The Telegraph 2024-04-04 10:00:40

Live Israel halts leave for all combat units amid Iran strike fears

Israel’s military has halted leave for all of its combat units amid fears that Iran will strike in revenge for an attack on its Syrian embassy last week. 

The military said on Thursday: “In accordance with the situational assessment, it has been decided that leave will be temporarily paused for all IDF (Israel Defence Forces) combat units. 

“The IDF is at war and the deployment of forces is under continuous assessment according to requirements.”

The army is also drafting extra reservists for air defence units. 

GPS services over major cities have been disrupted in an apparent measure meant to ward off guided missiles, according to reports. 

Iran has vowed revenge for a suspected Israeli airstrike on Tehran’s embassy in Damascus. 

At least seven people were killed, including Gen Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), believed to be in charge of Iran’s operations in Syria and Lebanon.

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Live Pressure mounts on Sunak over Israel arms exports

Israel’s approach to the war in Gaza is bordering on reckless, a former head of MI6 said amid growing pressure on Rishi Sunak to stop UK arms exports to the country. 

There have been calls for the Government to ban arms exports to Israel in the wake of an airstrike that killed seven aid workers, including three Britons. 

The Government is also facing demands to publish any legal advice it may have received on the legality of Israel’s actions in Gaza. 

Sir Alex Younger told BBC’s Today podcast: “My view is that what happened is essentially systematic of an approach to targeting that has, on occasion, bordered on the reckless and fundamentally undermines therefore what must be Israel’s political objectives, which is to sustain some moral high ground and moral purpose.”

He added: “It’s hard not to conclude that insufficient care is being paid to the collateral risks of these operations, one way or another.”

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Live Cameron rules out Nato boots on the ground in Ukraine

Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, has ruled out sending Nato troops to Ukraine.

“What Nato is looking at is a Nato mission for Ukraine, not a Nato mission in Ukraine,” the former prime minister told the BBC, amid concerns that having boots on the ground could lead to direct conflict with Moscow.

Asked directly whether he could see Nato troops on Ukrainian soil, Lord Cameron said “No”, adding: “I think that we don’t want to give [Vladimir] Putin a target like that, and Nato can do lots of things to better coordinate the help we give to Ukraine.”

His comments come ahead of a summit in Brussels to mark the 75th anniversary of Nato, as Ukraine’s allies weigh up providing further support to the war torn country in the face of Russian aggression. “Fundamentally, for countries like Britain and all those supportive of Ukraine, this is a question of political will. Do we have the patience? Do we have the will? Are we prepared to give the resources? Now, in Britain’s case, definitely the answer is yes,” said Lord Cameron. 

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Watch: Ambulance explodes after dropping off 91-year-old patient

Footage shows the moment an ambulance exploded moments after a 91-year-old patient in a wheelchair was dropped off at her home.

David and Marilyn Brinklow were having a cup of tea when they heard a huge bang and saw flames in their front garden at Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire.

Minutes earlier, the private ambulance had dropped off the couple’s neighbour following a stay in hospital.

The footage shows two care workers wheeling the woman to her home in the village at around 1.45pm on March 14.

One of the care workers is seen checking the ambulance after a passer-by spots smoke pouring from the engine and alerts them.

Minutes later, the vehicle explodes with such force that its roof is ripped off and flies 50ft into the air before crashing through the Brinklows’ garage.

Firefighters managed to extinguish the flames, but the ambulance was completely destroyed. 

Nobody was injured in the blast, which caused extensive damage to the Brinklows’ home and set fire to their garden.

The heat was so intense that the back of their Honda Civic melted, while their living room windows shattered and their curtains were singed.

Mrs Brinklow, 74, said: “It was like a Hollywood movie. I suffer with my nerves, and it didn’t do me any good.

“I keep having flashbacks. There was nothing left of the ambulance and all the bits of it, like a volcano, were flying off like glass and started burning our nets. It’s horrible to talk about.”

Mr Brinklow, a 69-year-old retired carpenter, said the house suffered smoke damage and the electricity to the garage was cut off.

He said: “It went off like a roman candle. I was shocked – it was like a horror show. It’s incredible no one was killed. Our neighbour was in the ambulance a short time before it exploded.

“The heat was so bad the back of our car literally melted. We just want the insurance company to hurry up so we can repair our home.”

EMED, a private ambulance company that provides patient transport, said it was investigating the cause of the explosion.

A spokesman said: “On Thursday 14th March, during a routine patient drop-off in Barton-under-Needwood, the engine of our ambulance caught fire.

“Unfortunately, some of the neighbouring properties suffered damage, which we are now managing through our insurer.

“All our ambulances undergo robust safety checks on a regular basis, and our absolute priority is the safety of our patients and the communities we serve.

“We are working closely with the vehicle manufacturer and an independent safety consultant as part of our ongoing internal investigation.”

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Judges to look at softer sentences for ‘deprived’ criminals

Judges have been told to consider more lenient sentences for offenders from “deprived” or “difficult” backgrounds.

The Sentencing Council, the official body responsible for setting guidelines for judges and magistrates, has for the first time spelt out “mitigating” factors relating to disadvantage that courts should consider before passing sentence.

The guidelines on “difficult and/or deprived background or personal circumstance” state that these factors include poverty, low educational attainment, experience of discrimination and insecure housing.

The council went ahead with the changes, which took effect on Monday, despite warnings from Alex Chalk, the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, who said the guidance was “patronising” and “inaccurate”, and risked making poor schooling and poverty excuses for offenders to commit crimes.

During the consultation, concerns were also raised that the new guidelines could lead to better-off, middle class offenders from secure homes being “unfairly disadvantaged” by being handed tougher penalties for the same offence. 

It was also pointed out that many people from deprived backgrounds do not offend.

The Blue Collar Conservatives, a group founded by Esther McVey, the minister for common sense, told the council: “We believe this is extremely patronising, not least to law-abiding working class communities.

“Often it is actually those who come from the poorest communities who will be the victims of the crimes in these cases. Low educational attainment and poverty are not excuses to commit crimes.”

Feedback ‘predominantly negative or neutral’

The Sentencing Council admitted that judges and magistrates privately consulted over the plans had been “predominantly negative or neutral”, with many saying they already took such factors into account.

However, it decided to proceed with the proposal because it argued that spelling out such mitigating factors would ensure they were applied in a “consistent and appropriate” way and improve “transparency and fairness”.

As a result, judges and magistrates have been told they should consider 12 factors of “disadvantage” in determining an offender’s responsibility for a crime, how the factors bear on criminals’ behaviour and the effect of any sentence that might be imposed on them.

The factors include negative experiences of authority, early experience of offending by family members, negative influences from peers and difficulties relating to the misuse of drugs and alcohol. 

This excludes being voluntarily drunk at the time of an offence, which is an “aggravating factor” in sentencing.

In his response to the consultation, seen by The Telegraph, Mr Chalk said: “The Government is clear that many of the examples of difficulty or deprivation that have been set out in the consultation, such as low educational attainment and poverty, ought not to be relied upon as excuses to commit crimes.

“Presupposing that relatively low income for example (or indeed other deprivation) indicates a propensity to commit crime risks appearing patronising at best, or inaccurate at worst.

“Moreover, many in society, including no doubt judges and MPs, will have encountered young people from modest educational or financial backgrounds who have shown scrupulous integrity and a commitment to leading a law-abiding life.”

Middle class disadvantaged

One respondent warned of harsher sentences for middle class offenders, saying: “The other danger is that defendants who exhibit the flip sides could be unfairly disadvantaged – those who are not poor, those who live in secure housing, those who have the security of family life.”

Another described it as over-prescriptive. “This is an incomplete and potentially misleading attempt to identify the ‘nth’ degree of mitigation. The court is capable of identifying endless additional factors in relation to the particular individual and the particular offence – let the court do that,” they said.

Asked why the Sentencing Council went ahead with the changes, a spokesman said the guidance was phrased to strike a balance by drawing courts’ attention to “potentially relevant considerations” without being over-prescriptive. 

For example, it talked of factors that “may” be relevant or “may” have a bearing on offending, he said.

It comes as the Ministry of Justice faces a prisons overcrowding crisis, with fears that jails could run out of space within weeks. 

Courts have already been told by one of Britain’s most senior judges that they must consider overcrowding as a factor in whether to spare an offender from jail.

An MoJ spokesman said: “Sentencing decisions are made by independent judges who already take into account the circumstances of each case in line with guidelines set out by the Sentencing Council.”

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Grant Shapps: Nato states are playing ‘Russian roulette’ with lack of defence spending

Nato countries that do not spend two per cent of GDP on defence spending are playing “Russian roulette” with the West’s future, Grant Shapps has warned…

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Airports miss deadline to end 100ml rule on liquids

Airports are set to miss a summer deadline that would allow passengers to take more than 100ml of liquids on to flights because they were too slow to install new security scanners.

The restrictions were due to be axed on June 1 2024 in a move that would have allowed passengers to fly with up to 2 litres of liquids in their carry-on luggage.

However, a decision to extend the deadline could mean that the onerous conditions are not lifted at some airports until a year later.

It is not the first time the cut-off point has been pushed back. Airports were originally given a deadline of 2022 to roll out the technology, but this was later pushed back to June this year.

The Government has now extended the deadline on a per-airport basis, threatening “serious financial penalties” for any which continue to lag behind.

Consumer champions criticised airport bosses’ failure to make the changes in time and said it was imperative that the new equipment be bought in as quickly as possible.

New X-ray scanner technology was supposed to let airport security staff scan liquids inside hand luggage, giving them a detailed 3D image of the contents instead of the 2D image generated by current scanners.

Ministers are aware of the reasons why airports have struggled to install the new scanners before the previous June 1 2024 deadline, The Telegraph understands.

These include the devices’ weight and size, with one source comparing them to a Ford Transit van.

Some airports have had to reinforce the floors of their terminal buildings to cope with the extra weight.

The Telegraph understands that it could take up to a year for several major airports – including London Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands – to complete the process.

Meanwhile Gatwick Airport said it expects to install its remaining scanners within the first three months of 2025.

‘No fee increase’

Naomi Leach, deputy editor of Which? Travel, said: “It’s imperative that these changes are made as quickly as possible and that the rules at different airports are communicated clearly to passengers.

“Those airports that have failed to install the scanners in time should not increase passenger fees this year – this would be impossible to justify when this key improvement to the passenger experience has not been made.”

Paul Charles, boss of travel consultancy PC Agency, said airports had had long enough to prepare themselves.

He said: “I think consumers will be deeply frustrated and unhappy. They are going to have to have another summer of taking liquids out of their bags to go through the pain of security with these measures still in place.

“We were promised more seamless travel, and airports which were easier and faster to go through.

“Airports have had long enough to plan for this, so it’s a failure for airports to prepare adequately for the summer.”

‘Ensure simplicity’

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade association Airlines UK, said: “Delivering these changes throughout all UK airports will be key to improving airline passengers’ experience.

“The extension of the deadline for those airports who require it will ensure simplicity and ease for customers during this transition.”

Financial penalties will be handed to airports that do not meet the new deadline, although the Department for Transport was unable to say how large these would be.

A senior aviation industry source said of the deadline extension: “It’s a long time coming. Hopefully everyone can get their ducks in a row and get them deployed. And hopefully this provides airports with some certainty heading into the busy summer period.”

Some smaller airports have successfully rolled out the new scanners, including London City and Teesside.

Newcastle Airport has also made the changes, with Luton and Bristol both on target to meet the June 2024 deadline.

‘Major construction projects’

A Manchester Airport Group spokesman said: “We are currently rolling out the new technology lane-by-lane at Manchester and London Stansted airports, with several new lanes already in operation.

“Work is also under way on major construction projects at both Manchester and East Midlands airports to expand the size of the terminals to accommodate the new equipment.”

“This will see the new scanners in place on a large number of our security lanes by June 2024, with the full completion of the programme expected the following year.”

The in-flight liquid limit was introduced in 2006 after British police foiled an Islamist terror plot to detonate explosives on transatlantic flights.

They planned to smuggle liquid explosives disguised as soft drinks in their hand luggage, in what would have been the deadliest terror attack since 9/11.

Last year The Telegraph tested the London City scanners, finding that they were able to handle a full bottle of malbec, a jar of jam and a snow globe among other items all in the same bag.

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