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Just five of the £10,000 Covid fines issued last year have actually been paid

Latest figures show how many fines have actually been paid…

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gmpolice & gangster_times / Twitter

Latest figures suggest only a fraction of the £10,000 lockdown fines issued last year have actually been paid, with dozens more being challenged or ignored.

Between August and December 20th last year, police in England issued 196 of the fines with just two handed out in Wales. The fines were given to organisers of gatherings of more than 30 people including raves, parties and protests.

Of those 196 fines issued in England, only five have been paid according to snapshot figures. 53 are being formally contested, 42 have been ignored and 96 still have time left to pay in the 28-day payment period.

The data from Acro the criminal records office was given to the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC). Figures released late in the month by the PA news agency via Acro showed that 76 of the 198 fines issued in England and Wales were being contested.

GMP

Legal and policy officer for Big Brother Watch, Madeleine Stone, called unpaid lockdown fines ‘a prosecution crisis waiting to happen’.

She said: “These life-changing fines are a draconian and ineffective response to the pandemic.”

Rosalind Comyn, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, said: “The creation of £10,000 fines was completely disproportionate and only serves to punish people financially at a time of great economic uncertainty.

“For many people this fine is impossible to pay, and so this tactic just widens the number of people at risk of being criminalised.”

Human rights barrister, Kirsty Brimelow QC said: “The majority of people cannot afford to pay a £10,000 fine. People are being set up to fail by the issuing of these notices.”

Police warned the government in November over the super-fines, as those who paid within the 28 day period could face a larger bill than those who fought the penalty in court. 

Initially, officers were told to stop issuing penalties, however it was later agreed that those issued with a £10,000 fine were to be made fully aware of their right to fight it in court. 

Senior officers are said to be not surprised by the proportion of fines being contested due to the sheer size of the fine.

An NPCC spokesperson said: “Police use a 4Es approach of engaging with the public, explaining the rules, and encouraging compliance with them.

“Large gatherings should not be happening in the current circumstances and the regulations in place for everyone’s safety are absolutely clear on that.

“Those who organise large gatherings know they are breaking the law and putting others at risk.

“Officers will only issue a fine as a last resort, but will not waste time with endless encouragement where there is a clear and egregious breach of the rules, such as for these large gatherings.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The majority of the public are continuing to play their part to control this terrible virus by staying at home – it is shameful that a small minority continue to flout the law and it’s right we have a strong deterrent for those who put us at risk by ignoring the rules.

“Those who refuse to pay fixed penalty notices may face court action and a possible criminal record.

“We have given police the appropriate guidance to ensure they can charge offences correctly, and rigorously enforce the law, which is why we have made £60 million of extra funding available to police and local authorities.”

Latest figures show that a total of 250 fines were issued in England and Wales up to January 17th.

In the past month, they include fines to a funeral director over a service attended by 150 in Welwyn Garden City, organisers of a mass snowball fight in Leeds and organisers of a wedding attended by around 150 people in north London. 

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Manchester’s historic Portico Library awarded huge grant to secure its future

The funding has helped secure the future of the 218-year-old building

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David Dixon / Geograph

The Grade II-listed Portico Library will receive almost half a million pounds to transform the historic building.

The funding has helped secure the future of the 218-year-old building – a much-loved gem standing proudly on Mosley Street.

Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the £453,000 will see the treasured library undergo a huge revamp and preserve its book collection. 

Robert Wade / Flickr

During its development, local communities in Manchester will be invited to help work on the project.

With particular focus on environmentally sustainable architectural plans, it aims to unite all three original floors of The Portico Library for the first time in 100 years.

The ground floor will be transformed into a ‘Northern bookshop’ which will hold educational activities, with areas for dining, exhibitions areas and meeting spaces.

David Dixon / Geograph

While the upper floors will showcase the library’s incredible book collection and archives, which includes the first edition of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

John Carpenter, Chair of the Portico Library, said: “The news that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting The Portico Library’s bold scheme to open up and share its extraordinary heritage and collection, to Manchester residents and visitors, is a major cultural signal to Manchester, the North and the UK.”

David Dixon / Geograph

He added: “This visionary project, years in the making, fulfils our mission of working with the many people in Manchester to explore, share and celebrate their diverse stories and the city’s literary and global heritage.

“Embracing creativity, collaboration and inclusivity, the project will unlock the Library’s past to plan for the future. We would like to thank the National Lottery players who have made it possible to realise our vision.”

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Handwritten note with ‘plan to kill’ Brianna Ghey found in accused girl’s room

The note was found during a police search

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Cheshire Police

A handwritten note with alleged details of a ‘plan to kill’ transgender teenager Brianna Ghey was found by police in the bedroom of Girl X.

The crumpled paper note (pictured) was discovered by officers during a search conducted at the accused’s home in March, more than a month after the tragic death of the 16-year-old.

Brianna was found after being stabbed 28 times in Culcheth Linear Park, Warrington, earlier this year.

The teenager was discovered by dog walkers just after 3pm on Saturday, February 11th.

Cheshire Police

Girl X from Warrington and Boy Y from Leigh both deny murder. During the trial, jurors at Manchester Crown Court heard how Girl X sent a picture of the handwritten note to Boy Y on February 3rd.

The note began with the header: “Saturday 11th February 2023. Victim: Brianna Ghey.”

It continued: “Meet Boy Y at wooden posts 1pm. Walk down to library…bus stop. Wait until Brianna gets off bus then the 3 of us walk to Linear Park.

“Go to the pipe/tunnel area. I say code word to Boy Y. He stabs her in the back as I stab her in the stomach. Boy Y drags the body into the area. We both cover up the area with logs etc.”

Cheshire Police

In her opening speech, prosecutor Deanna Heer KC told the jury: “It is clearly, the prosecution say, a plan to kill Brianna Ghey.” During the same search on March 17th, officers found a note found in a drawer headlined ‘plan’.

Details in the note continued: “Give them alcohol with sleeping pills.

“Slit throat. I kill her. Dismember body. Place pieces in bin bags, bury bags 7ft underground, bones including.

“Get her to go to Linear park, go to the hidden spot near the bridge I usually go to. Someone jumps out and restrains her (plan B). I kill her.”

During the search, police also found a computer tablet and a black notebook.

Cheshire Police

Jurors heard that written in the notebook was the word ‘anarchy’ on one page, and on another there was a list of ‘what is right and wrong’. Another page had a ‘spider diagram’ with ‘good and ‘evil’ in the middle.

The ‘legs’ of the diagram lead to the words ‘forgiveness, justice, morality, good, suffering, evil, sin and free will’, the court heard.

On another page there were the words ‘Valentine’s gifts’ and on another the words ‘revision HW’. Prosecutor Cheryl Mottram said: “Homework, perhaps.”

Written on another page were the words ‘types of serial killers’, with a list under the heading.

Brianna Ghey / Go Fund Me

Words underneath included ‘organised and disorganised’, ‘mass murder’, ‘psychotic’, ‘organised crime’ and ‘copy cat’. On another page were the words ‘films’, and ‘faves’.

Another page was headed with ‘Jeffrey Dahmer’ and then a ‘list of characteristics’. There were also notes about ‘John Wayne Gacy’, the ‘killer clown’.

The notebook also had written inside it a note which read ‘potential threats’ and ‘people that need to go’.

Another page had Boy Y’s name on it followed by a ‘list of qualities or attributes’. Underneath was written the words ‘trustworthy, funny, sociopath, good sense of humour, very very smart, genius level and not sociable’. 

Mikey / Flickr

Officers also recovered a black purse inside a ‘cubby hole’ with a handwritten note inside.

The note read: “Friday 11th November, attitudes to forgiveness.” Jurors were told the note contained two names, including Gee Walker.

“Forgives her son Anthony’s killer,” it read. And continued: “Julie Nicholson, who could not forgive the terrorists who killed her daughter Jenny.”

Three handwritten notes were also found on the floor of the room. One read ‘serial killer facts’, with a ‘list of facts relating to serial killers’ including ‘killing themselves in police custody can be a final act of control’, ‘hedonism’ and ‘power and control orientated’.

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Other notes made were ‘cruelty to animals’, ‘bed wetting past age of five’, ‘USA has the most serial killers’, ‘lack of empathy for others’ and ‘can be superficially charming’.

One note read ‘Dr Harold Frederick Shipman, aka Dr Death’, followed by the words ‘classification, serial killer’.

And jurors were told there was also a note in relation to ‘Richard Ramirez, or the ‘Night Stalker’.

The trial, which began on November 27th at Manchester Crown Court, continues.

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Hugh Grant and wife Anna donate £20,000 ‘Britain’s kindest plumber’

A lovely Christmas gift to help those in need

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Tine Hemeryk / Flickr & @Depheruk / Twitter

Hugh Grant and his wife Anna have donated £20,000 to Burnley plumber James Anderson.

Dubbed ‘Britain’s kindest plumber’, James Anderson set up Depher, which stands for Disabled and Elderly, Plumbing and Heating Emergency Response, back in 2017.

Originally a plumber who offered services to those in need for free of charge, Mr Anderson now runs the community interest company.

Tine Hemeryk / Flickr

Depher provides plumbing work free of charge for those who are struggling in the cost of living crisis.

Since it began in 2017, Depher has helped more than half a million people across the country and relies on donations from the public.

Now, Hollywood actor Hugh Grant and his wife Anna, who both arrived in Manchester on Thursday December 7th to attend the Chanel Métiers d’Art fashion show, have made a donation of £20,000 to help those in need this winter.

@Depheruk / Twitter

The couple have also donated tens of thousands of pounds to the Depher cause in the past.

Anderson called the kind donation a ‘Christmas gift’ and said it brings the total they have donated to £75,000.

Sharing the news on the Depher Twitter page, Mr Anderson wrote: “After speaking privately to @HackedOffHugh and Anna Grant I have permission to share their wonderful #Christmas gift to @Depheruk. 

“This wonderful and humbling donation of £20,000.00 will give hope to thousands of people, families and children, especially with the #CostOfLivingCrisis.

“They both have my lifetime of respect and love.”

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