Im A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! crowns its 2020 winner

Giovanna Fletcher has won this year’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, which was filmed in a Welsh castle instead of the Australian jungle.

The author and presenter was crowned Queen of the Castle after facing Jordan North and Vernon Kay in Friday’s final.

“I’m just blown away,” she said after the announcement. “I can’t believe it. It’s been the most amazing experience.”

This year’s series took place at Gwrych Castle in Abergele because coronavirus meant ITV couldn’t film Down Under.

Fletcher is known for hosting CBeebies show The Baby Club and the parenting podcast Happy Mum, Happy Baby.

The 35-year-old has interviewed several high profile guests on the podcast, including Samantha Cameron, Lorraine Kelly, Amanda Holden and the Duchess of Cambridge.

She has also written several books including four novels, and has three children with her husband Tom Fletcher, from the band McFly.

BBC Radio 1 DJ North was the runner-up, while Kay, an ex-Radio 1 host and former presenter of ITV shows like All Star Family Fortunes and Splash!, finished third.

This series may have taken place 9,000 miles from its usual location, but that hasn’t stopped it being one of ITV’s biggest shows of the year.

A million more viewers than in 2019 watched the launch episode, and ratings have stayed consistently high, with large parts of the public stuck at home.

The Guardian said this series “brought levity to lockdown”, describing the show as “a glorious, pandemic-free bubble”.

The format of the show remained similar this year despite the change in location, with celebrities facing a series of gruesome challenges – although the Bushtucker Trials looked a little different.

Shooting in the UK meant most of the trials took place indoors and were filmed late at night after the show came off air.

The series has been so successful that ITV bosses have said they are open to the idea of keeping the show in Wales next year, depending on the circumstances.

Showrunner Richard Cowles told Broadcast magazine: “Australia has been I’m A Celebrity’s natural home and the Welsh version was born out of necessity rather than choice, but we’ve learned a lot and so maybe there is a UK incarnation of the show.

“We will look at what being in Wales means for the format going forward. Is it something we would want to do again, or do we want to return to Australia?”

British Airways memorabilia sale hits snag as demand soars

They flew off shelves: slippers, cups and saucers, blankets and bedding, towels, even drinks trolleys.

British Airways’ online sale of thousands of surplus stock not needed for its aircraft caused a stampede of buying from aviation enthusiasts and bargain-hunters.

In the first 24 hours of the sale, 5,000 purchases were made, with the website getting 250,000 page views. In the first four days, 1,900 six-packs of Club World class bread baskets were snapped up.

Meal trolleys were among the first to sell out. Items from the now-retired Boeing 747s in BA’s aircraft fleet were in big demand.

Trouble is, the sell-off seems to have been so popular it risks becoming a PR headache.

While there are plenty of satisfied customers, there are also plenty of dissatisfied ones – just check Twitter, Trustpilot and the frequent flyer website Head for Points, where buyers are venting annoyance about broken and missing items, non-deliveries and lack of responses from BA and the company it used to handle the sale, Whatabuy.

“Such an unnecessary own goal,” said Nick Hadjinikos, whose girlfriend is still waiting for her plates and bread baskets.

The director at communications consultancy Kallinos said: “During the ordering process, the site kept crashing after payment information had been submitted. This was the big worry, so I put in a couple of emails to Whatabuy and never heard back.

“Then I took to Twitter and found we were not alone. BA should have spotted the problem and headed it off. I think most of the stuff was snapped up by hawks and ended up on eBay.”

Another buyer, Simon Saunders, told the BBC: “The whole thing is a shambles. Whatabuy replied to my third email and simply said, ‘You will get your stuff in due course.'”

Comments on the Head for Points website include:

Travel enthusiasts

Whatabuy did not respond to BBC requests for comment. But in an email to a customer complaining about their order, the company said it had seen “an unprecedented level of demand” and processing was taking longer than usual. The company also said there had been IT issues.

Head for Points’ Rhys Jones said complaints to his website revealed obvious problems with the sale, but he still believes the majority of his readers seem delighted with their purchases.

“This sale seems to have captured the imagination of travel enthusiasts. It offers them a chance to get hold of some authentic BA memorabilia,” Mr Jones said.

That’s why John Granger bought some mugs, plates and a blanket – a gift for partner Tim. “It was curiosity and nostalgia. We love flying so much but have not been able to travel during the pandemic. It’s a reminder of our travels.

“The crockery is actually high-quality bone china [designed by William Edwards].” He paid £44.70 (including P&P) for the lot. “That’s remarkable value. I’m not sure why BA was selling them so cheap.”

Kirill Maksaev and partner Alexander Smotrov bought £100 worth of BA crockery and would have snapped up more, had they been quicker off the mark. They haven’t got the items yet, but are not concerned. “It’s fine. We can wait. We’ve had the confirmation email,” said Kirill.

The purchases will be part of the mini-museum Alex has set up in his home – boarding passes, amenity bags, napkins, crockery and branded goods marking his years of air travel. “We are plane spotters: we are passionate about aviation,” Kirill said.

BA said it had expected a huge amount of interest from aviation fans, bargain hunters and people looking for “unique” Christmas gifts.

“But of course, no one could have predicted quite how popular it would be and how quickly items would sell out,” the airline told the BBC.

“We are working hard to ensure all customers receive their orders as quickly as possible and in time for Christmas. We’re in touch with those who may not have received their items yet to reassure them they’re on their way.”

And the airline promised refunds “for any items that are not in the condition advertised on the site”.

Would BA do it again? “We’ll consider our options once we’ve reviewed the success of the scheme and any learnings,” the airline said.

Covid Christmas: Are gift cards wise or wasteful?

Allen, a father-of-three from Salford, saved all year to buy gift cards for his daughters.

“They love nothing more than going out to the Boxing Day sales with their vouchers,” he says of the trio, aged 15, 14 and 12.

The problem is that the gift cards are for the Arcadia group – the embattled retailer that went into administration on Monday.

Gift card holders have now been told that they will only be valid for half of an order. So, to use their £100 card in full, each of the girls will need to spend £200 at one of Arcadia’s stores, such as Topshop.

“I’d have to spend an extra £300 to get the value. At Christmas time you don’t need the extra expense,” Allen says.

He describes the decision as “unacceptable”. Legally, it is a grey area, but administrators are not obliged to accept gift cards.

That has prompted questions over the suitability of gift cards for Christmas, at a time when retailers are finding it tough and some are on the brink.

Further questions were asked when a website glitch at Currys PC World wiped hundreds of pounds off gift cards and left Black Friday bargain hunters without their shopping.

Providers say the fears are unfounded and that buying a gift card remains a better, and more thoughtful, Christmas present than stuffing a banknote or two into a card.

Gift cards are popular. The sector, which began with the first book token issued in 1932, has grown into a £7bn-a-year industry in the UK. Nowadays, they can be spent and topped up online as well as redeemed in stores.

Their attraction to buyers is obvious. Buying a card for a certain brand displays a personal touch. It avoids the awkward Christmas Day moment of a loved one pretending to love the jumper they intend to return and swap with something more of their style.

But cards come with associated risks. Most expire after two years. Gift cards in the US tend to have a five-year expiry date, prompting campaigns to introduce the same conditions over here.

While research suggests half are spent within a month, and 98.6% within a year, we still throw away tens of millions of pounds worth of out-of-date cards.

That is free money for the retailers, but the real attraction for them is that shoppers with gift cards tend to top them up with cash.

The UK Gift Card and Voucher Association says that two-thirds of people it surveyed said they spent more than the card value when they used it to buy something. An average value of gift card spending is £27.64, but typically an extra £18.55 is spent on top.

The highly sought-after younger age groups also tend to return to the brands they shopped at with gift cards.

Some 31% of millennial or younger Generation Z shoppers have become a regular customer of a new brand or organisation after being given a gift card, the association says.

The association says that criticism of the sector is somewhat narrow-minded.

Its director general, Gail Cohen, says that support for vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic has been based around cards and vouchers.

Volunteers have used cards rather than cash as a secure way of fetching shopping for those shielding or self-isolating, while millions of pounds of free school meal vouchers were redeemed into supermarket gift cards when schools were closed.

Vouchers have also been used instead of refunds for those happy to delay experiences, rather than cancel them, during lockdown.

Yet the pandemic has had a disastrous impact on the High Street, and shoppers with gift cards are understandably nervous as they see big brands at serious risk of closing their doors.

They have been stung before – but clearly never as hard as staff who have lost their jobs. Customers of House of Fraser were left in limbo for several months in 2018 after it went into administration and was bought by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct.

The collapse of High Street stores such as Toys R Us, Maplin and HMV in some cases left shoppers struggling to get refunds or having to accept that their gift cards were worthless.

The danger is that when a retailer shuts entirely, cardholders are near the back of a long list of creditors owed money. That means they would only receive a tiny fraction, or more likely nothing, from the sale of the collapsed business’s assets.

There have been calls for cardholders to be moved up the list, but the priority scale has not been changed.

That is why advice to shoppers is relatively consistent – if you receive a gift card then do not hang around to spend it.

Alex Neill, chief executive of complaints service Resolver, says: “In the last year, some of the UK’s biggest brands have vanished from the High Street and online for good. Shoppers with gift cards or vouchers should not delay if a firm is close to bankruptcy – spend them now or risk losing them for good.”

Ms Cohen, from the trade association, says if administrators accept gift cards it can make the business a more attractive proposition for potential investors.

“Administrators do know that gift cards encourage shoppers into stores and keeps the tills ringing,” she says.

Gift cards are there to be spent, not saved, she says. They do not gain interest, like savings, and givers would expect them to be used.

She points out that anyone worried about the health of specific retail businesses can buy gift cards that can be used in multiple stores.

If you are buying a gift card or voucher, one other tip from consumer experts is to do this using a credit card. This is because section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act can make credit card providers jointly liable for breaches of contract with a trader when you buy with a credit card.

But to qualify for a claim, your gift card has to be worth more than £100 and bought using a credit card.

Banks may also give refunds through the chargeback scheme for cards bought on a debit card, although that is at their discretion.

Either way, if you received it as a present, you will have to contact the giver to get them to chase the cash.

Lightwater Valley fined £350k over boys rollercoaster fall

A theme park where a boy fell from a rollercoaster has been fined £350,000 for health and safety breaches.

The seven-year-old was airlifted to hospital with head injuries after falling from the ride at Lightwater Valley in North Yorkshire in May 2019.

York Magistrates’ Court heard the ride no longer operated and the park viewed the accident with “great sadness”.

The boy fell from the Twister attraction during the spring half-term holiday, the court heard.

Bosses at the theme park, near Ripon, admitted breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Judge Adrian Lower was told the boy had not been wearing a seat belt and fell through a gap between the seat and a restraining bar.

But the boy and his mother, who was in the car with him, were not told they had to wear a seat belt, the court heard.

Judge Lower was told the effectiveness of the restraining bar was not enough to hold the youngster in position.

Prosecutor Craig Hassall said the victim suffered serious head injuries following the fall and was airlifted to hospital in Leeds.

His mother saw him slip under the restraint as he was ejected from the car which was between two and three metres from the ground at the time

Mr Hassall said seatbelt rules were not universally understood by ride operatives and that maintenance of seatbelts was not adequate or in effective working order.

In June 2001, 20-year-old Gemma Savage from South Yorkshire died when two of the rollercoaster’s cars collided.

Times apologises over Reading knife attack slur

The Times has apologised after incorrectly suggesting an organisation supported a man who killed three men in a knife rampage in a Reading park.

The newspaper will pay damages to advocacy group Cage and its outreach director Moazzam Begg after suggesting they excused Khairi Sadallah’s actions.

Sadallah has admitted three counts of murder but denies the stabbings in Forbury Gardens were terror-related.

Cage said it was awarded £30,000 in damages by The Times.

The apology centres over a June story in response to Cage and Mr Begg commenting on police and media reaction to the attack.

The Times said it incorrectly accused them of excusing Sadallah’s actions by reference to failings by the police and others.

The News UK-owned newspaper also said it wrongly stated Cage and Mr Begg had refused to comment on their involvement with the suspect, despite them having no involvement with Sadallah.

“We apologise to Cage and Mr Begg for these errors and the distress caused, and we have agreed to pay them damages and legal costs,” The Times said in a statement.

Cage said it would use the damages to “expose state-sponsored Islamophobia and those complicit with it in the press”.

Mr Begg said in a statement: “Over the years, Muslims in Britain have become accustomed to reading sensationalist and defamatory headlines in popular newspapers.

“We can only hope that this settlement serves as a reminder to others that the truth is not negotiable.”

Zillur Rahman of Rahman Lowe Solicitors, who represented Cage and Mr Begg, said he was “delighted” by the “substantial sum of damages” over the article.

He said: “It exemplifies the gravity of the allegations and provides the vindication to which Cage and Mr Begg are entitled.”

News UK has been contacted for comment.

Avonmouth explosion: Boy, 16, among four workers killed

A 16-year-old boy was among four workers killed in an explosion at a waste water treatment works.

Teenager Luke Wheaton, Michael James, 64, Brian Vickery, 63, and Raymond White, 57, died in the blast in Avonmouth, Bristol. A fifth person injured is recovering at home.

It happened at 11:20 GMT on Thursday in a silo that treated biosolids.

Wessex Water said it was working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate the cause of the blast.

It is understood Mr James was a contractor working at the site, while Mr Vickery and Mr White were employees of Wessex Water and Luke was an apprentice at the firm.

Luke was a former pupil at Bradley Stoke Community School in Bristol and had recently started an apprenticeship at the plant.

In a post on Facebook, the school said it was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the “tragic passing of our former student Luke Wheaton”.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” it added.

A witness reported hearing a “very loud explosion” that “shook buildings” and another said they saw about 10 ambulances driving to the scene.

Avon and Somerset Police declared a major incident in the immediate aftermath.

Supt Simon Brickwood said he wanted to “extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of those involved”.

“We appreciate the impact this incident has had on the local community and we thank those affected for their patience while our investigative work is carried out,” he said.

“This is likely to be ongoing for some time and we will be keeping the victims’ families informed throughout.”

Investigators are due to speak to the fifth victim when it is appropriate to do so.

Formal identification of the victims is yet to take place and post-mortem examinations are under way, police said.

On Thursday, Avon Fire and Rescue Service described the scene of the incident as “very challenging”.

Search and rescue dogs were drafted in to locate casualties following the blast.

Colin Skellett, chief executive of Wessex Water, said the firm was “absolutely devastated” by what had happened.

“Our hearts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives during the tragic event on Thursday,” he said.

“I know from the thoughts and comments I have received from so many, that this has affected the whole Wessex Water family.

“We are determined to find out what happened and why and we will work with the relevant authorities to do just that.”

A police spokesman confirmed the blast, in a chemical tank, was not terror-related.

Biosolids are “treated sludge”, a by-product of the sewage treatment process.

According to Wessex Water, the sludge is treated in anaerobic digesters, oxygen-free tanks, to produce agricultural fertiliser and renewable energy.

Police said a cordon at the site was likely to remain in place for several days while the blast is investigated by a team of chemical and mechanical experts, who are working with the HSE.

Giles Hyder, HSE’s head of operations in the South West, said: “We send our deepest condolences to the families of those who tragically died. It is important a joint investigation is carried out.

“We will provide specialist support to what is likely to be a complex investigation under the command of the police.”

Post-Brexit trade talks paused amid significant divergences

Talks to reach a post-Brexit trade deal have been paused, because UK and EU negotiators say “significant divergences” remain.

Michel Barnier and David Frost said conditions for a deal between the two sides have not been met.

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and PM Boris Johnson will discuss the situation on Saturday.

State aid subsidies, fishing and enforcement of new rules remain the key sticking points in negotiations.

If a deal is not agreed by 31 December, the two sides will trade on World Trade Organization rules, meaning the introduction of taxes on imports.

Releasing identical statements on Twitter, Mr Barnier and Lord Frost said: “After one week of intense negotiation in London, the two chief negotiators agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.

“On this basis, they agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their principals on the state of play of the negotiations.”

A senior UK government source told BBC News the statement shows how far apart both sides are and that the trade talks have run into problems.

Earlier, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the government was “committed to working hard to try and reach agreement” but emphasised that the UK couldn’t “agree a deal that doesn’t allow us to take back control”.

He added that “time is in very short supply and we are at a very difficult point in talks”.

What happens next with Brexit?

The Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said it was important for the 27 EU member states to give negotiators “the space to conclude these talks”. He added that he “fervently hoped” a trade deal can be agreed.

Meanwhile, France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, warned that his country could “veto” a deal if it did not satisfy their demands.

The European Parliament would need to ratify any deal before it can be implemented and UK MPs are likely to get the chance to vote on legislation implementing the agreement.

And the 27 EU national parliaments could also need to ratify an agreement – depending on the actual contents of the deal.

Covid: Greater Manchester stops care home tests over accuracy fears

Greater Manchester councils have become the latest to pause rapid testing for care home visitors over concerns they fail to detect enough infections.

Data suggests the rapid kits miss about a third of the most infectious cases picked up by conventional lab tests.

Lateral flow tests are being used in England so residents can see family indoors for the first time since March.

The government has described rapid testing as way of reducing, rather than eliminating, risk.

The rapid lateral flow tests work by taking a nose and throat swab, shaking it in fluid until any viral particles come off, and then dropping the fluid onto a plastic stick – a bit like a pregnancy test.

They take about half an hour to show a result – one line on the paper strip means the test has worked and two lines means virus is present.

Their speed, and the fact they don’t need to be taken to a lab, mean these tests – in theory – can be used to make on-the-spot decisions such as deciding if someone can go into premises like a care home or event venue.

Manchester’s decision follows similar assessments elsewhere.

Sheffield has paused lateral flow tests for care home visits which it considers how best to use them.

In Liverpool, visitors are permitted inside but they have to take multiple tests.

Similar solutions are being considered around Greater Manchester.

A standard coronavirus test – also known as a PCR test – misses fewer than 5% of infections.

It was already known that lateral flow tests were less sensitive – they miss about 50% of infections overall.

But lab tests had suggested that figure could fall to 5% when a high level of virus was present.

The government had argued that the tests were therefore as effective as PCR tests at picking up people with the most virus in their systems – those most likely to be currently infectious.

However, data published from the Liverpool testing pilot suggests that when it comes to people with higher viral loads, rapid tests only pick up seven infections for every 10 picked up by a PCR test.

This means about a third of the most potentially infectious people could be told they were free of the virus. This could be even lower if the tests were conducted by non-clinically trained people.

There are different uses for rapid tests.

When mass testing was piloted in Liverpool, about 1,000 coronavirus cases were picked up in people without symptoms who would not otherwise have been tested.

Even if the rapid tests only pick up half of cases, those are all extra cases that wouldn’t have been found and so, in a sense, are all a win.

There is some concern that people may change their behaviour as a result of a negative test, perhaps stopping social distancing. It’s not yet know how big a problem that might be.

The main aim of that type of testing is to act on positive results, asking those detected to quarantine, but also telling people with a negative result to continue to keep to the guidance as normal.

According to Prof Jon Deeks at the University of Birmingham, the bigger problem is when rapid tests are used to make decisions based on a negative result.

That includes care home visits, or university students who feel free to mingle with other households based on a negative test.

“There is a difference [between] mass testing to ‘break chains of transmission’, where any true positive result is a gain – in that case it doesn’t matter too much that you miss some people – and testing to ‘be safe’, where the focus is on whether the negative result is trustworthy,” he explained.

Those potentially false negative results could be used to make a dangerous decision – for example, relatives may then hug a loved one in a care home who is at high risk, potentially infecting them and other vulnerable residents.

A Greater Manchester spokesperson said: “We’re committed to facilitating care home visiting, we know how important it is to relatives and residents who have waited so long for this, but we also want to ensure we get this right and do it as safely as possible.

“We now have the government guidance, as well as the recommendations from our own testing expert group, and our directors of public health, adult social care leads and care homes are all working together to get things in place as fast as we can.”

Dr Angela Raffle at the University of Bristol, who has also worked for the UK National Screening Programmes, said people with expertise in whole-population testing hadn’t had input into the government’s plans.

Screening healthy populations can cause harm, for example “people who test negative may be falsely reassured and you could actually increase transmission”, she told the BBC.

Like so many things in the pandemic, this is about balancing risks and benefits.

For some care home residents, a lack of visits has caused great distress and according to some families, a worsening of their health.

No test is 100% effective, and lateral flow tests are considerably less than that.

Some councils are trialling different ways of using them, for example asking visitors to take a PCR test a week before the visit and a rapid test on the day.

Dr Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser to Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace, described the tests as an “additional tool in helping us detect Covid-19 cases that we wouldn’t otherwise know about”. That, she said, would help break chains of transmission and save lives.

She added they should be used “in combination with other vital infection prevention control measures such as wearing appropriate PPE, washing hands regularly and social distancing”.

Cardiff teacher jailed for pupils indecent photos

A teacher at a Cardiff school has been jailed for six years and three months after obtaining indecent photos of his pupils, over four years.

Richard Edmunds, 40, admitted to downloading intimate images from his female pupils’ phones and computers.

Thousands of indecent photos and films of other children were found on his computer, with nearly 100 in the most serious category A.

Judge Daniel Williams said Edmunds groomed his victims.

Edmunds pleaded guilty at Newport Crown Court to 19 offences as his trial was about to begin last month.

The court heard that whilst Edmunds was a teacher at Radyr comprehensive school, he befriended female pupils and offered to help them with technical problems on phones and computers.

Whilst doing so, he downloaded images of the pupils and obtained access to their storage clouds.

Prosecution barrister John Ryan told the judge that Edmunds repeatedly asked the girls to send pictures to him.

Two pupils were encouraged to send nude photographs to him, as Edmunds told them they could earn money from doing so through a fictional friend’s website.

One of the girls, who was under 16 at the time, sent 30 photos to him, the court heard.

The court heard that she was told she needed to send 200 a day in order to earn significant amounts of money.

Edmunds was arrested after Childline contacted the police.

Mr Ryan told the court that what Edmunds had done had “crushed bubbly personalities and crushed confidence, caused nightmares and caused victims to become insular”.

In personal impact statements, one of the girls said she “hit rock bottom” and felt going to school “was now horrendous”.

Edmunds admitted three charges of possession of indecent photographs of a child, two charges of causing or inciting sexual exploitation of a child and 14 charges of securing unauthorised access to computer material with intent to gain possession of indecent images of children.

Judge Williams said: “You abused the trust of teenage girls at a difficult, challenging and vulnerable time in their lives when confidence and security are in short supply”.

He added that Edmunds had “no true remorse”.

Senior crown prosecutor Ann Haile said it is hoped “this serves as a reminder that the images and data on electronic devices are never completely private but will be used to secure justice if necessary”.

Speaking after the sentencing, Ann Haile of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Edmunds had “preyed on vulnerabilities” for his own satisfaction.

“Instead of protecting children against the dangers of exploitation, this individual used his position of trust to do the opposite,” she added.

“While we hope [this] sentence helps those affected to move on with their lives, knowing that the offender has been brought to justice, we also hope this serves as a reminder that the images and data on electronic devices are never completely private but will be used to secure justice if necessary.”

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