Ex-judge Sir Peter Gross to head human rights law review

Former Court of Appeal judge Sir Peter Gross has been appointed to lead an independent review of the Human Rights Act, the BBC understands.

The government wants to examine whether the 1998 act – which allows UK nationals to rely on the European Convention of Human Rights in domestic courts – is working effectively.

A panel of eight is expected to report its findings by next summer.

It is understood to be made up of senior lawyers and academics.

While previous Conservative governments had promised to replace the Human Rights Act entirely with a new Bill of Rights, the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto said it would only be “updated”.

The ECHR predates the European Union and is separate to it.

The government insists it remains committed to the European Convention – which includes articles on fair trials, freedom of expression, free elections and privacy – but wants to look at its application in the UK.

It says the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has evolved over time and it’s right to look at how British courts respond.

The panel, led by Sir Peter, is expected to evaluate whether UK judges are being drawn into policy matters, traditionally decided by politicians.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland recently described prisoner votes – mandated by the court in Strasbourg but opposed by the government – as one “difficult case” relating to the Human Rights Act.

Ministers see the review as part of a wider constitutional reappraisal, examining the relationship between the judiciary, the executive and Parliament.

A separate panel is already looking at whether there is a need to reform the process of judicial review – where a judge decides the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.

Campaigners say the government is already trying to place limitations on the Human Rights Act through other proposed legislation.

And Labour accused ministers of launching an attack on human rights, saying the review was not required.

Illingworth explosion: Man and woman in stable condition

A man and a woman injured in an explosion at a house are in a stable condition, police say.

The man, 63, was seriously hurt while the woman, also, 63, suffered severe burns. A second woman sustained minor injuries.

Onlookers described seeing people jumping from the burning building in Green Lane, Illingworth, near Halifax, on Saturday.

West Yorkshire Police said the cause was being investigated.

A spokesperson for the force said a probe was being carried out alongside West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service, Calderdale Council, the Health and Safety Executive and Northern Gas Networks.

The area around the house, which has been reduced to rubble, has been made safe by the fire service, the force added.

About 20 firefighters were sent to the scene at 07:30 GMT.

Eyewitness Candice Nevison described it as like “something out of a horror story”.

Dozens of people have offered to donate clothes and food to those affected and a GoFundMe campaign has raised more than £450.

London Gateway: £100m cocaine stash hidden in banana pulp

Cocaine with an estimated value of £100m has been found in a banana pulp shipment, the Home Office has said.

The drugs, which weighed more than a tonne, were discovered during routine inspections at London Gateway, Thurrock in Essex, on 12 November.

They originated in Columbia and were headed for Antwerp in Belgium, according to customs officials.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the find was “a significant hit to the organised crime groups involved”.

It follows the discovery by UK Border Force officers of 1,155kg (2,550lb) of cocaine at the port in September.

NCA branch commander Jacque Beer said: “While the UK wasn’t the end destination for either shipment, it is likely that at least a proportion would have ended up being sold on our streets.

“These were substantial seizures and will represent a significant hit to the organised crime groups involved, meaning less profit for them to reinvest.”

The Crown: Netflix has no plans for fiction warning

Netflix says it will not warn viewers of The Crown some scenes are fiction.

Responding to calls for a warning from Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, the streaming giant said the series has always been billed as a drama.

“As a result we have no plans, and see no need, to add a disclaimer,” it said.

Mr Dowden earlier said younger viewers “may mistake fiction for fact” when watching the fourth series, which shows the breakdown of the marriage between the Prince and Princess of Wales.

The Crown’s creator Peter Morgan has called the show “an act of creative imagination” with a “constant push-pull” between research and drama.

Its latest series has attracted criticism from some quarters for its depiction of royal events – in particular the breakdown of the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana.

The culture secretary said last week Netflix should make clear the show was fiction.

“I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact,” Oliver Dowden told the Mail on Sunday.

He said Netflix’s “beautifully produced work of fiction… should be very clear at the beginning it is just that”.

But the streaming giant said in a statement, first reported by the Mail: “We have always presented The Crown as a drama – and we have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events.

“As a result we have no plans – and see no need – to add a disclaimer.”

Earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, previously told ITV’s Lorraine Kelly he was worried some viewers would take the storylines “as gospel”.

“I think it would help The Crown an enormous amount if, at the beginning of each episode, it stated that: ‘This isn’t true but it is based around some real events’,” he said.

Former Buckingham Palace press secretary Dickie Arbiter has accused the show of “stretching dramatic licence to the extreme”.

“It’s a hatchet job on Prince Charles and a bit of a hatchet job on Diana,” Mr Arbiter told the BBC.

Meanwhile, ex-royal correspondent Jennie Bond told the BBC Newscast podcast she feared some viewers might treat the show “as a documentary”.

Roald Dahl family sorry for authors anti-Semitic remarks

Roald Dahl’s family has apologised for anti-Semitic comments made by the best-selling author, who died in 1990.

A statement condemning Dahl’s controversial comments, made in two interviews in 1983 and 1990, was published on his official website.

In a discreet part of the website, his family and the Roald Dahl Story Company “deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused”.

It said his “prejudiced remarks stand.. in marked contrast to the man we knew”.

The statement, which is undated, was spotted by the Sunday Times.

“The Dahl family and the Roald Dahl Story Company deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements.

“Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations.

“We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words.”

Roald Dahl, who was born in Wales to Norwegian immigrant parents, remains one of the most popular children’s authors in the world – with novels including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and The BFG all adapted for the big screen.

In an interview with the New Statesman in 1983, he said he believed that there was a “a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity”.

Seven years later, in a piece in the Independent, the author acknowledged he had “become anti-Semitic”.

The remarks, for which the writer refused to apologise, have continued to cause upset among the Jewish community.

In 2018, the Royal Mint chose not to issue a commemorative coin on the 100th anniversary of his birth because of his anti-Semitic views.

At the time, Wes Streeting, Labour MP, applauded the decision by the Royal Mint, citing the author’s “classic, undeniable, blatant anti-Semitism”.

With the enduring popularity of his novels, Roald Dahl’s estate continues to be highly lucrative, posting annual pre-tax profits of £12.7m in 2018 – largely thanks to film and television deals.

In October this year, a new film version of The Witches was released starring Anne Hathaway, and in March Netflix announced a forthcoming adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Responding to the Sunday Times story, the Roald Dahl Story Company said: “Apologising for the words of a much-loved grandparent is a challenging thing to do, but made more difficult when the words are so hurtful to an entire community.

“We loved Roald, but we passionately disagree with his anti-Semitic comments. This is why we chose to apologise on our website.”