Thursday, April 24, 2008

Greenie tyranny: British father of four taken to court and fined ... because he overfilled his wheelie-bin by just four inches

With his rubbish collected only once a fortnight, Gareth Corkhill's wheelie bin was so full the lid wouldn't shut. And for that, the father of four finds himself with a criminal record. Magistrates convicted the 26-year-old bus driver after hearing evidence that the lid was four inches ajar, which is against rules to stop bins overflowing. He was ordered to pay 210 pounds - a week's wages - after he declined to pay an on-the-spot fine imposed by the local council's bin police, who visited him wearing stab-proof vests and carrying photographic evidence of his crime. To add insult to injury he was told to pay a 15 pound victim surcharge to help victims of violence - despite there being no victim - and threatened with prison if he failed to pay. Rapists, murderers and other violent criminals who have earned a jail sentence rather than a fine are immune from the penalty.

Yesterday the council, Copeland in Cumbria, said that Mr Corkhill's family had caused problems for "the battle to reduce waste".

His penalty compares with the typical on-the-spot fine of 80 pounds given to shoplifters - even repeat offenders. For failing to pay his fine Mr Corkhill, from Whitehaven, will now have a criminal record which he will have to disclose if he applies for a job, credit or a mortgage over the next five years. Even after that he will have to reveal his crime if he applies for a job in the NHS, working with children, in a bank, or as a security guard. "I can't believe I now have a criminal record for simply putting rubbish in my bin," he said. "My only crime was to leave the lid slightly open. Now I might go for a job interview and be better than someone else but the employer will see that officially, I am a criminal. "They won't know the details of what I did. They won't know that I only put a little too much rubbish in the bin."


Thalidomide returns

Thalidomide, the drug that blighted a generation of children half a century ago, is back on the market in Europe as a powerful cancer treatment. The European drug agency yesterday gave clearance for thalidomide to be sold on prescription for treating newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. It has been available, in a limited way, for some years since its powerful effects on cancer and leprosy were identified.

But campaigners, including those damaged by the drug when they were still in the womb, are anxious that its new-found popularity does not lead to more babies being harmed. Freddie Astbury, the president and founder of the campaign group Thalidomide UK, said that since the drug resurfaced, hundreds of damaged babies had been born in Brazil, where it has been used since 1985 to treat leprosy. There had been no such cases in the US or Europe, he said, but admitted that he was worried by the increased availability of the drug. “The trouble is that some hospitals in Europe have chosen to get the drug from Brazil, where it is cheaper,” he said.

Thalidomide UK and other patient groups had been working with the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) for more than five years on a plan to control access to the drug once it was licensed, Mr Astbury said. “We’re never fully going to know how the plan will work until the drug is used on a large number of patients,” he said. “I’d never say there will never be another thalidomide child in Europe, but I think they are the best guidelines we could have achieved.”

The approval given by the EMEA means that the US company Celgene will be the only licence-holder in Europe, and will be responsible for ensuring that the guidelines are observed. No other manufacturers and distributors of thalidomide can now supply the drug across the EU.

Thalidomide was originally marketed in the late 1950s as a treatment for morning sickness in pregnant women. It was only when babies began being born disabled that the dangers became apparent. The catastrophe was a landmark in the development of safer systems for approving drugs.


"Gun free" Britain again: A 17-year-old was sentenced to three years in a secure institution after she admitted hiding a machine pistol under her bed at her family home. Police said that the case was part of a growing trend for criminals to use vulnerable teenage girls from respectable families to look after their weapons. Lindsay Shinkfield, of Huyton, Liverpool, was 16 when police found the Czech-made Scorpion gun in her bedroom in December. The weapon is favoured by drug gangs in Liverpool. She told officers that she was "minding" the weapon for another person whom she has refused to name. Detectives believe the gun was used in an incident in 2006 in which a person was injured. A police investigation is continuing. Detective Chief Inspector Michael Shaw, part of Merseyside Police's gun crime unit, said: "This was the perfect example of the type of young, vulnerable female of good character being targeted by criminals to assist them in the concealment of illegally held firearms." He added: "They [Scorpions] are as serious a weapon as one would expect to come across."

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