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Thames Water fined more than £3m over sewage spill that turned rivers black near Gatwick Airport | UK News

Thames Water have been fined more than £3m after admitting polluting rivers.

The company, which supplies one in four people in Britain with water, had pleaded guilty to four charges relating to illegally discharging waste.

It was fined £3.3m at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard “millions of litres” of undiluted sewage was pumped into the Gatwick Stream and River Mole between Crawley in West Sussex and Horley in Surrey on 11 October, 2017.

The hearing was told that the spill turned the water “black” and killed more than 1,000 fish.

More than 1,000 fish died as a result of sewage in rivers
More than 1,000 fish died as a result of sewage in rivers

Judge Christine Laing KC said that she believed the firm had shown a “deliberate attempt” to mislead the Environment Agency over the incident, by omitting water readings and submitting a report to the regulator denying responsibility.

The company has previously been fined £32.4m for pollution incidents in the Thames Valley and south-west London between 2017 and 2021.

During the first day of the hearing on Monday, the court heard how a storm pump at Crawley Sewage Treatment Works site was unexpectedly diverting sewage to its storm tank for 21 hours and went “unnoticed”.

Prosecutor Sailesh Mehta estimated untreated sewage was spilling into the river for six and a half hours after no alarm was raised.

When an alarm was raised the lead technician was unreachable as they were waiting for a new mobile phone.

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Eyewitness accounts read in court said how they saw the river turn “black” and “grey”, with “huge numbers of dead fish” visible in the water.

Nearly 1,400 dead fish were recovered from the rivers by the Environment Agency following the incident.

Lisa Roberts KC, representing Thames Water, said the firm expresses its “unreserved and sincere apology” for the incident, adding: “Put bluntly, it shouldn’t have happened and Thames deeply regrets the event.”

More than 1,000 fish died as a result of sewage in rivers

She said the company rejects that previous issues were to blame for the spillage, putting it down to a “faulty switch” in the storm pump which meant the incident could not have been predicted.

A £33m plan to improve the Crawley site has been put in place since the incident, according to Ms Roberts, with aims to complete it by the end of March 2025.

New systems have also been rolled out across other Thames Water sites to prevent such incidents happening again.

The fine comes as the company faces concerns over its future amid a mounting £14bn debt.

Thames Water’s chief executive Sarah Bentley stepped down with immediate effect last week after she gave up her bonus due to the company’s environmental performance.

In 2021, Southern Water was fined a record £90m for nearly 7,000 incidents of illegal discharge of sewage across Hampshire, Kent and Sussex.

Joe Biden’s ‘Black and Tans’ gaffe was unfortunate – he might want to stick to the script from now on | UK News

It had all been going so well. 

The serious political business of the day dispensed with, Joe Biden left Belfast and broke for the border.

Arriving for the first day of ancestral exploration in County Louth, he was taken on a tour of Carlingford Castle, the last sight his great-great-grandfather Owen Finnegan would have seen in 1849 as he sailed away to a new life in America.

The rain sheeted down, the cold was something from the depths of winter.

And yet, the 80-year-old president exuded an energy of a much younger man, beaming from beneath his baseball cap as he arrived in Dundalk.

Traditionally a staunchly republican border town, he wound up at a bar improbably called The Windsor.

Here, in relaxed mood, he spoke from the heart, and apparently off the cuff.

And that’s where the gaffe came from.

He was paying tribute to his distant cousin in the room, the former Irish rugby international Rob Kearney.

Kearney was a member of the Irish team that famously beat New Zealand’s All Blacks for the first time ever, in a 2016 match played in Chicago.

Ireland beat the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016 Pic AP
Ireland beat the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016 Pic AP

Read more:
Biden’s controversial comments on Ireland
How Irish is Joe Biden, really?

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‘The best drop of blood in you is Irish’

President Biden, who played rugby himself as a student, said that Rob Kearney was “a hell of a rugby player, and beat the Black and Tans”, thus confusing New Zealand’s famous team with the reviled British paramilitary force the Black and Tans, who brutally repressed opponents of British rule during the Irish War of Independence.

Most infamously, the force massacred 14 people and wounded 60 more at a Gaelic football match at Croke Park in Dublin in 1920.

It seemed an obvious slip of the tongue, rather than anything intentional.

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But here you had a US president often accused by unionists of being rabidly republican, apparently bragging about his family beating the British. In that context, the remark was deeply unfortunate.

President Biden continues on a more familiar political path on Thursday, meeting with the Irish president and prime minister, and addressing the Irish parliament. We can expect his comments there to remain more rigidly to script.

Nimco Ali accuses Suella Braverman of ‘normalising hate of black people on Twitter’ with her rhetoric | UK News

The government’s outgoing adviser on violence against women has accused the home secretary of “normalising hate” that black people get on Twitter with her rhetoric on immigration.

Nimco Ali, who announced she was leaving her role as an independent adviser at the Home Office earlier this month, accused Suella Braverman of “normalising hateful rhetoric”.

Asked about her concerns, she told Sky News: “It’s just the rhetoric. This is someone who wants to go very right wing, rather than think about the humanity of people.

“Suella is happy to lock people up in places with no beds in order to look tough on immigration.”

And describing the consequences of that, Ms Ali, 39, added: “If you just look at the timeline on Twitter at the moment, where any young black person, or any black person, speaks out, whether that be Meghan Markle or myself, the rhetoric and the hate we get is so normalised and we shouldn’t be in that position.”

In recent days Jeremy Clarkson has faced huge criticism for his language about the Duchess of Sussex in an article for The Sun, in which he said he “dreamed of the day she is made to parade naked through the streets”.

Ms Braverman was first appointed as home secretary by Liz Truss in her short premiership but was sacked over a security breach which broke the ministerial code.

More on Migrant Crossings

She was controversially re-appointed to Rishi Sunak’s cabinet six days later – again as home secretary.

Ms Braverman has also attracted criticism for her language, especially over immigration, where she described asylum seekers crossing the Channel in small boats as “an invasion”.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman makes a statement over four people drowning in the English Channel

‘Even if we deport people we can do it with humanity’

On her predecessor Priti Patel’s policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, Ms Braverman said it is her “dream” to be able to see it through amid successive legal challenges.

Ms Ali refused to comment on the latest High Court appeal due on Monday but said: “It’s the language we use around it.

“Even if we are going to deport people and their claims are not successful, we can still do that with a bit of humanity.”

She denied her decision to leave was because her contract wasn’t being extended with the Home Office.

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Previously she told Sky News: “I think I can definitely say that I wouldn’t feel comfortable in serving under Suella or actually saying that she is somebody that we probably have the same feminist ideals as.”

It is understood Ms Braverman and Ms Ali had never met before she started, and her job, given to her by Ms Patel two years ago, was due to end in the next two weeks.

A source close to Suella Braverman said: “It’s the home secretary’s duty to be honest with the British people about the scale of the crisis we’re facing on the south coast with the small boats crisis. She makes no apologies for that.”

Wakanda Forever: Stars of Black Panther sequel say they hope actor Chadwick Boseman ‘would be proud’ | Ents & Arts News

After feeling “completely deflated” by Chadwick Boseman’s death, Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright – who star in the Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever – have said they hope “he would be proud” of the new movie.

Two years on from Boseman’s death from colon cancer, aged just 43, the absence of King T’Challa himself on the black carpet at the London premiere was acutely felt as fans and photographers saw the stars out in force in Leicester Square.

Wright, who returns as Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister, told Sky News that he was at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts throughout the shoot.

(left to right) Martin Freeman, Florence Kasumba, Danai Gurira , Letitia Wright, Ryan Coogler, Lupita Nyong'o and Tenoch Huerta at premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in Leicester Square
(L-R) Martin Freeman, Florence Kasumba, Danai Gurira , Letitia Wright, Ryan Coogler, Lupita Nyong’o and Tenoch Huerta at the London premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

She said: “I lost my brother, so for me, the most important thing was about thinking why? Why are we moving forward? What would he have wanted?

“And I feel very strongly under the guidance of our director that he would be proud of this. He would have wanted to see the next generation motivated and inspired, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Nyong’o, who plays King T’Challa’s former lover Nakia, admitted returning to the set was hard.

“At the beginning, when Chadwick died, I was just completely deflated and I had no idea how we could come back to Wakanda.”

Crediting the sensitive way in which director Ryan Coogler takes the story forward, she said “[he] pivoted the story to embrace that loss, he made it about exploring grief and how we move on from tragedy”.

A new addition to the franchise, I May Destroy You actress Michaela Coel, said she was a huge fan of the original and “the passion it ignited” in her.

Chadwick Boseman (left) played T'Challa in the Black Panther film and Ryan Coogler (right)
(L-R) Chadwick Boseman played T’Challa in the 2018 Black Panther film, with director Ryan Coogler

She told Sky News: “I was giving cuddles, handing out tissues and making people laugh where I could.”

Joining the franchise as Aneka, a captain and combat instructor, she also credited filmmaker Coogler and his co-writer Joe Robert Cole in how they incorporated the great loss that everyone felt.

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Coel said: “A lot of women carry the heart of this movie but it’s written by two incredible men.

“What really blows my mind is how they were able to take their grief, process it and funnel it into a script that we could feel and understand…. it’s incredible and so respectful.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in cinemas from 11 November.

Russian jet ‘released missile’ near RAF aircraft during patrol over Black Sea | World News

A missile was released from a Russian aircraft near an unarmed RAF plane on a routine patrol over the Black Sea, the defence secretary has said.

In a statement updating MPs on the war in Ukraine, Ben Wallace said the incident happened on 29 September and that Russia has acknowledged it took place in international airspace.

The RAF RC-135 aircraft was on routine patrol over the Black Sea when it was “shadowed” by two Russian armed SU-27 fighter jets.

Ukraine news latest: Putin ‘likely considering withdrawal’ from parts of south

Mr Wallace said that while it is not unusual for aircraft to be shadowed in this way, “during that interaction however, it transpired that one of the SU-27 aircraft released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF Rivet Joint beyond visual range”.

He described the incident as a “potentially dangerous engagement” but said it was not deemed a “deliberate escalation”.

However, he said it did show the Russian military are “not beyond” deciding “the rules don’t apply to them”.

“While this was obviously the release of a weapon, we have seen very, very close flying next to US, UK NATO assets over the last few years,” Mr Wallace said.

“In one event I was aware of, a Russian fighter went within 15 feet of a NATO aircraft. You know that is reckless, unnecessary and puts at risk many people’s lives.”

The Commons heard Russia blamed the Black Sea incident on a “technical malfunction”.

The British defence secretary said: “Our analysis would concur it was a malfunction.”

“The total time of the interaction between the Russian aircraft and the Rivet Joint was approximately 90 minutes,” he said. “The patrol completed and the aircraft returned to base.”

Royal Air Force 51 Squadron Boeing RC -135 Rivet Joint Airborne Early Warning Surveillance Aircraft, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire

Jul 2014
A RAF RC -135 Rivet Joint aircraft. File pic

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Mr Wallace raised his concerns directly with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of defence staff in Moscow.

“In my letter I made clear the aircraft was unarmed, in international airspace, and following a pre-notified flight path,” he said.

“I felt it was prudent to suspend these patrols until a response was received by the Russian state.”

UK patrols over the Black Sea were initially suspended, but have now resumed and are escorted by fighter aircraft, Mr Wallace said.

The cabinet minister added that the UK had shared information on what happened with allies, and would continue to carry out regular sorties with the RAF Rivet Joint in international airspace over the Black Sea – which it has done since 2019.

Labour’s shadow defence minister Luke Pollard said the incident was a “serious reminder about the importance of avoiding escalation and miscalculation while continuing the UK’s united support for Ukraine”.

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650 children – mostly black boys – strip-searched by Met Police in just two years, with some as young as 10 | UK News

Children are being strip-searched by the Metropolitan Police without an appropriate adult present in almost a quarter of cases, with black boys disproportionately targeted, new data shows.

The research, published by the children’s commissioner for England, revealed that officers from the force conducted intrusive searches on 650 young people aged 10 to 17 between 2018 and 2020.

It was commissioned following the case of Child Q – a 15-year-old black girl who was strip-searched at her school in east London without an appropriate adult present. She was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said that the case had been wrongly described as “a one-off”.

She explained: “In a strip search, your most intimate parts are searched. For any child, that’s going to be traumatic and concerning.”

It is a legal requirement for an appropriate adult to be present, except in urgent situations.

Of the 650 who were searched over the three years, 19 in every 20 were boys and 58% were described by the officer as being black.

More on Metropolitan Police

Katrina Ffrench, the founder director of Unjust UK, said she was “incredibly horrified” by the figures.

She added: “The numbers are so high because they demonstrate that there’s an issue within the Metropolitan Police and its treatment of black communities across London.

“Unfortunately, young black children are not afforded innocence and the same rights as their white peers.”

In 2018, more than two-thirds of those strip-searched without anyone else present were black boys.

Solicitor Kevin Donoghue has represented children elsewhere in the country who have been through the experience.

“The fallout for these children is very significant,” he said. “The common features and expressions given to me in handling these cases are one of personal intrusion.

“There is a violation by police officers which is very severely felt and one of personal integrity and their bodily autonomy which has been invaded and it is an event which cannot be undone.

“An apology is not enough. Compensation is not enough.”

In the Child Q case, four officers are being investigated for gross misconduct and a serious case review has been carried out.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that it is “progressing at pace” to ensure children subject to intrusive searches are dealt with respectfully.

And new measures have been introduced requiring an inspector to give authority before a search takes place.

It added: “We have ensured our officers and staff have a refreshed understanding of the policy for conducting a ‘further search’, particularly around the requirement for an appropriate adult to be present.

“We have also given officers advice around dealing with schools, ensuring that children are treated as children and considering safeguarding for those under 18.”

In more than half of all child strip searches, no further action was taken.

It’s left the Children’s Commissioner questioning why so many are carried out in the first place.

She’s also concerned about “holes in the data” recorded by the Met Police.

“For about one in five of the strip-searched, they can’t even tell me where they took place, so the data collection needs to be better.”