National Traffic

  Top articles

select for full details Traffic patrols mooted as Dartford council calls emergency meeting to discuss Crossing congestion woes
Proposals for officers to monitor busy roads and junctions were put forward at an emergency meeting of Dartford council’s joint transportation board, which deals with transport issues across the borough.
By Tom Acres 15 Apr, 2016
The government will make the decision on the Lower Thames Crossing - Highways England can only make recommendations (and has - for Option C), but board chairman Cllr Keith Kelly - speaking after a cabinet meeting on Thursday evening - said more needs to be done to prevent gridlock in Dartford before the new option is built.

“Dartford as a town suffers as a town more than any other town you could care to mention,” he said.

“We have suffered for years from the pollution, the traffic, drivers cutting through the town to escape the queues and lorries coming through the town to cut a few minutes off their travel times.

“Some people can’t even get off their estates and go about their daily business. Dartford is a great town to live in, but we want people to be able to get around.

“When you can rely on the road network, which you can’t in Dartford, it would make it much easier.”

The idea of traffic patrols at locations such as Bob Dunn Way and the Blue Star Roundabout, junctions which span the M25, could prevent drivers from using the town’s roads to bypass motorway traffic. Cllr Kelly suggested that the patrols could be funded by a fraction of the money collected from motorists paying into the Dart Charge scheme to make their journey across the river, rather than place further strain on police resources.

“I was very heartened by the police’s response, they thought it was a really good idea and I think there is an opportunity here now to get something that will work well for Dartford,” he said.

“Everyone agreed to go away to look at what they could do to help the situation. We are always going to have the crossing, and that is fine, but it is not fair that we endlessly suffer.”

from THE TIMES Looking for scapegoats is no answer to tragedy
While police failures undoubtedly played a part at Hillsborough, the root causes of the disaster go back decades

I didn’t give up two years of my life nor hear 500 witnesses nor have to answer 14 key questions before coming to a conclusion, as the jury in the Hillsborough inquest did. I lost no one that day in 1989 and, not being a grieving relative, I didn’t have to endure attempts by the authorities to implicate the dead in their own terrible asphyxiation. So some people will feel that I shouldn’t say what I am about to: which is that the verdict of unlawful killing delivered the day before yesterday bothers me. I am troubled that we are in danger of placing the blame for the actual catastrophe — as opposed to the subsequent cover-ups — conveniently on a very small group of people and in so doing obscuring some important truths.

The central blame figure most people have alighted upon is David Duckenfield, now 71 and retired, but then a not very experienced chief superintendent with South Yorkshire Police. He was in charge of the police operation at Hillsborough. After the disaster he lied about key decisions made during the course of that day and the effect of his lies was to transfer blame from his own shoulders and that of the authorities to the fans themselves.

But what we are talking about here is not what happened afterwards, but what happened before and on the day itself. And my argument is that Hillsborough was the terrible culmination of a series of social and institutional failures and prejudices. More, unless we understand how those failures combined to cause the 96 deaths, we are fated in some guise or another to repeat the mistakes.

Broadly I think there were three contributory factors and one aggravating one. First was the fact that by the 1980s Britain was a country of clapped-out and decaying infrastructure, its existence underpinned by a culture hostile to public investment and an inattention to what we now call “health and safety”. For two decades, from Aberfan to Hillsborough, we often proceeded to make changes only when prompted by catastrophe. In those years we witnessed a series of mega-accidents that can be hard to explain to younger people now. For example, the obvious combination of smoking in the vicinity of combustible material killed 31 people in the fire at King’s Cross Underground station in 1987. Just two years earlier the same combination had led to the deaths of 56 fans when an antiquated stand at Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground caught fire.

Hillsborough itself, like most football grounds of the time, was an ageing relic of an era of discomfort. Also, like most grounds, its facilities, from toilets to catering, were rudimentary and its arrangements for getting fans in and out of the stands were pretty much the same as just after the Great War. On the largely open terraces full of standing fans there was a constant danger of crowd surges (being a fan myself I was caught in many of these). But in the early 1970s clubs began adding fences in front of the pitch, cutting off the obvious line of escape should something go wrong. And all of us knew it.

In 1981 overcrowding in the same Hillsborough stand saw dozens of Spurs fans injured, with many scaling the fences to escape. Despite this no fundamental modification took place. Furthermore the arrangements for an emergency turned out to be joke. On the day of the tragedy there was no defibrillator in the ground and at least one of the oxygen tanks was found to be empty.

from THE TIMES The modern football ground is almost entirely a product of the Hillsborough disaster, because that’s what it took for the public to demand action and the authorities to take it.

But why were the fences there at all? The second factor was the violence that had crept into British fandom over the same two decades. At the time of Hillsborough English clubs were ending the fourth year of a ban from European football after the riot (by Liverpool fans, as it happens, but they could have belonged to almost any club) at the Heysel stadium in 1985 which led to the deaths of 39 supporters. When I went to Spurs matches in the 1970s and 1980s there was usually some “aggro” and almost always the chanted threat to visiting fans that they would get their “f***ing heads kicked in”. And although most fans had nothing to do with the hooliganism, there was, I am ashamed to say, a toleration of one’s own violent fringe. Drunkenness was a common problem. In those days, however, going to matches was about the only way a football lover could see the sport.

On the day of the tragedy there was no defibrillator on the site

The third factor followed partly on from the above. By 1989 the English football fan was pronounced, as a breed, to be scum. A presumption of guilt was made by politicians, authorities, the press and by many ordinary people. So fans — all fans — became, by default, a disliked and even pathologised group. Consequently their comfort, their conditions, their civil liberties even, were regarded as moot. They could be herded, coerced, smacked about a bit sometimes, and anything could be believed about them. And then, when the bodies came to be identified, it was discovered that they were just people after all. Dads, daughters, lovers, sons.

And fourth, Hillsborough helped to uncover just how unaccountable and defensive many of our public servants had become. Living, as a friend put it to me yesterday, “in a different, opaque, arrogant world of their own”. This was an era when the public served the public servant. And when things went wrong they fell back on lies and back-covering.

In the planning for Hillsborough Duckenfield may have exemplified some of these tendencies. But he was a creature of his time, not of this one. It is easy for us to forget, as we did years after 9/11, what the common thought was at the time. In the immediate aftermath of the Twin Towers atrocity we wanted the spooks to do everything they could to stop such attacks, and never mind how they went about it. When the world somehow carried on we rediscovered our scruples and hung our protectors and their extreme rendition tactics out to dry.

Right now a similar set of factors may be incubating another disaster akin to Hillsborough. It’ll be one part neglect and false parsimony, one part turning a deaf ear to the inconvenient, one part prejudice about a group (Muslims, Zionists, migrants), and one part deflecting blame. The true memorial to the victims of Hillsborough and all other tragedies lies in anticipating and erasing the conditions that allow them to take place and not in satisfying ourselves with scapegoats.

select for full details Twigg slams 'fools' representing South Yorkshire Police for putting families through 'torture'
Halton MP also calls for accountability over West Midlands Police 'sham' investigation
By Oliver Clay 29 Apr, 2016
Shockwaves continued this week following the bombshell inquest results into the deaths of 96 football fans including six from Runcorn and Widnes with Halton MP Derek Twigg damning those responsible for the tragedy and the aftermath’s debacle.

Mr Twigg, who was a Liverpool fan at the 1989 stadium disaster, spoke in Parliament to lay into ‘fools’ representing the police for putting victims’ families through ‘torture’, and also into the ‘complacency’ over the state of the ground.

Mr Twigg said South Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable, who has been suspended since the speech, had apologised to fans in 2012, writing online that he was ‘profoundly sorry for the way the force failed’ and ‘doubly sorry for the injustice that followed’.

He said that despite that admission, police lawyers had persisted with the ‘same argument’ in the inquests.

Mr Twigg also called on Home Secretary Theresa May to make sure West Midlands Police (WMP), which carried out the initial probe into the disaster, is held accountable for its investigation branded by Mr Twigg as a ‘sham – complacent and a complete waste of time’.

Mrs May said the Operation Resolve and Independent Police Complaints Commission investigations will cover the actions of the West Midlands and South Yorkshire forces.

During his speech, Mr Twigg said his matchday programme from April 15, 1989, contained a comment from Sheffield Wednesday Football Club’s then chairman that served to ‘underline the complacency and total disregard for the safety of football supporters’.

It referred to the Hillsborough stadium’s supposed safety credentials and said: “As you look around Hillsborough you will appreciate why it has been regarded for so long as the perfect venue for all kinds of important matches.”

Mrs May agreed that it showed ‘extraordinary complacency’.

Mr Twigg also thanked the Home Secretary for her statement and praised the ‘magnificent courage and steadfastness’ of victims’ families.

Mrs May said: “As I indicated in my statement, there were several questions that related not just to Sheffield Wednesday FC, but to the engineers who designed the stadium.

“The jury was very clear that there were problems with the design of the stadium and with the certification process.

select for full details
Inside Wandsworth prison: drug drones and demoralised staff
The Guardian has been granted unprecedented access to two prisons to see the impact of funding cuts. In the first of two reports, Amelia Gentleman finds broken windows and bored inmates at the UK’s most overcrowded jail
By Amelia Gentleman 22 Feb, 2016
select for full details Ten days before Christmas, in the middle of the night, a drone crashed on to the asphalt courtyard that separates Wandsworth prison’s A-wing and the governor’s office near the estate’s outer perimeter. A white package measuring 20cm by 10cm by 10cm had been suspended from the drone with brown tape and string. It contained mobile phones and some drugs.

As soon as you enter Wandsworth prison, you notice that dozens of windows on this side of the four-storey A-wing have been smashed. This level of vandalism inside a prison is a bit startling, but it’s such a common problem that prison officers pay little attention to the scale of the damage until asked about it. Each cell window has three narrow transparent panels and most cells have at least one broken pane; prisoners have stuffed duvets and towels into the cavities, or patched them up with flattened milk cartons to keep out the January cold. The prison’s head of security believes that some prisoners are smashing holes in their windows in order to receive deliveries of drugs flown in by drones.

The drone that crashed in December was quite large and carried a camera to help its owner guide it to its destination. The flight was made at a time when the prison is most vulnerable, during the night hours when there are only seven prison officers on duty, responsible for the 1,600 prisoners locked in their cells. Since last February, the deliveries have become a fairly routine occurrence. Several other crashed drones have been discovered on the roof of the prison, similarly loaded with mobile phones and drugs.

Most striking is how unremarkable Wandsworth’s staff find these episodes. Running Wandsworth prison, the UK’s biggest and most overcrowded institution, is such a challenging job that drones, drug deliveries and broken windows are barely noteworthy incidents in the daily struggle to manage a vast Victorian building designed to house 963 men and currently squeezing in another 650. The last two years have been particularly bleak for Wandsworth, with 15 deaths in custody, seven of them self-inflicted, one murder of an inmate by his cellmate (who smashed the shared television on his head), and an excoriating inspection report that highlighted how overcrowding and “severe staffing shortages” compromised the prison’s ability to meet prisoners’ needs, leaving about a third of inmates routinely locked up for 23 hours a day.

The prison’s budget has been cut from about £30m in 2010 to £21m last year, and the number of staff per inmate has dropped by at least 15%. The prison’s new governor valiantly tries to make light of these cuts, suggesting there are some things his staff can do for free – smiling at prisoners, greeting them with a friendly hello – but he concedes that staff morale is probably hovering at around three and a half out of 10. (“Maybe four on a good day.”) The mood of the staff has been worsened by uncertainty about whether the prison is to close. The justice secretary, Michael Gove, has promised to shut “ageing and ineffective” Victorian prisons generally, but no indication has been given

select for full details Northumbria police boss condemns plans to replace cops with civilian volunteers
Northumbria Police Commissioner Vera Baird told MPs to think again over plans to give volunteers similar powers to police
By Jonathan Walker 28 Apr, 2016
Northumbria’s police boss has condemned plans to give thousands of unpaid volunteers powers similar to serving police officers, including the power to use CS spray on suspects or conduct strip searches.

Vera Baird, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, urged the Government to drop the plans.

And she said that the Government was attempting to use unpaid volunteers to plug a gap caused by police funding cuts which have forced police services to cut the number of officers.

She issued a warning when she came to the House of Commons to speak to MPs who were examining the Government’s Policing and Crime Bill.

This will allow chief constables to give more powers to volunteers known as Police Support Volunteers.

There are 9,000 of them working with forces across the country, for example by staffing the counter at police stations or by helping neighbourhood watch schemes on behalf of the police.

But the new law would allow them to exercise powers such as issuing on-the-spot fines, conduct searches or use “reasonable force” to keep people under control and more.

Only a small number of powers, including the power to arrest people, would be confined to police officers.

Mrs Baird told a Committee of MPs that this meant asking civilian volunteers to do the job that used to be carried out by police officers.

She said: “At a time when there have been such significant cuts to policing - in Northumbria we have lost 1,000 members of staff, plus almost 800 officers - bringing in volunteers with police powers is not going to be adding value, which is what volunteers are usually for. It is going to be the substitution of volunteers for people who have historically been contracted to do the job.”

And she warned: “They will be people who are not paid, who are not contracted, who have no disciplinary link over them, who have no processes to go through, who are supervised in what way we do not know, who will not be supervised or overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and yet who will be able to have every power except the core ones.

“For instance, they will be able to execute warrants on houses, which means they will be able to break into houses to execute a warrant. If this power is given, they will be able to detain people for 30 minutes . . . though they will merely be volunteers and not contracted.

“They may be able to caution people and to take down their first account of something they are accused of. Presumably they will be able to strip search people.”

Chief constables will decide whether or not to give volunteers these powers, but Mrs Baird said they would come under pressure to do so.

She said: “There is pressure on chief officers now because of the loss of staff - there is no doubt about that.”

And she used the 2010 manhunt for Raoul Moat, a Newcastle man who shot three people, as an example.

select for full details Police inspector drove van along pavement to force clubbers out of Croydon town centre
CHIEF Inspector drove a police van on to the pavement and toward a small group of clubbers in order to force them out of the town centre.
By Gareth Davies 27 Apr, 2016

Photos passed to the Advertiser show the vehicle being used to herd eight people out of Croydon High Street after they left a nightclub in the early hours of the morning.

The van is understood to have mounted the kerb near Lunar and, flanked by police officers, was driven about 130 feet along the pavement, forcing the clubbers away from the area.

Chief Inspector Peter McGarry, who was driving the van, said he had used an "approved public order technique".

Roy Seda, owner of Dice Bar, included the incident in a statement provided to the council ahead of the police's unsuccessful licence review hearing earlier this month.

He said the tactic was "terrible to watch" and could "incite tensions" among people whose crime was to stand outside a club and chat after a night out.

It will likely intensify criticism of the police's heavy-handed attitude towards the town's night time economy, which licensees say has discouraged people coming to Croydon.

Chief Insp McGarry, heavily involved in that approach, used the van to funnel the group, who appear to have been causing no trouble, away from High Street at 4.23am on March 27.

In his statement, Mr Seda said: "A recent police tactic is to drive a police van on the pavement, directly at customers, leaving the nightclub to make them move.

"This is terrible to watch and makes people really mad. I don't think police should do it. This, in my opinion can be a catalyst and can incite tensions."

The former special constable said the photos, which show the vehicle as it reaches Dice Bar, are indicative of the police's "aggressive" approach to moving customers out of the area as soon as clubs close.

Mr Seda, who helps his staff safely usher people home after they leave his venue, said customers are often met by police officers who "yell at them to clear the area, move and similar things, quite aggressively".

He said: "A large police presence on the High Street - 20 to 30 police officers - can be intimidating to people. Customers like to talk to their friends when leaving the venue. Imagine leaving a cinema to be confronted by 20 police officers telling you to 'Move!'. Your mood might just change.

"It is disappointing for me, as so much effort goes into creating an environment for customers to leave in a calm and relaxed state of mind. This police behaviour has become a bit of a 'thing' in Croydon town centre, and I believe this is partly responsible for such a drastic fall in footfall.

MPs want increase in number of traffic officers
MPs on the Transport Select Committee have called for an increase in the number of traffic officers to police the UK’s roads.
By Highways Magazine 15 Mar, 2016
They say the drop in the number of recorded crimes on UK roads does not represent a reduction in offences being committed. Although government figures show a downward trend over the past decade, the most recent figures show a four per cent increase in road fatalities in 2014. The number of people incurring serious injuries also rose by five per cent.
For cyclists and motorcyclists, the picture is more concerning as the numbers killed or seriously injured has been rising year on year.
Although the number of ‘causing death’ offences has not fallen, MPs on the Transport Committee point to the total number of detected motoring offences, which has more than halved during the past decade, from 4.3m in 2004, to 1.62m in 2013.

select for full details Highways traffic officers - meet the people behind the nicknames
Highways traffic officers have been called ‘motorway Wombles’ — and worse. But what are they really like and what do they do? John Evans spends a day with them to find out.
By John Evans 31 Mar, 2016
King Canute may have had trouble stopping the tide, but not Tony. The Highways England traffic officer (TO) has simply to flick a couple of switches and the tide of cars pounding along the M26 in Kent slows to a crawl and, eventually, to a stop.

Minutes earlier, as we were travelling in the opposite direction, he’d spied the bonnet of a car – the remains of a recent accident – in the central reservation, just inches from the outside lane. There’s a strong wind and Tony reckons that it could blow the bonnet into the road.

So he’s going to move it, and to do that, he must stop the traffic. At the flick of the switch on the Land Rover Discovery’s ‘rolling road’ control panel, the LED message board at the rear of the vehicle displays ‘Slow down’. I turn around in my seat to see the few cars following us fall back. Tony wants to build up a head of traffic so that the lanes behind us become clogged, preventing an impatient driver making a break for it.

Mike, his colleague and our driver, positions the car in the middle of the motorway and, as the abandoned bonnet comes into view, he slows to a crawl before swinging the wheel and pulling up at an angle. Tony flicks the switch marked ‘Stop’.

I look behind again. The two lanes are thick with cars and trucks, all of them at a standstill. Tony jumps out and drags the discarded bonnet to the nearside verge, from where it’ll be retrieved later by a recovery crew.

It’s hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy for the drivers behind us. There you are, late for a business meeting and here, in the words of one popular pundit, is one of those ‘motorway Wombles: a fat bloke with facial hair and a Napoleon complex’, holding you up and ruining your day. select for full details True, Tony has a beard, and both he and Mike are not exactly svelte (an hour earlier, we stopped for what they called a ‘strategic Greggs’ at Clackett Lane Services) but both deny they have a Napoleon complex.

“We’re not frustrated coppers,” says Tony, who used to work in the control centre at Southern Water (Mike is a qualified advanced driving instructor), after he has climbed back into the car and extinguished the ‘Stop’ message. “In fact, sometimes, we get frustrated with the coppers.”

Mike steers the Discovery to the hard shoulder, and the M26 grand prix resumes. I scan the passing cars for a raised finger. Not one.

“We do get abuse,” says Mike. “They know we have limited powers [TOs have no powers of arrest and cannot drive above 70mph, but they can stop a vehicle if they believe it is unsafe] but occasionally they thank us for getting them away safely.”

And for the TOs, it is all about safety. A few minutes later, as we’re heading towards the M25 at the TOs’ preferred 60mph cruise (“We don’t get in the way of slower trucks or faster cars and can spot things”) that instinct for safety is pressed into action when the TOs spot a broken-down Porsche 911 on the opposite carriageway. There’s no hard shoulder and the car has come to a halt, half on the verge, half in the road. Last December, in England, 16 vehicles stranded on the hard shoulder were struck by passing vehicles, so the TOs are keen to get it on its way.

We turn around at the next junction. Mike accelerates to 70mph while Tony radios the control centre at Godstone, alerting them to the stricken 911 and requesting that the motorway gantries warn drivers of a stranded vehicle and signal them to get out of the nearside lane. The variable speed limits are activated, slowing traffic to 50mph and then 40mph. Finally, within a mile or so of the stranded 911, the gantries display a red ‘X’ over the nearside lane, making it an offence for any vehicle but the TOs’ Discovery to enter.

We pull up at an angle, around 100 metres from the 911, a Carrera 4 S. Mike and Tony jump out and help themselves to armfuls of cones and a large warning sign from the Discovery’s boot. They stride back along the closed lane to set out the safety kit, before returning to quiz the Porsche driver. It turns out he ran out of petrol just a mile or so from Clackett Lane Services.

“The fuel range said 18 miles but then the engine stuttered and stopped,” he says.

Mike and Tony decide that although he’s called his rescue service, they’d rather he was off the road right now. Usually, TOs patrol with just one vehicle and travel in pairs, but today we’re being shadowed by a second vehicle, a Mitsubishi Shogun (noisier, less powerful and not half as comfortable as our 208,000-mile Discovery). Tony decides the Shogun can tow the Porsche to the services. With the 911 hitched and a potential traffic accident averted, they gather up their safety kit, jump back in the Disco and follow it to Clackett Lane.

select for full details More than a dozen modern day 'car wash slaves' rescued by police in Cambridge area
Car washes in Cambridgeshire are the focus of a crackdown on modern day slavery as it is revealed more than a dozen people were rescued from a life of misery and hard labour by the force.
By Raymond Brown 28 Apr, 2016
The force is backing the Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland who is leading efforts to tackle slavery and human trafficking and is urging the public to reports of forced labour at car washes.

He issued a chilling warning that people traffickers are smuggling migrant slaves into Britain and forcing them to wash cars against their will.

Cambridgeshire police laid bare the horrors of human trafficking and servitude at car washes after a series of raids.

The News joined officers last year when they raided a car wash on the A14 to rescue workers living in what police described as "Dickensian conditions."

It was the fifth raid in the Cambridge area as part of Operation Puffin aimed at rescuing exploited workers who are mostly from Eastern Europe.

Chief Inspector James Southerland, area commander for South Cambridgeshire, said: "Cracking down on human trafficking remains to be a priority for the force and part of the work we do to tackle this issue is to raise awareness of the signs and educate people.

"Over the last year we have visited a number of hand car washes across the south of the county and managed to safeguard a number of people who were sadly being trafficked, living and working in very poor conditions and for very little pay.

"We know the exploitation of vulnerable people, many of whom simply want to make a better life for themselves in the UK, is still happening. We are committed to working with colleagues in partner agencies to protect vulnerable people and bring those who commit criminal offences against them to justice."

And Mr Hyland has urged drivers to boycott cheap car washes as they have become a hub for modern exploitation.

Motorists are urged to look out for the signs including poorly maintained equipment, a lack of protective clothing such as goggles and gloves and makeshift overnight accommodation at the site.

Mr Hyland said: "There are legitimate car washes, but there have been many cases in car washes up and down the country of exploitation and modern slavery.

"We are encountering ­modern-day slavery like this in our day-to-day life and it is in plain sight."

He told The Sunday Times: "If it is clear that it is not right, then of course we should boycott it. I also think we should go one step further and report it to the authorities.

"The workers may be in an open environment but are often in debt or feel vulnerable and do not feel free to leave. They get stuck somewhere and don't know how to get out of it.".

Road deaths rocket as road policing bases face axe
FATALITIES on Essex Roads have risen alarmingly, latest figures have revealed ahead of the closure of two road police units.
By Paul Nizinskyj 2 May, 2016
Figures compiled by the Police and Crime Commissioner's office show a “statistically significant” increase in deaths and serious injury in the first two months of 2016, with 22 fatalities compared to an 11.2 five-year average, and 179 serious injuries compared to a 152 five-year average. But on the back of reductions in road policing officers from 140 to 80 since 2010, the force is now moving to close two of its four roads policing bases, in Laindon and Chelmsford. Angela Smith, Baroness Basildon, is worried the cuts may be putting motorists in danger. She said: “The figures are pretty alarming. “I’ve been asking questions in the House of Lords to investigate whether there is a correlation between the significant reduction in the numbers of dedicated road traffic officers and the number of people killed or seriously injured. “If you compare how we are doing to Kent, which has a similar population size, we are not doing terribly well. I would hope we would be seeing quite dramatic decreases but it doesn’t seem to be happening.” Essex Police had previously claimed the reduction in road traffic officers was offset by support from 111 officers and staff in other specialist roads policing roles, and the figures obtained by Baroness Basildon did show a decrease in the number of fatalities a

select for full details

Sutton Coldfield doctor suing Met Police for false arrest
Rita Pal, a psychiatrist, says she was cuffed and driven 100 miles to London before charge later dropped.
By Jeanette Oldham 28 Apr, 2016
A highly respected medic and whistleblower is suing the Met Police over claims she was arrested on her doorstep, before being cuffed and driven 100 miles to a London police station.

Dr Rita Pal, a psychiatrist and medical journalist, says she was arrested by Met officers in December 2014 at her home in Sutton Coldfield on an unfounded suspicion of harassment.

In a writ lodged at London's High Court, Dr Pal's lawyers relate how she was handcuffed and placed in an unmarked police car before being driven to the capital.

She was later charged with an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act.

But she was cleared before Stratford Magistrates in August last year after the Crown Prosecution Service "offered no evidence".

Dr Pal is now suing the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, alleging false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

Her lawyers also claim in the writ that the way she was handcuffed amounted to an assault.

The document describes Dr Pal as a writer specialising in "medico-political issues" and a "researcher on whistleblowing".

The Met's defence to the action was not available from the court and Dr Pal's claims have yet to be tested in evidence before a judge.

select for full details Lying BMW driver Ayesha Ahmed's life 'in ruins' over jail term for speeding scam, says sister
High-flying graduate now 'languishing in prison with crackheads'.
By James Cartledge 28 Apr, 2016
A graduate’s life was “in ruins” after she used a “Mr Fixit” in a failed bid to dodge speeding points, said her anguished sister.

Sbah Ahmed said high-flyer Ayesha told a “lie that spiralled out of control” after she was clocked twice in five minutes in her BMW.

The 27-year-old told police someone else was driving her car after handing over £450 to a man who claimed he could exploit a “legal loophole” to get her off.

But Ahmed was jailed for three months after police linked the false address she provided on prosecution forms to EIGHT other speeding offences.

Speaking of her sister’s shame, Sbah said the punishment was too severe as she was “languishing in prison with crackheads and violent criminals”.

Sbah, 37, said: “She made a terrible mistake and regrets what she’s done.

“The jail sentence is punishment enough – she doesn’t deserve to have her life ruined because of this stupid mistake.

“She acknowledges that she was stupid and shouldn’t have undertaken that course of action.

“But she had no criminal history – it was her first offence. “I don’t know how she heard of this person.

“She thought he was a motoring legal expert who could perhaps find a loophole.”

Ahmed, of Baptist End Road, Netherton, was driving home from her job as a wholesale company buyer when she was flashed twice in five minutes in nearby St Peter’s Road on July 30 last year.

The Coventry University graduate, who has a 2:1 in International Relations and Politics, was clocked doing 39 and 40mph in a 30mph zone.

Police rumbled her scam after growing suspicious because she had previously begged for leniency and claimed she was being followed at the time.

She never met the man she paid – handing the cash over via a third party – but claimed she fell victim to a crooked lawyer.

Ahmed denied perverting the course of justice but was unanimously convicted at Wolverhampton Crown Court after a trial.

Sbah, 37, said: “She’s terribly ashamed.

“The point of the sentence is to deter others, not to shame her and destroy her life.

“She’s made a stupid error which she regrets.

“It was a lie that spiralled out of control.

select for full details Holidaymakers ditch cars and taxis on motorway and WALK to airport after man on bridge sparks traffic jam
Families fearing they would miss their flights were seen wheeling their suitcases along the hard shoulder of the M56 near Manchester
By Paul Byrne 2 May, 2016
Desperate holidaymakers abandoned cars and taxis to drag their suitcases three miles to the airport after getting stuck in a motorway traffic jam.

Police had shut the M56 near Manchester as officers tried to talk a man safely down from a bridge during the incident at around 6.30pm on Sunday

But as the hours passed, families feared they were in danger of missing their flights.

And despite appeals from the police to stay inside their vehicles, many decided to collect their belongings and make a dash for it.

Some were seen wheeling their suitcases along the hard shoulder.

Others scrambled up the motorway embankment and climbed over fences, before trekking three miles to Manchester Airport across fields. All lanes of the motorway were closed after a man was spotted dangling his legs over a bridge close to junction four, near Wythenshawe, yesterday evening.

Within minutes a huge line of traffic had built-up and drivers started getting out of their cars and were seen pacing up and down the tarmac. Traffic on surrounding routes ground to a halt and police warned drivers to avoid the area.

The North West Motorway Police took to Twitter to issue a warning: “Closures will remain but if you are trapped in the tail back. RETURN TO YOUR VEHICLE IMMEDIATELY we will be getting you moving in next few mins.”

select for full details Charity calls for prison officers to receive training to spot ADHD
A charity has called for prison officers at young offenders' centres in Northern Ireland to have mandatory training to help spot and understand attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
By Victoria O'Hara 26 Apr, 2016
It comes after ADD-NI said at least 70% of young people in Hydebank Young Offenders Unit have the behavioural disorder.

Sarah Salters from the charity says she believes a lot of the crimes committed by inmates are "impulsive acts" where the young person does not properly engage their brain beforehand.

"They carry out the act and it's too late," she said.

ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, but the impairing symptoms persist into adulthood in up to 70% of cases. Undiagnosed and untreated adults often have problems holding down a job or staying in a relationship.

According to the NHS website, common symptoms of ADHD include a short attention span, restlessness, constant fidgeting, over-activity and being impulsive.

In Sweden, where criminal, health and social care records are linked, researchers have found people convicted of crimes are much more likely to have ADHD than the rest of the population.

Estimates suggest between 7% and 40% of people in the criminal justice system may have it or other similar disorders, though many won't have a formal diagnosis.

Ms Salters has now called for prison officers to receive mandatory training to spot ADHD among young people in order to improve their understanding of the condition.

ADD-NI was established in 1997 as a support network for children, young people and the families of those affected by ADHD. Dr Matt McConkey, an expert in ADHD, said the figures are consistent with other young offenders centres across the UK.

He said assessing children who are involved in a first criminal offence would be a positive step in treating the condition at the earliest stage.

"Whenever you first enter the criminal justice system, that could be a unique opportunity to diagnose these children and follow on comprehensive treatment," he told the BBC.

He said having ADHD does not mean the child will automatically have a criminal record, however, early assessment could help reduce repeat offending.

Dr McConkey also supported the calls for prison officers to be trained in early recognition of the condition.

He added that both teachers and parents are becoming more aware in spotting the potential signs of ADHD and this provides better outcomes for the child.

select for full details Family pay tribute to “fantastic dad” who died in M6 crash
olice can confirm that the male who died in a road traffic collision on the M6 yesterday afternoon (21st February 2016) has been identified as Adam Gibb, 51, from Penrith.
By Carl Fallowfield 22 Feb, 2016
Cumbria Police were called at 12.10pm yesterday to reports of a vehicle veering off the M6 Southbound carriageway between junction 37 and 38.

A black Mercedes vehicle driven by a 35 year old male from Manchester left the carriageway colliding with two Highways England officers who were at the side of the carriageway dealing with a separate incident. Adam Gibb died at the scene as a result of the collision. The second Highways England officer a 51 male from Kirkby Stephen was transferred to James Cook hospital with serious injuries and remains in a critical but stable condition.

The family of Adam have paid tribute to him: “Adam was a fantastic dad and a wonderful husband and will be deeply missed.

“He enjoyed mountain biking, fell running and walking on the fells with our dogs. Adam loved his job and really enjoyed being part of the team there.”

A spokesman for the GNAAS said: “The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) was called to the M6 in Cumbria after a road crash yesterday.

“The incident occurred around 12:15pm between J37 and J38 and both northbound and southbound carriageways were closed so that GNAAS and Yorkshire Air Ambulance could land.

“One man was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Another, a 51-year-old man, had suffered serious injuries to his back, chest, pelvis and legs and the GNAAS doctor-led trauma team anesthetised him before he was airlifted to James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, within 17 minutes. He arrived in a critical condition.”

A spokesman for Highways England said: “Two Highways England traffic officers were involved in a serious incident on the M6 in Cumbria yesterday (Sunday 21 February) in which one officer was killed and the other seriously injured.

“The officers had been responding to an incident on the southbound M6 between junctions 38 and 37 near Tebay Services when they were struck by a vehicle veering off the main carriageway just after midday.

“Adam Gibb, 51, from Penrith, suffered fatal injuries and another officer, who is not being named, was airlifted to the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough in a very serious condition.

“Anyone who may have witnessed the collision is being asked to call Cumbria Police on 101 or 0300 124 0111.”

Jim O’Sullivan, Chief Executive at Highways England, said: “Our thoughts are with the family, friends, and colleagues of the two Highways England traffic officers who were involved in this terrible incident.

“The police are carrying out an investigation and we are assisting them in any way that we can.

“Everyone at Highways England has been deeply affected by this incident and we would ask that the privacy of those closest to the officers is respected at this difficult time.”

The M6 southbound was closed for nine hours yesterday as emergency services dealt with the incident.

Anyone who may have witnessed the collision is asked to call Cumbria Police on 101.

select for full details Thug filmed brutally kicking dog was let out of jail 'in error'
Jordan Smith was filmed beating his dog with a belt, and is now 'unlawfully at large' after he was released before his court date
By Charlotte Cox 29 Apr, 2016
A thug facing jail after brutally beating his pet dog is wanted by police after he was released from prison ‘in error’.

Shocking footage shows Jordan Smith, 20, kicking, and punching his Staffordshire Bull Terrier in his own yard as part of a three-month campaign of abuse.

The grotesque attacks - which included whippings with a belt - were witnessed by his neighbours in Heywood, who caught some of the horrific violence on camera.

Smith, of Middleton Road, was told at a hearing in February he could go to prison after admitting a charge of causing the animal unnecessary suffering.

But he is now ‘unlawfully at large’ after failing to turn up for sentencing at Bury magistrates on Thursday.

Smith’s solicitor Steve Connor told the court his client had been in prison until the morning of the hearing, but was released ‘in error’ from Forest Bank. He failed to appear in custody as a result.

When the alleged blunder was discovered, Mr Connor telephoned Smith, who promised to be at court ‘for 12.30pm’ - but never appeared. Mr Connor admitted it was a situation he had ‘never come across before’.

Prosecuting, Tim Chapman added: “There is an investigation ongoing as to how he has come to be released.”

As a result, magistrates ruled he was ‘unlawfully at large’. At an earlier hearing, Mark Harper, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, told the court Smith was first spotted beating the 18-month-old dog by his then neighbours - a mum and son - in July last year.

Then in September, they saw Smith again striking the animal, first with the back of his hand before punching it several times in the stomach and aiming at least five kicks at him. Six days later they saw Smith kicking the animal at least four times before using a belt to whip his pet ‘nine times’.

They captured the attack on a mobile - but because only Smith was visible it could not he used by the RSPCA.

But on September 29, they filmed Smith punching and kicking the dog several times before throwing one of his boots at his neck.

Dog wardens attended Smith’s house on October 19 and the animal was taken away to be re-homed. Smith was issued a court summons.

The case was adjourned by magistrates for a pre-sentence report to be prepared. But he failed to turn up to the hearing in March and was later arrested.

Toy cat lost on the motorway reunited with three-year-old owner
one traffic officer has shown her softer side by rescuing a lost toy cat that she found a wet and bedraggled on the side of the M4 - and reuniting it with its three-year-old owner.
By ITV NEWS 5 Jan, 2016
By chance a fellow traffic officer discovered that Ning-Nang's owner, Josiah and his mum, Esther Whittlesea Reed had registered the toy as missing. It was arranged that Ning-Nang would spend Christmas with the friendly traffic officers at the Chieveley outstation and once he had been bathed and blow dried a photo diary of Ning Nang’s festive antics with staff were sent to keep Josiah informed until he was able to collect the cat.
"We thought that having lost Ning-Nang in the early hours of Christmas Eve after our car broke down on the M4 we would never see her again, Josiah was distraught. Josiah was devastated at Ning-Nang’s loss and cried himself to sleep until the wonderful reunion. Tracey's phone call saying she'd been found made our Christmas and left us all, adults included, in tears of joy. Josiah was overwhelmingly happy at his most beloved Ning-Nang’s safe return and has held her close ever since!" – ESTHER WHITTLESEA REED

select for full details F R A N C E
Shootout involving 'people smugglers' leads to fatal motorway crash
A Dutch motorcyclist was killed and seven others were injured in crashes after a chase involving a British-registered Audi A4.
By James Bullen 5 May, 2016
The chase began in Belgium and ended when the suspects raced across the French border near Dunkirk.

The pursuit was launched after a lorry driver discovered 17 migrants in his parked vehicle near Ostend and was threatened with a knife.

When Belgian police intervened, the suspects fled in the Audi.

Armed officers ordered the car to stop before bullets were fired as it sped along a road between Nieupoort and Oostduinkeke.

Two suspects were hit while the Audi became so badly damaged it was being driven on its wheel rims.

It eventually lost control and smashed into a lorry while emergency services dealt with an incident on the A16 motorway near Dunkirk.

The crash led to a series of pile-ups as cars attempted to swerve out of the way of vehicles.

A motorcyclist is understood to have died when he collided with a lorry.

French newspaper La Voix du Nord said all four suspects were Iraqi nationals who had threatened drivers with knives to make them carry migrants.

They were all taken to hospital

select for full details Teen who went for breakfast instead of court after pushing PCSO down stairs is told to grow up
18-year-old who avoided jail after assaulting a PCSO failed to turn up for numerous probation appointments — and then went for breakfast when he should have been in court — has been told to grow up.
By Jason Evans 17 Apr, 2016
Ricky Polverino pushed the female officer down a steep flight of steps in Townhill in June last year, injuring her arm.

He was given a 12 month suspended sentence with a requirement to carry out unpaid work after pleading guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm.

However Swansea Crown Court heard he had missed numerous work appointments, and had left the probation service in no doubt as to his attitude towards the order.

He was subsequently summonsed to court for breaching the conditions of his suspended sentence.

But after initially attending the court, the Penlan teen went off to a cafe for breakfast and was not around when his case was called before justices.

When he eventually returned to the court, he was taken into custody and spent three days behind bars.

Polverino, of Heol Cadifor, pleaded guilty to breaching the order when he appeared before judge Paul Thomas QC.

Victoria Thomas, for Polverino, described her client as an "immature 18-year-old", but the judge said he was acting more like a 12-year-old and needed to grow up.

The barrister said her client's time in custody since his unauthorised breakfast visit had been a "wake up call" for the teenager, adding it had "given him an insight into what awaits him if he misses any more appointments".

select for full details Violent schizophrenic missing from mental health unit 'tried to kill PCSO'
Police say a violent absconder from a mental health unit, who was last seen in Walthamstow, was originally sent to the facility after he attempted to murder a PCSO.
By Guardian 18 Apr, 2016
Detectives have renewed an appeal to trace Cornell Destouche, who disappeared on April 10 while on escorted leave from a unit in Hackney.

He was in a mini cab at the junction of The Drive and Churchill Road, Walthamstow, when he fled from the vehicle.

Destouche was convicted of attempted murder at Snaresbrook Crown Court in July 2014, for stabbing a Police Community Support Officer. He was detained under a mental health order.

The 25-year-old suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and requires daily medication to control this condition. He has not had this since he absconded.

Detective Inspector Paul Ridley, from Hackney CID, said: "A major investigation is underway to locate Cornell Destouche.

“I must re-iterate my earlier warning to the public - Destouche is a violent individual who could pose a threat if confronted.

“If you see him please do not approach or challenge him, but dial 999 immediately."

Destouche is described as black, of medium build, 5ft 11inches tall, with braided hair and a black beard.

He was last seen wearing a black and grey t-shirt, blue jacket, blue jeans and navy trainers and was carrying a grey rucksack.

DI Ridley added: "If you have information and wish to remain anonymous you can call Crimestoppers - you do not have to supply your details.

"All I require is an indication as to this man's whereabouts and I can assure you

select for full details ‘Life means life’ fury as cop-killing triple-murderer let back on the streets
EXCLUSIVE: Murderer Nicholas Vernage told an accomplice: ‘All I want is to kill coppers’.
By The Sun 25 Apr, 2016
a TRIPLE murderer who stabbed one police officer to death and left another two for dead has received his first taste of freedom, The Sun can reveal.

Cop hater Nicholas Vernage was given five life sentences in 1992 for the murders of 41-year-old Sergeant Alan King, civilians Lorna Bogle and Javaid Iqbal, as well as the attempted murders of PCs John Jenkinson and Simon Castrey.

But less than three years after Home Secretary Theresa May promised police killers would serve a whole life tariff - Vernage has been back out on the streets.

The Sun can reveal how Vernage, now 51, was given an escorted visit into the community on March 17 from a medium secure psychiatric unit where he is being held.

He is now being given secret weekly visits to a nearby village from the undisclosed location where he is detained.

Vernage was moved to the psychiatric unit in December 2014 from Broadmoor where he was sent after being diagnosed with a severe personality disorder.

Criminal justice experts say Vernage' visits into the community - approved by a Ministry of Justice panel - will pave the way for him being released within the next year.

Sgt King’s widow Monica King last night described the decision to allow Vernage into the community as “disgusting.”

She said: “I clung to the fact that with five life sentences and a recommended minimum tariff of 25 years he would never come out. That was stupid of me.

select for full details Family of French motorway crash victims: we've been torn apart
Hartlepool residents pay tribute to John Crompton and two children who died in car accident near Dijon
By Frances Perraudin 25 Apr, 2016
The family of a man who died with his two young children in a car crash on a French motorway said their lives had been “torn apart” by the incident and “will never be the same again”.

John Crompton, 31, and his son Morgan Lund, nine, and daughter Evie-Lily Crompton, four, were killed in a crash on the A39 near Beaurepaire-en-Bresse, which is between Lyon and Dijon, shortly after 7am on Sunday.

Another son, Kyle, two, remains seriously ill in hospital, along with the dead children’s mother, Makayla Lund, 25, who is understood to have suffered minor injuries and is in a stable condition.

A statement released on behalf of the family said: “A devastating tragedy has left our family heartbroken forever. Our lives have been torn apart and will never be the same again.

“We have lost the heart of our family. As a family we ask for our privacy to be respected at this extremely difficult time.”

French investigators said that Crompton, from Hartlepool, Teesside, may have fallen asleep at the wheel before the family’s Nissan crashed through a safety barrier and struck a concrete pillar.

Lee Walker, headteacher at Barnard Grove primary school, which the two eldest children attended, said the school community was in total shock following the news of the tragedy.

“Morgan was a Year 4 pupil who was an extremely popular member of his class, as well as the school in general,” he said. “His sense of humour, fun and positive attitude brought life and joy to all. Morgan took great pride in his work and was an outstanding sportsman with many other talents as well.

“Evie-Lily was in our nursery and was the most kind-hearted and caring girl you could ever wish to meet. She was always willing to go out of her way to help others and had lots of friends. Her beaming smile lit up our nursery every single day.

“The pupils and staff are heartbroken and we are all helping each other to come to terms with this devastating news. Our prayers and thoughts are with the family at this time.”

select for full details YOUR rights if someone blocks your driveway - can you ram it?
Before you begin thinking about ramming the car parked across your driveway out of sheer frustration, you might want to find about your rights first
By Paul Harper 29 Apr, 2016
Ever needed to get somewhere urgently but found your driveway blocked by another vehicle? And there's absolutely no sign of the driver returning to move the motor which they kindly parked across your exit?

When we published your pictures of bad parking last year, it was so popular that we followed it up with not one but two more parking galleries of shame.

Given the sheer number then, it's highly likely there are a number of driveways being blocked in Surrey at any one time.

But what are you actually allowed to do to the offending vehicle? Worryingly little it turns out, reports Mirror Online.

“The first step with any antisocial parking problem is to contact your local authority or the police," said Charlotte Dixon, solicitor at DAS Law.

"However, there is little the law can do to support homeowners – even if a car blocks your driveway.

“The Highway Code can only help if the parked car is causing an obstruction to the road but not in relation to private land.” But you're not entirely powerless... “One option that’s available is to pursue a legal claim for nuisance on the grounds that the driver is interfering with your use and enjoyment of your property – but to do so you’d need to know the identity of the offending vehicle’s driver,” Ms Dixon added.

Of course, that cuts both ways. As long as you don't cause an obstruction to the road or damage the offending car, there's no reason you can't get a little bit of revenge (if not justice) by positioning your own car or other property to block them in – because there's no way you can be done for trespassing on your own property.

select for full details Traffic officers save Border Collie which ran loose on M58 during rush hour
The unnamed dog was rescued from the M58 between Wigan and Merseyside on Thursday morning, and officers are now appealing for its owner to come forward
By Pete Bainbridge 12 Nov, 2015
Traffic patrols saved a cheeky Border Collie which ran loose on the motorway at rush hour.

The unnamed dog was rescued from the M58 between Wigan and Merseyside on Thursday morning, and officers are now appealing for its owner to come forward.

A concerned driver first spotted two dogs on the carriageway at around 8.30am so pulled over and used the emergency roadside phone to alert Highways England.

Officers Rob Lawless and James Critchley arrived on the scene and managed to capture one runaway hound on the hard shoulder with the help of nearby road workers. The other could not be found.

The captured Border Collie was bundled into the back of the Highways England patrol car, where it posed for a few photos before being taken to Leigh Dogs and Cats home.

A Highways England spokesman said that the dog was microchipped but the details are believed to be out of date.

An appeal has now been launched to find the owner and anyone who recognises the animal should contact Leigh Dogs and Cats home on 01942 671 215.

  National Traffic

  Our articles