Harry Dunn: UK told crash suspect had no official role

The UK government was told the suspect in the death of Harry Dunn was a “spouse with no official role”, the prime minister’s spokesman said.

Mr Dunn, 19, died near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in 2019.

Anne Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity, and a court has heard she was employed by an intelligence agency in the US at the time of the fatal crash.

Mrs Sacoolas was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but the US denied an extradition request.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters: “We don’t comment on intelligence matters.”

But he added: “She was notified to the UK Government by the US as a spouse with no official role.”

The comments about Mrs Sacoolas’ intelligence role were made at a court in Virginia, where an application to dismiss a civil claim for damages submitted by Mr Dunn’s family is being heard.

The court heard her work was “especially a factor” in her leaving the UK and she feared she would “not get a fair trial” if she returned.

When asked by the judge why Mrs Sacoolas had “fled” the UK, her barrister John McGavin said he could not respond “completely candidly”.

“I know the answer but I cannot disclose it,” he said.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Dunn’s family’s spokesman Radd Seiger called on the UK government to “urgently reinvestigate” whether Mrs Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity.

Under the agreements at RAF Croughton dating back to 1995, anyone working at the base from the US as part of the “administrative and technical staff” would have their immunity pre-waived, meaning they would not be immune from criminal jurisdiction.

Commenting on the latest developments, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “I would emphasise that our position on this case remains unchanged, we have consistently called for her diplomatic immunity to be waived and believe that the US refusal to extradite her amounts to a denial of justice.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department had been “closely engaged with the UK government, and we have been transparent about our positions on legal and diplomatic matters” concerning the crash.

He added that Mrs Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity because she was “the spouse of an accredited staff member of the US Embassy office” at the time of crash.

Meanwhile, Labour has urged Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to go before MPs on Friday to “explain himself”.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “Dominic Raab told MPs that [Mrs Sacoolas] she was entitled to protection as the spouse of an employee, but new information provided by her lawyer clearly indicates that she wasn’t.

“Did the foreign secretary simply accept the US Embassy’s account without asking any of the right questions on behalf of a UK citizen, or has he misled the House?”

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “The UK High Court has found that Anne Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity while in the country under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.”

Crosshouse Hospital under lockdown after serious incident

An Ayrshire hospital is under lockdown as police attend what they are describing as a “serious incident”.

Officers have been called to Crosshouse hospital in Kilmarnock and ambulances are being diverted to University Hospital Ayr.

Police said they were also dealing with another two potentially linked incidents in the town.

In a statement on Twitter the force said there was no cause for concern for the wider community.

It added that inquiries into these incidents were at an early stage and that the areas involved have been cordoned off.

Officers said the first occurred outside the hospital at about 19:45.

About 20 minutes later, they were called to another serious incident on Portland Street, which is in the centre of Kilrmarnock about two miles from the hospital.

The third incident is a serious road crash. Officers were called to the A76 at about 20:30.

Dr Crawford McGuffie, the medical director of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, added: “We are assisting Police Scotland with their investigations, and to ensure the safety of staff, patients and visitors.

“As this is a Police Scotland incident, we are unable to comment any further at this time.”

The Scottish government’s justice secretary, Humza Yousaf, described the incident as very serious.

He urged people to follow police advice and avoid both areas.

Local residents reported hearing sirens and a helicopter overhead shortly before 20:30.

Climate change: Environment groups call for public inquiry into Cumbrian coal mine

Dozens of environmental groups have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for a public inquiry into plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

They say it is “mystifying” that No 10 has not stopped the mine from going ahead, when the UK is hosting the COP26 climate summit later this year.

A top climate scientist has warned the PM risks “humiliation” over the plans.

No 10 said the UK is a world leader in climate policy and it would not reverse the decision.

The letter, signed by groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, criticises the decision not to intervene in the approval of the mine, when the UK’s credibility – as summit host – is “at stake”.

The letter to Mr Johnson describes the summit, which takes place in Glasgow in November, as “the largest global climate talks since the signing of the Paris Agreement”.

The signatories acknowledge that whilst “new jobs need to be created”, the government should “lead the way with low-carbon technologies, rather than looking to the polluting industries of the past”.

The £165m West Cumbria Mining plan in Whitehaven was approved by Cumbria County Council in October. It would be the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years.

The council said the government could have “called in” the plans for a public inquiry, but had chosen not to do so.

In an interview with the BBC, the local mayor welcomed the proposals.

Mike Starkie, the Conservative mayor of Copeland Borough Council, said: “I think the project is absolutely fantastic, it’ll bring huge amounts of jobs and prosperity into the area.

“It’s been broadly welcomed across Copeland. I’ve never known a project that has carried so much public support.”

But the campaigners say “time is of the essence” for the government to act, before Cumbria County Council issues its final decision on the mine “very soon”.

In the letter, they urge Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to refer the plans to a public inquiry.

They write: “Reversing this decision would help restore confidence in the UK government’s climate leadership both internationally and at home.”

The Conservative Environmental Network, a group of 100 Tory MPs and peers, also opposes the proposed mine.

Stanley Johnson, the prime minister’s father and an ambassador for the network, told the BBC it was a “massive mistake in public relations terms”.

He said: “How can we ask other countries to bring in their climate change reduction programmes when we are now reopening the whole coal argument here in Britain?”

It comes as Dr James Hansen, formerly Nasa’s leading global warming researcher, urged Mr Johnson in a letter to halt production of the mine – or risk being “vilified”.

Downing Street has previously defended the decision over the mine as a local planning matter and insisted the UK is cutting emissions faster than any major economy and would end the use of coal for electricity by 2025.

Justin Rowlatt, the BBC’s chief environment correspondent, says when it comes to decarbonisation, the UK is a world leader.

Our correspondent says the UK’s coal consumption has decreased by 90% in the last five years and just four power stations still burn coal.

Dr Hansen’s letter follows earlier criticism from the government’s advisory body on global warming, the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

It warned the mine would increase global emissions and compromise the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets.

The CCC said: “The decision to award planning permission [for the mine] to 2049 will commit the UK to emissions from coking coal.” The body said coking coal will have to stop by 2035 if the country is to meet its climate change targets.

Two men arrested over murder of Daniel McClean in north Belfast

Detectives investigating the murder of Daniel McClean in north Belfast on Tuesday have arrested two men.

The 54-year-old was shot a number of times while sitting in a parked car on the Cliftonville Road.

The shooting was reported to police at about 20:15 GMT and Mr McClean was pronounced dead at the scene.

The arrested men, aged 39 and 46, have been taken to Musgrave police station in the centre of Belfast for questioning.

In 2019, Mr McClean was identified in court as being a dissident republican.

Rare black Fortune 500 chief Ken Frazier to retire

The US is losing one of its few black leaders at the top of a major American company.

Merck & Co’s chief executive Kenneth Frazier is retiring at the end of June, the drugs company said.

The firm said he would be replaced by current chief financial officer Robert Davis, who joined the firm in 2014.

Mr Frazier, the grandson of a sharecropper, is known as a leader in the US business community on racial issues.

In 2017, he was the first business leader to leave former US President Donald Trump’s manufacturing council, after Mr Trump failed to condemn a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Last year, he spoke out after the death of George Floyd in policy custody.

“What the African American community sees in that videotape is that this African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, is being treated as less than human,” he told business broadcaster CNBC.

Mr Frazier is one of just four black executives leading a Fortune 500 company in the US.

The 66-year-old, who trained as a lawyer at Harvard, joined pharmaceutical giant Merck in 1992 and took over as chief executive in 2011.

During his tenure, he has worked on issues such as government claims against the company about its arthritis painkiller Vioxx and its acquisition of another firm which owned Keytruda, a cancer therapy that is now one of Merck’s best-selling products.

He will serve as executive chairman of the firm’s board during a transition period, the company said.

“His shoes won’t be easy to fill in so many ways, both within Merck, but also including his many principled and valuable contributions to important issues facing society today,” Mr Davis said on a conference call on Thursday held to discuss the firm’s quarterly financial results.

Mr Frazier was originally set to retire in 2019, but stayed on after Merck changed its policy requiring retirement at the age of 65.

Harry Dunn: UK unaware Anne Sacoolas worked for US intelligence

The UK government has said it was not aware Harry Dunn’s alleged killer was employed by an intelligence agency in the US at the time of the fatal crash.

Mr Dunn, 19, died near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in 2019.

Suspect Anne Sacoolas returned to the US, claiming diplomatic immunity, and a court on Wednesday heard she left the UK due to “issues of security”.

The prime minister’s spokesman said she was “notified to the UK… by the US as a spouse with no official role”.

Following the crash on 27 August 2019, Mrs Sacoolas was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but an extradition request was denied by the US in January 2020.

The comments about Mrs Sacoolas’ role were made at a court in Virginia, where an application to dismiss a civil claim for damages submitted by Mr Dunn’s family is being heard.

The court heard her work was “especially a factor” in her leaving the UK and she feared she would “not get a fair trial” if she returned.

When asked by the judge why Mrs Sacoolas had “fled” the UK, her barrister John McGavin said he could not respond “completely candidly”.

“I know the answer but I cannot disclose it,” he said.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Dunn’s family’s spokesman Radd Seiger called on the UK government to “urgently reinvestigate” whether Mrs Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity.

Under the agreements at RAF Croughton dating back to 1995, anyone working at the base from the US as part of the “administrative and technical staff” would have their immunity pre-waived, meaning they would not be immune from criminal jurisdiction.

Commenting on the latest developments, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “We don’t comment on intelligence matters.”

But he added: “I would emphasise that our position on this case remains unchanged, we have consistently called for her diplomatic immunity to be waived and believe that the US refusal to extradite her amounts to a denial of justice.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department had been “closely engaged with the UK government, and we have been transparent about our positions on legal and diplomatic matters” concerning the crash.

He added that Mrs Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity because she was “the spouse of an accredited staff member of the US Embassy office” at the time of crash.

Meanwhile, Labour has urged Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to go before MPs on Friday to “explain himself”.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “Dominic Raab told MPs that [Mrs Sacoolas] she was entitled to protection as the spouse of an employee, but new information provided by her lawyer clearly indicates that she wasn’t.

“Did the foreign secretary simply accept the US Embassy’s account without asking any of the right questions on behalf of a UK citizen, or has he misled the House?”

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “The UK High Court has found that Anne Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity while in the country under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.”

Bristol lockdown baby boom street welcomes first arrival

A street that has been experiencing a lockdown baby boom with six women falling pregnant at the same time has welcomed its first new arrival.

Jenni Parkinson, of Bristol, gave birth earlier to daughter Summer.

The women all lived on the same side of Clouds Hill Avenue in St George, when they became pregnant.

One mother-to-be joked “there must be something in the water”, while another said the road would be “like a little festival” when the babies were born.

Jenni’s due date of 1 February was the earliest of the group, and she gave birth to Summer on Thursday afternoon at Cossham Birth Centre in Bristol.

It is her second child with partner Ric Ventura. The couple are already parents to Skye, who is two-and-a-half.

The 37-year-old, who runs a community music organisation, said Clouds Hill Avenue now has its own “ready-made community.”

“There are lots of young couples starting families in the street because it’s an amazing location.

“I think it’s maybe a massive coincidence [so many women are pregnant]. Or maybe I started a trend?”

Ailie Tam, the expectant mothers’ yoga teacher, is due to give birth to her second child in August with her husband Ben. The couple already have a daughter, Eni.

The 36-year-old said: “We feel very lucky because we only moved here last March and we were really hoping that the community would [be friendly] but until you move in you don’t know.

“The decibels will be increasing in the springtime and the summertime when hopefully restrictions are lifted a bit more. It’s going to be really fun.”

Catherine Gilmore, 31, is expecting her first baby with her partner Michael Malay.

She said there was a “slow dawning” on Clouds Hill Avenue that women were expecting, with hers due in May.

“There were women popping up every day – or it felt like it – saying they were pregnant.

“It’s really lovely, particularly as a first-time mum, not having any of the baby groups or anything that would normally be happening at the time.

“It’s really good having these families on the street and the babies that will be hanging out at the park. It’ll be like a little festival out there, it’s going to be great.”

Caroline Hardman, a 33-year-old physiotherapist, has a one-and-a-half year-old daughter called Ruth. She is expecting her second child with her husband Matt.

He said during lockdown: “We have been running, we have been baking bread, and we have been making babies”.

Ms Hardman said: “It started with just a couple [of expectant mothers] and then we found out we were expecting, and then I told Jenni and she said, ‘that’s really exciting, there’s four of us!

“Every time I spoke to one the number increased.

“So it was funny that every time you said I’m expecting a baby, it was: ‘oh yeah, this person down the road is.'”

Victoria Bromley said she thought there was “something in the water” and said the good news contrasted with the harsh realities of the pandemic.

She is due to give birth in July to a second child with her husband David Hume. They already have a two-year-old son, Freddie.

“I think everyone came into 2021 hoping that it would be different, that there would be more positivity. And it certainly feels like that for us”, the 36-year-old said.

“I really feel for people who have had babies over the course of the last year.

“I think every mum would say maternity leave, even in normal times, can be very isolating. So I just can’t even imagine those people who have had to go through it during lockdown.”

Ellie Shipman found out she was pregnant while living on the street.

“You can’t go out, you can’t really see people as much, so maybe it’s a time to settle down?”

The 31-year-old artist has since moved but is still part of the community and is expecting her first baby with husband Alex Blogg.

“I think it’s just a message of life going on amongst the bleakness of the situation we are in”, she said.

“We’ll be really excited to meet all the little ones as they arrive throughout the year.”

More Cadbury Dairy Milk production to return to Bournville

The owner of Cadbury is set to return the majority of its Dairy Milk production back to its historic Bournville factory.

Previously, Mondelez International – which owns the chocolate brand – has made most of its bars on the continent.

Announcing a £15m investment at the Birmingham site, the company said from 2022, 125 million more Dairy Milk bars would be manufactured there.

Bournville village was built by the Cadbury brothers in the 1870s.

Mondelez’ UK managing director Louise Stigant said Bournville was still considered the “heart of Cadbury” and bringing more Dairy milk production back “home” offered an opportunity to invest in the plant.

About £11m of the new funding will go towards a new production line, meaning the majority of its sharing bars will be made in Birmingham.

The remaining £4m will be spent increasing its chocolate-making capacity.

“At a time when manufacturing in the UK is facing significant challenges, it has never been more vital to secure the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of our business,” she added.

Mondelez, which owns other brands including Toblerone and Milka, is one of the largest chocolate, biscuit and coffee producers in the EU.

“Bournville is now much more competitive across our manufacturing network, particularly when it comes to producing high volume products such as Cadbury Dairy Milk tablets,” Bournville manufacturing director, Roberto Gambaccini, said.

“It’s important that we continue this journey and this investment will see us take full advantage of the efficiencies that modernisation, and upskilling can create to continue the growth and success of the Bournville site.”

Brexit: Arlene Foster says unionism coming together to oppose Protocol

There has been a “coming together of unionism” in recent days to oppose the NI Protocol, Arlene Foster has said.

On Tuesday, the DUP published a five-point plan aimed at scrapping the NI part of the Brexit deal.

It called for unity among unionist parties, who say the protocol damages trade and threatens the UK union.

But Sinn Féin has said the protocol must remain in place, insisting there would “always be difficulties” in implementing it.

The protocol was designed to ensure an open border between NI and the Republic of Ireland.

Instead there are checks on some products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, but unionists oppose this border up the Irish Sea.

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Mrs Foster said the “disappointment” for her was that the EU had not acknowledged the protocol was causing disruption to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

UK and EU leaders met on Wednesday night, following a move by the EU to trigger an emergency mechanism, known as Article 16, to override the protocol amid a row on vaccine exports.

The EU later reversed the decision but faced widespread criticism for the move.

Mrs Foster demanded action be taken by the British government to overturn the current protocol arrangements, and issued a direct message to unionists.

“Part of the difficulty in unionism is that sometimes when confronted with difficult circumstances they turn in on themselves, and start to look for lundys [traitors] they can blame for that,” she added.

“But since the actions of the EU last Friday I have seen a coming together of unionism.

“My plea is not to turn in on ourselves.”

She said the government had “sleepwalked” into the protocol, and that it should be scrapped before then looking at the risks to the EU’s single market.

Mrs Foster also said her party wanted people to respond in a calm way, adding: “It’s important to focus on constitutional politics.”

The finance minister, Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy, said parties had a responsibility to provide “calm leadership” and ensure businesses could be given advantages through the protocol.

“You can’t change trading arrangements without difficulties. Not just unionists are suffering, everyone will in some ways but it can’t all be attributed to the protocol,” he said.

Mr Murphy argued that some businesses had not prepared fully before the protocol took effect on 1 January, and criticised the British government for “leaving it right to the wire”.

Earlier, the Republic of Ireland’s foreign minister insisted that the protocol was “not going to be changed.

Simon Coveney said there were problems with implementation, but that the protocol contained “flexibilities”.

The UK government has asked the EU for temporary lighter enforcement of the rules to be extended until early 2023.

But the European Commission’s chief spokesman said grace periods were always meant to be of a “temporary nature” and were “subject to strict conditions of their application”.

Speaking at a daily press briefing, Eric Mamer said it was up to the joint committee involving the UK government and the EU to find a way forward.

Discussions between the UK and EU on managing the protocol are due to continue next week.

It follows the withdrawal of staff from NI ports after threats were issued.

On Thursday, Mr Coveney told BBC News NI there were some “genuine concerns” with the protocol, although his government wanted to be helpful in ensuring its implementation.

“The flexibilities that are already there for Northern Ireland are grace periods for certain elements of the protocol that don’t need to be implemented straight away in Northern Ireland, for example supermarkets don’t have to have health certifications in order to import products from GB,” he outlined.

“We want the protocol to function in a way that works for everybody, north and south on the island of Ireland.

“We talk to and listen to businesses in Northern Ireland as well as south of the border and we want to work with them.”

Mr Coveney said the row on Friday over whether the EU would trigger Article 16, which allows an override of the protocol, created more tension.

It will take a few months, he added, “to make sure it can be implemented in full”.

Meanwhile, government minister Lord True said Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove had made it clear to EU Vice-President Maros Sefcovic that their “focus must be on making the Protocol work in the interest of people and businesses in Northern Ireland”.

The comments were made during a debate in the House of Lords following an urgent question from Conservative peer Lord Caine.

DUP deputy leader Lord Dodds said the problems around the protocol could only be fixed through “renegotiation or action by the government”.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey accused the EU of using Northern Ireland as “political football” and asked what alternatives were being considered for negotiation by the government with the EU.

Lord Caine called on the government to take “robust measures” if both sides fail to agree a solution which protects the Belfast Agreement and respects the integrity of the UK.

McKinsey agrees $573m opioid settlement in US

McKinsey has agreed to pay $573m (£419m) to resolve claims it faced across the US related to its role fuelling America’s opioid epidemic.

The consulting firm was under investigation for its work with Purdue Pharma, which aimed to boost sales of the addictive Oxycontin painkiller.

McKinsey maintained that its past work was “lawful” and denied wrongdoing.

But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the firm had been “part of a machine that… destroyed lives”.

Prosecutors said McKinsey had worked on strategies to “turbocharge” Oxycontin sales, advising Purdue to increase sales calls to doctors known to be high prescribers and to “subvert” restrictions on higher dosages that authorities wanted to impose.

When officials began to take legal action against Purdue, McKinsey partners discussed deleting documents related to their work with Purdue, which started in 2004 and lasted until 2019 – more than a decade after the company pleaded guilty to misrepresenting Oxycontin’s risks, they said.

“McKinsey’s cynical and calculated marketing tactics helped fuel the opioid crisis by helping Purdue Pharma target those doctors they knew would overprescribe opioids,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “They knew where the money was coming from and zeroed in on it.”

Prosecutors said McKinsey also made millions of dollars helping other firms involved in the industry develop similar marketing and sales plans.

The settlement resolves probes brought by 47 states, five territories and the District of Columbia. The money is to be used to fund drug treatment and other measures aimed at addressing the crisis.

As part of the deal announced on Thursday, McKinsey “reaffirmed” a 2019 pledge to not take on any advisory work related to opioids and said it would help to release documents to the public related to its earlier work.

Global managing partner Kevin Sneader said the firm “chose to resolve this matter in order to provide fast, meaningful support to communities across the United States”.

The firm said it had improved its risk and governance processes and had fired the two partners who discussed deleting documents related to the firm’s work with Purdue, “for violating the firm’s professional standards”.

“We deeply regret that we did not adequately acknowledge the tragic consequences of the epidemic unfolding in our communities. With this agreement, we hope to be part of the solution to the opioid crisis in the US.”

The deal is the latest settlement to emerge from the more than 3,000 lawsuits that have been brought against drug manufacturers and other firms involved in the opioid business.

The firms, which have denied wrongdoing, are blamed for using deceptive marketing and ignoring signs of abuse, unleashing an epidemic that drove millions to addiction and claimed the lives of an estimated 450,000 people through overdose deaths from 1999 to 2018.

In October, Oxycontin-maker Purdue admitted to enabling the supply of drugs “without legitimate medical purpose”, paying doctors and others illegal kickbacks to prescribe the drugs, among other claims. It agreed to pay $8.3bn.

Thousands of lawsuits against pharmacies, drug distributors and others are still pending.