INDEPENDENT 2024-04-13 16:04:34


Gordon Ramsay’s £13m London pub taken over by squatters

Squatters have taken over a Gordon Ramsay pub in London which is currently up for sale for £13 million.

A group of at least six squatters locked themselves inside the Grade II-listed York & Albany gastropub, which is just outside Regent’s Park, boarding up the windows and putting up a “legal warning” defending their takeover, the Sun reported.

In photographs taken before the windows had been further boarded up, a squatter could be seen sleeping on a sofa in the bar, surrounded by litter.

On Saturday morning, two masked squatters wearing black tracksuits and carrying backpacks and carrier bags exited the property, running away from reporters before they could be approached for comment.

A notice taped to a door said the group had a right to occupy the venue, which they said was not a “residential building” and was therefore not subject to 2012 legislation which had created a new offence of squatting in a home.

The piece of paper, signed by “The Occupiers”, also said: “Take notice that we occupy this property and at all times there is at least one person in occupation.

“That any entry or attempt to enter into these premises without our permission is therefore a criminal offence as any one of us who is in physical possession is opposed to such entry without our permission.

“That if you attempt to enter by violence or by threatening violence we will prosecute you.

“You may receive a sentence of up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

“If you want to get us out you will have to issue a claim for possession in the County Court or in the High Court.”

Mr Ramsay called the police on Wednesday but was unable to have the squatters removed, it is understood.

Another notice asked passers-by for “food and clothes donations or anything else you no longer want or need”.

The occupation of a person’s non-residential property without their permission is not itself a crime in the UK, athough police can take action if crimes are subsequently committed, including damaging the property or stealing from it.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: “Police were made aware of squatters at a disused property in Parkway, Regent’s Park, NW1 on Wednesday, 10 April.

“This is a civil matter and so police did not attend the property.”

In 2007, film director Gary Love bought the former nineteenth-century coaching inn.

He subsequently leased the property to Mr Ramsay on a 25-year term with an annual rent of £640,000.

The Kitchen Nightmares host unsuccessfully attempted to free himself from the lease in a legal battle at the High Court in 2015.

The venue went on sale at the end of last year with a guide price of £13 million.

According to government guidance, squatters can apply to become the registered owners of a property if they have occupied it continuously for 10 years, acted as owners for the whole of that time and had not previously been given permission to live there by the owner.

More than 40 still stranded in mid-air after fatal cable car accident

More than 40 passengers remained stranded in cable cars high above a mountain in southern Turkey on Saturday, 19 hours after one pod hit a pole and burst open, killing one person and injuring seven.

The accident occurred around 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Tunektepe cable car just outside the Mediterranean city of Antalya during the busy Eid al-Fitr holiday. Operations to rescue the stranded people continued throughout the night.

“128 citizens in 16 pods have been rescued under difficult conditions,” Okay Memis, director of the Turkish search and rescue agency AFAD, told media Saturday morning. “The rescue of 43 others in eight remaining pods is ongoing.”

He added that rescuers hope to complete rescue operations before dark.

The casualties occurred when a pod hit a pole and burst open, sending its passengers plummeting to the mountainside below, officials said.

State-run Anadolu Agency identified the deceased as a 54-year-old Turkish man. The injured were six Turkish citizens and one Kyrgyz national, including two children. They were rescued by Coast Guard helicopters.

Images in Turkish media showed the battered car swaying from dislodged cables on the side of the rocky mountain as medics tended the wounded.

A total of 543 first responders and seven helicopters are involved in the rescue operations, including teams from AFAD, the Coast Guard, firefighting teams and mountaineering teams from different parts of Turkey, officials said.

Friday was the final day of a three-day public holiday in Turkey marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which sees families flock to coastal resorts.

The cable car carries tourists from Konyaalti beach to a restaurant and viewing platform at the summit of the 618-meter (2,010-foot) Tunektepe peak. It is run by Antalya Metropolitan Municipality. The cable car line was completed in 2017 and receives a major inspection around the beginning of the year, as well as routine inspections throughout the year.

Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation. An expert commission including mechanical and electrical engineers and health and safety experts was assigned to determine the cause of the incident.

I was cyberflashed in public – and I didn’t realise how serious it was

In 2022, I was on the London Underground when a stranger sent me a photograph of his erect penis. I had received an anonymous Bluetooth request that read “iPhone would like to share a photo with you”. AirDrop, the method of Bluetooth-sharing between iPhones, only works if the devices are within close range of one another. Thirty feet, to be precise. So I knew that whoever had sent me the picture was in my train carriage. I kept my eyes fixed on my screen, mainly out of fear that if I did look up, the sender would approach me or do something worse.

This is one of the six times I’ve been sent a non-consensual image of a penis. It has happened through Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook messages – but the AirDrop incident was the scariest. The majority of the senders have been anonymous. Only one wasn’t – a man I met at a club in 2018, who sent me unsolicited pictures of his penis until I blocked him.

I hadn’t fully grappled with the seriousness of what had happened to me on the Tube until last month, when I learnt that the first person in England had been jailed for the crime of cyberflashing, meaning the sending of unsolicited genital pictures. Registered sex offender Nicholas Hawkes, 39, was sentenced to 66 weeks in jail after he pleaded guilty to sending images of his genitals to a 15-year-old and a woman in her sixties. He was convicted under the new Online Safety Act (OSA), which has made cyberflashing a criminal offence.

Legislative recognition of this behaviour is important. It demonstrates that cyberflashing is a clear violation of another person. It shows that the receiving of unsolicited “d*** pics” shouldn’t be seen as an inevitable consequence of existing as a woman online. It also suggests that there is a public interest in ending online behaviours that mirror the dynamics of physical sexual violence.

However, legal experts have already argued that the cyberflashing legislation doesn’t have teeth. Once someone is accused of sending an image or film of their genitals without consent, the OSA outlines that it has to be proven that the perpetrator also intended to “cause distress, alarm or humiliation, or shared the image to obtain sexual gratification”. This wording, some say, is a problem.

“A man that sends you a d*** pic on the train could say [in court] that they were just having a laugh, or maybe that he thought you might like it,” says Professor Clare McGlynn, a lawyer specialising in image-based sexual abuse and a co-author of the book Cyberflashing: Recognising Harms, Reforming Laws. “All of those lines and excuses could be made, and they’re difficult to rebut. It’s hard to prove that it was a deliberate attempt to intimidate.” She adds that she chooses to use the term “d*** pic” instead of “explicit image” to make clear what is being discussed here, and to highlight that most cyberflashing offences are committed by men against women.

When I speak to Nicola*, a 24-year-old freelance social media manager, she wonders how the law would apply to her experiences of cyberflashing. In 2021, she was travelling home after a late shift on an almost-empty Piccadilly line train when she noticed two men glaring at her. She received an AirDrop request and opened it to find a picture of a penis. “It was really disturbing,” she says. “They were staring at me like they were undressing me with their eyes. I got off the Tube and got on the bus instead, but I had convinced myself they were following me.” She deleted the image immediately, but this also meant she couldn’t ultimately trace the phone that had sent it to her.

Nicola has also been cyberflashed multiple times on dating apps. “Recently, I matched with a guy on an app called Pure, and I said ‘Hey, how are you?’ And he sent me a picture of his genitals,” she sighs. “There was no consent there, and I didn’t indicate that was what I wanted at all.” She reported the incident to the app and blocked the user.

While Nicola’s experiences are examples of strangers sending unsolicited images, there is a grey area surrounding the sending of non-consensual photos: is it different if both parties are or have been involved? Last month, a new YouGov survey asked women under 40 if they had received an unsolicited sexual image from someone who was not a partner or romantic interest. More than a third said yes – but they weren’t asked if they’d ever been cyberflashed by someone they were romantically involved with. McGlynn found YouGov’s line of questioning problematic. “What is that saying, then – that cyberflashing doesn’t count if you’re already romantically involved?” she asks.

Earlier this year, Louise*, 25, was dating a man who began incessantly sending her pictures of his penis even when she asked him to stop. “I’d be out for dinner with my friends, and he’d constantly be texting me about sex and randomly sending me pictures of his penis,” she tells me. “I was very clear and asked him to stop sending them, but he carried on. I think he thought it was funny. But it just made me feel weird.”

It is unclear whether an incident of cyberflashing between people in a relationship – however serious – could make it to court under the OSA. It would, experts say, be difficult to prove either the absence of consent on the victim’s side or the intent to cause harm on the defendant’s side. In Scotland, where cyberflashing has been illegal since 2010, prosecution is also dependent on both being proved. Analysis from 2022 found that only one in 20 cyberflashing reports in Scotland resulted in a conviction, and it seems that Westminster’s OSA could similarly have a low prosecution rate in years to come.

McGlynn thinks it’s up to Ofcom – the regulatory body appointed to make sure that social media platforms are complying with the OSA’s provisions – to impose stricter terms. “Ofcom is not taking strong steps to require platforms to take action. The act is always a good thing, but it’s got to be enforced by the regulator.”

She says that in the draft guidance issued by Ofcom, its wording around cyberflashing is particularly weak. “One of their responses is that as long as you can block and delete images, then that’s what needs to be done.” However, McGlynn says that’s too late. “Blocking and deleting a user isn’t much help once you’ve been sent the unsolicited image. It’s not a good enough or robust response.”

An Ofcom spokesperson told The Independent: “Tackling cyberflashing and other illegal online harms is a priority for Ofcom, and we’re moving quickly to consult on the details of the Online Safety Act so we can enforce it as soon as possible. We’re carefully considering all feedback to our proposed measures on illegal content, and expect to finalise these around the end of the year. This guidance is the first of many protections we’ll be introducing. In a few weeks, we’ll be consulting on additional wide-ranging measures designed to protect children specifically, and next year we’ll also propose further steps the largest platforms can take. We intend to review these measures regularly and update them over time as our evidence base improves and as technology and harms evolve.”

Other campaigners also think that tech companies like Meta should be held to a higher standard. Olivia DeRamus is an expert in social media tech and is the founder of Communia, an online social network for women and non-binary people. Each year her company surveys women’s experiences on social media, and its most recent report found that respondents had difficulty reporting abuse to various platforms. She tells me that “every woman we spoke to has mentioned that whenever they are the victim of online abuse, they have to ask their friends to report that account, too”.

She says it is rare for Meta, which owns Facebook, to take down or disable someone’s account based on one report of abuse (The Independent has contacted Meta for comment). DeRamus adds that mainstream social media companies have such advanced technology that they could take further steps to prevent abuses like cyberflashing. “Tech companies absolutely, unequivocally, have the tech to detect poor behaviour online. You just have to look at the targeting tools they use for their algorithms to understand how advanced it is,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of misinformation around the idea that these platforms don’t have the tech to deal with these issues.”

As for McGlynn, the campaign for full legislative recognition of cyberflashing is not yet over. But until then, she stresses, if someone wants to exchange explicit images with another person, asking for consent is pretty simple. “It might be embarrassing to ask for consent, but we need to get over that,” she says. “If you’re not willing to ask, don’t send it.”

*Names have been changed

Why the prime minister needs Liz Truss to keep quiet

Next week, Britain’s shortest ever serving prime minister, Liz Truss, will be giving her side of the story that led to her downfall. Doubtless, her book, Ten Years to Save the West, will stimulate renewed debate about the economic wisdom of her attempt to make a “dash for growth” via unfunded tax cuts. Of what, however, there is little doubt is that, with a general election looming, her party is struggling to escape the adverse political consequences of her brief tenure in 10 Downing Street.

Not that her party was in the best of health when, on 5 September 2022, her victory in that summer’s long leadership battle with Rishi Sunak was announced. The Conservatives were already six points behind Labour on average in the polls when Boris Johnson’s government collapsed at the beginning of July, thanks largely to the revelations about ‘Partygate’.

However, the ensuing leadership contest – and the looming energy price crisis – saw the Tories’ position weaken even further. Standing at just 31 per cent in the polls, the party was now trailing Labour by 10 ten points when Ms Truss was declared its new leader.

Ten dead in Zaporizhzhia as Putin’s forces make advances

Two people were injured in a Ukrainian drone attack on a Russian city as Vladimir Putin mocked potential peace talks to end the war.

Six drones struck Russia’s Belgorod oblast near Ukraine’s border on Friday morning, according to the region’s governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.

Russian air defence shot down four of the drones, he said. One caused a grass fire on the outskirts of Belgorod city while the other struck the administrative building.

Switzerland said it would host a peace conference in June to help chart a path toward peace in Ukraine after more than two years of fighting.

But Mr Putin claimed Moscow hadn’t been invited to join the talks while noting the Swiss recognition that a peace process can’t happen without Russia.

“They aren’t inviting us there. Moreover, they think there is nothing for us to do there, but at the same time they say that’s it’s impossible to decide anything without us. It would have been funny if it weren’t so sad,” he said.

Treatment can help if gynaecological symptoms affect your daily life

“I’d had very painful, very heavy periods for a number of years and when I was about 20 my GP said, ‘let’s get you checked out’,” says Shazia.

The 40-year-old, who lives in Hertfordshire, was sent to be tested for what her GP believed was polycystic ovary syndrome – however the scan ruled this out.

“It wasn’t until I was 25 when I went back to the GP and said ‘look, something is really not right’ that I had some more tests done, and I had a year’s worth of ‘let’s try this pill, let’s try that pill’,” she says.

Shazia was subsequently diagnosed with endometriosis and has undergone three surgical procedures to treat the condition.

“I ended up with a great female GP who was well-versed in understanding endometriosis. One of the things I loved about her was whenever I’d go in after that first surgery, she was really good at going, ‘if you are concerned, you know your body better than anyone so why don’t we investigate?’ I’m really fortunate.”

Shazia’s advice to other women in a similar position is to ask for help when you feel you need it: “Always say, ‘I know my body well, these are the things that I’m experiencing, I suspect it is endometriosis.’”

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

It can affect women of any age, including teenagers, and can have a significant impact on your life and may sometimes lead to depression.

Some women are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms.

Contact your GP practice if you have:

Karen, 56, from London, started to experience brain fog, heart palpitations and insomnia – but she wasn’t aware the symptoms pointed to early menopause.

“Menopause symptoms creep up on you and they can get muddled in with whatever’s going on in your life at the time,” she says.

“I had my second child at 38 and it was hard to untangle what was being exhausted from small kids and what was actually menopause.

“The first real symptom was insomnia, but when my daughter started sleeping it didn’t go away. Then came the mood changes, irritability and heart palpitations, which I now know are down to hormonal changes.

“At the time, I was working in a publishing company and I’d be stressed out and overwhelmed by deadlines. Because I had the Mirena coil for birth control, I wasn’t having periods so I didn’t see any change there.”

She adds: “I didn’t get hot flushes until later, so it didn’t occur to me that brain fog and poor concentration were symptoms of an early menopause. At times, I felt like it was all in my head.

“When I was 43, I was having hot flushes and that’s when I was diagnosed as post-menopausal. The GP asked if I wanted to talk about HRT, but I went off and did everything under the sun to try and manage it myself. I tried herbal supplements, homeopathic remedies and acupuncture – they all helped a little, but I still didn’t feel right.

“But when I was 50 I went back to the GP practice. I took a list of my symptoms and I’d done my research on what was available, so I had an idea of what I wanted. She was really good and I came away with [HRT just like the hormones lost during the menopause]. It felt like the missing piece.

“Now I work as a health and wellness coach helping women understand menopause and what they need to do, including good sleep, nutrition and exercise.

“If you’re feeling these symptoms, don’t despair. It might take a lot of tweaks and patience, but seeing your GP and looking after your lifestyle you can feel well again. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Period problems, gynaecological conditions and menopause symptoms are common and can significantly impact women and girls’ physical and mental health, and the ability to go about their daily life.

Don’t suffer in silence. Treatment can help if periods, menopause or gynaecological symptoms affect your daily life. Contact your GP practice or visit nhs.uk/womens-health

The NHS is having its Me Too moment – and its CEO is right to act

Most organisations, public or private, large or small, suffer from an institutional tendency to defensiveness in the face of criticism, wrongdoing and crisis.

When things go awry, the instinct is to gather the wagons round and indulge in a cycle of denial, obfuscation and deflection. Examples are plentiful; among those to have made headlines recently in relation to such behaviour are the Post Office, the British royal family, the Red Bull racing team, Thames Water, and various members of the parliamentary Conservative Party.

So it is beyond refreshing that the chief executive of the National Health Service, along with her colleagues, has taken it upon herself to launch a Me Too-style investigation into sexual harassment across that vast organisation. Rather than ignoring stories about abuse of position, or denying the existence of sexual harassment among the near 2 million staff and associated workers employed by the health service, Amanda Pritchard has pre-emptively asked her people directly about their experiences.

What is Labour’s policy around Britain’s nuclear deterrent?

Keir Starmer has parked his tanks on the Conservatives’ lawn again, this time taking a strong line on defence and the renewal of the British nuclear deterrent. Writing in the Daily Mail – which is about as core Tory as it gets – Starmer declared his “cast iron” promise to maintain the country’s nuclear force as a “generational, multi-decade commitment”, stating: “Not only is this about defending our land and our Nato allies, it’s also defending our economy.”

Starmer reinforced his offensive with a tactical visit to the Barrow shipyard, where the new Dreadnought-class submarines are being built, destined to carry Trident nuclear missiles through the 2030s. It’s the first such visit in three decades. In tone at least, it confirms the clean break with Labour’s recent stance on defence policy; and Starmer will be hoping that it will reassure those voters who are still nervous about whether Labour has really changed…

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