Police

Keir Starmer to be Investigated by Police Over ‘Beergate’

Keir Starmer faces a police investigation into his lockdown curry, after repeatedly demanding Boris Johnson should quit for breaching rules in similar circumstances. MailOnline has more.

The Labour leader is at risk of being engulfed by the so-called ‘Beergate’ row after Durham Police dramatically declared it will probe “significant new information” about the gathering. 

The force initially decided Sir Keir did not breach Covid rules when he and party aides had drinks and a takeaway in April 2021, when millions of Britons were banned from mixing indoors in most circumstances. But following intense pressure and a series of revelations – including that up to 30 people attended and shared £200 worth of food – the position has shifted.

Sir Keir maintained a stony silence as journalists threw questions about the situation on a visit to Carlisle this afternoon. Labour said the party was “happy to answer any questions there are and we remain clear that no rules were broken”. 

However, there is frustration among Tories that the decision was only taken after the local elections – when the PM’s own fine over the Partygate scandal damaged his support.

The development could raise serious doubts over Sir Keir’s future, as he trenchantly argued that Mr Johnson should resign when he was found to have broken the law. 

Sir Keir had been filmed drinking a bottle of lager with colleagues at the event at the offices of Durham MP Mary Foy in the run-up to last year’s local elections – and has been wriggling when asked about the incident all week.

Sadiq Khan risked inflaming the row earlier this week by admitting there was “equivalence” between Keir Starmer’s actions and the PM’s birthday gathering in the Cabinet Room in June 2020 – which has seen him and Chancellor Rishi Sunak fined. Mr. Khan suggested the main difference was that the Labour leader only broke lockdown once.

Tory MP Richard Holden, backed by several ministers, wrote to Durham Constabulary insisting there was now “incontrovertible” evidence Labour had “lied” about the events of a year ago, including there now disproved claim that the deputy leader Angela Rayner was not there. 

Freedom Convoys: French Police Use Tear Gas; New Zealand Deploys Barry Manilow; Canadian Truckers Clear Bridge But Protests Continue in Ottawa

Freedom Convoy protests continue in Canada, France and New Zealand – three countries where extreme responses to Covid have persisted for two years and where the unvaccinated are particularly targeted with restrictions.

In Canada, trucks have now cleared the Ambassador Bridge after blocking the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada for nearly six days. However, protests continue in Ottawa for the third weekend in a row. MailOnline has more.

Hundreds of people waving Canadian flags and holding anti-Trudeau signs braved the snow and cold temperatures Saturday as they filled the downtown area of the, walking between massive trucks that have been parked in place for weeks, paralysing the Canadian capital. 

In Windsor, as the vehicles moved out, a handful of people who remained near the entrance of the bridge gradually grew and as of 1pm had turned into a large crowd of people who refused to leave. Police in black uniforms with yellow safety vests formed a line between the bridge and the crowd and have been steadily pushing back the demonstrators, as some shouted “shame”, “freedom” and “you’re on the wrong side”. 

Windsor Police stated on Twitter around 11am that they could begin making arrests if protesters continued to block traffic. 

“Enforcement continuing, individuals who are located within the demonstration area are subject to arrest,” the Windsor police wrote. “People are advised to immediately vacate the area.”

While the trucks and vehicles had exited the bridge, both directions still appeared to be closed off to traffic as of Saturday afternoon.

Police descended on the scene around 8:30am Saturday, warning protesters to “act lawfully” after the Freedom Convoy truckers in Canada ignored two deadlines overnight.

The ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests, which began in Ottawa by Canadian truckers opposing a vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate for cross-border drivers, entered its 16th day on Saturday. The demonstrations are also an outpouring of fury toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Protests spread to three border points earlier this week, including the Ambassador Bridge, North America’s busiest land border crossing where dozens of vehicles crowded the area since Monday, choking the supply chain for Detroit’s carmakers. 

UPDATE: It’s reported that protestors have returned and been seen blocking the bridge again on Saturday night.

In Paris, riot police tear-gassed diners at restaurants as protesters clashed during violent demonstrations against Covid restrictions and energy price rises. MailOnline has more.

Brit Thrown off Eurostar by Armed French Police for Wearing “Wrong Type of Mask”

A British man travelling back to England from France on Eurostar on Thursday was surrounded by armed French police and left stranded in Lille after being reported by the service’s manager for wearing the “wrong type of mask”. MailOnline has the story.

Eurostar requires all passengers to wear a mask onboard but a spokesman today said that there were no rules specifying what kind of masks must be worn. 

Other passengers on the service said that the female manager of the train took a dislike to the man after an exchange of words, and ordered the service to stop so he could be arrested.   

“I’ve done nothing wrong and respect all Coronavirus rules – this is absolutely outrageous,” he said, as he was led away in front of other stunned passengers on Thursday afternoon. …

Other passengers then complained about the unscheduled, unannounced stop in Lille that caused a 15 minutes delay.

“Why is Eurostar stopping its trains, and delaying hundreds of passengers, because of a petty dispute over one man’s mask?” said one.

The female Eurostar manager, who remained on the train after the man was taken into custody, confirmed she had reported him for wearing the “wrong type of mask” for preventing the spread of Coronavirus. …

Within minutes of departure [from Paris] the Eurostar manager was involved in a heated argument with the man.

She accused him of not complying with health and safety regulations, and said the black mask he was wearing was not appropriate.

All Eurostar passengers are expected to wear masks at all times, except for when they are eating or drinking.

There was a buffet on the train, and many of the passengers in Coach 13 – where the man was sitting alone by a window in a two-seat row – had removed their masks completely as they had sandwiches and drinks with them.

Despite this, the manager berated the man, and then used a radio to summon another member of staff. …

The businessman… replaced his black mask with a standard blue one provided by another passenger. He apologised, and appeared to have escaped any further action.

But when the train got to Lille it made an unscheduled stop, and three armed officers boarded, while the others waiting on the platform. …

[Another passenger said:] “The Eurostar woman was telling the police what to do, and insisting that the poor guy should be removed, like he was some kind of criminal.

“He was actually being very reasonable, and not swearing or acting in any kind of disruptive way at all – everybody else was on his side, but he was marched off and we didn’t see him again.”

Worth reading in full.

“Dial 999” If You’re “Really Concerned” about a Police Officer, Says Former Scotland Yard Senior Officer

Prompted by the sentencing of Wayne Couzens for kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard in a case that has raised awareness about the level of confusion over the powers handed to the police by ’emergency’ coronavirus legislation, Scotland Yard has issued advice for those approached by an undercover officer. MailOnline has the story.

Scotland Yard said in a statement that it is “unusual for a single plain clothes police officer to engage with anyone in London”, although it can happen.

They said that an lone officer could be seeking to arrest you, but if they do then you should “expect to see other officers arrive shortly afterwards”.

As of yesterday the Metropolitan Police announced they would not deploy plain clothes officers on their own.

Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House said: “We will not operate plain clothes officers on their own. If we do use them, they will be in pairs.”

However he said there will be “occasions” where that is not possible – such as when a pair of officers are split up – and noted that off-duty officers [will] not [be] in uniform. …

You would expect a lone police officer who is arresting you to soon be joined by backup, although it is possible that this might not happen and you are still alone.

Scotland Yard said in this case that it was “entirely reasonable for you to seek further reassurance of that officer’s identity and intentions”.

The Met said it advises people to “ask some very searching questions of that officer”, including:

~ “Where are your colleagues?”

~ “Where have you come from?”

~ “Why are you here?”

~ “Exactly why are you stopping or talking to me?”

Former Scotland Yard Senior Officer Parm Sandhu told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that there were things people could do if they were concerned about an arrest.

She said that people should not get into the vehicle unless it’s a marked police vehicle and ask to see the radio, or ask the arresting officer to call their colleagues and make sure they are on duty. She added: “If you’re really concerned dial 999.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Peter Hitchens asks how does “such a person become a police officer and *remain[ed]* one” in the first place.

Ministers Were Warned About the Dangers of the “Draconian” Coronavirus Act in the Same Month Wayne Couzens Abused Covid Rules To Kidnap Sarah Everard

Ministers can’t have been surprised by reports that Wayne Couzens may have abused Covid rules when he kidnapped Sarah Everard – they were urged in the same month to “roll back the extensive powers unwisely handed to the state” and to the police. The Telegraph has the story.

Mark Harper, the Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said the Coronavirus Act, contained “some of the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history, giving the police and other officials the power to detain us, potentially indefinitely”.

The concerns were not just that the laws gave officers powers to intervene in everyday activities like leaving home, going shopping or visiting friends but also that there was confusion among the public and even police about what people could and could not do.

It was this that Couzens, 48, apparently exploited when he used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Ms. Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3rd.

He had worked with other officers on Covid patrols to enforce the regulations and, according to the prosecution, he was “therefore aware of the regulations and what language to use to those who may have breached them”.

“The fact she [Sarah Everard] had been to a friend’s house for dinner at the height of the 2021 lockdown made her more vulnerable to and/or more likely to submit to an accusation that she had acted in breach of the Covid regulations in some way, by going to a friend’s home that evening.”

When Ms. Everard set off for home, the U.K. was still in its third national lockdown, which required people to remain at home and only leave for a narrow set of reasons such as exercising once a day.

Throughout the lockdown, police chiefs had been sensitive to the potential of their new powers to breach the central tenet of British policing that it is based on the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state.

“We don’t want to have a society when you step out the door there is a cop saying: ‘Where are you going?’” said Stephen White, then Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham.

Worth reading in full.

Australia: New South Wales Police Commissioner Refuses to Enforce Vaccine Passport Rules

The Police Commissioner of New South Wales, Mick Fuller, has said his officers will not be checking the vaccine status of people in restaurants, cafes or pubs, in defiance of the Health Minister’s insistence that it is the police’s responsibility. The Guardian has the story.

The Government is preparing to make public health orders that bar unvaccinated people from entry to certain businesses and venues, until at least December 1st.

Attention has quickly turned to how the orders will be enforced, and whether the onus will fall on individual businesses. Questions about enforcement prompted conflicting accounts on Tuesday.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said… his officers would not be patrolling venues to enforce vaccine status.

“The role of police in terms of vaccine passports, we will not be walking through restaurants, cafes and pubs checking if people are double vaccinated,” he said.

“[But] we will certainly be assisting restaurant owners and shop owners if they are refusing entry to someone – we’ll certainly respond to assist those people.”

Speaking to the media later on Tuesday, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said police would be responsible for enforcing the public health orders.

“If the law says you have to be double vaccinated, then of course the police will enforce that, they have no choice but to enforce that,” he said.

Hazzard also indicated venues wouldn’t face fines if an unvaccinated person was allowed entry. Asked why businesses would bother to argue with unvaccinated people if they are not to face a penalty, Hazzard criticised the media for obsessing over minutiae.

Worth reading in full.

Headteachers Told To Call Police if People Protest Against Vaccination of Healthy Teenagers Outside School Gates

Parents who are considering demonstrating against the vaccination of their healthy teenage children outside their local school’s gates may have to think twice, with headteachers having been told to call the police if ‘anti-vaxxers’ plan protests near their sites. The Telegraph has the story.

The U.K. Health Security Agency has now issued guidance to headteachers who believe protests could be held outside their school over participation in the vaccination programme, advising them to contact police to help manage the situation.

The agency said it was aware some schools had received campaign letters and emails with “misinformation” about the vaccine programme, after ministers confirmed the roll-out.

Three million 12 to 15 year-olds across the U.K. will be eligible, and the programme is expected to be delivered primarily within schools.

In new guidance, the agency said it knew of schools seeking advice on how to handle protests, and suggested they get in touch with the School Aged Immunisation Service (SAIS) team at the “first opportunity” to understand “what security planning they have in place”.

“In the event of a protest or disruptive activity outside a school, or if schools know a protest is planned, they should alert the SAIS provider, local authority and police contacts to discuss the best way to manage the situation,” the guidance added.

Heads and teachers have also been advised “not to engage directly” with misinformation campaigns about the vaccine, but should “acknowledge receipt of concerns” and “refer to the latest scientific guidance on the issue” if necessary.

It comes as NHS England said its objective was to vaccinate children as “quickly as is safe and practical, with the majority of school visits completed and vaccinations administered before October half term”.

Any child who hasn’t received their dose within those five weeks should have the date of their vaccination confirmed, a letter sent on Wednesday to providers stated.

The programme should be ready to start administering jabs “no later” than Wednesday September 22nd, it added.

It is understood that the Department of Health and Social care is also drawing resources which will be issued to local authorities and schools imminently on how to handle potential protests.

Dr. Nikki Kanani, GP and Deputy Director of the Covid vaccination programme, said: “It is completely unacceptable for anyone involved in administering the Covid vaccine to be subjected to verbal abuse or violence, and we will be working with local partners to ensure that children, teachers and vaccinators are safe while carrying out these life-saving vaccinations.”

NHS England is expected to advise SAIS teams to follow that guidance, which is likely to reflect similar instructions issued earlier in the year on how to deal with violence, threats and abuse at vaccination sites.

Worth reading in full.

Sydney Anti-Lockdown Protest Organiser Sentenced to Eight Months in Prison

One of the organisers of a recent anti-lockdown protest in Sydney has been sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison for helping to plan an “unauthorised” demonstration and for breaking other lockdown-related rules. He will serve a minimum of three months in prison. The Guardian has the story.

Anthony Khallouf, 29, one of the organisers of last month’s anti-lockdown protests and a key figurehead in the broader movement surrounding it, was arrested by police in Sydney on Thursday after travelling from Queensland in breach of public health orders.

Khallouf appeared in Hornsby local court on Friday, charged with breaches of public health orders, including travelling from Queensland to Sydney and his involvement in planning an unauthorised protest for this weekend.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of not complying with a direction relating to Covid, encouraging the commission of crimes, and false representation resulting in a police investigation.

New South Wales police said in a statement on Friday afternoon that he was sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison, with a non-parole period of three months.

Khallouf is the founder of Australians vs The Agenda, one of the larger anti-lockdown groups with more than 12,000 followers on Telegram. Originally from Victoria, last year he was charged with incitement for allegedly helping to organise a protest in Melbourne.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Damien Cave writes in the New York Times on Australia’s reliance on quarantine infrastructure as a long-term answer to Covid.

The problem… is that even humane quarantine amounts to a forced retreat. The decisions made by governments about who poses a risk are rarely politics-free, and frequently go beyond medicine to fears shaped by emotions and biases.

Also worth reading in full.

Brit Sentenced to Six Weeks in Prison in Singapore for Not Wearing a Face Mask

A British man who refused to wear a face mask on public transport in Singapore and who reportedly harassed the police sent to arrest him for breaking Covid rules has been sentenced to six weeks in prison in the country. He has been charged, in part, for being a ‘public nuisance’. The Guardian has the story.

The city-state, which has had comparatively mild Covid outbreaks, has taken a tough line against people breaking virus rules, and there have been several cases of foreigners being punished.

Benjamin Glynn was arrested after footage of him not wearing a mask on a train in May went viral.

The 40 year-old subsequently harassed police sent to arrest him, and refused to wear a face-covering during a court appearance last month.

According to reports, Glynn delivered a rant in court – in which he described the proceedings as “preposterous” and “disgusting” – and said masks were not effective in preventing the spread of Covid.

This prompted the judge to order a psychiatric assessment, but Glynn was deemed fit enough for the case to continue.

On Wednesday, he was convicted for breaching Covid rules, his behaviour towards police, and causing a public nuisance.

A court official confirmed the jail term to AFP on Thursday, saying it was backdated to July 19th – the date when Glynn was first remanded.

As he had already served two-thirds of his sentence on remand, Glynn was freed from prison Wednesday and will be deported, according to local newspaper the Straits Times. …

In May, nine Britons were banned from working in Singapore after breaking coronavirus rules while partying on a yacht in Santa hats.

Worth reading in full.

“This Is Not the Country That I Grew Up In”: Australian Widow Arrested for Exercising Near Home

Following reports of the Australian army being deployed to ensure citizens are abiding by strict lockdown rules, an elderly Sydney resident has written to the Australian about being arrested for exercising near her home. Police officers interpreted this as an offence because the resident, a widow, was wearing a sign and walking in an area she rarely visited. Her letter, republished below, highlights the lengths to which the Australian authorities are going to snuff out the faintest flickers of protest.

I am a 78 year-old widow who chose to exercise in the Sydney central business district (CBD) on Saturday. I wore a sign saying: “Not happy, Gladys.” I was alone, I am fully vaccinated and I was wearing a mask.

I was stopped by police and asked what I was doing. I said I was exercising within 10km of my home. They told me I was not allowed to wear a sign while exercising. Both they and I were very respectful but I was arrested on the grounds that, as I did not normally exercise in the CBD, and was wearing a sign, I was protesting and not exercising.

This is not the country that I grew up in. And the really sad thing is that there will be so many who have been intimidated into cringing cowardice and who will just say of me: “Stupid old biddy, serves her right for not just being obedient.”

Mary M. Ancich, Birchgrove, Queensland