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Minimum marriage age to be raised from 16 to 18 in England and Wales

The new law will see adults who arrange child marriages face up to seven years in prison

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Nikki Gibson & Saeed Sarshar / Unsplash

The minimum marriage age in England and Wales is to be raised from sixteen to eighteen under a new law hoping to prevent illegal child marriages.

While sixteen and seventeen year olds can currently marry with parental consent, campaigners have been warning that this legal loophole has been exploited and used to coerce some young people into child marriage.

The new law, proposed by Conservative MP Pauline Latham and first introduced in June last year, could see adults who arrange the marriage of children face up to to seven years in prison and receive a fine.

Latham said the legislation will also apply to cultural or religious marriages that are not registered with the local council, and will ‘transform the life chances of many girls’. 

The legislation, which had its third reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday, will receive Royal Assent later this week, meaning it will become law from then.

The move has been praised by anti-child marriage campaigner Payzee Malika, who was coerced into marriage at the age of sixteen. Her sister Banaz was also murdered in a so-called ‘honour killing’.

She tweeted yesterday: “On my way to Parliament for The Third and Final reading of our Child Marriage Bill… Struggling to put in to words what this means.

“I feel so many emotions. This is real life change. This is for me, for Banaz, for any child impacted by child marriage.”

In a separate tweet, Payzee tweeted: “I’m just a girl from Kurdistan. I couldn’t imagine in a million years I would be working to end child marriage, sitting in Parliament hearing an incredible woman talking about the need to end child marriage.

“I will keep saying it, this is life saving. This is change.”

Figures released by the ONS last year show that 140 teenage girls and 43 teenage boys were married with parental consent in 2017.

Last year, Health Secretary Sajid Javid drafted a bill to end the rule that allowed sixteen and seventeen year olds to marry with their parents’ permission, arguing that research showed most of these unions were ‘coerced or forced for cultural and religious reasons’.

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Boy, 14, guilty of murdering 12-year-old Ava White after Snapchat video row

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A boy has been found guilty of stabbing Ava White to death in Liverpool.

The 14-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty of murdering Ava, 12, at court today.

The incident happened following a row over a Snapchat video, with the court hearing that a ‘chance encounter’ with the 14-year-old boy led to her tragic death.

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Ava was stabbed in the neck at Liverpool’s Christmas lights switch-on last November, after asking a group of boys to stop filming her and friends, Sky News reports.

A jury was told that the defendant then laughed and ran away following the attack, although the boy claimed he had acted in self-defence and denied murder.

However, he was found guilty after the two-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Family members were left in tears in court after a 20-second clip showing the stabbing – which happened on November 25th – was played.

The boy, who was found to have a 7.5cm flick blade, previously pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon.

Ava and several of her friends, who were all aged between 11 and 15, shared some alcohol together near the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool city centre when the boy and his friends saw them and filmed a video for Snapchat.

Prosecutor Charlotte Newell QC said Ava asked them to stop filming before the boys started ‘jeering’ at her – she then ran towards them before the defendant ‘thrust a knife into the neck of this unarmed child’.

She told the court: “His reaction at the time was to smirk, to laugh and to run away, leaving Ava to die whilst he sought to distance himself from his actions.”

Ava’s last words were ‘don’t leave me’, as she lay dying on the ground.

The court heard that the boy ‘began a conscious cover-up’ after the incident, attempting to discard his knife, phone and coat.

When arrested he told a ‘series of lies’ about his movements at the time of the killing, the jury was told, saying he was playing Call of Duty at a mate’s house, before saying another boy had stabbed Ava.

While giving evidence, the 14-year-old claimed he was ‘scared’ Ava was going to ‘jump him’,  and that he was only trying to ‘frighten her away’ because he was ‘scared’ – telling court he thought Ava was a boy and might have had ‘a weapon’.

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Kurt Zouma charged with three offences over cat kicking videos

The footballer was filmed abusing his cat at the start of this year

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Kurt Zouma / Instagram

Kurt Zouma has been charged with three offences under the Animal Welfare Act after he was filmed kicking his pet cat.

The charges are in relation to the now-infamous videos that showed the West Ham footballer abusing the cat.

Kurt is accused of two counts of causing ‘unnecessary suffering’ to the cat by kicking it in the abdomen and slapping it in the head.

He is also charged with failing to protect the cat from ‘pain suffering, injury or disease’.

His brother and fellow footballer Yoan has also been charged for his involvement in the incident, which he filmed and posted onto Snapchat.

Yoan is accused of two counts of ‘aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring’ Kurt to commit the offence of causing unnecessary suffering to the cat.

The brothers are set to appear at Thames Magistrates’ Court tomorrow (May 24th) for a preliminary hearing following a joint investigation from the RSPCA and Essex Police.

After the video started circulating on social media in February, the RSPCA removed two cats from Kurt’s home and began liaising with Essex Police about the incident.

In a statement at the time of the video’s circulation, the RSPCA said: “The two cats are now in RSPCA care. Our priority is and has always been the wellbeing of these cats.

“They’ve been taken for a check-up at a vets and then will remain in our care while the investigation continues.

“We’re grateful to everyone who expressed their concern for these cats. We were dealing with this issue before the video went viral online and are leading the investigation.

“We continue to investigate so we cannot comment further at this time.”

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Sue Gray report set to be ‘published in full next week’ as partygate investigation ends

The police announced the end of their investigation today

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The long-awaited Sue Gray report into Downing Street misconduct during the Covid pandemic is due to be published in full next week as the police’s investigation concludes.

The report – which investigated a series of alleged breaches of Covid lockdown in 10 Downing Street and Whitehall – was completed in January, but the publication of the full document was delayed at the request of the Metropolitan Police as they completed their own investigation.

But today, the police announced their inquiry into Downing Street lockdown breaches has come to an end, meaning Gray’s report could be published as soon as next week.

A source close to Gray and her team said she now intends to publish her report ‘as soon as possible’, adding that it could come as early as next week, according to The Independent.

The shortened version of Gray’s report noted that there was a ‘serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government, but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time’.

Gray also stated that because the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is ‘difficult to justify’.

Stand-out points from the report include:

  • There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times.
  • The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time.
  • The use of the garden at No 10 Downing Street should be primarily for the Prime Minister and the private residents of No 10 and No 11 Downing Street.
  • The leadership structures are fragmented and complicated and this has sometimes led to the blurring of lines of accountability.
  • Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so.

Flickr / Number 10

The police’s investigation resulted in a total of 126 fines, known as Fixed Penalty Notices, being issued for events across eight different dates.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were both fined for their involvement in parties and events held during the lockdowns.

Twenty-eight people have been issued with more than one fine, the force added.

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