Monday, 21 December 2009

David Irving

Hitler historian David Irving and the beautiful blonde on the rifle range

By Jason Lewis, Mail on Sunday Security Editor
Last updated at 12:43 PM on 20th December 2009

He is the 71-year-old Right-wing historian who was jailed for ‘glorifying’ Hitler’s Nazi Party. She is a 24-year-old statuesque blonde singer who works as his personal assistant.

Now intimate emails between the pair – in which David Irving declares his affection for the young American – have been leaked on the internet.

The messages, written during a book tour of America last month, also reveal an embarrassing tiff between the historian and Jaenelle Antas, who has been travelling with him.

Jaenelle Antas
Neo-Nazi pin-up: American Jaenelle Antas is a 'comely maiden' according to David Irving
Ms Antas, whom Irving refers to as ‘J’, is from Minnesota and has been working for him while also trying to launch herself as an opera singer.

The emails show divorcee Irving is clearly taken with his young helper, who has become a neo-Nazi pin-up after posting pictures of herself on Stormfront, an internet discussion site for ‘pro-White activists and anyone else interested in White survival’.

The photographs, which feature the blonde on a shooting range with an automatic weapon and posing with handguns with her friends, also show her taking a trip with Irving to feed the swans on the River Thames near his Windsor home.

Jaenelle Antas
Target: Jaenelle Antas at a shooting range
While the precise nature of the relationship between Irving and Ms Antas is a mystery, Irving is keen to shower her with affection, telling her: ‘You are pure Gold.’

And in an email to a friend, Irving reveals he has been asked about the ‘blonde bombshell’ by a journalist and writes: ‘I emphasise . . . that there is nothing going on between us.’

Irving’s email account and website were hacked by ‘anti-racist activists’ who then posted his credit-card accounts, mobile phone number, private correspondence and email address book on the web.

British historian David Irving
Embarrassing: Personal emails between David Irving and his assistant Jaenelle Antas have been leaked
The most intriguing emails feature Irving’s relationship with Ms Antas, who at one point threatens to leave the tour.

On November 7, she complains about the way he has been treating her and about being forced to miss a date with one of her friends. Irving replies: ‘Get over it.’

In another email to Ms Antas, he adds: ‘If you want to quit, I can’t stop you. It will not be the first time I have been let down at the last moment.’

Last night Irving said that the hacking came at the end of a campaign of violence and intimidation against him and Ms Antas on the US tour.

At one point she was attacked with pepper spray. Masked men armed with baseball bats tried to force their way into another meeting.

Irving said: ‘The FBI has asked for my assistance in tracking down the hackers. They have done tens of thousands of pounds of damage. Effectively they drove a truck bomb into my online bookstore.’

Asked about the publication of the personal emails between him and Ms Antas, he said: ‘When I told her she went bright red.’

And asked about their relationship, he said: ‘She is 24. She is a comely maiden. She is my personal assistant, nothing more.’

In 1996 Irving brought an unsuccessful libel case against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books. The court found that he was an active Holocaust denier, anti-Semite and racist.

Irving was arrested during a visit to Austria three years ago and convicted of ‘glorifying and identifying with the German Nazi Party’ and served ten months in jail.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Iran demands freedom of suspected arms dealer in return for lost British sailors

By Jason Lewis and William Lowther
Last updated at 2:06 AM on 13th December 2009

Storm: Diplomat Nosratollah Tajik

Accused: Diplomat Nosratollah Tajik

The Government is considering the release of a senior former Iranian diplomat held in the UK accused of supplying weapons for terrorists.

Tehran is demanding the tit-for-tat release in response to its decision to free a group of British yachtsmen who strayed into Iranian waters last month.

But the extraordinary move has been greeted with anger in America, where the diplomat, Nosratollah Tajik, Iran’s former ambassador to Jordan, stands accused of conspiring to sell military equipment to Islamic extremists.

Tajik, 55, was arrested in 2006 and is currently on bail pending an appeal against extradition to the US.

The final decision on the extradition rests with the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, and any move to block his transfer to the US would ignite a furious row with the Americans.

There is still anger in the US over the release to Libya three months ago of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi from a Scottish jail.

And special treatment for Tajik would cause a renewed outcry among human rights campaigners in the UK, who unsuccessfully lobbied Mr Johnson to veto British computer hacker Gary McKinnon’s proposed transfer to the US for trial.

Tajik - living in Britain after being appointed an honorary fellow of Durham University in 2004 - is accused of being the UK link in an international illegal arms network.

According to a witness at a US House of Representatives inquiry into state-sponsored terrorism in Iran, he has also been identified as one of several diplomats recruiting Palestinians to establish terrorist cells.

Political footballs: The five released sailors who Iran hopes use as a bargain chip

Political footballs: The five released sailors who Iran hopes use to bargain with

The Iranians raised Tajik’s case with British diplomats during emergency meetings to try to secure the release of the yachtsmen earlier this month.

They also discussed the issue directly with Foreign Secretary David Miliband earlier this year.

Last night, British diplomatic sources confirmed the Iranians ‘brought the subject up’ every time there are official talks between the two countries.

In 2006, an undercover operation by US agents led to Tajik being accused of trying to supply nightvision weapons sights to Iran - banned under an arms embargo.

An extradition hearing was told how two agents secretly filmed Tajik in a London office allegedly discussing a deal that would have sent the military hardware from the US to Iran via the UK and Turkey.

The court heard the deal was worth $3million (£1.8million).

David Perry QC, for the US government, told an earlier hearing that the Americans tipped off Scotland Yard, leading to Tajik’s arrest.

The Iranian’s lawyers claim the Americans acted illegally by entrapping a man on British soil.

His barrister, Alun Jones QC, said: ‘The sting is standard practice in the US. In English law, the US investigators are guilty of the criminal offence of incitement.

‘The American extradition statementdoes not disclose whether UK authorities knew about this (in which case they too would be guilty) or whether US agents are running amok in London on frolics of their own.’

Details of the case - first revealed by The Mail on Sunday - led to human rights campaigners demanding the Government reveal what it knew about US spies launching this kind of operation in Britain.

Last night the Home Office said: ‘The Home Secretary is currently considering representations from Nosratollah Tajik. The Iranians have consistently lobbied for his release.

‘We have made it clear to the Iranian authorities on several occasions that this was a legal, not a political, process, in which the UK Government has played no role.’

Last night, highly placed sources in Washington confirmed that they were taking a close interest in the developments and made clear they felt strongly that Tajik should not be freed.

The source said: ‘The US is fully aware of what is going on and has asked the British not to make any concessions on this issue.’

The moves come after Iran freed five British yachtsmen held by the country’s feared Revolutionary Guard for a week.

Luke Porter, 21, from Somerset, Oliver Smith, 31, from Southampton, Oliver Young, 21, from Cornwall, Sam Usher, 26, from North Yorkshire, and Bahrain-based David Bloomer, who is believed to be in his 60s, were held on November 25.

Iran’s official news agency said they had been released after authorities established their yacht had entered Iranian waters accidentally while sailing from Bahrain to Dubai for a race.

David Miliband bans envoys from helping the BNP

By Jason Lewis, Mail on Sunday Security Editor
Last updated at 3:17 AM on 13th December 2009

Miliband ordered a ban on helping MEPs who have far right views

Miliband ordered a ban on helping MEPs who have far right views

David Miliband has secretly banned British embassy staff from giving help to BNP leader Nick Griffin.

The Foreign Secretary has also ordered diplomats not to assist the
far-Right party’s other MEP, former National Front leader Andrew Brons.

A letter, entitled ‘Handling Extremist MEPs’ and marked ‘Restricted’, was circulated to the heads of Britain’s European embassies after the pair were elected to the European Parliament in June.

Written by Matthew Rycroft, the UK’s top European Union diplomat, it says far-Right MEPs, like other British members of the European Parliament, can be sent ‘factual written briefings’ on policy issues but nothing else.

British MEPs from mainstream parties can normally expect private briefings from officials and to be offered the chance to meet diplomats and Ministers.

Mr Rycroft wrote: ‘FCO Ministers have decided that there should be
no other contact with MEPs of any nationality who represent racist or extremist views.’

The letter adds that other Government offices have also been advised to restrict help.
As a direct consequence of the policy – revealed after a Freedom of Information Act request – the BNP MEPs have not been invited to two Foreign Office receptions.

Last night, the Foreign Office said the letter was to remind diplomats of the ‘longstanding’ policy on those who represent racist views.

The disclosure follows the row over Mr Miliband’s attack on the Conservatives’ alliance with the Latvian Fatherland And Freedom Party and one of its MEPs who, the Foreign Secretary said, had an ‘anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi past’.

But it also comes after Labour’s decision to abandon its policy of not sharing the same platform with the BNP – paving the way for Nick Griffin’s controversial appearance on Question Time with Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Can we see your documents please, Your Majesty... Queen faces anti-terror checks every time she leaves UK

By Jason Lewis, Mail on Sunday Security Editor
Last updated at 10:08 PM on 05th December 2009

The Queen and Prince Philip at Heathrow

No exemptions: The Queen and Prince Philip at Heathrow

The Queen is to be forced to go through an identity check every time she flies into and out of Britain.

For the first time, Her Majesty will be compelled to give her full name, age, address, nationality, gender and place of birth to immigration officials, who will then check that she is not on a list of wanted terrorists.

Foreign heads of state, including US President , and other members of the will also have to submit to the security checks under new border controls, called e-Borders.

It is unclear how the Queen will be asked for her personal information as she is not required to carry a passport and would normally be met off the aircraft by her chauffeur-driven car. The new system asks for a passport number, expiry date and details of where the passport was issued.

has been warned that the Queen will not be exempt from providing 'Travel Document Information' (TDI), which will then be uploaded on to the £750million computer system at the National Border Targeting Centre near Manchester Airport.

The system will provide a comprehensive record of everyone crossing the UK border by plane, sea or via the Channel Tunnel to 'strengthen the security of those who live in and visit our country'.

All passengers are checked against terrorist and criminal watch lists, and the computer analyses travel patterns to highlight suspicious movements.

Controversially, the information is also due to be shared with , European security agencies and other 'friendly' nations.

A confidential document from Trusted Borders, the private consortium developing the e-Borders project for the Home Office, makes it clear that the Queen and other VIPs will be subject to the same new restrictions as other travellers.

The document, written by lead contractor Raytheon Systems and obtained by The Mail on Sunday, contains a list of questions relating to the new system that may be raised by those implementing it, such as airlines.

One reads: 'We carry a variety of VIPs; Heads of State, Royal Family members among others, for whom security is paramount and for whom we are not provided with all TDI. How do we report these individuals?'

The UK Border Agency response is unequivocal: 'Answer: The UK authorities require that TDI must be provided for all passengers without exception.'

The move will end the current practice of allowing VIPs, including senior members of the Royal Family, to travel under a pseudonym on commercial flights.

At the moment staff at Britain's airports are alerted to expect a senior Royal or other dignitaries by a message that 'Mr Confidential' is expected for a flight.

Ground staff would usually enter a false name on the flight manifest to protect their identity, but under the new system this practice will be banned and real names entered.

Last night a senior airport security source warned: 'The reason for entering a false name in the system is to protect the individual's security. Putting a VIP's real name in the system will alert people that someone important is on a particular flight and may, if the information falls into the wrong hands, make the flight a terrorist target. It is plainly ridiculous.'

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, former adviser to Security Minister Admiral West, agreed the new rules would increase the security risk to the Royal Family and said the system needed to be flexible to be effective.

Last night Royal sources said that members of the Royal Family would comply with whatever security procedures the Government decided upon.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: 'As a British passport is issued in the name of Her Majesty, it is unnecessary for the Queen to possess one. All other members of the Royal Family, including the Duke of and the Prince of , have passports.'

The Home Office refused to discuss the contents of the Trusted Borders document.

Brodie Clark, head of the Border Force, said: 'For security reasons we will not be commenting on how e-Borders will affect Royal travel protocols. It should be clear, however, that the Head of State for the UK does not require a passport.'

Senior Judges to ‘simplify’ Court of Protection

By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 10:07 PM on 05th December 2009

Jack Straw

Justice Secretary Jack Straw leaving Downing Street last month

Two senior judges have been appointed to ‘simplify’ the running of the Court of Protection, which controls the finances of some of society’s most vulnerable people.

The court, which bars the media and the public from its deliberations and rarely publishes its judgments, has faced nearly 4,000 complaints since it was set up two years ago.

Mr Justice Charles and Mrs Justice Proudman will chair a committee to examine whether the court provides an ‘effective service’.

Their appointments follow the intervention of Justice Secretary after The Mail on Sunday highlighted huge flaws with the court’s system.

The court is also accused of mismanaging the £2.7billion it controls on behalf of vulnerable people – including those suffering from dementia and other forms of mental incapacity.

The court’s president Sir Mark Potter said: ‘The Court of Protection has faced a number of difficulties in its first two years and court users have complained that court procedure is too formal particularly in relation to straightforward financial matters which are not contentious.

‘My aim is to create a set of rules, practice directions and forms that are clear and simple for lay and professional users to understand.

'Where possible, the committee should simplify the handling of routine property and affairs cases, for example by slimming down some of the procedures.’

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Did Iran's president take part in a demo during a brutal afternoon in London (or was it a man who looked exactly like him?)

By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 11:45 AM on 03rd December 2009

The features are unmistakable, the fervour irrepressible as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad turns against a crowd of opponents.

But despite the uncanny likeness, officially this is not the President of Iran who oversaw the bloody suppression of his country’s democracy movement.

This picture was taken in London in 1984 and raises puzzling queries over Mr Ahmadinejad, 53.

Much of his rise to Iran’s presidency is shrouded in the secrecy which surrounds what has gone on in the pariah state since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 swept the late Ayatollah Khomeini to power.


Protest: But a spokesman for the Iranian Embassy said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wasn't in London in the 1980s

Now this photograph, unearthed by The Mail on Sunday, suggests a young Mr Ahmadinejad spent time in London and took part in a notorious incident which demonstrated his and the Iranian regime’s repressive and sometimes violent nature.

The picture, first published by the Daily Mail on April 27, 1984, shows a smart-suited man on the balcony of the Iranian consulate in Kensington, his fist raised in a menacing salute as he harangues anti-Khomeini demonstrators in the street below.

The man, who reports described as a diplomat, had stepped on to the balcony hours after protesters opposed to the Islamic regime stormed the building as part of synchronised worldwide action.

As demonstrators burst in chanting anti-Khomeini slogans, consulate staff, including members of the notorious Republican Guard, locked them in the reception room.

Iran president

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now

According to reports at the time, and witnesses who spoke to The Mail on Sunday last week, the Iranian staff then returned in numbers, armed with wooden and iron clubs. Inside, the 11 unarmed protesters were taken prisoner.

Some reports suggested they were tortured to discover the names of relatives and friends still living in Iran.

The late investigative reporter Paul Foot said: ‘The protesters were bound, interrogated and beaten. Two were beaten unconscious. One recovered but could not lift his head because it was stuck to the carpet in congealed blood.’ He said the beating went on for seven hours. Then at 6pm, a diplomat, and it is unclear if this was Mr Ahmadinejad, appeared on the balcony and announced that the protesters had been ‘dealt with’.

The demonstrators were then thrown out of the building with placards hung around their necks accusing them of being terrorists in the pay of the US and France. No one from the consulate faced charges.

Last week the Foreign Office said it had no record of Mr Ahmadinejad being at the Iranian consulate in the Eighties. The Diplomatic List for 1984 contains no reference to the name Ahmadinejad, which he adopted after his family moved to Tehran when he was a boy, or to his real name Mahmoud Saborjhian. Yesterday the Iranian Embassy added that it ‘didn’t think it was right’ that he had ever been based in London.

Two people who took part in the protest, who spoke to The Mail on Sunday last week, also said they had no recollection of him that day.

Mr Ahmadinejad was also alleged to have taken part in the beating of American diplomats at its embassy in Tehran after it was taken over by students in 1979.

A photograph purportedly showed Mr Ahmadinejad escorting a blindfolded US hostage.

But the Iranians produced a picture of the President as a young man which appeared to look little like the hostage-taker.

We passed the picture to photo-analysis firm OmniPerception, who regularly aid police. It said: ‘A database of several thousand people was complemented with four recent images of the President. A comparison using the 1984 image was made. The result indicated the four pictures to be the most likely match of all subjects in the database. If this was a police inquiry, this would give cause for further investigation.’

A spokesman for Iran's Embassy in London said: 'We strongly denounce any claim that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the man in your picture of protests at the Iranian Embassy in 1984. In fact he did not visit the UK in 1980s.'

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Mother dies after cancer screening machine blunder

By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 1:42 AM on 29th November 2009

One woman has died and hundreds of other cancer patients put at risk after a crucial machine used to test for the best way to treat the killer disease developed a fault that was not repaired for at least a month.

The NHS hospital at the centre of the blunder failed to tell patients their results may have been wrong due to the broken equipment.

It also did not report the incident to the medical authorities – an apparent breach of Department of Health rules designed to protect patients and alert doctors to problems.

Last month, mum Tracey Kindley, 43, died of breast cancer after learning her treatment had been based on inaccurate test results.

Tracey Kindley

Tracey Kindley with her son Max. She died last month after learning her cancer treatment had been based on inaccurate test results

She was being treated at a private hospital in North London after she discovered a suspicious lump in March 2005.

Her doctors performed a biopsy and sent it to a local NHS Trust’s pathology department, which confirmed her cancer. But one of the machines used at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, in Welwyn Garden City, crucial in assisting her doctors in deciding the best treatment for the cancer, was not working correctly.

The machine – used to test hormone levels – gave a ‘false negative reading’ for oestrogen, meaning she was not prescribed certain life-saving drugs because it was thought they would have no effect on her cancer.

Her doctors spotted the error only when she failed to respond to treatment and the cancer spread.

Q E II hospital

One of the machines used at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital was not working correctly

The doctors ordered new laboratory tests on the original biopsy and these results showed very high oestrogen levels in the cancer cells, alerting them to a major error.

Health service managers at the Queen Elizabeth II ordered checks and discovered the machine had developed a fault around the time of the tests on Mrs Kindley.

A service report on the equipment shows a ‘critical repair’ was carried out on May 6, 2005. The managers claim the machine was ‘fixed within days’ of the problem being identified, but crucially Mrs Kindley’s tests were carried out on April 8 – almost a month before the fault was spotted.

The East and North Herts NHS Trust, which oversees the hospital, re-examined the results of other patients whose samples were tested on days either side of Mrs Kindley’s.

However, an internal investigation concluded the incident was a ‘one-off’ and that despite testing hundreds of patients during the period, no other patients could have been affected.

The conclusion meant patients tested when the machine is known to have been malfunctioning – a period of around four weeks – were never alerted that they, too, may have been given the wrong results.

In the weeks before her death, Mrs Kindley began a legal action against the hospital. Her lawyer Hugh Johnson, of Stewarts Law, believes that had she been given the right treatment, she would have had a 70 per cent chance of making a full recovery.

In his letter to the Trust, Dr Nihal Shah, Mrs Kindley’s consultant clinical oncologist, wrote that she ‘had concerns that a similar scenario does not arise for other patients’.

Mrs Kindley died on October 28. Yesterday, her husband said he blamed the test errors for his wife’s death. ‘I believe they robbed me of my wife. The right results would have opened up other forms of treatment and I believe she would be with me and her son Max now.’

Last night, the Trust acknowledged the tests carried out had given a ‘partial false negative result’ and it has apologised that this should have happened. It admitted that the problem had not been reported to the Medicines and Healthcare product Regulatory Agency. ‘That decision is now being reviewed.’

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Anger as students, not soldiers, will guard stars from terror threat at 2012 London Olympics

By Jason Lewis, Mail on Sunday Security Editor
Last updated at 11:02 AM on 15th November 2009

Olympic security chiefs have ruled out using the Army to protect competitors and spectators at the 2012 Games – and instead they will rely on thousands of teenagers taking a 30-hour events safety course.

The move has provoked anger among military figures, who believe Army expertise is needed to ensure the London Olympics are safe from a potential terrorist outrage.

It also comes after Army Chief of Staff, General Sir David Richards, said worry over Olympic security ‘kept him awake at night’.

Londoners celebrate as the announcement is made that London will host the 2012 Olympic Games in London's Trafalgar Square

Fears: Security Minister Lord West said the Olympics would be faced with the 'greatest security challenge' since World Ward Two with a threat from terrorism

Whitehall sources have revealed that the military will be called upon only to carry out ‘niche roles’.

The task of protecting the Olympic Park will rely on private security staff and 6,000 16 to 19-year-olds taking a specially developed BTEC qualification.

The military would be required only in ‘extreme situations’ where Special Forces troops might be needed.

Sources said they might also be used to supplement police and civilian services or ‘to aid the civilian community’ in a similar way to their use during the 2007 floods.

Director of Security for the Olympic Organising Committee Sir Ian Johnston

In charge: Sir Ian Johnston said the event would need many more private security guards

General Richards has privately told commanding officers to expect an increase in their security role in Britain.

In a private briefing paper, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, he wrote: ‘I believe that this role will increase in importance as the 2012 Olympics approaches.’

But last week Sir Ian Johnston, the Director of Security for the Olympic Organising Committee, said policing the event would require thousands of private security guards.

The former Chief Constable of British Transport Police said to provide the extra staff needed, 50 colleges were being encouraged to set up courses that would supply 6,000 students to patrol Olympic sites.

The Level 2 BTEC diploma would give young people 30 hours of training in ‘keeping people safe at events’, ‘communicating’ and ‘dealing with large numbers of people’.

Official documents say: ‘The Home Office, the police and public will be given confidence that a secure, vetted, licensed and trained supply line of labour will be available to the appointed private security contractors to support stewarding and carry out other important tasks at the Games.’

Speaking at a conference on Olympic Security last week, Security Minister Lord West said the Olympics presented the ‘greatest security challenge’ since the Second World War.

The level of terrorist threat is expected to be severe, the second-highest level, he added.

Shadow Security Minister Dame Pauline Neville-Jones said the Army should have a role at the Games, but stressed this did not necessarily mean it should conduct high-profile patrols.

Secret court is told to open its doors after probe by the MoS

By Jason Lewis, Mail On Sunday Whitehall Editor
Last updated at 10:04 PM on 14th November 2009

The Court of Protection

Secretive: The Court of Protection in north London

The secretive Court of Protection - which controls the finances of some of Britain's most vulnerable people - has been ordered to open its proceedings to media scrutiny.

The court, already facing an internal review after nearly 4,000 complaints in just two years, has been told that it can no longer hold all its hearings in private. The move comes after a Mail on Sunday investigation highlighted widespread concerns about the way the court is run.

A test case last week ruled that the court should allow the media to attend one of its private hearings, which govern the money and care of people suffering from dementia and others lacking mental capacity. This is set to open the way for reporting of many more of the court's previously secret cases.

The public will still be barred from the court in North London but the media will be allowed to attend the hearing as they showed they can provide 'good reason' to do so.

The case was brought by lawyers for Associated Newspapers, publishers of The Mail on Sunday, and other newspaper groups.

The landmark decision by High Court judge Mr Justice Hedley comes following a legal case to decide the control of the affairs of an 'internationally famous' disabled man.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was described in court as a young adult 'who is severely disabled, resulting in severe learning difficulties which render him incapable of making decisions as to any significant issue in his life'.

The Court of Protection is involved because, the judge said, 'he is and is likely to remain dependent on others for his care and he is currently cared for in accommodation provided by a national charity.

'However, he also possesses remarkable gifts and the practice of those have brought him to public, indeed international, attention.'

Cases in the Court of Protection, set up two years ago, had, until now, been heard in private and reporting of most of its rulings are banned.

MoS front page

Campaign: The Mail on Sunday's front page headline

But last week Mr Justice Hedley ordered that the media could report details of the case after the hearing, including the identity and background of the disabled but gifted individual, but some information about his finances should remain secret.

Alastair Pitblado, the Official Solicitor who acts for people who cannot make their own decisions, said that he would go to the Court of Appeal in his client's best interests.

He added: 'The rules [for the Court of Protection] were recently made by Parliament and the default position is privacy.'

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has ordered a judge to review the workings of the court after The Mail on Sunday revealed the problems faced by the families of those put under its protection.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, which oversees the court, said: 'We have always said that it is open to the Press to make an application to attend the Court of Protection on a case-by-case basis, and this is what has happened.'

British UN scientist's death was 'not suicide', Gordon Brown is told

By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 11:22 PM on 14th November 2009

Gordon Brown

Intervention: Gordon Brown is being urged to investigate Timothy Hampton's death further

Gordon Brown is being urged to intervene in an investigation into the mysterious death of British scientist Timothy Hampton.

The nuclear expert fell to his death from the 17th floor of a UN building in Vienna last month.

Local police and UN officials have suggested that the 47-year-old, who was involved in monitoring illegal nuclear tests by Iran and North Korea, killed himself.

But tests commissioned by his family have raised doubts about the findings of a first post-mortem examination and suggest that Mr Hampton, from Newbury, may have been murdered.

One theory is the scientist could have been strangled, carried from his workplace on the sixth floor and thrown to his death.

Richard Benyon, Mr Hampton’s MP, said: ‘I have grave misgivings about this case. I am told Mr Hampton was not suicidal.

'He was happy in his work, loved living in Vienna and was devoted to his partner and three-year-old child.

‘Yet his death seems to be being swept under the carpet. I am asking the PM not to allow this to happen.’

Earlier this week, the UN denied claims that Mr Hampton, who worked for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, was involved in talks discussing nuclear testing in Iran.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Civil servants being given time off for shopping trips and cake-baking competitions

By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 5:54 PM on 08th November 2009

Government officials are being given time off for Christmas shopping trips, days at the races, and to compete in Whitehall jam-making and cake-baking competitions – all subsidised by the taxpayer.

The events are being offered by the Civil Service Sports Council with the help of a £1.4million-a-year grant from Government funds.

The organisation is also investing millions of pounds building luxury health clubs on former civil service sports grounds – only to charge the public up to £70 a month for membership.

Bags of work: Staff from HMRC's Worthing office on a shopping trip to Southampton

Bags of work: Staff from HMRC's Worthing office on a shopping trip to Southampton

Last week, the CSSC, whose vice-president is Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, Britain’s most senior mandarin, offered members the chance to enter an angling competition, go for a day out at the races or see a West End show.

Many of the events took place during the working day, with the CSSC encouraging managers to give civil servants ‘time off for sports days, and national and regional activity’.

The CSSC, which was set up in the Twenties, provides gyms for staff inside Whitehall departments and facilities across the country, charging civil servants just £3.25 a month to join.

On Friday, it helped to organise a craft show at the Department for Business’s gym in Whitehall, which included baking, jam-making, and knitting and painting competitions.

Staff from Peter Mandelson’s department along with those from Ed Miliband’s Department of Energy and Climate Change were given ‘the time off they will require to attend the show as an official duty’.

Competitors from regional government offices were also able to claim a refund on their travel costs from Whitehall funds.

The competition was open to staff from the Home Office, the Department for Transport and the Communities and Local Government Department.

Other events last week saw staff from HM Revenue & Customs’ Worthing office take time out for a shopping trip to Southampton.

Staff were charged £5 for the coach trip, which collected them from the HMRC office at 8am. After lunch in a pizza restaurant, they returned late that afternoon clutching bags from Ikea, Primark, and Marks & Spencer. Some purchases appeared to be so heavy that they required two people to carry them.

'Special leave' to take part in events

Meanwhile, civil servants based near Heathrow went on a discounted trip to see the hit musical Jersey Boys in the West End. Members paid £15 despite the cheapest seats costing £20 and most between £32 and £60.

And a trip to a Sheffield dog track for Leeds-based civil servants cost members £9 with ‘prices including the coach trip, entry, food, free pint or glass of wine and a bet’. Owlerton Greyhound Stadium charges £15 a head for group tickets.

A Cabinet Office spokesman confirmed that staff could get ‘special leave’ to take part in events but insisted the decision was ‘left to the discretion of departments and managers’.

‘The health and well being of staff is an important issue for all employers,’ he added. ‘The Civil Service is no exception.’ But he admitted the Government grant to the CSSC was ‘under review’. The Mail on Sunday understands one of the reasons for this is the commercial activities of the CSSC.

Over the past few years, the organisation has closed a number of its sports grounds and, in partnership with a venture capital firm, has built five luxury health clubs and a series of five-a-side football centres on former civil service facilities.

The decision was taken by the CSSC board, which is made up of serving and retired civil servants, without the approval of Ministers. The health clubs are open to the public and charge members between £30 and £70 a month for use of facilities including swimming pools, spas and gyms.

The commercial arm, which includes five Roko health clubs, had a turnover of £13.4million last year. It borrowed £30million to set the clubs up and is running at a £4million loss.

Last night, Marian Holmes, CSSC chief executive, denied that taxpayers’ cash was being invested in the scheme.

And she added: ‘Some of our activities are during the working week. Time off is a matter for individual departments and individual managers.

‘There is nothing wrong with staff taking a day off together. This sort of activity does wonders for staff morale and helps them work more efficiently and effectively together.’

A spokesman for the Department for Business said staff who attended the craft fair had done so ‘during their lunch break’.

Secret court takes four months to give elderly their own money, and then charges £400 for the privilege

By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 3:06 AM on 08th November 2009

The secretive and controversial Court of Protection – which controls the finances of some of Britain’s most vulnerable people – is taking an average of four months to release people’s cash, while charging them £400 to apply for it.

The latest shocking revelation about the court comes in the wake of a Mail on Sunday investigation into widespread concerns about the way it is run.

The court, which has attracted nearly 4,000 complaints from the public in the past two years, oversees money belonging to people with dementia or other forms of mental incapacity.

Call for inquiry: Jack Straw has ordered a judge to review the workings of the court

Call for inquiry: Jack Straw has ordered a judge to review the workings of the court

It holds a £2.7billion fund at the Bank of England, in an account paying just half a per cent interest. It costs people an average of £400

to have their applications for access to the money processed.

Asked how long it could take to release funds – which relatives might need to pay for care fees or bills – officials said it ‘only’ took 16 weeks on average. That is inside the court’s 21-week target for ruling on most issues concerning the management of the finance and welfare of people unable to make their own decisions.

Justice Secretary has ordered a judge to review the workings of the court after The Mail on Sunday revealed the huge problems faced by the families of those put under its protection. People complained to us about how:

  • Court officials paid the proceeds of a house sale into the wrong account.
  • l A relative was accused of abusive behaviour towards a court official on a visit to his home – even though the official had never visited him.
  • l One claimant was charged £4,100 in legal fees to withdraw £5,800 of their own money.
  • l Elderly clients died before requests for cash were agreed.

Last night, a spokeswoman for the court said that since new laws came into force in 2007, the new Court of Protection had generally allowed ‘deputies’ – those permitted to access a person’s money on their behalf – more freedom than in the past.

She said: ‘Most deputies have been able to keep money in any account they choose and access it with no restrictions.

‘This is a great improvement on the previous system, when greater restrictions were in place.’

She added: ‘The Court of Protection receives approximately 1,800 applications a month – this includes applications to appoint a deputy or to make decisions in relation to the property, affairs, health care and personal welfare of adults and children who lack capacity.

‘Our published standard for all applications is 21 weeks, which includes time for notification and response, and we are currently processing all applications within an average of 16 weeks.’

The spokeswoman added that recent applications to move funds out of the court’s account at the Bank of England have usually been much quicker.

‘We have had around 190 such applications since August and they are taking, on average, about seven weeks to process. There is no backlog of applications to take funds.’

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The secret court of living hell: Straw promises to review Court of Protection after MoS exposes shocking catalogue of flaws

By Jason Lewis, Mail On Sunday Whitehall Editor
Last updated at 10:28 PM on 31st October 2009

Under fire: How The Mail On Sunday exposed activities of the Court Of Protection, which is based in this London office block

Under fire: How The Mail On Sunday exposed activities of the Court Of Protection, which is based in this London office block

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has pledged to re-examine the workings of the secretive Court of Protection after a Mail on Sunday investigation exposed huge flaws in the system designed to look after some of Britain’s most vulnerable people.

His promise comes as more scandalous details of how the court governs the financial affairs of vulnerable people are revealed by this newspaper – a week after we exposed widespread concerns.

Mr Straw has ordered High Court judge Sir Mark Potter, president of the Family Division, to examine the court rules ‘to ensure they provide an efficient and effective service’ and said last night: ‘The Mail on Sunday has been right to raise these issues and I commend you for doing so.’

Today, the court – which bars the media and the public from its deliberations and rarely publishes its judgments – is accused of mismanaging the £2.7billion it controls on behalf of vulnerable people.

We can also disclose that the Office of the Public Guardian, which ensures families comply with the court’s judgments, faced 889 complaints in the past six months – bringing the total number of complaints in the two years since the system was overhauled by Labour to almost 4,000.

The huge sums controlled by the court are held in a Bank of England account, paying just 0.5 per cent interest a year to families of vulnerable people, which works out at a total of £13.5million a year.

Critics say the money should be held at High Street banks, which would offer at least three per cent interest and realise £81million.

The Ministry of Justice claimed it would be accused of ‘irresponsible decision-making’ if it moved the money from the Bank of England, where it is protected. But Opposition politicians said this claim was ‘ridiculous’, particularly after the Government propped up the banks last year.

It leaves some families, even those controlling multi-million-pound medical negligence awards, not earning enough interest to cover their needs and having to spend money set aside to fund a lifetime of care.

Enlarge Caring family: Colin with mother Alison, father Colin Snr and brothers Cavan and Cedwyn, right

Caring family: Colin with mother Alison, father Colin Snr and brothers Cavan and Cedwyn, right

Following our investigation last week, more than 350 people left comments on The Mail on Sunday’s website and another 100 people wrote letters and emails. Relatives, friends and lawyers of people suffering Alzheimer’s or other mental incapacity due to old age, accidents or illness, exposed a catalogue of flaws in the system.

Among the cases highlighted were:

  • Court officials paying the proceeds of a house sale into the wrong account.
  • A young father of an eight-year-old cerebral palsy victim being accused of abusive behaviour to an official on a visit to his home – even though the official had never visited him.
  • A former lawyer being charged £4,100 in legal fees to withdraw £5,800 of her own money.
  • Fees of £42,000 charged to transfer a daughter’s care from her father to her mother after the father died.
  • Complaints that simple applications to the court – which has just three full-time judges – took up to ten months.

Several clients died before their cases were decided.

The largest proportion of complaints regarded the interest rates, which were cut from from six per cent to just 0.5 per cent after the banking collapse last year.

Shadow Justice Secretary Henry Bellingham, who is calling for a Parliamentary debate on the ‘creaking’ system, said: ‘It is ridiculous that the Government cannot offer a better interest rate – and nonsense to say that this money would be at risk in one of the big High Street banks. The banking crisis showed that the Treasury would not let anything happen to them.’

Enlarge Graphic

Mr Straw revealed how he had become involved personally in the debate, as a direct result of our investigation.

He said: ‘Only yesterday, during one of my constituency surgeries in Blackburn, a family came to see me regarding the sorts of issues you raised in your article last week.

'I understand that you have been contacted by many readers following your article and can assure you that we take this very seriously. I will be examining the points raised carefully.

'I have therefore agreed for Sir Mark Potter, President of the Court of Protection, to set up a committee to review the current Court of Protection Rules to ensure they provide an efficient and effective service.

‘I do not underestimate the frustration and sometimes anger of the people in the cases you have highlighted.

My pledge is that we are listening and where changes are needed, we will make them.’

The Government has urged everyone to establish a so-called last power of attorney, or living will, to nominate someone to look after their affairs should they become incapacitated.

The system is just so cumbersome and incompetent

  • Ian Johnson has managed the affairs of his aunt Eva, who suffers from dementia, since her husband died and she moved into a care home. Money from their house sale went into a Court of Protection account. When Mr Johnson got a £35,000 bill for Eva’s care costs he applied to the court for access to some money. It took five months to get it and when it came it was £10,000 short. Mr Johnson, of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, said: ‘They are incompetent. You never speak to the same person twice. I agree someone should keep an eye on us but does it need this cumbersome Government department?’
  • After Martyn Chisnall’s mother Frieda descended into dementia at 98, he expected the court to quickly grant him responsibility for her and her modest savings, given that he had cared for her for 20 years – and was paying £525 a week in nursing home fees. But instead he had to wait three months. The retired fitter, of Christchurch, Dorset, said: ‘They took so long that two weeks after allowing me to access her savings, she died.’
  • Linda Maunder moved to Portugal with her brain-damaged 21-year-old adopted daughter.
    Her husband Tony had looked after their daughter’s affairs but when he died after a brain tumour,
    Mrs Maunder applied to the court to take over control of a £1.6million criminal compensation award for the injuries her daughter suffered as a baby. Mrs Maunder said: ‘Every time pen touches paper at the Office of the Public Guardian you are charged. My daughter ended up paying around £42,000
    to solicitors, barristers and accountants.’
  • Christine from Suffolk sold her aunt’s home after she moved into a care home suffering from dementia. When she needed some of the £165,000 in the court fund to pay care fees, she found out officials had transferred the cash to the account of another woman who shared her aunt’s name.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Secret court seizes £3.2bn from elderly... and even forces furious families to pay to access own bank account


  • 3,000 complaints in first 18 months of new system

  • Families made to pay to access own bank account

  • Homes of elderly raided in search for documents

The Court of Protection

Threatening: The Court of Protection's anonymous London tower block

A secret court is seizing the assets of thousands of elderly and mentally impaired people and turning control of their lives over to the State - against the wishes of their relatives.

The draconian measures are being imposed by the little-known Court of Protection, set up two years ago to act in the interests of people suffering from Alzheimer's or other mental incapacity.

The court hears about 23,000 cases a year - always in private - involving people deemed unable to take their own decisions. Using far-reaching powers, the court has so far taken control of more than £3.2billion of assets.

The cases involve civil servants from the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), which last year took £23million in fees directly from the bank accounts of those struck down by mental illness, involved in accidents or suffering from dementia.

The officials are legally required to act in cases where people do not have a 'living will', or lasting power of attorney, which hands control of their assets over to family or friends.

But the system elicited an extraordinary 3,000 complaints in its first 18 months of operation. Among them were allegations that officials failed to consult relatives, imposed huge fees and even 'raided' elderly people's homes searching for documents.

Carers trying to cope with a mentally impaired loved one, forced to apply for a court order to access money, said they felt the system put them under suspicion as it assumed at the outset that they were out to defraud their relatives.

Opposition politicians said the system, set up by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, needed to be overhauled to take account of the fact that most people were 'honourable and decent' and had their loved ones' best interests at heart.

The Government now says everyone should establish a lasting power of attorney to state who should look after their affairs should they become incapacitated - although most people will be utterly unaware of this advice.

Only 60,000 people in Britain have registered these 'living wills' with the authorities, and the problems begin when someone is suddenly, unexpectedly mentally impaired.

Without this document, relatives must apply to the courts and the anonymous OPG, part of the Ministry of Justice based in an office block in Birmingham, is required to look into the background of carers to decide if they are fit to run the ill or elderly person's affairs.

The organisation has 300 staff, costs £26.5million a year to run and is headed by £80,000-a-year career civil servant Martin John, a former head of asylum and immigration policy in Whitehall. It prepares reports for the Court of Protection, based in a tower block in Archway, North London.

In many cases relatives have to complete a 50-page form giving huge amounts of personal information about themselves, their family, their own finances and their relationship with the person they wish to help care for.

The majority of applications are decided on the basis of paper evidence without holding a hearing. But applications relating to personal welfare, or large gifts or settlements, may be contentious and require the court to hold a hearing to decide the case.

These hearings, before a senior judge, examine evidence and witnesses, who can be compelled to appear. The court has the same powers as the High Court, but is closed to all but the parties involved in the case and their lawyers. The Press and public are banned.

The presiding judge then decides whether a family member can become a 'deputy' acting for their mentally impaired loved one. If no one is available, or if the judge decides a family member is not suitable, the court can appoint a local authority or in some cases a solicitor to carry out the task.

The OPG then charges an annual fee of up to £800 to supervise the activities of the deputy, whether they are a family member or a professional appointee.

Sunita Obhrai with her mother Pushpa

Victims of the system: Sunita Obhrai with her mother Pushpa, whose affairs she has been banned from looking after

The court takes over control of people's finances, which means deputies - whether a relative or not - must get authorisation to pay expenses such as rent and household bills on their behalf.

Only if a relative is given power of attorney before a person is mentally incapacitated will they be able to avoid applying to the court and the OPG for the right to control their assets later.

Any cash controlled by the court is held in the name of the Accountant General of the Supreme Court and administered by the Court Funds Office. In some cases money is voluntarily lodged with the court.

The current Court of Protection replaced a previous body with the same name which had more restricted powers and was overseen by the High Court. The new body can rule on property and financial affairs and decisions relating to health and personal welfare, without referring it to a higher court.

But relatives caught up in the system say they are suddenly confronted by a legal and bureaucratic minefield.

Children's author Heather Bateman was forced to get permission from the court to use family funds after an accident left her journalist husband Michael in a coma.

In a moving account of her family's ordeal in Saga magazine, she wrote: 'Michael and I were two independent working people. We had been married for 28 years. We had written our wills, both our names were on the deeds of the house we shared in London and the Norfolk cottage we had renovated over the years.

'We had separate bank accounts and most of the bills were paid from Michael's account. Now, to continue living in the way we always had done, I needed to access the money in his account.

'The Court of Protection brought me almost as much anger, grief and frustration into my life as the accident itself. [It is] an alien, intrusive, time-consuming and costly institution, which was completely out of tune with what we were going through. It ruled my waking moments and my many sleepless nights.'

Mrs Bateman even had to apply to the court for permission to pay the couple's daughter's university fees.

She added: 'I could write as many cheques as necessary up to £500. But if I needed to access more I had to get permission from the court.'

Sunita Obhrai's mother Pushpa has lived in council-run sheltered housing for 15 years. About two years ago, the 76-year-old widow started to become forgetful and once left the oven on, and the fire brigade had to be called.

Miss Obhrai claims that without her knowledge the local authority, Buckinghamshire County Council, were appointed to run her mother's affairs.

Heather Bateman, with husband Michael

Critic: Heather Bateman, with husband Michael, has eloquently attacked the 'intrusive' court

She said: 'They took over running my mother's bank account and charged her over £1,000 a year in fees, and all they were doing was ensuring her rent and utility bills were paid by direct debit.

'She is given just £20 a week pocket money. Council officials even came and searched her flat while she was asleep in her bedroom. They told me they had to retrieve documents so they could do their job. But someone should have been with my mother. It is unbelievable that they can behave in this way.'

Early this year Miss Obhrai applied to the court to take over from the local authority and oversee her mother's finances herself. But the court rejected her appeal.

She said: 'Many of our other relatives and friends wrote to the court backing me, but the court ignored them. I have never done anything to harm my mother, nor would I, but the council claims I am not a fit person to look after my mother's affairs and there is little I can do to defend myself.'

The council said it could not discuss the case in detail, but did not deny that officials had let themselves into the elderly woman's home uninvited and unaccompanied by a family member. A spokeswoman said: 'The court has already deemed our action appropriate.'

An internet support group, Court of Protection Problems, reveals other struggles with the system.

One recent posting by 'gillm1', whose mother suffers dementia, said: 'They are causing me so much stress and worry and I feel I am being treated like a criminal. Their letters are bullying and threatening and they completely ignore everything I say.

'I have grown to hate them! They took years to process my application and I object strongly to the extortionate fees they are demanding.'

Another writes: 'They have upped my supervision level without taking any notice of my appeal - therefore costing my mum yet another £800 per year. It's nothing short of robbery.

'All I want is to be left alone to pay my mum's bills and to safeguard as much of her money as I can, but these people are constantly demanding high fees for their "services" which, as far as I can see, consist of harassing people and little else!'

'Everybody is often assumed to be predatory,' said 'robb5'. They 'are treated as guilty until proven innocent. Repeatedly I've felt like I'm forever on trial, we've had to undergo financial and psychological strip-searches without the first bit of evidence to suspect anything.'

Shadow Justice Minister Henry Bellingham said: 'It appears the system is set up with the assumption that people's close relatives do not have their loved one's best interests at heart.

'We are looking at this to see if it would be more efficient and a good deal fairer for the system to assume that most people are honourable and decent and then to deal with those few people who abuse their loved ones' trust.'

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said the courts and officials involved faced a delicate balancing act.

She said: 'Decisions are entirely a matter for the courts, based on the individual circumstances. It is a careful balancing act between protecting vulnerable people who have lost mental capacity and recognising their views and the perspectives of those close to them.

'The next of kin is not necessarily the most appropriate person to act in such circumstances. The OPG recommends that every adult considers making a lasting power of attorney. This enables people to choose someone they know and trust to make decisions about their property and affairs or their personal welfare, should they become unable to make decisions for themselves.'

Neil Hunt, of the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'It is important that people make plans for their future. But the disturbing truth is that making plans for the future is often the last thing on our minds.

'Everyone should make a lasting power of attorney to ensure their wishes and rights are protected.'

The first Court of Protection was set up by Labour's 2005 Mental Incapacity Act, which for the first time formalised the arrangements for dealing with the assets and care of people suffering from dementia and other similar illnesses.

Before this it was left to families and social services to make arrangements - but it was argued this ad hoc system was open to abuse by both family members and by officials.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Child porn fears scupper airport ‘nude X-ray’ scans

By Jason Lewis

Virtual 'strip': A scan image showing a hidden knife, highlighted

Virtual 'strip': A scan image showing a hidden knife, highlighted

Airport security chiefs have been banned from subjecting children to a controversial new X-ray scanner that produces ‘naked’ pictures of passengers because of legal warnings the images may break child pornography laws.

The full-body scanner, which can spot weapons and explosives hidden under clothing, was launched with great fanfare at Airport last week.

But now – with the system due to begin operating at full capacity at Manchester’s Terminal 2 next week – security chiefs have been told no one under 18 can be subjected to the new checks.

Child protection experts have warned that the image produced by the Rapiscan machines may break the law which prevents the creation of an indecent image or pseudo-image of a child.

The legislation, the Protection of Children Act 1978, could potentially have led to security officers facing criminal charges for doing their job by examining the images.

Airport bosses had originally intended to allow children to be scanned during the 12-month trial if their parents gave consent.

But they changed their minds after they were approached by the civil rights group Action on Rights for Children, which has campaigned against the use of body scanners on children.

The group argues the machines are disproportionately intrusive and remove a child’s right to dignity, particularly given that many youngsters are sensitive about their bodies.

Last night a Manchester Airport spokesman confirmed that all staff had been told not to allow children to be scanned by the new equipment. He said: ‘Our lawyers and child welfare groups have warned us this is a legal grey area.

‘We do not want to open ourselves or our staff to the possibility of legal action, so we have decided children will not be subjected to these scans and will continue to face normal security checks.’

The Department for Transport hoped the virtual strip-search device would provide the solution to long queues at security checkpoints at all airports.

The equipment means passengers are no longer required to remove their shoes and coats for security checks.

And it also does away with the need for physical ‘pat-down’ searches on those who trigger an alarm when they pass through traditional scanner arches because they have forgotten to hand over their keys or other metal objects.

A member of security staff would see a 'naked' front and back view of the passenger (left) and a computer graphic (right) which will highlight in red which areas of the passenger needs to be checked by fellow staff members

A member of security staff would see a 'naked' front and back view of the passenger (left) and a computer graphic (right) which will highlight in red which areas of the passenger needs to be checked by fellow staff members

The Rapiscan works by beaming electromagnetic waves on to passengers as they stand in a booth, creating a virtual three-dimensional black-and-white ‘naked’ image from the reflected energy and sending it to a computer monitor elsewhere in the airport where it is examined by a security officer.

The whole process takes only about 20 seconds and then the image is deleted.

But the scans show every contour of people’s bodies – even revealing breast implants – which some may find intrusive.