Grenfell Tower: Cladding firm stretched the truth on fire safety

A company that made insulation used on Grenfell Tower was “stretching the truth” by claiming its product was appropriate for use on high-rise buildings, a former employee has said.

Kingspan fire-tested its cladding product in 2005, but changed the insulation’s formulation the next year.

The new version of the product failed to repeat the same performance.

Ex-technical director Ivor Meredith told the inquiry into the fire this was “common knowledge” at Kingspan.

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.

The inquiry is now examining how the blaze could have happened in the first place.

Mr Meredith described a fire test using the new version of Kingspan’s K15 in 2007 as a “raging inferno”, with the insulation “burning on its own steam”.

He told the inquiry he was shocked by what he saw.

Despite this, Kingspan continued to use the results from the original 2005 test to sell its material as appropriate for use on high-rise buildings.

Kingspan K15 insulation was used in the flammable cladding system mounted on to Grenfell Tower, alongside Celotex RS5000.

In 2015, two years before the Grenfell Tower fire, Mr Meredith told his managers he had been put in a position where he had been asked to maintain the appearance of fire safety performance that – as he put it – “that perhaps our products don’t deserve”.

He added that many would question the company “playing in [a] market [they were] not suitable for”.

The evidence comes a month after it was confirmed that test certificates for K15 from the 2005 tests had been withdrawn.

A letter sent to the inquiry from Kingspan dated 23 October – shown in full to Monday’s hearing – read: “We have undertaken a comprehensive review of all past and current test data which relates to K15.”

It added: “It became apparent that the K15 manufactured in 2005 would not be representative of the product currently sold on the market from 2006 to today.

“While both products are still phenolic foam, Kingspan is now of the view that there are sufficient differences to consider withdrawing the test report.”

Disabled childrens names revealed in Bristol City Council email

The identities of hundreds of families with disabled children have been shared with other parents without their consent by a council, in a “fundamental breach of trust and data”.

Bristol City Council sent an email asking for views on a new support service to hundreds of people.

The names of all the children and the email addresses of their primary carers were viewable to all recipients.

The authority said it was aware of the issue and was investigating.

The email, which has been seen by the BBC, was sent by the disabled children and specialist services department of the council.

A parent, who wished to remain anonymous, and who received one of the emails, said it was “a fundamental breach of trust and data”.

“It really signifies the disdain that they have for families with disabled children.

“It’s such a lack of concern for us. I feel this really exemplifies their indifference to the plight of disabled children in Bristol.”

She said there were 487 names of children and their carers visible on the email she received, and those names were all between “H and L” alphabetically, “so there will be a lot more”.

“Ironically, it’s about a survey that they want us to fill in to tell them how they can improve their services.

“It’s very difficult to put into words how ridiculous and unnecessary it is,” she added.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which investigates data breaches and can fine serious offenders, said it had not yet heard from the council, but pointed out the authority had 72 hours to report any breach.

Labour chief whip demands apology from Jeremy Corbyn

Labour’s chief whip has asked ex-party leader Jeremy Corbyn to “unequivocally” apologise for saying the scale of anti-Semitism in the party had been “overstated for political reasons”.

Mr Corbyn was suspended from the party following his comments but later readmitted as a member after saying he regretted any “pain” caused.

But, Sir Keir Starmer blocked Mr Corbyn from returning as a Labour MP.

The Labour leader said he would keep the decision under review.

The row between the former and current leader was triggered when the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a report, saying Labour had broken the law over its handling of anti-Jewish racism complaints by party members .

In a letter to his former boss, Nick Brown, Labour’s chief whip, said Mr Corbyn’s response to the report caused “distress and pain” to the Jewish community.

The chief whip is responsible for organising a party’s MPs in Parliament so they vote the way the party wants them to, and can discipline any who do not follow the party line.

Mr Brown asked the Islington North MP to “unequivocally, unambiguously and without reservation apologise for your comments”.

He also sought confirmation that Mr Corbyn would remove or edit his response on Facebook – and that he would cooperate fully with the party’s efforts to implement the EHRC’s recommendations.

Following publication of the EHRC report in October Mr Corbyn said he was “always determined to eliminate all forms of racism” and insisted his team had “acted to speed up” the complaints process.

He also said the scale of anti-Semitism within Labour had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party”.

His comments prompted the party to suspend its former leader.

Three weeks later Mr Corbyn sought to clarify his words saying: “To be clear, concerns about anti-Semitism are neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated’.

“The point I wished to make was that the vast majority of Labour Party members were and remain committed anti-racists deeply opposed to anti-Semitism.”

He was subsequently readmitted to the party as a member; however Sir Keir did not allow him back into the Parliamentary Labour Party – a decision Mr Corbyn’s lawyers have challenged.

Stanley Metcalf death: Home secretary meets shot boys mother

The mother of a boy shot dead by his great-grandfather has met the home secretary as part of her campaign to tighten the law on air guns.

Stanley Metcalf, six, died after being hit by a pellet fired from an unlicensed air rifle in Sproatley, near Hull, in July 2018.

His great-grandfather Albert Grannon was jailed for three years after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Stanley’s mother Jenny Dees has called for all air weapons to be licensed.

Ms Dees said she was “more hopeful” after the meeting in London with Home Secretary Priti Patel.

“I just explained how traumatic this has been and I don’t want another family to go through this,” she said.

“I just basically said that I would like to see a licence being put in place and also if she could look at that there’s no database put in place.

“So that if you are convicted of a crime you can come out that same day out of prison. You could then go into a store and buy another gun, because there’s no database for that shop owner to check if you’ve been convicted of a crime.”

In his trial last year, Sheffield Crown Court heard Grannon shot Stanley in the abdomen from a few feet away at a family gathering at the pensioner’s house.

The court heard the weapon needed a firearms certificate because its power meant it was categorised as “specially dangerous”.

Grannon admitted possessing an air rifle without holding a firearms certificate, along with the charge of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Essex lorry deaths: Driver told load was cigarettes not people

A lorry driver accused of being part of a people-smuggling ring linked to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants has told a court he thought he was transporting cigarettes.

Christopher Kennedy allegedly collected trailers of people from Purfleet, Essex, on 11 and 18 October last year.

On October 23, another driver who collected a trailer which had travelled the same route found the 39 bodies.

Mr Kennedy denies being involved in a people-smuggling plot.

The 24-year-old, of Keady in County Armagh, told the Old Bailey his boss Caolan Gormley had asked him to lift cigarettes “for a bit of extra cash”.

He said Mr Gormley told him to get a cheap phone “for picking up a load of cigarettes”.

Mr Kennedy said he was never paid for any illegal load and did not know where the loads were coming from.

“I thought they were just evading duty, being smuggled in,” he said.

Mr Kennedy said his boss told him to go to Orsett in Essex on 11 October after picking up the trailer from Purfleet.

He told the court he was “told to go there and stop and wait and that was it”.

“I was told not to look in the trailer. Just cigarettes and that was it,” he said.

CCTV footage of Mr Kennedy’s lorry coming and going from Orsett was played to the jury.

James Scobie QC, defending, said: “We now know there was a number of people got into those vehicles. Did you see that at any stage?”

Mr Kennedy replied: “No, never.”

He told the court the name of haulier boss Ronan Hughes first came up on 11 October.

When Mr Scobie asked him what he understood Mr Hughes’s role to be, Mr Kennedy said: “It was his trailer, his load.”

Mr Kennedy, lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Co Down, and Valentin Calota, 37, of Birmingham, have all denied being involved in a people-smuggling plot.

Mr Harrison and Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Basildon, Essex, deny 39 counts of manslaughter.

Irish haulier boss Ronan Hughes, 41, and lorry driver Maurice Robinson, 26, have previously admitted manslaughter.

The court has heard Mr Gormley was arrested but was not a defendant in the case

The trial continues.

Jonathan Maertens: Man who raped girls jailed

A “prolific” sex attacker who raped and abused girls has been jailed for life.

Jonathan Maertens, 35, of Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, filmed his attacks on an eyewear camera and other devices, a court has heard.

He previously pleaded guilty to 34 sexual offences including 13 rape charges. He also admitted three offences of administering a substance with intent.

He was sentenced to a minimum of 16 years in prison.

Judge Tim Mousley QC told Isle of Wight Crown Court Martens had caused “misery and lasting harm”.

Rebecca Fairbairn, prosecuting, said the defendant began a nine-year “campaign” of offending in 2011.

An allegation of sexual touching made by a child in 2017 was not proceeded with by police, she said.

Maertens, of Richmond Meade, was arrested in June following a second allegation.

Police found more than 200,000 indecent images on devices at his home, including more than 2,000 “first-generation” videos, the court heard.

The court heard that at least three victims were “given a noxious substance to render them effectively unconscious”.

Ms Fairbairn said Maertens abused some of his victims for more than an hour, “yet the children did not wake”.

He inhaled amyl “poppers” and drank alcohol on the videos, which he edited professionally, the barrister added.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, one child said: “Finding out what has happened to me has completely broken me.”

Judge Mousley told Maertens: “You are a confident, deceitful, prolific and manipulative sexual predator.

“You have failed to realise the widespread misery and lasting harm you caused.”

He imposed a sexual harm prevention order for life.

As Maertens was led out of the courtroom, someone in the public gallery called out: “You’re a monster, Jon.”

Lake District rescue: Second-date couple in mountain fall

A couple on their second date sparked a rescue after getting into difficulty while climbing in the Lake District.

The pair had attempted to go up Sharp Edge on Blencathra but due to slippery conditions decided to turn back.

While making their descent the man slipped and fell 60m (196ft) on to a ledge, leaving the woman trapped.

Keswick Mountain Rescue Team volunteers started a five-hour operation to bring the couple to safety before the man was airlifted to hospital.

The rescue happened on Saturday afternoon.

Weather conditions meant helicopters from the Coastguard and Great North Air Ambulance Service were unable to assist directly with the rescue, the team said.

Some 25 volunteers were split into two groups, one to rescue the woman, who was brought down to safety, and the other to assist the man.

Rescuers said because the man tried to avoid tumbling, he ended up “sliding fast and bumping down the steep rocky slope” until he came to rest on a ledge.

“On arrival a group shelter was used to protect the casualty against the increasingly inclement weather,” a spokesperson said.

“The man’s successful attempts to not tumble, thereby avoiding potentially more serious injuries, meant that all the impact had been on his lower back, ribs and leg.”

Volunteers thanked a passer-by who helped the man and gave him extra clothing while they waited for rescuers. The team was able to locate them due to the man’s torch light.

When they arrived, the injured man was put on to a stretcher and lowered to safety with the help of rope.

He was then taken to Glasgow hospital by coastguard helicopter that had waited in a field at the base of the mountain.

The woman was uninjured and the man is said to be recovering.

“Apparently, despite the drama of their second date a third one has already been discussed,” the spokesman added.