GHB to be reclassified as a class B drug after its use in ‘truly sickening crimes’ | UK News


GHB will become a class B drug after the home secretary said it had been used in “truly sickening crimes”.

GHB, short for gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, is currently a class C drug but the reclassification of it and its related substances will mean tougher penalties for those using it illegally.

Priti Patel said: “GHB and related substances have been used to commit some truly sickening crimes, including murder, sexual assault and robbery.

“I will do everything in my power to protect people from harm, which is why I am tightening restrictions around these dangerous substances.

“These changes will make the drugs harder to access and introduce tougher penalties for possession.”

File photo dated 28/1/2021 of Priti Patel. A union representing senior public servants is set to go to court to challenge Boris Johnson's decision to stand by the Home Secretary following a bullying furore. The FDA union has started a judicial review to "overturn" the Prime Minister's decision to disregard the findings of his adviser on ministerial standards in order to back Patel last year. Issue date: Friday February 19, 2021.
Image: Home Secretary Priti Patel said GHB had been used in some ‘truly sickening crimes’

The Home Office will also bring forward legislation around two substances that can be converted to GHB on ingestion: gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4-butanediol (1,4-BD).

Those wanting the substances for legitimate industrial purposes will need a licence.

Legislation will be brought forward “when parliamentary time allows”, the Home Office added.

It comes after a report in November by the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs which found a “concerning increase” in the harm caused by GHB.

At the time, the Office for National Statistics revealed that GHB was linked to the deaths of 219 people over a 10 year period.

It was also linked to thousands of emergency hospital admissions each year.

The home secretary also commissioned a review in January 2020 as concern grew over the criminal use of GHB and similar substances.

Reynhard Sinaga was jailed in January last year for drugging and raping more than 40 men, with his trials hearing that he laced victims’ drinks with drugs such as GBH to render them unconscious.

The recreational club drug acts as a sedative, lowering inhibitions and giving users a sense of euphoria, but it can also make them feel sleepy and put them at risk of overdose and death.

Both class C and class B drugs have maximum penalties of an unlimited fine for those found in possession.

But the maximum jail sentence is two years for class C and five years for class B.

Priti Patel doesn’t rule out sending asylum seekers abroad to be processed, saying ‘all options are on the table’ | Politics News


Home Secretary Priti Patel has told Sky News she is considering “all options” for overhauling the UK’s asylum system – including sending people abroad while their claims are processed.

Under her new immigration plans, Ms Patel has vowed to make every effort to remove those who enter the UK illegally after travelling through a safe country where they could have claimed asylum.

Targeting a crackdown on those who travel across the Channel, the home secretary said her proposals will include “how we remove people and return people to their countries they have travelled from”.

Note to eds: The picture at the bottom has been pixelated as the PA Picture Desk has been unable to gain the necessary permission to photograph a child under 16 on issues involving their welfare. The picture is also provided unpixelated for newspapers to pixelate in their own style. A group of people including young children are brought in to Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers following a small boat incident in the Channel.
Image: The home secretary wants to crackdown on Channel crossings

And she did not deny recent reports that asylum seekers could be sent abroad while having their claims processed – including to places like Gibraltar and the Isle of Man, although both those places have strongly rejected such suggestions.

“All the time people are being trafficked and smuggled through illegal routes, we as a government have a duty and a responsibility to consider all options and that is the purpose of our consultation,” Ms Patel said.

“So we will look at third-country removal and we will also do that alongside looking at bilateral agreements.

“This will be work this government is undertaking right now. As part of this consultation we will put all options on the table in terms of working with third countries.

“Countries like Denmark are already exploring options like this and we will continue to explore, bilaterally, options in terms of returning and removing people that have come to the UK illegally.”

Asked if her plans to return people back to the countries they have travelled from relied on new post-Brexit arrangements with EU countries, Ms Patel said: “We will have arrangements in place.

“That is what we’re doing right now in terms of bilateral negotiations to put arrangements in place.

“It’s important to remember, if you’re fleeing persecution, people can claim asylum in the first safe country.

“France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain – many people are travelling to the UK from these safe countries.

“So the principle of fleeing persecution under the refugee convention and seeking asylum is very much about, yes, going to a safe country.

“People are still shopping through safe countries and coming to the UK.”

Pressed on whether her plans rested on striking bilateral agreements with EU countries that are not yet in place, Ms Patel said: “EU countries also have a moral duty and a responsibility to be part of this solution.

“Today I’ll be at the G6 talking about this very issue and making the case for making reform of asylum and absolutely sticking to the principle of claiming asylum in the first safe country, because currently that is not taking place.”

An up close shot of Gibraltar from La Linea, Spain.
Image: Gibraltar has rejected suggestions it could be used to process UK asylum claims

“We all have a moral duty and responsibility to save lives and stop people smuggling and this is a collective endeavour where we must all step up.”

The home secretary’s plans have been billed as the “biggest overhaul of the UK’s asylum system in decades”.

Under the proposals, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful.

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Ms Patel said she wanted to “create safe and legal routes” for those fleeing persecution, but that those who enter the UK illegally will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally.

Under the new plans, refugees who come to the UK through the government’s official resettlement programme will get indefinite leave to remain once they arrive.

Those who arrive illegally, but still manage to successfully claim asylum, will receive a new “temporary protection status” rather than an automatic right to settle.

People entering illegally will also have limited family reunion rights and reduced access to benefits.

For people who have their cases considered and refused, the Home Office said it would seek their rapid removal from the UK.

Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said Ms Patel should spend more time stopping British criminals and less seeking “clicks and likes”.

She posted on Twitter: “Hope as Priti Patel tours studios she is asked why she talks tough on foreign criminals, but has overseen highest numbers in UK ever.

“Also how come she’s not tough on British criminals committing rape & sex crimes against children. Conviction of both have dropped in her time.

“If only her actions affected more than headlines we might see crime falling and rapists locked away, instead she’s traded our safety for clicks and likes. I’d rather we protected more people from sex offenders personally.”

NHS encourages people to seek help if they are victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault | UK News


Domestic abuse and sexual assault victims are being encouraged to seek NHS support after the number of people asking for help halved during the first lockdown.

Some 1,250 people sought help from NHS Sexual Assault Referral clinics in July last year, compared with 2,500 during the same month in 2019.

The numbers have increased since then but are still below those seen before the coronavirus pandemic, according to NHS England.

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But at the same time, there has been a 350% increase in the number of people searching online for domestic abuse support during lockdown compared to the previous year.

There was also a 54% increase in the use of support lines and a 70% increase in web chat activity over the same period.

Women have been sharing their experiences of assault and harassment online since the death of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.

There has also been criticism of the way some police officers have dealt with complaints from women.

Kate Davies, the NHS director of sexual assault services commissioning, said: “This is a key moment in time in the fight against domestic abuse and sexual assault, and NHS England is playing its part in helping victims get the help they deserve.”

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Labour MP Jess Phillips: ‘We don’t need another review’

People do not need to report a crime to police to refer themselves to the clinics, which are run by doctors and nurses.

The services offered by the clinics to rape and assault victims include:

  • medical examinations
  • emergency contraception
  • emotional support
  • pregnancy testing

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national director for mental health, said: “Everyone is different and needs different types of support, but please remember that the NHS is here to listen to you and support you.”

The NHS has written to staff reminding them of how to spot signs a patient may have been abused or assaulted.

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Sara Hurley, the NHS England chief dental officer, has published guidance for dentists on how their teams – who are “likely to meet patients with broken teeth and injuries to their mouths” – can also identify and help victims.

Ms Hurley said: “Combating domestic abuse is not just a medical mission, it’s a moral mission too and dentists are determined to play their part.”

The NHS has said as well as physical violence, domestic abuse covers coercive control and gaslighting, emotional abuse, economic abuse, online abuse, and threats and intimidation.

Victims can access help via the NHS website or by calling The Survivors Trust National Helpline on 08088 010 818.

NatWest faces criminal proceedings over money laundering regulations | Business News


The City watchdog has launched criminal proceedings against bank NatWest for allegedly failing to comply with money laundering rules.

NatWest is accused by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) of failing to adhere to the regulations between November 2011 and October 2016.

The case relates to the handling of funds from a single UK incorporated customer of the bank – which has not been named.

A security officer patrols the entrance area of the headquarters of the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the Canary Wharf business district of London April 1, 2013.
Image: Proceedings are being brought by the Financial Conduct Authority

NatWest is a subsidiary of state-backed NatWest group, previously known as Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The FCA said in a statement: “The case arises from the handling of funds deposited into accounts operated by a UK incorporated customer of NatWest.

“The FCA alleges that increasingly large cash deposits were made into the customer’s accounts.

“It is alleged that around £365m was paid into the customer’s accounts, of which around £264m was in cash.

“It is alleged that NatWest’s systems and controls failed to adequately monitor and scrutinise this activity.”

NatWest is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court next month.

Royal Bank of Scotland signs are seen at a branch of the bank, in London, Britain December 1, 2017
Image: NatWest group was previously known as Royal Bank of Scotland

The FCA said it was its first criminal prosecution that it had carried out under 2007 money laundering regulations and the first time a bank had faced any prosecution under the rules.

“No individuals are being charged as part of these proceedings,” the watchdog said.

NatWest, which remains 62% owned by the taxpayer following the RBS bail-out during the financial crisis, said it had been cooperating with the FCA investigation, having been notified of it in 2017.

The bank said in a statement: “NatWest group takes extremely seriously its responsibility to seek to prevent money laundering by third parties and accordingly has made significant, multi-year investments in its financial crime systems and controls.”

Shares opened about 2% lower after the announcement.

COVID-19: Outdoor socialising restrictions relaxed in Scotland – here’s what’s allowed from today | UK News


Coronavirus restrictions on people meeting outdoors have been eased in Scotland.

The move came after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament the continued fall in coronavirus cases was giving grounds for “cautious optimism”.

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Edinburgh, Scotland - May 24, 2018: Princes Street Gardens with recreating people sitting and lying in the grass (Edinburgh, Scotland - May 24, 2018: Princes Street Gardens with recreating people sitting and lying in the grass, ASCII, 114 components,
Image: Scotland’s rules on outdoor socialising are being eased

As the devolved governments have shifted from the UK-wide approach taken at the start of the COVID pandemic, lockdowns continue to be relaxed at different rates across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Scotland it means up to four adults from two households will now be able to meet outside from today, including in private gardens, for social and recreational purposes.

It had previously been only two adults from two households for essential exercise.

The rules for young people have also been relaxed, with four people aged between 12-17 able to meet even if they are all from different households.

Outdoor, non-contact sports for adults in groups of up to 15 can also restart.

Ms Sturgeon had previously aimed to relax the rules on outdoor mixing on 15 March, but she sped up that timetable earlier this week as she noted how meeting outdoors “can be hugely beneficial for our wellbeing”.

Image: More primary school children are to return to the classroom in Scotland

Ms Sturgeon has also said more primary school children will return to the classroom next week as planned, along with senior secondary pupils.

In addition, the staged return of universities and colleges will start.

Communal worship will be able to restart from Friday 26 March – and the previously proposed limit of 20 will be increased to 50, where two-metre physical distancing is possible.

Further details for the phased reopening of the Scottish economy are due to be set out on Tuesday.

Future provisional key dates:

5 April – Stay at home order lifted

19 April – All pupils expected to be back in school full-time

26 April – Scotland moves back to a levels system of restrictions. Non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants to reopen, along with gyms and hairdressers

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Confirming the latest rule changes this week, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs at Holyrood: “The last 12 months have been incredibly tough – unimaginably tough for everybody.

“But we do now have real grounds for optimism, albeit cautious optimism.

“Case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths have all fallen in recent weeks… And, of course, the vaccination programme has given a first dose to 40% of the entire adult population and it is set to significantly accelerate over the next few weeks.”

Wales is leading the way when it comes to easing restrictions in the UK, with its “stay at home” message changing to “stay local” from this weekend and people allowed to socialise outdoors in small groups.

It’s moving ahead in other areas, with sports facilities reopening on Saturday and hairdressers back on Monday – almost a month earlier than they will be in England.