The Telegraph 2024-03-04 10:30:26

Police solve no burglaries in half of the country

Police have failed to solve a single burglary in nearly half of all neighbourhoods in England and Wales in the past three years despite pledging to attend the scene of every domestic break-in to boost detection rates.

A Telegraph analysis of police data shows that no burglaries were solved in 48 per cent of neighbourhoods – areas covering between 1,000 and 3,000 people – in the past three years.

In October 2022, all 43 police chiefs in England and Wales made the landmark promise to attend every break-in.

Home Office figures show that the proportion of burglaries resulting in a charge fell in the following year to 3.9 per cent (fewer than one in 25 reported burglaries) from 4.6 per cent in 2022.

In the worst hot spots covering areas of up to 6,000 people more than 150 cases have gone unsolved in the past three years, prompting warnings by victims’ campaigners and policing experts that burglary has been effectively decriminalised in parts of the UK.

Dame Vera Baird, the former victims’ commissioner, said the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s pledge to boost detection rates was “an empty gesture” in many parts of Britain.

“What these figures show is that in half of the neighbourhoods, burgling somebody’s home is a free hit. The criminal can walk away with the proceeds and never look back,” she said.

“Burglary can be very very upsetting and traumatising; it can make people afraid to go out in case it happens again and afraid to stay at home for the very same reason. Why are there no arrests, no prosecutions and no deterrence in almost half of all these cases?”

Harvey Redgrave, a former No 10 policy adviser who is chief executive of crime consultancy Crest Advisory, said: “It is of real concern that despite the high-profile commitment to attend the scene of every burglary, the police do not appear to be improving the rate at which burglaries are solved and offenders brought to justice.

Public confidence in the police will not improve unless victims believe reporting crime will make a difference. These statistics also reinforce the need for a cross-government strategy to deal with the minority of highly prolific offenders who are responsible for a large proportion of burglaries and theft more widely.”

The Home Office data show that in the worst-performing force, Hertfordshire, only 2.2 per cent of burglaries – just over one in 50 – resulted in a charge last year compared with 9.6 per cent in the best, South Wales.

Nearly three quarters (31 out of 43) of police forces saw a fall in their charging rates for burglary in the past year although there was a fall in the overall number of break-ins. Just 12 saw the rates increase with West Mercia, Bedfordshire and North Wales registering the biggest rises of over one percentage point in a year.

The proportion of neighbourhoods where no burglaries have been solved has risen from 46 per cent in the three years to 2021 to 48 per cent – 15,371 out of 31,860 neighbourhoods – in the three years to both 2022 and 2023, according to the Telegraph analysis.

Police are failing to solve a single burglary in more than one in four (27 per cent) “hot spot” neighbourhoods, defined as those with at least 10 break-ins unsolved in the past three years.

The areas with the worst records were Outer Rothwell in West Yorkshire where all 165 burglaries in the past three years went unsolved, followed by Bransgore and Burley, Hampshire (152 break-ins unsolved), and Lower Quinton and Ettington, Warwickshire (137 unsolved).

Rory Geoghegan, a former No 10 adviser on crime, and the founder of the Public Safety Foundation, said police chiefs failing to reduce burglaries should be replaced.

“The crime-fighting minority of chiefs are already well on the way to hunting down burglars in their forces. We need the rest to either follow their lead, or frankly step down to make way for those who can,” he said.

“Police and crime commissioners should be prepared to use their power to replace chiefs who are failing to deliver the common sense policing that the public are crying out for, and voters should only reward those politicians serious about fighting crime.”

Deputy Chief Constable Alex Franklin-Smith, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for burglary, said the 2022 pledge on visiting crime scenes was “only the first step” in improving detection rates, pointing to new guidance drawn up last year for all forces to share good practice and “enhance” their capability to investigate and prevent break-ins.

“The latest national data shows that nationally burglary incidents have once again reduced, following a five-year trend and while outcomes are still lower than we would want them to be, there has been a positive shift in the right direction,” he said.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Since 2010 our communities are safer, with neighbourhood crimes including burglary, robbery and theft down 48% and violent crime down 51% and with more police officers in England and Wales than ever before.

“We have been clear that police must take a zero tolerance approach to all crimes and get the basics right.

“We welcome the police commitments to attend the scene of every home burglary and to pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry to ensure more criminals are caught and justice is delivered for victims.”

‘They know they can get away with it’

By Albert Tait

Kim Peters, 62, was looking after a friend’s house in Cuffley, Hertfordshire, in October when one morning she arrived to find it trashed by burglars who had broken in through a back window overnight, taking jewellery and cash.

Surveillance footage from a camera in the house showed two masked men ransacking the property, said Mrs Peters, a former Met police officer who has lived in the village for 24 years, having served 21 years as a general patrol officer in east London, in Forest Gate, West Ham, and Leyton.

She phoned the police on 999, fearing that the suspects might be still in the house but was disappointed by the response of officers. “I spoke quietly because I didn’t know if the suspects were still in the house,” she said. “I relayed what had happened and asked if they could get someone down here.

“The responder said ‘can you hear anything’ and I said ‘no, I can’t’ and he said ‘well, that means they’re gone’. I couldn’t believe it. I told him: ‘I didn’t know the police were issued with crystal balls’.

“When I was in the police, I’ve had burglars twice leap out at me from wardrobes, so how did he know they had gone. While I had him on the phone, I did a search, and I told him: ‘If you hear a scream and a thump, it’s me having thrown the burglar off the balcony’.

“I was disgusted they were sending me into a property where there could have been multiple burglars.”

‘Like a dog with no teeth’

She said she had worked on more than 100 burglaries in her time, and was shocked it took police from her first report at 9am until 4pm before an officer turned up. “If I was still in the force, I would have sent a unit right round,” she said. “That’s all now gone out of the window. It’s not their fault, but the police are like a dog with no teeth.”

It was the first of three mistakes, she said: “One, they didn’t turn up when the burglary took place. Two, I was directed into a house that could have had suspects on the premises. And three, I didn’t see the police women who turned up making house-to-house enquiries, getting on it quickly.”

She said residents of Cuffley had lost confidence in the police to deal with burglaries. “Round here has got ridiculous. Cars are going off the driveways, some people are paying for private security,” she said. “Back in the day, if you got a burglary, you attended. You attended every single burglary.

“It hurts me to hear the police criticised, but it should be a police force, not a police service. They should enforce the law. People need to see you. Someone has been into their home, their sanctuary, their castle, their safe place. It’s been trespassed on.

“In general, people feel very let down. It hurts me to hear that. The general feeling around here is that the police aren’t dealing with it. People think the police don’t care because they don’t turn up. That’s wrong. It never used to be that way.

“Police used to turn up to every single burglary. You are a service to people who are seriously in distress. I know numbers are depleted. I know they’re running around chasing their tails. But people want to see them.

“You want to see the police on the street. You want to know if you pick up the phone after something terrible has happened, they will be there. Just because that person isn’t being confronted with a shotgun or a knife, it doesn’t mean that police should ignore them.

“A lot of burglars are masked up. They often wave at the camera. They know they will get away with it.”

Hertfordshire has the worst charging rate for burglary of the 43 police forces at 2.2 per cent, with Cuffley and Northaw having the highest number of unsolved burglaries in the past three years at 82.

Shop had 15 e-bikes stolen

There has been at least one burglary or attempted burglary each of the seven years that Sebastian Bowley, 21, has been a mechanic at New Forest Cycling, a bicycle hire shop in Burley, Hampshire. The community has suffered one of the highest number of unsolved burglaries in the past three years, at 152.

The worst one, he said, came in 2019 when thieves used angle grinders to break in through a glass door and stole 15 electric bikes, or e-bikes, worth around £30,000.

Police officers visited the following day and made a report, he said, but the bikes were never found and the suspects were never caught. “All the police really did was make a report,” he said. “And even if we report things to the police, what are they going to do?

“If we have an inkling that it’s a certain person, they can’t just go and search them. The criminals know that nothing happens. We think it’s local boys.”

Following the burglary, the shop has installed reinforced shutters on three doors and put in alarms. “The only way we can stop it is by protecting ourselves,” Mr Bowley said. “Police can’t stop it. There’s nothing they can do. When we got pinched, it was two days of constantly calling our customers to tell them they couldn’t hire an e-bike. We suffered from it.”

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Soldier quits Army after being scarred in glassing by woman on Beaujolais Day

A soldier has quit the Army after she was scarred for life when a glass was smashed into her face by a young woman on a Beaujolais Day celebration in a bar.

Natalie Arthurs, 36, suffered wounds like “a scene from a horror movie” in the random attack by Emily Williams, 25.

She said that she has taken off her uniform for good as it would not be appropriate to wear with her scarred face in case people mistook her for a war hero.

Swansea Crown Court was told the women were both out separately in Swansea in November 2022 on Beaujolais Day, a traditional celebration in the town where bars and hotels open to celebrate the new crop of red wine.

Williams had confronted Ms Arthurs after her sister had her drink spilt in the bar.

Ms Arthurs was in the toilets at about 6pm when Williams, described as being “intoxicated and looking angry or possessed”, came in and started shouting at her.

Williams then smashed the glass she was carrying and slashed Ms Arthurs’ face.

Alycia Carpanini, prosecuting, said Ms Arthurs was left with a 15cm wound along the left side of her chest and shoulder, as well as a 7cm wound to her cheek and wounds to her nose and neck.

Ms Arthurs, a former Army reservist, spent three days in hospital following the attack.

Jailing Williams for five years, Judge Huw Rees described what she did as “wicked almost beyond belief”.

In a victim impact statement Ms Arthurs told how her life was “changed forever”.

She said: “The memory of the assault is etched vividly on my mind.

“It was a scene from a horror movie. All I could think about is how scared my little girl would be.

“I spent three agonising days in hospital. The pain was unbearable.

“Every aspect of my life became demoralising and unbearable. Fifteen months on from the attack I am still learning to live with what happened.”

The mother-of-one said she had quit as an Army reservist because she felt “ashamed” wearing the uniform with her scars.

“She didn’t feel it was right,” Judge Rees said.

“She felt ashamed because she wasn’t a war hero and she didn’t want people to think she got her scar in that way. She is clearly a woman of admirable character.”

Addressing Williams, Judge Rees said: “What you did to someone who was a complete stranger and someone you had no prior argument with was wicked. Wicked beyond belief.

“The effect of what you have done is plain for all to see.”

Jon Tarrant, in mitigation, said Williams actions were “impulsive” and told the court that she was the carer for her two young children.

Williams was found guilty of wounding with intent. She was sentenced to five years in prison and her victim was granted a 10-year restraining order against her.

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Princess of Wales’ uncle ‘read riot act by Middletons’ amid rumours of Celebrity Big Brother appearance

The Princess of Wales’s uncle, Gary Goldsmith, has reportedly been read the “riot act” by the Middletons amid speculation he has signed up to Celebrity Big Brother.

The 58-year-old businessman is said to have upset his older sister Carole Middleton and her husband Michael amid rumours he will participate in the reality show which launches on Monday night.

Sharon Osbourne, Louis Walsh, Katie Price and Shirley Ballas are among those rumoured to be taking part in the ITV reality show.

Previously described as the “black sheep” of the Middleton family, Mr Goldsmith was on Sunday pictured arriving at the ITV studios in London.

Mr Goldsmith was seen pulling up in a black-coloured Audi wearing a grey hoodie, leather jacket and navy baseball cap.

The images were obtained by the Sun newspaper which reported Mr Goldsmith had finalised an agreement to enter the Celebrity Big Brother House in January and that he was “champing at the bit” to get on the show.

His rumoured appearance comes as his niece remains out of the public eye following major surgery, with royal watchers fearful his presence could cause her upset.

A source told the The Sun: “Gary said he’s been read the riot act by Kate’s mum Carole and her dad Michael – they aren’t happy he’s going into Celebrity Big Brother. It is infuriating for them. Kate doesn’t need this stress.”

Speaking to the newspaper in January, Angela Levin, a royal author and biographer, said: “I think it’s cringe-making, very embarrassing, the trouble is he doesn’t like Harry and Meghan at all, some of this comments will fall onto Catherine and she’s had a lot against her, she’s not well.

“I think when you come out of an operation you’re quite vulnerable and this could upset her enormously. In principle people who don’t like her could say she encouraged him to do it, but she would have done nothing of the kind. It’s very embarrassing.”

On Friday, Kensington Palace reassured the public that the Princess of Wales is still “doing well” as she recovers from abdominal surgery.

The palace has reiterated that “nothing has changed” since an original statement in January, which gave some details of the Princess’s procedure and recovery period.

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RNLI bosses pushed veteran volunteers to leave after viewing them as ‘disposable’, say lifeboat crew

RNLI bosses have snubbed veteran volunteers and pushed them to leave, lifeboat crew have claimed.

Long-serving crew members at the charity told The Telegraph of bitter internal strife in some lifeboat stations and requests to management going ignored.

One told of mass resignations of volunteers in protest at bosses viewing them as “disposable”, while another claimed he was sacked in a row after an all-weather was replaced with an inshore inflatable vessel.

Controversy has hit charity

It comes as the RNLI celebrates its 200th anniversary, having saved more than 144,000 lives since 1824 and still serving as the primary rescue service for Britain and Ireland’s coastline.

In a picture to celebrate the anniversary on Monday, the RNLI released a bird’s-eye-view image of a £2.5 million Shannon-class lifeboat being launched – which is one of the vessels at the heart of the row.

Covering 238 lifeboat stations and many beaches, its current income of £230 million continues to grow along with donations and legacies, but controversy has hit the acclaimed charity at some stations.

Alex Smith, 69, said he was dismissed as the operations manager of Arbroath Lifeboat Station in Angus, eastern Scotland, in June last year after opposing the replacement of its all-weather Mersey-class lifeboat with an Atlantic 85 rigid-hulled inflatable boat.

He claimed that he and other crew members were concerned that the Atlantic 85 had a six-mile radius range at sea and had been promised that a Shannon class would be given to them instead, a new hi-tech all-weather boat with a range of 250 nautical miles.

“All I cared about was the safety of the crew,” the semi-retired charter skipper said. “Management just did not pay attention and they did not listen to us.

‘A fatality on your hands’

“I’ve been sailing here all my life, I know that boat will not be able to handle bad conditions. Our superiors say the neighbouring stations at Montrose and Broughty Ferry will be able to step in if it’s too rough but it will take 30 minutes for them to get here.

“That’s long enough to have a fatality on your hands.”

Mr Smith, who joined the RNLI in 2001 and served as an onshore launcher until 2009 when he became operations manager, said he was eventually dismissed when a private WhatsApp conversation in which he described his managers as “lying b——-” was leaked to the charity. He had also been censured for speaking to the local newspaper about the boat swap without permission.

Another crew member to raise concerns about management at the charity is Heidi Bakewell, 44, who quit the Pwllheli station in north Wales last month after she concluded that “volunteers are disposable”.

‘Division and disharmony’

She was one of 12 crew members with a combined 170 years of experience who resigned after a row with a colleague who spoke only in Welsh on a rescue, which not everyone could understand.

The station was shuttered last August as the RNLI investigated the row, which it has said was causing so much “division and disharmony” that rescue operations were “unsafe”.

Ms Bakewell, a pub landlady at Y Llong in nearby Edern, said the volunteers were ready to start over on a “clean slate” last month until managers told them they would have to reapply for their roles, at which point 12 handed in their resignations.

‘Management have got no idea’

“It is absolutely devastating,” she told The Telegraph. “I was absolutely gobsmacked that at a charity that has been brought up on volunteers, that the management just don’t seem to be trained to deal with any disharmony. They’ve just got no idea.”

The claims came as former personnel at other RNLI stations told MailOnline they claimed to have witnessed “bullying”.

This included Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, where Stewart Oxley, 55, a volunteer of 37 years, claims he was stood down by management after opposing the replacement of the station’s £2 million all-weather lifeboat that could carry 120 people with a three-man D-class dinghy, as bosses said the pier it launched from was unsafe.

An RNLI spokesman said of the Arbroath row that “no change would be made that compromised safety” and a four-month consultation led to the boat swap, though one Atlantic 85, three Shannon-class and four D-class lifeboats covering 33 nautical miles from Anstruther to Montrose “will provide the very best life-saving response”.

Agreed to move forward

“We do not stand volunteers down for simply disagreeing or making appropriate challenges to decision making,” the charity added.

The spokesman said of the Pwllheli row that after a “breakdown in relationships between people at the station”, two thirds of the crew and 13 new volunteers have agreed to move forward and an “intensive two-week training period is now under way” to get the lifeboat back in service.

In response to the additional claims on MailOnline, the RNLI accused the publication of having “deliberately tried to diminish our 200th anniversary” and “chosen to rehash some mainly historic stories to create a false impression of our charity – one that most of our people just do not recognise”.

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Sky News presenter accused of ‘taking sides’ after claiming Israel is committing war crimes

A Sky News correspondent has been accused of taking “a side” in the war between Israel and Hamas after claiming the former had committed “war crimes”.

Alex Crawford, the channel’s special correspondent, also had a “community note” – a tool used to fact-check posts – attached to one of her tweets.

On Sunday, a former BBC executive said the correspondent appeared “uninterested in the principles of impartiality, balance and accuracy”.

Sky News’s social media guidelines state that as a journalist for the broadcaster, “you are expected to use social media responsibly, adhering to the principles of fairness, accuracy, impartiality, legality and rigour”.

Text in Sky’s editorial guidelines continues: “You are personally responsible for the content you publish on social networks.”

Ms Crawford is one of more than 50 broadcast journalists who has signed a petition demanding the Israeli and Egyptian embassies provide “free and unfettered access” to Gaza.

In December Ms Crawford, 61, claimed that journalists were being kept out of Gaza to cover-up Israeli criminality.

Writing on Twitter, now known as X, Ms Crawford, who was awarded an OBE by the late Queen, said: “It is absolutely farcical to try to peddle the view that foreign journalists are not entering Gaza because it’s ‘dangerous’.

“International journalists have been delib [deliberately] blocked from entering Gaza by primarily Israel who doesn’t want them seeing the war crimes.”

South Africa has launched a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for what it said were “genocidal” acts in Gaza.

And on Thursday Volker Turk, the UN human rights chief, said war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict.

However, the ICJ is yet to rule on whether Israel has committed any war crimes and the judicial process could take years.

In another tweet published in November last year, when 23 Palestinian prisoners were released in exchange for eight Israeli hostages, Ms Crawford also appeared to incorrectly report the crime of at least one prisoner.

She wrote:

A community note was later added to the tweet which read: “The list of the Palestinian prisoners includes their offences. None of the prisoners are kept for raising a Palestinian flag.”

The sources cited on the community note were Israeli news sites The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz.

‘Uninterested in principles of impartiality’

Danny Cohen, a former director of television at the BBC, told The Telegraph: “Alex Crawford appears uninterested in the principles of impartiality, balance and accuracy that underpin broadcast journalism in the UK. She has clearly taken a side in the Israel-Hamas war, accusing Israel of war crimes without presenting any evidence and making up claims about Palestinian prisoners.”

Mr Cohen added: “At a time of exponentially rising anti-Semitism, Sky News must act to ensure their journalists are reporting the war without bias and purely on the basis of facts.”

Adam Levick, co-editor of the UK arm of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis, said: “Our review of Ms Crawford’s X posts reveals a journalist with an egregious bias against Israel.

“On Dec 5, for instance, she complained in a post about not being able to travel to Gaza, before concluding that the reason is that Israel doesn’t want the world to see its ‘war crimes’.

“Her conclusion, that Israel was guilty of ‘war crimes’, was clearly pre-determined.”

Ms Crawford and Sky News were approached for comment.

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Ex-SAS soldier faces jail after refusing to appear at IRA hit squad inquest

A former SAS soldier is facing jail for contempt of court after refusing to appear at an inquest into the deaths of three members of an IRA hit squad.

The veteran, who is now in his 60s, has declined to give evidence in person, arguing he is too ill to undergo cross-examination. Two leading psychiatrists have concluded the ex-soldier, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, should not go in the witness box.

The inquest concerns the death of three IRA gunmen who were killed in an SAS ambush that took place in the village of Coagh, in County Tyrone, in June 1991. The IRA unit was reportedly on its way to murder a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment.

One of the men killed was Tony Doris, 21, who was a cousin of Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland’s current First Minister, who is also vice president of Sinn Fein. The other two IRA gunmen – Peter Ryan, 37, and Lawrence McNally, 38 – were linked to 43 murders.

The soldier – known only as Soldier F- has provided a witness statement for the inquest and agreed to answer written questions, but insisted he is too unwell to be cross-examined.

But now a court in Scotland, where Soldier F lives, has ruled he is in contempt of court for refusing to attend the inquest in Northern Ireland. It ordered Soldier F to be jailed for six months pending the outcome of an appeal being lodged against the sentence.

The Scottish court was asked to intervene by a senior coroner in Northern Ireland, frustrated at soldier F’s refusal to attend.

A source close to Soldier F told The Telegraph: “Soldier F is a very vulnerable man. He is physically disabled as well as suffering from severe PTSD. This is a terrible injustice. Two professors of psychiatry have said he is not well enough to be cross-examined. Doctors have said he is at risk of suicide.

“He is being punished for following the only medical advice he received.”

The inquest was launched in 2022 to examine whether lethal force was justified following a campaign run by the relatives of the dead men. A number of such inquests have begun in recent years in Northern Ireland. The Government in Whitehall is attempting to shut down any fresh inquests as well as prosecution through the new Northern Ireland Troubles Act, but ongoing cases are not affected.

At the start of the inquest, Brett Lockhart KC, counsel for the coroner, said: “Two of the men got out of the car, according to soldiers who have given statements, and were carrying rifles.

“They were both shot at by other soldiers who had been in the vicinity of the Bedford lorry. Both the Volkswagen and the Cavalier burst into flames. All three bodies … were burnt beyond recognition.”

Mr Justice Humphreys, Northern Ireland’s leading coroner, has described Soldier F as “an important and central witness”. He is alleged to have helped plan the ambush and was one of the soldiers who opened fire.

Soldier F gave an oral statement, but asked to be excused from the invitation to appear in person. That was rejected. Last summer, the High Court of Northern Ireland issued a subpoena requiring him to give evidence to the Belfast hearing.

When he still did not attend, a certificate of default was issued and lawyers acting for Mr Justice Humphreys went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Last week, Scottish judge Lady Carmichael decided that it was right to jail Soldier F for contempt, pending an appeal. She said: “I have determined that the appropriate sentence in the case is one of six months’ imprisonment.”

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BBC to give first live interview with a black spy as MI6 ups recruitment drive

An MI6 intelligence officer will make history on Sunday night by becoming the first black spy to give a live broadcast interview.

The officer, who is at director level, is being interviewed on Radio 1Xtra as part of a diversity recruitment drive by the Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6.

A colleague, who is from an Asian background, will give a second interview on BBC’s Radio 5 Live on Monday in a concerted campaign to boost the organisation’s ethnic diversity.

The director, who will give his name only as Kwame, is expected to make a direct appeal for more people from ethnic minorities to apply to join MI6.

Just under nine per cent of MI6 staff are from an ethnic minority background, compared with 15 per cent across Whitehall departments.

There is concern in the security services that spies need to be from more diverse backgrounds in the fight against terrorism, both in the UK and abroad.

MI6 has long been viewed, fairly or otherwise, as the domain of white, middle-class agents. James Bond, Ian Fleming’s fictional creation, remains the character most intrinsically linked to MI6.

MI6, like MI5, guards the identity of its officers. Only the head of MI6 – currently Sir Richard Moore – has his name put into the public domain. Security surrounding the Radio 1 interview will be tight. Director Kwame will almost certainly be interviewed from inside MI6 and is unlikely to make the trip to the BBC studios, for security reasons.

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