The Telegraph 2024-04-17 16:00:45


Live Rwanda amendments rejected by MPs with Bill set to return to Lords

MPs have voted to remove all of the amendments made by peers to the Rwanda Bill as the parliamentary battle over Rishi Sunak’s flagship plan continues.

The Bill will now return to the House of Lords later today for further scrutiny.

If peers dig in and back fresh changes to the legislation then a fourth round of “ping-pong” will be triggered, further delaying the Bill from finally becoming law.

But if the upper chamber gives in, then the Bill will finally have cleared all of its parliamentary stages and will become law. 

Ministers have insisted they still believe the first migrant deportation flights can take off this spring despite the protracted battle.

You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section here

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Hugh Grant settles phone hacking claim ‘for enormous sum’

Hugh Grant has settled his claim against News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun, over allegations of unlawful information gathering, admitting that he could not risk being saddled with an estimated £10 million in legal costs.

The actor, along with the Duke of Sussex and more than 40 others, had sued NGN over alleged unlawful information gathering and invasion of privacy. A trial is scheduled for January 2025.

Mr Grant, 63, claimed that he was targeted by journalists and private investigators working for The Sun, “including burglaries to order, the breaking and entering of private property in order to obtain private information through bugging, landline tapping, phone hacking”.

However, he said on Wednesday that he had been forced to settle his claim because the rules of civil litigation meant that if he was awarded damages “even a penny less” than the settlement offer, he would be liable for the legal costs of both sides.

‘I don’t want to accept this money’

“As is common with entirely innocent people, they are offering me an enormous sum of money to keep this matter out of court,” he wrote in a lengthy explanation of his actions on Twitter/X.

“I don’t want to accept this money or settle. I would love to see all the allegations that they deny tested in court …  Rupert Murdoch’s lawyers are very expensive. So even if every allegation is proven in court, I would still be liable for something approaching £10 million in costs. I’m afraid I am shying at that fence.”

The Love Actually and Notting Hill star has been the public face of the Hacked Off campaign against the tabloid newspaper industry since it launched at the height of the phone hacking scandal in 2011.

In 2012, he became director of a not-for-profit company set up by the campaign for press reform and also played a leading role at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

Mr Grant had alleged that there was a break-in at his London flat, where the front door was forced off its hinges, and that a story appeared shortly afterwards in The Sun that “detailed the interior”.

He said he had been given information by a private investigator in early 2022 that prompted him to launch his claim.

But last May, the actor suffered a significant setback when he was denied the chance to take his phone hacking claims to trial.

Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that he could have brought that element of his claim sooner, having had knowledge of it.

Murdoch ‘has spent £1bn’

In his statement, Mr Grant claimed that Mr Murdoch had spent over £1billion in damages to claimants and in lawyers’ fees, alleging that the media mogul appeared “remarkably determined that there shouldn’t be a trial of the facts”.

Despite accepting the settlement, he said the money “has a stink”, adding that he refused to let it be “hush money”.

As such, he said he would donate it to groups such as Hacked Off “to expose the worst excesses of our oligarch-owned press”.

By contrast, the Duke is not only pursuing his own claim but asked the judge in March if he could extend the parameters by incorporating allegations dating from 1994 until 2016, rather than the current 1996 until 2011.

On Wednesday, NGN applied for a separate trial to take place ahead of the full trial to determine whether the outstanding claims were brought too late.

Anthony Hudson KC, for the publisher, noted that the original arrests and charges brought against phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire and the News of the World’s royal editor Clive Goodman in 2006 were “high profile” and covered by “extensive reporting.”

But he said Prince Harry had not issued proceedings until 2019, 23 years after the earliest wrong alleged in his current claim ,and eight years after the most recent alleged wrong.

“Accordingly, the primary limitation period of six years has expired, by a significant margin,” he said.

The barrister told the court that by addressing the issue ahead of time, it might obviate the need for a full trial, or limit the scope of such a trial, “saving substantial costs and court time”.

He noted that the litigation had already taken up a huge amount of court time, at “vast” cost, with three trial judges and 13 trial dates listed and vacated, amounting to 61 weeks of court time.

“The costs have also been vast,” he said. “Well over £30 million in common costs just up until September 2020.”

A spokesman for News Group Newspapers said: “In 2011, an unreserved apology was made by NGN to victims of voicemail interception by the News Of The World. Since then, NGN has been paying financial damages to those with proper claims.

“As we reach the tail end of litigation, NGN is drawing a line under disputed matters, some of which date back more than 20 years ago. In some cases, it has made commercial sense for both parties to come to a settlement agreement before trial to bring a resolution to the matter.

“There are a number of disputed claims still going through the civil courts, some of which seek to involve The Sun. The Sun does not accept liability or make any admissions to the allegations.

“A judge recently ruled that parts of Mr Grant’s claim were out of time and we have reached agreement to settle the remainder of the case. This has been done without admission of liability. It is in both parties’ financial interests not to progress to a costly trial.”

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18 wounded in Hezbollah drone attack on Israel

At least 18 people were wounded when a drone fired by Hezbollah slammed into a building in Northern Israel on Wednesday.

One of the victims was wounded critically and two others were in a serious condition after the strike on the border village of Arab al-Aramshe, the Galilee Medical Centre in Nahariya said.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had used drones and missiles to target a building being used by the Israeli military.

Footage showed a drone hitting a building, causing a large explosion.

The IDF said it was investigating why air attack warning sirens did not sound before the strike.

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Post Office inspector ‘asked sub-postmistress’s son if he loved his mother’

A former Post Office inspector “asked a sub-postmistress’s son if he loved” his mother, the inquiry has heard.

Jennifer O’Dell, who ran a Post Office in Great Staughton, Cambridgeshire, was suspended from her role in 2010 after being blamed for a £9,617 shortfall in her accounts which was actually caused by defects in Horizon.

Jon Longman, the lead investigator in her case, was questioned on the investigation and others he was involved in today.

Sam Stein KC, who represents Mrs O’Dell,  asked Mr Longman: “Did you once pull aside her son Daniel, aged 20, and ask him whether [he] loved his mother and basically suggested to him the question of whether his mother might have been nicking money from the Post Office? Do you remember doing that?”

Mr Longman said: “I remember receiving a letter from her son and we interviewed him, not under caution.”

He added: “I can’t remember what was said but if it was said it wasn’t in that context.”

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British woman bitten by deadly snake at Cyprus yoga retreat

A British tourist has described the intense “burning” pain she experienced after being bitten by a large venomous snake while practising yoga on holiday in Cyprus.

Sam West had travelled to a resort near Paphos, in western Cyprus, to celebrate her 40th birthday.

She was just about to step on to a meditation platform at the Atlantica Aphrodite Hills Hotel on April 3 when she was bitten by the 5ft-long snake, believed to be a blunt-nosed viper.

“Quickly, before I had time to react, it bit me just above my left ankle,” said Ms West, 40, from Shifnal in Shropshire, who was on holiday with her wife, Kate.

“I started to shake the snake off as I shouted that I had just been bitten. My leg was burning and throbbing, the pain was instantaneous,” she told the BBC.

Ms West, who runs a hairdressing salon in Telford, was taken to hospital where doctors administered anti-venom.

She spent the next four days in intensive care and another day in a regular ward before being discharged.

She is now relying on a wheelchair to get around and has had to pay €310 (£260) a night for a hotel room with disabled access. She is hoping that her insurance company will cover the costs of the hotel and also fly her back to Britain.

Ms West said that the hotel had trimmed back some vegetation around the meditation platform and that yoga activities had been moved to a dance studio.

Her travel company, TUI, said it was liaising “directly with the guest to provide our full support”.

Blunt-nosed vipers, Macrovipera lebetinus, are found not just in Cyprus but across North Africa and the Middle East.

In advice to British military personnel serving on the UK’s two sovereign bases on Cyprus, the Ministry of Defence says: “This strong snake can grow up to two metres long.

“It has small cat-like eyes and fangs at the front of the mouth. The viper’s venom can be toxic to humans and the victim should receive immediate first-aid and medical assistance.”

A local travel website describes the blunt-nosed viper as “the bad boy of the island’s snakes … the only potentially lethal snake in Cyprus”. It notes, however, that fatalities are extremely rare.

An average of about 40 people are hospitalised after being bitten by venomous snakes on Cyprus each year, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology.

Between 2000 and 2018, there were just two deaths from snake bites, a man aged 73 and a woman aged 77.

More than 90 per cent of cases came during the warm months of April to October, with a spike in September.

“Snake bite-related deaths are very rare in the Republic of Cyprus,” the study said. “Short hospital stays indicate mostly non-severe clinical courses.”

The risk of being bitten by a venomous snake was highest around Paphos, the holiday resort in the west of the island that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists, including many Britons.

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Policeman stabbed in London street

A police officer was stabbed in the shoulder after a man was seen armed with a knife in a residential street in north London.

His colleagues used a tourniquet as they gave him first aid and he was taken to hospital by ambulance. He is in a stable condition, the Metropolitan Police said.

A 30-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after the attack in Mandeville Road, Enfield, on Tuesday afternoon.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes said: “This officer has shown immense bravery apprehending a suspect, armed with a knife.

“Visiting him in hospital after he was injured, I was struck by his courage and humility. 

“He didn’t want to talk about his own actions but to praise the professionalism of the police medic and other colleagues who provided him with vital first aid, and arrested the suspect.”

‘Dangerous individual’

Asst Commissioner Jukes said the injured officer was “in good spirits”.

He added: “[He] spoke with pride about the work his team do, protecting Londoners. And yesterday, he did just that – stepped forward to put himself between the public and a clearly dangerous individual.

“In doing so, he showed the best of the Met and reminded us of the daily challenges officers face while doing their duty to protect the public. 

“The officer and the Met would also like to thank colleagues in the NHS for their care.

“The local community can be reassured that the incident was dealt with swiftly and that a thorough investigation is now under way.”

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Private prosecution to be launched over Yvonne Fletcher’s murder

The police officer who cradled Yvonne Fletcher as she lay dying is launching a private prosecution for conspiracy to murder against the Libyan official who plotted her shooting.

John Murray says that he is determined to keep the promise he made to his friend and partner to bring her killers to justice.

The retired policeman has instructed private prosecution experts and is using today’s 40th anniversary of WPc Fletcher’s murder to launch a campaign to fund a case against Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk, a former close aide of the deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The move comes after the High Court in 2021 found Mabrouk to be “jointly liable” for WPc Fletcher’s death along with those who carried out the shooting from the Libyan Embassy in St James’s Square.

The ruling was the first time in 37 years that anybody had been found culpable for her murder.

WPc Fletcher was shot and killed by a bullet fired from the embassy as she policed an anti-Gaddafi demonstration in April 1984.

Mabrouk was arrested in 2015, but the criminal case against him was dropped in 2017 after the Metropolitan Police was prevented from using key evidence on grounds of national security.

He is now understood to be living freely in Libya after being barred from the UK in 2019, and a private prosecution would involve Mr Murray seeking a request for his extradition.

Mr Murray told The Telegraph: “The terrorist murder of Yvonne Fletcher 40 years ago, on April 17 1984, was one of the worst atrocities executed by Gaddafi. To this very day, the quest for justice for Yvonne continues, and although we have had historic victories in both the High Court and Appeal Court, the man who allegedly orchestrated Yvonne’s murder continues to live freely.”

Urging the British public to back his private prosecution, Mr Murray added: “If the Crown Prosecution Service cannot or will not proceed with criminal charges, the only option available is to embark on our own legal action in the criminal courts. In order to achieve this, I ask for your support.”

He added: “I promised Yvonne that I would get justice for her and I hope the end is in sight. It means the world to me to get to the point where we are going to issue criminal proceedings against Mabrouk.”

Mr Murray, who was today taking part in commemorative events being held in St James’s Square on Wednesday to mark the murder of WPC Fletcher, has instructed private prosecution experts Edmonds Marshall McMahon, along with Barnaby Jameson KC and solicitors McCue Jury & Partners to pursue the case against Mabrouk.

Mr Murray told hundreds of former police officers and friends of WPc Fletcher who gathered outside the former Libyan Embassy of his pledge to her as she lay dying at that spot 40 years ago to the hour.

“I held her head and I had her blood on my shirt and I promised her I would get justice for her,” he said. “I’m still fighting to get justice for Yvonne and for the Libyans who were shot that day.”

To loud applause, Mr Murray added: “What I don’t understand is why our Government has lost interest in the death of our colleague and friend. Well, I can assure our Government that I will never lose interest in our colleague and our friend.

“I will see Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk in a criminal court. I will see him convicted of his crimes.

“Let’s wash this dirty stain from the British justice system.”

Following a wreath-laying service and the sounding of the last post and reveille, a dove was released and those attending made their way to Whitehall and past Downing Street, many holding photographs of the murdered police officer.

WPc Fletcher’s case is thought to be the only murder of an on-duty police officer in British history that the state has failed to prosecute.

Matthew Jury on behalf of McCue Jury & Partners, and Andrew Marshall on behalf of Edmonds Marshall McMahon said: “It is a stain on the nation’s conscience that WPc Yvonne Fletcher’s alleged killer, Mabrouk, continues to live freely in Libya. This private prosecution should mean that Mabrouk will face a criminal trial and Yvonne will finally get the justice our country owes her.”

Mr. Murray is crowdfunding the private criminal prosecution.

WPc Fletcher was shot in the back by a bullet from an automatic weapon fired at 10.20am by a gunman from the first-floor window of the Libyan Embassy towards the anti-Gaddafi demonstrators.

Despite the danger to himself, Mr Murray rushed to help the stricken officer and was later present at her post mortem.

The High Court trial in 2021 was told that Mabrouk was “one of only three people who were able to organise and direct the shooting” after members of Gaddafi’s Libyan Revolutionary Committee took control of the embassy.

Mr Murray’s lawyers said that the “orchestration” of the shooting “was entirely consistent” with Mabrouk’s “official functions … under the Gaddafi regime”.

Mr Justice Martin Spencer ordered Mabrouk pay the costs of the case of several hundred thousand pounds, following the three-day trial.

Before losing the landmark legal case, Mabrouk had transferred ownership of his house in Reading, Berks, to his wife, Kamila Otman.

Mabrouk was not represented at his High Court trial and did not stage any defence, but writing to Mr Murray’s lawyers in September 2020, he denied ordering WPc Fletcher’s shooting, stating that he “cannot be held liable for something I didn’t do”.

He added: “Nor did I instruct anyone to kill her, nor did I encourage anyone to kill her.”

Scotland Yard said on Wednesday: “The investigation into Yvonne’s murder will never be closed, but we believe the likelihood of finding further evidence, in Libya or elsewhere, remains low. There are currently no active lines of enquiry.

“Of course, should any relevant new information come to light, it will be assessed and investigated further as appropriate.”

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