INDEPENDENT 2024-02-12 12:04:01


Police drop rape investigation into MP

Tory MP Andrew Rosindell faces no further action after police dropped a rape and sexual assault investigation into him.

Scotland Yard said a “thorough investigation” had been carried out and the evidence threshold for criminal prosecution had not been met.

Mr Rosindell has not voted in the Commons since April 2022 after the Metropolitan Police received a report relating to alleged offences taking place in London between 2002 and 2009.

He was arrested in May 2022 on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “A thorough investigation has been carried out by detectives. They concluded that the evidence did not meet the threshold set by Crown prosecutors.

“The man has been informed he will face no further action.”

A spokesman for the Romford MP said: “In relation to an allegation made in May 2022 by an individual against Andrew Rosindell, the Metropolitan Police have conducted a thorough investigation and concluded that there was no case to answer and that no further action would be taken.

“Andrew has been completely exonerated. He has been working constantly for Romford throughout the past 21 months and will continue to speak up for the people of his beloved home town as their local MP.”

Man and child killed in Surrey horror crash

A man and a child have died after a car crash in Surrey.

Two other people have been taken to hospital with serious injuries following the incident in Red Road, Lightwater, on Sunday evening, Surrey Police said.

Officers were called to the scene at around 8.20pm to reports of a collision between a grey Range Rover, a blue BMW, and a white Audi.

The driver of the BMW, a man in his 30s, and a child travelling in the same car were pronounced dead following the crash.

A 62-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and causing death by driving without due care while unfit through drink or drugs.

Police have asked witnesses to the crash to come forward with any information or camera footage they may have.

Senior Tories to lose seats as rural Conservative vote collapses

Labour will beat the Tories in the most 100 rural constituencies in England, according to a shock new poll.

The poll found Conservative support had fallen by 25 points since the 2019 election, with just 34 per cent of voters in the 100 most rural constituencies in England saying they would vote for the party.

The Conservatives currently hold 96 of the 100 most rural seats, but now face losing more than half to Labour and the Lib Dems, including those of senior Tories Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Hunt, Thérèse Coffey, Andrea Leadsom, Mel Stride, Mark Harper and Liam Fox.

Labour support has risen over the same period, going from 20 per cent in 2019 to 37 per cent at the start of this year – giving the party a narrow lead in what has traditionally been considered Conservative territory.

But while the survey suggests Conservative support has collapsed in the party’s heartlands, many rural voters are still “politically homeless”, with almost 35 per cent of respondents still undecided about how they’ll vote.

Victoria Vyvyan, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 rural businesses and landowners, said the poll makes it clear that rural voters up and down the country feel “disconnected from central government”:

“This poll makes it clear that rural voters up and down the country feel politically homeless and disconnected from central government – but their votes are still up for grabs. Whichever party produces a robust and ambitious plan for growth in the rural economy will undoubtedly secure support.

“For the good of our rural communities and the nation as a whole, now is the time for the main parties to make it clear that they will back the countryside.”

Support for the Liberal Democrats has remained largely unchanged, with 14 per cent saying they would back the party – down only two points from 2019.

But the poll, carried out by Survation on behalf of the CLA of more than 1,000 people, also shows neither of the main parties is seen as understanding or respecting rural communities.

Only 28 per cent said they thought Labour understood rural communities, while 25 per cent said the same about the Conservatives.

The CLA has put forward a series of “missions” for parties to show they understand rural voters, including investing in profitable and sustainable farming, providing affordable homes for rural communities, tackling rural crime and improving connections for rural areas.

Ms Vyvyan told the PA news agency: “Our vote is there for the taking, and they need to show us that they understand and respect our community.”

She added: “We feel invisible. I spoke to a small farming group in West Cornwall and the question that was asked was why are governments not interested in our community? Why are they interested in everyone else’s community except ours?

“We are politically homeless.”

Rural dissatisfaction has led to protests by farmers in other parts of Europe, such as France and Spain, while Welsh farmers have warned of “huge unrest” over plans by Cardiff to reform agricultural subsidies to reward “sustainable” food production.

But Ms Vyvyan played down the possibility of similar unrest in England, saying farmers were “well set” on the way to agricultural transition, adding farming minister Mark Spencer and Environment Secretary Steve Barclay had “produced very good rates” for payments.

The current government is committed to spending an average of £2.4 billion a year on the farming budget in England across this Parliament, and has spent less than that in each of the last two years. It needs to spend at least £2.7 billion this year to hit its own target.

British man vanishes after traveling to US without passport or ticket

A British man has gone missing after he was charged with flying from London to New York without either a ticket or his passport.

Craig Sturt is accused of slipping through Heathrow Airport‘s security checks without presenting any documents before boarding a British Airways flight to John F Kennedy airport, again without having his ticket checked.

The 46-year-old was stopped on arrival at the airport in New York by a gun-toting officer on Christmas Eve and sent back to the UK on a charter flight.

Mr Sturt was arrested upon landing on Christmas day and charged with offences under the Aviation Security Act.

Accused of boarding the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner “without having paid for a ticket”, Sturt allegedly slipped through checks by walking closely behind other passengers or “tailgating” them. He found a seat on the fully booked plane after several passengers missed their connecting flights, reported The Sun.

He admitted the offences at Uxbridge Magistrates’ court and was to be sentenced last month. However, more embarrassment followed for UK officials after he failed to appear before the court. According to reports, the Metropolitan Police had taken Mr Sturt for treatment at a hospital in Reading, from which he escaped.

Home secretary James Cleverly is reportedly aware of the incident and has demanded to know how the “humiliating fiasco” was able to happen, sources told the Mail.

Thames Valley Police issued an arrest warrant against Mr Sturt after he was reported missing on 25 January. “Please can you help us find Craig?” it read.

“The 46-year-old is 6ft, slim, with short dark brown hair. When he was last seen, he was wearing a grey jacket, a top, black jogging bottoms and white trainers.”

He was last seen in Reading but is from Slough and also has links to Heathrow and the Tottenham Court Road in London, read the appeal. The post warned people against approaching him and said members of the public should call the police if he is spotted.

The Metropolitan Police have taken over the investigation as of 31 January.

“On 24 December 2023, police were made aware of an alleged breach of security at Heathrow Airport and a male was subsequently arrested and later charged with fraud and Aviation Security Act offences,” it said in a statement.

“We continue to work with all our partners to review and enhance the already robust security measures in place which are kept under constant review by the wider security partnership.”

Mr Sturt’s brother Lee Smith, 52, told The Sun on Sunday that he “couldn’t believe what [he] was hearing” when police contacted him to say they were hunting his brother.

“It’s ridiculous this could happen. If Craig, with a troubled past, could dodge security then presumably anyone else with sinister motives could do the same. Heads should roll. How has this been allowed to happen?”

Heathrow Airport said Mr Sturt would have gone through security, but it remained unclear how he was able to avoid document checks either before and after.

“We continue to work with all our partners to review and enhance the already robust security measures in place which are kept under constant review by the wider security partnership,” said a Heathrow spokesperson.

A British Airways spokesperson also issued a statement saying they “are assisting the authorities with their investigation”.

Former Greek shipping employee, 76, kills three and then himself

A disgruntled former employee has shot dead the head of a Greek shipping company and two others before killing himself at the firm’s office in Athens.

Police, fire engines and ambulances were stationed outside the offices of European Navigation in a southern suburb of the capital.

The gunman, a 76-year old former employee, was found dead in another area of the building to the victims, two men and a woman, police said.

Anti-terrorism forces entered the building, Reuters reporters at the scene said.

Among the dead was European Navigation’s owner, said police spokeswoman Konstantina Dimoglidou, who didn’t name the victim.

“We were at our desks working, we heard shots,” an employee who did not identify herself told the Proto Thema news website. She said the gunman had told employees to leave.

Dimoglidou said that next to the shooter “was the weapon of his unlawful act and he had probably shot himself.”

Shootings, outside of gang-related activity, are rare in Greece, which has strict laws over gun possession.

Police, who had cordoned off the area, said they were investigating the incident.

Unmissable New York State experiences

It’s time to face facts – we are all the poorer for Brexit

Things have come to a pretty pass when the most authoritative government response to new figures testifying to the negative economic impact of Brexit is to insist that everything could have been so very much worse. Thus Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, cited doom-laden forecasts of “inevitable decline”, which, she said, “have been proved false”.

And, yes, thank goodness, the economic meltdown predicted by some did not happen – quite, with a very near miss, and a political crisis, in relation to Northern Ireland. But the lack of a complete meltdown, either in the weeks immediately after the UK’s departure from the EU took effect, or in the four years since, can be only limited consolation in the light of the latest assessment.

The report, compiled by John Springford, an associate of the Centre for European Reform, concludes that Brexit has opened a hole of almost £100bn in annual UK exports, which is making the country worse off than if it had remained in the European Union. The estimates show that missed growth in goods and services exports means that trade is running at 30 per cent below what it could have been without Brexit.

Will the lsrael-Hamas war be a factor in the Rochdale by-election?

Over the past weeks, Rishi Sunak has faced mounting pressure from his party. Warnings have been sounded from within and outside of his party about the Conservatives’ electoral prospects. Rival factions have launched a concerted effort to push the prime minister towards a rightward shift, while the Labour Party holds a strong 20-point lead.

But while opinion polls and Conservative naval-gazing provide insights, they remain speculative until tested. Over the next few weeks, a handful of by-elections will provide a more substantial understanding of how each of the parties are faring in the electorate’s estimations.

By-elections are complex, and their outcomes are often influenced by a myriad of local factors. But the results are still likely to pile pressure on the two main parties as they become testing grounds for the popularity of their policies and leaders.