Thought there was nothing left to shock you about the 111 helpline chaos? Read why this call handler can’t sleep at night
All this week the Mail has been highlighting the shocking scale of the crisis in Britain’s out-of-hours care. Yesterday we exposed the GPs who made millions out of the helplines — while patients using the service complained of terrible neglect. Today, a whistleblower reveals the chaos in a 111 call centre ….
The voice on the end of the line is fraught, frightened. ‘My husband has just been discharged from a psychiatric unit. He has no medication and he needs it urgently,’ the woman pleads. ‘He has to see a doctor now. I’m afraid he might kill someone.’
In the background I hear a man shouting, raving. He says he is possessed by devils. It is quite obvious why the woman is scared. I try to calm and reassure her, but I have so little faith in the system I’m operating, I fear for her safety.
It is early evening, ten minutes before the end of my shift as a call handler for NHS 111, the round-the-clock patients’ helpline, and all I can do is follow procedure. The dispatcher who organises the on-call doctors’ workload is alerted to the case.
But the woman may have to wait ten, 12, even 14 hours until help arrives; by which time the man, who is clearly violent and deranged, could have attacked his wife.
That night I cannot sleep. I’m worried about the woman. Her voice echoes in my mind. ‘All he needs is his medication,’ she told me. A simple request, yet I know a ten-hour wait for a doctor to arrive and prescribe it is routine.
The next day I return to work. I have no way of checking whether he got his medicine, whether his wife is safe, or even, God forbid, dead. The emotional pressure is overwhelming …..
I had been working in the call centre for two months when I quit; burdened by the awful responsibility of working for a system that was so obviously failing its clients. I was one of around 100 operators working in the centre, and like the majority, I worked part-time.
As a single man, a geography student in my early 20s, I was typical. Many undergraduates work late shifts and weekends in call centres to supplement their loans. Other employees are often mums with school-age children, working hours to fit in with raising their families.
None of us is medically trained; all of us undergo a two-week induction, after which we are expected to have mastered the system.
Each day the demands are relentless; the calls do not let up. Illness has a habit of magnifying emotions. There are callers who are angry; others who are beside themselves with worry and those — often the vulnerable and elderly — who are merely apologetic about bothering us.
A woman calls me at 10am. She tells me her mother, in her late 80s with a complex medical history, has a stomach bug but is too weak to move to the lavatory.
I arrange for a doctor to call. Six hours later the same caller rings again to tell me the doctor has not arrived. ‘I hate to chase you. I know you’re under pressure and my mother’s condition is not life-threatening,’ she apologies, ‘but she is in distress.’
I know from experience that such callers underplay symptoms. They do not want to be a nuisance. Then the daughter asks me a simple question: when will a doctor come? ‘If it’s going to be another hour, I’ll call 999,’ she says. I consult the dispatcher. I’m told it will be midnight or even 2am — 14 or 16 hours after her initial call — before the doctor will be there.
‘But don’t tell the caller,’ the dispatcher insists. ‘Just say: “The doctor will be there as soon as possible.”’ I feel this is wrong, dishonest. Callers should be told the truth. But phone operators are all told the same thing: do not admit how long the wait will be.
Instead we are instructed to prevaricate. ‘He’ll be there as soon as possible,’ becomes the call operators’ mantra.
I have my own theory as to why. I believe the service would be flooded with complaints if we told the truth about these delays. And the companies that operate NHS 111 do not want to be seen to be failing because they would lose their lucrative contracts.
And yet there are so many ways in which they are failing.
Take the district nurses, who often attend to the elderly and terminally ill receiving palliative care at home. Under the system, when someone phones us asking for a visit from a nurse, we then have to pass their details onto another employee, whose role is to contact the nurse on her mobile.
It is rare that these calls are answered, because the nurses will be juggling routine visits arranged through GPs with their out-of-hours 111 call-outs.
Often they will only check into the call centre as they are finishing their shifts and heading home, with the result that the patient has to wait until another nurse begins a new shift before getting attention.
The result is interminable delays, of up to 12 hours, often for those who complain the least. I’ve felt embarrassed and helpless when callers have phoned to say: ‘My husband’s catheter is blocked (a very common occurrence). Could a nurse call round to sort it out?’
Because, seven hours later, the same caller will often phone again — apologetic yet increasingly anxious — to say there has been no visit and that their husband is in great distress. By then, the situation will often have escalated into an emergency.
This is further evidence that the current system is cumbersome, ill-conceived and hasn’t got the wellbeing of the patient at heart.
If I knew the system was able to cope I would have felt more confident about operating it. As it is, I know it is failing dismally in its duty to serve its clients, and many, like me, believe they deserve better.
Mistakes in issuing prescriptions — which the doctors we use write between appointments — are commonplace. I’ve often taken calls from chemists, concerned that patients have been prescribed the wrong medication, or, in the case of children and babies, unsuitable medication for their age.
Correcting these errors involves a fresh rigmarole. Having spoken to the chemist, we must then contact the doctor — who is often attending to a patient and unable to answer his phone.
When we finally get hold of him, we then instruct him to phone the chemist to discuss the prescription. Meanwhile the hapless patient is kept waiting; sometimes for days.
Inevitably, too, the system is open to exploitation by those who know how to play it. At Christmas, when the Norovirus epidemic was at its peak, we were inundated with calls.
We’d been instructed to tell people to remain at home because an influx of patients in accident and emergency units would only spread the sickness bug catastrophically.
Yet one caller was so abusive to me when I told him politely we were unable to issue appointments, that I referred him to my manager. She, however, appeased him and even rang A&E — in contravention of our instructions — to get him an appointment.
I asked why he should be given preferential treatment for being abusive, when I’d just had an elderly lady apologising for being a nuisance when she’d called to say she had been waiting five hours for a doctor. Once again, the reason was obvious: the manager did not want a formal complaint to be made and was appeasing a belligerent man just to avoid it.
There are other anomalies in the system that urgently need to be addressed. For example, every time a patient makes a repeat call to 111, the operator must take them through the whole of the computerised medical questionnaire.
This takes about eight minutes. I admit it is an excellent questionnaire — if patients give accurate answers it is foolproof — but can it really be necessary to start from scratch with it every time someone makes a repeat call to 111? ‘I phoned an hour ago and was asked all the same questions,’ is a constant refrain.
It’s hardly surprising callers get frustrated and delays mount. I wonder, too, about the sensitivity of a system that gives the very lowest priority to certifying the deaths of patients.
The result is that newly bereaved families are put to the bottom of the list when they ring to ask for a doctor to issue a death certificate.
The rationale is: the patient is dead — there is nothing medical science can do for him, so the living must take precedence. But the consequence is great distress for grieving families who are often left for 14 hours at home with the body of a relative, which may not be touched until a doctor has confirmed the death.
Relatives have phoned me in tears. ‘We’ve waited all day and no one has come,’ they say.
Of course it would be insensitive to tell them that they are our lowest priority, so you repeat the platitude: ‘I’m so sorry. The doctor will be there as soon as possible’ when the fact is, you know they are in for a very long wait.
I’ve had calls from nursing homes, too, where elderly residents have passed away in chairs in the middle of the sitting room, causing upset and disquiet to other residents and visitors, who couldn’t understand why there had been no attempt to move them. But they can’t be moved until we send someone to certify the death.
Anyone who questions the anomalies and shortcomings of the system finds themselves upset and compromised. Unsurprisingly, there is a very high turnover of staff at 111 call centres, which constantly advertise for operators. But employees are scared to complain for fear of losing their jobs.
Few members of the public understand 111. They do not know it uses a team of doctors who will inevitably know nothing about their patients or their medical history, usually in an ad hoc surgery set up at a hospital accident and emergency department.
The new 111 system is undoubtedly one of the causes of the chaos at A&E. Impatient with interminable waits for visits from on-call doctors, some patients simply bypass the system and present themselves at hospital instead.
Those who are more long-suffering, just wait. There have been tragic cases where people have, indeed, died waiting.
Could a more chaotic and time-wasting system have ever been devised? I doubt it.
Which is why, when the poor woman rang to tell me her husband, newly released from psychiatric hospital without vital medicines, was threatening violence I had no idea when the doctor arrived. And why part of me feared to know the answer.
Great-grandmother, 100, died of dehydration in hospital ‘because her water jug broke’ and staff took 10 days to put her on a drip
A woman aged 100 died of dehydration on a hospital ward after being taken off her drip. A ‘catastrophic error’ caused the death of great-grandmother Lydia Spilner despite frantic efforts by her family to get her treated.
Her daughter Nora Spilner complained to nurses regularly during her mother’s four-week stay at Leicester Royal Infirmary. But she was unable to get her mother put back on a drip for ten days, even though her condition was clearly deteriorating.
University Hospitals of Leicestershire NHS Trust has now admitted that Mrs Spilner died due to renal failure caused by dehydration and paid her family an undisclosed out-of-court settlement.
During Mrs Spilner’s stay in hospital her daughter noticed there was no water jug next to her mother’s bed – and was told it had broken and there were no spares.
On several occasions she found her mother lying in urine-soaked sheets, and with her hair caked in porridge.
‘The nurse was laughing as she told me my mother had fallen asleep in her breakfast,’ Mrs Spilner’s daughter said.
She said her ‘fiercely independent’ mother, a widow since 1970, was admitted to hospital in January last year with a suspected chest infection and dehydration caused by medication prescribed by GPs.
‘The A&E doctors explained that her confused speech was a clear sign she had become dehydrated,’ said Nora Spilner, of Tilton on the Hill, Leicestershire. ‘They put her on a drip and within two hours she was back to her normal self.
‘I wish I had taken her back home then, because I firmly believe I could have taken better care of her and she would still be alive today.
‘Instead I put my trust in the hospital and allowed her to be moved to an elderly care ward, thinking she would be in good hands and they would be able to sort out her chest infection.’
Mrs Spilner was transferred to ward 31 of Leicester Royal Infirmary, where her daughter soon became alarmed.
She said: ‘My mum’s skin was becoming dry and cracked and it was clear to me she was very dehydrated. I pleaded with the doctors to put her back on a drip but it took ten days for them to take action.
‘Even then the drip didn’t work properly. They first tried to administer it through her leg, which swelled up like a balloon, and later they tried her hand and arm but the drip either stopped working properly or made her arm swell.’
The great-grandmother – who had celebrated her 100th birthday on September 22, 2011 – died on February 22, 2012. Cause of death was confirmed as renal failure, combined with poor blood flow to her lower limbs.
‘Her condition was allowed to deteriorate with very little thought for her dignity,’ said her daughter. ‘The way she was looked after was appalling. The nurses didn’t show her an ounce of compassion.’
Sue Mason, divisional head of nursing at Leicester Hospitals, said: ‘It’s clear that our failure to give Mrs Spilner intravenous fluids was a catastrophic error for which we have apologised.
‘We know that saying sorry won’t bring her back but we at least want her family to know that we will not avoid our responsibility, we are truly sorry.
‘As regards the equally important issue of the compassion shown to Mrs Spilner, since this happened in 2012, we have changed the nurse leadership on this ward, increased staffing levels and introduced hourly ward rounds.’
Robert Rose, a medical lawyer with Lime Solicitors who represented the family, said Mrs Spilner’s case was one of several they have dealt with involving basic failings in elderly care at the same hospital.
British Universities suffered huge student shortfall after fees hike
Universities fell short of recruitment targets by almost 30,000 students this year amid fresh warnings that the British higher education system risks losing its global reputation.
Vice-chancellors warned that student numbers in England alone were nine per cent lower than official forecasts in 2012/13 following the introduction of a new tuition fee regime.
In a report, Universities UK warned that institutions could face “significant financial pressures” over the next few years because of a squeeze on funding and “constraints” on the number of postgraduates and undergraduates being recruited.
It was claimed that Britain could struggle “to retain its hard-won global competitive advantage” without an injection of funding.
The comments come after figures showed a rise in the number of British students opting to take courses at high-ranking universities in the United States.
Data obtained by the Telegraph showed that entry rates had increased at a number of leading institutions including Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Pennsylvania, Chicago and Michigan.
The rise coincided with a drop in the number of students recruited by universities in the UK. The number of school leavers admitted across the UK in 2012 dropped by 5.7 per cent, while admissions among mature students – those aged 21 and over – were down by 9.2 per cent.
But the study found that admissions declined even more sharply in England where students face tuition fees of up to £9,000-a-year – higher than elsewhere in the UK and almost three times the previous maximum.
It emerged that English universities admitted around 28,000 fewer students than expected – undershooting recruitment targets by nine per cent.
The report cited a fall in the number of 18-year-olds in the education system, combined with concerns that universities would face financial penalties for over-recruiting.
It also found a drop in postgraduate students and “significant” falls in the numbers of new entrants to UK universities from countries such as India, Pakistan and Nigeria.
Prof Eric Thomas, UUK president and vice-chancellor of Bristol University, said there was evidence that the higher education system was being “constrained in terms of its ability to expand in a sustainable manner in the medium term”.
“This has long-term implications for the UK’s skilled workforce, productivity, and economic growth,” he said.
“Factors constraining the ability of universities to expand undergraduate and postgraduate provision will inhibit the future economic potential and competitiveness of the UK. These constraints must be overcome if the UK is to retain its hard-won global competitive advantage.”
The study – The Funding Environment for Universities – said many institutions were already charging £9,000 a year for their degree and will need to increase student numbers to boost revenue.
Some may need to invest in buildings and facilities at time when funding is squeezed to make sure they have enough room to expand in the future, it is claimed.
Failure to invest in this area would be a “significant step back” for the sector and would be detrimental to the UK’s ability to provide a world-class teaching and research environment, the study said.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “UK universities are world-class, but across the world higher education is changing fast.
“Our reforms have laid the foundations for a better funded and more competitive sector, with a ring-fenced research budget, more resources for teaching, and a renewed focus on the quality of the student experience.
“We are delivering more choice to students by relaxing number controls and ensuring a more diverse sector.
“Our universities are drivers of growth, contributing an estimated £3.4 billion a year to the economy through services to business. With the demand for higher education growing worldwide, we are developing an industrial strategy for education exports to ensure the UK’s universities can take advantage of the growing international appetite for learning.”
A dangerously deluded energy policy and why the greens want to hide the truth about Britain’s soaring bills
Without question, it must have been one of the dottiest public utterances ever delivered by a British Cabinet minister.
This was the extraordinary speech made on Monday — at an event staged by the Met Office — by Ed Davey, our Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
What inevitably attracted attention was Mr Davey’s attack on those ‘sections of the Press’ who dare question any aspect of the way his energy policy for Britain has become wholly skewed and dominated by the belief that the world is in the grip of global warming.
The timing of his outburst against ‘destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism’ in the Press was not accidental: it was to preface yesterday’s Commons debate on the mammoth Energy Bill by which he plans to ‘decarbonise’ our electricity industry.
Centred on his wish to focus our energy needs on building nuclear power stations and tens of thousands of wind turbines, his Bill will make it ever more cripplingly expensive for us to rely on those fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, which currently supply more than two-thirds of our electricity.
Mr Davey suggested that journalists who doubt the wisdom of his policy only do so through ‘sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness’ — probably because they are being paid to do so by nameless ‘vested interests’.
So angry does this make him that he seemed to suggest that any questioning of his policy cannot be tolerated. In other words, he will brook no opposition — at a time, we should remind ourselves, when free speech in Britain seems under threat as never before.
I should say at this point that if this remarkable attack was simply a detached assault on writers like me who are critical of the Government’s green policies, then I might let it pass.
But there are bigger issues in play here, for the decisions the Energy Secretary makes are having a direct and damaging effect on the finances of millions of households across the country, who find themselves paying ever-higher bills as a result of green subsidies.
It is those families who should be questioning virtually every line in Mr Davey’s speech.
They would not be reassured to have heard him start by paying extravagant tribute to his hosts from the Met Office, which, he said, had created ‘a weather forecasting service which is the envy of the world’.
Yet this is the same Met Office which, in recent years, has become a national laughing stock year after year for getting its long-term predictions of ‘barbecue summers’, ‘milder than average winters’ and unprecedented droughts so spectacularly wrong.
The reason why the Met Office has come such a series of croppers is that it is so obsessed with the idea that the world is in the grip of runaway global warming that it has programmed its computer models to predict heat and drought, just when we have been through some of the wettest summers and coldest winters for decades.
But the most disturbing part of Mr Davey’s speech came towards the end, where he came up with that only too familiar boast that the European Union is leading the world in the fight against the carbon dioxide that is causing all this global warming, and that Britain is leading the EU with its Climate Change Act, committing us — uniquely in the world — to reducing our ‘carbon emissions’ by 80 per cent in fewer than 40 years.
Mr Davey seems quite oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world is no longer taking any notice of what we are up to, and that China and India between them are now building more than 800 new coal-fired power stations, so that China alone is now generating more carbon dioxide every year via its new power stations than the total emitted by Britain.
Even the EU is at last waking up to the fact that ‘decarbonising’ its economy is making electricity so expensive that ever more firms are moving their operations overseas — not least to America, where the shale gas revolution has more than halved the price of gas and electricity in just five years.
So poor little Britain is left increasingly alone, with an energy policy deliberately designed to price out of the market those very much cheaper fuels which still provide most of the electricity we need to keep our homes lit and warm, and our economy running.
And all this is in the name of the dream that we can somehow rely on wind that doesn’t always blow, sun that doesn’t always shine, and, maddest of all, on ‘carbon capture and storage’ — the fanciful notion that we can somehow collect all that climate-changing carbon dioxide from our remaining fossil-fuel power stations to pipe it away safely into holes under the North Sea.
Sadly, most people still have very little idea just how dangerously crackpot Britain’s energy policy has become, not least because so few people in positions of influence — MPs and journalists much among them — have been prepared to do enough homework to ask precisely the sort of searching questions which Mr Davey thinks we shouldn’t be allowed to ask.
We are faced with a policy intended not just to make our electricity supplies increasingly unreliable, but at such a crippling cost — in ever-rising green taxes and the subsidies we must all pay through our energy bills — that ever more households will be driven into fuel poverty.
With every year that passes, yet more families will simply find that they can no longer afford to keep their homes provided with comforts we have all come to take for granted.
This is the inconvenient truth which hides behind the impenetrable jargon that fills the 208 pages of the Energy Bill Mr Davey is rushing through Parliament.
What was oddest of all about Monday’s speech was his charge that anyone questioning what he is up to might only be doing so because they represent sinister ‘vested interests’ which wish to stand in the way of him saving the planet.
For here we are into complete Alice Through The Looking Glass territory, where every charge he levels at those opposed to his assumptions and policies in fact applies in spades to the very people who are egging him on to go even further in the same suicidal direction.
Among those exhorting MPs yesterday to vote for an amendment calling for even faster ‘decarbonisation’ of our economy, no one was more conspicuous than those ‘vested interests’ which stand to make billions out of the subsidy bonanza unleashed by our renewable energy policy.
The amendment, which only narrowly failed, was moved by Tim Yeo MP, chairman of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, who last year made £200,000 on top of his Parliamentary salary by working for a swathe of firms making a fortune out of ‘renewable energy’.
What few people know is that these firms include the company that owns the Channel Tunnel, which has a £500 million contract to run a cable under the sea to bring electricity from French nuclear power stations to Britain — specifically to make up for power no longer available here when there isn’t enough wind to keep our subsidised windmills turning.
It has become only too obvious that the world inhabited by the green zealots at Westminster has turned reality upside down.
The dodgy science and the vested interests Mr Davey talked of are all to be found on his side of the argument — not the one whose views he so hysterically denigrates and which he wants to see suppressed.
The role for the rest of us, it seems, is to swallow the propaganda, pay those ever-soaring bills — and wait for our lights to go out.
Guilty: Barristers watchdog (looking into the Leveson lovers scandal) is condemned for its shoddy handling of complaints
Lawyers look after lawyers
Failures and flaws in the way barristers handle complaints against themselves are leaving the public at risk, an investigation has found.
A scathing inquiry from a state watchdog said that the Bar Standards Board – which regulates the elite of the legal profession – has failed to reach satisfactory standards in every area in which it operates.
It said the findings raise a question mark over the legitimacy and legality of the complaints system.
The strongly worded verdict from the Legal Services Board is a blow to the legal profession at a time when lawyers are trying to demonstrate the bodies through which they regulate themselves are working.
Criticisms levelled at the BSB, which is run by barristers, include delays that see hundreds of complaints against lawyers unresolved for years – with some still unfinished after almost a decade.
Two in three of those who complain to the BSB think they are treated unfairly, the investigation found.
The charges come at a time of political controversy for the Bar Standards Board.
Following the publication of the Leveson report, which calls for an end to self-regulation of newspapers and the imposition of Press regulation laws, it emerged that two of the barristers who worked on opposing sides during the Inquiry were having an affair.
David Sherborne QC, who represented celebrities and others calling for state regulation of the Press, and Carine Patry Hoskins, who represented the Inquiry, went for a break together to the Greek island of Santorini four months before the Inquiry ended.
The pair have said they went on holiday to discuss the possibility of a future relationship, decided against it, but changed their minds later on.
And Lord Justice Leveson rejected any suggestion that the Inquiry may have been compromised, and has said it is for the Bar Standards Board to settle a complaint from senior Tory MP Rob Wilson over the conduct of the lawyers.
The BSB, which was launched seven years ago, has come in for repeated criticism. Nevertheless, last year its chairman Baroness Deech insisted it was in ‘rude health’.
But the report from the Legal Services Board said one survey had found more than two thirds of people who complained to the BSB about the conduct of barristers thought its methods were neither open nor fair.
The BSB, which polices the conduct of 15,000 barristers, ‘has very little evidence’ about the views of ordinary people who pay them, it found.
However, user satisfaction surveys showed ‘a significant number of those that have had reason to complain about an individual regulated by the BSB do not consider the process open and fair’.
The figure was 67 per cent, or two out of three complainants.
During 2013, the Legal Services Board said, the BSB has been handling 316 complaints about barristers which date back to 2010 and 2011. There were a number of even older unresolved cases, with one going back to 2004.
‘Such delays are not fair to those regulated by the BSB who face such allegations for such a long period and raise risks to consumers who receive services from barristers who may be unfit to practise or need to undertake remedial action,’ the report said.
The inquiry questioned the independence of the BSB because its purse strings are held by the Bar Council, the organisation which speaks for barristers.
The Bar Council can reject any item of BSB spending, must approve any cheques for more than £1,000, and can veto staff appointments.
The report said in some incidents the watchdog had ‘been concerned about the Bar Council’s attempts to fetter this independence’.
It added: ‘Involvement of the representative body in regulatory matters raises risks to the legitimacy of the independent regulatory body’. It might also break the law, the report said.
The inquiry also criticised the way the regulator operates through eight different committees with 130 members, adding the Legal Services Board ‘does not believe that it can deliver effective or efficient governance’.
The Bar Standards Board currently claims that by the end of 2013 ‘the term BSB-regulated will be an assurance of good, honest, independent advocacy and expert legal advice’.
However, the Legal Services Board said the BSB had in reality promised only to achieve satisfactory grades in all areas by the spring of 2016 and that even this task was ‘ambitious’.
It said some improvements would need ‘culture change’ and in other areas the BSB ‘has painted an overly optimistic picture about the progress it has made’.
BSB director Dr Vanessa Davies said: ‘The report praises the BSB’s self-assessment and progress in this area while identifying areas for improvement.
She added: ‘Like any organisation that serves the public – and this one does so at no expense to the public – we want to improve constantly.
‘We welcome the fact that the LSB agrees with how we have analysed our progress so far and how we are going to continue to modernise.
‘We know that is ambitious and tough: but we also know that the public deserves no less.’
57,000 suspects are left in bail limbo as police ‘drag their feet’ with one man waiting three-and-a-half years to find out if he will be charged
Thousands of criminal suspects are ‘left dangling’ on police bail for months before they are told if they will be charged.
More than 57,000 people are on this type of bail – where conditions are set by the police rather than the courts – including 3,000 for more than six months.
One fraud suspect is still on bail three years and seven months after being arrested, a survey found.
Many of those arrested and bailed will ultimately not face charges. In some cases, suspects are suspended from their jobs while allegations against them are investigated.
The Law Society, which represents solicitors, is calling for a 28-day limit on police bail, after which it said officers should be required to go before a magistrate to justify further bailing of a suspect.
Freedom of Information requests by BBC Radio 5 Live found at least 57,428 suspects were on bail in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while 3,172 have been on bail for more than six months. In Scotland, bail is set by the courts, not the police.
Scotland Yard has more than 12,000 suspects on bail, including 910 for over six months. In London, a man, 45, has still not been told if he will be charged after he was arrested in October 2009 on suspicion of fraud.
Senior police officers appear divided on the issue, with Andy Trotter, the head of the British Transport Police, calling for a six-month limit on bail. However, the Association of Chief Police Officers said that bail was an ‘essential tool in securing justice’.
Richard Atkinson, chairman of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, said: ‘It is not unusual for people to be on bail for several months while fairly routine investigations meander their way to a final decision.
‘Because there is no requirement for the police to act within any time, there is an attitude among some officers of “let’s put off until tomorrow what we could have done today” and things are just left to drag along.’ He said one suspect accused of stealing a bicycle had been left on bail for seven months.
Peak: The largest number of bailed individuals are in London, with 12,178 waiting to hear from the Metropolitan Police
The largest number of bailed individuals are in London, with 12,178 waiting to hear from the Metropolitan Police
Civil liberties campaigners have condemned the excessive use of police bail, which allows officers to restrict suspects’ activities. This can include forcing them to live at a certain address, handing over their passport and making them report to a police station on a regular basis.
There is no time limit on how long bail can continue and how many times it can be renewed.
Earlier this month, Mr Trotter told The Mail on Sunday: ‘In the past, police have released people without bail and that hasn’t stopped us continuing the investigation, particularly if they are unlikely to abscond. We have re-arrested them at a later stage when we have had sufficient evidence. That way, they are not left dangling.’
But Chris Eyre, Acpo spokesman and chief constable of Nottinghamshire, said: ‘Police bail is an essential tool in securing justice. It allows investigators to ensure every possible avenue is explored, while those arrested need not remain in custody.’
Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said the lack of resources made it more difficult for investigations to be concluded quickly.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We continue to keep police bail provisions under review to ensure they strike the right balance between protecting an individual’s right to civil liberty and allowing police to carry out thorough criminal investigations.’
Church leaders may ask Queen to dissolve Synod if it continues to oppose creation of women bishops
Senior bishops have raised the prospect of asking the Queen to dissolve the Church of England’s ‘Parliament’, the General Synod, if it continues to oppose the creation of women bishops.
The unprecedented proposal was made in a confidential meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury last week and reflects Church leaders’ frustration with the Synod for narrowly defeating legislation in November to allow women priests to become bishops.
The House of Bishops unveiled fresh plans on Friday to push through the historic reforms within two years and is preparing for a battle with traditionalists.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby held a confidential meeting last week about the issue
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby held a confidential meeting last week about the issue
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are due to urge the Synod, when it meets in July, to accept a law that will allow women to be consecrated.
But some bishops fear that opposition can be overcome only by dissolving the Synod and electing new members who are more sympathetic to reform.
One senior traditionalist said last night: ‘It seems the new Archbishop is determined to steam-roll this through, but if he is not careful he will be risking another disaster.’
The Archbishop is to urge the Synod to accept a law that women should be concentrated in July
The Archbishop is to urge the Synod to accept a law that women should be concentrated in July
As in Parliament, elections to the Synod are normally every five years, but the Archbishops can in theory seek an early dissolution. To take this step, they would have to petition the Queen, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, who has the power to force new elections.
Sources said, however, that the idea had not ‘gained traction’ with the majority of bishops because they were confident the Synod would not be able to defeat the motion again.
In November, the reform was defeated despite widespread support by only a few votes in the House of Laity, one of the three houses of the Synod alongside the Houses of Bishops and of Clergy.
Sources are confident that the Synod, (pictured) will defeat the motion as it did in November
Sources are confident that the Synod, (pictured) will defeat the motion as it did in November
The fallout was highly damaging to the Church’s credibility and MPs have threatened to impose women bishops by passing legislation in Parliament if the Church fails to resolve the crisis.
The Synod can reject the Archbishops’ proposals in July, but observers said the mood is now strongly in favour of introducing women bishops as quickly as possible and that the traditionalists will try only to gain favourable terms.
The fate of Sally Bercow suggests it’s all too easy to side with the baying mob
Sally Bercow is a nasty Leftist bitch who grievously and falsely defamed a prominent British Conservative
‘It follows that, for these reasons, I find that the Tweet meant, in its natural and ordinary defamatory meaning, that the Claimant was a paedophile who was guilty of sexually abusing boys living in care.” Thus the conclusion of Mr Justice Tugendhat’s judgment in McAlpine v Bercow, on whether or not the now infamous tweet from Sally Bercow was “defamatory at law”. He has ruled that it was.
Since Mrs Bercow had tweeted “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*” at the height of the furore over (false) allegations aired by Newsnight (that a senior Conservative had been involved in child abuse in the 1980s), this is a judgment that for once is entirely consonant with common sense. There is a huge difference between “Why is Lord McAlpine trending?” and the same words with the addition of that faux-naive “*innocent face*”. To suggest otherwise defies credulity. Faux-naivety is the hallmark of the modern Left-wing smart alec (think Radio 4’s The News Quiz). Only a Martian could fail to recognise the semantics of the form.
So, good: justice for the McAlpine One. I do think, though, that the case exemplifies a problem for humans that is ancient and universal, but which, thanks to technology, is more dangerous than ever. The tendency to rush to judgment, and the desire to be part of the crowd.
After all, Mrs Bercow was hardly alone in casting aspersions on Lord McAlpine: the Twittersphere had decided it knew who was the subject of the BBC’s sensational report. Why not join in? The temptation is hard to resist (it’s one reason I gave up on Twitter for a while; I’m not immune to the phenomenon). No one wants to be left behind; everyone wants to cast those stones.
A man I know well recently found himself in disagreement with the rest of his work-team. The issue would sound trivial compared with allegations of child abuse, but the same sort of dynamic was in place. All the team wanted to do “X”. The pressure on Tom to conform was enormous, but he thought “X” wasn’t merely sub-optimal; he found it ethically troubling.
He’s a good man: he didn’t back down, and was ultimately successful in convincing the team to change course. But even he felt the pressure to shrug and get on with it. If everyone else says 2+2 = 5, not only is it hard to disagree, it’s hard not to say “I believe 2+2 = 5, too”. Big Brother (one of Mrs Bercow’s friends, I recall) ruled because people wanted to belong.
A nagging worry about the baying mob has been growing in me since the Jimmy Savile revelations. Some victims are finding long-delayed justice. But other innocent people must (where “must” is a statistical term denoting high probability) find themselves publicly ruined. I can feel the mob smack its lips with every “revelation”. Remember the paediatrician whose house was vandalised in 2000, most likely because of the root of her profession’s noun? Television personalities who may turn out to be falsely accused are no less deserving of concern.
A more serious point, this most awful of weeks. Given that we know this human desire to side with the loudest majority, what on Earth was the BBC doing giving Anjem Choudary a platform to spew his filth? An invitation to appear on Newsnight (that “flagship” programme, again) is so prestigious that a form of legitimacy is conferred on any studio guest.
Was the day after the most shocking atrocity in London since 7/7, the day the victim was named, a good time to confer such a status on Choudary? Not only in terms of its effects on those of us who worry about Islamic extremism from the outside: what do you imagine his interview, hard on the Woolwich horror, caused someone sympathetic to the EDL to feel? More inclined to demonstrate, or less? But also (and more important), didn’t anyone contemplate its consequence on those who fight that extremism from within? What about those who are fighting it within themselves?
I’m not arguing “no platform”, like some (sheeplike) student activist. There’s a time to allow the extremists to hang themselves, metaphorically, in debate. But we know that humans have a tendency to gossip (and that while gossip is not always deleterious, it often is); know that humans are more prone to wicked behaviour once their individuality is rolled up into a herd; know that we all wish to belong to a herd; know that the media confers legitimacy upon those subjects it chooses to feature; know, too, that the gossip contingent upon that legitimacy can circle the world in a second. Thus the creation of a mob. Thus the entirely predictable injustices. Shouldn’t we be more careful with our words?
Because a mob can now form, worldwide, in the time it took me to type this sentence. “Did you see Newsnight? What’s trending? I think that too! LOL.”