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Feltham Labour MP dies of cancer

Friday, 18 November, 2011 1 comment

Labour MP Alan Keen has lost his battle with cancer and died aged 73.

An MP for Feltham and Heston since 1992 is well known for his passion for football and worked as a scout before joining politics.

He was chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on football and a member of the commons, culture, media and sports committee.

Mr Keen was half of the parliamentary husband and wife team with British Labour MP Ann Keen. However they hit the headlines and were dubbed ‘Mr and Mrs Expenses’ when they were caught to be claiming House of Commons expenses on a second home. They were told to repay £1,500.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown led the tributes to the long-serving Labour MP, saying: “Alan was a great MP locally popular, diligent London MP, and a great fighter for local causes.”

His personal welcome message on his website says: “If you need my help – please do not hesitate to contact me in my Westminster office.”

Mr Keen served in the British Army for three years before joining the fire protecting industry, and later worked for Middlesborough FCC for 18 years.

He was a member of Hounslow Borough council from 1986-1990 before entering Parliament in 1992.

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Ealing School express sympathy over sex abuse scandal

Wednesday, 9 November, 2011 Leave a comment

The headmaster of a school in Ealing has expressed his “real and genuine sympathy to anyone who has been subjected to abuse” while at the school.

Christopher Cleugh, Headmaster of St Benedict’s School in Ealing, has said the school will be implementing the recommendations outlined in a report by Lord Carlile.

The inquiry began last year as David Pearce, a former monk at the abbey, was imprisoned for eight years for sexually abusing young boys at St Benedicts over a period of 36 years. Some of his victims were under the age of 14.

Lord Carlile came to the conclusion in his report that the form of governance of St Benedict’s School is “wholly outdated and demonstrably unacceptable.”

The report recommends that the school should set up two trusts to “remove all power” from the Abbey over the school whilst keeping the Benedictine aspect to the school’s operation, which is of importance to the parents.  The trustees will be appointed by September 1st, 2012.

The structure proposed by Lord Carlile leaves all ultimate control and governance in the hands of the trustees, all of whom are members of the Benedictine Community of Ealing Abbey.

The trustees of St Benedict’s must also include representatives from constituent parts of the school community, and from outside.

The trust owns the substantial property on which St Benedict’s School is situated and retains the power to control all aspects of the School’s activities within the overall charitable objects.

Headmaster Christopher Cleugh said: “We welcome the report and the school is totally set to implement what is set out in the report.”

“At St Benedict’s School we are committed to safe, happy, achieving and responsible students. We are not just about policy, we are about practise.”

When asked why the school had not been closed due to the seriousness of the allegations, Cleugh responded: “We are a school in high demand; we have over a thousand  students and are in high consumer demand. We don’t want to deprive students in the future.”

The report outlines 21 reported cases of sexual abuse, starting from the early 1970s, and goes on to say “there are many lessons to be learned from past mistakes.”

The Vatican has also requested a separate inquiry into the sex offence allegations.

Police are looking for Father Laurence Soper, 80, former abbot of Ealing Abbey, who failed to answer bail in March 2011 following arrest on suspicion of abuse. He taught at the school from 1991 to 2000.

Lord Carlile urged him to “be responsible for his absence and surrender himself to the police, he has a personal and ethical duty to answer questions put to him.”

Lord Carlile concludes his report by saying: “I believe that St Benedict’s School is an excellent place for boys and girls to be educated in safety today and the future. No school is perfect and ‘never’ is a dangerous word and a hostage to fortune.”

Councillors pass direction in landslide to reduce student housing

Monday, 7 November, 2011 1 comment

Hillingdon Council have passed new legislation which will see student housing drastically reduced in the Uxbridge South and Brunel wards.

Hillingdon Council targets students, but will renting families be hit? Credit: ktylerconk, Flickr.

The new legislation, an Article 4 direction, means landlords will have to apply for planning application on houses with three or more occupants.

Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning Act allows authorities to require planning permission for things that would normally be permitted to an individual regarding their private property. Up to now, converting a house to HMO did not require permission.

The new legislation means the landlords will have to seek planning permission for any such changes; however, it will not come into effect for another 12 months.

Currently the area has 562 HMOs in the Uxbridge South and Brunel wards alone. Roads dominated by student housing include Barchester Close, Lodge Close, The Greenway, Derby Road and Hinton Road, in the Uxbridge South ward, and Bosanquet Close and Peachey Lane in Brunel ward.

Cllr Keith Burrows (Conservative), cabinet member for planning said: “This is no way an attack on students or Brunel. We regard Brunel as strong partners of ours. We have had enough of our community being split.”

Since 2006 there have been over 400 complaints about HMOs in the Hillingdon area, including complaints about anti-social behaviour and parking problems.

Cllr Mo Khursheed (Labour) supported the motion, but suggested that it did not cover a large enough area. He said: “To save any further delay, this movement should serve other wards. We act when were able to act to protect our residents and we will move forward with a clear planning process.”

The movement will ensure the protection of long term residents and their homes; however it could be seen as sending a message to students that they are not welcome in the area.

A number of other large University cities have taken advantage of recent changes in planning regulations and at least eleven towns and cities have had Article 4 directions initiated by local authorities. Manchester and Portsmouth have already passed their 12 month period of notice and are now in full effect.

It is not known what effect the Article 4 direction will have on families and working households (e.g. flatshares) comprising more than three people.

Brunel University students face housing shortage

Wednesday, 2 November, 2011 33 comments

Students at Brunel University could soon face a critical housing shortage if the council implements essential planning permission on houses in multiple occupation.

A shortfall of student houses is predicted in Uxbridge. Image via Harshil Shah, Flickr.

Since 2006 there have been over 400 complaints about HMOs in the Hillingdon area, with issues concerning anti-social behaviour and parking problems.

Currently, landlords can rent out a student house with up to six occupants without planning permission. If the council agree on implementing an Article 4 direction, which allows them to override the law, landlords will need to apply for planning permission for more than three occupants.

The council will also discuss the option of putting a limit on the amount of student properties which can be rented out in an area.

Locals claim there is still an ‘us’ and ‘them’ feeling between students and local residents, despite the council setting up a “Brunel University Liaison” group five years ago for local residents to meet and discuss any problems they have with Brunel students.

The cost of implementing such a direction will cost £6,000 alone for publicity and public notes, with ongoing council costs of £20,000 a year.

Hillingdon council will meet to discuss this issue and propose a conclusion on Thursday 3rd November.

Stay safe during Halloween and Bonfire Night!

Monday, 24 October, 2011 3 comments

With Halloween and Bonfire Night just around the corner, and the evenings getting longer and colder, the borough of Kensington and Chelsea have begun their seasonal crackdown on anti social behaviour.

Officers across the borough have already distributed thousands of leaflets and posters to residents in the borough designed to promote responsible trick or treating.

The posters display a ‘no trick or treat’ sign to be stuck in the windows of properties in the run up to the festivities.

Superintendent Simon Rose, head of Operations, said: “In Kensington and Chelsea we are encouraging responsible ‘trick or treating’, which allows people who wish to take part in the celebrations to do so in a safe and respectful manner, whilst respecting the privacy of residents who do not and preserving the safety and well-being of the more vulnerable members of our community.

“Obviously displaying this poster is no guarantee that you will not be visited on Halloween but it does make it clear to parents and other responsible ‘trick or treaters’ where callers will be welcome.”

Safer neighbourhood officers are continuing to patrol at key times across the borough, at transport hubs and visiting schools to discourage criminal activity around this time of year and are working closely with Test Sale operations with Trading Standards to monitor the sale of fireworks, alcohol and over the counter weapons.

Screening arches will also be in place around the borough as well as metal detection wands as part of a system to deter the carriage of weapons.

Halloween and Bonfire night are ideal opportunites for criminal activites with the use of costumes to conceal a weapon and people willingly opening their front doors without checking first who is visiting them.

Commander Christine Jones from the Met’s Territorial Policing Command Centre said: “We are here for London and to help make sure that everyone can enjoy the festivities and stay safe.

“I would like to stress that our operations are not aimed at demonising young people, the large majority of whom behave safely and responsibly. However those intent on committing crime and anti social behaviour will face the consequences.”

The Met are encouraging people to contact their local Safer Neighbourhood team for more information or guidance. In an emergency dial 999.

Image via somewhereintheworldtoday, Flickr.

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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Wood Green thief who targeted pensioners jailed

Friday, 16 September, 2011 Leave a comment

Michael Sammie, 44, of Swaythling Close, N18, has been  imprisoned for five and a half years. Between February and May this year he stole from six homes in the South Kensington and Barnet areas between February and May of this year, Wood Green Crown Court heard.

Sammie posed as a member of a gas or electricity company to gain entry into vulnerable people’s homes. Many of his victims had health or mobility problems.

He pretended to befriend the elderly to gain entry into their houses. Once inside the property he asked his victims to go to other rooms to turn on switches while he pretended to test light fittings. When the victim left the room, he stole cash, bank and pension cards, valuables and jewellery.

Officer in the case Davina Cullen said,“This man has a long history of offending. Sammie appears plausible and charming, but in truth he is a ruthless predator of the elderly. He pretends to befriend his victims, but then remorselessly steals their property and savings. The calculated approach to his crimes makes them all the more despicable.

One victim, a 77 year old resident of Finchley, said “Firstly may I pay tribute to the police; if they had not acted so promptly they would never have recovered my jewellery. He stole my grandfather’s signet ring and my mother wedding ring and it meant so much to get these back, it’s not the cost but it’s the sentimental value.

“To prey on vulnerable people is unforgivable and I am so glad he has been caught. I would urge anyone who has a caller at the door to ask for identification, these men are so plausible.”