Fake prescription drugs left my son brain damaged

Joe began buying what he believed were genuine diazepam and Xanex pills from the internet to help with anxiety.

But he became addicted to the fake pills – which he continued to believe were real – and earlier this year they almost killed him.

Joe had struggled with shyness in his late teens and, like many, he found moving away to university a challenge.

But when the 23-year-old returned home to rural mid Wales after his first year, mum Sarah was initially excited to see changes in him.

“I would say his personality had changed,” said Sarah.

“He was much louder and almost like a little bit brash. Naively, I thought he’d just come out of his shell.”

What Sarah didn’t know was Joe – not their real names – had begun to self-medicate with what he believed were genuine diazepam and Xanax pills bought online in an effort to help with his anxiety.

It wasn’t long before his family noticed other changes in him too.

“He go through phases of sleep walking, mood changes, very dilated pupils,” said 25-year-old Alex, Joe’s older sister.

“I asked him to talk to me as a sibling, I said I wouldn’t say anything to mum and dad, but he never did.”

When he returned to university for his second year, his mum began to get phone calls from him in the middle of the night.

“He said ‘I’ve been using prescription drugs to try and help myself and I think it’s getting out of control,'” said Sarah.

“I became aware he was buying them on the internet and that he was using them to address his mental health issues. He’d researched what he thought he needed to take – and in his mind he’d tackled the problem.

“But as things got worse I think he became very afraid that he was being overtaken by the addiction.”

When he was at home normal-looking packages would arrive for him – inside were what he believed to be prescription drugs. He eventually showed his mum them, hoping to reassure her.

Prescription drugs have to be prescribed by your GP but many people, like Joe, are going online to buy pills that they believe are legitimate to avoid consulting with a doctor.

“It was mostly diazepam,” she said. “It was in fully printed and marked packaging with batch numbers, dates and the information leaflet inside.

“To me they were the genuine drugs – and to Joe they were the genuine drugs.

“He used to say to me ‘I know not to take too many, I know how many I should take, I’m in control, don’t worry mum.’

“It didn’t for one minute enter my mind that it wasn’t what it said on the tin.”

However the pills weren’t what they claimed to be.

According to drugs testing lab Wedinos, between 45% to 65% of benzodiazepines sent in for testing, which include diazepam and Xanax, are actually fakes.

These pills can use unregulated and much stronger ingredients, frequently leaving users with pills up to 10 times stronger than what they think they are taking.

Joe had no idea the pills he was taking were fake. Earlier this year his mum went to wake him, only to find he had overdosed.

“I could see as soon as I approached the door that he was lying across his bed,” recalled Sarah.

“The look of him, the feel of him, it just said to me ‘he’s dead, he’s gone.’

“I just became hysterical. There was no-one in the house. I dialled the emergency services – and I couldn’t speak – I was just shouting.”

The paramedics battled to save Joe’s life for hours. Eventually a decision was made to try to move him to hospital.

Sarah was told he could die on the way down the stairs, let alone the long journey to the nearest emergency department.

Joe had suffered a cardiac arrest. He survived, but suffered major brain damage.

“The prescription drugs that Joe had been buying on the internet were not legitimate,” she said.

“It wasn’t what he believed, and I believed, was in the tablets.

Some drugs charities in Wales say referrals for benzodiazepines have gone up 150% in the past year, with many warning about the dangers of buying pills online.

“It is incredibly easy to be deceived,” said Josie Smith, national lead for substance misuse at Public Health Wales.

“We’re seeing very clever marketing of tablets that look exactly as you would find from a prescribed medication. Even in the blister packs, with the packaging, it can look really like a medication.

“Certainly in the past few years, not only in Wales but also right across in Europe, we know these drugs have become incredibly easy to obtain. They’re highly available, even promoted through particular website or social media.

“I think that’s the challenge that we need to address, to inform and to increase awareness around the risk of not knowing what it is that you’re taking – even if it looks like something you’ve been prescribed in the past.”

For Joe, just 23 and still – several months later – fighting for his life, it is too late.

But his family are speaking out in the hope of raising awareness.

“Joe’s story is still unfolding,” said his sister Alex.

“But if we can help even one family, to not go through what we’re going through, then that would be job done.”

The names of Joe and his family have been changed to protect their identities.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story, the BBC Action Line can offer help and support.

Brexit: UK and EU urge compromises over Irish Sea border checks

The UK’s Brexit minister Lord Frost has urged the EU to show “common sense” during talks over post-Brexit rules in Northern Ireland.

The Tory peer will meet his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic in London on Wednesday to discuss ways to reduce disruption at the Irish Sea border.

Some delayed border checks are due to start next month, but both sides are calling on each other to compromise.

Mr Sefcovic has warned against “quick fixes” to border issues.

The UK and EU officials have been locked in talks over simplifying the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the UK’s 2019 Brexit withdrawal deal.

This created a trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, in order to prevent goods checks along the Irish land border.

That has required new border checks on GB goods going to Northern Ireland, causing disruption to some food supplies and online deliveries.

The UK has unilaterally pushed back the full implementation of checks on supermarket goods and parcels to ease this disruption – prompting the EU to accuse the UK of undermining the protocol and beginning legal action.

The next phase of controls, on chilled meat products like sausages and mince, is due to begin on 1 July when a jointly-agreed grace period ends.

Ahead of this week’s negotiations, Mr Sefcovic – a vice-president of the European Commission – has warned the UK against unilaterally extending this deadline too.

He said that if this were to happen, the EU “will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international law obligations”.

Ahead of the meeting, Lord Frost said: “time is short and practical solutions are needed now to make the protocol work”.

“I look to the EU to show flexibility and engage with our proposals so that we can find solutions that enjoy the confidence of all communities,” he said.

He added that “further threats of legal action and trade retaliation” would not help consumers or businesses based in Northern Ireland.

“What is needed is pragmatism and common sense solutions to resolve the issues as they are before us,” he added.

Earlier this week, Lord Frost admitted the UK had “underestimated” the effect of the protocol in Northern Ireland, but also accused the EU of “legal purism” in how it has been interpreted.

Mr Sefcovic denied the EU had been inflexible, saying it had shown it was prepared to “find creative solutions when required”.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday evening, he said the two sides were “approaching the crossroads” in how they deal with border issues.

“We can have two possible roads. One is road of cooperation, show and action and constructive engagement,” he said.

“The other would lead us to more, to a difficult situation which would be generated by further unilateral actions.”

“I hope that with Lord Frost we will find tomorrow the solutions to clearly opt for the first path, because only that will bring us to the long lasting solutions and not quick fixes.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said she will also raise Northern Ireland issues with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at this weekend’s G7 summit in Cornwall.

As well as meeting to discuss issues in Northern Ireland, the UK and EU are set to hold their first-ever set of official talks over implementing the post-Brexit trade deal agreed late last year.

Among issues to be discussed are law enforcement co-operation, fees for visa applications and tensions over fishing rights.

Tax details of US super-rich allegedly leaked

Details claiming to reveal how little US billionaires pay in income tax have been leaked to an investigative website.

ProPublica says it has seen the tax returns of some of the world’s richest people, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett.

The website alleges Amazon’s Mr Bezos paid no tax in 2007 and 2011, while Tesla’s Mr Musk’s paid nothing in 2018.

The FBI and tax authorities are looking into the source of the leak.

ProPublica said it was analysing what it called a “vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data” on the taxes of the billionaires, and would release further details over coming weeks.

While the BBC has not been able to confirm the claims, the alleged leak comes at a time of growing debate about the amount of tax paid by the wealthy and widening inequality.

ProPublica said the richest 25 Americans pay less in tax – an average of 15.8% of adjusted gross income – than most mainstream US workers.

The website said: “Using perfectly legal tax strategies, many of the uber-rich are able to shrink their federal tax bills to nothing or close to it.”

The wealthy, as with many ordinary citizens, are able to reduce their income tax bills via such things as charitable donations and drawing money from investment income rather wage income.

ProPublica, using data collected by Forbes magazine, said the wealth of the 25 richest Americans collectively jumped by $401bn from 2014 to 2018 – but they paid $13.6bn in income tax over those years.

President Joe Biden has vowed to increase tax on the richest Americans as part of a mission to improve equality and raise money for his massive infrastructure investment programme.

He wants to raise the top rate of tax, double the tax on what high earners make from investments, and change inheritance tax.

However, ProPublica’s analysis concluded: “While some wealthy Americans, such as hedge fund managers, would pay more taxes under the current Biden administration proposals, the vast majority of the top 25 would see little change.”

One of the billionaires mentioned, the philanthropist George Soros, is also alleged to have paid minimal tax. His office had not replied to a BBC request for comment, but said in a statement to ProPublica that Mr Soros did not owe tax some years because of losses on investments.

The statement also pointed out that he had long supported higher taxes on America’s wealthiest people.

ProPublica has written several articles about how budget cuts at the US Internal Revenue Service has hampered its ability to enforce tax rules on the wealthy and large corporations. The news organisation said it received the leaked documents in response to these articles.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that “any unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information” is illegal.

Treasury Department spokeswoman Lily Adams said in an emailed statement to Reuters that the matter has been referred to the FBI, federal prosecutors and two internal Treasury Department watchdogs, “all of whom have independent authority to investigate.”

US Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig said: “I can’t speak to anything with respect to specific taxpayers. I can confirm that there is an investigation, with respect to the allegations that the source of the information in that article came from the Internal Revenue Service.”

Chris Harrison: The Bachelor host leaves for good over racism row

The long-time host of hit US dating show The Bachelor is stepping down permanently after widespread criticism of his comments on race.

Chris Harrison, who also fronted the show’s spin-offs, will not return to the ABC programmes, Deadline reported.

Controversy erupted in February after he excused past behaviour of a cast member who had been accused of racism, saying he was not the “woke police”.

“By excusing historical racism, I defended it,” he said at the time.

Harrison hosted The Bachelor for 25 seasons, from the show’s beginning in 2002. He also fronted The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise.

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette revolve around a single man or woman selecting a potential spouse from a pool of suitors.

The news of Harrison’s permanent exit came a day after season 17 of The Bachelorette began without him. Former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe are the show’s hosts instead.

In February, Harrison “stepped aside” and apologised for “speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism” during an interview with former Bachelorette Rachelle Lindsay.

In the interview, he commented on photos showing The Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell at a ball themed around a slavery-era plantation when she was 18.

Harrison later issued a longer apology, saying: “By excusing historical racism, I defended it. I invoked the term ‘woke police’, which is unacceptable. I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong.”

Kirkconnell also apologised, saying: “At one point, I didn’t recognise how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them.

“My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”

In June 2020, fans of the ABC show petitioned for it to address the unequal treatment of cast members of colour.

At the forefront of that initiative was Lindsay, who at the time was the only black lead to have ever served on The Bachelorette.

The show responded with a promise to address their race issues by casting more people of colour, and announced The Bachelor’s first black lead, Matt James, for the series in which Kirkconnell was a contestant.

She ended up winning, and she and James are still in a relationship.

Tunbridge Wells: Skinners Kent schools closed after data breach

Two schools have closed after hackers broke into their servers, stole data and encrypted pupil information.

Officials at the Skinners’ Kent Academy and Skinners’ Kent Primary School said they “cannot be sure” exactly what information hackers have access to.

But they urged parents at the Tunbridge Wells schools to contact their banks to let them know that personal details could have been taken.

Action Fraud and the National Cyber Security Centre are investigating.

The police and the trust’s own data protection company are also carrying out inquires after the attack, which began last Wednesday.

Skinners Kent Academy Trust said on its website that the hackers told them what information they have access to.

It said they did not “appear” to have access to the School Information Management System, which is where personal records for pupils, students and staff are held.

“However, they have encrypted this data so that we no longer have access to it,” the trust added.

As staff no longer hold vital information on the pupils – including emergency contact details – the decision was taken to close the schools on Monday.

The trust is now in the process of collecting all this data from parents again, before it can reopen.

The schools must also have their computers reconfigured so staff can access the resources required to teach. The schools set up remote learning on Tuesday.

The statement on the trust’s website advised parents: “It would be very wise to let your bank know that your bank details may have been taken.”

A trust spokeswoman described the hackers as “sophisticated”.

She added: “The trust is working incredibly hard to ensure that our students and pupils are back in our schools…..as soon as it is possible to do so.”

Brexit: What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why does it affect sausages?

Sausages from Great Britain could soon be banned from entering Northern Ireland.

The problem for bangers – along with burgers and other chilled meats – is a section of the Brexit deal called the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Because of Brexit, Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) no longer follows EU rules. However, Northern Ireland does – because it shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.

Sausages come into this because EU food safety rules don’t allow chilled meat products to enter its market from non-members – like the UK.

The EU is concerned that if Great Britain sends sausages – or other items – to Northern Ireland, they could end up over the border, in Ireland.

However, under the Northern Ireland Protocol – which the UK government signed up to – this hasn’t been a problem so far. This is because a six-month grace period has been in place, during which the rules don’t apply.

However, this runs out at the end of June.

Talks on what happens next, as well as on other aspects of the protocol, will be held between the UK and EU on Wednesday 9 June.

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice told the BBC the EU needed to explain why sausage sales to Northern Ireland should stop.

“They haven’t given a satisfactory explanation as to why they think it’s a problem,” he said.

During Brexit negotiations, all sides agreed that protecting the Northern Ireland peace deal (the Good Friday agreement) was an absolute priority.

It meant keeping the land border between the Republic of Ireland (in the EU) and Northern Ireland (in the UK) open and avoiding new infrastructure like cameras and border posts.

That was easy when both Northern Ireland and the Republic were both part of the EU. However, a new arrangement was needed after Brexit because the EU requires certain goods to be inspected when they arrive from non-EU countries.

So, the EU and the UK negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol, which came into force on 1 January 2021.

Under the protocol Northern Ireland continues to follow many EU rules. This means lorries can drive across the land border without being inspected.

However, England, Scotland and Wales are no longer following those rules – leading to a new “regulatory” border between GB and Northern Ireland.

That means new checks on goods.

Inspections take place at Northern Ireland ports, and customs documents have to be filled in.

This has prompted criticism that a border has effectively been created in the Irish Sea.

Some food products arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain – such as meat, milk, fish and eggs – have to be monitored to ensure they meet EU standards.

They need to go through a border control post, where paperwork is checked and some physical inspections take place.

The new system got off to a shaky start. The EU said in early February that the control posts were not yet fully operational and some goods were entering Northern Ireland without being properly declared.

Supermarkets were given an initial three-month grace period, during which the rules were not to be enforced. This was to give them time to adapt and to ensure supplies were maintained.

However, there was still some disruption at the beginning of the year with certain types of fresh produce missing from shelves.

In March, the UK decided – by itself – to extend the grace period until October. It subsequently announced further unilateral moves, to make the trade in parcels and plants from GB to Northern Ireland easier.

The EU has previously said the UK’s decision to extend the grace period breaks international law. And it has launched legal action which could end up with the European Court of Justice imposing substantial fines on the UK.

On a visit to Northern Ireland on 12 March, before the EU legal action was launched, Boris Johnson insisted that the government’s move was lawful.

Checks were temporarily suspended at the beginning of February, over what were described as “sinister” threats to some border staff checking goods.

Unionists are strongly opposed to the checks because they don’t want Northern Ireland to be treated differently to the rest of the UK. One group has written to the Prime Minister to withdraw support for the Good Friday agreement.

Colonial Pipeline boss deeply sorry for cyber attack

The boss of Colonial Pipeline has apologised after a cyber attack took the US fuel pipeline offline last month, causing major disruption.

Joseph Blount said: “We are deeply sorry for the impact that this attack had.”

Mr Blount also told Senators the decision to pay a $4.4m (£3.1m) ransom to hackers in Bitcoin was the “hardest decision” in his career.

The US has since recovered 63.7 of the Bitcoin, worth $2.3m.

The President and chief executive of Colonial Pipeline said in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he was also “heartened by the resilience of our country and our company”.

Cyber criminal gang DarkSide – which US authorities said operates from eastern Europe and possibly Russia – infiltrated the pipeline last month. It carries 45% of the East Coast’s supply of diesel, petrol and jet fuel, Colonial Pipeline says.

The attack disrupted supplies for several days causing fuel shortages and queues at pumps in states such as Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Mr Blount said on Tuesday that the decision to pay the ransom was taken the day after the attack first took place on 7 May.

The FBI recommends that companies do not pay criminals over ransomware attacks, in case they invite further hacks in the future.

“I made the decision to pay and I made the decision to keep the information about the payment as confidential as possible,” he said.

“I believe with all my heart it was the right choice to make… but I want to respect those who see this issue differently,” Mr Blount added.

He told senators that he felt paying the ransom was necessary to bring the pipeline back online as quickly as possible.

Once Colonial made a cryptocurrency payment, the company received a decryption tool so it could unlock the systems compromised by the hackers – although that was not enough to restart systems immediately.

“What a lot of people don’t realise is it takes months and months… even years to restore your systems,” Mr Blount said.

Although the “critical infrastructure” of the pipeline was back online within days, seven finance systems used by the firm were only restored this week, he said.

Some politicians also questioned the security measures the firm had in place.

Senator Margaret Hassan, of New Hampshire, said: “I don’t think it’s acceptable to understand the critical nature of your product, but not have the preparation or system in place to protect it as though it’s critical infrastructure.”

Hackers were able to get into the company’s IT systems using a virtual private network (VPN) account, an encrypted internet connection that allowed employees to access its networks remotely.

Mr Blount said this was a “legacy” VPN that was not in use at the time, although it did not have two-step authentication in place.

He said the password that was compromised was not a simplistic “Colonial123-type password”.

“We often take a look at our defences, and even though we felt comfortably historically… this threat grows every day and the sophistication of this threat grow every day”, he said.

Kims Convenience stars decry racist storylines and lack of diversity

Actors from the hit Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience have spoken out about what they say is the show’s poor approach to depicting Korean Canadians.

Co-stars Simu Liu and Joon Yong voiced their frustrations on social media with an “overwhelmingly white” production team and “overtly racist” storylines.

They said the writers’ room lacked diverse voices yet declined their creative input as Korean Canadians.

The fifth and final season of the CBC series debuted on Netflix last week.

The series has garnered a positive reception from critics and audiences alike since its premiere in 2016.

Adapted from playwright Ins Choi’s stage production of the same name, Kim’s Convenience centres on a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store in Toronto.

The show has not yet responded to requests for comment from BBC News and US media.

Simu Liu, who played the store owner’s son Jung Kim, panned several aspects of the show ahead of its Netflix debut.

In a lengthy broadside on Facebook, Liu listed several ways in which he felt let down by the show.

Liu writes that he was “growing increasingly frustrated with the way my character was being portrayed”.

“The characters never seemed to grow,” he continued, adding: “I remain fixated on the missed opportunities to show Asian characters with real depth and the ability to grow and evolve.”

This perceived failure of the show’s executives surprised him, he said, given that “our producers were overwhelmingly white and we were a cast of Asian-Canadians who had a plethora of lived experiences to draw from and offer to writers”.

Liu, the star of Marvel’s forthcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, also described the pay as “horsepoop” – especially in comparison to popular Canadian programme Schitt’s Creek. He also denied that the Marvel role “meant I was suddenly too ‘Hollywood’ for Canadian TV”.

He added that Ins, the only Asian writer on the show, left after failing to foster any other Asian or female talent in the writers room. He was also offended that a spin-off show is going to one of the only non-Asian characters.

Yoon, who played Liu’s mother on the show, tweeted that the cast received their season five scripts only to discover “storylines that were OVERTLY RACIST, and so extremely culturally inaccurate that the cast came together and expressed concerns collectively”.

On Sunday, the official Kim’s Convenience Twitter account shared a post from a South Asian writer for the show who had praised other minority contributors. The tweet did not specifically reference any of the claims made by the actors.

The row comes amid efforts to increase diversity in film and television, with Hollywood celebrating 2020 as its most diverse year ever.

Billionaires challenge Highlands space port plan

Billionaires Anders and Anne Holch Povlsen have asked a senior judge to overturn planning permission for a space port in the Highlands.

The couple own land near the proposed Space Hub Sutherland and have concerns about its impact on protected areas.

Their company Wildland Ltd has raised the legal action against Highland Council’s planning approval.

The project’s backers have said the site, which would be the first of its kind in the UK, will create new jobs.

Planning permission for the facility is being challenged in a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Lawyers for the Povlsens argued that documents showed Highland Council did not appear to have properly considered the impact that people visiting the site could have on the local environment.

Advocate Malcolm Thomson QC said: “There’s nothing about visitor viewing facilities, car parking, nothing of that nature.

“There are the obvious difficulties about keeping people out of the LEZ (launch exclusion zone) – there’s no physical demarcation of it.”

Public agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has proposed building the facility for launching small satellites on the Moine Peninsula, an area of peatland and crofts on the Highlands’ north coast.

HIE has said the project will create jobs and help boost the Highlands’ and wider Scottish economy.

Highland Council received 457 objections and 118 representations in support of HIE’s planning application.

The impact on the environment, including the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area, and risk to human health were among the reasons for objections.

The local authority approved the plans in June and referred its decision to the Scottish government for scrutiny.

In August, Scottish ministers said the plans did not require a decision at national level and should be dealt with by Highland Council.

Danish businessman Mr Povlsen, who is reportedly worth £4.5bn thanks to his Bestseller clothes retail empire, first visited the Highlands on an angling holiday with his parents in the 1980s.

He bought the 42,000-acre Glenfeshie estate in the Cairngorms for £8m in 2006.

Since then, the billionaire, who is the biggest single shareholder in the Asos online retailer, and his wife have bought up huge swathes of the Scottish countryside. They now own about 220,000 acres across 12 estates.

The hearing before Lord Doherty continues.

DUP Stormont team: Little sign of healing, say outgoing ministers

Two outgoing DUP ministers have criticised Edwin Poots’ choice of Stormont appointments as showing a lack of “healing” within the party.

The successors to Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Education Minister Peter Weir were announced on Tuesday.

Mrs Dodds said it was “regrettable” the new team did “not match the rhetoric about healing and bringing the party together”.

Her post on Twitter was retweeted by former leader Arlene Foster.

MPs Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who was defeated in a leadership contest by Mr Poots last month, and Gavin Robinson also retweeted the post.

A number of DUP members have quit over concerns about the party’s direction since Mr Poots’ election.

In a second tweet, Mrs Dodds said unionism could only grow “if it is generous, inclusive and encourages as many pro-Union voters to the cause as possible”.

“I will continue in my efforts to safeguard the Union and make Northern Ireland the best place to live, work and invest,” she added.

Mr Weir said there had been “some great appointments” but that he was “disappointed to leave education”.

He added: “In the balance of appointments it is sad there is little sign of healing or reaching out.”

Responding to Mrs Dodds’ comments, Mr Poots said he accepted that she “probably isn’t in the best place today”.

“I have been in that circumstance twice before where I’ve been a minister and I’ve been asked to step aside for others. And therefore that is a natural reaction,” he said.

However, he added that it was “inaccurate” to say his team was only made up of his supporters.

“This team includes people who didn’t vote for me, who did vote for me and who didn’t declare their intentions,” he said.

Mr Poots also rejected allegations made by some resigning DUP members that there had been bullying and intimidation from members of his camp during the leadership contest.

He said the DUP was “a party that will reach out to people and I, as a leader, am not someone who is either scary or bullying – I want to nail that absolutely and factually”.

“If anybody wants to bring forward facts, they will be investigated, and they will be investigated fairly,” he said.

On Tuesday, Mr Poots announced his new ministerial team would be:

The appointments will come into effect on Monday, allowing Mrs Foster to host the British-Irish Council meeting in County Fermanagh on Friday.

It comes after Mr Poots admitted party members “have been bruised” over its leadership election.

Speaking to BBC NI’s Spotlight, which is to be broadcast on Tuesday night, he described the resignations of a number of party members as “peripheral, but nonetheless I don’t want to lose anybody from the party”.

He also said the party could take “a little time to heal” and that he did not believe there had been attempts to sabotage his leadership.

His comments came after the resignation of DUP councillors Glyn Hanna and Kathryn Owen, along with others in the party’s South Down association.

Mr Hanna said there was a “culture of fear” in the party and claimed he witnessed “bullying” at last month’s meeting of the DUP executive, during which Mr Poots’ election as DUP leader was ratified by party members.

He alleged that people who had put their hands up at the meeting in support of a secret ballot on the leadership were told to put them down.

That claim was backed up by party member Roberta McNally, who was also at the DUP executive meeting and has also resigned.

The vote to hold a secret ballot was defeated, but DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley, who was ratified that night along with Mr Poots, has said a secret ballot should have been held to affirm Mr Poots’ leadership.

All key positions on the front bench and back bench in terms of ministers and assembly committees have been filled.

The Poots team has indicated today that these changes will not take effect until next week at the earliest. That is to allow Arlene Foster to remain as first minister until she attends the British-Irish Council meeting on Friday.

Adopting this tactic of announcing his new team, but saying they won’t take up their positions immediately, allows a period of time to allow Mrs Foster to see out her days as first minister.

We may well see Mrs Foster tendering her resignation on Monday, which then would allow Team Poots to move in and put his people on the benches on Monday evening, or perhaps Tuesday.

But who knows? Predicting the DUP over the course of the past five weeks has been a bit of a lottery.

Mr Poots said he did not accept that there is a problem of misogyny in the party.

“I have personally only ever been respectful to all of the women in our party, and encouraged them. Politics is a very hostile place, and a lot of women don’t like that level of hostility,” Mr Poots said.

“It is for us to ensure that we can make our arguments strongly, but also respectfully.”

Mr Poots said the personal abuse he receives – and Arlene Foster has received – as a politician is “massive”.

The vote to make Mr Poots leader and Ms Bradley deputy leader came amid anger from within the party about how Arlene Foster was ousted.

But Ms Bradley said there was no “purge” taking place in the party.

Spotlight is on BBC One NI at 22:45 BST on Tuesday.

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