‘Major incident’ closes The Alphabet Zoo play centre

The Alphabet ZooImage copyright Google
Image caption Police were called to The Alphabet Zoo shortly after 15:00 BST on Tuesday

A children’s play centre in Bradford has been closed after what was described as a “major incident”.

West Yorkshire Police said the incident at The Alphabet Zoo play centre, on Cemetery Road, involved “one single male” and there were “no suspects outstanding”.

The play centre posted on Facebook that a police cordon had been placed inside the building on Tuesday afternoon.

Officers have not confirmed whether anyone was injured.

A force spokesman would also not confirm reports that a man barged into the centre and “caused mayhem” before jumping from a balcony.

On its Facebook page, the centre’s owners said: “Due to major incident, The Alphabet Zoo is currently closed, but we will reopen as soon as we can.

“It is following an incident inside the play centre which meant we needed to close.

“Police cordon has been placed inside the alphabet zoo and are investigating.

“We understand that this is our one of the busiest month as schools are out, with long queues a regular sight, especially around afternoon & evening season, we apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused and appreciate your understanding.”

The Alphabet Zoo is a play area for under-12s including a ball pool, go-karts, a football hall and an area for babies and toddlers.


Grenfell Tower: Fire door manufacturers told to address failings

Grenfell TowerImage copyright Reuters

Suppliers of fire doors have been told to make changes after products from five brands failed safety tests following the Grenfell Tower fire.

An investigation was launched after it was found that a fire door from Grenfell Tower could only hold back fire for half the time it was meant to.

Problems have now been found with doors from other firms, the government said.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has suggested “there is a broader issue across the fire door market”.

He stressed that the risk was low, however.

All doors known to have failed to meet safety standards have been withdrawn from the market and local trading standards have been informed, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said.

The Grenfell Tower door, manufactured by Manse Masterdor, failed a 30-minute fire resistance test after about 15 minutes.

Doors made by its successor company Masterdor Ltd, as well as those from Specialist Building Products Ltd, trading as Permadoor, Solar Windows Ltd, and Birtley Group Ltd, trading as Bowater by Birtley, have now failed government tests too.

‘Clear plan of action’

Mr Brokenshire said he was “calling on suppliers to meet this week and provide reassurance that they are gripping this issue properly”.

“I want to see a clear plan of action to rectify existing problems and ensure such failures are not repeated in the future,” he added.

“Whilst our expert panel assures me the risk remains low, I want to assure the public that the government is doing everything it can to ensure construction products are of the highest safety standards and accurately tested and marketed.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In total, 72 people died as a result of the fire

The manufacturers cooperated fully with the government investigations, launched by the MHCLG after the Grenfell fire.

In total, 72 people died as a result of the fire in North Kensington, west London, on 14 June 2017.

The ministry is now writing to all building control bodies to highlight the need for existing building regulations guidance on new fire door installations to be followed.

The major suppliers of fire doors have been asked to make weekly reports on their progress after meeting this week to discuss the issue.

Experts say the risk to public safety is low because even when fire doors do not meet the full resistance standards, they provide some protection from the spread of a blaze.


Ellie Soutter death: Father criticises pressure on athletes

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Media captionEllie Soutter during the Youth Olympic Winter Festival in 2017

The father of British snowboarder Ellie Soutter who died on her 18th birthday believes she could have been struggling with the pressure of competing in high-level sport.

Tony Soutter told BBC South East he had lost his best friend, his “total buddy” and his rock.

Ellie “wanted to be the best” and not “let anybody down”, he said.

UK Sport said it was working with partners to provide appropriate support for athletes.

‘One little thing’

Speaking publicly for the first time since his daughter’s death on 25 July, Mr Soutter said he believes his daughter’s history of mental health issues coupled with the pressure of elite performance may have contributed to her ending her life in Les Gets in the French Alps.

“She wanted to be the best,” he said. “She didn’t want to let anybody down.

“Unfortunately it all came about from missing a flight which then meant she didn’t go training with the GB squad.

“She felt she’d let them down, felt she’d let me down and just tragically it just takes one silly little thing like that to tip someone over the edge, because there’s a lot of pressure on children.”

Image copyright Team GB
Image caption Ellie Soutter during the Youth Olympic Winter Festival in 2017

Calling for action to help other young athletes, Mr Soutter added: “Mental health awareness needs to be really looked at and made more public.”

He said: “I have lost my best friend, my total buddy. She was my rock.”

Soutter grew up in Oxted, Surrey, before moving to the Alps where she trained.

Her bronze was Team GB’s only medal at the Youth Olympic Winter Festival in Turkey last year.

Her family have set up a foundation in her name to help young winter sports athletes needing financial support.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Soutter (left) competing in snowboard cross at the European Youth Olympics Winter Festival in 2017

The Samaritans provides advice on what to do if someone finds they are struggling themselves or sees another person having difficulties.

‘Great talent lost’

A spokesman for UK Sport said: “This is a desperately sad situation and our thoughts are with all of Ellie’s family and friends.

“We are working with all of our Olympic and Paralympic programmes and the mental health charity Mind to make sure appropriate support is in place.”

A statement issued by British Ski and Snowboard said: “Ellie was an incredibly popular and well-liked member of the team and the country has lost a great talent.

“The wellbeing of all athletes across every discipline is the primary concern of any sporting organisation.

“We commend the family for setting up the Ellie Soutter Foundation and they have our full support.”

The BBC has also approached the British Olympic Association for comment.

If you have been affected by this story, help and support is available via BBC Action Line.


Joanne Rand acid death: Man jailed for 17 years

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Media captionJoanne Rand acid death: Man jailed for 17 years

A man has been jailed for 17 years for the manslaughter of a woman who died 11 days after being splashed with acid.

Xeneral Webster, 19, was arguing with another man in High Wycombe when he took out a bottle of acid which splashed Joanne Rand head-to-toe.

Ms Rand, 47, was sitting on a bench after visiting her daughter’s grave when the acid hit her on 3 June 2017.

Webster, of Westway, west London, had admitted manslaughter during his murder trial at Reading Crown Court.

The court had heard Webster travelled to Frogmoor, High Wycombe, with sulphuric acid which was knocked from his grasp by another man during a scuffle over a bicycle.

After the corrosive liquid hit Ms Rand she screamed in pain and ran to a nearby restaurant to douse herself with water.

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption Xeneral Webster, 19, retrieved the bottle of acid before fleeing the scene in a balaclava

The mother-of-three was treated in hospital and discharged but died on 14 June last year from multi-organ failure after contracting septicaemia.

During the trial, prosecutor Alison Hunter QC said it “made no difference” the care home nurse was not the intended victim because Webster knew the consequences of having the chemical in public, having been the victim of an acid attack himself just months before.

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Sentencing Webster, Judge Angela Morris said: “You and your actions bear the responsibility for her tragic demise.

“The cost of your actions were incalculable and irreparable for her family and friends and there is no sentence which this court can pass which can replace the value of her life.

“The fact remains, you had this substance with you in a public place and you cannot have failed to realise the significant harm its contents would have caused to others had it been released.

“Because it is a liquid it is all the more likely to be indiscriminate in its spread.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Xeneral Webster was aware of the dangers of acid, having been a victim of an acid attack, his trial heard

Det Ch Insp Nick Glister, from Thames Valley Police, described Ms Rand as a “completely innocent party who was in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Her older sister, Lynn Ryan, described her sibling as “a very caring person, she wouldn’t want to harm anybody,” she said,

“When it [the acid injury] happened to her, she was shocked as to why.”

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption Joanne Rand’s daughter, Katie Pitwell (right) called for tougher sentences for acid-related crimes

Webster was also sentenced for two counts of possessing an offensive weapon, namely a samurai sword and ammonia, criminal damage and making threats to kill relating to a separate incident to which he pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Ms Rand’s daughter, Katie Pitwell, has since called for tougher sentences for acid cases.

“I think the buying of acid needs to be restricted, but also, if someone is carrying it, there should be tougher sentences because most of the time they do intend to use it for harm,” she said.

“People need to know that if they’re carrying that type of stuff, it’s going to hurt someone or kill someone.”

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption Joanne Rand’s 19-year-old daughter died in a road accident in 2011, she had visited her grave on the day she was injured

Jacqueline Joiner, said her sister’s death had revived painful memories of when Ms Rand’s other daughter, Charlotte Pitwell, died in a road accident in 2011, aged 19.

“It brought back memories of when Charlotte was killed so that made it worse because it’s happened twice to our family now,” she said.

“You don’t think this sort of thing happens to a normal family.”


High Court ‘misled’ by government over child refugees

Children and young people at the Jungle camp in CalaisImage copyright Reuters

The government “misled” the High Court over its decision to refuse unaccompanied child refugees in Calais the right to join their families in the UK, says the Court of Appeal.

The ruling revealed Home Office lawyers gave advice on how to avoid legal challenges by not giving children reasons for their refusal.

As a result, over 500 children were rejected and “many” are now missing.

The Home Office said it had “noted the criticisms” and were reviewing them.

Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, described the Home Office’s actions as a “shocking denial of children’s rights”.

The demolition of the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais was ordered in October 2016, when Amber Rudd was Home Secretary.

As a result of the closure, the government conducted over 1,000 interviews with unaccompanied children who claimed to have family in the UK.

Around 550 were brought to the country – but over 500 were rejected.

Many of them then went missing from the French centres they were living in.

The court ruling said the Home Office’s process for refusing to transfer the children was “unfair and unlawful”.

It said failures in the system were prejudicial to the children, who had no realistic prospect of challenging the rejections.

Lord Justice Singh added that not presenting the evidence – namely emails showing the lawyer’s advice – to the High Court hearing was “a serious breach of the duty of candour and co-operation”.

‘Incomplete picture’

Charity Safe Passage – part of the community organising group Citizens UK – first took the case to the High Court in September to challenge the Home Office and the way it dealt with the unaccompanied child refugees.

The court ruled in favour of the government, saying it had acted lawfully in not providing full reasons.

It said, despite “serious shortcomings” in the processes of assessing the applications, the department was “justified” due to the time frame and urgent conditions the UK was working under after the clearance of the camp was announced.

But on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal overturned High Court’s decision, saying the judge had been given an “incomplete picture” by the government and a “great deal of important evidence” was not brought to the court’s attention.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The Calais Jungle had been hope to around 8,000 refugees before its demolition in October 2016

The evidence came in the form of emails between the UK Border Force and the French authorities – disclosed in another case being mounted by Citizens UK – detailing the lawyer’s advice to not provide reasons for refusal to avoid legal challenges.

The emails also showed that French officials wanted the children to be given an adequate explanation – despite the government previously presenting evidence that the authorities only required “sparse” detail.

Lord Justice Singh said: “In my judgment, the process which was adopted by the secretary of state in the present context failed to comply with the requirements of procedural fairness as a matter of common law.”

‘Abysmal disregard’

Ms Cooper said : “Everyone knows the Home Office gets decisions wrong, but these teenagers and children weren’t even told the reasons why, so they or their families could challenge basic mistakes.

“The result was many of those teenagers and children disappeared again – very possibly straight back into the arms of smugglers, traffickers and abusers.”

Sonal Ghelani of the Islington Law Centre, which worked on the appeal, said it was “extremely disturbing” for the Home Office to act in the way it did.

Calling for an investigation into the Home Office’s actions, she added: “Public authorities have a duty of candour to provide the court with a full and accurate explanation of all the facts but we now know there was a serious breach of the duty of candour in this case.”

Beth Gardiner-Smith, project lead for Safe Passage, added: “Tragically, many of the children that were refused by the government with no good reason have since gone missing from French authorities’ care, and we have little to no information on their whereabouts or wellbeing.

“Today’s judgment reveals not only the failure of the Home Office to comply with law but also its abysmal disregard for the safety and welfare of incredibly vulnerable children.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Young migrants watch the camp being demolished in 2016

A Home Office spokesperson said the UK had worked with France to expedite the transfer of vulnerable unaccompanied children from Calais in October 2016 in response to an “urgent humanitarian situation” and their priority was to “provide safe passage for children”.

The spokesperson added: “The court agreed that the process operated by the government was outside of its existing obligations under EU law.

“However, we note the criticisms contained within the wider ruling and are currently reviewing these with our legal team.”

A French Senate report from July 2017 found that 709 children removed during the clearances of the camps in Calais had subsequently gone missing from French care shelters.


Durex recalls condoms over split worries

Product recall noticeImage copyright Durex

Condom maker Durex has recalled some of its products sold in the UK and Ireland over fears they could split.

Ten batches of its non-latex Real Feel and Latex Free condoms with expiry dates between December 2020 and February 2021 are not passing “stringent shelf-life tests”.

As a result, they could burst if used towards the end of their expiry dates.

The company has apologised and offered refunds to customers.

A statement on Durex’s website said: “Our condoms are intended to provide a method of contraception and prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections through a non-latex barrier that offers a benefit to consumers sensitive to latex.

“Only for the batches of condoms affected by this issue, there could be an increase in the number of condoms that burst during application or use.”

It has advised customers to seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible and no later than 72 hours if a condom splits, but the company said there were no immediate safety concerns.

A full list of the batches affected can be found here.


House of Fraser offered cash injection by Mike Ashley

House of Fraser signImage copyright PA

Struggling House of Fraser is understood to have been approached by Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley over a fresh investment deal.

The sports chain owns an 11.1% stake in House of Fraser, which last month detailed plans to close 31 of its 59 shops as part of a rescue deal.

According to Sky News, House of Fraser needs £50m to prevent it collapsing.

But sources close to the department store chain have denied the chain’s survival is under threat.

The department store chain has previously said it has no short-term funding issues.

Creditors have already backed House of Fraser’s restructuring, but a group of landlords is taking them to court over the plan which has thrown it into doubt.

The landlords claim the plan – which will see their rents slashed – is unfair to them.

The department store chain is currently awaiting a £70m investment from Chinese investor, C.banner, which also owns toy shop Hamley’s.

C.banner said in May it planned to take a majority stake in House of Fraser, but has said it will not go ahead with the deal until the store closure and rent reduction rescue plan is agreed.

Mr Ashley is believed to have approached House of Fraser around four weeks ago, before landlords challenged the retailer’s rescue deal.

He is understood to have told House of Fraser’s advisers he could “offer something better” than C.banner.

Mr Ashley could not be reached for comment.

House of Fraser is using company voluntary arrangements (CVAs), a form of insolvency proceedings, to overhaul its business.

CVAs are being increasingly used by struggling retailers as a way to close stores, but landlords argue that they are being abused as a quick way to cut rents.

House of Fraser is one of a number of retailers struggling amid falling consumer confidence, rising overheads, the weaker pound and the growth of online shopping.

Electronics chain Maplin and toy chain Toys R Us both collapsed into administration earlier this year.

Other High Street chains such as Mothercare and Carpetright have been forced to close stores in order to survive.

The House of Fraser Group has annual sales of £1.2bn. It employs about 5,000 people directly and also has 12,500 concession staff.