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Hillingdon children deliver HS2 petition to Downing Street

Thursday, 24 November, 2011 Leave a comment

Hillingdon children are presenting a petition against the Government’s High Speed Rail (HS2) plans today.

Trains similar to these will operate on the proposed HS2 line between London and Birmingham. Image courtesy John Curnow.

Nine-year-old Max, the oldest of the four youngsters, wanted to send a message to the Prime Minister that it is unfair children don’t have a say in the government’s proposal for the HS2 line between London and Birmingham.

Max will deliver the ‘Save Us From HS2’ petition to Downing Street along with Caitlin, 8, Eve, 6 and Sian, aged 5, accompanied by local Conservative MPs Nick Hurd and John Randall. The petition has been signed by hundreds of children worried the development will ultimately threaten their gardens, schools, scout huts and a play park.

Keri Brennan, Chairman of Hillingdon Against HS2, said: “We have been amazed and humbled by children’s grasp of the facts about HS2.”

She said six Hillingdon schools will be closed in the plans and more will be affected by noise and construction. Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre is also under threat.

“Local children understand just how much their neighbourhoods and environment could be affected if HS2 is built,” added Mrs Brennan.

Hillingdon Council is among 14 councils opposed to HS2 and it backs Ruislip Against HS2.

Pro-HS2 MPs cite the economic benefits and improved links between north and south. HS2 will reduce the journey from London to Birmingham to a commutable 49 minutes while construction of the line over the next 7-10 years is expected to create more than 40,000 jobs. Half of the jobs created will be in London.

Director of Consultation and Communications for HS2, Miranda Carter, said: “It can’t stop in Hillingdon because that is where it picks up the high speed but it is a national project. The benefits of economic growth for the whole country will trickle down.”

The main petition against the project, with 108,000 signatures, was presented to Downing Street last month. The Government will make its final decision on the line in mid-December.

Man jailed for 1999 Heathrow murder

Thursday, 6 October, 2011 Leave a comment

A murderer who fled across the world to evade justice has been jailed for 24 years for murdering a tourist and dumping her body in a suitcase.

Yousseff Ahmed Mosalam Wahid, 42, went on the run across several Eastern European countries under a string of assumed names in order to evade justice.

He stabbed Fatima Kama to death in July 1999, on the day before the 28-year-old was due to fly home to Montreal. A post-mortem examination revealed that she was also sexually assaulted.

Walid was given a life sentence at the Old Bailey on Monday, with a minimum tariff of 24 years. The fugitive was eventually traced to Bahrain after continued police appeals. Following the combined efforts of British MPs and Bahraini police, he was caught after a carefully planned operation and extradited back to the UK.

Fatima’s body was found in a suitcase at a Heathrow Terminal 3 car park on 17th July 1999. Originally from Morrocco, Fatima had been a Canadian citizen for two years prior to her murder and was a regular visitor to London. Her family realised she was missing when she failed to arrive at Montreal airport.

Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane, from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command (HSCC), officer leading the investigation, said:

“This was a callous and shocking murder which left a family grieving the loss of a beloved daughter.

“Wahid spent twelve years evading police and refused to face up to what he had done. I am pleased that Fatima’s family have finally got justice and that Wahid is behind bars, where he belongs.”

This case also represented the first extradition of a UK fugitive from Bahrain.

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Chelsea Ives facing fresh violence charges

Wednesday, 7 September, 2011 1 comment

Ex-Olympic ambassador Chelsea Ives faced fresh charges at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court today after new allegations emerged.

Ives, 18, was previously charged with violent disorder in Enfield during the London riots in August, as well as two counts of burglary against mobile phone shops. Today she faced a further count of taking part in more violence the following night in Hackney.

Highbury magistrates committed Ives for trial at Wood Green Crown court on two charges of violent disorder. She will appear at Wood Green to enter a plea on September 21st, with the actual trial likely to take place in 2012.

The new allegation relates to looting of the Somerfields supermarket in Lower Clapton Road.

Meanwhile, the former athlete has been remanded back into custody until her next court appearance later this month.

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Man charged with assault of Malaysian student

Sunday, 4 September, 2011 Leave a comment

A second youth has been charged with the assault and mugging of an injured Malaysian student in an attack during the riots of last month. The shocking attack was videoed and put on the internet which sparked a fundraising campaign for the student. 

Ashraf Rossli (Ashraf Haziq), 20, who studies at Kaplan University in Angel Square, Islington, was robbed on August 8th in Barking by two people who had initially appeared to ‘help’ him.

Reece Donovan, 21, of Romford, has already been charged with robbery.

Now a 17-year-old has been charged in connection to the attack and will appear at at Thames Magistrates’ Court on Monday. The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is accused of grievous bodily harm, robbery, burglary and violent disorder.

A portable Sony PlayStation and Nokia mobile phone were taken from Rossli who was left in hospital with a broken jaw.

After the attack, the student said he wanted to stay in Britain and claimed to ‘pity’ is attackers.

In an interview, he said: ‘Britain is great. Before I came here I was very eager and I haven’t got any ill-feelings about what happened.

‘My family are worried about me and my mother would like me to go home. But I am determined to stay. I feel very sorry for the people who did this.

‘It was really sad because among them were children.’

He added that he had been helped by two girls and a woman who lived nearby who saw the incident.

The Let’s Do Something Nice for Ashraf Haziq group has raised around £25k in aid of the student who is now fully recovered.

 

Lambeth top borough for firearms arrests

Sunday, 28 August, 2011 4 comments

New figures released by the Metropolitan Police show that Lambeth was the borough with the most firearms-related arrests last year.

The Freedom of Information request to the Met disclosed the number of arrests for unlawful possession of a firearm and broke down the number of arrests by ethnicity. The data covers arrests made over the last ten years.

134 firearms arrests were made in Lambeth in financial year 2010/11. Across the capital some 1,500 people were arrested for unlawful possession of firearms.

Afro-Caribbean people were the most likely to be arrested for possession of a firearm, with 759 people from that ethnic group being arrested last year, followed by 526 white Europeans who were arrested. In contrast, just 11 Chinese and Japanese people were arrested for firearms possession.

The borough with the least number of arrests was Richmond-upon-Thames, which had just five firearm-related arrests last year.

Over the last ten years Lambeth was the ‘top’ borough for firearms arrests in every year except 2002/03. That year Hackney had a total of 109 arrests, compared with 105 arrests in Lambeth.

Arrests for firearms-related offences in London peaked in 2006/07 with 2112 arrests being made.

Image via Smarterlan, Flickr.

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London’s black cabs voted the world’s best taxis

Saturday, 27 August, 2011 1 comment

A survey of 5,000 people for Hotels.com has rated London’s iconic taxis as the best in the world. Travellers from 23 countries around the world rated the black cab top for the 4th time running, with 28% of the vote.

Out of the seven categories in the survey London’s cabs came top in five: safety, friendliness, cleanliness, quality of driving and knowledge of the area.

The other top five cities were New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore.

Taxis are often a tourist’s first introduction to a country as they leave the airport and set off to their hotel. 70% of Australian tourists quizzed said they would take a taxi straightaway after arriving in a foreign city; well above the international average of 54%.

Over a third of Australians claimed their pet hates were taxis being too smelly, along with cab drivers being too distracted (27%). Smoking at the wheel is frowned upon across the globe with exactly a third of British tourists and half of the French contingent naming it as a pet hate.

Image via Garreth Wicock, Flickr.

LOCOG reverses Olympic shooting ticket decision

Friday, 26 August, 2011 1 comment

London’s Organising Committee for the Olympic Games has retracted its previous statement regarding free tickets for schoolchildren to watch the shooting events.

In a very brief statement published on the National Smallbore Rifle Association’s website, LOCOG said:

“Shooting tickets are included in the Ticketshare programme;
The Ticketshare programme includes a range of groups – schools, BOA/BPA and Tickets for Troops;
There are a small number of shooting tickets in the Ticketshare programme, and we planned to issue the tickets where the demand was greatest;
Our initial consultation with schools suggested that there wasn’t a demand for shooting tickets;
However, if schools request shooting tickets, we will provide them, subject to availability.”

The West Londoner has yet to receive a formal reply from Mayor Boris Johnson’s office regarding the Ticketshare scheme.

Ticketshare is the scheme whereby 125,000 tickets to Olympic events will be handed out to schoolchildren, servicemen and their families,and the disabled. It is not known whether LOCOG has decided to deny tickets to any other sporting events.

Opinion: Why blaming social networking for riots misses the point

Thursday, 25 August, 2011 2 comments
BlackBerry Fwd

Not a cause but a symptom: Blackberry. Image by Marcos Sader via Flickr

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen virtually every talking head the mainstream media can lay their hands on – me included, to be fair – talking about the causes of the riots. They’ve blamed everything from the public spending cuts which started with this government taking office to the availability of social networking.

This, we are told, is the prime cause of all of the rioting and looting which hit Britain’s major cities a fortnight ago. I firmly disagree with this idea: why (literally) blame the messenger? The medium used for the message is not a problem, it is the message itself.

Less well informed commentators have been frantically blaming Twitter and Blackberry Messenger (BBM) for spreading information to rioters so they could avoid the police and attack areas that hadn’t been hit. I say this is nonsense; WL’s liveblogs were based entirely on information from Twitter and the only people I saw on there encouraging the rioters were people like Jody Macintyre, notorious for deliberately taking his wheelchair into the middle of a student riot. For potentially committing the criminal offence of inciting a riot, Macintyre was sacked from both the Guardian and the Independent. Virtually no-one “on the ground” was publicly encouraging others to smash up businesses and steal designer goods.

In my opinion the main cause of the riots was the sudden realisation that there was a power vacuum. When the peaceful demonstration in Tottenham got out of hand and descended into violence, the rioters there realised that the police were doing little or nothing to stop them. And it spread like wildfire.

Prominent police blogger Inspector Gadget took a straw poll of his readers the other day and the results were interesting. The majority of them believed that, in the days since Ian Tomlinson’s death (caused by his being struck with a police baton at the G20 protests) police constables are very likely to be hung out to dry for enforcing the law robustly. Whilst reporting on the riots, I noticed a real change in the levels of violence from Tuesday afternoon onwards – by midnight on Wednesday it was all over. Why?

The rolling news footage told the story. Instead of seeing police officers standing still and letting the rioters throw things at them, we were watching them charge forward and take control of the streets again. Within hours the riots had petered out.

I really do believe it is as simple as that: lack of firm action to contain the usual level of anti-police violence in certain areas of London led to rioters pushing the boundaries to their absolute limit. What we must do now is resist the latest attempts by politicians to shut down social networking sites during instances of public disorder. Instead, we must get them to concentrate on effective law enforcement in the less stable areas of London.

Police prepared for trouble during the Notting Hill Carnival

Thursday, 25 August, 2011 3 comments

Following the revelation that thousands of extra police constables will remain in London during the August Bank Holiday, police confirmed yesterday exactly how many officers will be on the streets during the Notting Hill Carnival.

“At Notting Hill specifically we will have a total of 5,500 officers on duty on Sunday and 6,500 on duty on Monday. But in addition to that we will have over 4,000 additional officers on duty across London as well as the thousands who are normally on duty over a weekend,” said Commander Steve Rodhouse yesterday.

“Some of those additional officers will come from forces outside London, through mutual aid arrangements, and the Met has cancelled all leave for staff and rearranged duties.”

This year’s carnival will officially end at 7pm on both Sunday and Monday, with local pubs and other businesses having been asked to close between 7pm and 9pm.

A heavier than normal police presence at this year’s carnival seems to have been influenced by the London-wide riots of a few weeks ago. Police are also worried about gang activity erupting around the capital during the carnival period.

“At this stage it would be fair to say we have intelligence to suggest that some gangs want to come to Carnival and create trouble for us. Plus we know that some people believe we will be diverted from policing the rest of London due to the Notting Hill Carnival, leaving the rest of the Capital without a policing presence,” said Commander Rodhouse. “This is not the case.”

Thirty five arrests have already been made as part of a proactive attempt to crack down on potential troublemakers. Metal detectors, automatic numberplate recognition devices, stop-and-search tactics and specialist officers will all be used to reduce the risk of violence.

Met Police deploying ‘record number’ of police to Notting Hill Carnival

Tuesday, 23 August, 2011 1 comment

Scotland Yard has said that it will deploy thousands more constables to the Notting Hill Carnival than it ordinarily would, following the riots across London two weeks ago.

A Carnival reveller in traditional flamboyant costume. Courtesy of S Pakhrin, Twitter

Senior Metropolitan Police officers have indicated that they are retaining constables from non-London forces who were deployed to the capital a fortnight ago. It appears that senior police officers fear a repeat of the widespread looting and destruction that occurred a fortnight ago.

About 16,000 police officers, including constables from forces as far afield as Wales, were deployed in the capital after riots which started in Tottenham spread across north, east and south London.

Whilst the final decision on police numbers will be made closer to the day, according to a Scotland Yard spokesman, it is highly likely that such a high profile public event will attract an increased police presence immediately following widespread rioting. The decision is likely to be taken on Thursday after senior police officers meet with local councillors from Kensington and Chelsea.

The Notting Hill Carnival has been running for 47 years. Originally started by West Indian immigrants to the Notting Hill area as a celebration of their home culture, the event has expanded to include all Caribbean cultures and attracts millions of visitors every year. This year’s carnival, which takes place between Sunday 28th August and Monday 29th August (which is a bank holiday) is scheduled to finish at 7pm each day. This is earlier than normal due to police fears of potential troublemakers using the carnival as cover to cause trouble.

Mainstream media reports over the last few years have primarily associated the carnival with anti-social behaviour. Similar reports have quoted local residents demanding the carnival be moved to Hyde Park or a similar large public space, which in their view would be better suited to handling the huge numbers of people who attend the event. Other articles promote the carnival’s positive cultural aspects, including the traditional Caribbean steel drum bands and the large variety of Caribbean food on offer.

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