Doctor Who: Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole to leave companion roles

Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole will make their final appearances as the Doctor’s companions in the Doctor Who special on New Year’s Day, the BBC has revealed.

Walsh said viewers should “expect a lot of poignancy” from the episode.

The pair have been at Jodie Whittaker’s side since 2018. Cole said it had been “an honour” to play Ryan opposite Walsh’s Graham and Whittaker’s Doctor.

Titled Revolution of the Daleks, the special will also see John Barrowman return as Captain Jack Harkness.

Barrowman said it was “great being back” and that returning to the show had been “like going home”.

Walsh and Cole made their Doctor Who debuts at the start of Whittaker’s first full series as the time-travelling Time Lord.

They went on to appear in two series as well as the 2019 special Resolution, which also featured the villainous Daleks.

Walsh said it was “amazing” to be “only one of a few people on the planet” to have battled the Doctor’s long-time robotic nemeses.

The comedian and host of game show The Chase said he had “absolutely loved” being on the long-running sci-fi programme and would miss “everyone and everything” involved.

Meanwhile, Cole said filming his last scene had been “emotional”.

Barrowman, who has played Captain Jack in both Doctor Who and its spin-off Torchwood, said the Daleks were the show’s “quintessential” villains.

“They are never to be underestimated as they will always find a way to survive, which is exactly why they have survived over centuries,” he added.

Cole said: “Working with the Daleks is sort of like working with Doctor Who royalty. You have to respect them because they are so iconic.”

The Christmas special will see Mandip Gill resume her role as companion Yasmin, while Chris Noth returns as business tycoon Jack Robertson.

It will also see Dame Harriet Walter make her Doctor Who debut alongside Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, of Utopia and Misfits fame.

“We’ve crammed this year’s Doctor Who festive special with an explosion of extraordinary acting talent,” executive producer Chris Chibnall said.

Pat Finucane: Politicians react to public inquiry decision

Politicians have reacted to the government’s decision not to initiate a public inquiry into state collusion in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

NI Secretary Brandon Lewis said he had taken the decision due to other review processes needing to run their course.

He said he understood the disappointment of the Finucane family but explained his decision was based on what is in the public interest and to allow “proper due process”.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney

The Irish government was “disappointed” the opportunity was not taken to establish an inquiry without further delay but noted the secretary of state has not ruled out holding an inquiry, Mr Coveney said.

“There is an undeniable onus on the state to do everything possible to restore public confidence through a process that fully meets relevant international standards and obligations of effectiveness, independence and transparency,” he said.

Mr Coveney said he had “made clear that it remains the position of the government that only through a full and independent public inquiry will a satisfactory resolution to this case be found”.

“We will study the detail of the announcement by the secretary of state in full.

“We will also ask to meet again with the Finucane family to hear their perspective and concerns. We will then be engaging further with the UK Government on this case.”

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Louise Haigh

Louise Haigh said the decision was a “painful setback to the Finucane family” who “just want the truth”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald said only a full inquiry “can get to the truth”.

DUP MP and Commons Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

Jeffrey Donaldson said he welcomed the decision by the Secretary of State and also condemned Mr Finucane’s murder.

“What we really need is not some special attention to any one case, but a holistic approach to legacy that enables all innocent victims to have access to truth and justice”, he said.

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry

Stephen Farry said it was “a very poor decision”.

“The Finucane case in particular raises serious questions regarding the rule of law, actions of the state and accountability,” he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

Colum Eastwood said he “absolutely did not thank” the secretary of state for his statement, which he described as a “disgrace”.

He said he had “failed miserably” to do right by the Finucane family.

TUV leader Jim Allister

Jim Allister said the announcement was to be “welcomed”.

“My thoughts are with the countless victims who don’t have hours of broadcast media time and acres of newsprint devoted to their loved ones,” he said.

Llanelli man who filmed himself speeding jailed

A man who live streamed himself on Facebook while driving dangerously has been jailed.

Justin Dean Jones, of Panteg, filmed himself several times driving at excessive speeds and racing other cars in Llanelli.

Footage shows he reached up to 120mph (193km/h) on the A484 Loughor link road, while overtaking other drivers.

A member of the public sent Jones’s Facebook videos to Welsh road safety partnership GoSafe.

The 30-year-old, who was charged with three counts of dangerous driving, was jailed for two years and a month.

Jones was also disqualified from driving for five years and two months.

Footage from between 2 July and 14 July shows Jones using his mobile phone to film himself at the wheel while speeding in a Vauxhall Astra and a BMW X5 in 30mph zones.

In one video, Jones was seen overtaking other vehicles on pedestrian crossings.

Jones, who was holding the phone in one hand while driving, can be heard on the videos boasting about the performance of the vehicle, according to Dyfed-Powys Police.

An anti-social behaviour destruction order has been granted for the Astra and the BMW.

Sgt Ian Price, of Go Safe, said the sentence was “a clear message” that this type of behaviour is unacceptable.

Caffè Nero rejects bid from billionaire Asda brothers

Coffee shop chain Caffè Nero has rejected a takeover bid from the billionaire brothers behind petrol forecourt business EG Group.

The Issa brothers, who are also buying the grocer Asda, made the offer on Sunday ahead of a key meeting between the coffee chain and its creditors.

Caffè Nero is seeking approval for a rescue deal that would see its rents cut after sales slumped in lockdown.

It dismissed the bid as “opportunistic” and vowed to go ahead with its plan.

The chain – which owns 650 own-brand stores and 150 Harris & Hoole coffee shops – has been hit hard by the reduced footfall in city centres during the pandemic.

This has forced it to seek a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – a type of rescue deal that could see some of its stores shut and rents cut on others.

Insiders had said Caffè Nero, which employs 5,000 people, would be an obvious extension to the Issa’s EG Group business.

EG runs 6,000 petrol forecourts in Europe, the US and Australia, and already has brand partnerships with the likes of Starbucks and KFC.

Under the bid, which was first reported by Sky News, Caffè Nero’s landlords would also have been paid in full for any rental arrears.

However, in a statement Caffè Nero criticised the approach as a “clear intention is to disrupt the CVA process”.

It added the move could be a precursor to the Issa brothers “opportunistically acquiring the company at a later date”.

The company said: “Importantly, the group’s external lenders have indicated their support for the CVA process.

“The lenders are aware of the approach referred to above and have not requested a change in strategy and shareholders have undertaken to reject the offer.”

In September, a consortium of Zuber and Mohsin Issa and private equity firm TDR Capital won the battle to buy Asda from its US owner Walmart.

It means the grocer will return to majority UK ownership for the first time in two decades.

The Blackburn-based brothers were both made CBEs after the news.

However, questions have been raised about the Issa brothers’ finances after EG Group’s auditor, Deloitte, suddenly quit in October and was replaced by KPMG.

At the time Deloitte did not say why it had stepped down, but EG Group said the auditor had signed a “clean audit” for EG Group’s 2019 financial accounts and there had been “no disagreements on any auditing or accounting matters”.

Later in October, agency Moody’s downgraded the EG Group’s credit rating, criticising the firm for failing to improve its financial reporting and management processes.

One of its concerns was the way the group reported its £8bn of debt, which Moody’s estimates to be 11.4 times its underlying earnings.

EG Group said it “strongly” disagreed with Moody’s decision, adding that the downgrade “doesn’t reflect the continued, wide-ranging investment in strengthening the business and the significant progress made over the past 12 months”.

Belfast man pleads guilty to child sexual offences

A 32-year-old man from Belfast has been jailed for six years and three months after pleading guilty to sexual activity with a child.

The incident took place in June 2019, when Ciaran McAuley dragged the schoolboy down an alleyway.

He then sexually assaulted and threatened him.

McAuley appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Monday where he was deemed a “dangerous offender”.

The court was told he had just been released from custody for similar offences when he targeted his victim.

Judge Stephen Fowler also imposed an additional period of six years on licence, and said the extended sentence was appropriate to protect the public from further offending.

The convicted offender later told a probation officer that he felt attracted to the schoolboy and ‘chose’ to offend.

McAuley attended court via a video link with Maghaberry prison, where he pleaded guilty to seven offences.

The offences included an adult causing or inciting a child between 13 and 16 to engage in sexual activity; sexual activity by an adult with a child between 13 and 16, and breach of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

The incident happened at around 7pm on June 21 2019, when the boy had been walking along the Ormeau Road.

The 14-year-old was in his school uniform and had been listening to music on his earphones when he was approached by McAuley, who then dragged him into the alleyway.

Mr Henry said the scared schoolboy was crying and started hyperventilating, with McAuley telling him to “be quiet or I’ll hurt you”.

McAuley then forced sexual activity and later kissed the boy on the cheek and threatened to kill him if he told anyone about what had happened.

The prosecutor said the schoolboy contacted his family who then collected him from Ormeau Road and informed the PSNI.

Police attended the nearby hostel which houses sex offenders and after speaking to staff, McAuley was arrested and admitted his guilt.

After hearing of the defendant’s previous criminal records for similar offences against children, Judge Fowler described McAuley as a “repeat offender” who was “sexually attracted to children” and who displayed “persistence and determination”.

Detectives from Police Service NI’s Public Protection Branch welcomed the sentence handed to McAuley.

PSNI Detective Constable Grant said “This was a terrifying ordeal the victim endured… The fear and terror he must have felt is unimaginable, and I want to thank him for having the courage to report what happened. He has been incredibly brave and shown tremendous resilience following what was an extremely traumatic ordeal”.

McAuley also admitted a grooming offence which dated back to 2014, when parents of an 11 year old boy had made complaints to police about him.

As he passed sentence, Judge Fowler cited the alleyway incident as a “serious attack on a child by a persistent paedophile”.

He deemed McAuley as dangerous due to the risks he posed to the public and said “it is clear he is sexually attracted to young boys and is unable to control these feelings”.

As McAuley has been deemed dangerous, he will not be automatically released on licence after completing half his sentence. Instead, he will be assessed by the Parole Commissioners, and may not be suitable for release until he has served the whole term.

Once released, he will spend an additional period of six years on licence and will be subject to recall to prison during that period.

Pat Finucane case: A murder with collusion at its heart

The murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 is one of the most notorious of the Troubles.

At its heart is collusion between state forces and loyalist paramilitaries, one of the battleground narratives when it comes to addressing the past.

The government has previously appointed individuals to examine the killing, but nothing has provided his family with the full disclosure it believes only a public inquiry can deliver.

It is a case that has never gone away.

Pat Finucane, 39, was murdered at home in February 1989.

He was shot 14 times by two masked gunmen from the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in front of his wife, who was wounded, and three children.

One of those children, John, is now Sinn Féin MP for North Belfast.

At Pat Finucane’s inquest, the police refuted the claim by his killers that he was in the IRA.

What led to his murder was the fact he was a well-known defence solicitor who frequently acted for high-profile IRA members. He also represented loyalists.

While arrests followed his killing, the police investigation was later found to have effectively ceased within months.

In 1989, Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens was appointed to investigate claims of collusion between state forces and loyalist paramilitaries in numerous killings.

His investigations lasted 14 years and, in Mr Finucane’s case, he identified the involvement of two agents within the UDA, Brian Nelson and William Stobie, who are both now deceased.

Nelson worked for the Army and was involved in targeting Mr Finucane.

Stobie, a police informer, provided one of the guns.

The inquiry report said the attack could have been prevented and found collusion evident in many ways.

At the Weston Park political talks in 2001, the government agreed to hold a public inquiry, if recommended by a retired Canadian judge it appointed to examine the case.

Judge Peter Cory issued a report in 2004, stating there was “strong evidence” of collusion, including MI5 being aware Mr Finucane was under threat, and found an inquiry was necessary.

But its establishment was delayed on two fronts – the prosecution of Ken Barrett, identified by the Stevens’ Inquiry as the gunmen’s getaway driver, who had been recruited as a police informer after the murder – and new legislation covering public inquiries, which allowed ministers to restrict evidence.

In 2011, the government changed course on its commitment to a public inquiry and tasked Sir Desmond de Silva, a former UN war crimes prosecutor, to hold an independent review.

He had access to documents not made available before but did not speak to Nelson’s handler on medical grounds.

His report prompted then Prime Minister David Cameron to apologise for “frankly shocking levels of collusion”.

As well as agent involvement, it found police took no action to act on threat intelligence regarding Mr Finucane and justice was obstructed.

But there was no “over-arching state conspiracy”, the report said.

Read more on the de Silva report.

Mr Finucane’s widow, Geraldine, has engaged in repeated legal action in a long campaign for a public inquiry, believing, on the basis of what Judge Cory indicated to her privately, collusion in the murder went as high up as Cabinet level.

In 2019, the UK Supreme Court found there had never been an adequate investigation, but stopped short of ordering a public inquiry, ruling it was for the state “to decide what form of investigation is required.”

A year passed, prompting another court case, aimed at forcing the government to address the Supreme Court’s findings.

In October 2020, a lawyer for Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, told a court that a decision would be made before the end of November on whether or not to hold a public inquiry.

Microsoft files patent to record and score meetings on body language

Technology giant Microsoft has filed a patent for a system to monitor employees’ body language and facial expressions during work meetings and give the events a “quality score”.

A filing suggests it could be deployed in real-world meetings or online virtual get-togethers.

It envisions rooms being packed with sensors to monitor the participants, which could raise privacy concerns.

Microsoft is already under fire over a separate “productivity-score” tool.

That feature was introduced last year but came to prominence only after a public demo at a corporate event.

It allows managers to keep track of individual workers’ use of Microsoft’s Office 365 software – including Outlook email and the Teams meeting and Excel spreadsheet apps.

Microsoft points out the facility is not enabled by default and suggests its primary goal is to identify IT shortcomings.

But critics say it is effectively an employee-surveillance tool.

Companies do not always make use of patents they register.

But they often reveal ideas in development before they appear in commercial products.

Details of the “meeting-insight computing system” were filed in July, ahead of being made public this month.

They say the sensors could record:

They also suggest employees’ mobile devices could be used to monitor whether they were simultaneously engaged in other tasks – such as texting or browsing the internet – as well as to check their schedule to take into account whether they had had to attend other meetings the same day.

All that information would then be combined with other factors, such as “how efficient the meeting was, an emotional sentiment expressed by meeting participants, [and] how comfortable the meeting environment was”, into an “overall quality score”, Microsoft says.

The patent also suggests the technology could be used to identify problems that can make meetings ineffectual.

For example, if too many people were packed into a room or if the location becomes uncomfortably hot in the afternoon sun.

“Many organisations are plagued by overly long, poorly attended, and recurring meetings that could be modified and/or avoided if more information regarding meeting quality was available,” the patent says.

But one privacy campaigner suggested the system would be “invasive” and a “major step back for workers’ rights”.

“This type of employee surveillance software obstructs diversity in workplaces by operating on the false premise that there is a uniform, normative way that people work optimally,” Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said.

“A lot of surveillance tech is marketed as ‘innovative’ but in reality is astoundingly retrograde.”

A Microsoft representative said it applied for “many patents” to protect its engineers’ work

“However, the application of a patent doesn’t necessarily indicate that the technology described will be implemented in a product,” they added.

It comes as the Trades Union Congress (TUC) releases a report into the use of technology in the workplace – including when artificial intelligence (AI) starts to take on management functions.

The report “looks at exactly these types of technologies and the dangers they pose of unfair and discriminatory outcomes for workers”, TUC policy officer Mary Towers said.

“In particular, we advocate more worker consultation and transparency over when technologies like facial recognition and speech recognition are used and how they are being used to make decisions about people at work,” she added.

Pat Finucane: No public inquiry into Belfast lawyers murder

A public inquiry into state collusion in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane will not take place at this time, the British government has said.

Mr Finucane was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries from the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in February 1989.

His family had fought a long campaign, involving numerous legal actions, in a bid to have London fulfil a commitment given 20 years ago to hold an inquiry.

Several examinations of the case found state forces colluded in his murder.

NI Secretary Brandon Lewis said he had taken the decision due to other investigative processes needing to run their course.

He discussed the outcome with Mr Finucane’s family at 16:00 GMT, shortly before outlining the details in the House of Commons.

“I am not taking the possibility of a public inquiry off the table at this stage, but it is important we allow ongoing PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) and Police Ombudsman processes to move forward,” he said.

But Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine said the government’s decision “makes a mockery” of previous rulings.

“The proposal falls so far short of what it required in this case that it beggars belief,” she said in a statement on Monday.

“It makes a mockery of the decision by the UK Supreme Court and the forthright comments of Belfast High Court. It is yet another insult added to a deep and lasting injury.”

The government had been forced into taking a decision by two legal actions – one involving the UK Supreme Court in February last year.

The Supreme Court found there had never been an adequate investigation into the murder, but stopped short of directing a public inquiry, ruling it was entirely a matter for the government.

Further government information including details that were not presented during the Supreme Court case have now been published, said Mr Lewis.

Mr Lewis said the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) also intends to begin a review process into the murder of Mr Finucane early next year.

He said this was an important development and a factor in determining the next steps in the case.

A public inquiry had been supported by the Irish government, Labour and four Northern Ireland political parties – Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party.

In his role as a defence solicitor, Mr Finucane had represented both loyalists and republicans, including prominent members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The claim made by his killers, that he was a member of the IRA himself, was rejected by the police and strongly denied by his family.

The 39-year-old was shot 14 times by two gunmen who burst into his north Belfast home during a family dinner in February 1989.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

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Grenfell Tower: Firms ex-manager sorry for safety query reaction

An ex-manager of an insulation maker whose product was used on Grenfell Tower has apologised for dismissing fire safety concerns and threatening legal action in internal emails.

Philip Heath, who works for Kingspan, forwarded a customer’s fire test query and wrote that they were “getting me confused with someone who gives a dam”.

Mr Health admitted his reaction was “unprofessional”.

The inquiry heard last week the firm “stretched the truth” on fire safety.

On Monday, the inquiry heard that Mr Heath used strong language in an internal email response.

Ex-employee Ivor Meredith, who was the firm’s technical director, told the inquiry last week that Kingspan fire-tested its cladding in 2005, but changed the formulation the next year.

The first phase of the Grenfell inquiry concluded that cladding put on the west London tower block during its refurbishment fuelled the fire in June 2017 in which 72 people died.

In October 2008 emails, an employee of facade engineers Wintech asked Kingspan for clarity on what basis its Kooltherm K15 insulation was suitable for buildings taller than 18 metres.

A Kingspan employee said it was “getting tricky what to write” without “putting ourselves in a legal situation”.

In an internal email, Mr Heath responded using strong language: “Wintech can go f’#ck themselves, and if they are not careful we’ll sue the a’#se of them”.

Inquiry lawyer Kate Grange QC challenged Mr Heath on his comment, saying: “Can you explain why you wrote that, given Wintech were giving entirely accurate advice to their customers?”

He replied: “It was totally unprofessional and on reflection I wouldn’t have said that. I think it was frustration we were going around in circles with them.”

He was asked if it reflected a “culture” within Kingspan “in terms of its response to these kinds of requests”.

Mr Heath said: “I don’t believe so. Like in any organisation, you have your good times and your difficult times.

“We were just going around in circles and a bit of frustration came out there on a Friday.

“I think we did take life safety seriously. We provided Wintech with the data we had for them to make the appropriate analysis.”

Mr Heath, now divisional business development director at Kingspan, also apologised after reacting to a similar query by writing that the firm making the request was “getting me confused with someone who gives a dam”.

He added in the forwarded email: “I’m trying to think of a way out of this one, imagine a fire running up this tower !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Mr Heath told the inquiry he had forwarded the email to a terminally ill friend, adding: “I can only apologise for the contents of this email at the time made in 2008.

“Keith was a dear friend of mine who was terminally ill at the time. I was just forwarding him an email to give a snapshot of some of the work I was working on.

“It had no reflection on how I felt, I was just trying to lighten his load and lighten my load.”

St Helens elephants: Doorstep mystery leaves police dumbo-founded

A mystery herd of ornamental elephants has appeared on doorsteps of the same street leaving residents and police dumbo-founded.

The 64-strong collection turned up on Vincent Street in St Helens overnight between Thursday and Friday.

Merseyside Police said the unexpected arrival had “caused concern” and asked for the owner to come forward.

As officers employed their grey matter, social media launched its own tusk force to explore various theories.

Police inquiries around the elephants’ new stomping ground have so far failed to truncate the investigation.

Sgt Andy Halfpenny of Merseyside Police said: “There has been some speculation online about why they have been left, and one suggestion has been that it is has been left as an anonymous gift to mark a religious event.

“But we are keeping an open mind and appealing for the person who left them to come forward.”

Annabel McDade posted on Facebook: “I don’t think this is sinister at all. This is someone’s collection, maybe someone departed, and a third party has had the idea to give them out as a little gifts. Sharing the happiness.”

Police in St Helens replied to one of a number of people who suggested the elephants were good luck gifts.

The force posted: “Maybe you are right it’s just so strange some houses had several little elephant ornaments some had none. Why? How do they decide who needs an extra helping of good luck and who doesn’t?”

Brandon Delahunty posted: “For everyone commenting about how this is for luck or a gift, it’s a lovely idea but this could also be a way for thieves to test if someone is home, leave an elephant on the doorstep and if it’s still there a day or two later they know they can probably break in without drawing attention.”

Despina Mooney tweeted: “In some cultures such as Brazilian and Chinese, elephants bring good luck, good health and are guardians of the home. Were the elephants found facing the door? In parts of India: a traditional symbol of divinity and royalty. They can also depict victory, war and triumph.”

Others suggested the trinkets were destined for a white elephant stall or jumbo-sale but how they got there remains the elephant in the room.

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