TIME United Kingdom

UK Police Arrest 660 Suspected Pedophiles

Arrests follow a string of pedophilia scandals in the country

UK police have arrested 660 alleged pedophiles following a six-month investigation. The suspects include doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers and former police officers.

The UK’s National Crime Agency said Wednesday that the operation occurred across the UK and involved 45 separate police forces. The agency estimated that over 400 children have been protected as a result.

The operation, which was kept secret until the arrests were made, involved targeting those accessing pedophilic images online. A total of 39 of those arrested were registered sex offenders though the vast majority was unknown to the police. Those who have been charged are accused of a range of crimes, from possessing indecent images of children to serious sexual abuse.

“This is the first time the UK has had the capability to coordinate a single targeted operation of this nature. Over the past six months we have seen unprecedented levels of cooperation to deliver this result,” said the agency’s deputy director general, Phil Gormley.

This spate of arrests follows a string of pedophilia scandals that have dogged the UK. Last week, allegations were made that politicians in the 1980s repeatedly abused vulnerable children.

This news was given greater credence amidst the UK’s ongoing police inquiry, Operation Yewtree, into the abuse of children by high-profile celebrities. Many of the alleged assaults happened decades ago.

TIME relationships

How to Dump a Cheater: Say It With a Freeway Banner

Why get mad, when you can publicly humiliate the jerk instead?

Revenge fantasies can be fun, but are often illegal, immoral or just too complicated. But two women in the United Kingdom appear to have found a simple way to get back at their lothario — who was allegedly dating both of them at the same time — with maximum impact.

On Wednesday, a banner appeared on a bridge above a busy freeway near the cities of Newcastle and Gateshead, which read: “Steve Frazer You’re Dumped! By Both of Your Girlfriends.” A joint selfie of the two women and a photo of the (alleged) cheater were emblazoned on the banner as well.

To be clear, we have no idea what the backstory is behind the banner — nor does anyone else who’s gone public, anyway. The most obvious scenario would be that the ladies, who bare a disturbing resemblance to each other, found out that their man was dating both of them and were pissed. (Wait, wasn’t there a movie about this?)

Whatever the case, we’re pretty sure Steve was squirming in his car seat when he saw the banner, which was taken down later in the day. As one tweep noted, “Not a great day for Steve Frazer”.

TIME United Kingdom

Julian Assange May Be Britain’s Next Top Model

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London June 14, 2013.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London June 14, 2013. Reuters

The WikiLeaks founder is reportedly set to strut his stuff on the catwalk at London Fashion Week this September

Julian Assange, the fugitive founder of WikiLeaks, may be making a guest appearance at London Fashion Week in September, the Independent reports.

Ben Westwood, son of acclaimed British designer Vivienne Westwood, has reportedly asked Assange to model in his show, which will be held at Ecuador’s embassy.

Though an international embassy might seem a strange choice of venue for good-looking, well-dressed people, Westwood has little choice. His sartorial star has been taking shelter in the embassy for the past two years to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sex offenses.

Unfazed by his model’s infamy, Westwood commented: “I want to highlight Julian Assange’s plight. What happened to him is totally unfair.”

Should the WikiLeaks founder participate he’ll by joined by six other models wearing clothes inspired by Clint Eastwood Westerns and what Westwood called Assange’s “combat-beret look”.

Though Assange has yet to comment on this latest job offer, he is no stranger to publicity, even when in hiding. In October 2012, Lady Gaga swung by the embassy to pay him a visit and in Nov. 2013 he opened rapper M.I.A’s “Matangi” tour via Skype.

Tantalizingly, Westwood has also suggested he’ll showcase a “garment with a Julian Assange print”. Whether this look will be hitting the stores in a few months time remains to be seen.

[Independent]

TIME United Kingdom

British Tabloid Ex-Editor Found Guilty of Phone Hacking

Andy Coulson, a former aide to Prime Minister David Cameron, has been found guilty of phone hacking while editor of a tabloid newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch. His predecessor at the paper, Rebekah Brooks, has been cleared of all charges

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Andy Coulson, the former communications director to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, has been found guilty by a British criminal court of conspiring to hack phones while a tabloid newspaper editor, the BBC reports.

The hacking occurred from 2000 to 2006, overlapping with Coulson’s stint as editor of the now defunct British tabloid, the News of the World, from 2003 to 2007.

Rebekah Brooks, Coulson’s predecessor at the paper and a top lieutenant to owner Rupert Murdoch, has been found innocent of all charges.

The story began in 2006 when two News of the World employees were found guilty of phone hacking, causing Coulson to resign. The editor was then made a top aide to Cameron.

Revelations of hacking continued, forcing Coulson to leave Downing Street in 2011, and prompting Murdoch to close the News of the World later that year.

Cameron, who promised in 2011 to apologize if Coulson was found guilty, issued a statement to that effect Tuesday. The Prime Minister offered a “full and frank” apology, stating that hiring Coulson “was the wrong decision and I am very clear about that.”

British police identified more than 4,000 people as possible victims of phone hacking by the News of the World. Targets included politicians, celebrities, athletes, relatives of dead British soldiers, and victims of the 7/7 London bombings.

Brooks, the former chief executive of Murdoch’s News International and a close friend of Cameron, was overcome by emotion at the jury’s decision, appearing to mouth “thank you” to them.

Coulson, by contrast, showed little reaction, though he may face further charges and a possible jail sentence.

[BBC]

 

TIME United Kingdom

Terrorism Trial in Britain Sparks Accusations of Excessive Secrecy

Britain's Court of Appeal overturned a judge who agreed to hold the trial of two men in absolute secrecy but most of the proceedings will still take place out of public view

A terrorism trial due to be held in London has caused heated debate in Britain with civil liberties advocates and media organizations critizing the country’s main prosecution service for attempting to conduct the trial in total secrecy.

In May, a senior judge agreed to prosecutors’ requests and ruled that the trial would be held entirely in secret. On June 12, just four days before the trial was due to start, Britain’s Court of Appeal overturned this decision, ruling that most of the trial would be heard in private and the rest in public.

The appeal court’s decision was prompted by a joint challenge from a number of British media outlets that had found out about the May ruling and then moved to overturn it. The media had been forbidden by law to even mention the trial’s existence until June 4 when the court lifted a ban on reporting information about the case.

The trial concerns two defendants, Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bohadjar, both 26 and from London, who are accused of collecting or recording information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Though the bulk of the trial will be heard in private, a small number of accredited journalists will be allowed to attend the closed hearings. These journalists will only be from those media outlets that made the appeal and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the government department that prosecutes criminal cases, will hand pick them.

That has angered a number of politicians and activists who worry that allowing the CPS to select journalists to attend the trial goes against the British tradition of open justice.

In a statement on his website, the Conservative MP David Davis condemned the trial’s secrecy. “We should be wary of accepting as the new norm in camera trials with controlled journalistic access,” he said.

These comments are the latest in a stream of criticism that the trial has generated. On June 5, the trial made the front pages of three major British newspapers: the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.

Philip Johnston, an editorial writer for the right-leaning Telegraph, wrote: “We are being asked, in other words, to sacrifice one of the key principles of justice – that it should be seen to be done – for security.” Owen Jones, a columnist for the left-of-center Guardian called the trial “an affront to basic principles of justice, and a frightening precedent to boot.”

Lord Gross, one of the appeal court judges who overturned the secret trial, said in his ruling that secrecy is sometimes necessary to protect matters of national security. “For the [intelligence agencies] to operate effectively, at least much of their work is secret and must remain so as a matter of necessity.”

Andrew Scott, associate professor of law at the London School of Economics echoed this. He told TIME: “It is never a question of aspiring to total openness. Most obviously weighing against transparency are matters of national security and highly private personal information, but also, for example, matters that are commercially sensitive or confidential.”

Some legal experts and civil liberties groups have suggested that there is a growing movement towards secrecy in the U.K. courts. After the terrorist bombings in London in July 2007, the British intelligence agency, MI5, angered families of the victims when it attempted to exclude them from hearings on the attacks because they said the evidence would include sensitive intelligence material. This request was overturned the official in charge of the hearings in 2010. In 2013, the British parliament passed a law that extended use of secret information into civil cases.

This practice is known as closed material procedure (CMP), and allows classified information to be introduced in a trial that can only be seen by the judge and by lawyers who have received security clearance.

Scott condemned the proceedings, telling TIME: “CMPs are an abomination in the face of the principle of open justice.” Juan Mendez, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture, has also criticized them.

The trial of Incedar and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar has been postponed until October. Full details of the case are likely to emerge at the end of the trial when the accredited journalists will have their notes from the closed hearings returned to them.

TIME United Kingdom

UK Says Google, Twitter, Facebook Snooping Permitted By Law

The UK says citizens' communications on U.S.-based social media count as international communications, making them up for grabs for mass surveillance

The United Kingdom has for the first time officially acknowledged that it conducts mass surveillance on its citizens via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google. The admission came via a document made public Tuesday after a legal challenge of such surveillance.

Charles Farr, the Director of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism at the UK’s Home Office, outlined in a 48-page document the legal justifications for the interception of UK residents’ online communications. According to the document, that justification is based on location: Facebook, Twitter, Google and so on are based outside of the UK, so by its reasoning, all British citizens’ use of those platforms constitutes an international communication, which the government views as a valid target for mass surveillance.

However, the Internet’s structure means that data sent online can often bounce around the world in complete disregard of international boundaries. Thus, privacy advocates argue that nearly all online communications could potentially qualify as international and therefore up for grabs in the eyes of the British government.

“The security services consider that they’re entitled to read, listen and analyze all our communications on Facebook, Google and other U.S.-based platforms,” said the Legal Director of the rights group Liberty in a statement. “If there was any remaining doubt that our snooping laws need a radical overhaul there can be no longer.”

The British government has previously refused to confirm or deny Edward Snowden’s accusations that the UK has been monitoring citizens’ communications en masse. “This is the first time the British government has said, ‘we are performing mass surveillance and we think it’s legal,’” Privacy International spokesman Mike Rispoli told TIME. Privacy International was among the groups that brought the suit leading to the document’s release.

In the document, the British government, like the NSA, argues that mass communications surveillance makes the country safer.

“Overall, intelligence derived from communications and communications data obtained from foreign intelligence partners, and from the U.S. intelligence agencies in particular, has led directly to the prevention of terrorist attacks and serious crime, and the saving of lives,” said the UK in the document released Tuesday. Defenders of the American NSA program have yet to identify a case wherein lives were saved by data gleaned from mass surveillance.

TIME Iran

UK Plans to Reopen Embassy in Iran

Iranian Demonstrators Break In To British Embassy In Tehran
A large number of protesters prepare to break in to the British Embassy during an anti-British demonstration on November 29, 2011 in Tehran, Iran. FarsNews/Getty Images

Foreign Secretary William Hague said "circumstances were right" to reopen Britain's embassy in Tehran some two years after Iranian protesters ransacked the building

The UK foreign secretary said Tuesday that the country would re-open its embassy in Tehran as a sign of “increasing confidence” in Iran’s new administration.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said that “circumstances were right” to restore full diplomatic relations with Iran. Britain evacuated its embassy in Tehran and suspended full diplomatic relations with Iran after hardline protesters raided the building in November 2011, the BBC reports.

But bilateral relations between the two countries have improved since the election of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, the arrangement of an interim nuclear deal and most recently, the makings of a fragile alliance against a common enemy, extremist Sunni militias flooding into Iraq.

“Iran is an important country in a volatile region, and maintaining embassies around the world, even under difficult conditions, is a central pillar of the UK’s global diplomatic approach,” he said in a speech before Parliament.

Hague rebutted critiques that Britain was “softening” its approach to Tehran, saying that he would continue uphold its demands on Iranian leaders to “cease support for sectarian groups across the Middle East and reach a successful conclusion to nuclear negotiations.”

[BBC]

TIME Scotland

Scottish Independence Could Put Whisky Makers on the Rocks, Study Says

Daily Life On Orkney
Dave Reid inspects the quality of the heather filled peat, from Hobbister Moor, in Highland Park whisky distillery on May 30, 2014 in Kirkwall, Scotland. Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert—Getty Images

A vote for Scottish independence could expose local distilleries to costly and unpredictable swings in foreign exchange rates, a new report warns

A new study suggests a Scottish vote in favor of independence could boomerang on one of the nation’s proudest exports: Scotch whisky.

Analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch say that Scotland’s upcoming vote for independence on September 18th risks severing the nation from the British pound, forcing it to create its own currency and casting it into a brave new world of fluctuating exchange rates. Whisky makers, in particular, could absorb the brunt of the shocks. They account for the nation’s second largest export and ship to roughly 200 countries around the world, according to the report.

“At present, the large producers typically invoice Scotch whisky in U.S. dollars,” the authors wrote. “As such the main transactional FX risk faced is the movement in Sterling/US$ which is typically hedged on a 12 month basis. A volatile currency would likely be more difficult and expensive to hedge making pricing and planning decisions harder. “

That would mean a possible contraction of investment, fewer barrels of Scotch and a slightly less satisfied global population of Scotch drinkers.

TIME United Kingdom

London Is a Worse Nitrogen Dioxide Polluter Than Beijing

A general view through smog of the Canary Wharf financial district on April 2, 2014 in London.
A general view through smog of the Canary Wharf financial district on April 2, 2014 in London. Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

An E.U.-mandated shift to diesel cars has sent London's NO2 emissions through the roof. "It's a public-health catastrophe," says one prominent campaigner

British tabloids may lash out at Chinese smog all they want, but when it comes to one important pollution indicator, the U.K. capital actually outpollutes even Beijing.

A European Union–wide shift to diesel, in order to curb CO2 emissions, has sent London’s nitrogen dioxide levels through the roof, Bloomberg reports. Not only are they the worst in Europe, reaching twice the E.U. limit, they also surpass the Chinese capital’s by a whopping 50%.

“Successive governments knew more than 10 years ago that diesel was producing all these harmful pollutants, but they myopically plowed on with their CO2 agenda,” Simon Birkett, founder of the nonprofit Clean Air in London, told Bloomberg. “It’s a public-health catastrophe.”

In 2000, the E.U. drew up rules allowing diesel cars to discharge more than three times the amount of nitrogen dioxide than those using gasoline.

“We’re stuck now with these diesel cars,” says Matthew Pencharz, the environment and energy adviser to the mayor of London. “About half our cars are diesel, whereas 10 or 15 years ago it was lower than 10%.”

Nitrogen dioxide irritates the lungs, increasing susceptibility to respiratory infections. In China, efforts are mostly focused on other pollutants, such as PM10, levels of which almost triple those in London.

[Bloomberg]

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