Harvey Tyrrell death: Boy, 7, electrocuted by defective lights

A seven-year-old boy died after touching a “defective” lighting fixture in a pub garden, a court has heard.

Harvey Tyrrell, from Harold Wood, was electrocuted as he climbed a garden wall of the King Harold Pub in Romford, east London, on 11 September 2018.

He was pronounced dead in hospital about an hour later.

Colin Naylor, 73, who installed the light fitting, denies a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Mr Naylor, an experienced electrician, also denies a second charge of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

David Bearman, the owner of the King Harold Pub and Mr Naylor’s brother-in-law, has pleaded guilty to Harvey’s manslaughter.

The court heard Harvey was visiting the pub with his parents when he sat on the wall.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC said: “In essence, when young Harvey both touched one of the garden lights by sitting on it and took hold of some nearby metal railings it seems clear that electricity then flowed through his body, causing fatal damage.”

Jurors were told that Harvey had been playing in the pub garden with his friend, who cannot be named due to his age, before the other child briefly went to get a bag of crisps.

Mr Penny said: “Harvey was sitting on one of the lamps in the garden and gripping on to the nearby railing with his hands.

Harvey was unresponsive “leaning backwards with his head hanging back, face-up” when offered a crisp by a friend, the court heard.

He then collapsed after about 30 seconds “in front of another boy with whom he was playing”, Mr Penny said.

The lights featured “significant defects”, including inadequate insulation to prevent water from getting inside, he added.

An investigation following the death found 12 defects at the pub that posed a risk of injury including electric shock, and 32 potentially dangerous defects.

Bearman had been warned about “numerous electrical defects” by officers from the London Borough of Havering in January 2009.

No further investigation followed. Regulations were changed in 2013, putting the onus on property owners to organise inspections.

The jury was later told that Bearman was “blown across the cellar” after touching a fuse box at the pub in the summer of 2018, leaving him with a very large purple injury on his left arm.

In an interview with the police, Mr Naylor of Rayleigh in Essex, said he was aware of the injury but that he was not aware it related to an issue with the electricity supply.

The trial continues.

Covid: Prioritise teachers for vaccine, says Peter Weir

Schoolteachers in Northern Ireland should be given priority to receive the Covid-19 vaccination, Education Minister Peter Weir has said.

He said he had proposed the idea to fellow Stormont ministers because it would “enable continuity of learning”.

Teachers in schools for children with special educational needs should be “very high up in the queue”, he added.

During much of January most special schools have remained open for all of their pupils on a full-time basis.

A small number of special schools have chosen to operate on a part-time basis in order to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Only vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers are able to attend nursery, primary and post-primary schools until after the February mid-term break.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra, Mr Weir said he was “very much in favour” of early vaccination for teachers and other staff working in schools.

He said that priority should be a UK-wide policy and that he was speaking to ministers across the UK in an attempt to achieve that.

But he called for the Stormont executive to “see what it can do to speed up” the prioritisation.

“I think there’s a critical case that I want to see fast-tracked as much as possible – those staff who are very gallantly ensuring they are providing a service for special needs children,” he said.

“Those working in special schools have got to be very high up in the queue,” he added.

By Thursday a total of 166,538 vaccines had been administered in Northern Ireland, according to the Department of Health.

Of that number, 144,212 were first doses and the remaining 22,326 were second doses.

Prioritisation for the vaccine is decided by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises UK health departments on immunisation.

Last week a detailed detailed timetable for delivering vaccinations to prioritised groups in Northern Ireland was published.

Coronavirus: Nissan Sunderland plant pauses Line One production

Nissan is pausing one of its two lines in Sunderland from Friday because shipping routes and ports are under pressure due to the coronavirus crisis.

The company said the move will affect the line which produces the Qashqai and Leaf, but work will resume next week.

A statement said: “Production on Line One at the plant has been paused due to supply chain disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We anticipate that production will resume on Monday next week.”

Production at the factory was completely paused last year during the first wave of coronavirus and the majority of staff were furloughed.

The site, which also produces the Juke model, has been open since 1986 and made almost 350,000 of Britain’s 1.3m cars in 2019.

Covid vaccine: Claims supplies diverted from the North raise concerns

Covid vaccine supplies in Yorkshire and the North East are reportedly being diverted to other parts of England.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported that the number of doses sent to GPs in both areas – which have the highest vaccination rates among over-80s – could be halved next week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and NHS England said their focus was on targeting priority groups.

But some regional leaders branded the reported move an “absolute disgrace”.

When NHS England was asked about the HSJ report, a spokesperson said: “All available vaccine doses are being delivered to vaccination sites and every GP-led vaccination site is receiving a delivery this week.

“To ensure all of those people in the top priority groups can get vaccinated quickly, targeted deliveries are being made to areas where there are more people left to vaccinate in the priority cohorts.”

According to the latest NHS figures, Yorkshire and the North East lead the UK with 64% of over-80s having receiving their first vaccine dose, compared with 48% in London and 13.1% in Scotland.

The HSJ said primary care providers in the regions could receive 100,000 doses next week, compared with the previous supply of 200,000.

When asked by Yorkshire Labour MP Jon Trickett about the HSJ story, Mr Hancock said the government was committed to ensuring that “everyone in the top four groups can receive that offer of a vaccine by 15 February”.

“Of course we’ve got to make sure that vaccination programme is fair right across the UK, and some parts of the country, including parts of the North East and parts of Yorkshire, have gone really fast early on, which is terrific,” said Mr Hancock.

The reported change to GP supply was criticised in the North East, which recently announced plans to open more mass Covid jab sites.

Martin Gannon, the Labour leader of Gateshead Council, told colleagues he was “doing everything I can to control my temper” as they discussed the claims.

Speaking at a meeting of the full council, he said: “We have, clearly, the very best public health network in the entire country. I would be furious, I think we all should be in the region, if we are being penalised for being the best.

“The second point is that I can kind of understand that we have to let other areas catch up.

“However, we have greater need and greater vulnerability in the North East of England than some of the areas that are supposedly going to be allowed to catch up.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness tweeted: “Please tell me this isn’t true. If it is, it’s an absolute disgrace.

“We have the best public health network/partnership in the country. Are they really going to penalise us for getting this right?!”

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association GPs committee, said he understood that colleagues “will be frustrated” by the decision.

“But we also recognise that there is a need across the country to ensure that all over-80s, all in care homes get vaccinated and protected with the available vaccine we’ve secured,” he said.

According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the government has pledged to vaccinate everyone in the first four priority groups by the middle of February – including everyone over 70, care home staff and residents, and frontline health and social care workers.

It’s right to move available vaccine stocks to where they are clinically most needed when there is limited supply.

The urgent goal is to vaccinate the most vulnerable in society, who risk getting very ill with or dying from Covid, as quickly as possible.

Some parts of the UK have done a speedy job with this and are ready to move on to the next tier of people in the mass rollout.

Those regions are being praised, not penalised – they have done fantastic work in getting over-80s immunised and those who have received those jabs should soon reap the benefit of protection against severe Covid.

The priority now is getting all of the highest risk people their shots so they can have the same protection regardless of where they live. That benefits all of society.

Next pulls out of race to buy Topshop-owner Arcadia

Fashion chain Next has said it will no longer bid to buy Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail empire out of administration.

It comes after a consortium including the fashion chain was named as frontrunner to buy Arcadia last week.

In a short statement, Next said the consortium had been “unable to meet the price expectations of the vendor”.

Some 13,000 jobs were put at risk when Arcadia, which also owns Burton and Dorothy Perkins, went bust in November.

It leaves a clutch of others in the race to buy the 440-store group, including Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which owns House of Fraser and Sports Direct.

According to reports, Authentic Brands, the US owner of the Barneys department store, and JD Sports have tabled a joint offer, while online retailer Boohoo is also said to be interested.

Administrators Deloitte have been looking for buyers for some or all of Arcadia, after a slump in sales caused by the pandemic triggered its collapse.

Next, which has 550 UK shops and has weathered the pandemic well, was seen as a good fit to take over the group’s assets.

It had been bidding in partnership with the US hedge fund Davidson Kempner, which was going to put up most of the money.

Next said it wished “the administrator and future owners [of Arcadia] well in their endeavours to preserve an important part of the UK retail sector”.

Experts expect Arcadia to be broken up, with bidders taking on different parts of the business and brands potentially hived off from their stores.

In December, Australian collective City Chic said it would buy Arcadia’s Evans brand, commerce and wholesale business for £23m but not its store network.

Last year was the worst for the High Street in more than 25 years as the coronavirus accelerated the move towards online shopping, according to the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).

Nearly 180,000 retail jobs were lost, up by almost a quarter on the previous year, as shops faced strict curbs and prolonged closures.

UK accused of petty behaviour in EU diplomat row

The government has been criticised for downgrading the diplomatic status of the EU’s ambassador in London.

Ex-Foreign Office ministers and diplomats said the decision was petty and could set a bad precedent.

But the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office insisted EU delegation staff would still receive the privileges needed to do their job.

The decision is in contrast to the 142 other countries where EU ambassadors have full diplomatic status.

David Lidington, the former Conservative minister for Europe, warned that “non-recognition could set a bad precedent for regimes that hate EU ambassadors speaking up for human rights defenders”.

He said the Foreign Office should not “pick a fight on this”.

Tobias Ellwood, also a former Foreign Office minister and current chairman of the Commons Defence Committee described the decision as “simply petty”.

“Biden commits to strengthening alliances and we engage in silly spats which will not help strengthen security and trade cooperation – we are better than this,” he said.

And ex-National Security Adviser Lord Ricketts said: “This is a wholly unnecessary move which seems part of a systematic effort to signal that the UK is shunning the EU and all its works. Not in British interests.”

Instead of giving the EU’s ambassador, Joao Vale de Almeida, full diplomatic status, the UK wants to treat the EU delegation as representatives of an international organisation.

This means EU diplomats would not have the full protection of the Vienna Convention which gives them immunity from detention, criminal jurisdiction and taxation.

The EU argues it is not a typical international organisation because it has its own currency, judicial system and the power to make law.

Its chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier expressed the hope that “a clever and objective solution” could be found.

The issue is expected to be discussed by EU foreign ministers next Monday.

EU sources have pointed out that diplomacy is based on reciprocity, meaning there could be repercussions for the UK’s ambassador in Brussels.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office insisted that discussions were ongoing about the status of the EU delegation.

A spokesperson said: “The EU, its delegation and staff will receive the privileges and immunities necessary to enable them to carry out their work in the UK effectively.”

TV licence fee decriminalisation decision shelved

The government has decided not to move ahead with plans to decriminalise non-payment of the TV licence fee, but said it would “remain under active consideration”.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the criminal sanction was “increasingly unfair and disproportionate”.

However, he also noted an alternative system could result in “significantly higher fines” for licence fee evaders.

The BBC said the current system was “the fairest and most effective”.

Mr Dowden’s comments came as the government published the findings of a public consultation on the issue of decriminalisation.

A public consultation launched by the government in February 2020 asked whether non-payment of the licence fee should continue to be a criminal offence.

It explored whether the current system could be replaced with a civil enforcement scheme.

The consultation, which lasted eight weeks, received 154,737 responses from members of the public, campaign organisations and other stakeholders.

Currently, anyone who watches or records live TV or uses iPlayer without a TV licence is guilty of a criminal offence and could go to prison.

The government has committed to maintaining the current licence fee funding model until 2027 – when the current Charter period ends.

The government said it “remains concerned that a criminal sanction for TV licence evasion is increasingly disproportionate and unfair in a modern public service broadcasting system”.

It said respondents highlighted the “considerable stress and anxiety” the criminal sanction can cause for individuals, particularly vulnerable people.

However, the government also said it recognised there could be damaging consequences for the public if the current system was abandoned.

Mr Dowden acknowledged there was “the potential for significantly higher fines and costs for individuals who evade the licence fee requirement” under a civil regime.

The consultation also “highlighted significant impacts in terms of both the cost and implementation” of a new system, particularly as evasion is currently handled “very efficiently in the Magistrates Court”.

Responding to Thursday’s publication of the government’s findings, a BBC spokesperson said: “The current system remains the fairest and most effective.

“The responses to the government’s consultation shows the majority back the current system. The BBC will fully engage with the government going forward on how we can continue to play an important role for the public.”

The government said it remained determined that any change to the TV licence enforcement scheme “should not be seen as an invitation to evade the TV licence requirement, nor should it privilege the rule-breaking minority over the rule-abiding majority”.

“The issue of decriminalisation will remain under active consideration while more work is undertaken to understand the impact of alternative enforcement schemes,” it added.

If decriminalisation of the TV licence fee were to go through, it would have a considerable impact on BBC funding.

Mr Dowden added the government would take forward the findings of its consultation into the next licence fee settlement, which will set the level of the licence fee for a period of at least five years from 2022.

Negotiations formally begun for the next licence fee settlement recently, Mr Dowden confirmed.

Could indyref2 be held without the UKs consent?

The Court of Session is hearing arguments about whether Holyrood can legislate to hold a new Scottish independence referendum even if the UK government continues to oppose one. What could it mean for indyref2?

The court case seeks to settle the legal question of whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to pass the necessary laws for a new referendum on independence.

The previous vote in 2014 was underpinned by a “section 30 order”, an agreement between the UK and Scottish governments, before legislation was passed by MSPs.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants a similar deal to be struck for a new referendum, but has been rebuffed by successive prime ministers – with Theresa May saying “now is not the time” for a vote and Boris Johnson insisting that 2014 was a “once in a generation” event.

Ms Sturgeon insists this UK government position is unsustainable, and will crumble if the SNP win May’s Holyrood elections – but others in the independence movement want to see more action to force the issue.

Hence a case at the Court of Session which has not been brought by Scottish ministers, but by activists – led by Martin Keatings, who raised huge sums in online crowdfunders to bring a full legal team on board.

The pursuers – represented in court by Aidan O’Neill QC – argue that Holyrood has the competence to legislate for a referendum, if not to directly break up the union.

They say Holyrood gets its legitimacy from the people of Scotland, not from Westminster, and is directly accountable to them rather than to UK ministers.

The constitution and indeed “the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England” are clearly reserved matters, as listed in the Scotland Act.

But the pursuers argue that the bare fact of holding a referendum about the union would not automatically lead to constitutional change, regardless of the result.

They point to Brexit as an example of how “complex and lengthy negotiations” would follow a Yes vote, arguing that “a referendum – nor indeed the outcome of a referendum – is not the act of secession”.

And they say this is a prime moment to answer the question of Holyrood’s powers, given indyref2 seems set to be a key issue in May’s election.

Mr O’Neill said the SNP government has repeatedly pledged to bring forward a referendum bill and indeed hold a vote in the coming years – and that “any informed voter needs to know whether that claim can be carried out, or whether it is just bluff and bluster”.

Given Boris Johnson and his ministers have repeatedly insisted that 2014 was a “once in a generation” vote, it is no surprise that they are opposed to letting MSPs legislate for one at the time of their choosing.

Lawyers for the UK government raised a number of procedural complaints about the case, saying the proceedings are academic, premature and irrelevant. If any of these were upheld, it would essentially see the case thrown out without the question being answered either way.

However they have also offered a straightforward riposte to the core argument – that the constitution is clearly a reserved matter, and that a vote on a constitutional matter should require an agreement with Westminster.

Scottish ministers are obviously in favour of indyref2, but have kept their cards rather closer to their chest when it comes to this case.

The government was initially represented in the case, and opposed it on procedural grounds – arguing it was hypothetical and premature – without making any submission about Holyrood’s competence.

They then formally withdrew in August 2020, but somewhat confusingly the Lord Advocate – a Scottish minister – is still represented in court as a defender.

The chief worry for the Scottish ministers here is a political one – should the case go against Mr Keatings, would it set a precedent in law that they must win agreement from Westminster for indyref2?

Ms Sturgeon has essentially been keeping court action in her back pocket as a contingency plan, should another electoral mandate fail to move Mr Johnson.

Her government views this case as a complicating factor – if they wanted to go to court, they would far rather have a straight legal battle between themselves and the UK government on grounds of their choosing.

Should the court rule one way or the other on Holyrood’s competence, it could have far-reaching implications in terms of legal precedent. But would it change the facts on the ground in the referendum row?

First, let’s imagine a world where the pursuers are successful, and the court rules that MSPs can call a referendum without a section 30 order.

That might undermine Boris Johnson’s position somewhat, but there would still be nothing to stop him arguing against a referendum for one political reason or another – or indeed of the unionist side boycotting any poll which is set up in the absence of an explicit agreement.

And this would still be a major consideration for Ms Sturgeon. It is not for purely legal reasons that she wants a “gold standard” agreement in the vein of 2014.

She wants any new vote to be unimpeachable in its legitimacy, to have international recognition – particularly from the EU, which she would like to see Scotland rejoin some day. The first minister does not just want a referendum, she wants it to deliver independence.

Such a ruling would pile further pressure on Ms Sturgeon to push ahead with a vote – but ultimately she would still want both sides to accept the terms, and to fight things out in a campaign rather than a courtroom.

That will equally remain the SNP leader’s position should the ruling go against Mr Keatings. She might be effectively bound into it, but her preferred approach would still be a political one rather than a legal one.

And such a result might not even rule out further court action, beyond the matter of appeals by the pursuers. One of the Scottish government’s arguments against the Keatings case is that it is premature, because they have not even published their draft bill yet.

The court rebuffed an attempt by the pursuers to have the government hand over their legislation, so it will not be picked over line by line.

So once it has been drawn up, Scottish ministers could potentially still launch a far more focused legal battle over its competence – by simply passing it, and forcing UK law officers to challenge it at the Supreme Court.

The draft legislation is due for publication in the run-up to the Holyrood election, so the issue of indyref2 is set to come to the boil in the coming months regardless.

This court case may be the opening salvo in year of constitutional collisions – which could decide the future of the union.

City of London statues removed over slavery link

Statues of two politicians with links to the transatlantic slave trade are to be removed from central London.

The City of London Corporation announced it would remove statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass from the Guildhall, in Moorgate.

The decision was made by a taskforce set up by the corporation following nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

A spokeswoman called the move “an important milestone” in moving towards an “inclusive and diverse City”.

The corporation, which looks after the Square Mile in the capital, said it was considering the future of a number of statues and road names with links to the slave trade.

Its Policy and Resources Committee voted on Thursday to remove the two statues.

William Beckford was a two-time Lord Mayor of London in the late 1700s, who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves.

His statue will be removed and replaced with a new artwork, the corporation said.

Sir John Cass was a 17th and 18th Century MP and philanthropist. He was also a major figure in the Royal African Company, which was heavily involved in the Atlantic slave economy.

His statue will be returned to its owner, the Sir John Cass Foundation, the corporation said.

In September, the Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School announced it would be renamed the Aldgate School for the new school year.

A consultation on statues and other landmarks in the Square Mile linked to slavery held by the corporation last year generated more than 1,500 responses.

Licence fee decriminalisation under active consideration

Decriminalising non-payment of the TV licence fee “will remain under active consideration”, the government has said.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the criminal sanction was “increasingly unfair and disproportionate”.

However, he also noted an alternative system could result in “significantly higher fines” for licence fee evaders.

A BBC spokesperson said the current system “remains the fairest and most effective”.

Mr Dowden’s comments came as the government published the findings of a public consultation on the issue of decriminalisation.

A public consultation launched by the government in February 2020 asked whether non-payment of the licence fee should continue to be a criminal offence.

It explored whether the current system could be replaced with a civil enforcement scheme.

The consultation, which lasted eight weeks, received 154,737 responses from members of the public, campaign organisations and other stakeholders.

Currently, anyone who watches or records live TV or uses iPlayer without a TV licence is guilty of a criminal offence and could go to prison.

The government has committed to maintaining the current licence fee funding model until 2027 – when the current Charter period ends.

The government said it “remains concerned that a criminal sanction for TV licence evasion is increasingly disproportionate and unfair in a modern public service broadcasting system”.

It said respondents highlighted the “considerable stress and anxiety” the criminal sanction can cause for individuals, particularly vulnerable people.

However, the government also said it recognised there could be damaging consequences for the public if the current system was abandoned.

Mr Dowden acknowledged there was “the potential for significantly higher fines and costs for individuals who evade the licence fee requirement” under a civil regime.

The consultation also “highlighted significant impacts in terms of both the cost and implementation” of a new system, particularly as evasion is currently handled “very efficiently in the Magistrates Court”.

Responding to Thursday’s publication of the government’s findings, a BBC spokesperson said: “The current system remains the fairest and most effective.

“The responses to the government’s consultation shows the majority back the current system. The BBC will fully engage with the government going forward on how we can continue to play an important role for the public.”

The government said it remained determined that any change to the TV licence enforcement scheme “should not be seen as an invitation to evade the TV licence requirement, nor should it privilege the rule-breaking minority over the rule-abiding majority”.

“The issue of decriminalisation will remain under active consideration while more work is undertaken to understand the impact of alternative enforcement schemes,” it added.

If decriminalisation of the TV licence fee were to go through, it would have a considerable impact on BBC funding.

Mr Dowden added the government would take forward the findings of its consultation into the next licence fee settlement, which will set the level of the licence fee for a period of at least five years from 2022.

Negotiations formally begun for the next licence fee settlement recently, Mr Dowden confirmed.

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