Campaigners call for CPS ‘shake-up’ to get justice for rape victims | UK News

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Women’s groups are fighting to get justice for rape victims after a number of “weaker” cases have failed to reach court.

The End of Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition has called for an investigation into the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) approach to dealing with rape allegations.

They argue that so-called “weaker” rape cases have been weeded out in favour of complaints with a greater chance of conviction.

EVAW presented Justice Secretary Robert Buckland with a dossier of evidence in hopes for a shake-up of the current system, which included a statement from a CPS whistleblower critical of his employer.

It comes after a report last year which found rape prosecutions in England and Wales had fallen to their lowest level since 2008, despite record numbers of allegations coming to the attention of the police, with just 3.3% of all reported rapes ending in a conviction.

The dossier includes evidence from the coalition’s failed High Court attempt to launch a judicial review into the CPS amid allegations the fall in successful prosecutions had essentially “decriminalised” rape.

One senior member of the CPS, who asked to remain anonymous, said his employer secretly chose to change its policy on charging rape cases.

He said there had been a dramatic change in the “messaging delivered to prosecutors” in recent years, which had discouraged prosecutors from charging challenging cases of rape, thus contributing to a fall in suspects being charged.

“I have witnessed at first hand the impact of this new messaging on prosecutor behaviour which I believe has ushered in a new ‘risk-averse’ approach to the prosecution of rape,” he said.

The dossier also features case studies from rape complainants who were told their cases would not be progressed.

In one, a teacher who was assaulted by a colleague at his house following a work Christmas party was told her case had been undermined because she had not left his house immediately the morning after the assault.

This was despite her phone containing text messages in which he admitted assaulting her and apologised.

Another case study involved a woman who was allegedly raped repeatedly by her husband which collapsed because there was evidence she made “positive comments” about her relationship with him.

In March, two High Court judges refused EVAW permission to bring a judicial review against the CPS. The decision has been appealed.

Sarah Green, EVAW’s co-director, said the mounting evidence showed the prosecution of rape in the UK is “disastrous”.

She added: “We need much higher level political leadership to effect change and get a chance of justice for all complainants of rape, not just ones hand-selected by police and prosecutors because of their anticipation of courtroom prejudices.”

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Sue Hemming, CPS legal director, said: “We share the concerns about the gap between reported rapes and those cases which come to court.

“However, the judgement of the High Court was clear, there has been no change of approach in how CPS prosecutes rape. They found that there was no arguable basis for EVAW’s claims.”

Ms Hemming added: “The independent inspectorate report on rape found the same, concluding our legal test was correctly applied in 98% of cases they examined.

“We are focused on understanding the charging gap and will shortly announce further plans to help secure justice for everybody affected by sexual violence.”

UK weather: Thunderstorms and torrential rain bring abrupt end to heatwave | UK News

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Thunderstorms and torrential rain are set to sweep across the UK, bringing an abrupt end to a week of baking hot weather.

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for the whole of the UK on Friday, with storms expected to bring lightning, hail and flooding to some areas.

There could also be up to 50mm of rainfall in an hour.

Warnings are also in place for most of England, Scotland and Wales until 9am on Saturday.

Met Office meteorologist Craig Snell said: “Not everyone will see a storm, but if you catch one, you will certainly know about it.”

The change in weather come after thousands of people swarmed to Britain’s beaches as the country sweltered in its two hottest days of the year so far, peaking at 32.6C (90.68F) on Wednesday and 33.3C (91.94F) on Thursday, both recorded at Heathrow Airport.

It led to a major incident being declared in Bournemouth, with people urged to stay away, as well as dispersal orders issued on beach piers, overnight campers evicted and additional police patrols brought in.

 Piles of rubbish were left strewn across a park and the beach was packed as crowds flocked to Bournemouth during the hot weather
Bournemouth’s crowded beach

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty issued a stark warning that coronavirus cases will rise again if people do not follow social distancing guidance.

Sky reporter Sam Holder said some people had been gathering in groups of 20 to 30, and there is now a sense among locals “that they fear that this could be the start of a second wave and that the people of Bournemouth will suffer as a result”.

Meanwhile, Scotland and Wales also experienced their hottest days of the year on Thursday, with a temperature of 30.8C (87.4F) recorded in Prestwick and 31.4C (88.5F) recorded in Trawsgoed, near Aberystwyth.

Crowds have flocked to Bournemouth's beaches in the hot weather
Image: Crowds flocked to Bournemouth’s beaches in the hot weather

Friday will be a “relatively warm and humid day”, with temperatures predicted to reach 31C (87.8F) in London and the mid-20s for the rest of England.

Temperatures could rise to 27C (80.6F) in the Scottish Highlands.

Thunderstorms are expected to clear northeastwards on Friday afternoon and into the evening but will remain over northeast Scotland until Saturday morning, according to the Met Office.

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Two flood alerts were also issued by the Environment Agency, meaning flooding is possible around Loughborough in Leicestershire and the River Trent tributaries in Nottinghamshire.

Mr Snell said that temperatures are expected to fall to around 22C to 23C (73.4F) in London on Saturday, and stay around the “high teens to low 20s” for the rest of the UK.

He added: “It (the weather) will change, but it will be more what people expect our summer to be like – a mix of sun and showers.”

Black Lives Matter: F1 champion Lewis Hamilton attends peaceful protest at Hyde Park and urges people to ‘keep pushing’ for change | UK News

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Lewis Hamilton has attended a Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in London’s Hyde Park and urged everyone supporting the movement to “keep pushing”.

Hamilton, 35, also highlighted the diversity of the crowd at the Sunday rally and said he believes “positive change will come”.

Formula 1’s six-time champion and only black driver has been campaigning passionately against racial injustice with a series of powerful statements on social media during the past month.

“Went down to Hyde Park today for the peaceful protest and I was so proud to see in person so many people of all races and backgrounds supporting this movement,” he wrote after attending the protest.

“I was proud to be out there acknowledging and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and my black heritage. I was so happy to see people of all ages, sporting Black Lives Matter signs and saying it just as passionately as I was.

“I was also happy to see so many white supporters out there today in the name of equality for all. It was really moving. I’m feeling extremely positive that change will come, but we cannot stop now. Keep pushing.”

The move follows previous posts on social media in which he criticised others for remaining silent.

More from Black Lives Matter

“Your silence is still deafening,” wrote Hamilton, who in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the US last month, called on the F1 community to speak out. His message prompted several drivers and the sport itself to issue anti-racism messages.

“You may not be racist in your silence but we need you to be ANTI-racist.

Black Lives Matter protesters beat drums as they march to Westminster
Black Lives Matter protests for fourth weekend

“That means we need you to educate yourself and others.

“Speak out to help us bring awareness to the injustices and prejudices that black people and people of colour face on a daily basis, and have been facing for hundreds of years.

“We cannot be silent today! We need your voice. We need you to get out of your comfort zone and support us by being anti-racist and letting people know where you stand in this fight.

“Encourage your family, friends and colleagues so we can continue to make change!”

Alexandra Burke sharing her experiences of racism in an Instagram video
Alexandra Burke: I was told to bleach my skin

Hamilton’s appearance at the protest comes after he launched a research project called The Hamilton Commission aimed at improving diversity in the motorsport industry – with F1’s world champion saying that “the time for platitudes and token gestures is over”.

“Despite my success in the sport, the institutional barriers that have kept F1 highly exclusive persist,” wrote Hamilton in a Sunday Times column.

“It is not enough to point to me, or to a single new black hire, as a meaningful example of progress. Thousands of people are employed across this industry and that group needs to be more representative of society.

“When I look back in 20 years, I want to see the sport that gave a shy, working-class black kid from Stevenage so much opportunity, become as diverse as the complex and multicultural world we live in.”

Sky's Deborah Haynes was walking with Black Lives Matter protesters in London.
‘We’re black, white; fighting the same fight’

Hamilton has been backed by Mercedes and his sport for speaking out in recent weeks, and F1 will allow drivers to show their support for the BLM movement once the 2020 season starts on 5 July in Austria.

F1 and the FIA are also working on their own plans.

F1’s managing director Ross Brawn told Sky Sports earlier this month: “Lewis is a great ambassador for the sport and his comments are very valid. We support him completely.”

He said F1 was aware it needed to improve diversity across the sport and said creating greater opportunities at grassroots level – for young drivers, engineers and other potential roles – was at the heart of the required change.

‘The thing I’ve always feared’: Dame Barbara Windsor’s husband says she may have to go into care | UK News

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Dame Barbara Windsor’s husband says she may soon have to move into a care home because her Alzheimer’s has worsened.

Scott Mitchell, 57, said a specialist had told him that it might no longer be possible for the former Carry On and Eastenders star to stay at home.

Dame Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 and Mitchell has been campaigning to raise awareness of the disease.

September 2019: Scott Mitchell and Dame Barbara deliver a letter to the prime minister called for better dementia care
Image: September 2019: Scott Mitchell and Dame Barbara deliver a letter to the prime minister called for better dementia care

In September last year they delivered a letter to Downing Street signed by 100,000 people, asking for better provision for people with Alzheimer’s.

The letter said dementia care across the country was “difficult, and in some places even impossible, to access”.

It added: “Our experience is of a care system that too often doesn’t care – one that is completely inadequate, unfair, unsustainable and in dire need of more money.”

Now Mitchell has reportedly told a TV documentary made by the actress’ former co-star and on-screen son Ross Kemp that his wife moving to a care home is “the thing I’ve always feared”.

More from Barbara Windsor

He said: “He’s (the specialist) basically telling me I need to prepare myself that at some point it may not be sustainable to give her the kind of care she needs at the house.

“I’ve had some fairly dark moments since he said that because there’s a part of me that knows that most likely is the truth and that’s what needs to happen.”

Mitchell, who according to the Sun newspaper will appear on Ross Kemp: Living with Dementia, added: “There’s another part of me which can’t imagine letting her go.

“I can’t imagine leaving that lady when she talks to me the way she does and putting her somewhere and her thinking, ‘Why has he done this to me?'”

Coronavirus: Aquariums under threat after being excluded from reopening plans | UK News

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Many of the country’s aquariums could close for good unless they are given more government support, or allowed to reopen along with zoos.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums says the public should be allowed to visit aquariums from next week, in the same way indoor retail and zoos have been given permission to reopen.

Many aquariums are spending up to £10,000 a day to feed and run their venues – without getting the usual funding from ticket sales.

The UK's largest aquarium, the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, says it is ready to re-open safely
Image: BIAZA hopes aquariums will be allowed to reopen in July, but it will take years to recover

The UK’s largest aquarium, the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Plymouth, says it is ready to reopen safely.

Chief executive Roger Maslin said: “96% of our income comes from tickets bought by the generous public. We’ve had no income since the lockdown. So we’ve lost over £1.1m income, but at the same time we’ve had over £1m in costs [food and up-keep].”

“We can’t close the aquarium, can’t furlough animals, it’d be great if we could but we can’t, therefore we need to keep the aquarium going and animals cared for,” he added.

The NMA says it has implemented COVID-19 safety measures such as hourly time slots, a “huge” reduction in daily ticket availability, more washing areas and increased cleaning of exhibit areas.

But aquariums across England have not been included in the list of venues allowed to reopen from 15 June, unlike indoor retail and zoos.

Dr Christoph Schwitzer, chair of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), told Sky News aquariums are ready and can adapt just like large retail stores have.

“Like zoos, aquariums can also introduce online ticketed systems whereby they can control the numbers of people they let on site – they can also put a one-way system around their sites for visitors, many already have that, which is very easy, the same as zoos.”

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There is help for aquariums – the government has made grants available of up to £100,000, but only if they are at immediate risk.

But for many that money would cover less than two weeks’ running costs.

“If the situation persists it is imperative the government puts in place additional funding opportunities for aquariums that will help our members get through this crisis so we don’t see a wave of deferred closures in the next winter or spring 2021 when organisations run out of cash,” added Dr Schwitzer.

As well as zero ticket sales, conservation and education projects have also gone on hold.

The NMA’s head of conservation and education, Nicola Bridge, said: “We have a huge education programme here at the NMA – 30,000 children a year come through our doors and take part in curriculum based lessons – all has had to stop.”

She added: “But we’re adaptable, we’ve done a huge amount of learning on how to do it online.”

BIAZA hopes its members will be allowed to reopen in July, but warns it will take years for aquariums to recover.

Rapper Wretch 32 posts video of police tasering his father during raid on Tottenham home | UK News

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Rapper Wretch 32 has shared a video of his 62-year-old father being tasered by police at his home in north London.

The footage shows Millard Scott tumbling downstairs after an officer is heard to warn: “Police officer with a Taser. Stay where you are.”

As officers ask if he is OK and tell him to keep still, a distressed woman can be heard saying: “They’ve tasered him.”

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Scott said he believed he would not have been Tasered if he were white.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” he said.

“The only people who have invaded our space are the Metropolitan Police. The only people who seem to ignore the guidelines put out there are the Metropolitan Police.

“It seems at this moment in time we are being singled out and targeted.”

His 35-year-old son, rapper Wretch 32, whose real name is Jermaine Scott, told the broadcaster there has been “no progression” since he grew up watching his father and uncle “fight against police brutality”.

He shared the 36-second clip on his Twitter account and wrote: “This is how the police think they can treat a 62 year old black man in Tottenham but this 1 happens to be my dad.”

At the start of the clip officers can be seen entering the front door of the house as a woman tells them: “I’m not resisting, don’t touch me, social distancing, please don’t touch me.”

The Met said officers went to the property as part of “a long-running operation to tackle drugs supply linked to serious violence”.

A statement said: “As officers entered the premises, a man came downstairs and started moving towards an officer suddenly.

“He was ordered to remain where he was but continued towards officers who, after several warnings, deployed a Taser.

“The man was not arrested, but was assessed by the London Ambulance Service at the scene. He did not require further medical treatment.

“The incident, including body worn footage, has been reviewed by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards and no indication of misconduct has been identified.”

Police said a 22-year-old man found in the house was arrested and charged with encouraging another to commit an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007, while a 52-year-old woman was charged with obstructing police after being interviewed under caution at a later date.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for an investigation by the police watchdog.

“I have asked the Metropolitan Police for an urgent explanation of this distressing incident which is understandably causing considerable concern,” he said.

Coronavirus: Labour accuses government of covering up recommendations to protect BAME people from COVID-19 | UK News

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Labour’s shadow health secretary has accused the government of “covering up vital recommendations” that could help protect black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people from COVID-19.

Jonathan Ashworth’s criticisms come after Whitehall sources told Sky News the recommendations from a Public Health England (PHE) review were “held back” by the government, adding “ministers have had this element of the report”.

On Tuesday, the government issued the data element of the long awaited review, led by PHE national director for health and wellbeing Professor Kevin Fenton, following suggestions from sources it was set to be delayed because of the Black Lives Matter movement.

British Pakistani nurse Areema Nasreen had worked as a hospital cleaner for 15 years before becoming a medic
Image: British Pakistani nurse Areema Nasreen was one of the first medics to die with COVID-19

Data collected by PHE was published – but a “qualitative assessment”, including the recommendations for the government, was not.

The published review found people from BAME groups were up to twice as likely to die with COVID-19 than those from a white British background, but there were no recommendations on actions that could be taken to protect BAME lives.

Sources say the second half of the report contains work which looks at “social inequality” and “structural racism” within the UK and has information from 4,000 stakeholders and organisations.

Mr Ashworth told Sky News: “We know BAME people are more likely to die from COVID and more likely to fall seriously ill with COVID. This report needs to be published in full.

“Covering up vital recommendations is completely unacceptable. Action must be taken to protect those disproportionately at risk from this horrific virus.”

PHE did not deny that a “qualitative assessment” with recommendations for the government was issued as part of the findings.

Labour's Jonathan Ashworth says that ignoring coronavirus awareness advice is idiotic
Image: Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth says the government has failed to publish recommendations to protect BAME people

It said: “Professor Fenton led PHE’s work on COVID-19 and BAME communities, engaging with a significant number of individuals and organisations within the BAME community over the past couple of months, to hear their views, concerns and ideas about the impact of the virus on their communities.”

However, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman denied that only part of the report had been published.

“On Tuesday PHE published the rapid data review. The report was published in full,” they said.

“The valuable insight that Professor Fenton and PHE colleagues gathered will inform the important work that equalities minister Kemi Badenoch will now take forward.”

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The equalities minister admitted in the Commons on Thursday there were “gaps” in the report.

“The report is welcomed, but it hasn’t gone far enough and we will take it where it needs to get to,” Ms Badenoch said.

Responding to questions from MPs, she added: “There was more I was hoping to see from this review.”

But, she said PHE could not collect data for morbidities, occupation and underlying health conditions so could not make recommendations.

Coronavirus: Speeders put lives at risk on lockdown’s empty roads | UK News

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Reckless drivers have been taking advantage of quiet roads during lockdown to drive at “truly shocking” speeds, according to police data obtained by the RAC.

It revealed that two-thirds of Britain’s police forces had caught people driving at more than 100mph in the first three weeks of lockdown.

The Metropolitan Police recorded one driver doing 163mph, while another was clocked at 151mph on the M62 motorway in West Yorkshire, 81mph over the limit.

Five other forces detected motorists driving at more than 130mph – Suffolk, Northamptonshire, Gwent, Staffordshire, and Kent.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams described the speeds as “truly shocking” and warned that motorists travelling this fast have “virtually no time to react should anything unexpected happen”.

He went on: “Some drivers have taken advantage of quieter roads to speed excessively, putting the lives of others at risk at the worst possible time.

“It’s encouraging that so many police forces have taken firm action even during the lockdown, which sends a strong message to other would-be offenders.”

Detective Superintendent Andy Cox, who leads the Metropolitan Police’s work on investigating fatal and serious road collisions, told Sky News: “Since lockdown speeding enforcement by roads policing officers in London is up 119% and extreme speeding enforcement is up 181% when comparing the same period in 2019.

“This includes 345 offences of 100mph or more with the highest being 163mph.

“Though of particular concern are speeds in ‘urban roads’ where we know more vulnerable road users are walking or cycling; we have experienced 110mph in a 30 and 73mph in a 20 road limit.

Department for Transport figures show that road traffic was around two-thirds lower than normal for the first few weeks after the lockdown was introduced on 23 March, when people were urged to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel.

The RAC sent freedom of information requests to all forces in Britain. Twenty out of the 30 forces to provide data recorded speeds in excess of 100mph.

Across Britain there were 17,363 speeding offences recorded on roads with 30mph limits in the three weeks from 23 March.

This week from today to Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World – a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.

We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names from the worlds of culture, politics, economics, science and technology. And you can take part too.

If you’d like to be in our virtual audience – from your own home – and put questions to the experts, email [email protected]