Monday, November 13, 2006

CCTV picture 'infringes conwoman's human rights'

Jewellers in Kensington being targeted in their shops by a thief have been told not to put up warning pictures of the woman - because it would infringe her human rights. The latest trader to fall victim to the con artist was even told by police to detain the thief herself.

CCTV footage shows the woman distracting a young shop assistant as she pockets thousands of pounds of expensive rings and necklaces. Posing as a wealthy woman from Dubai, she snatches jewellery after asking junior assistants to fetch or wrap up other items. She then says she has to get a credit card from her driver and disappears - only for shocked staff to discover that stock is missing. Jewellery designer Isabel Kurtenbach, 38, became the latest victim when 2,000 pounds of white gold and silver rings, necklaces and earrings were stolen on Tuesday afternoon. The thief struck when she left a 24-year-old assistant in charge of her shop - Isabel Kurtenbach Design in Kensington Church Walk.

Ms Kurtenbach said: "I know the woman well, all the shops around here do. She knows I will ask her to leave, so she comes when I'm not here. She is well-spoken, well-dressed and claims to be from Dubai. She says she is very rich and owns lots of property there." Ms Kurtenbach added: "It is only when you look closely and see her teeth and fingernails - which are in a terrible state - that you realise it's all a lie."

Police have still not collected the CCTV footage from Ms Kurtenbach, but she was advised by a Pc over the phone to try to hold the woman herself, dial 999 and wait for officers to arrive. Ms Kurtenbach said: "I could not believe it - this woman is a criminal. If I tried to stop her she might attack me, she might have a knife."

Other traders are so sick of being targeted they have asked Ms Kurtenbach to give them a picture of her that can be put up in their shops to warn staff. But when Ms Kurtenbach asked the police officer if she could do this she was told it would be an infringement of the woman's human rights.

Michelle Manguette owns the nearby Manguette Jewellery store and told how the same woman stole items worth 3,000 pounds four years ago. She said: "The woman asked to see lots of stock and then said she was going to get her card from her driver. Then she disappeared. "She comes around every year, but won't bother trying if I'm here because she knows I know her. She looks to see if an assistant is here on their own." The woman also visited Manguette and another jewellery shop in the area in the latest attempt but was asked to leave.

The owner of a nearby clothes shop, who asked not to be named, told how 1,000 pounds of cashmere jumpers were recently taken from her shop. She said: "She came in and took some stuff into the changing rooms. Then she said she was going to get her credit card from her driver. "But she never came back and then I noticed the jumpers were gone. I was furious and went after her, but it was too late."

A Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed officers were investigating the latest theft.


The hidden white victims of racism

Last week’s horrifying trial of three Asians is part of a worrying trend, says Brendan Montague in the London "Times"

No one who saw Angela Donald giving her dignified statement that “justice had been done” outside the High Court in Edinburgh as the racist murderers of her 15-year-old son were jailed last week could feel anything but sympathy. For Margaret Massey there was more, though — a sense of fellow-feeling and anger.

Kriss Donald was snatched off the street by an Asian gang and subjected to a terrible ordeal: beaten, stabbed, doused in petrol and set ablaze. Massey’s son Lee, a rugby player, was also the subject of a racially motivated attack when he was set upon by a gang of Iraqi asylum seekers “out looking for someone” to hurt. He and two friends were stabbed in a car park in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in October 2003. Lee was then thrown into the air and suffered devastating brain injuries when one of the gang used a car to run him down. Three years later he has not fully recovered.

Massey still feels aggrieved that — in her view — the police inquiry was hindered by political correctness because officers feared that reporting that a white man had been so brutally attacked by asylum seekers would further fuel racial tensions following several such brawls in the area.

“The police didn’t charge 13 members of the gang even though I believe there was some evidence,” she says.

“If our Lee had run over one of the Iraqis he would have been arrested right away and sent to prison for the rest of his life. The police are nervous when white people are attacked. In this area this is happening more and more often.”

The killing of Stephen Lawrence 13 years ago sparked off an orgy of soul-searching throughout liberal Britain.

But we have never quite acknowledged that violence comes from both sides. Gavin Hopley, 19, was kicked to death by up to eight Asian men in Oldham in February 2002. Six men were convicted of violent disorder and theft offences but no one has been convicted of his murder.

An Asian gang was also responsible for the violent killing of 17-year-old Ross Parker, who was savagely stabbed with hunting knives during an attack in Peterborough in 2001. David Lees, 23, was run over and killed during a fight between whites and a gang of Asians in Prestwich, Manchester, only last month.

There has been numerous inquiries and new legislation since the Lawrence case and almost everyone concerned with race relations will confirm that policing in cases involving race has improved immeasurably since that tragic event.

However, the debate about the white victims of racist attacks seems to have progressed no further in the past 10 years — because of fears of “political correctness” and the threat of the far right making political capital out of personal tragedy.

Sir Ian Blair, Britain’s most senior police officer, even attacked the press as “institutionally racist” in January this year because cases such as the killing of Tom ap Rhys Pryce, the solicitor, had gained more publicity than the equally terrible death on the same day of Balbir Matharu, who had tried to stop thieves ripping the radio from his car.

An extensive search of national and regional newspaper reports, however, shows that cases involving black and minority ethnic victims are widely reported, while there is an almost total boycott of stories involving the white victims of similar attacks. Is this because newspapers fear their reports appearing on BNP leaflets, or because the police are less likely to issue appeals for help?

Peter Fahy, chief constable of Cheshire police and spokesman on race issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “A lot of police officers and other professionals feel almost the best thing to do is to try and avoid [discussing such attacks] for fear of being criticised. This is not healthy.”

The silence means it is impossible to know how many white people are victims of racist attacks in today’s multicultural Britain and whether they are right to feel aggrieved that the attacks they suffer do not appear to get the same recognition as those of black victims.



A government guide that tells pet owners to provide private lavatories for their cats - and "mental stimulation" to prevent them getting bored -is to be withdrawn. The draft code of conduct for cat owners was drawn up by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) alongside the Animal Welfare Bill, which received royal assent in Parliament yesterday. But after protests by MPs, the department admitted that it was scrapping the document because it was "over the top" and too "prescriptive".

The code states that a breach of its recommendations would not constitute an offence in itself but would be taken into account when judgments were made on whether an offence of cruelty had been committed. The 17-page document lays down rules that cat owners should abide by to ensure the health, safety and happiness of their pets. It says cats "need to go to the lavatory somewhere where they can behave naturally and feel comfortable". Like humans, it says, they value their privacy. "Your cat should have somewhere private to go to the toilet with sufficient clean litter." Equally vital, its says, is the need to provide entertainment and mental stimulation to cats. "Cats that are kept indoors or prefer this lifestyle rely on you to provide everything for them. "You should ensure your cat gets enough mental stimulation from you and from its environment so that it does not become bored and frustrated."

Ann Widdecombe, MP and cat-lover, who protested about the "lunacy" of the code in the House of Commons this week, welcomed its withdrawal. The former Tory Home Office minister said it was the product of a government that interfered in all aspects of life. Miss Widdecombe, who has two cats, Arbuthnot, 12, and Pugwash, 11, said she was also flabbergasted to read in the code that all cat owners should be aware of the exact weight of their animal if they were to be safe from prosecution. She told MPs: "I am now being told that I commit an offence if I cannot say - which I cannot - how much my cat should weigh in order to keep me within the law, relevant to its bone structure, its size and its breed."

A spokesman for Defra said the draft code would be replaced by a new document that would be more thoroughly thought through. It would not be available until 2008. A similar code would be produced for dog owners. "We start with a clean slate," said the spokesman. "This draft document was over the top."

The main body of the Animal Welfare Bill, which received wide support on all sides of the House, allows the police and other organisations such as the RSPCA to intervene in cases where people fail in their duty of care to animals. Previously they could intervene only in cases where animals were suffering.



Islamic extremists have infiltrated at least four British universities to radicalise Muslim students, says a "troubleshooting" imam who sends teams to campuses to tackle indoctrination. Sheikh Musa Admani believes fundamentalists are bypassing campus bans on groups with radical links by presenting themselves as "ordinary Muslims" to fellow students or forming societies with alternative names. Some students, says Admani, have been so deeply indoctrinated that they are close to travelling to Afghanistan and Iraq to engage in jihad, or holy war.

Admani, a Muslim chaplain at London Metropolitan University, runs a charity that helps to rehabilitate young men who have fallen prey to extremism. He is also an adviser on Muslim affairs to Bill Rammell, the higher education minister. "We are dealing with people filled with hatred," said Admani. "It's hatred for the white man and the West in particular, because they have read the works of Qutb and Maududi (Islamist ideologues followed by Al-Qaeda) who set Muslims apart from everyone else."

Admani's claims come in the wake of a warning by Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, about the extent of the threat faced from home-grown Islamic extremists. She said the domestic security service has identified 200 terrorist networks involving at least 1,600 people, and 30 "Priority 1" plots to kill are being investigated. "Radicalising elements within communities are trying to exploit grievances for terrorist purposes; it is the youth who are being actively targeted, groomed, radicalised and set on a path that frighteningly quickly could end in their involvement in mass murder of their fellow UK citizens, or their early death in a suicide attack or on a foreign battlefield," said Manningham-Buller.

Yesterday Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, called for new measures to combat the growing terrorist threat. One of the "truly shocking" things about the recent alleged transatlantic airliner bomb plot, he said, was "the apparent speed with which young, reasonably affluent, some reasonably well educated British-born people" were radicalised to the point where they were prepared to murder thousands in alleged suicide attacks.

Admani's charity, the Luqman Institute of Education and Development, has been tackling the effects of this indoctrination by sending volunteers to campuses to challenge "the warped view of Islam" spread by extremists. The charity has received reports from students about fundamentalists operating in at least four UK institutions: Brunel University, west London, Bedfordshire University, Luton, Sheffield Hallam University and Manchester Metropolitan University. Up to 10 students at Brunel are being "deradicalised" by a caseworker from the institute. Jawad Syed, who nearly succumbed to extremism himself when he was a Brunel student, said: "Some of the students are watching jihadi videos and might be listening to different sheikhs encouraging jihad."

Earlier this year the Islamic society at Sheffield Hallam University hosted a lecture by Sheikh Khalid Yasin, an American preacher who favours the death penalty for homosexuals. Shakeel Begg, another radical cleric, recently urged students at Kingston University, southwest London, to wage jihad in Palestine. In a tape-recorded speech obtained by The Sunday Times, Begg, who is a Muslim chaplain at Goldsmiths College, part of London University, said: "You want to make jihad? Very good . . . Take some money and go to Palestine and fight, fight the terrorists, fight the Zionists." British-born Asif Hanif, who killed three people in a suicide attack on a bar in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2003, had attended Kingston.

Admani said some extremists win their peers' trust in university prayer rooms before inviting them to off-campus lectures. In other cases, groups banned by the National Union of Students, such as Hizb-ut Tahrir, are thought to be operating under alternative names. Last month students at Staffordshire University were invited to attend a discussion entitled "The true word of God: the Koran or the Bible". The event was addressed by a former member of Al-Muhajiroun, a proscribed organisation.

A further twist on extremism and campus life emerged in court last week when it was revealed that Dhiren Barot, the most senior Al-Qaeda plotter to be captured in Britain, had used a forged pass to carry out research at Brunel. Barot, 34, a Hindu convert to Islam, was sentenced to at least 40 years in jail after he admitted planning terrorist attacks that could have caused "carnage, bloodshed and butchery" in Britain and America. Brunel University said: "The safety of our students and staff is paramount, as is the security of our campus. We will look into the [Luqman] institute's claims and respond accordingly."

Referring to Begg's lecture at Kingston, Professor Peter Scott, the university's vice-chancellor, said: "Should the university be made aware of any concerns about the views expressed at such events, it has the protocols in place to investigate." Staffordshire University said it was investigating last month's lecture. "No extremists of any kind will be welcome at our campus," said a spokesman. Manchester Metropolitan University said: "If any evidence of extremism comes to light, we will immediately act upon it." Bedfordshire University and Sheffield Hallam University denied that extremists were operating on their campuses. [Good British ostriches]



A NATIONAL Health Service trust is offering nurses free cappuccinos and chocolate chip biscuits to encourage them to smile at patients. King's College hospital NHS Trust in London introduced the reward scheme after surveys raised concerns that nurses were not being nice enough to the sick. One common complaint was that nurses almost ignored the patient and chatted about the person's condition as if he or she were not present.

In recent years there have been growing concerns about nurses who are "too posh to wash" and prefer to spend their time on administrative and technical tasks rather than basic care. Two years ago a resolution at the annual congress of the Royal College of Nursing proposed that nurses were now "too clever to care" and suggested that the compassionate part of their job should be delegated to healthcare assistants. The provocative motion was a reference to nurses increasingly concentrating on technical duties.

The new motivational scheme originated in a Seattle fish market, where it was used to boost sales. Trusts are introducing new initiatives to improve their "customer services" because, under government reforms, hospitals now need to compete for patients. Matrons at King's College hospital hand special thank-you cards to nurses who are seen smiling at patients or relatives, chatting with patients, having a positive attitude or doing something to make someone's day better. The thank-you cards are then entered in a draw and nurses whose cards are picked out are entitled to free coffee and biscuits at the hospital cafe.

Selina Truman, head of nursing in general medicine at the trust, said: "When our patient survey and complaints came through, we could see that the attitude of some of the nurses was not as positive as it might be. Patients said nurses did not spend enough time with them. We felt that the way in which nurses engaged with patients could be better. "This scheme is very motivating because matrons and ward sisters praise the nurses directly. It has put patients back at the centre of our work." Truman added that although staff were initially cautious about how the scheme would work, they had enjoyed receiving the praise and the treat.

However, an editorial in Nursing Times magazine said nurses did not need bribes to be helpful and pleasant to patients. It said: "Excessive workloads and paperwork prevent nurses from spending time with their patients and caring for them properly. This is a fundamental problem that can never be rectified with a hot drink and a biscuit, or other such imports from industry." Katherine Murphy, of The Patients Association, said: "Good patient care should be part and parcel of the job of nursing, not an add-on."


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