Call for full inquest into Shana Grice stalker killing

The parents of a Brighton teenager killed by her ex-boyfriend have called for a full inquest into her death.

Shana Grice, 19, reported Michael Lane five times for stalking before she died but was fined for wasting police time.

Her parents, Sharon Grice and Richard Green, have begun a legal challenge over a decision against a full hearing.

The family claim several inquiries have not satisfied the public interest. The coroner argues the previous inquiries discharged the function of an inquest.

Lane cut Ms Grice’s throat before attempting to set fire to her body on 26 August 2016.

He was jailed for life in 2017 and ordered to serve at least 25 years.

At a remote High Court hearing, lawyers for the family argued a “full, independent and focused inquest” was necessary to consider whether Ms Grice’s death could have been avoided and “how to prevent a similar tragedy happening again”.

In written submissions, Kirsty Brimelow QC said previous inquiries – including Lane’s trial, a domestic homicide review, an Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation, police misconduct proceedings and an inspection into Sussex Police’s handling of stalking cases – had not satisfied the “overwhelming public interest” in the case.

She said Ms Grice was vulnerable and “lost her life in a brutal and violent way”.

She said: “Her death was avoidable if Sussex Police had not acted as they did and had actually acted to protect her life.

“There are recorded failings by Sussex Police but little scrutiny of those in a senior position or of the culture of Sussex Police towards young women suffering stalking and harassment.”

Jonathan Hough QC, representing senior Brighton and Hove coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley, said: “The coroner understands the desire of the claimant to have her own advocate confront and challenge the officers who she reasonably considers failed her daughter.

“However, she did not consider that that was enough in law to justify resuming the inquest.

“Furthermore, if there were to be an inquest, there would inevitably be features of the process which would be acutely painful to the claimant.”

Mr Justice Garnham said he would give his ruling at a later date.

Investors mob Airbnb listing giving it $100bn value

Shares in holiday booking platform Airbnb have surged on their first day of public trade, giving the firm a valuation of more than $100bn.

The massive listing – the biggest of the year in the US – raised $3.5bn (£2.6bn) for the firm.

The firm said it would use the money to help it survive the pandemic, which has devastated travel.

The flotation comes as investor appetite for tech firms has sent US markets soaring.

Demand for Airbnb shares was so hot, prices in opening trade more than doubled from the $68 apiece fetched ahead of the listing. That figure was already more than the firm had initially targeted.

Chief executive Brian Chesky told the BBC the firm planned to use the unexpectedly large windfall to help navigate the crisis.

“We are still in a storm,” he said. “We don’t know how long the storm is going to last so we hope for the best but we plan for the worst.”

“We’re going to be very prudent and very thoughtful about our investment, especially in a world of a huge amount of uncertainty, which is clearly where we still are right now,” he added.

Bookings at the firm crashed this spring, forcing it to slash staff numbers by 25% and raise $2bn in emergency funds.

Last month, Airbnb said bookings had since recovered somewhat, as people looked to escape locked down cities with long-term rentals within driving distance. And the company reported a surprise profit for the July, August and September months.

But the firm has warned it remained at risk, as officials in many places re-impose lockdowns.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said the money Airbnb raised despite the turmoil was a sign of hope that the travel industry will rebound quickly.

“Investors are clearly looking to [Airbnb] for a company that is a long term disruptor but at the same time a short-term winner if and when people start to travel in greater numbers in 2021,” he said.

He added: “You’ve also got very, very enthusiastic stock markets right now… Some people think they may be running a little bit too hot but we shall find out.”

More companies have raised more money by floating on US exchanges this year than any year since 2014, according to Renaissance Capital, a Connecticut-based firm that offers investments focused on initial public offerings.

In addition to Airbnb, US restaurant delivery company DoorDash raised $3.3bn just this week.

The listing has cemented the billionaire status of the firm’s three founders, who started the company as a home-sharing site in 2008.

Since then, it has grown into a global juggernaut, with more than four million people listing properties on the platform in countries around the world.

Last year, roughly 54 million people reserved stays through the company, which takes a cut of each booking.

“When they launched they put a lot of pressure on hotel rates and I think they inspired consumers to really create their own travel experience,” said Rebecca Crook, chief growth officer at UK-based digital product agency Somo.

“Because of that they became quite renowned in terms of disrupting what consumers really wanted and expected from travel brands.”

Airbnb’s growth has challenged hotel rivals and causing headaches for cities worried about an influx of tourists to new areas.

Those complaints have subsided since the pandemic, but the threat of more regulation is still a “major risk that Airbnb are going to have to tackle,” Ms Crook said.

The company has also lost money every year since its founding – with losses of roughly $696m in the first nine months of this year.

As of September, bookings remained more than 20% lower than in September 2019. And the firm warned they could fall farther again as officials in some places re-imposed lockdowns.

In Kenya, much of the tourist trade has dried up, said Karen Fraser, who hosts guests in a double decker bus in her garden.

“We’re still getting our weekend bookings… but it’s totally empty during the weeks,” she said.

Prior to the pandemic, the business was doing so well she gave up her day job.

She says she’s hopeful the pandemic has created pent-up demand that will make next year better than ever.

“We’re all hoping for a bumper year,” she said. “Whether that happens or not, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Leatherhead man convicted of murdering father of two

A man has been found guilty of murdering a father of two who let him stay at his home during lockdown.

Daniel Styles, of Leatherhead, Surrey, was convicted at Guildford Crown Court of killing Phillip Bagwell, 54.

After the hearing, Det Ch Insp Chris Friday, from Surrey Police, said Mr Bagwell had let Styles stay with him but he took advantage of his kindness.

Styles, 32, attacked Mr Bagwell in Leatherhead town centre before he left him in a lift on 10 June, he said.

Det Ch Insp Friday said neighbours later found Mr Bagwell’s body in the communal lift of the block of flats in North Street where he lived.

He said Styles, known locally as Daniel Hopper, had carried out an unprovoked attack in the early hours while the pair were out together.

Styles punched and kicked Mr Bagwell about the head and body, causing fatal injuries, he added.

“Phillip had allowed Styles to stay at his home during lockdown, where Styles went on to take advantage of his kindness, tormenting him, bullying him and treating Phillip’s home as his own,” he added.

“After the assault, Styles returned to Phillip’s flat where he went to sleep.”

Mr Friday said Mr Bagwell had been a well-known figure in the community, and Styles “took advantage of his good nature and sought to exploit it”.

Styles, of Clare Crescent, is due to be sentenced on Friday.

Airbnb value predicted to surge after share sale

Holiday booking platform Airbnb is expected to raise as much as $3.5bn (£2.6bn) on Thursday when it first sells shares to the public.

The shares are set to surge, giving a much higher valuation than planned, according to pre-market trading data.

The listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange was expected to give it a market value of more than $42bn.

The flotation – the biggest of the year in the US – is a sign of hope that travel will bounce back quickly.

It also comes as investor appetite for tech firms has sent US markets soaring.

While Airbnb sold the shares at about $68 each, they may start trading at double that price, according to data collected by Reuters.

More companies have raised more money by floating on US exchanges this year than any year since 2014, according to Renaissance Capital, a Connecticut-based firm that offers investments focused on initial public offerings.

In addition to Airbnb, US restaurant delivery company DoorDash raised $3.3bn just this week.

The money raised by Airbnb in the offering was more than the firm had initially hoped – despite the upheaval the pandemic has caused its business, which saw bookings crash this spring, forcing it to slash staff numbers by 25% and raise $2bn in emergency funds.

Last month, Airbnb said bookings had since recovered somewhat, as people looked to escape locked down cities with long-term rentals. And the company reported a surprise profit for the July, August and September months.

“Investors are clearly looking to [Airbnb] for a company that is a long term disruptor but at the same time a short-term winner if and when people start to travel in greater numbers in 2021,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

He added: “You’ve also got very, very enthusiastic stock markets right now… Some people think they may be running a little bit too hot but we shall find out.”

Since the firm started as a home-sharing site in 2008, Airbnb has grown into a global juggernaut, with more than four million people listing properties on the platform in countries around the world.

Last year, roughly 54 million people reserved stays through the company, which takes a cut of each booking.

“When they launched they put a lot of pressure on hotel rates and I think they inspired consumers to really create their own travel experience,” said Rebecca Crook, chief growth officer at UK-based digital product agency Somo.

“Because of that they became quite renowned in terms of disrupting what consumers really wanted and expected from travel brands.”

Airbnb’s growth has challenged hotel rivals and causing headaches for cities worried about an influx of tourists to new areas.

Those complaints have subsided since the pandemic, but the threat of more regulation is still a “major risk that Airbnb are going to have to tackle,” Ms Crook said.

The company has also lost money every year since its founding – with losses of roughly $696m in the first nine months of this year.

As of September, bookings remained more than 20% lower than in September 2019. And the firm warned they could fall farther again as officials in some places re-imposed lockdowns.

In Kenya, much of the tourist trade has dried up, said Karen Fraser, who hosts guests in a double decker bus in her garden.

“We’re still getting our weekend bookings… but it’s totally empty during the weeks,” she said.

Prior to the pandemic, the business was doing so well she gave up her day job.

She says she’s hopeful the pandemic has created pent-up demand that will make next year better than ever.

“We’re all hoping for a bumper year,” she said. “Whether that happens or not, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Brexit: Strong possibility of no trade deal with EU – PM

Boris Johnson says there is a “strong possibility” the UK will fail to strike a post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU.

The prime minister said “now is the time” for businesses and the public to prepare for that outcome, although negotiators would continue talks.

He added that negotiations were “not yet there at all”.

It comes after his meeting on Wednesday with the president of the EU Commission failed to reach a breakthrough.

Brexit bill in ping-pong as MPs reject changes

MPs and peers are at loggerheads over government plans to regulate trade between the four nations of the UK after Brexit.

MPs voted against changes to Internal Market Bill which would have given Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a greater say over UK trading rules.

Business minister Paul Scully said the government “cannot agree” with the Lords amendments.

The bill will now go back to the House of Lords for the third time on Monday.

The government has been defeated 14 times on this bill, and by overturning the Lords’ latest changes the bill continues to “ping-pong” – the term used when legislation goes back and forth between the Commons and Lords as they reject each others changes.

What is Parliamentary ‘ping-pong’?

After the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December and the UK stops following EU rules and regulations, the devolved governments will gain powers in areas such as animal welfare, currently managed at the EU level.

The UK government says new legislation in the Internal Markets Bill is needed to recognise standards drawn up by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations.

MPs rejected amendments peers made to the bill on Wednesday, which would have allowed the devolved administrations more scope to diverge from rules that apply across the UK.

Amendments were also thrown out by MPs that would have given the devolved administrations a greater say over a new UK fund to replace EU regional spending, and in drawing up rules governing state support for businesses.

Labour’s shadow Business secretary Ed Miliband said the bill contains “deeply flawed proposals for undermining shared governance”.

Mr Miliband added: “We want the UK Internal Market Bill to reach the statute book, it must happen though in a way that does not ride roughshod over the way we are governed.

“I hope very much, for the sake of the United Kingdom, for the sake of respecting the devolution settlement, that the government will reflect on this over the coming days.”

The Scottish and Welsh governments argue the bill would undermine their ability to make their own rules.

SNP business spokesman Drew Hendry said the bill is “unwanted” and undermines devolution.

Opponents have also claimed the bill will stymie future planned discussions to agree UK-wide standards, by effectively giving Westminster the final word on which standards should be allowed.

Mr Hendry told MPs: “This shabby, shambolic, pernicious Bill should never have seen the light of day.

“It’s already been delivered an historic defeat in the Lords, they rightly tore it apart, yet this government has overturned all of their amendments and sent them back to them.”

On Wednesday the government agreed to drop controversial sections from the bill which would have allowed ministers to override the UK’s Brexit divorce bill.

The clauses – which would have allowed ministers to breach international law – had threatened to jeopardise ongoing talks between the UK and the EU over a post-Brexit trade deal.

Mr Scully said the measures would have “provided for the safety net” if the government had not reached agreement with the EU.

But they were now being removed from the bill as they were “no longer required” after the government reached an agreement in principle with the EU on how rules in the Brexit divorce deal will be implemented.

Sir Bob Neill, who chairs the Commons justice committee, welcomed the removal of clauses from the bill saying it was “better off” without them.

He told MPs: “I welcome the fact that the government have accepted it was unwise, if I can put it charitably, to have certain clauses in this bill which might have impugned our international reputation for supporting the rule of law.£

Mr Hendry said the clauses “should never have been in there in the first place and have only served further to diminish this government and the UK’s already tattered international reputation.”

In Cardiff, members of the Senedd voted to reject the bill, after claims from Labour it would “neuter” devolution.

Severe human rights abusers hit by UK sanctions

The UK has imposed sanctions on 10 politicians and others accused of human rights breaches in Russia, Venezuela, The Gambia and Pakistan.

Travel bans and asset freezes are being placed on three people in Russia accused of torture and other acts against LGBTQ people in Chechnya.

In Venezuela, sanctions are also being imposed on senior security figures.

Ex-Gambian President Yahya Jammeh is being penalised for the killings of protesters and minority groups.

And Ahmad Anwar Khan, the former senior superintendent of police in Malir District, Pakistan, is facing sanctions for the same offences.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused him of overseeing “aggressive practices” resulting in the deaths of more than 400 people.

He said the punishments – which coincide with International Human Rights Day – would “send a clear message to human rights violators that the UK will hold them to account”.

“The UK and our allies are shining a light on the severe and systematic human rights violations perpetrated by those sanctioned today,” he said.

In the summer, the UK imposed sanctions on 49 people behind “notorious” human rights abuses.

Banks can re-start dividend payments, regulator says

UK banks can start paying shareholders dividends again, according to the Bank of England.

The Prudential Regulation Authority, a regulator and part of the central bank, said banks are strong enough to do so.

Banks bowed to pressure in March and ceased dividend payments.

Banks including HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest, Santander and Barclays were due to pay billions of pounds to pension funds and private shareholders.

Stopping the payments allowed them to keep the capital and absorb bigger shocks from potential loan losses.

But many loans to businesses made by banks have been backed by the government, reducing risk for the banks.

“The Prudential Regulation Authority judges that an extension of the exceptional and precautionary action taken in March is not necessary and that there is scope for banks to recommence some distributions should their boards choose to do so,” the regulator said in a statement.

“The PRA will expect to be satisfied that any distributions would not create excess vulnerabilities to stress for a given bank or impede its ability or willingness to support households and businesses,” it warned.

On the topic of bonuses for top earners at the banks, it said it “expects firms to exercise a high degree of caution and prudence in determining the size of any cash bonuses granted to senior staff given the uncertain outlook and the need for banks to deploy capital to support the wider economy.”

Critics have questioned why banks would not wait to see the full impact of the current recession before distributing its reserves.

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