The Telegraph 2024-03-08 01:00:40


Pro-Palestinian protests ‘making London no-go zone for Jews’

Pro-Palestinian protests are turning London into “a no-go zone for Jews”, the counter-extremism tsar said as he warned that extremist groups have “gone unchallenged for too long”.

Writing for The Telegraph, Robin Simcox, the Home Office’s independent adviser on extremism, said the Government and its agencies had powers to combat extremism but had failed to tackle groups that “lurked” just below the threshold of being terrorists.

He issued the warning after Rishi Sunak urged protesters last week not to “let the extremists hijack your marches”, and with Michael Gove preparing to announce a broader definition of extremism.

Mr Simcox said the “permissive environment for radicalisation” developing in the UK meant that activities such as pro-Palestinian protests, which he said leave parts of the capital off-limits to Jews, had become “normalised”.

He warned that the same applied to Iran’s sponsorship of British schools and mosques, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas’s support for British charities and extremist TV channels operating on UK soil.

“We have not betrayed democracy if extremists are no longer able to operate television channels,” he said. “And we will not have become an authoritarian state if London is no longer permitted to be turned into a no-go zone for Jews every weekend.

“All these things and more have become normalised in the UK. It is why I have warned of a permissive environment for radicalisation developing that needs urgently addressing. These groups have gone unchallenged for too long, and have used their time well. They are now embedded and influential among communities.”


Robin Simcox
Extremist acts have been normalised in Britain


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He made the comments in the lead-up to Mr Gove’s announcement next week of a new definition of extremism to enable the Government, universities, councils and other bodies to ban funding for, and engagement with, Islamist and far-Right groups if they are judged to be promoting extremist ideology that “undermines” British values.

It is understood that Mr Simcox believes police should consider placing tougher restrictions on demonstrations, and that such a move would not signify “authoritarian” desire to crush the protests but a recognition that the heart of London could not indefinitely host large and intimidating protests.

One option he is understood to have canvassed would be whether the protests could be held in a different part of the city or could be restricted to being static, as has been required of demonstrations by the far-Right English Defence League.

Mr Sunak has urged police to take a tougher stance on protesters, telling officers that “we will back you when you take action”.

Sir Mark Rowley, the Met Police Commissioner,  subsequently defended his force’s handling of protests, saying that “we have to police the law as it is, not as others would wish it to be”.

However, Mr Simcox said extremist groups could be shut down or curbed by ministers and regulatory agencies such as the Charities Commission, Ofcom or the Department for Education, but had not been.

“Government has more power to tackle extremism than it sometimes thinks,” he said. “The Iranian government does not have an inalienable right to run schools and mosques in our capital city. It is not an unalterable democratic principle that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood must be allowed to run a multitude of charities.”

Mr Simcox said the Government needed to be bolder and move faster in tackling extremist groups, even if they were highly litigious in challenging any attempt to crack down on them.

“That means the Government… be willing to accept higher legal risk if it means implementing policies that keep us safer,” he added. “This is particularly pertinent when it comes to disrupting the activities of those groups who propagate extremist narratives but who lurk just below the terrorism threshold.”

It is understood he believes that universities could take a tougher approach by banning extremist speakers or shutting down events, and that the Government could do more to refuse visas to hate preachers on speaking tours of the UK.

“It cannot only be Government who stands up to these extremists – be it Islamist, extreme Right-wing, extreme Left-wing or other ideological manifestations – but it has the most resources and must take a leading role,” he said.

The Government is not expected to publish a list of the extremist groups that could be caught by the new definition, which encompasses any group or individual that promotes an ideology that “undermines the rights or freedoms of others”.

However, it is understood that ministers are likely to use parliamentary privilege to name the groups in the Commons.

It is non-statutory, not a new criminal definition, so would only affect who government bodies, officials and ministers could engage with and fund.

It would define extremism as the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on intolerance, hatred or violence that aims to undermine the rights or freedoms of others, and would include those who seek to undermine or overturn the UK’s liberal system of democracy and democratic rights.

Any groups or individuals  intentionally creating a permissive environment for either of these would also be banned from working with government bodies.

In his speech outside Number 10 last Friday, Mr Sunak said the Government would introduce a “new robust framework” this month to tackle extremism in the UK and “redouble support” for the Prevent programme, which is designed to tackle radicalisation.

He said Britain must face down extremists, accusing them of deliberately trying to undermine the UK’s “multi-faith democracy”.

Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, invoked similar language to Mr Simcox last week as she urged Mr Sunak to introduce emergency laws to tackle extremism.

“Parts of London have become no-go areas for Jewish people,” she said. “That is totally unacceptable. We’ve seen anti-Semitism skyrocket.”

It comes after official figures showed that anti-Semitism hit an all-time high last year in what was described as an “explosion of hatred”.

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Macron: West may need to save Ukraine if Russia makes breakthrough

Emmanuel Macron warned that the West may have to step in to save Ukraine if Russia makes a breakthrough on the Eastern front, according to reports on Thursday…

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Constance Marten ‘considered suicide’ after death of baby daughter

Constance Marten has described how she and partner Mark Gordon considered ending their own lives when their baby died by cremating her body and jumping into the fire themselves.

The 36-year-old, who is on trial over the death of the baby, named Victoria, denied harming her, telling a jury at the Old Bailey: “I did nothing but show her love.”

Ms Marten and Mr Gordon, 49, are accused of manslaughter by gross negligence after having the baby in secret and then going on the run in the depths of winter last year. In a bid to avoid the authorities, the couple, whose first four children were taken into care, travelled across the country staying in cheap hotels and holiday lets before eventually camping in a tent on the South Downs where Victoria passed away.

Giving evidence for the first time, Ms Martin broke down in tears as she described the devastating moment she awoke in the tent to find that her baby was dead. 

She said: “I had her in my jacket and when I woke up…she wasn’t alive. I believe it was 9 January. I feel guilty because she was in my arms. I feel like it’s not an easy thing to live with. I think initially it was disbelief, shock, intense grief.”

Asked by her defence counsel, Francis FitzGibbon KC, what they planned to do with the body, she said they had considered cremating the remains and ending their own lives at the same time.

She explained: “Mark said ‘why don’t we jump in with her, call it quits? Let’s just all have a fire and say goodbye to life together’. We had just had enough at that point.”

Her own mother, Virginie de Selliers, who was in court to hear the evidence, broke down and sobbed quietly at that point.

Upbringing and education

Ms Marten had told the jury earlier how she had grown up in a wealthy family and had benefited from a private education. She explained she went on to Leeds University where she studied Arabic, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

The jury heard that while she was at university she had received a fixed penalty notice from the police after she was caught shoplifting a T-shirt. Ms Marten said it had been a “silly prank” gone wrong but stressed that other than that she had no previous convictions.

She explained that she had been in receipt of a private income but said it was a “discretionary fund” that she could not access as she pleased.

She told the court: “I am not allowed to just access it. They will give me money if it is potentially for work or for a house, they wouldn’t just give me money.”

After university she had worked as a researcher for the Al Jazeera news channel and had also worked as a nanny and a photographer, she said.

Meeting Mark Gordon

Ms Marten explained that she had first met Mr Gordon around 2014 in an Indian shop in London.

She said she knew the owner and when a customer left her handbag in the shop, she had asked Ms Marten to keep an eye on Mr Gordon who was browsing. 

The pair had laughed about the situation and had started chatting and things had developed from there, the court heard.

Ms Marten said she and Mr Gordon had visited Peru in around 2016.

“We got married over there but it is not recognised over here. It was a Peru wedding ceremony that is not legally binding,” she explained.

Mr FitzGibbon asked Ms Marten if she would accept she had an “unconventional way of life”. 

She replied: “I wanted a conventional life but I have great difficulty with my wider family so it is not a choice, I would prefer to have a conventional way of life.”

Family breakup

Ms Marten explained that she had cut her wider family out of her life about two years before she met Mr Gordon.

“We have had a long history of issues,” she told the court. “When I met him I made the decision that I would have nothing more to do with them.”

Moving on to the birth of her first child in 2017 in Wales, she was asked why she was in that part of the country at the time.

She replied: “I was trying to flee my family, I have spoken about a traumatic event involving one of my family members.”

She said there had been a dispute about her grandmother’s will and around that time she discovered she was being “trailed by private detectives”.

She said: “I did not think it was fair for my child to live under those conditions. I wanted to bring up my oldest child in a happy home without the constant surveillance of my family.”

Ms Marten described how she had been in receipt of a regular income but that had stopped before she gave birth. “I was eight and a half months pregnant and they cut me off overnight,” she said.

She told the court when her first child had been born she received around £50 a week from the family trust but she had written a “stern email” to the trustees, saying they had a “duty of care”. 

After that, she said, the payments had been increased to around £1,700 a month and later to £2,000.

Children in care

The court heard that all four of her children had been taken into care.

Mr FitzGibbon asked her if she had harmed any of her children.

She replied: “Absolutely not, that’s the sad thing, Mark and I love my kids more than anything in the world. There is literally nothing I wouldn’t do for my children.”

She said even though her other four children had been taken into care or adopted she still wanted to have a family with Mr Gordon. She said initially the plan had been to go abroad, but following a legal dispute with a member of her family they were unable to travel. 

Ms Marten said in the run up to Victoria’s birth she and Mr Gordon had been moving around regularly in order to avoid social services.

On the run

The court was told that on Dec 20 2022, the couple had booked a holiday cottage in Northumberland and Victoria was born there late on Christmas Eve.

She explained that they began moving every few days in order to avoid being pursued by private investigators she believed had been hired by her family.

She said after their car caught fire on Jan 5 on the M61 motorway all their plans had “disintegrated”. They used cash to pay for taxis travelling to Liverpool, Harwich, London and eventually to Newhaven on the East Sussex coast,. 

Asked by Mr FitzGibbon if she thought a tent was an appropriate place for a baby, she replied: “Obviously it would be preferable to be in a house, that is just common sense, but at no point did I think she was in any danger. She was our pride and joy.”

The couple are accused of manslaughter by gross negligence, concealing the birth of a child, cruelty to a person under 16, causing or allowing the death of a child and perverting the course of justice. 

They deny all the charges and the trial continues.

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LTN scrapped after three-mile bus journey took two hours

A controversial low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) scheme in south London is to be scrapped after turning a three-mile bus journey into a two-hour slog.

The scheme at Streatham Wells has been suspended by Labour-run Lambeth council after it caused huge traffic congestion in the suburb.

The authority, which announced the U-turn on Thursday, admitted thatthe scheme had caused an eight per cent increase in traffic on boundary roads.

One bus reportedly took 121 minutes to travel just 2.9 miles after the A23 arterial road, which runs along one side of the LTN, became heavily congested with traffic trying to avoid the scheme.

The about turn comes after Sadiq Khan described the LTN as causing “huge problems” earlier this month. It is the first time the London Mayor has criticised one of the schemes.

Speaking after the decision, a spokesman for Mr Khan said: “The Mayor has always been clear that if road schemes need to be changed or adapted to better work for the local area, then that is the right thing to do, working with local partners and residents.”

Councillors implemented the LTN last year as part of an 18-month trial intended to improve air quality by blocking vehicles from accessing certain residential streets. After LTNs were introduced in the borough, the number of penalty charge notices more than doubled.

But local campaigners including the Lambeth LTN Watch group said the schemes displace traffic onto neighbouring roads and worsen congestion around the fringes.

The backlash, which led to protests from a 60-strong crowd outside the council’s HQ in Brixton, has forced the authority to backtrack on the scheme.

Rezina Chowdhury, the council’s deputy leader, said: “We’ve listened to the concerns raised by local people and recognise the major disruption coming as part of transport improvements on the main road running through Streatham.”

The council also blamed Thames Water roadworks for the congestion and said a segregated cycle lane was planned to replace the LTN.

Neil Garrat, the City Hall Conservative leader, said: “It is a win for all the local people who have had to put up with Labour’s LTN nonsense in Streatham, and we who pressed Labour to open their eyes and look at the disaster they created.”

Susan Hall, the Tory London mayoral candidate, said: “Sadiq Khan forced LTNs like this on Londoners, which do nothing but cause congestion, and has threatened councils that have tried to get rid of them. I will listen and support councils in removing these LTNs.”

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JK Rowling reported to police by trans activist India Willoughby for misgendering

JK Rowling has been reported to the police by trans broadcaster India Willoughby over “misgendering” on social media.

The Harry Potter author became embroiled in an online row with India Willoughby, in which she referred to the transgender newsreader, Loose Women host and former Big Brother contestant as a “man” and with “he” pronouns.

Willoughby, who was born male and underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2015, made a complaint to police over Rowling’s posts on X, formerly Twitter, claiming she had “definitely committed a crime”.

The broadcaster, who holds a gender recognition certificate, claimed to be “legally a woman”, although Rowling pointed out there was no law which compelled her to “pretend” that Willoughby was a woman.

Northumbria Police confirmed that it had received a complaint and said it was waiting to speak to Willoughby further.

Downing Street declined to comment on the specifics of the dispute, but pointed to comments from Rishi Sunak in which the Prime Minister said “definitions of men and women should not be controversial”.

A woman is a woman

In October, the Prime Minister said it “shouldn’t be controversial” to ensure parents were informed about what their children were being taught regarding sex and relationships at school.

He insisted it was “common sense” to say that “a man is a man and a woman is a woman”.

Rowling, who has regularly spoken out on the issue of gender identity, refused to refer to Willoughby as a “woman” in an online debate about all-female locker rooms.

She said that should she be approached by police, she would explain that “in my view, India is a classic example of the male narcissist who lives in a state of perpetual rage that he can’t compel women to take him at his own valuation”.

‘He craves publicity’

She said: “Some time ago, lawyers advised me that not only did I have a clearly winnable case against India Willoughby for defamation, but that India’s obsessive targeting of me over the past few years may meet the legal threshold for harassment.

“I ignored this advice because I couldn’t be bothered giving India the publicity he so clearly craves.

“It appears to have slipped what passes for India’s mind that he’s previously called a fellow trans woman a man on this very site.

“Surprisingly for such an eminent legal authority, he appears to have forgotten that the Forstater ruling established that gender-critical views can be protected in law as a philosophical belief.

“No law compels anyone to pretend to believe that India is a woman.”

Maya Forstater successfully brought a case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2021 to establish that gender-critical views are a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.

Misgendering not criminal

Legal commentators accused Willoughby of misunderstanding English law, as, while hostility to someone based on gender identity can be an aggravating factor if a separate crime is committed, misgendering was not in itself a criminal offence.

Ms Rowling added that the “police are going to be very busy” after she claimed an interviewer for Byline TV, Caolan Robertson, had twice referred to Willoughby as “he” during an interview.

Robertson, who is Irish, later denied this, with subtitles for the news outlet suggesting he had referred to Willoughby as “them”.

It is the latest high-profile row over trans rights and freedom of speech on social media in Britain.

Last month Linzi Smith, a Newcastle United fan, revealed that she had been put under investigation by police and banned from St James’ Park over posts unrelated to football in which she expressed the “gender critical” view that men could not become women.

‘Offence as far as I’m concerned’

Police quickly decided Smith had not committed a crime but she remains banned from the football stadium and found out that the Premier League had compiled a dossier on her.

Willoughby claimed to have been targeted by other accounts with “some of the worst abuse I’ve ever seen on social media” as a result of Rowling’s “trigger”.

The 58-year-old claimed to have “contacted Northumbria Constabulary” and said: “I don’t know if it’s going to be treated as a hate crime, malicious communications, but it’s a cut-and-dry offence as far as I’m concerned.”

A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “On Monday, March 4, we received a complaint about a post on social media. We are currently waiting to speak to the complainant further.”

A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on “individuals or cases” and said it would be up to police how to respond.

He added: “More generally, the Prime Minister has spoken about definitions, that those should not be controversial.”

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Vegan protesters accuse RSPCA of supporting ‘gas chambers’ for pigs

Vegan activists have accused the RSPCA of supporting the use of “gas chambers” to stun and slaughter pigs.

Dozens of protesters descended on the charity’s headquarters in Horsham, West Sussex, on Thursday, with placards reading “RSPCA Is The Meat Industry” and “Pigs Are People”.

A member of the public is believed to have punched one of the female activists and squirted water in her face. 

Sussex Police have been approached for comment.

Joey Carbstrong, an Australian animal rights campaigner who led the protests, claimed the RSPCA was complicit in the “abhorrent, barbaric, and cruel” torture of pigs through its welfare branding on pork products.

RSPCA Assured is a sticker used on products to prove that a farm, abattoir, hatchery or haulier complied with animal welfare standards.

Mr Carbstrong claimed many pork products marked with the badge are from abattoirs where carbon dioxide is used to stun pigs before they are slaughtered.

The practice involves pigs, normally in groups of around half a dozen, being stunned using a 70 to 90 per cent carbon dioxide concentrate. Abattoir workers then slit the pigs’ throats within 15 seconds before they regain consciousness.

The RSPCA has repeatedly criticised the use of CO2 to stun pigs, with a spokesman saying: “We urge the UK Government to follow the European Union’s lead to seek a phase-out by investing in research to find a more humane alternative as a top priority.”

In 2018, the RSPCA wrote a joint letter to the government with Compassion in World Farming, an animal rights lobbying group, calling for the practice to be banned by 2024.

Mr Carbstrong argued that this did not go far enough and urged the charity to tell people not to buy pork altogether.

He said: “They know it is egregiously cruel, these chambers, they are complicit in animal torture. CO2 has been known for decades to be abhorrent, barbaric and cruel.” He added that “90 per cent” of pigs in the UK were killed in what he described as “gas chambers”.

Mr Carbstrong, said the use of RSPCA Assured was “false advertising” and “misleads the public”, who associate the charity with animal welfare.

He denied the choice of the terms “gas chambers” was inflammatory, calling it an “accurate description” and adding: “They are being tortured and slaughtered in farms in chambers filled with gas.”

The National Pig Association, the trade association for pig farmers, has admitted the practice is not perfect but remains the “best, most humane and efficacious commercially available option”.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “Every animal matters to us, and we are working hard to improve the lives of farmed animals by successfully lobbying for laws to protect them – such as banning battery cages for hens, sow stalls for pigs and ending live exports.

“We are also actively campaigning to raise awareness of the huge problems nearly a billion meat chickens suffer every year in the UK – another crucial welfare issue the world needs to tackle.

“We set up RSPCA Assured, a non-profit, welfare-focused assurance scheme, to work with farmers, supermarkets and food businesses to continually drive-up standards. Without the RSPCA’s work, farmed animal welfare standards would be lower, not just here in the UK but around the world.

“It is difficult to think about the killing of farmed animals, and it is critical that this process is as humane as possible. We share the concerns about using CO2 gas, and our welfare standards have requirements which reduces the negative experience for the animals involved.

“We agree more humane alternatives need to be developed as a matter of urgency and we urge the UK Government to follow the European Union’s lead to seek a phase out by investing in research to find a more humane alternative as a top priority.”

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Head teacher sacked for tapping toddler son on hand

A head teacher who was sacked for “assault” after tapping her toddler son on the hand was unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has found.

Shelly-Ann Malabver-Goulbourne was trying to get her three-year-old to stop playing with a bottle of hand sanitiser in her office when she used two fingers to attract his attention.

The incident was witnessed by the teacher in charge of child safety, who accused her of hurting her son and filed an official complaint, which led to the head being suspended and the police called.

Despite the police ruling that her actions were “reasonable chastisement” by a parent, Ms Malabver-Goulbourne was found guilty of gross misconduct and sacked.

She is now in line for compensation after an employment judge concluded there was no evidence that she had committed “physical chastisement or an assault” and ruled her dismissal unfair.

Ms Malabver-Goulbourne was the head of Northwold Primary School in Hackney, east London, which is run by the Arbor Academy Trust. 

The hearing was told she had been a teacher for many years, had joined the trust in 2005 and had been head since 2017.

‘Took up a bottle of hand sanitiser’

The incident took place on Jan 17, 2022, when Ms Malabver-Goulbourne was working late in her office.

“It was around 6.20pm and she was packing up her things to go home after having a meeting with the designated lead for safeguarding,” the hearing was told.

“Her two children who attended the school were in her offices with her, waiting for her to take them home. Her youngest child, her son J, who was three years old at the time, was in the room, as was her 11-year-old daughter.

“J took up a bottle of hand sanitiser, which was on a table. Her daughter told her that he had squirted some to the floor. Ms Malabver-Goulbourne took the sanitiser out of his hand.”

Employment Judge Julia Jones said: “I find it likely that she then bent down to his level to speak to him about why he should not be playing with hand sanitiser.

“When she did so, he turned his face away from her and she tapped him with two fingers on the back of his hand to get his attention so that he would look at her to hear what she was saying.”

Two weeks earlier, the toddler had got hand sanitiser in his eye, the tribunal heard. 

“It was with the knowledge of that earlier experience that she wanted to speak to him again to ensure that he understood that hand sanitiser was not a toy that he should be playing with,” it was told.

‘Safeguarding incident’

Ms Bhagwandas, the teacher in charge of child safety, then told Ms Malabver-Goulbourne that she should not have hurt her son and should have spoken to him instead.

Ms Malabver-Goulbourne replied that she had not hurt him, as all she had done was tap him with two fingers to get his attention.

However, Ms Bhagwandas was “unhappy” with her response and completed a “cause for concern” form to report a “safeguarding incident”.

“In it she reported that she had witnessed Ms Malabver-Goulbourne smack J on the hand,” the tribunal heard. “She also stated that before doing so, she had told J that she was going to smack him and expressed disregard for Ms Bhagwandas’ presence in the office.

“Ms Bhagwandas reported that the child had been crying and that she had pacified him.”

‘Reasonable chastisement’

Her complaint led to Ms Malabver-Goulbourne being suspended, a disciplinary investigation being launched and the local authority and police being called.

The tribunal was told that neither the council nor the police thought further action necessary with officers concluding what she had done was “reasonable chastisement”’.

However, the trust continued its investigation into whether Ms Malabver-Goulbourne “assaulted a pupil/child whilst in a position of trust and on school premises”.

When interviewed, Ms Bhagwandas accused the head teacher of inflicting pain on a child, saying she was shocked at what happened and considered it a form of corporal punishment.

Ms Malabver-Goulbourne said her actions were designed to get her son’s attention and not to hurt him. “[She said that] when explaining inappropriate behaviours to her child she will say ‘this is wrong we don’t do that’ and explain why or show him the appropriate way to behave,” the tribunal heard.

In May 2022, the trust sacked her for gross misconduct. Upholding her claim for unfair dismissal, Employment Judge Jones said: “It is this tribunal’s judgment that [the trust] had sufficient evidence… that she was trying to prevent injury to her child and addressing his behaviour. There was no evidence that she had committed physical chastisement or an assault.”

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