scale of the pilot scheme suggests ministers have been warned the system is likely to suffer numerous teething problems before it is extended to handle millions of benefits claims.

Universal credit will replace a string of working age benefits – including jobseekers’ allowance, working tax credits and housing benefit – into a single monthly payment.

Ministers had once suggested that as many as a million claimants could be on the new system in the first 12 months. But the pilot scheme, which will run for six months, is expected to handle about 7,000 claims.

The new scheme has been dogged by persistent reports of problems with the complex IT system needed to ensure millions of benefit recipients receive the right amount of money.

Mr Duncan Smith also rejected criticism that the system, which has to be accessed online, would be too difficult for some benefit claimants.

He said extra help would be given to the 20 per cent of benefit claimants who do not use the internet, adding that computer skills were essential for anyone looking for a job. ‘Ninety-six per cent of all jobs now require some kind of computer interface, so that means if you cannot go onto a computer you will only be able to apply for 4 per cent of the jobs in Britain.

Labour said the new system was causing ‘confusion and delay’. Mr Timms insisted the party had always supported the basic principle, despite voting against it.


Neil has an IQ of 125 and runs his own business. So why won’t a secret court let him spend his own money?

Neil Barker is, in many ways, a lucky man. At 36, he has a loving girlfriend, Valeria, a five-bedroom house overlooking the park in a smart West London suburb — and he’s made a dramatic recovery from a motorbike crash ten years ago which left him with brain injuries.

All he wants to do is to get on with his life as a successful computer consultant and property restorer — without interference from the State.

But a huge sum of his money is lying in a State bank account controlled by a hidden corner of the legal system: the astonishingly powerful Court of Protection, which has decreed that Neil’s accident means he lacks the mental capacity to handle his own financial affairs.

Neil, who is chatty and clearly lucid, told me last week: ‘It is very stressful to be told by the State that I am not able to make decisions about my own money or investments, especially when that is untrue and I have recovered my health.

‘I was given £1.8 million in compensation by the insurance company after my accident. A lot of that has been frittered away over time by the Court of Protection and I am powerless to do anything to stop it.’

His story is shocking. But Neil is just one of thousands of people whose financial assets are being managed by the Court of Protection (CoP), which was set up by New Labour’s 2005 Mental Capacity Act to make decisions for ill, confused or elderly people deemed to lack the ability to do so for themselves.

The CoP has draconian and sweeping powers. Judges, sitting alone and in secrecy, deal with thousands of cases a year, making far-reaching rulings about almost every aspect of citizens’ lives — and often those of their relatives, too.

They can compel people to undergo surgery, use contraception or have abortions.

They can decide if a life-support system is switched off, where a person lives and with whom — even if their marriage should be annulled and whether their last will and testament is torn up.

Equally controversially, the CoP judges can authorise what are called Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS), which allow council or NHS officials to restrain someone in a hospital, care home or re-training facility for as long as the State deems it to be ‘in their best interests’.

The Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who is campaigning for more openness in the CoP, estimates that there are hundreds of these ‘secret prisoners’ across the country.

And while it might seem essential to have a court taking decisions to protect the vulnerable, the secrecy with which the CoP operates — with the public barred from hearings and the Press forbidden from identifying people involved in cases — is deeply disturbing.

Individuals who have disobeyed the court’s rulings or spoken out about what has happened to them or their relatives — even to their local MP — have been threatened with, or sent to, prison.

A legal expert who regularly attends CoP hearings says that the numbers imprisoned for falling foul of the court in the past five years may run into hundreds.

Just last week, the Mail revealed the case of Wanda Maddocks, who was sentenced to five months in prison by the CoP when she objected to her father, John, being sent to a care home against her will. She has been able to reveal her story only because her father has died.

There is another power of this court that is also highly contentious. Astonishingly, £2 billion of vulnerable people’s money is now under the control of the CoP.

This enormous sum is held by another State offshoot, the Court Funds Office (CFO), which has the role of ‘providing a safe place’ for the funds.

Extraordinarily, as I have discovered, the money is in fact being used to help reduce our national debt figure.

The CFO has sent the £2 billion to the UK Debt Management Office, an agency of the Treasury, where the funds are set against the billions that this country owes.

Furthermore, the life savings of those suffering from dementia, incapacitating diseases, or even old age — as well as people like Neil Barker, who have received accident compensation pay-outs and are deemed unable to run their financial affairs — are paid a paltry interest rate for the use of their money by the State: currently 0.5 per cent, just a third of the rate paid by National Savings.

Understandably, many of those who are caught up in the system object that they are left badly out-of-pocket.

Some families find that even though the CoP is in charge of their loved ones’ multi-million-pound negligence or accident awards, the money is not earning enough interest to cover their needs — even though its investment is meant to fund a lifetime of care.

Once the COP decides a person is incapable of handling their finances, a so-called deputy is appointed to make day-to-day decisions about their money.

The deputy is appointed by the judge and can be a family member. If no relative is suitable, then the court will choose a local authority representative, often a social worker, or a solicitor to carry out the task.

Many families are left in the unenviable position of having to ask the officially appointed deputy for money to care for their loved ones — and appeal to the CoP if they disagree with the decision.

Needless to say, thousands have complained about the court since 2007, when it began operations.

There are allegations of its officials — including some deputies — charging exorbitant fees, over-riding the wishes of relatives, frittering away money, raiding the elderly’s homes searching for documents and intercepting personal emails.

In a depressingly typical case, children’s author Heather Bateman was forced to seek permission from the court to use family funds after an accident left her journalist husband Michael in a coma.

She wrote a moving account of her family’s ordeal in Saga magazine: ‘Michael and I were two independent working people.

‘We had been married for 28 years. We had separate bank accounts and most of the bills were paid from Michael’s account.

‘Now, to continue living the way we had always done, I needed to access the money in his account.

‘The Court of Protection brought almost as much anger, grief and frustration into my life as the accident itself.

‘It is an alien, intrusive, time-consuming and costly institution, which was completely out of tune with what we were going through. It ruled my waking moments and my many sleepless nights.’

Mrs Bateman even had to apply to the court for permission to pay the couple’s daughter’s university fees.

‘I could write as many cheques as I wanted up to £500. But if I needed more, I had to ask the permission of the court.’

Fury over the CoP has erupted on social networking sites and on help forums set up by charities.

Only recently the Alzheimer’s Society received this heartbreaking plea for help: ‘My family is having severe problems with a solicitor who has been appointed by the CoP as deputy for my mother of 87, who unfortunately suffers from dementia.

‘They have managed to make a complete mess of my mother’s affairs. She had capital of £40,000 and income of £850 a month.

‘Her expenditure (predominantly on carers) was approximately £2,500 a month, meaning that, by now, she should have £27,000 of her capital left.

‘However, we are in a situation where her bank account is overdrawn. There are unpaid bills and direct debits.

‘The carers have not been paid so, understandably, some are reluctant to continue working. This means my mother is not receiving the care she needs.

‘We are at our wits’ end, trying to find out why there is no money to meet her obligations. What really frightens me is what would happen to someone with no family to support them?’

This family is not alone. Stories of incompetence and even possible fraud have emerged in blogs and forums about the CoP.

In particular, there are tales of exorbitant fees charged by deputies. One retired lawyer was asked for £4,100 in fees to withdraw £5,800 of her own money.

In another case, the proceeds of the sale of a house, authorised by the CoP deputy, were paid into the wrong account.

And one family was charged £42,000 in fees for the legal paperwork to transfer a sick daughter’s care to her mother after the father died.

But not all the grievances are about money. Take the case which emerged last year of pensioners Norman Davies and Peggy Ross, who were looking forward to going on their annual cruise when Cardiff Council intervened.

The council argued that it was not in the ‘best interests’ of 82-year-old Mrs Ross, who has dementia and lives in a care home, to go on the holiday.

Mrs Ross’s social worker decided the pensioner lacked the capacity to make a decision about whether she should go on the £3,200 cruise because ‘her ideas were not based in reality’.

She said the council was worried that Mrs Ross might wander off on the ship or fall overboard.

Just before the holiday, the council went to the CoP to obtain a DOLS to prevent Mrs Ross leaving her care home.

The judge, to his credit, refused to make the order, which has allowed details of the case to become public. The couple duly enjoyed a 16-day cruise around the Mediterranean.
The Lib Dem MP John Hemming is campaigning for more openness in the Court of Protection and estimates there are hundreds of ‘secret prisoners’ across the country

The Lib Dem MP John Hemming is campaigning for more openness in the Court of Protection and estimates there are hundreds of ‘secret prisoners’ across the country

However, lawyers and MPs have said it illustrates how the CoP is being used by council apparatchiks — social workers and care home workers, in particular — to meddle with and control people’s lives.

Mr Davies, a lucid 81-year-old former engineer, who lives near Newport, said after the holiday: ‘They tried to strip Peggy of her rights completely. The whole thing was disgusting from start to finish.’

He is not the only person to think that of the CoP. At one recent hearing, a desperate mother asked the court to allow the life-support machine keeping her brain- damaged daughter alive to be switched off.

As is standard in the court, the daughter was referred to only by the letter ‘M’ to protect her identity.

But the judge also issued a Draconian injunction imposing secrecy for as long as ‘M’ lived.

The ruling barred the media or anyone interested in the case from approaching a list of 65 people who play, or had played, some part in the girl’s life.

And it stifled any reasonable debate on the moral issues of the case and stopped her own family publicly expressing their views on what should happen or why.

The injunction made clear that those who made such inquiries, apart from to the solicitors of ‘M’, would be sent to prison or have their assets seized as a punishment.

This would probably not come as a surprise to Neil Barker. He says his life is being ruined by the CoP and that the court has lost him thousands of pounds.

This week, he told me that, after his motorbike crash in April 2003, he struggled to carry out everyday tasks because of a brain injury. Even going to the shops to buy groceries was a major challenge.

His family, to whom he is still close, were worried that he would not be able to manage his own money.

And when he won £1.8 million in a personal injury claim after the accident, they agreed that Neil’s pay-out should be placed in a CoP-controlled account.

A solicitor from the firm which dealt with the injury claim was appointed as his deputy by the CoP to make financial decisions on his behalf.

Neil says: ‘I thought at the time it would be nice not to worry about money, that it would be like an ordinary bank account with added security. But I was wrong.

‘Now I have made a full recovery, but the CoP refuses to let go.

‘I have trained as a computer engineer. I have renovated a house successfully and sold it for a profit.

‘I am well enough to run my own business, to manage my own finances, but I am not being allowed to do so by this court and the deputy.’

Neil explains that his own home was bought with £1.2 million from his pay-out — money the CoP agreed to release for the purchase.
Judges at the Court of Protection sit alone and in secrecy making decisions about almost every aspect of citizens’ lives

Judges at the Court of Protection sit alone and in secrecy making decisions about almost every aspect of citizens’ lives

But he adds: ‘The rest of the funds have been allowed to dwindle away. The interest rate on the money at the Bank of England account is so low that I estimate I have lost £75,000 over the years.’

At one stage — before the banking collapse and interest rates fell — Neil discovered that the bank where he was fixing the computers would have paid him eight times more in interest than what he was receiving from the CoP account.

That is not his only grievance. During his fight to free himself — and his money — from the clutches of the CoP, he has undergone a series of independent medical examinations which, he claims, prove he has fully recovered from his brain injury.

The DVLA has also tested his driving and found him completely capable of driving a car. The cost of £4,500 for these checks had to be paid for by Neil himself.

Yet, still the CoP and the deputy have prevaricated and refused to release his money.

‘The most recent medical tests were two years ago by an eminent doctor who said I was like any other normal person,’ says Neil now. ‘My IQ was found to be more than 125, which is well above average.’

Speaking with the permission of his solicitor this week — who says his story is in the public domain because of a BBC interview he gave two years ago — Neil added, with some anger: ‘I am quite capable of managing my financial affairs, yet I am still being told by the court and the deputy that it is not the case.

‘I am continuing my fight and I am starting legal proceedings against the CoP.’

It will be an epic battle, but one that most people in Britain must surely hope he wins.


Black “comedian’s” appearance at an awards night was a “huge mistake” says British football boss

Professional Footballers’ Association chairman Clarke Carlisle believes his organisation made “a huge mistake” in hiring Reginald D Hunter to perform at Sunday night’s awards dinner in London.

Hunter, a black comedian from Georgia in the United States, repeatedly used the word ‘n*****’ during his performance, which was not well received by members of the audience in the ballroom of the Grosvenor House hotel in Mayfair.

Carlisle has campaigned to eradicate racism in football, and although he refused to criticise Hunter’s act, he admits it was a big error to hire the American for the event.

“I thought we made a huge mistake,” said the Northampton defender, who took over as PFA chairman in 2010. “I thought with everything that we have gone through over the last few years, using a comedian of his type was a bad error in judgement.

“I was embarrassed sat up there throughout and I want to apologise unreservedly to the footballing community that was present.”


Sounds like the English were not familiar with black speech. They are entitled not to like it though.


About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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