Thursday, December 04, 2008

Man arrested for lighting Guy Fawkes Night bonfire on village green under law dating from 1880s

All part of the attack on decent people while criminals roam free

Bonfire Night on the village green at Elwick went off in the traditional blaze of glory. But Guy Fawkes wasn't the only sacrifice Two days later, organiser Brett Duxfield was arrested, held at a police station for ten hours and charged with arson, for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. He was taken from his home at 8am and had his DNA and fingerprints taken after police received a complaint that a 130-year-old bylaw banning fires on the green had been broken. Mr Duxfield appeared before Hartlepool magistrates and was granted bail after the case was adjourned.

Last night the 39-year- old lorry driver said: 'This is a nightmare. I never thought this would happen. 'If you cannot have a village bonfire on a village green on November 5 - a tradition hundreds of years old - what is the world coming to? 'It's ridiculous and it means we have turned into a police state. It wasn't even me that lit the bonfire.'

The bylaw has usually been quietly ignored, but this year the parish council threatened to enforce it. Despite this, villagers went ahead. Although the source of the complaint about the fire is unclear, many presume it came from the council. Mr Duxfield's arrest has led to a huge row between villagers and the council. A public meeting was held at the primary school and two councillors have resigned

One villager, Hilary Thompson, said: 'I'm appalled that Elwick Parish Council condones the arrest of a member of our community.' Jack Harrison, chairman of the council, said they had sought legal advice and stood by their decision.

Guy Fawkes night had long been a feature at Elwick until 1994, when the ancient ban was last enforced because of rowdy behaviour. Although the ban was never lifted officially, the celebrations returned four years ago and have passed off without incident, with families flocking to the green to watch the festivities. Organisers even replace the charred turf.

Mr Duxfield, who lives in nearby Hartlepool, moved from Elwick three years ago but still visits the village to meet friends. He said that on Bonfire Night, 14 uniformed police officers had turned up wearing protective clothing. He said he gave his name as a point of contact and was told that officers were only there as a matter of safety. 'Two days later, three police officers turned up at my home at 8am and I was arrested,' he said. 'I was interviewed until about 11.45am and then I was thrown in the cells until 6.15pm.

'The inspector kept opening the hatch and asking if I would accept a caution. I told him there was no way I would do that as I had done nothing wrong. 'I will definitely be making a civil case against the police force.'

Inspector Tony Green, of Cleveland Police, said: 'We are duty bound to follow a complaint through. 'Evidence was put before the Crown Prosecution Service and they decided there was a case to answer.'


Those so-righteous British social workers exposed

'Devastating' failure behind Baby P's death

The death of a toddler known as Baby P at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and a lodger after months of torture was the result of the "devastating" failure of social services, the British Government has admitted. The Secretary for Children's Services, Ed Balls, said a review of the management failures that led to the little boy being killed despite being seen 60 times by healthcare professionals was a "damning verdict" on the system. "Overall, the inspectors' findings are, I have to say, devastating. Their report sets out detailed recommendations, all of which must now be accepted in full.

"Having studied their report I've decided to take immediate action. My first priority is to put in place a new leadership and management team in Haringey children's services to ensure that vulnerable children in the borough are properly protected."

Haringey Council, the authority responsible for the case, is now to undergo a restructure and the senior management team have been removed, including the 100,000 pounds a year social worker that "oversaw" the case. Sharon Shoesmith, the director of children's services in Haringey, has been bitterly criticised for refusing to apologise for her organisation's litany of failures to protect the little boy.

Baby P died in August 2007 aged just 17 months after suffering horrific beatings. His mother, her boyfriend and the couple's lodger have been convicted of "causing or allowing" his death and are to be sentenced next year.

Mr Balls, who gave the briefing at the London Foreign Press Assocation, said that one of the most damning findings of the review was that Haringey Coucnil had failed to implement recommendations made after the death of another child, Victoria Climbie, who was murdered by her guardians in 2000 aged eight.

The report has now also sparked the resignation of two other councillors. As head of children's services, Mrs Shoesmith was said to be earning 100,000 a year and there has been much press speculation as to whether she would walk away with some kind of pay-off. Asked to comment, Mr Balls said: "... I have to say that I think most people will look at this report, look at the clear evidence of management failure and say that this kind of failure should not be rewarded with compensations or pay-offs. "I must say I would be astonished if elected members in Haringey chose to do that."

Mr Balls said he had been "shocked" by the Baby P case despite understanding that social workers, police and other officials who dealt with children's safety often worked in "challenging circumstances". But he added: "They must also be accountable for the decisions and when things go badly wrong people want to know why and what can be done about it."

He ruled out a public inquiry into Haringey children's services "for now", saying the immediate priority was making management changes to safeguard vulnerable children in the borough.

"The report from (the inspectors) is a damning verdict on the current management and safeguarding in Haringey. In their summary judgment the inspectors say, and I quote, 'There are a number of serious concerns in relation to safeguarding of children and young people in Haringey. The contribution of local services to improving outcomes for children and young people at risk or requiring safeguarding is inadequate and needs urgent action'."


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