Virgin Trains To Dispute Government`s Decision in Court

In the last 15 years Virgin Trains was the company awarded the West Coast Main Line contract. However this year Richard Branson-owned company lost the contract from one of its main competitors- FirstGroup. The  government`s decision will be probably legally disputed as Virgin Train announced they are going to oppose the government`s decision to accept the competitor`s bid. The company applied for the judicial review of the decision and logged papers at the High Court in London.

Richard Branson, Virgin Trains owner, said: “In the bid process the one thing we do know is our bid was voted far more deliverable than FirstGroup’s.”All we are saying is that these same civil servants got their maths wrong with National Express and GNER, we’re absolutely convinced they’ve got their maths wrong with FirstGroup.”Rather than give up the fight as we did on the East Coast Main Line, we’re going to fight, and if at the end we’re proven wrong we’ll bow out gracefully.”

Justine Greening, Transport Secretary was surprised and highly disappointed by Virgin`s actions. She said: ”We will defend the robustness of the process. It’s a process that Virgin themselves have been involved in for the last 15 months and have raised no concerns about until the point it became clear that they had lost this bid.”We have a process that all the parties bought in to, one of them that hasn’t won out on the bid has chosen to challenge it.”

It is not clear whether Virgin`s legal action will cause any delay in the signing of the contract, however Greeting said that the legal contract will be signed as soon as possible .

Meanwhile FirstGroup responded: “We have every confidence in the DfT’s [Department for Transport's] process which is rigorous, detailed and fair and in which bids are thoroughly tested.”There has been no complaint about the process, which was carefully described in advance, until Virgin Rail Group had lost commercially.”


GCSE Exam Grade Boundaries – Case To Be Investigated

The GCSE results this summer are thought to have been downgraded, and because of that reason many head teachers and local authorities have threatened to take legal actions in order to clarify the case.

Earlier this month the results from this year`s GCSEs have been released and it turned out that the requirements to achieve a certain grade were higher than the previous years, and even in exams taken as recently as January. Because of these changes many students who expected for example C grade, got D. Of course the preparation of the students is of highest importance, however this year for the first time the the proportion of GCSEs resulting in A-C grades fell, causing many students , who would have achieved higher grades according to the previous requirements, could now miss college or six-form places.

Local authorities claim that this situation may include a case of discrimination, as it mainly affects students from the ethnic minorities or poor backgrounds.

The The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is also one of the organisations, which oppose the changes. General Secretary Michael Hobby suggested the change had been made as a result of “unsubstantiated concerns” that the pass rate for GCSEs taken in January had been too high, in an open letter to education secretary Michael Gove.

Gove replayed to the questions that he had never put any pressure on Ofqual to change the grade boundaries.

Ofqual thoroughly understands the concerns of all teachers, parents and councils and they are now ready to start investigating the case. However, on the other hand NAHT said they believe an investigation conducted only by Ofqual will not be sufficient and might be even subjective, as by the investigation they are required to find out their own failings.

Meanwhile, Michael Gove is at the centre of another outcry today after pulling the funding for a free school in Bradford without warning, days before it was set to open its doors.


UK is not Entering the Ecuador`s Embassy to Arrest Assange

Britain is not entering Ecuador`s embassy in order to arrest Julian Assange – Wikileaks founder, accused of severe sexual offences.

Rafael Correa told reporters “we consider this unfortunate incident over”, following assurances by the UK.

Assange, was just to be extradited to Sweden when he has been given an asylum by Ecuador. This  turned out into a diplomatic row and the UK authorities intended to enter the Ecuador embassy and arrest Mr. Assange. It has been accepted as a threat by the embassy , however the UK says that no threats have ever been made. From the foreign office they even said they sent an official letter to the Ecuadorean embassy “aimed at calming things down”and allowing talks to resume”. Ecuador’s government also said it had received “a communication from the British Foreign Office which said that there was no threat to enter the embassy”.

Ecuador had accused Britain of threatening to enter its London embassy and seize Mr Assange after UK officials said a 1987 law gave police the power to enter diplomatic premises. Assange has been inside the embassy since June 2012.

Although the UK has “given up the threads” to enter the embassy, the FCO says that they have a legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden, so they have every right to arrest him in case he leaves the embassy.

The FCO says the UK has a legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden, and he will be arrested if he leaves the embassy, but no one will forcibly enter inside. In the letter sent by the FCO, it has been underlined that “at no time has the UK government made any threat against the embassy of Ecuador.”Respect for, and compliance with, international law is at the heart of the conduct of the foreign policy of the United Kingdom.”

Back in 2010, Mr. Assange has been accused of committing sexual offences against two female ex-Wikileaks volunteers. in his defense, he said that sex was consensual, but the accusations are based on political matters, because the confidential information and documents, which have been publish by the infamous website – Wikileaks.

Assange sought asylum, because he fears onward extradition to the US if extradited to Sweden, because the US is currently carrying out an investigation into Wikileaks. He submitted an appeal against the extradition to the UK Supreme Court, which has been dismissed in May 2012. However he has been given a two-week grace period before extradition. during this time, he receive the asylum and entered the Ecuador`s embassy.

The Sun Ignored Legal Warnings to Publish Prince Harry Photos

The first UK newspaper to publish the naked photos of Prince Harry was The Sun, although the lawyers of the Royal Family warned them this can be considered a breach of the Prince`s privacy.

One of the hottest news around the world is related to the photos taken during the Prince`s holiday in Las Vegas. According to the rumors several girls have been invited to Harry`s hotel room where they engaged into playing strip billiards. The two pictures of naked Harry were first published online by the celebrity gossip website TMZ. Once published the pictures Splash News started offering the rights of the pictures to different media for a five-figure sum. Several UK agencies showed interest in buying them but most of them drew back after the Press Complaints Commission has been contacted by Harbottle & Lewis, a UK law firm acting for St. James` Palace.

The letter sent by the company to the PCC stated that the publication of these photos would violate three of the PCC’s editors’ code of practice which forbids publication of photographs taken of an individual in a private place without their consent.

However, The Sun  bought the rights and published the photos today. They stated they believe the photos should be published because they are of interest to the public and they will provoke meaningful discussions related to the 27-year-old Prince.

Another point stated was that the Prince himself is responsible for compromising his privacy. In addition, the photos were easily accessible on-line so there was no reason not to publish them. They cited a previous PCC ruling which allowed a magazine to publish photos which were already made public.

The letter from Harbottle & Lewis strongly disagrees with this claim by saying that no matter the photos were published by different media, there is no excuse to publish them in the UK.

What the Sun did was not very-well accepted by many people, including John Prescott, who said that the Sun had shown “absolute utter contempt” for the recent Leveson enquiry into media ethics, as well as the law in general. He added “It is not about privacy. It is about money, money, money.”

The Sun already scandalised the public, by publishing a re-enactment of the Prince Harry situation featuring a Sun reporter and a female intern. By doing so they went “too far” according to public opinion. The Sun denied to have forced the girl to take her clothes off for the picture.



Todd Bentley “cures” People Through Punching – Banned from the UK

Todd Bentley, a Canadian citizen claiming to be able to cure people by hitting them was not allowed to enter the UK for his planned nationwide tour. He had meeting arranged in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, however it turned out he is a subject of exclusion order on the grounds that he was not “conducive to the public good” and the UK citizens deceived by him might be at risk.

Bentley is a reformed drug-addict, who kicks, punches and chokes sick people in order to “cure” them. He claims his practice can cure a variety of diseases, including cancer. His technique first became popular in Florida, after Bentley hold a series of popular revivalist meetings known as the Lakeland Outpouring. However since them his methods are highly questionable.

Bentley`s UK tour  was set to begin from Croydon however after Malcolm Wicks, MP for Croydon, understood what it was about, he urged the Home Secretary Theresa May to issue an immediate ban for him.

Mr. Bentley commented on the decision to be banned from the UK, by saying: “I am deeply saddened by the recent decision of the UK government regarding my entry into the country. At this point, we are thankful to God for the support from our friends in the UK who truly love Jesus and embrace the supernatural, faith and healing.

“We know and believe that the UK has a great destiny, and we are praying for the leaders and those in government. Please continue to stand with us in prayer regarding this decision and our return to the UK.”

The Home Office made it clear that this was a final decision and they will not apologise for denying access to Bentley. “Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who might seek to undermine our society.”

Tom Bentley has visited the UK before, but his UK nationwide tour provoked high controversy and led to a ban for him.

Rape Complaints Often Ignored by the Police

One in nine rape complaints by victims have been simply ignored by the UK police, Home Office figures reveal.

Another fact revealed by the figures is that the police also ignored some other crimes. For example two percent of reported burglaries, five percent of robberies, three percent of drugs complaints and six percent of sexual assaults.

According to a study by the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection team, it is possible that due to pressure to reduce the number of recorded cases, the police is “forced” to ignore some incidents as “no crime” without proper examination.

These figures may raise fears that rape victims might found themselves defenseless, while the rapists might escape justice for the crimes committed by them. This could lead to undermining confidence in the justice system and causing less victims of sexual assault to come forward.

The fact that 90% of sex attacks are still going unreported and the number of rapes reported to the police from April fell with 14% compare to the same period last year However, Amanda Bancroft, writing for the Guardian earlier this year, pointed out that the conviction rate for rape is slightly above the average for all crimes, suggesting that media misreporting could cause victims to be reluctant to come forward.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said in a report back in July that more than 300,000 women are sexually assaulted each year in Britain but warned only 91,000 of the culprits are prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and almost 67,000 are convicted.

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Foreign Students Work Illegally at a Tesco Store

One of the Tesco stores was checked by the UK Border Agency and it turned out that some of the workers there are foreign students, who might work  longer than allowed by their visas.

On 21 July, at a Tesco groceries` facility in Croydon, the UKBA made a raid and it was uncovered that employees, who are actually foreign students, mainly from India and Bangladesh are working more than three times longer than their visas permit. In the UK foreign students can work for up to 20 hours per week and the UKBA is very strict about this. However at the Croydon store it has been discovered that they work for about 70 hours per week.

Penalties will probably affect both sides, as 20 of the students have been arrested and 7 of them deported. The UKBA will not close the case until every single point is made clear and it issues Tesco with a notification of liability. If the accusations are proved, Tesco will face a fine of £10,000 for each illegally employed student, which comes to £200, 000 altogether.

If Tesco manages to satisfy the UKBA commission and prove they are being very careful when it comes to employment, the fine could be avoided. The UKBA needs to make sure that every employer is performing the necessary checks and follows the legal regulation so that no one is working in a company in a way which can be considered illegal.

The Tesco supermarket is concerned about what happened so they are co-operating with the UKBA in investigating the case. They said to have taken all the necessary measures to tighten their employment procedures and everything is in compliance with the requirements.

A spokesperson for Tesco said: “We take our responsibilities as an employer very seriously and do not condone illegal working of any kind.

“We have a comprehensive system for ensuring all the correct procedures are followed in this area which has been externally audited and generally works well. We have now taken additional steps to ensure an incident of this nature does not happen again.”

Currently Tesco is the employer of 300,000 people around the UK.

New Sentencing Proposals for Dangerous Dogs Offences

England and Wales citizens who own dangerous dogs will now face tougher sentences, if their dog is out of control in public areas and become the reason for an accident while at the supervision of the owner, according to the new Sentencing Council guidelines.

The owners of breeds outlined by the Dangerous Dogs Act now need to be more careful than ever as the Sentencing Council is encouraging judges to undertake severe punishments in cases with dangerous dogs involved.

According to the police there was a huge increase in dog crimes – from about 193 cases in 2006 to 1,107 cases in 2010, so hopefully the new measures will handles this growing problem more efficiently.

According to the new guidelines, more dog owners will be jailed, and the judges are allowed to order more dogs to be put down if necessary. The good news is that the victims of such crimes will receive higher compensations.

These guidelines were announced earlier this year in May and according to them anyone  who owns a dangerous dog and allows someone else to be injured might be jailed from six to eighteen months. In addition, the penalty for owning a banned dog is set to be up to 6 months` custody.

In some cases where a child has been hurt the sentences could rise to two years. If someone initiates a dog attack, this will be considered an assault.

A spokesman for the Sentencing Council said: “With increasing numbers of convictions for offences involving dangerous dogs in recent years, the new guidelines will help ensure the courts use their full powers when dealing with offenders. ”The Sentencing Council’s guideline aims to provide clear guidance to judges and magistrates to encourage consistency in sentencing and appropriate sentences for owners of dangerous dogs.”

Trevor Cooper, legal consultant for the Dogs Trust said: “These new guidelines will encourage courts to focus on the key factors of culpability of the owner and the amount of harm to the victim. This tougher approach should serve as a stiff reminder to dog owners to keep their pets under proper control and to behave responsibly.”


Weaknesses Found in The Contract Between Atos and the Government

Auditors from National Audit Office (NAO) have found “weaknesses” in the contract between Atos, the private firm paid to carry out fit-to-work medical assessments and the government.

NAO found weaknesses in the agreement, which include bad performance and not providing good value for money. The National Audit Office criticised Iain Duncan Smith’s Department of Work and Pensions (DwP) for setting performance targets too low, failing to adequately fine Atos for poor performance and not properly checking the accuracy of performance data that Atos submitted.

Despite the criticisms, the Paralympics Sponsor – Atos was recently awarded a £400m contract to conduct the medical re-assessments of  Employment and Support Allowance benefit claimants to establish whether or not they are fit for work.

This was initiated in 2008 under the Labour government scheme. It has been accepted with significant controversy and resistance, with recent figures showing wrong decisions in about 40% of the time. The NAO said it was unclear whether the quality of the tests was to blame for the number of wrong decisions and that there was insufficient data to make a statement on this.

DWP admitted that Atos was breaching the deadlines with failing to complete some fitness testing and since nid-2011 their performance was not satisfying – “below the standard”. DWP has been criticised by NAO for not taking efficient measures on time by seeking “financial  redress” from Atos for their bad-performed services. After the audit, NAO concluded that only 10% of the poor-performance penalties had been applied.

The NAO criticised the DWP for not seeking “financial redress” for these delays, saying just 10% of the penalties triggered by poor performance had been applied.

But a DWP Secretary Iain Duncan Smith claimed that the agreement was reviewed regularly  and had been “substantially improved” over the past two years. He also said: “It is a complicated area, but we are committed to making it a success to ensure it is both fair and accurate for the user and value for money for the taxpayer.”