INDEPENDENT 2024-03-18 16:03:56


England reveal new kits for Euro 2024 including unusual away shirt

England have unveiled the kits that they will wear at Euro 2024 with a striking purple away strip complementing the traditional white home shirt.

Gareth Southgate’s side will enter the tournament as one of the favourites for victory after being beaten in the final on home soil by Italy in the last edition.

The new kits will also be sported by the Lionesses and para teams over the next few months.

England’s senior men’s side will pull them on for the first time in the friendly fixtures against Brazil and Belgium at Wembley this month.

They begin their European Championship against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on 16 June.

“The England 2024 away kit reimagines iconic kits from the past with a modern twist, making a bold statement with an eye-catching purple – a modern mix of classic blue and red England change kits of the past,” England said of their new away shirt, which also features “seven different colours with a nod to English fashion”.

Sarina Wiegman’s side will wear the shirt for the first time when they face Sweden on Friday 5 April.

England’s men have four more fixtures before the Euros begin, with warm-up games against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland preceding ahead of the tournament in Germany.

After their opener against Serbia, England also face Denmark and Slovenia in Group C.

The men’s version of the kit will be on sale from Thursday 21 March in men’s, women’s and kids’ sizes.

Katie Price declared bankrupt again over unpaid £750,000 tax bill

Katie Price has been declared bankrupt for a second time over an unpaid tax bill worth more than £750,000.

The former glamour model, who was previously declared bankrupt in 2019, owes £761,994.05 to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), a court was told on Monday.

At a short hearing at London’s Rolls Building, Insolvency and Companies Court Judge Sebastian Prentis said that Price had not responded to HMRC over the debt and declared her bankrupt.

He said: “There has been no response from the debtor. The papers are in order.

“There is a substantial debt due from Ms Price to HMRC, and therefore I will make a bankruptcy order.”

Judge Prentis said that the bill “derives from self-assessments from the year 2020-2021 and from the year 2021-22” and includes income tax, VAT, surcharges and interest.

HMRC had issued a bankruptcy petition in October 2023.

Ms Price did not attend the hearing on Monday, which came days after she was fined £880 for driving without a licence or insurance in Northamptonshire in August last year.

In February this year, she was ordered by a different High Court judge to pay 40% of her income from adult entertainment website OnlyFans to trustees for the next three years in a separate dispute over unpaid debts, with the hearing told she was due to face questions about her finances in April.

In October last year, Price said she was “fed up” with being threatened with legal action and would go to prison to be “done with it all”.

Speaking to TV personality Michelle Visage on her Rule Breakers podcast, Price discussed her bankruptcy and said she had recently been to court “more times than I’ve had hot dinners” and would “genuinely” not care if she was jailed.

In March 2023, Price told Jeremy Vine’s Channel 5 show that people should not be “ashamed” of being declared bankrupt and she had been struggling with her mental health in recent years.

During a hearing in October 2020, Price apologised to the court, saying: “I just haven’t been able to deal with these issues or in the right mental state to understand everything that has been going on.”

Nearly one in six prisons have no officers trained to deal with riots

There are no prison officers trained to deal with riots at nearly one in six jails in England and Wales, the government has admitted – despite a surge in deployments last year.

With the overcrowding crisis inside increasingly violent prisons fuelling the prospect of serious disorder, The Independent revealed last week that the number of officers trained to deal with riots as part of so-called Tornado squads has plummeted by almost a third in just five years.

That means there were just 1,620 Tornado officers across the entire prison estate as of 27 February – down from 2,310 in 2018. Furthermore, 17 out of the 120 prisons in England and Wales had no Tornado officers at all, while a further 21 prisons had fewer than 10 such officers.

The concession was made by prisons minister Edward Argar in response to a series of parliamentary questions by Labour’s Ruth Cadbury.

Labelling the situation “scandalous”, former prison governor and Tornado section commander Ian Acheson noted that these include prisons where previous riots have caused “huge disruption and damage”, as well as those in remote locations and with complex populations.

“When there is a large-scale disturbance the prison service doesn’t fight fair,” said Mr Acheson. “That means typically a 3:1 ratio of officers to prisoners to contain and manage a riot. There is no prison in the country that has the resources to contain that threat immediately.”

Tornado officers – typically deployed in large groups armed with batons and shields to help nearby jails cope with outbreaks of serious disorder – were called out 13 times in 2023, more than any year since at least 2018.

Two prisons which required Tornado support last year – Downview and Wetherby – had just one such officer among their own staff as of February. Similarly, Werrington had only six, Feltham 11, Lowdham Grange 12, Portland 13, Stocken 14, and Stoke Heath 15.

Only a quarter of prisons had 20 or more Tornado-trained officers among their staff, analysis by The Independent found. This is without contending for staff absence due to sickness, annual leave or training days.

While the Prison Service also has a national unit of specialist riot officers deployed the equivalent of twice a day last year, up 40 per cent on 2022, Mr Acheson said: “The best people to deal with a disturbance before it becomes a major threat are those staff who are readily available and who crucially know the prison.”

“I think the capability of dealing with widespread disorder at more than one establishment [simultaneously] is perhaps fatally compromised”, Mr Acheson added, warning this grim prospect was “on [the] horizon” as a result of the overcrowding and staffing crisis blighting prisons.

While the Prison Officers Union suggests that a contingency of at least 2,100 Tornado staff across the prison estate is the official recommendation, Mr Argar told parliament last month that the government has not set a minimum staffing requirement.

“So how on earth can you contingency plan?” asked Mr Acheson. Assaults on prisoners and staff soared by 20 per cent in the year to September, with more than 25,000 incidents in a single year. Violence in the women’s estate skyrocketed to an all-time high, overtaking men’s prisons for the first time.

Despite overall officer numbers increasing slightly in recent years to exceed 22,000, this is still around 2,500 fewer than in 2010, over which period the prisoner population has grown by around 3,000. Meanwhile, the number of officers with at least a decade of experience has nearly halved in just six years.

According to the government, 650 officers were given Tornado training last year, with plans for 850 training places this year. But Mr Acheson said: “Prisons that cannot staff the landing safely to serve lunch or get prisoners to work certainly can’t afford to lose staff for the two week training course/refreshers required.”

Prison Governors Association chief Tom Wheatley told The Independent that “retention rates are alarmingly low” among staff who volunteer as Tornado officers.

Tornado volunteers “don’t get any real additional payments for putting themselves on the line”, warned POA general-secretary Steve Gillan, adding: “There’s no real difference between rate of pay for Tornado duty and bed watch. They’ve taken them for granted, and now it’s come home to roost.”

The Prison Service has now proposed a 40 per cent pay rise for Tornado officers, Mr Gillan said, labelling this in effect an admission that officers have been paid “peanuts” for the crucial duties.

Ms Cadbury, the shadow prisons minister, said: “Last week the justice secretary was forced to admit that the prisons capacity crisis this government has created may lead to riots. And yet today we see there a significant number of prisons without a single specialist riot officer – the government need to explain how they have allowed this to happen.

“It is shocking, but is part of the wider picture that simply shows that our prison estate is in utter crisis. With violence rising and assaults on officers increasing, and reoffending rates on the rise, it’s clear the government have no plan to address this crisis.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “The safety of our staff and prisoners is our priority which is why we’re bolstering our Tornado teams by training more than 800 staff this year to deal with serious incidents. This is on top of our £100m investment into tough security measures to clamp down on violence and improve safety.”

IPP prisoner pleads ‘I’m not that person’ in public parole bid

A prisoner trapped under an abolished indefinite jail term has told a parole board “I’m not that person” anymore as he pleads for release in a landmark public hearing.

Nicholas Bidar is the first IPP prisoner to have his parole bid held in public after new laws came into force to increase transparency around parole decisions.

Controversial imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences were scrapped in 2012 amid human rights concerns, but not retrospectively, leaving thousands languishing in jail for years beyond their minimum tariff.

The 36-year-old was handed an indefinite jail term with an eight-year minimum tariff for a string of robberies and using a gun to resist arrest aged 20 in 2008.

But more than 15 years later he is still being held in a maximum-security Category A prison with no release date.

Ahead of the landmark hearing, Mr Bidar told The Independent how the reality of his uncertain sentence has impacted him, adding: “Every day feels like torture. I struggle daily to get through the day.”

At the hearing held at prison on Monday, Mr Bidar, who was also convicted of further assaults committed in prison and a period in which he escaped custody, he said he does not recognise the version of himself that committed those crimes.

He told the panel of three Parole Board members at HMP Long Lartin: “I look back at it now as if it wasn’t even me. It sounds mad yeah, it’s as if I’m in jail now for someone else’s crimes because I’m not that person.”

He told the board members: “I apologise for what I have done. I recognise everything I have done. I am not a nutter I am not going to go out and commit some crazy violent offence – it’s not in me.

“I just want to go home. I just want to go home. My mum is getting older. I will stick to all the rules. I am not going to commit any offence. You can put any tag on me. Keeping me here is just making me worser [sic]. It’s just making everyone worser.”

He insisted he would not go on to reoffend if he were released or moved to open conditions, adding that he has avoids violence on a daily basis at the high security prison.

“Every two weeks, every three weeks, someone is getting stabbed here…hot watered,” he said. “I am avoiding all those sorts of things. I am not getting involved in criminal activity.”

Despite previously escaping custody, he insisted he would never abscond again, adding: “This is my one chance and I am aware of it.”

He told the panel he hopes to find work as a personal trainer or a barber if released and he has the support of his mother and sister.

However, giving evidence to the panel, his prison offender manager refused to recommend Mr Bidar for release or move to open conditions, insisting inappropriate or negative behaviour has been a “pattern throughout his whole sentence”.

Although he has completed programs available to him in prison, she said he needs to “consolidate” the work that he’s already done.

“Mr Bidar can be a very clever gentleman when he’s in that frame of mind but he can also be very rude and quite petulant when he’s challenged,” she told the panel.

She raised concerns about comments made to female prison staff and added that he has a problem with authority, which has transferred to the uniform staff.

Mr Bidar, who takes medication for ADHD, admitted he can be “inappropriate, cheeky or rude” and said there had been “blips” in his behaviour, but added: “I may tell someone of f*** off one day but I don’t think it deserves to keep me in here for another two years in high security jail treating me like some murderer or psychopath.”

Questioned about a previous incident in prison where he was sanctioned for being drunk and shouting abuse at his cell door, he said: “That doesn’t mean I should stay in here for another two years…every day is torture. I s*** and p*** in a bucket. It’s just hell man.

“I just want one chance – that’s all I want. If I mess it up it’s on me.”

A senior prison officer who gave evidence to the panel said Mr Bidar worked as cleaner and rehabilitation representative for the wing – a role in which he supports prisoners who are struggling.

“Basically it’s to allow him to work out with prisoners on the wing that are struggling behind their bars,” he told the hearing. “He gets them out, works out with them…just working out and talking to try and integrate them on the wing.”

In the statement issued to The Independent through his lawyer from inside the Worcestershire jail earlier this month, Mr Bidar said he has completed his sentence plan and is ready for release – adding that a 2021 parole board previously recommended he should be moved to open conditions.

Despite the parole board decision, the move was blocked by the secretary of state for justice who refused to downgrade him from a Category A high-risk prisoner.

He argues this has left him a “political prisoner” until the justice secretary Alex Chalk agrees he should progress.

“I’m exhausted by the sentence. Life is passing me by. I did wrong. I’ve spent a long time doing courses and those who assess me have consistently said I’ve completed my sentence plan,” he previously told The Independent.

“I need a chance. A life licence is a heavy burden and one I take seriously. I would not return to prison. I want to spend time with my family.”

In a statement earlier this month, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We have reduced the number of unreleased IPP prisoners by three-quarters since we scrapped the sentence in 2012.

“We have also taken decisive action to curtail licence periods and continue to help those still in custody to progress towards release by improving access to rehabilitation programmes and mental health support.”

Algarve golf break goals: All-round trips that will suit you to a tee

Stretching 125 miles along Portugal’s southern coastline, the Algarve is famous for its beautiful beaches, golden cliffs and warm climate. It’s also known for being one of the world’s finest golf destinations. With over 40 courses and resorts across the region, there’s no shortage of options, no matter your level or budget. Choose from courses overlooking the ocean, or those surrounded by lush greenery and rolling hills. Spectacular views are matched by first-class amenities, making the Algarve the perfect spot for an indulgent golfing getaway.

To make your break even better, if you book with Jet2holidays, you can find the perfect golf-friendly base in this beautiful region, ideal for resting and relaxing between rounds.

From hotels with golf courses on-site or close by, to a choice of three, five or seven-night stays with a number of golf rounds included in the price, plus travel to and from the course and the option to add 22kg golf carriage to your booking, Jet2holidays ensures your trip tees off perfectly. All holidaysinclude accommodation, return flights, transfers and 22kg baggage, all wrapped up in an ABTA and ATOL-protected package for a low £60pp deposit*. There are thousands of Free Child Places** available, and infants under two go free✝. Meaning it couldn’t be easier to book a great value getaway with the Which? Travel Brand of the Year 2023 and Tripadvisor’s Best UK Airline.’

To help you plan the perfect trip, we’ve plunged into the Algarve golf scene, from its incredible courses and key tournaments, to the best locations to play…

The Algarve’s standing as one of Europe’s top golfing destinations began in 1966, when British businessman John Stilwell created the region’s first traditional grass golf course near Portimão in the west of the region. The course was designed by British golfer, Sir Henry Cotton, who moved to the Algarve after retiring from the sport and recognised its potential as a golfing destination. Cotton went on to design more courses in the Algarve, as did other legendary players and golf architects, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Rocky Roquemore and Ronald Fream.

In the years since that first course opened, the Algarve has built a reputation as something of a golfer’s paradise. Portugal was named ’World’s Best Golf Destination’ at the 2023 World Golf Awards – and almost half of the country’s golf courses can be found in the Algarve. The area plays host to many important international tournaments, including the Portugal Masters, which is part of the PGA tour.

Why are the courses here so special? There’s the stunning scenery for a start. Play a round here and you’ll be surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty, from turquoise oceans and lagoons to dramatic clifftops and mountains. Then there’s the facilities: many of the region’s most famous courses are part of luxury resorts that also offer excellent food and drink options, spas and wellness centres.

Whether you want to be right by the ocean or further inland, prefer a hilly course or a flat one, are looking for 27, 18 or 9 holes, there is a huge variety on offer. The courses are often as challenging as they are beautiful, and you can expect to be making shots over ravines, lakes and beaches.

There are courses dotted the whole width of the Algarve, starting in the west, with many near the historic and beautiful town of Lagos, as well as the dramatic coastline of Sagres and the panoramas of the Serra de Monchique mountain range. In central Algarve, in the area between Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, you’ll find some of the most exclusive resorts in the region. The area is home to many of the most stunning courses in Europe, perched on clifftops or overlooking lakes, set amidst umbrella pines and golden cliffs. In Sotavento (the eastern Algarve), courses are more level, but still set amidst spectacular scenery, with some overlooking the Ria Formosa Natural Park and River Guadiana.

Wherever you choose to play, many golf courses in the Algarve have accommodation on-site, whether that’s a luxury five-star hotel or family-friendly self-catering options. Most are within easy reach of bustling towns and picturesque villages, so when you’re done teeing off, you’ll find a wealth of attractions to explore, including Michelin-starred restaurants, stylish bars, bustling markets and designer boutiques.

While the Algarve does attract plenty of pro golfers (Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have been spotted on the region’s courses), it’s a great destination for all abilities, even complete beginners. Those wanting to learn the basics or improve their handicap can book into one of many golf academies and schools, which offer everything from a few hours one-on-one tuition to intensive week-long courses, many led by PGA pros. Specially designed golf fitness classes can help you improve skills like mobility, balance and rotation.

For those already feeling confident about their game, there are many amateur competitions and championships to sign up for throughout the year. Meanwhile families can have fun in golf parks with themed mini adventure courses.

And if you need a break from all the chipping and putting, there are plenty of other activities for you to try your hand at, from surfing or sailing to tennis, kayaking and horse-riding. Or just take some time out to relax and explore this beautiful part of the world.

To make it even easier for you to enjoy the ultimate break in the Algarve, Jet2holidays provides the perfect package holiday, looking after you at every step of the way with award-winning customer service and In-Resort Customer Helpers to ensure your stay goes smoothly.

With accommodation to suit every budget and need, Jet2holidays offers a range of hotels, apartments and villas with a variety of board options, from Self Catering to All Inclusive Plus.

Fly to the Algarve from 11 UK airports: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and London Stansted. To find out more and start planning your trip, visit Jet2holidays

*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. Full payment required by balance due date.

** One free child place per two paying adults. Subject to availability. T&Cs apply, please see www.jet2holidays.com/promotions#fcp for further details.

Applicable for all infants under the age of two years on the date of return. Infants are not entitled to a flight seat (they must be seated with a parent or guardian) or a 22kg baggage allowance.

Russian voters are standing up to Putin – it’s time we did, too

In today’s Russia, any form of dissent against Vladimir Putin is a brave act. Given the president’s iron grip on the country – a grip that has only tightened across his more than two decades in power – the choice to protest is taken with the knowledge that a lengthy jail term is likely.

The crackdown from the Kremlin has intensified since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine a little more than two years ago. Nearly a thousand other critics and anti-war dissidents have been imprisoned across Russia, while Putin’s fiercest critic, Alexei Navalny, was announced dead a month before the vote, by officials in the brutal Arctic prison in which he was being held on charges that countries around the world lined up to decry as trumped up to silence him. Mr Navalny’s widow, Yulia, made clear that her husband had been killed by Putin, and Western leaders again lined up to declare the Russian leader responsible.

Just before his death, Mr Navalny put out a call for people to vote en masse at midday on Sunday across Russia, a symbolic gesture to show Russians – and Putin – that however much he tried to clamp down on dissent, he cannot stamp it out, and one providing a clear picture that those who seek change are not alone.

Will Rishi Sunak be replaced before the election?

If Rishi Sunak was hoping for a relaxing end to a torrid week, he will have been bitterly disappointed to see talk of a leadership challenge splashed across the weekend’s papers.

The prime minister is losing control of a restless Conservative Party, with backbench MPs increasingly concerned about the prospect of a general election wipeout.

With Mr Sunak’s repeated relaunches and “stick to the plan” mantra failing to boost the Tories’ poll ratings, some MPs are even questioning whether it is time to pick a new PM altogether.