Thursday 4 March 2004

By Natasha Salari, Clare Jerrom and Alex Dobson

MPs seek to force ban on smacking

A cross-party coalition of MPs and peers were last night
preparing to hijack the children’s bill to introduce a ban on
smacking children.

The bill, due to be published today, seeks to strengthen child
protection to remedy defects identified last year by Lord
Laming’s inquiry into the murder of Victoria Climbie.

It is expected to include the appointment of a children’s
commissioner in England, a re-organisation of local authority
departments and the introduction of a tracking system for
vulnerable children.

The Children Are Unbeatable Alliance, a group of 350 charities and
organisations, are hoping to amend the bill to include a
prohibition of smacking.

Education secretary Charles Clarke and leader of the house Peter
Hain are understood to favour a free vote if an amendment against
smacking is tabled.

Source:- The Guardian Thursday 4 March page 6

Ministers are breaking the law, say judges

Two of Britain’s most senior judges condemned the
government’s asylum reform as a threat to the rule of

Lord chief justice Lord Woolf condemned plans to bar courts from
reviewing asylum decisions, saying it would be a “blot on the
reputation of the government” that could trigger a campaign
for a written constitution.

In an apparently co-ordinated attack, a second senior judge
attacked the Home Office and the Asylum and Immigration bill,
accusing ministers of “attacking our democratic

In a speech at the Inner Temple, Lord Steyn said home secretary
David Blunkett’s Bill was an astonishing measure that was
contrary to the rule of law and to the principle of open justice
for all citizens.

Source:- The Times Thursday 4 March page 1

Downing arrested over ‘threat to woman

Stephen Downing, who spent 27 years in prison before he was cleared
of the murder of Wendy Sewell, has been arrested and questioned
over the alleged intimidation of a witness in a court case.

Derbyshire police confirmed that Downing, who has learning
difficulties, had been arrested last week on suspicion of
intimidating a female witness in a recent case.

He was interviewed and released on bail while further
investigations are carried out.

Downing’s father Raymond was sentenced at Derby Crown Court
last December to eight months in jail for indecently assaulting a
17-year-old girl with a mental age of eight.

Downing was jailed in 1973 for the murder of Sewell but was
released in 2001 after concerns were raised about the way in which
detectives had extracted a confession from him.

Source:- The Times Thursday 4 March page 3

MMR authors retract autism link findings

Ten out of the 12 authors of a paper that appeared in The
Lancet and started the row over the link between the MMR triple
vaccination and autism have retracted their finding.

The theory in the paper, published in 1998, has caused many parents
to refuse to have their children vaccinated.

The 10, who have declared the interpretation of their findings was
wrong, do not include Andrew Wakefield.

Source:- The Times Thursday 4 March page 4

Homes ‘failing elderly’

The Office of Fair Trading is to investigate nursing homes amid
claims they are failing older people and their families.

The OFT will study competition in the residential care homes market
after 27 charities and the Consumers’ Association lodged a
“super-complaint” against the industry, worth £9
billion a year.

The study will look at whether contracts are sufficiently
transparent and will provide safeguards against unreasonable price

Source:- The Times Thursday 4 March page 4

Computer chaos ‘let Huntley through net’

The flawed computer systems operated by Humberside police could
have contributed to Ian Huntley getting a job as a school caretaker
in Soham, the Bichard inquiry heard yesterday.

A formerly secret internal report submitted by Detective
Superintendent Keith Hunter raised the possibility that chaotic
internal systems may have prevented Huntley being properly vetted
before he was appointed into the post.

Source:- The Times Thursday 4 March page 10

A local income tax may pay off after all

A government-commissioned report published today claims that local
income tax set by local authorities could be a realistic option as
an alternative to council tax.

A Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy report
supports a hybrid system of the current property tax with an
element of local income tax as part of a radical reform of council

Source:- The Times Thursday 4 March page 13

Delays ‘are causing blindness’

Michael Howard yesterday claimed government delays could mean 2,800
people losing their sight.

Health chiefs were given nine months rather than three to introduce
treatment for a form of acute macular degeneration after clinical
watchdogs approved its use in September to combat the most common
cause of blindness in older people.

During prime minister’s questions, the Conservative leader
said claims by health secretary John Reid that it had been delayed
because of staff shortages had been rejected by the RNIB, which
claimed 50 centres “could provide the treatment

Tony Blair said he was unaware of the situation but would look into

Source:- The Guardian Thursday 4 March page 11

Bullies’ victims, 12, hanged herself on Christmas day

A 12-year-old girl who was bullied at school hanged herself on
Christmas day, an inquest heard yesterday.

Georgina Phelan, who used a scarf tied to a clothes rail to hang
herself in her bedroom cupboard, was found by her mother.

Phelan told the inquest that her daughter had been bullied by both
girls and boys and that she had called in the police because she
thought her daughter’s school had failed to control the

Source:- The Daily Mail Thursday 4 March page 37

Families appeal against care orders

Two mothers who claim that their children were wrongly taken into
care after false allegations of child abuse began legal action at
the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Lawyers representing the women said their children were removed
after doctors diagnosed the mothers as suffering from Munchausen’s
Syndrome By Proxy.

Yesterday the two mothers, the first of hundreds to reach the
courts, began their legal challenges to care orders made against
their children.

Source:- The Independent Thursday 4 March page 5

Sanctuaries for abused women

Victims of domestic violence are being given reinforced
“sanctuaries” in their own homes.

A room is fitted with window grilles and a reinforced door with
mortice bolts to create a safe area while the woman calls for

The Sanctuary Project will protect women separated from a violent
partner but still being harassed. The scheme, which aims to cut
homelessness, is running in the London boroughs of Harrow and

Source:- The Daily Telegraph Thursday 4 March page 2

Samaritans to give Revenue staff sympathy training

The Samaritans are running training courses for call centre staff
in handling customers sympathetically.

The charity, which provides 24-hour telephone support for people
feeling desperate or suicidal, launched a range of courses in
business communication skills yesterday.

Source:- The Financial Times Thursday 4 March page 2

Scottish newspapers

NHS pays £2m to mother of brain damaged girl

A mother whose baby suffered brain damage as a result of
procedures during the birth was yesterday awarded more than £2
million damages on behalf of her daughter.

Greer Ralston received the out of court settlement from Forth
Valley Acute Hospitals NHS Trust following a four-year legal battle
to win £5 million compensation for her daughter, Keira.

Medical staff had failed to realise that Ralston’s uterus was
about to rupture during the birth.

Source:- The Scotsman Thursday 4 March

MSPs back giving police new powers of dispersal

A committee of MSPs have backed controversial plans to give police
additional powers to disperse groups of youngsters.

The communities committee will tomorrow publish a report supporting
the Scottish executive’s plans, despite fierce opposition
from youth workers, police and academics.

It is understood that four Labour members of the committee pushed
through the plans with the backing of Liberal Democrat MSP Donald
Gorrie, despite opposition from the SNP, the Tories and the Green

The report will contain heavy criticism of the executive.

Source:- The Scotsman Thursday 4 March

Disabled girl, 7, is billed for parking bay costs

A council has billed a seven-year-old disabled child £100
after it painted a parking bay outside her home.

Bridget Cameron applied to Edinburgh council for the bay as a lack
of parking spaces on her road meant she had to carry her daughter,
Darcy, who has cerebral palsy, asthma and a heart condition, the
full length of the street.

But Cameron was in shock after she read the invoice addressed to
her daughter, particularly after the council had told her she would
probably not be charged for the parking bay.

Source:- Evening News Wednesday 3 March

Call for union to face children

Parents of children with special needs have called on union leaders
to meet their children face-to-face to see the impact that the
strikes by nursery nurses are having on them.

They hope that seeing the distress caused to vulnerable children
first hand will urge strike leaders to exempt special schools from
the walk-out.

Nursery nurse across Scotland voted for an all-out strike last week
to campaign for better working conditions and improved pay.

Source:- Evening News Wednesday 3 March

Play pack boost for disabled children

An education pack to help school staff include disabled children in
play activities has been produced following a two-year
“inspiring inclusive play” research project, funded by
the Scottish executive.

The aim of the pack, due to be published later this month, is to
show how play can promote participation, inclusion and
understanding better children with diverse abilities and special

Source:- Evening News Wednesday 3 March

Social work chiefs reject charity’s Ritalin abuse

Edinburgh Council has rejected claims from a parents’ charity
that the Ritalin drug for hyperactive children is being sold in the
playgrounds of some of the capital’s schools.

A council report said suggestions that Ritalin was being traded
openly in Leith housing estates were unsubstantiated.

Overload Network International claimed last year that Ritalin was
being widely abused, with some youngsters swapping medication with
drug dealers for CDs and phone cards.

Source:- The Herald Thursday 4 March

Watchdog to probe £9bn care industry

Claims that Britain’s £9 billion-a-year nursing and
residential care home market is failing families and residents are
to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading.

The announcement followed a “super-complaint” lodged by
the Consumers’ Association which claimed the current
situation was “dysfunctional”.

Scotland will be included in the investigation which will look at
how easy it is for people to shop for a care home to ensure they
make a good choice.

Source:- The Herald Thursday 4 March

Welsh newspapers

Will school breakfasts dish out snap, crackle
‘n’ pop?

The Welsh assembly has been accused of planning to involve the
Kellogg food giant in a bid to salvage plans to provide every
primary school pupil in Wales with a free breakfast.

Plaid Cymru shadow education minister Janet Ryder claimed that help
from Kellogg is needed to bail out the breakfast plan, which was a
key pledge in Labour’s election manifesto.

But a Kellogg spokesperson said they were not in contact with the
assembly, but were working closely with the charity ContinYou,
which is involved in promoting breakfast clubs across the UK.

Source:- Western Mail Thursday 4 March page 3

Parents want drug testing in schools

Concerned parents are calling on Welsh schools to follow the
English lead and drug test their children.

They want Welsh schools to introduce guidelines that could see
pupils being asked to supply urine samples if drug taking is

But a spokesperson for the assembly has confirmed that the
Westminster guidelines do not apply to Wales.

Source:- Western Mail Thursday 4 March page 8


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