INDEPENDENT 2024-03-29 16:04:11


Judge criticises parents of ‘overindulged’ teen who killed two in car crash

A judge has criticised parents for “overindulging” their teenage son who killed two friends while driving at double the speed limit.

Owain Hammett-George, 19, was jailed for six years on Thursday after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and death by careless driving in February this year. He also pleaded guilty to one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Just three months after the teenager passed his driving test, he crashed his Alfa Romeo into a petrol station forecourt at high speeds and killed Ben Rogers and Kaitlyn Davies, also both 19, instantly.

Casey Thomas, then aged 17, also sustained life-changing injuries during the incident on the B4436 in Bishopston, Swansea, on May 31 2022.

Following the collision, it emerged that Hammett-George had been caught speeding just a week after passing his test in February 2022, but his father Dewi George took the blame to avoid him getting points on his licence.

Judge Geraint Walters, sentencing Hammett-George at Swansea Crown Court, said the then 17 year old was “showing off” as he sped down the 30mph road at 78mph and criticised his parents.

“You were nowhere near ready to be entrusted with a motor car at the time that you were,” he told the court. “You are immature and, in my judgment on the facts of this case as I read it, are overindulged by your parents.”

He added: “You were overindulged – a car before you were fit to have one, out late in the evening with other youngsters in the car.

“Your parents were aware of the potential danger because there are messages passing between you and other family members that says so.

“Within a very short period of passing your test, that you were to be prosecuted for speeding – albeit for a modest increase in that case – it was a sense of what might be coming.

“The greatest act of indulgence is to take the responsibility for your conduct onto the shoulders of your own father.”

Messages found on Hammett-George’s mobile phone included his mother previously warning “black box going on your car” and saying she hoped he received further speeding fines “so you lose your job and then the car will 100% be off you”.

On 26 February – just five days after passing his test – a message believed to be from the defendant’s sister warned he was “putting everyone at risk”.

It added: “Do everyone a favour and pack it in please before it is too late.”

The judge said the case raised the issue of whether recently qualified drivers should be allowed to carry passengers immediately after passing their tests.

“On this particular evening, you were in your motor car with three of your young friends. You were showing off,” the judge told the defendant.

“You drove at grossly excessive speeds to the point where you lost control of the vehicle and immediately effectively extinguished the lives of two of those in the car.”

The court heard Hammett-George had collected Miss Davies and Miss Thomas from work in Swansea at about 10pm.

He was driving on the B4436 when he lost control of the car, which left the road, landed on its roof and then crashed into a concrete pillar by one of the pumps at Northway petrol station at about 11pm.

Hammett-George, along with Mr Rogers and Miss Davies, were ejected from the vehicle.

The defendant was not wearing a seatbelt, but had it buckled underneath him to stop the warning sounding when the incident took place.

Passing motorists and local residents immediately came to the aid of those injured, including administering CPR to Mr Rogers and Miss Davies, but their injuries were not survivable.

Prosecuting, Ian Wright said the vehicle was “unrecognisable” after the crash, with its engine block situated 15 metres away.

Hammett-George, who also sustained serious injuries in the collision, wrongly told officers at the scene that he was driving at 60mph and hit a pothole that threw him to the right.

Just seven days after he passed his test, he was also caught speeding his car with a personalised number plate spelling OW11AAN but his father Dewi George had claimed he was driving.

Following the fatal accident, police investigated the speeding offence and found George had been working in Cardiff at that time.

He was jailed for four months in July 2023 after admitting perverting the course of justice.

Victim personal statements from the families of Mr Rogers and Miss Davies, as well as a statement from Miss Thomas, were read to the court detailing the devastating impact of the crash.

Carla King, the mother of Mr Rogers, said her son was “full of kindness” and shared the “best advice”.

Kimberley Davies, the mother of Miss Davies, said of her daughter: “She was just an amazing human being – vibrant, bubbly, with a wonderful sense of humour”.

Miss Thomas told how she had experienced serious injuries from the collision and had been left with anxiety, adding: “I will never be the same outgoing person I was”.

Representing Hammett-George, Alex Greenwood said his client expressed the “deepest and most profound remorse” for what happened.

In a letter to the court, the defendant wrote: “If there was any way I could turn back time and prevent this tragedy from happening I would do so in a heartbeat.”

Poland scrambles jets as Zelensky predicts which country Putin will target next

Polish and allied aircraft were scrambled this morning after Russia launched missile strikes on Ukraine, the Operational Command of the Polish armed forces said.

“Polish and allied aircraft are operating in Polish airspace, which may result in increased noise levels, especially in the southeastern part of the country,” the Command said on the social media platform X.

Russia attacked three thermal power plants of Ukraine’s largest private power firm DTEK on Friday, damaging facilities, the firm said.

It comes as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky predicted which countries Vladimir Putin would attack if he was successful in Ukraine – including Germany.

And Moscow has claimed it has ‘evidence’ that the gunmen who killed more than 140 people in an attack on a concert hall last week were linked to “Ukrainian nationalists”.

Mr Putin continues to try and implicate Ukraine in the massacre, despite the lack of evidence and Islamic State claiming responsibility after the killings.

Why William was not with Kate in her diagnosis video revealed

The reason the Princess of Wales did not have her husband by her side in the video revealing her cancer diagnosis has been revealed.

Sitting on a bench surrounded by greenery on the grounds of Windsor Castle, Kate cut a lone figure as she told the world that she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy.

As many wondered why Prince William was not in the emotional video, a palace source told People: “It is a message from the princess about her health, and she wanted to personally deliver the message on her own.”

However, Kate did refer to her husband in the two-minute address, as she said: “William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family.”

The palace insider said the Prince of Wales has been “supporting throughout,” adding: “William is extremely proud of his wife for the courage and strength she has shown not just this week but since her surgery in January.”

As a series of health scares rock the royal family, both the King and the Princess of Wales have stepped back from public duties.

The Queen represented King Charles on Thursday at the historic Royal Maundy service at Worcester Cathedral, which he missed with “great sadness” as he continues to undergo cancer treatment.

Against all the odds, Gladiators is the most radically kind show on TV

Culture tends to move at such a pace that it’s rare for you and your children to have the exact same televisual epiphany. However, I’m fairly sure my kids and I have all had a form of awakening watching our respective eras of Gladiators: the musclebound game show that has tested strength, speed and the figure-revealing elasticity of Lycra every Saturday night on BBC One since mid-January.

I never thought the series, a reboot of the Nineties ITV mainstay, would work in 2024. I honestly thought it would be an irrelevant joke; a show out of step with modern sensibilities; something that sensitive, tut-tutting woke liberal parents like me would instantly find fault with. After all, it’s competitive, there’s a gender binary, it had the aura of a racist past back in the day (thanks to Black Gladiators being crassly named things like Shadow or Nightshade), plus it generally flies in the face of body positivity by only having a hegemony of lean gym people on show. And yet, something quietly revolutionary has happened with this latest BBC version: they’ve reinvented sports to be radically more respectful, joyful and essentially nicer than anything I’ve ever seen before.

Most reviews of Gladiators have been a springboard for adults to revel in their own nostalgia, from The Guardian’s Joel Golby evoking eating ham and pineapple pizza to The Spectator’s James Delingpole railing against the old show having “Queen’s excruciating ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ thumping on auto-repeat”. But in its bedtime-friendly slot of 5.50pm, Gladiators is very clearly a family show, made for kids and their grown-ups to enjoy together – making a solo adult review feel a bit awkward, like a 36-year-old reviewing a soft play centre.

I’m keen to stress therefore just how much my own children, aged six and nine, have loved the show, from the title sequence of episode one onwards. Yes, the sheer skimpiness of the Gladiators’ clothes made me urgently order a copy of Let’s Talk About the Birds and the Bees, but despite the anatomical detail the show is coated in an innocence that’s so finely balanced and well-played that I’m genuinely in awe of the team who made it, for making family telly that’s wholesome but not bland or worthy, and not slathered in irony either. By comparison, we watched seven minutes of a first-generation Gladiators on YouTube, at which point the commentator made a crass remark about host Ulrika Jonsson’s cleavage, prompting me to leap up, turn off the screen and do a quiet shriek while we got the Uno cards out.

Kids aren’t stupid. They know that much-maligned father-and-son hosts Bradley and Barney Walsh are making deliberately awful jokes. They know too that the excellently vain, perma-pouting “baddy”, Legend, is laying it on like a pantomime villain. Incidentally, well played again by the BBC for a timely skewering of a narcissistic man, especially in the context of a show that could otherwise pong of gym culture self-absorption.

Of course, there’s still a natural credulousness among young viewers, but there’s also an implicit believability to the show that feels genuinely rare for such big-budget, high-spectacle telly. In this debut BBC series, this mostly came from the fact that two contenders – Finley in the quarter-finals and Chung in the recent semi-final – were injured to the point where they sadly had to be replaced by runners-up, a truth about the potential danger of this stuff that was thankfully not airbrushed or reshot out of existence, but left in to show the vulnerability of the athletes competing.

Thus because Gladiators is believable, its most radical aspect really shines. It’s that everyone (except cartoon villains Legend and Viper) is unfailingly nice to each other, whether they’ve won or lost. Contenders will praise the strength of a Gladiator who’s just prodded their groin with a pugil stick. Gladiators will talk with conviction about an opponent’s courage and skill at the end of a game, no matter the result. Both might dramatically tumble into a safety net, but they’re rolling around laughing seconds later, not scrapping or hurling abuse about each other online. The contenders, right up to the gruelling Eliminator round, support each other with such sincere grace and respect – never lapsing into schmaltz – that the show elevates itself into a strange undiscovered headspace where competitive sport is actually, y’know, quite pleasant and not a toxic maelstrom of ultra-competitiveness. The fact that the show is bolstered by two figures from mainstream football – match commentator Guy Mowbray and former super referee Mark Clattenburg (branded by his iconic Euro 2016 tattoo) – feels almost retrograde since football could learn so much about what family-friendly entertainment should look like.

There’s still room for improvement. After so many iterations (Sky also relaunched the show back in 2008), the show is crying out for a female “baddy”, for instance. While Sabre occasionally came close, literally hissing at the microphone once as she stormed off post-defeat, there’s never been a sense that the females are allowed to be as funny, camp and comically contrived as the men. The show would also benefit from explaining why there’s an ambient camera in the dressing room, something that even my kids thought was a bit creepy.

But it’s been nothing short of a brilliant reinvention for a modern era, one that I can attest makes kids very happy and makes analogue parents like me a bit – OK, I’ll admit it – nostalgic for the days of must-watch Saturday night terrestrial TV. In this Olympic year, who would have thought that a show with Bradley Walsh, some foam fingers and a soft-rock theme song would best uphold the event’s credo – that it’s not about the winning, but the taking part that matters?

Photography firm offers to remove disabled children from class photo

Parents were left “devastated” after they were offered a version of a primary school class photo with children with “complex needs” removed.

Those removed from the pictures included a nine-year-old girl with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair and a girl with additional support needs (ASN).

One mother whose daughter had been removed from one set of photos said it felt like having her child “erased from history”.

The offer was given by Cornwall-based firm Tempest Photography – which employs local photographers to take school photos across the UK.

A photographer took two separate photos of a class at Aboyne Primary School in Aberdeenshire – which has a dedicated additional needs hub – with children with ASN reportedly removed from one set.

Parents were then sent a link with both versions to choose from.

Have you been affected by this? Email athena.stavrou@independent.co.uk

Natalie Pinnell, whose daughter Erin was among those excluded, told the Press and Journal: “I am absolutely heartbroken. Furious.”

She added: “To give people the option to erase my daughter from history for the sake of optics is frankly inhumane. One of the cruellest things that I’ve ever experienced.

“Me and the other parents just feel devastated beyond belief.”

She told the MailOnline that while Erin was thankfully unaware of the situation, she is “dreading” having to explain the incident to her sister.

“It has been a hard thing to process as a family. As a mum I want to champion her, and to have people thinking she is erasable is just devastating beyond belief,” she told the paper.

She added: “It’s been the most traumatic experience as a family that we have felt.

“I really wanted to believe there was a different reason. I was trying to look for a reason why someone would have made that decision.

“We have mourned. We have hurt. I feel like I haven’t even hit the bottom of my shock. It’s been absolutely devastating.”

A second parent, Lisa Boyd, also told the newspaper her daughter Lily, a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy, was removed from an alternative photo,

She added that the nine-year-old’s twin sister was “devastated”.

“Her twin sister, Iona, is in a different class and I only got one photo for that class but I got two for Lily’s – one without my kid in it. It’s horrendous,” she told the MailOnline.

Both parents were keen to emphasise the school itself was an inclusive setting and that they were not to blame for the incident.

Aberdeenshire Council has since apologised to parents, stating the decision was not taken by the school and has immediately removed the link to the photos.

A spokesperson said: “We are aware that following Aboyne Primary School’s recent school class photographs, links to purchase the pictures included images with and without complex needs provision pupils.

“Whilst this was not a decision taken by the school, we absolutely appreciate the distress and hurt this has caused some parents and carers and we are sincerely sorry.

“The issue has been taken up with the photography company directly as this is totally unacceptable.

“Aboyne is an inclusive school and every single child should be included, engaged and involved in their learning and school experiences.”

Tempest Photography also said it had launched an investigation into the matter stating: “We are currently investigating the situation with the school, and have no further comment.”

It’s time to renationalise our failing water industry

Ever since the Conservative manifesto for the 1987 general election disingenuously promised to “return to the public the Water Authorities” – in other words, privatise the ones in England and Wales – there has been an on-off national debate about whether the supply of water, sewerage and associated services should, in fact, be owned and controlled by the state or in the hands of free enterprise. Soon, however, the issue, at least in the case of Thames Water, will be resolved not by a popular vote but through commercial pressures.

Thames Water, to put it bluntly, is going bust and will run out of money by May 2025. Given that its wide range of well-resourced shareholders, including major pension funds, are warning that the business is now uninvestible, it seems inevitable that Thames Water will before much longer pass into a special administrative regime, and, in effect, be nationalised. The alternative, which is that the taps run dry and the loos no longer flush in the capital of the United Kingdom is rightly an unthinkable consequence of subjecting what is, at base, a public service to the worst emanations of capitalism.

Thames Water has many problems, not all of them of its own making. Britain’s Victorian sewers and water pipes are crumbling, inadequate, prone to leaks and sewage dumps, and expensive to replace. The infrastructure was neglected under many decades of municipal ownership long before it was floated on the stock market in the exciting though transient era of mass share ownership promulgated by Margaret Thatcher. The regulators have also failed to be tough enough over water purity and pollution, to an unbelievable extent.

What are the Tories’ chances of winning the London mayoral election?

Local and mayoral elections on 2 May, combined with yet another parliamentary by-election in Blackpool South, will provide the best possible picture of the standing of the parties – in most of England and Wales, at least.

Millions of real votes in ballot boxes will either confirm or confound the opinion polls. It will be another important test of Rishi Sunak’s leadership; there is speculation that a truly disastrous result for his party might trigger a vote of confidence in him, with the possible consequence that he’d call an immediate general election and take his case to the British people as early as June. Of the many discouraging results the Conservatives seem to be headed for, perhaps the worst of all will be in London. It is fair to say that, even in a generally difficult period for the Tories, London stands out as an object lesson in how not to do politics…