INDEPENDENT 2024-05-10 01:05:06


MPs warn that Brits could be blocked from entering Gibraltar because of Brexit

Brexiteers on a parliamentary committee have warned that British citzens and Nato personnel could be blocked by the EU from entering Gibraltar if “the Rock” goes ahead with settlement it had to negotiate because of the UK leaving the EU.

Following Brexit, Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo has been negotiating a deal with the EU to allow the outpost and home of a British naval base to enjoy free movement of people with the EU.

It comes after decades of problems at the border with Spain which claims Gibraltar for its own. But the border issue became a crisis for Gibraltans when the UK left the EU and in effect ended freedom of movement.

The UK has had control over Gibraltar since 1713 via the Treaty of Utrecht as part of the compensation for Britain to withdraw from the War of the Spanish Succession.

But now MPs fear that British sovereignty over the protectorate will be diluted or remain “in name only” as a result of the post-Brexit deal which Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron is understood to support.

The European Scrutiny Committee, under the chairmanship of hardline Brexiter Sir William Cash, have likened the deal to the one for Northern Ireland which has seen that part of the UK remain subject to EU laws and in the European songle market.

In a letter to foreign minister David Rutley, Sir William warned that the proposed deal as outlined by Government ministers in an evidence session on 30 April amounts to a “serious diminution of UK sovereignty”.

Among major concerns for the committee is how UK nationals and Gibraltarians will be handled if Schengen controls were introduced at Gibraltar’s airport rather than the border – a move the Committee says would render “Gibraltar’s frontier British in all but name.”

It labelled the practical implications of people being checked to enter their own territory as “seismic” with the EU due to introduce a new Entry/Exit regime in October, people returning to Gibraltar or Brits travelling there for work, could be forced to undergo biometric registration.

MPs claimed that ministers have failed to answer important questions on the impact of the introduction of Schengen checks on ordinary citizens entering their own territory.

It remains “unclear whether any time spent in Gibraltar by UK nationals would count towards the 90 days in 180 days permitted for non-EU nationals in the Schengen Area”, the letter said.

With the airport and the broader Gibraltar peninsula doubling up as a strategic UK military base, the Committee raised concerns over the powers EU border guards could theoretically have to block UK and NATO military personnel from entering the territory.

The letter demanded that any change in status of the airport “no matter how small or innocuous, must be ruled out”.

‘Eunuch maker’ ringleader who had body parts-filled freezer jailed

The ringleader of a lucrative extreme body modification website that shared footage of castrations and amputations has been jailed for life.

Marius Gustavson and his acolytes carried out male castration, penis removal and other procedures on an unprecedented scale, the Old Bailey heard on Thursday.

The actions of Gustavson, 46, and six accomplices, who have also been imprisoned, amounted to “little more than human butchery” in some cases, said the sentencing judge.

On one occasion Gustavson cooked “what appeared to be human testicles which are then plated to be eaten”, Judge Mark Lucraft KC said.

Gustavson, of Haringey, north London, admitted charges including conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm. On Thursday Judge Lucraft sentenced him to life with a minimum term of 22 years.

Gustavson’s “Eunuch maker” pay-per-view website shared footage of people undergoing “dangerous, unnecessary and life-changing surgeries” carried out in people’s homes, a court was told – including male genitals being removed.

The Old Bailey heard the extreme body modification enterprise operated on an unprecedented scale with a 22,841 registered users and raked in almost £300,000 before it was shut down.

Before he was arrested, mastermind Gustavson was involved in at least 29 procedures between 2017 and 2021, requiring hospital treatment after having his penis and leg removed in one. After another of them, the court heard Gustavson cooked severed body parts, showing “clear evidence of cannibalism”.

He appeared for the third day of a sentencing hearing on Thursday alongside six other men who had all admitted their part in the wide-ranging conspiracy.

Among them were Peter Wates, a retired former member of the Royal Society of Chemists, and Janus Atkin, who had been completing a veterinary course, the court heard.

Passing sentence at the Old Bailey, Judge Lucraft said the defendants’ behaviour brought them sexual and financial gratification, while one victim said he was left with physical, emotional and psychological damage.

Addressing Gustavson, the judge said: “You are very much the mastermind behind this grisly and gruesome enterprise. The business you set up was both busy and lucrative.” However, he stated the others were “willing participants”.

Gustavson was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 22 years; Ion Ciucur, 30, of Gretna, Scotland, was sentenced to five years and eight months imprisonment; Wates, 66, of Purley, Surrey, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment; Stefan Scharf, 61, of no fixed address, was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment; David Carruthers, 61, of Newport, Gwent, was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment; Atkin, 38, of Newport, Gwent, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment; and Ashley Williams, 32, of Newport, Gwent, was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment.

The charges relate to 13 victims, the youngest of whom was 16 years-old.

The court heard Gustavson was driven towards the extreme subculture by a desire to be “the architect of his own body” after his 11-year marriage broke down in 2016.

“His modification led him to feelings of empowerment,” Rashvinderjeet Panesar, defending Gustavson, said. “It appears at face value to be something that’s become an addiction for him.”

The lawyer said Gustavson had been diagnosed with body identity integrity disorder, which accounted for his desire to have body parts removed.

Caroline Carberry KC, prosecuting, told the Old Bailey the men were involved in a “lucrative business in the dangerous, unnecessary and life-changing surgeries carried out by non-medically qualified individuals – the nature and scale of which is without precedent”.

“All of these individuals were active in the extreme body modification or mutilation scene and the consensual or mutilation of male genitalia,” she added.

Procedures were filmed with “increasing professionalism” and made available on the website set up by Gustavson, which also advertised services including male castration, and offered varying levels of membership from “free” to £100 “VIP”.

“It is a remarkable feature of this case that the website was operating in plain sight – not on the dark web – accessible to anyone who stumbled upon it and had the inclination and means to pay to view the gruesome footage,” she said.

According to court documents, body parts were also put up for auction online with a “buy it now” button.

Images shown to the court revealed Gustavson’s freezer filled with body parts stored in plastic bags and takeaway containers.

Police officers also discovered Gustavson’s own penis in a drawer at his home following his arrest in 2021 – almost four years after it had been amputated.

“Gustavson wasn’t the only defendant to keep trophies from his surgeries,” she added.

Gustavson was arrested after he used a red hot iron to brand a man’s calf with the letters EM – for “Eunuch maker”. In a victim impact statement, the man who complained to police, described Gustavson as a “lunatic”.

Ms Carberry KC said the group used a “wide variety of tools” for their procedures including clamps used for “animal castration”.

Ms Carberry said Wates had been “in the business of purchasing body parts from Gustavson”.

During a police raid on the South Wales home of Carruthers, “testicles were found in a chest freezer”, the prosecutor said.

Ten men were arrested after police raids in London, Scotland and South Wales.

Gustavson pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit grievous bodily harm, five counts of grievous bodily harm with intent, one count of making an indecent photograph of a child, one count of distributing an indecent photograph of a child and possession of criminal property.

Ciucur, Wates, Scharf, Carruthers, Atkin and Williams all pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit grievous bodily harm.

In January, three men were sentenced after admitting causing grievous bodily harm to Gustavson.

Damien Byrnes, 36, from north London, was jailed for five years; Jacob Crimi-Appleby, 23, from Epsom in Surrey, was jailed for three years and eight months; and Nathan Arnold, 48, from South Kensington, London, received a two-year suspended sentence.

Kate Mulholland, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The severity of today’s sentence should act as a warning to others that performing extreme body modifications is against the law and the CPS won’t hesitate to prosecute these horrendous crimes.”

Georgia Harrison: How I got OnlyFans to take down revenge porn videos

Revenge porn spreads like a house fire. What exactly do I mean by this? Well, my name is Georgia Harrison – and if you aren’t already aware of my story, I was a victim of revenge porn back in 2020. I went on to successfully convict my ex-partner for committing this awful crime in a case that went down in history and is now used as an example in law schools across the country.

On Wednesday, I was asked to attend a select committee chaired by the fabulous Caroline Nokes MP at Westminster to discuss what changes need to occur to help safeguard future victims and prevent this crime from having such a devastating effect on their lives.

During the evidence session, I was asked about my personal experience and how the big tech platforms who were hosting this sexually explicit video of me (which I neither consented to the filming nor distribution of) reacted during the time I was desperately trying to get it removed – regardless of the fact that it had already racked up millions of views across various sites.

Starmer vows end of ‘talk tough, do nothing’ approach to small boats

Labour will divert millions of pounds earmarked for Rwanda deportation flights to set up a new body to tackle criminal smuggling gangs, Sir Keir Starmer will announce today.

In a keynote speech laying out the party’s plans to end the Conservatives’ “talk tough, do nothing” approach to Channel crossings, the Labour leader will promise new powers to clamp down on smugglers and hundreds of specialist investigators.

And in a warning to those behind small boat crossings, Sir Keir will say: “These shores will become hostile territory for you.”

Despite Rishi Sunak repeatedly promising to “stop the boats”, arrivals across the Channel this year are at a record high. The prime minister’s flagship Rwanda scheme is set to deport the first migrants to Kigali this summer, but has shown no sign of deterring migrants since passing into law.

Now, Labour is planning to divert some of the £75m allocated to the scheme to fund a new Border Security Command, which it says will be modelled on the office for security and counterterrorism.

The party will also install a new so-called border security commander to work across intelligence agencies to protect the UK’s border.

And Labour will hire hundreds of intelligence agents and cross-border police officers to support the Border Security Command and tackle smuggling gangs.

At a speech on the Kent coast, days after the defection of Dover MP Natalie Elphicke, Sir Keir will reiterate Labour’s commitment to scrap the beleaguered Rwanda scheme.

The Labour leader will say: “Rebuilding our asylum system has become a test of political strength, a trial of leadership to resist the voices who fundamentally do not want to rebuild a functioning asylum system.

“It’s become a question of whether you can prioritise, at all times, the politics of practical solutions, and reject the politics of performative symbols – the gimmicks and gestures.”

Sir Keir will attack the “rank incompetence” of the Conservatives on immigration, accusing Mr Sunak of creating a permanent backlog of asylum seekers by refusing to process their claims.

“Even if they have absolutely no right to be here they cannot be removed, billing the taxpayer for expensive hotel accommodation … the government has achieved the complete opposite of what they claim,” he will say.

Sir Keir will add: “A Travelodge amnesty, handed out by the Tory party that, if nothing else, is warmer and safer than spending winter under canvas near a beach in northern France. If you don’t think that’s what the gangs are telling the people they exploit – you don’t know them.”

Among the measures set to be proposed by Sir Keir are new border control stop and searches, building on powers created in 2000 by the Terrorism Act, along with new financial investigation powers and search and seizure warrants targeting organised immigration crime.

Meanwhile the new Border Security Command would bring together agencies including the National Crime Agency, Immigration Enforcement and MI5.

Some 8,826 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel so far this year, provisional Home Office figures show.

This is up 32 per cent on this time last year, when 6,691 migrants were recorded, and a 14 per cent rise compared with the same period in 2022 (7,750).

Campaigners warned that the current asylum system is in “meltdown” and is “only going to get worse” unless urgent changes are made.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said “whoever is in government” must focus on ensuring fairness in the system above anything else, adding: “The Illegal Migration Act must be scrapped immediately, along with plans to ship people off on a one-way ticket to Rwanda.

“Instead of wasting time on legislation that bans the right to asylum and dehumanises people who simply need safety, there must be a fair, efficient and humane asylum system.”

And Refugee Action chief executive Tom Naor Hilton said: “Whoever makes up the next government, they must end this hostile environment and build a refugee protection system that respects people’s right to claim asylum, creates safe routes to reach the UK, and tackles the racism that lies at the heart of immigration policy.”

Home secretary James Cleverly said: “Rather than starting the flights and stopping the boats, Sir Keir Starmer’s big new idea is an amnesty for all illegal immigrants, scrapping our Rwanda plan even if it’s working.

“Nobody believes Keir Starmer wants to control our borders when he previously said immigration controls are ‘racist’ and blocked the deportation of violent sexual offenders. Actions speak louder than words, Keir Starmer will never be on the side of the British people.”

Mum stormed school reception ‘after son spent night with teacher’

A “distraught” mother stormed into a school reception after being told her teenage son had spent the night with his teacher, a court heard.

The 15-year-old, identified only as Boy A, had lied to his mother that he was staying at his friend’s house, but instead was at the apartment of school teacher Rebecca Joynes where they twice had sex, jurors were told.

Joynes, 30, at the time a high school teacher, is on trial at Manchester Crown Court accused of six counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child, including two while being a person in a position of trust, all relating to two teenage boys. Neither boy must be identified.

Boy A told jurors he and the teacher exchanged messages on Snapchat and she picked him up after school on a Friday night.

His mother, in a statement read to the court, said on the day in question, her son came home from school, changed out of his uniform and packed an overnight bag.

He told her he was staying at his best friend’s house as he had done before.

After her son left, later that night, she spoke to him and he told her he was playing Fifa with his friend at his house.

Boy A later told police he had arranged to meet Joynes who took him back to her flat at Salford Quays, where they twice had sex, the teacher warning him, “No one had better find out.”

The next day Boy A went shopping with his mother at the Trafford Centre when she noticed a mark on her son’s neck, which she said, “looked like a love bite”.

“I said, ‘What’s that mark on your neck?’” his mother said.

“He said, ‘Oh nothing, I don’t know.’

But the following Monday morning she got a call from the school saying an “allegation” had been made.

At the school a police officer told her they had received an anonymous report from Childline concerning an allegation involving a teacher and her son.

Her son was also called out of class but told his mother, “It was just a stupid conversation in group chats that got out of hand,” and he told police called to the school it was just, “friends having banter”.

His mother replied: “You could have cost this girl her career now!”

She left the school with her son, who was advised by police to stay off social media as rumours were swirling.

But back home she got a call from the mother of the boy her son had supposedly been staying at, the night he was allegedly with Joynes.

“I think I owe you an apology,” she was told, before confessing Boy A had not been staying with her son at her house – and that she had picked him up from an address in Salford the day after.

Boy A’s mother said, “Where did he stay then? It wasn’t at the teacher’s was it?”

She was then told, “Yeah, it was”.

Boy A’s mother’s statement continued, “I was upset and crying at this point. Crying my eyes out.”

She then went back to the school.

DC James Partington of Greater Manchester Police said in his statement, he was still at the school as Boy A’s mother returned.

“She entered the school in tears,” he said. “She stormed into reception and I would describe her as in a panic and distraught.”

Boy A’s mother described her son as “clever” and doing well at school.

A short time before the alleged offence, he had come and said to her, “My teacher is well fit Mum. Everyone says she’s well fit.’

“I just laughed it off,” his mother said in her statement. “I thought it was typical teenage boys’ comment.”

Joynes was suspended from school as police investigated and she was bailed on condition she have no unsupervised contact with anyone under 18.

But it later emerged that Joynes had been in a long-term sexual relationship with another teenage boy she had been in contact with while suspended.

The youngster is the father of Joynes’s young daughter.

The defendant claims sexual activity with Boy B did not start until he turned 16.

Joynes denies two counts of sexual activity with Boy A, two counts of sexual activity with Boy B and two counts of sexual activity with Boy B while being a person in a position of trust.

Off the beaten track in Costa Dorada

Blessed with swathes of golden sandy beaches between sea and mountains, Costa Dorada has an abundance of landscape to explore.

Jet2holidays makes it even easier to land your perfect active trip to Costa Dorada. Flying from 10 UK airports in 2024 and 11 in 2025, they provide package holidays you can trust and look after you every step of the way, with hotel, flights, free return transfers, 22kg baggage and 10kg hand luggage included – giving plenty of space to pack in the hiking boots and water shoes.

Here, we round up some of the best ways to immerse yourself in the region’s grand nature.

With roads being smooth and often car-free, Costa Dorada is an ideal destination for biking. There’s the Serra del Montsant mountain range for pushing those uphill challenges or coastal paths for smooth-sailing along the rugged cliff edges and golden sand beaches. The route from Falset can take in the lush wineries and rolling vineyards the area is known for. Start from this mountainous village and follow the road to the village of Margalef near the mountain edge before heading back to Falset. Or to take in the sea and mountains, start in the coastal resort of Salou before winding up the steep hairpin bends of La Mussara mountain. Make your way back to the sea at the coastal resort of Cambrils – known as the gastronomic hub of this region – for some well-deserved tapas.

There’s an abundance of coastal paths that navigate around the more secluded parts of the shores here. Camino de Ronda in Salou stretches for 6.5 km, curving in a U-shape along rocky coast and over golden sand beaches. The route can be stretched out to around 9km to cover the coastal path of Salou by starting in Vila-seca, La Pineda. The route runs between sea and mountains, with 23 viewpoints dotted along the way. It passes by plenty of places to stop for a spot of lunch with views over the Mediterranean Sea, too. If you want active pit stops along your walk, there are places along the route that offer up water sports.

Take a day trip out to the coastal city of Tarragona to explore its Roman ruins. The city was once a popular destination for Roman emperors, with the Amphitheatre dating back almost 2,000 years. There are other ruins along the coast to explore, with Roman, Spanish, Arabic and Moorish history weaved into the architecture. While in the port city, check out the Roman tombs and walled Medieval Old Town, before strolling along the harbour with its small fishing boats and pastel-hued houses.

Costa Dorada has an impressive total of 26 Blue Flag beaches, recognised for their calm, safe waters, cleanliness and environmental management. They’re particularly family-friendly, with resorts Salou, Cambrils and La Pineda being ‘Certified Family Destinations’ with dedicated facilities for families during the summer. Yet there are still many beaches that remain quiet and more secluded. Playa de la Pineda Platja is the main beach in the coastal resort of Vila-seca, La Pineda, yet remains fairly quiet. It also benefits from being close to Aquopolis Water Park with its giant slides and pools. While not being Blue Flag-accredited, Playa Llarga in Salou is outside of the city centre (but close enough to attractions like PortAventura amusement park), surrounded by a small pine forest that immerses you in nature.

The towering peaks of Montserrat National Park are one of the greatest symbols of Catalonia. The mountainous landscape is peppered with grottos and caves, while birds of prey soar above in the sky. While offering untouched nature, it overlooks one of the best wine regions in the area, with vineyards and wine cellars to visit. Head here for a full day hike or visit one of the four mountain villages in the area for a gentle walk. Elsewhere closer to ground level, Parc Sama Botanical Gardens in the coastal resort of Cambrils has an abundance of forest and foliage, with 1,500 species of flora and fauna. There’s also a lake with a canal and waterfall to stroll around.

Why has Nadhim Zahawi decided to stand down?

For a fairly brief time in 2022, Nadhim Zahawi, who has announced he will stand down from parliament at the next election, was in with a bit of a shout to be prime minister. He enjoyed an excellent “back story” as a Kurdish-born child refugee from Iraq; he had become wealthy through business; he had proved a successful minister, and had overseen the highly successful rollout of the world-beating Covid vaccine; and, in the chaos of Boris Johnson’s final days in office, he was appointed chancellor of the Exchequer in succession to Rishi Sunak, who had quit in protest at Johnson’s misdemeanours and careless style of government.

After that, he served in Liz Truss’s government before becoming party chair under Sunak. Renewed interest in his personal financial circumstances forced an independent inquiry, and subsequently his departure from frontline politics in January 2023. Zahawi’s undoing was a direct result of The Independent’s reporting of his tax affairs in July 2022, which was shortly followed by his withdrawal from the leadership contest. His remains an instructive political fable…

Starmer was right to bring Natalie Elphicke on board, despite the risk

Unlike a jacket from Marks & Spencer, say, it’s not possible to “return” a defecting MP to the party whence they came. Even if Sir Keir Starmer were inclined to do so, it is by no means clear that Natalie Elphicke would be welcomed back with open arms by Rishi Sunak. Certain things cannot now be unsaid by either side. For better or worse, the improbable convert has taken the Labour whip, and that is pretty much that.

This fundamental fact about Ms Elphicke frames the current controversies about her within Labour circles. However distasteful her new comrades may find her, they can’t do anything about the situation. Ms Elphicke is too important as a totem of Tory division for the Labour leadership to have told her to get lost; and the style of her “crossing the floor” at Prime Minister’s Questions maximised the embarrassment to the prime minister, and the dismay of her former colleagues.

With the previous defection of Dan Poulter, these two new parliamentary recruits bookended a stunning weekend of success for Labour in the local elections. If, as is sometimes surmised, the price of adding to the Tories’ humiliation was to give Ms Elphicke a peerage and a job in some housing quango, then that, for Sir Keir, is a price well worth paying.