Police ‘aware’ undercover officer was in relationship

Kate Wilson and Mark Kennedy
Image caption Ms Wilson’s two-year long relationship with Mark Kennedy began in 2003

Police have admitted for the first time that an undercover officer had a sexual relationship with an environmental activist with the knowledge of bosses.

Legal documents seen by the BBC reveal they knew about Mark Kennedy’s relationship with Kate Wilson and allowed it to continue.

She was among several women he had relationships with while undercover.

In public statements to date, police have maintained such relationships would never have been sanctioned.

Posing as an environmental campaigner, Mark Stone, the police spy began a two-year relationship with Ms Wilson in 2003.

She was one of a number of women he was involved with during his seven years undercover. In his real life, Mr Kennedy was married with children.

  • Woman wins undercover officer case

Ms Wilson is currently involved in legal action against the Metropolitan Police and the National Police Chiefs Council, which at different times were responsible for Mr Kennedy’s deployments.

In documents disclosed to her legal team, the police concede that Mr Kennedy’s sexual relationship with Ms Wilson “was carried out with the acquiescence of his cover officers and line manager”.

Ms Wilson told the BBC: “The police have said that these cases were a failure of supervision and management, and that is just not the case.

“Management were absolutely complicit in what was going on.”

‘Incredibly disturbing’

In November 2015, the Met Police paid compensation to a number of women who were duped into relationships with police spies.

In an apology at that time, the force said: “The forming of a sexual relationship by an undercover officer would never be authorised in advance.”

Ms Wilson’s lawyer, Harriet Wistrich said: “The police have always said this would never be permitted.

“What we are seeing in this case – and then of course it makes us question all the other cases – is that they allowed it to continue because it was convenient, because it assisted whatever their objectives were.

“That is incredibly disturbing.”

Image copyright Kate Wilson
Image caption The Met police said it would not comment because of the ongoing legal action

In the legal documents, the police admit that the relationship contravened Ms Wilson’s human rights and the breach was made worse because Mr Kennedy’s bosses knew what he was doing.

The police admissions are part of their response to a case Ms Wilson is pursuing through the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which hears claims arising from the Human Rights Act. A hearing will take place on 3 October.

Ms Wistrich said: “Kate was involved in social justice and environmental campaigning.

“She does not expect that the state could actually allow an undercover officer to have a sexual relationship in order to facilitate his gathering of intelligence.

“It is a very shocking revelation in a so-called democratic society.”

The Met said it would not comment on the revelations because of the ongoing legal action.

“The Metropolitan Police Service has made clear its position on long-term sexual relationships known to have been entered into by some undercover officers in the past.

“Those relationships were wrong and should not have happened.”



Anjem Choudary: Security concerns over radical preacher release

Anjem Choudary in 2015 Image copyright PA

Security concerns have been raised about the imminent release from prison of the radical preacher Anjem Choudary and other supporters of the banned extremist group al-Muhajiroun.

About a dozen followers are out or will be soon, as restrictive terror protection orders on others end.

A counter-terrorism activist says the group could become active again.

Security Minister Ben Wallace told BBC News the government works to reduce the risk of freed terrorist offenders.

He said there are a “suite of powers and measures we can put in place,” adding: “Terrorist offenders have a lot more supervision than normal offenders and that’s because we recognise the risk and we seek to reduce it to as low as possible.”

Choudary will leave prison next month.

The firebrand preacher was convicted in August 2016 of inviting support for Islamic State and was jailed for five-and-a-half years.

  • How Anjem Choudary’s mouth was finally shut
  • Terror sentences ‘may be too low’

Others in his network, including right-hand man Mizanur Rahman, were convicted of similar offences and will also be automatically released half way through their sentences.

Disastrous cocktail

The fact the releases will happen at the same time as an increased threat of violent extremism by far right groups is “troubling” for Adam Deen, who was a member of al-Muhajiroun (ALM) until 2003 but now works for the counter-extremism organisation Quilliam.

“Put that in the mix with the growing threat and the growing noise from the far right about anti-Muslim bigotry – that’s a disastrous cocktail where young Muslim minds can be manipulated and used for the agenda of these extremist organisations,” he said.

A further concern is that growing disorder in jails may be undermining efforts to de-radicalise extremist inmates, according to a former prison governor.

“Such is the state of lawlessness inside many of Britain’s prisons where some of these people will have served their sentences, it isn’t really realistic to assume that they’ve had any meaningful experience of counter-radicalisation,” said Ian Acheson who wrote a report for the government on extremism in prisons.

Some terrorist prisoners are isolated from the general prison population and Choudary reportedly spent some of his sentence in a newly-built separation centre at HMP Frankland in County Durham.

But Mr Acheson said some jails were now “ungoverned spaces where all sorts of things can flourish unchallenged” including “the spread of hateful and extremist ideologies”.

‘Pernicious impact’

From 2016 the authorities effectively silenced al-Muhajiroun through a range of measures but it is feared they may soon become active again.

“We suppressed their activities and their influence,” said Richard Walton who ran Counter-Terrorism Command at the Metropolitan Police at the time.

“ALM was a constant thorn in our side over many years,” said Mr Walton. “No one should underestimate the pernicious impact of the leaders of this group who were often charismatic and articulate.”

The group was linked to violent jihadists who carried out terror attacks, including the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013 and the London Bridge attack in which eight members of the pubic were killed in 2017.

Some of its members went to Syria where they fought with so-called Islamic State. They include Londoner Siddartha Dhar who the US State Department says has taken part in the murder of hostages. His current whereabouts are unknown.

The BBC understands that disquiet over the jail terms in some of the ALM cases is leading to change.

The Sentencing Council introduced new guidelines in March 2018, which could mean longer terms for those caught in the early stages of terror plotting.

Meanwhile, the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill aims to increase the maximum sentence for some terror offences and to prevent automatic prison releases at the half way point for those who are still a risk to the public.

Some ALM activists have distanced themselves from the group while in detention, the BBC understands.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Police and intelligence agency resources are stretched

As well as released prisoners there are also ALM leaders whose freedom was severely curtailed by Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPims).

They are placed on terror suspects by the home secretary, and usually end after two years.

Details of several orders have emerged in High Court appeal hearings and include:

  • JM, who “assumed leadership functions of ALM” said a judge. The TPim ended in the summer
  • LF, “a senior leader” allegedly linked to London Bridge killer Khuram Butt, whose TPim expires October
  • LG, on a TPim that ends in early 2019, and who allegedly facilitated the travel of others to join the Islamic State group

While a small number of men with previous links to ALM appear to have begun street preaching and posting on the internet, there has been no evidence of terrorism-related activity.

The attention is inevitably focused on what happens when ALM leader Choudary is out.

Former member Adam Deen believes “it’s highly unlikely that he’s reformed and being out of prison he would definitely get lots of credence from his followers”.

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart also recently warned that Choudary remains a “deeply pernicious, destabilising influence.” He acknowledged that police and MI5 would have to “watch him like a hawk.”

In August, the prime minister revealed that police and the security service MI5 are running 676 investigations into suspected terrorism. Thirteen plots by Islamist extremists have been foiled since March 2017, they say.



James Bond: Cary Joji Fukunaga to direct next Bond film

Cary Fukunaga Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cary Fukunaga directed the first series of HBO’s True Detective

The man behind Netflix series Maniac has been named as the director of the next James Bond film.

Cary Joji Fukunaga replaces Danny Boyle, who dropped out last month blaming “creative differences”.

Producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli praised Fukunaga’s “versatility and innovation”.

He recently directed Netflix’s dark comedy Maniac, starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, and directed season one of True Detective.

Fukunaga’s work on the HBO crime drama series won him an Emmy in 2014. He also directed 2015’s Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba.

And the Elba connection wasn’t lost on many commentators.

Cary Joji Fukunaga – what you need to know

He came to prominence when he wrote and directed 2009’s Sin Nombre, about the journey of a Honduran young girl and a Mexican gangster across the American border.

It won a British Independent Film award for best foreign film, the new director’s prize at Edinburgh International Film Festival and picked up three prizes at Sundance.

In 2011, he directed an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which starred Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender and Jamie Bell.

He also directed and executive produced the acclaimed first series of True Detective in 2014, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

He was also one of the screenwriters on last year’s It, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of the Stephen King thriller but then left the project having been due to direct it.

Maniac comes to Netflix on Friday and has a stellar cast which includes Justin Theroux and Sally Field.

Speaking to the BBC about Maniac earlier this week, Fukunaga said he gives his actors plenty of freedom/

“I let Jonah be what Jonah wanted to be, obviously with some guidance,” he said. “And the same with Emma. Justin came in with his interpretation of Doctor Mantleray, I didn’t reign him in… I was kind of like, this is interesting, it’s just the right amount of energy.”

Bond’s producers added that Fukunaga was an “excellent choice” and they were “delighted” to be working with him.

David Mackenzie, Yann Demange and Joe Wright were among the film-makers tipped to take over the director’s chair, so Fukunaga is something of a surprise choice.

Filming will begin at Pinewood Studios on 4 March and the film will be released on 14 February, 2020.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Craig is returning for the new Bond movie

Before Boyle’s departure was announced, the film was set for a UK release on 25 October 2019, opening in US cinemas two weeks later.

But the change of director has inevitably led to a delay.

Craig has previously said it will be his final appearance as 007. The most recent Bond film, Spectre, came out in 2015.

What will Cary bring to Bond? By Matt Maytum, deputy editor, Total Film

Cary Joji Fukunaga is something of a surprise choice for the Bond franchise, given that he’s such a distinctive filmmaking voice, and the producers tend to go for a ‘safe pair of hands’. I was surprised that he was announced after Danny Boyle departed due to creative differences, as Fukunaga left the horror remake It for the same reason.

In his career so far, Fukunaga has proved himself across varied material, including immigration thriller Sin Nombre to Charlotte Bronte adaptation Jane Eyre, and he also directed the critically acclaimed first series of True Detective.

Even though he doesn’t have much action movie experience, that’s not generally a problem with films of this scale, as he’ll be working with world class department heads who’ll steer him through that side of the production, while he focuses on the storytelling.

Based on his previous work, I’d expect Fukunaga to bring a strong grasp on character and a slightly sinister tone to the upcoming Bond film.

Fukunaga’s Maniac drops on Netflix on Friday and has had a mixed reception from critics.

The series follows Stone and Hill’s characters as they take part in a drug trial.

Beasts of No Nation, which was watched by more than three million US subscribers, was Netflix’s first cinema-quality project.

The film focuses on child warfare in Africa and to the surprise of many, neither the film or Elba were nominated for an Oscar back in 2016.

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Australia strawberry scare: Woolworths halts sewing needle sales

A man holds a needle found in a punnet of strawberries Image copyright JOSHUA GANE
Image caption Sewing needles have been inserted inside strawberries in Australia

Australian supermarket giant Woolworths has temporarily removed sewing needles from its shelves as the country faces a strawberry safety scare.

Last week, Australians were warned to cut fresh strawberries before biting into them after several people found sewing needles hidden inside the fruit.

Several strawberry brands have been pulled from stores across the country.

A country-wide investigation into the scare has since been launched amid growing public alarm.

The government has also said it will introduce stricter criminal penalties for anyone found to have been tampering with food.

Strawberries Australia Inc, the country’s largest industry body for strawberry growers, declined to comment on the move by Woolworths.

But many of Australia’s strawberry farmers remain frustrated and angry at what they say has been a huge overreaction to the scandal.

Woolworths said the safety of its customers was its top priority and that pulling sewing needles from its shelves was a safety measure.

“We’ve taken the precautionary step of temporarily removing sewing needles from sale in our stores across the country,” the supermarket told the BBC, but did not say how long the move would last.

Sydney-based brand expert Paul Nelson said Woolworths’ action could be seen as something of a “knee jerk reaction” to the crisis.

They could be “trying to do their bit” to support farmers struggling with the fallout by taking needles of the shelves, he said, but “cynically, you could also argue they want to be a part of the conversation and want to appear to be assisting”.



Unhappy travellers: Passengers react to ‘badly treated’ report

Unhappy commuters

Passengers were badly treated by rail companies during an ambitious timetable change earlier this year, a report by an industry regulator has found. The Office of Rail and Road said “no-one took charge” during the transition, which mainly affected Northern Trains in north-west England and Govia Thameslink (GTR) routes into London.

It said track manager Network Rail, the two train operators and the Department for Transport “had all made mistakes”. BBC News asked commuters for their reactions to the disruption and the report.

St Albans

Image caption Will Tucker: “We haven’t been listened to”

Will Tucker, 33, commutes to and from London three or four times a week.

“The report today shows that Govia Thameslink and Network Rail weren’t ready to implement the timetable change – but they went ahead ahead regardless,” he said.

“The thousands of St Albans commuters who were delivered a terrible service have no faith in another timetable change which is due in December.

“From the very beginning – we haven’t been listened to.”


Image caption Alex Dowd: ‘I just think it’s ridiculous’

Alex Dowd, 25, is a modelling agent who commutes from Brighton to London.

“I’ve been late numerous times, nearly everyday sometimes up to about an hour. I usually get into work for 9am but on one occasion I didn’t get in until 11am, so it has been quite detrimental to my daily schedule.

“There was no announcement, there was no nothing, it was just you turn up on the day and absolutely nothing would be available, or delays without any sort of warning or anything.

“I just think it’s ridiculous. I don’t understand why nobody could have made it smoother, or given us an idea of how bad it actually was going to be, otherwise I would have taken action to get to work. For some people they ended up losing jobs over it.”

Image caption Alex Fisher: ‘There’s not been the right sort of management’

Alex Fisher, a 23-year-old kitchen porter, commutes from London to Brighton.

“It’s an everyday matter that’s pretty much something that we have come to accept.

“It’s often the case of Thameslink trains being delayed. Since the new timetable came out in May, there’s often been delays or cancellations.

“I think they’ve got the idea of what they are trying to achieve for us, but there’s quite a few flaws that need correcting.”

Poulton le Fylde, Lancashire

Image caption Steve Malone: “Disastrous commutes”

Steve Malone, 53, from Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool, was a victim of a succession of cancellations when he was commuting to Wolverhampton, where he works at the university.

He said his employer was understanding, but he had also experienced “disastrous” commutes to Manchester and the airport in particular.

When he was going on holiday his train was cancelled five minutes before it was due.

“The most galling for me is that the National Rail live train times app says the train is on time when I’m on the station platform – then it gets cancelled,” he said.

“I have ended up driving to Preston, which defeats the object of ‘letting the train take the strain’.”


Image caption John Marchant: “Tourists avoided the area”

Taxi driver John Marchant says trains at Windermere railway station had been “chaotic on and off for a couple of years now”.

The stoppage on the Lakes Line over the summer had led to a marked reduction in his income.

“You don’t know if one is going to turn up or not,” he said.

“I think a lot of tourists decided they weren’t coming to the area because there were no connections.

“They’ve either been coming in their own cars or not at all. Tourists coming from abroad usually come into Manchester or London airports and then come here by train, so they faced disruptions.

“There were last minute cancellations of trains”.

Liz Chegwin, from Mountain Goat Tours, which also runs the Tourist Information Centre in the town, described the situation as “chaotic”.

“We’ve had lots of customers coming in wanting to know information, and we’re not sure what to tell them, where the trains are etc.

“Customers, especially internationals, coming up from London to the Lake District are worried about the timeframe. They might have a limited time here so they want to make the most of it.”

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‘Fresh direction’ for prison and probation service as head quits

Michael Spurr Image copyright PA
Image caption The search for Michael Spurr’s successor will begin in October

The head of HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has resigned after nine years in the position.

The news comes after MPs described the system for supervising criminals in England and Wales as a “mess”.

Michael Spurr will officially leave his post in March 2019, the Ministry of Justice said.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said Mr Spurr was asked to step down because a “fresh direction” and new leadership structure was needed.

  • Probation system ‘a mess’ despite reforms
  • Private probation contracts ended early by government

Mr Spurr’s departure comes a month after Prisons Minister Rory Stewart admitted acute problems with drugs and violence in a number of publicly-run prisons, and said that he would resign if the situation had not improved within a year.

Last week, thousands of prison officers walked out for six hours in a protest at “unprecedented violence” in British jails.

In a statement announcing the departure, Justice Secretary David Gauke said he was “extremely grateful” to Mr Spurr “for his leadership of HMPPS”.

He added the formal process to appoint Mr Spurr’s successor will start in October of this year.

In June, the Commons justice committee said HMPPS reforms had failed to meet their aims, adding it was “unconvinced” reforms could ever deliver an effective probation service.

One month later, it was announced that private companies that run probation services would have their government contracts ended in 2020, two years earlier than planned.

Richard Heaton, permanent secretary at the MoJ said it was time to “look ahead”.

Mr Heaton said the next chief executive would need to develop “a strategy for the next decade”.



Pan Pacific Open: Johanna Konta knocked out by Donna Vekic

Konta made 38 unforced errors in her defeat by Vekic

British number one Johanna Konta was knocked out in the Pan Pacific Open last-16 in a straight-set defeat by Croatia’s Donna Vekic.

World number 43 Konta lost 6-3 7-5 in one hour 22 minutes in Tokyo.

Having lost the opening set, Konta, 27, was 4-1 up and had a chance to serve for the second before the 22-year-old fought back.

Vekic, who beat Sloane Stephens in the opening round, faces French second seed Caroline Garcia in the quarter-finals.

Garcia, the world number four, beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 2-6 7-5 to reach the last eight.

Vekic earned an early break and held on to edge a tight first set from Konta, but the Briton looked to be in control of the second.

Konta was two breaks up at one point and holding a 4-1 lead, and then had the chance to serve for the set before Vekic recovered to take a 6-5 advantage.

The Briton, who racked up 38 unforced errors in the match, then lost a second successive service game to love as world number 45 Vekic progressed.

“I played really well towards the end of the match and I am really happy to win this in two sets,” said Vekic.



Trump urged Spain to ‘build a wall’ across Sahara, says minister

The US border wall with Mexico, seen from the United States in Nogales, Arizona. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The current US border wall with Mexico, seen from the United States in Nogales, Arizona. Prototypes of Donald Trump’s proposed wall are being built near San Diego, California.

President Trump recommended building a wall across the Sahara to solve Europe’s migrant crisis, Spain’s foreign minister says.

Josep Borrell, also a former President of the European Parliament, disagreed with the strategy.

The comments were made during a visit Mr Borrell made to the US at the end of June, reports El Pais.

Mr Trump’s pledge to build a wall between the US and Mexico was one of his best-known election promises.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Blood-stained clothing pictured hanging from the razor wire fence around the Spanish enclave of Melilla

Mr Borrell recounted his conversation with the US president at a lunch event in Madrid this week.

“The border with the Sahara cannot be bigger than our border with Mexico,” the President is reported to have said.

The US-Mexico border is 1,954 miles (3,145 km) long. The Sahara desert stretches for 3,000 miles.

Spain has no sovereignty over the Sahara, but it does possess two small enclaves on the north African coast, Ceuta and Melilla, separated from Morocco by controversial wire fences.

The enclaves have become magnets for African migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

“We can confirm that’s what the minister said, but we won’t be making any further comment on the minister’s remarks,” a spokesman for the foreign ministry told the Guardian.

Since January of this year, 35,000 migrants arrived in Spain, the highest number received by any EU country.



Chester hospital chief executive resigns amid baby deaths inquiry

Countess of Chester Hospital Image copyright Dennis Turner/Geograph
Image caption Police will focus on eight unexplained deaths at the neonatal unit between June 2015 and July 2016

The chief executive of a hospital where an investigation into the deaths of babies is taking place has resigned.

Tony Chambers has run Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for six years.

The hospital has been at the centre of an investigation into a series of baby deaths at its neonatal unit.

A nurse arrested on suspicion of murdering eight babies at the hospital was released on bail in July.

Cheshire Constabulary launched its investigation in May 2017.

The trust had contacted the force in relation to a greater number of baby deaths and collapses than normally expected between June 2015 and June 2016.



Maine restaurant sedates lobsters with marijuana

A lobster at Harbor Fish Market in Portland, Oregon on 5 March 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that lobsters are able to feel pain when boiled

A US restaurant is using marijuana to sedate lobsters before killing them.

Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound, a restaurant in Maine, says the process is more humane as it lessens their pain before death.

Lobsters are often cooked by being dropped into a pot of boiling water, seen as cruel by some. There is growing evidence the crustaceans feel pain.

Customers at the restaurant can choose whether they want the marijuana-sedated lobster or not.

A growing body of scientific findings suggest that not only lobsters but other invertebrates, such as crayfish and crabs, are able to feel pain.

In January, Switzerland decided that lobsters must be stunned before boiling.

The owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound, Charlotte Gill, says eating the sedated lobster will not make customers high and using marijuana leads to better quality meat, as the animal is more relaxed when it dies.

“If we’re going to take a life we have a responsibility to do it as humanely as possible,” Ms Gill told local newspaper Mount Desert Islander. “The difference it makes within the meat itself is unbelievable.”

Marijuana is legal in Maine and Ms Gill has a license to grow and supply it for medical purposes.

Marijuana laws in the US vary from state to state. Nine states and Washington DC have legalised the drug.

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