Harry Dunn: Teens family can claim against suspect and her husband

A judge has given Harry Dunn’s family the go-ahead to proceed with a claim for damages against the teen’s alleged killer and her husband in the US.

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

Suspect Anne Sacoolas later returned to the US, claiming diplomatic immunity.

A Virginia court heard Mr Dunn’s family brought a claim against her husband due to a law in the US state which suggests he is liable for allowing his wife to use the car which killed the teenager.

Judge Thomas Ellis said the issue of Jonathan Sacoolas’s “vicarious liability” could be revisited in the future, but he denied a motion to dismiss that part of the claim at a hearing on Wednesday.

Should there be no settlement, the next legal step would be a “deposition”, in which Mrs Sacoolas and her husband would be forced to provide their account of events outside of court.

Dunn family’s spokesman Radd Seiger said they were “very pleased” with the judge’s ruling “and that their claims have been allowed to proceed in full”.

He added: “They are also pleased that Mr Sacoolas will also have to be deposed so that they can learn the full account of what happened on the night Harry died.”

The ruling opens the way for pre-trial discovery to begin – during which both sides seek documents and factual records from one another.

It also allows for face-to-face depositions which could see the Dunn family in the same room as Anne Sacoolas for the first time.

Typically in Virginia the discovery phase of such cases takes between two and four months.

Concluding the hearing, Judge Thomas Ellis, reminded both sides that settlement was an option – a process overseen by a magistrate in which the parties agree an outcome without the need for a trial.

The Crown Prosecution Service has charged Mrs Sacoolas with causing the teenager’s death by dangerous driving but an extradition request was rejected by the US government in January last year.

A court hearing previously heard Mrs Sacoolas’s work in intelligence was “especially a factor” in her departure and that she “fled” the UK for “issues of security”.

The news comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has again raised the case with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Mr Raab had already spoken to Mr Blinken in January about the case but a State Department spokesman said the decision to refuse extradition was “final”.

Beattie Communications chairman resigns over social media post

The Scots founder of one of the UK’s biggest public relations companies has been forced to stand down after a “tone deaf” social media post.

Gordon Beattie, chairman of Beattie Communications, published a LinkedIn post saying his firm would not hire “blacks, gays or Catholics”.

He added that he only hired “talented people” and did not care about colour, sexual orientation or religion.

Mr Beattie said he was “truly sorry” for his “inappropriate” language.

Beattie Communications said in a statement that Mr Beattie was “standing down as a consequence of a tone deaf social media post”.

A former journalist, Mr Beattie founded his public relations and corporate communications company in Motherwell 40 years ago, before expanding it across the UK.

He said the post had been issued with the “best of intent” but did not take account the “complexities of creating a level playing field”.

“The language I used was inappropriate. I am truly sorry for the embarrassment I have caused the wonderful team across the business and our clients, and for the offence it has clearly caused,” he said.

“I have always hired people based on their potential, talent and ability, and done my best to equip them with the skills to succeed.

“It’s a wrench to step down as chair but I feel I have no alternative. The time is right to go.”

The LinkedIn post, which was uploaded on Friday, provoked an angry reaction from anti-racism campaigners and was also strongly criticised by others in the communications industry.

The chief executive officer of Beattie Communications, Laurna Woods, said Mr Beattie and the entire team had been devastated by the consequences of the LinkedIn post.

“There can be no excuses for the language he used or provocation exercised and he acknowledges that his actions, however well intentioned, were not only reckless, but out of touch,” she said.

“I’m personally saddened that he has chosen to resign as I have worked closely with him for 25 years and I can testify that he does not have a prejudiced bone in his body.

“But he was determined to draw a line in the sand so that the agency can look to the future.”

Buckingham Palace to investigate claims Meghan bullied staff

Buckingham Palace says it will investigate claims the Duchess of Sussex bullied royal staff, adding that it was “very concerned” by the allegations.

It follows a report in the Times newspaper that Meghan faced a bullying complaint when she was a working royal.

Her spokesman said the duchess was “saddened” by the “latest attack on her character”.

The palace said it “does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment”.

It will speak to the members of staff involved “to see if lessons can be learned”, a statement added.

According to the story in the Times, the complaint was made in October 2018, while the duke and duchess were living at Kensington Palace.

A leaked email sent from a staff member, which was published by the newspaper, alleges that Meghan drove two personal assistants out of the household. The report claims she undermined the confidence of a third member of staff.

In a statement, Buckingham Palace – which is responsible for the hiring of royal staff – said: “We are clearly very concerned about allegations in the Times following claims made by former staff of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“Accordingly, our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.

“The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.”

An earlier statement issued by Meghan’s spokesman said: “The duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.

“She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good.”

On one thing everyone is agreed: the interview that Meghan has given Oprah Winfrey – that will be broadcast in the US on Sunday – is concentrating minds.

Palace staff have for some time itched to get their side of the story out; some feel that they went out of their way to help Meghan after the wedding only to be treated rudely or later dismissed as uncaring or worse.

Team Sussex were braced for the story. “It’s a fairly extensive list of things that has been pulled together,” one source told the BBC. “The timing is not coincidental.”

Meghan’s side do not dispute the existence or content of the email; and it is pretty strong stuff. It makes flesh the rumours and allegations that swirled around the duchess when a number of staff left some months after the 2018 wedding.

The duchess’ people have pushed back. The people named in the leaked email knew nothing about the complaint, they say, and it never turned into a formal issue.

But now it has; the inquiry announced tonight is a clear indication that Buckingham Palace is treating the matter seriously.

Whatever the truth, it ratchets up the tension – and publicity – around the interview to come in just a few days’ time.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex quit their roles as senior working royals in March 2020, and now live in California.

Harry has previously said the decision to step back was in order to protect himself and his family from the press.

Last month, it was announced the couple would not return as working members of the Royal Family.

It comes ahead of Meghan and Prince Harry’s TV interview with Oprah Winfrey, which will be aired on CBS in the US on the evening of Sunday 7 March.

In the UK, the interview will be screened on ITV at 21:00 GMT on Monday 8 March.

CBS has said Meghan will be interviewed about “stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood” and “how she is handling life under intense public pressure”.

She will then be joined by Prince Harry, and the couple will speak about their move to the US last year and their future plans.

Harry Dunn: Teens family can claim against suspects husband

A judge has ruled Harry Dunn’s family can bring a claim for damages against the husband of the teenage motorcyclist’s alleged killer.

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

Suspect Anne Sacoolas later returned to the US, claiming diplomatic immunity.

A Virginia court heard Mr Dunn’s family brought a claim against her husband due to a law in the US state which suggests he is liable for allowing his wife to use the car which killed the teenager.

Judge Thomas Ellis said the issue of Mr Sacoolas’s “vicarious liability” could be revisited in the future, but he denied a motion to dismiss that part of the claim at a hearing on Wednesday.

The Crown Prosecution Service has charged Mrs Sacoolas with causing the teenager’s death by dangerous driving but an extradition request was rejected by the US government in January last year.

Mr Dunn’s family have filed a civil claim for damages against Mrs Sacoolas in the US and the full case is expected to be heard in Virginia later this year.

A court hearing previously heard her work in intelligence was “especially a factor” in her departure and that she “fled” the UK for “issues of security”.

The news comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has again raised the case with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Mr Raab had already spoken to Mr Blinken in January about the case but a State Department spokesman said the decision to refuse extradition was “final”.

Meghan bullying claims: Buckingham Palace very concerned

Buckingham Palace says it is “very concerned” about claims of bullying made against the Duchess of Sussex, and will look into them.

Earlier, Meghan said she was “saddened” after the Times newspaper reported she faced a bullying complaint during her time at Kensington Palace.

Her spokesman said it was the “latest attack on her character”.

Buckingham Palace said it “does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace”.

It will speak to the members of staff involved “to see if lessons can be learned”, the statement added.

According to the story in the Times, the complaint was made in October 2018, while the duke and duchess were living at Kensington Palace.

The newspaper reported that Meghan allegedly drove two personal assistants out of the household and undermined the confidence of a third member of staff.

In a statement, Buckingham Palace – which is responsible for the hiring of royal staff – said: “We are clearly very concerned about allegations in the Times following claims made by former staff of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“Accordingly, our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.

“The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.”

An earlier statement issued by Meghan’s spokesman said: “The duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.

“She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good.”

On one thing everyone is agreed: the interview that Meghan has given Oprah Winfrey – that will be broadcast in the US on Sunday – is concentrating minds.

Palace staff have for some time itched to get their side of the story out; some feel that they went out of their way to help Meghan after the wedding only to be treated rudely or later dismissed as uncaring or worse.

Team Sussex were braced for the story. “It’s a fairly extensive list of things that has been pulled together,” one source told the BBC. “The timing is not coincidental.”

Meghan’s side do not dispute the existence or content of the email; and it is pretty strong stuff. It makes flesh the rumours and allegations that swirled around the duchess when a number of staff left some months after the 2018 wedding.

But the duchess’ people are pushing back. The people named in the leaked email knew nothing about the complaint, they say, and it never turned into a formal issue.

Whatever the truth, it ratchets up the tension – and publicity – around the interview to come in just a few days time.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex quit their roles as senior working royals in March 2020, and now live in California.

Harry has previously said the decision to step back was in order to protect himself and his family from the press.

Last month, it was announced the couple would not return as working members of the Royal Family.

It comes ahead of Meghan and Prince Harry’s TV interview with Oprah Winfrey, which will be aired on CBS in the US on the evening of Sunday 7 March.

In the UK, the interview will be screened on ITV at 21:00 GMT on Monday 8 March.

CBS has said Meghan will be interviewed about “stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood” and “how she is handling life under intense public pressure”.

She will then be joined by Prince Harry, and the couple will speak about their move to the US last year and their future plans.

London Euston cat-astrophe averted for train-surfing puss

A cat narrowly avoided disaster after being spotted on the roof of a train as it prepared to depart.

The tabby was seen on an Avanti West Coast train at London Euston, about half an hour before it was due to leave for Manchester at 21:00 GMT on Tuesday.

Passengers were transferred to a replacement train as station staff coaxed the cat from the Pendolino, which travels at speeds up to 125mph.

It took two and a half hours for the cat to move from its perilous perch.

The stand-off came to an end after a bin was pulled up beside the carriage, giving the moggy its own special disembarkation platform.

The cat did not appear bothered by its brush with danger, said its rescuers, who described it as “swaggering off” with the air of having somewhere else to be.

In addition to the danger of falling off a speeding train, they are powered by 25,000-volt overhead lines.

Joe Hendry, Network Rail station manager for Euston, said: “Thankfully curiosity didn’t kill this cat, and we’re glad it avoided using up one of its nine lives”.

Brexit: EU says UK grace period extension breaches international law

The EU says a UK move to unilaterally extend grace periods for Irish Sea border checks will be a breach of international law.

NI has remained a part of the EU’s single market for goods so products arriving from GB undergo EU import procedures.

The grace periods mean procedures and checks are not yet fully applied.

The first of these periods will expire at the end of March, but the UK has said it will be extended until October.

European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said the move amounted to “a violation of the relevant substantive provisions” of the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, known as the NI Protocol.

Mr Šefčovič is due to meet the UK’s Brexit Minister Lord Frost on Wednesday evening.

He added that the EU will respond in accordance with the “legal means” established by the protocol and the wider Brexit deal.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the UK government’s move “clearly undermines” its commitment to the implementation of the protocol and described the unilateral decision as “deeply unhelpful”.

He said he had made his “regret” over the decision clear to Lord Frost and NI Secretary Brandon Lewis when speaking to them earlier on Wednesday.

The grace period affects supermarkets and other retailers, which face having to provide export health certificates for all shipments of animal products.

In a statement, the government said: “For supermarkets and their suppliers, as part of the operational plan the UK committed to at the UK-EU Joint Committee on 24 February, the current Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland will continue until 1 October.

“Certification requirements will then be introduced in phases alongside the roll out of the Digital Assistance Scheme.”

It is understood the government is describing this to the EU as an “operational easement” rather than a formal extension of the grace period.

It is using the example of how the Irish government temporarily relaxed safety and security declarations on products arriving from GB in January.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is part of the Brexit deal which prevents a hardening of the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It does that by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods.

That has created a new trade border with Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Unionists oppose the protocol, arguing that it has damaged internal trade from GB to NI and poses a risk to the future of the UK union.

But anti-Brexit parties in NI say that it must be implemented in full, and that issues should be worked out through joint UK-EU processes.

NI’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has criticised the move.

“The EU and the British government need to work together and this appears to be another unilateral attempt to override what has been agreed,” she said.

“What everyone should be focused on is achieving agreement to find solutions to the issues that are outstanding, but it’s very clear the protocol must be made to work.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Theresa May’s former Brexit adviser, Raoul Ruparel, tweeted that it is “hard to see how this is allowed under the protocol”.

“I suspect UK gamble is that because its temporary & part of step to full requirements the scope for EU objection/action is limited,” he said.

Aodhán Connolly, of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said it would allow “us to continue to give Northern Ireland households the choice and affordability they need”.

Extending the grace periods delivered “short-term stability”, he added.

“We now need the EU and the UK to show that they have the political will to live up to their side of the bargain by delivering a pragmatic, workable, risk-based solution.”

The government said further guidance will be provided later this week on a grace period for parcel movements from GB to NI.

It is due to to end on 1 April, meaning all parcels would need customs declarations.

Guidance will also be set out in regard to the issue of soil attached to the movement of plants, seeds, bulbs, vegetables and agricultural machinery.

Under the terms of the NI Brexit deal, soil from Great Britain is not permitted to enter Northern Ireland as it conflicts with EU plant regulations.

Murder and rape arrest in Blackpool hospital death investigation

A healthcare professional has been arrested on suspicion of murder and rape as part of an investigation into a patient’s death at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, police have said.

Lancashire Police said the man was arrested as part of the investigation into Valerie Kneale’s death in 2018.

Ms Kneale, 75, died from a haemorrhage caused by a “non-medical related internal injury”, a spokesman said.

The arrested man has been suspended by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

The force spokesman said the man was being held on suspicion of murder, two offences of rape and one offence of sexual assault.

A post-mortem examination on Mrs Kneale, who died on 16 November 2018, was one of a number carried out as part of an investigation launched at the time into allegations of mistreatment and neglect on the hospital’s stroke unit.

A murder investigation was launched when the cause of her death was found.

The spokesman said investigating officers had received information about other allegations of serious sexual assaults against two patients, as well as the sexual assault of a healthcare professional working on the stroke unit.

A separate investigation into suspected poisoning of patients on the unit, which has previously seen seven hospital workers arrested, remains in progress.

Det Ch Insp Jill Johnston said the force was “committed” to thoroughly investigating the “complicated and sensitive allegations”.

She added that those involved were receiving specialist support and were being “updated throughout the process by trained officers”.

Brexit: UK extends Irish Sea border grace periods

The UK government is to unilaterally extend grace periods for Irish Sea border checks.

Northern Ireland has remained a part of the EU’s single market for goods so products arriving from GB undergo EU import procedures.

The grace periods mean procedures and checks are not yet fully applied.

The first of these periods is set to expire at the end of March, but the UK says they will now be extended until October.

The EU has not yet commented on the move.

It affects supermarkets and other retailers which faced having to provide Export Health Certificates for all shipments of animal products.

In a statement the government said: “For supermarkets and their suppliers, as part of the operational plan the UK committed to at the UK-EU Joint Committee on 24 February, the current Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland will continue until 1 October.

“Certification requirements will then be introduced in phases alongside the roll out of the Digital Assistance Scheme.”

It is understood the government is describing this to the EU as an “operational easement” rather than a formal extension of the grace period.

It is using the example of how the Irish government temporarily relaxed safety and security declarations on products arriving from GB in January.

Theresa May’s former Brexit adviser, Raoul Ruparel, tweeted that it is “hard to see how this is allowed under the Protocol.

“I suspect UK gamble is that because its temporary & part of step to full requirements the scope for EU objection/action is limited,” he said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has criticised the move.

“The EU and the British government need to work together and this appears to be another unilateral attempt to override what has been agreed,” she said.

“What everyone should be focused on is achieving agreement to find solutions to the issues that are outstanding, but it’s very clear the protocol must be made to work.”

Aodhán Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said it would allow “us to continue to give Northern Ireland households the choice and affordability they need”.

Extending the grace periods delivered “short-term stability,” he added.

“We now need the EU and the UK to show that they have the political will to live up to their side of the bargain by delivering a pragmatic, workable, risk-based solution.”

The government said further guidance will be provided later this week on a grace period for parcel movements from GB to NI.

It is due to to end on 1 April meaning all parcels would need customs declarations.

Guidance will also be set out in regard to the issue of soil attached to the movement of plants, seeds, bulbs, vegetables and agricultural machinery.

Under the terms of the NI Brexit deal soil from GB is not permitted to enter NI as it conflicts with EU plant regulations.

Speaking earlier in the House of Commons, NI Secretary Brandon Lewis said the UK would hold an informal meeting with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič later on Wednesday.

Mr Šefčovič is the EU’s representative on the Joint Committee, the EU-UK body which oversees the NI Brexit deal.

The BBC has asked the European Commission for comment.

Appearing after Brandon Lewis, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that Northern Ireland’s position within the UK internal market was “rock solid and guaranteed”.

He said the government would underscore that with the operational “easings” to protect food supplies and other areas, pending further discussions with the EU.

But, responding to a question from DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, he repeated that the government would “leave nothing off the table to ensure we get this right”.

Brown Clee Hill: Moses Christensen guilty of murdering walker

A man who “roamed around” looking for someone to kill has been found guilty of a walker’s murder.

Richard Hall, 70, suffered numerous injuries when he was attacked by Moses Christensen on Brown Clee Hill in Shropshire last August.

Christensen, 22, denied murder by reason of diminished responsibility, arguing he had “lost touch with reality”.

Jurors found him guilty after three hours of deliberation.

He will be sentenced on 16 March.

The trial heard how Mr Hall, from Perton in south Staffordshire, had gone out walking alone at the beauty spot on the morning of 13 August.

Meanwhile, Christensen, of Corser Street in Stourbridge, was being sought by police after allegedly telling a relative he wanted to kill three of his former teachers.

Mr Hall suffered 26 injuries when Christensen attacked him with a combat-style knife. He had wounds to his neck and chest, as well as one which penetrated his skull.

Christensen was arrested after knocking on the door of a house and telling the woman inside he had committed a crime.

In interviews he told police his intention had been to “go out and kill or be killed” and foggy conditions on the hill when he crossed paths with Mr Hall provided a “good opportunity”.

However, his defence had argued Christensen was irrational, with a growing detachment from reality, saying there was no explanation for the crime other than his mental disorder.

Jurors had to decide if the killing was murder or manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and returned a unanimous murder verdict within three hours.

Mr Justice Pepperall delayed sentencing to allow for further psychiatric evidence to be presented, but told Christensen: “There is only one sentence that can be passed and that is a sentence of life imprisonment.”