Tuesday, July 07, 2009

British prisoners on run cannot be named 'due to privacy rights'

Prisoners on the run from Holleseley Bay prison cannot be identified because it would breach their rights to privacy, the Ministry of Justice has said. Civil servants have refused to name inmates who have fled prison even though individual police forces will often identify them if they pose a risk to the public. They say releasing their names would breach obligations under the Data Protection Act.

The latest development emerged in response to Freedom Of Information requests to name inmates on the run rom the prison near Woodbridge, Suffolk. The open prison which has sea views and once held Tory peer Jeffrey Archer is known as Holiday Bay because of its easy-going regime. The Ministry of Justice confirmed 39 prisoners had absconded from Hollesley Bay between January 1, 2007, to March 31, 2009. It also provided a general list of crimes they were sentenced for and confirmed that 16 involved violence. The offenders included nine robbers, two serving sentences for attempted robbery, one for wounding and four others for grievous bodily harm.

But the ministry refused to say how many - if any - had been recaptured, saying their identities had to be protected from third parties.

John Gummer, the Suffolk Coastal MP, said he was aghast at the decision and promised to raise the matter in parliament with Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary. He said: "It's intolerable and entirely unacceptable. There is no sense in which a prisoner's identity is a private matter. In my view he sacrifices that when he becomes a prisoner. "This annoys me very much indeed. We have gone mad if this is what we are doing. "What I will be doing is putting down a question to the Justice Minister on Monday to ask for the information. I shall insist this is information that should be in the public domain. "I think this will prove Hollesley Bay has ceased to be treated as an open prison in the historic way, but is now receiving prisoners who would not have been sent to it 10 years ago."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Whilst it is in the public interest to be aware of offenders who have escaped from custody as they may help in identifying the absconders thereby enabling the police to detain them; it is not in the public interest to prejudice any enquiries or operations the police may be conducting into apprehending the absconder. "It is the general policy of the Ministry of Justice not to disclose, to a third party, personal information about another person. "This is because the Ministry of Justice has obligations under the Data Protection Act and in law generally to protect this information."

In January 2007 Derbyshire Police refused to release pictures of two convicted murderers on the run from jail. Chief Constable David Coleman said Jason Croft and Michael Nixon posed "no risk'' and the force had to consider the Human Rights Act and data protection laws when asked to publish photographs. The force later denied human rights had been a factor.


British Couple lose custody of children after 'school security concerns'

A couple have lost custody of their children after the father asked for permission to pick them up from inside the school gates. The man, a business consultant, was concerned that two of his three children – who are all under 13 – might be at risk of abduction because of the family's connections. Telling the school that the children were related to European royalty and that his brother was a senior Army officer, the father is said to have asked for permission – which was granted – to pick up his children inside the two schools attended by his eldest children.

However, one of the head teachers went to the police because of her "concerns". This led to the parents' background being investigated and concerns being raised, initially over the father's mental state and then for the safety of his children.

Lord Monckton, who has investigated the allegations, described the episode as "the worst case of child abduction by social services that I have ever come across". He accused a social worker and a police officer, both female, of plotting together against the couple, who live in the east of England. Lord Monckton has now reported the two women to the local police force and council for alleged improper conduct.

Lord Monckton claims that on May 18 a social worker approached the father as he arrived, with his wife, to pick up one of their children from school. The father has told the peer that when he was asked to accompany her, he demanded to see her identification but she refused to show him. He claims he was then handcuffed by two police officers.

His wife was also detained when she went to remonstrate, and their youngest child was taken away screaming, according to the family's account. Later all three children were taken into care.

The father was then detained under the Mental Health Act, although his wife was released later the same day. "However, the father's supporters say that on May 28, he appeared before a mental health tribunal and was given a complete discharge; yet his children remain in care.

The Sunday Telegraph has had no direct contact with the family. It is understood that the social worker and police officer have justified their actions in statements to a family court. A council spokesman said: "We have no comment to make because the matter is in front of the courts."


British patient lived with cancer for 50 years before dying of bedsore in an NHS hospital

Cancer patient Pamela Goddard battled against cancer for 50 years before she died of an infected bedsore during a stay in hospital. The treatment for the cancer appeared to be working, but the bedsore continued to get worse.

Pamela Goddard had great faith in the NHS. It had, after all, kept her alive for more than half her 82 years. The piano teacher first contracted breast cancer in the 1960s and had survived a series of recurrences of the disease over the years. So when it returned last year, this "completely vital" woman, who was still working up to 30 hours a week, was fully expected survive. The cancer did not kill her, but a bedsore did.

What appeared to be the start of one was noted on her back as she was admitted for radiation treatment in September and it was allowed to gradually develop into a "raging sore" which left Mrs Goddard moaning in pain. During four weeks of what her family describe as "torture" in a bed in East Surrey Hospital, the sore resulted in a fatal blood infection and she died on October 27.

Her son Adrian Goddard, who lives in the US, said: "She survived cancer for 40 years, then died from a bedsore. "It is just beyond belief that they could let a bedsore develop to the point where it actually kills someone from septicaemia." He said the nurses seemed largely unconcerned by the growing size of the sore and his mother's increasing pain. "The bedsore was painful. There were various procedures that should have been done. You are supposed to debride the thing, clean it, treat it. "She was supposed to be lifted and moved so there's not constant pressure on it," Mr Goddard said.

"There were explanations like 'there was only one nurse and it wasn't possible to do it or the equipment was broken'... just a series of excuses. "Most of the time there were [enough nurses]. None of them struck me as being frantically busy to put it mildly. "There were lots of conversations about last night's activities in the pub, a lot of strolling around, looking at charts without doing anything. "The level of crisis that attracts their attention has to be very high for them to put down their biscuits. I guess they get inured to it, the moaning, the fact my mother was in great pain."

The first sign Mrs Goddard was unwell came early in 2008 when she suffered from back pain. She went to Barts Hospital in London but the recurrence of cancer which was the cause of the pain was not diagnosed until she broke her leg in June. The treatment for the cancer appeared to be working, but the bedsore continued to get worse despite attempts to treat it with "maggot therapy" in which maggots are used to clean out the wound.

On October 11, Mr Goddard said a doctor told him that "she was recovering well, except there was something in the blood work, which suggested an infection". "If it didn't go away, he said he would give her penicillin or something," Mr Goddard said. "It never occurred to him this by now raging bedsore was the source of the infection."

Mr Goddard said he and other members of the family had tried to persuade nurses and doctors to take more action, but said the "inertia was extraordinary, the worst sort of institutional dysfunction".

Mr Goddard said anyone in a similar situation should "do what you need to do to find some sort of private care for them". "She certainly wasn't ready to die. To the extent she realised it was happening, she must have been horrified," he said. "The thing that makes me most angry was she had such faith in the system and it let her down so badly. "She was basically in torture over a four-week period. Then she was drugged up and left to die. "It's unconscionable, very sad."

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust Director of Nursing, Mary Sexton, said: "We offer our sincere condolences to the family of Pamela Goddard on the loss of their mother. "We are committed to providing high quality patient care and are sorry that on this occasion the family feel that that standard has not been met. "We have received a formal complaint, which we have responded to, but are carrying out further investigations at the request of the family.

"The presence of pressure sores is associated with a twofold to fourfold increased risk of death, but this is because pressure sores are a marker for underlying disease severity and other co-morbidities. "Mrs Goddard was receiving complex treatment for a number of medical conditions from a number of health care organisations at the time of her death."


11 serious errors a day in NHS surgery

Eleven people are seriously harmed during NHS surgery every day, it emerged yesterday. The number of major errors has risen by 28 per cent in five years, with more than 4,000 patients hurt in 2007/08. Mistakes include objects such as scalpels and coils being left inside patients, organs being punctured, and the wrong dosage of drugs being given.

A total of 722 objects were left inside patients during surgery last year – one every two and a half days. That number has soared by 13 per cent in the five years to 2007/08.

The figures were revealed just days after a damning MPs' report found that many hospitals are routinely covering up such mistakes. The Commons health select committee warned that another hospital disaster like the one at Stafford, where up to 400 people died, could not be ruled out – because managers were putting Whitehall targets and cost-cutting above patient safety. Government policy 'too often' gave the impression that hitting waiting list targets, achieving financial balance and attaining elite foundation trust status were more important than patient safety. 'This has undoubtedly, in a number of well documented cases, been a contributory factor in making services unsafe,' the report said.

The MPs added that many mistakes were not reported by the NHS – raising the possibility that the recorded number of medical mishaps is just the tip of the iceberg.

The latest figures were uncovered by the Liberal Democrats in a parliamentary answer. Health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'These figures raise serious concerns and call into question the Government's claim to be making patient safety a priority. 'There really is no excuse for leaving objects inside people. Far too many avoidable mistakes are still being made. 'Many doctors and nurses are under enormous amounts of pressure to meet Government targets. We have to ensure that patient safety isn't being compromised to satisfy the whims of Whitehall. 'If we really want to raise standards in the NHS then we need to give local people the power to hold their health services to account.'

The figures show that there have been a total of 17,921 errors during surgery over the past five years. The number of cases every year has shot up by 28 per cent to 4,161 in 2007/08 – 11 a day.

Most of the cases involve people having organs mistakenly punctured, which can lead to haemorrhaging. Over the last five years, the organs of 12,125 patients were punctured, with the annual figures soaring 33 per cent to 2,817 in 2007/08.

Hundreds of other surgical mistakes were reported, including not removing or inserting tubes properly, using wrongly-matched blood, forgetting to give drugs on time, and not sterilising equipment properly. Failure to sterilise is a key method by which superbugs such as C. Diff and MRSA can spread.

There were also dozens of reports of the catch-all 'performance of inappropriate operations'. The total uncovered by the LibDems represents only a fraction of the mistakes made in the NHS every year, as it only covers errors during operations. Overall, there are around 250,000 mistakes causing harm to patients reported across the Health Service every year. More than 3,600 of those affected die as a result.


Migrants are going to Britain, come hell or high water

Gazing across the Channel in the direction of the white cliffs of Dover, Amir Gul stood on Calais beach and imagined himself on the other side - and living the dream that has brought him 3,500 miles from Afghanistan. "A hundred times in the past month I have tried to get into lorries," the 15-year-old said in fluent English. "The police or drivers always throw me off and sometimes they beat me. But I will not stop until I reach London, unless I am killed trying, even if it takes me a year."

In the sand dunes and scraps of waste ground around Calais, a ragged army of migrants desperate to breach British border controls is slowly growing in number, and they are as determined as ever. Nobody is sure how many live in the squatter camps or sleep rough in parks, but the United Nations estimates that there are now around 1,500 in the Calais area alone – a figure steadily approaching the 2,500 who were to be found at Sangatte refugee camp before it was closed in 2002.

Security has been tightened at the port and far fewer illegal migrants get through to Britain now, according to the UK's Border Control Agency. It told The Sunday Telegraph that effective control of Calais port and the routes across the Channel was a success story.

But the fact that it is harder to reach Britain merely means that the migrants - almost all of them men and boys - hang around in Calais for even longer, months instead of weeks, as they attempt to stow away on lorries or in cars. Meanwhile they live in conditions which are so appalling that last week the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees opened an office in the town, only the second in Europe for an agency which is more typically found in troublespots like Congo or Pakistan.

UN officials feel they must do something for the inhabitants of the stinking "jungles" where desperate men and boys fight each other with knives and suffer diseases like scabies and TB, as the filth, frustration and violence take their toll. The UNHCR works with hard-pressed charities that try to help the migrants and encourages them to apply for asylum in France. But only 120 enquiries have been made in the past month.

"France is no good. I want to get into London because I will get a house and money [He's right about that. The good old generous British taxpayer!], and I can work there," said an Afghan man who was killing time in a park until nightfall, when he was going to look for a lorry to hide in.

On the beach, French families in swimming trunks and bikinis were enjoying themselves in the sunshine apparently oblivious to the young Afghans and Iraqis washing their grimy clothes in the surf.

Mr Gul knows it could be months before he successfully stows away in a lorry - or even in the boot of an unwary motorist - and sneak across the Channel to his promised land, now so tantalisingly close. Until then he will have to sleep rough in a filthy camp, hidden in a thicket of thorn bushes behind the beach. He sleeps under a plastic tarpaulin donated by a charity, trying to ignore the stench from the surrounding bushes which are used as a lavatory.

Every day at noon he walks through the suburbs of Calais to a soup kitchen in a car park, where gangs of Africans, Iraqis and Afghans jostle and argue in the queue. Tribal and ethnic differences rankle, and knives are pulled when tempers fray. Caroline Nazanin, a nurse who has worked in the camps, said: "The frustration drives some of them crazy - they become violent and fight each other when arguments get out of control."

Yet despite all this, Mr Gul had no interest in seeking asylum in France. He was determined to stay in Calais for as long as it takes for him to stow away succesfully and get to Britain.

Marie-Ange Lascure, UNHCR's spokeswoman, said migrants were arriving in bigger numbers than a few years ago. "They want to go to England because the people smugglers tell them it is a beautiful place, where they can easily earn money to send home to their families," she said. Persuading them to instead claim asylum in France was a struggle, she admitted. Under an EU rule whereby an asylum claim must be made in the first safe port of entry, if the migrants have already been fingerprinted on arrival in Greece or Italy the French authorities can deport them back there.

So some migrants scar their fingertips by heating up a plate until it is hot, then pressing their fingers to it. For several weeks the fingers are too blistered for prints to be taken, providing temporary relief from the risk of deportation if they are arrested or checked.

Residents of Calais have become increasingly worried by the growing desperation of migrants, and last year elected a conservative-minded mayor, Natacha Bouchart, who blames the temptation of Britain's generous welfare state for attracting migrants to their town. "Calais is a hostage to the British," she complained earlier this year. Jean-Lou Hereng, 46, who owns a café near the biggest camp, known as the "jungle", said: "The problem is as bad as it has ever been. They are aggressive and dirty, and there are fights between them."

Other Frenchmen are more sympathetic. "It is difficult for us, and it is difficult for them," said Jonathan Corbeau, 22, a welder who lived almost opposite an encampment of Afghans. Nevertheless, he had put up a strong fence and bought a dog after his wife was molested by migrants a few weeks ago.

French police frequently raid the camps, and sometimes destroy them. Sixteen vanloads of CRS riot police arrived on Thursday as bulldozers levelled a derelict warehouse which 30 Sudanese from the war-torn province of Darfur had been using as a temporary home. "My money and clothes are now buried under there," one of them said, gesturing at a pile of tons of debris. He had simply moved with his friends a few yards to a take over a small park.

Many of the Afghans, who are now the majority of migrants at Calais, said they had fled the Taliban. Samim Siddique, 24, from Khost, rolled up his trouser leg to show a bayonet scar where he had been tortured by terrorists who wanted him to carry a bomb into the university where he was studying. "The Taliban don't like education, and there was no place where I would be safe from them in Afghanistan," he said. "We all want to go to England, we speak the language and we can work there. I want to study IT, and then set up a print business. "We hate being in this camp, it is the life of an animal here. We have to wait for months to get into a lorry, but every week a couple of boys don't come back in the morning - they have caught a lorry across the sea. "I will keep trying. One day I will get to England."


Useless British university graduates

Their education has failed them. Employers forced to leave jobs unfilled as they cannot find competent recruits

Almost one in ten employers will be forced to leave graduate jobs unfilled this year because they cannot find quality recruits, a report reveals today. Dozens will be left with vacant posts despite the recession because of shortages of applicants with the right workplace skills and degree disciplines. In some cases, graduates lack commercial savvy and the high-level communication skills needed to deal with senior directors and clients. In others, bosses struggle to find applicants with specialised engineering or scientific knowledge because not enough students have studied those subjects.

Employers recruiting in less popular industry areas or far-flung locations are particularly affected, said the Association of Graduate Recruiters. Its revelation that 8 per cent of employers expect to have unfilled posts this year emerged as competition for jobs among graduates reached record levels.

The AGR's survey of 225 employers says the overall number of posts available has been cut by a quarter - a squeeze similar in scale to the last slump in 1991. Starting salaries have been frozen and few bosses expect to boost either pay or vacancy numbers in 2010.

On average, 49 graduates are battling it out for each graduate job - up from 30 this time last year. Competition is particularly intense for jobs in investment banks or fund management, with an average of 82 applicants per place. For financial services it is 76 and retail 65. Some employers reported receiving more than 150 applications per place. Investment banking, IT, construction and engineering are among sectors which have squeezed vacancies particularly dramatically.

Yet some employers said they were disappointed by sloppiness in application forms. Others said they were considering introducing 'motivation questionnaires' amid evidence that some applicants are seeking work they have no interest in simply to get a graduate post.


UK: Parents of unruly schoolchildren to be fined

And so the parent whacks the misbehaving kid and then gets hauled before a court for child abuse!

Parents could be fined or sent to prison if their children misbehave, under powers to be awarded to schools. They form part of a government White Paper on education to be published by the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, tomorrow.

Most schools operate agreements under which parents and pupils undertake to promote good behaviour, but they are not enforceable. The new powers could see parents who fail to abide by them fined or given community sentences. In some cases, they could end up in prison if they did not pay the fines.

Mr Balls said on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC 1 that national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds and exam league tables would stay. The White Paper also spells out entitlements for parents and pupils.


Faith re-emerges in the Church of England: "A hardline Anglican group launched today could cause a “disastrous” split in the Church of England, an evangelical bishop has warned. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is opposed to the ordination of gay clergy, blessings for gay marriage or civil partnership, and the consecration of women bishops. The new fellowship will today publish letters from the Queen, supreme governor of the Church of England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, acknowledging its launch. Its founders claim it is nothing more than an “orthodox” movement intended to bring about reform and renewal from within. They claim it bears comparison with Anglican agencies such as the Church Mission Society. Archbishops of conservative Anglican provinces from around the world, including the Nigerian primate Dr Peter Akinola, have sent messages of support. Dr Graham Kings, consecrated last month as Bishop of Sherborne and founder of the moderate evangelical grouping Fulcrum, said the new fellowship represented a structure that would allow its founders to “split” from the Church of England.... Significantly, Dr Robert Duncan, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, the newly founded province that is claiming to be the authentic Anglican Church in the US but is awaiting recognition from the Archbishop of Canterbury, will give a keynote address to today’s meeting."

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