The Telegraph 2024-05-13 10:00:35

Three men charged with ‘spying for Hong Kong’

Three suspected spies for Hong Kong have been charged under the National Security Act.

The three men – Chi Leung Wai, 38, of Staines-upon-Thames, Matthew Trickett, 37, of Maidenhead, Chung Biu Yuen, 63, of Hackney – have each been charged with assisting Hong Kong’s foreign intelligence service and with foreign interference, following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.

Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “This operation is not connected to a recently reported Counter Terrorism Policing investigation linked to Russia.

“A number of arrests were made and searches carried out across England as part of this investigation. While led from London, the Counter Terrorism Policing network has been crucial to disrupting this activity and we have worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service since the start of the investigation.

“While these offences are concerning, I want to reassure the public that we do not believe there to be any wider threat to them. This investigation remains ongoing, but now that charges have been brought, I urge people not to speculate or comment further in relation to this case.”

Eleven detained

All three will appear in custody at Westminster magistrates’ court on Monday morning.

As part of the investigation, a total of 11 people were detained under section 27 of the National Security Act 2023.

Eight men were arrested by counter-terrorism police on May 1 in the Yorkshire area.

The following day, a man was arrested in London and another man was arrested in the Yorkshire area. They were held at a central London police station and at a West Midlands police station.

Warrants of further detention were sought and obtained in respect of the ten men.

The seven men and one woman who were not charged were released from custody on or before May 10.

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Lib Dems ‘broke equality laws’ over deselection of Christian candidate

The Liberal Democrats have been accused of deselecting a candidate based on his Christian faith in a breach of equality law.

Members have reported the party to the equalities watchdog over accusations that the party has tolerated a “hostile environment” for people of faith, failed to investigate serious allegations of discrimination and harassment and “emboldened those who believe Christians should be driven out of public life”.

The complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) concerns the treatment of David Campanale, an Anglican and award-winning former BBC journalist, who is set to be replaced as a prospective MP candidate for Sutton and Cheam after a two-year campaign against him by members of his local party and a number of LGBT activists.

The campaign alleged he had been involved with the Christian People’s Alliance (CPA) political party, which has campaigned against abortion and gay marriage, and that he had not sufficiently disclosed his faith during the selection process, a charge he denies.

Mr Campanale, who left the CPA in 2012 and says he did not agree with its tone or priorities, believes the attacks against him are part of an ongoing attempt to secularise the Lib Dems.

Party members supporting him are now calling on the EHRC to launch an independent investigation into “multiple alleged breaches of equality law and our party constitution”.

The letter to the EHRC, shared with The Telegraph, said: “This evidence depicts a supposedly liberal organisation allowing clear religious discrimination and hostility to thrive within its ranks.

“It suggests that Mr Campanale was driven out from his democratically elected position not because of any objective failings or wrongdoing but because a vocal group within SBLD [Sutton Borough Liberal Democrats] refused to tolerate his Christian worldview.”

It added: “Although Mr Campanale has submitted evidence of religious discrimination, harassment and victimisation perpetrated against him to party authorities at all levels over a two-year period, no appropriate action has been taken. We believe that only an external investigation by the EHRC can now secure justice.”

The complaint is currently under consideration by the watchdog, which has said that it looks at “each complaint carefully and [takes] action where appropriate”.

Hustings are being held in Sutton and Cheam to replace Mr Campanale on Tuesday despite an ongoing appeal against his deselection.

The row is set to overshadow the Lib Dems’ attempt to win the seat, seen as a target at the upcoming general election.

Paul Scully, the Conservative incumbent, is stepping down at the next election as the Lib Dems try to make significant inroads in the so-called “Blue Wall” of Tory-held constituencies in the south of England.

It hopes to beat the SNP to regain its status as the third-largest party in Westminster after almost a decade, having lost scores of MPs in the aftermath coalition between the party and the Conservatives.

But members of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum (LDCF), whose patrons include former leader Tim Farron, have written to senior party figures warning that the treatment of Mr Campanale could damage the prospects of hopeful MPs across the country.

Mr Campanale has won support from a number of senior party figures, including Sir Simon Hughes, the former justice minister, who has warned that he was deselected in a “kangaroo court”.

Lord Marks KC, the Lib Dems’ justice spokesman in the House of Lords, has concluded that the former BBC World Service reporter was “deselected on the basis of a procedure that was seriously non-compliant with the Rules and fundamentally flawed”.

David Campanale, the Lib Dem candidate ‘punished’ for his faith

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Mr Campanale rejoined the party in 2019, having first campaigned for them as a student, and became its candidate in Spelthorne against Kwasi Kwarteng, running a campaign, which trebled the Lib Dem vote at the election.

He was selected to stand in the south London seat of Sutton and Cheam in late 2021 but weeks later there were murmurs of discontent and he was blocked from campaigning and targeted “because of his Christian faith and conscience and to undermine his position”, the EHRC has been told.

Mr Campanale was not invited to the launch of the election campaign and not allowed to appear on any literature, it is alleged.

As part of the campaign against him, he faced “hostile questioning about his Christian beliefs and demands that he resign”, according to the evidence submitted to the equality watchdog.

Several other sitting MPs, including current leader Sir Ed Davey, are practising Christians – and a Lib Dem spokesman said the party was “home to people of all faiths and none”.

But The Telegraph can reveal that Mr Campanale, 60, has faced repeated “hostile” and “degrading” questioning over his faith over the two-year period, with votes on his position that are allegedly in breach of party rules.

The Telegraph understands that in one meeting he was asked if he felt he was being persecuted “like Jesus”, while at another a local party official allegedly told him: “We had no idea we were selecting another Tim Farron.”

In one of a number of appeals against the deselection seen by The Telegraph, Nasser Butt, the founder and chairman of Lib Dem Muslim Forum, revealed that he was contacted by a party activist in early 2022 who informed him there was “considerable opposition from Party’s Youth groups in London Region lead by some LGBT youth”.

He was told that Mr Campanale’s “past activities and beliefs with the CPA was questionable and made him unsuitable”.

Mr Butt refused to join the campaign, noting: “I don’t believe that a person’s faith should be a deciding point to join Liberal Democrats or that a party member with faith or no faith should be targeted in a discriminatory way.”

“Attempts were made to make David resign without going public or to membership,” he told party leaders. “David proved his strength by standing up to such bullying tactic.”

After Mr Campanale refused to stand down, an extraordinary general meeting was called in November of that year, which those present have described as “an extraordinary verbal attack” which was “personal and vitriolic”.

Juliet Chaplin of Sutton Borough Liberal Democrats’ Cheam branch, an executive member and one of the signatories to the complaint to the EHRC, said that it became “clear that objections to David’s position… are based entirely on his Christian faith”.

Despite him winning the selection in a poll of all members in the constituency, only the 64 members who attended the EGM in person and 29 who attended via Zoom were allowed to vote on his deselection, which was confirmed.

Mr Butt, who attended online but did not vote as he could not hear properly, warned in his appeal that the meeting broke a number of party rules and there was “no clear evidence or reasons” for the vote of no confidence.

‘No evidence of concerns about Campanale’s performance’

His comments were echoed by Sir Simon, who said that he had seen no evidence of concerns about Mr Campanale’s performance, which party rules state must be the reason to begin the deselection process.

Lord Marks, acting for Mr Campanale at his appeal, added that the local party failed to follow processes stipulating that they must try to work with the candidate and that the executive which voted against him was not properly elected.

The KC warned that the treatment of Mr Campanale was in breach of the principles of the party, which state that they “reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race… religion or belief”.

Mr Campanale was told in March that an appeal against his deselection had been rejected.

He is now appealing to the panel that rules on internal disputes in the party.

As a result of the party shortlisting new candidates for the seat ahead of Tuesday’s hustings, the LDCF, of which Mr Campanale is one of over 400 members, wrote to Mark Pack, federal president, warning that they are “deeply disturbed by this saga”.

They called on the party to pause the selection of a new candidate until the conclusion of the appeal, saying that unless they do so it could “have a detrimental effect on all candidates across the country”.

The LDCF suggests that the party would take a “zero tolerance” approach if another candidate was opposed based on a protected characteristic, but says Mr Campanale has been “serially ignored”.

“Either we liberals believe in equality and freedom of conscience and practise those beliefs or else we are not liberals,” the group wrote as they called for an independent inquiry into the deselection.

‘Lib Dems home to people of all faiths and none’

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said: “This decision is currently undergoing an appeal so it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage.

“The Liberal Democrats are home to people of all faiths and none, including many Christians.

“Three Liberal Democrat MPs in neighbouring seats to Sutton and Cheam are practising Christians, including party leader Ed Davey, and the party’s candidate selection process is overseen by the Reverend Margaret Jane Joachim.”

A spokesman for the equalities watchdog said: “The EHRC receives complaints each week about allegations of unlawful activity contrary to the Equality Act 2010. We consider each complaint carefully and take action where appropriate.”

The EHRC previously found that the Labour Party had broken equality law in its handling of anti-Semitism under Jeremy Corbyn, identifying “serious failings” in the leadership.

In 2019 the watchdog ruled that the party had breached the Equality Act 2010 in relation to “political interference” in complaints of anti-Semitism, a “failure to provide adequate training” to those handling such complaints, and “harassment”.

The report demanded that the party draft an action plan on how it would implement the array of recommendations from the EHRC, which would become legally enforceable by the courts if not fulfilled.

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GPs bring back masks as whooping cough cases rise

The whooping cough outbreak has prompted GPs to bring back masks in their surgeries.

At least five babies have died this year in England and Wales from the infection, dubbed the “100-day cough”, and officials are concerned about its spread, with almost 3,000 confirmed cases so far.

Some general practices are now asking patients to wear a face covering when attending an appointment or while travelling to the surgery in a return to Covid-style measures.

And at least one surgery has advised its patients to wait outside before being called to appointments.

Parkside Family Practice in Reading, Berkshire, has told all patients they must wear a mask again.

“For infection control purposes, please do wear a face mask when coming to our surgery,” a statement on its website said.

The Parkview Surgery in Uxbridge, Middlesex, told patients: “If you have a face to face appointment, the doctors ask that you wear a face mask to your appointment.”

West Hampstead Medical Centre in north west London has emailed all its patients warning of “a local upsurge in measles and whooping cough”.

“If you have a cough, please wear a mask in the practice,” it warned, adding that anyone with symptoms should book a telephone call but be “available to attend in person within 30 minutes”.

It added that parents should then “notify the reception you have arrived but wait outside to be called in when your appointment starts”.

The Weardale Practice in Stanhope, Bishop Auckland, is also asking all patients who have symptoms of a respiratory infection to wear a mask when attending the practice in updated guidance.

NHS updates infection control guidance

The moves follow updated NHS England infection control guidance earlier this year in the wake of a measles outbreak and increasing whooping cough cases. It advised reinstating  mask-wearing measures where appropriate.

The guidance says “if possible or tolerated the patient should wear a surgical face mask in communal areas” to avoid spreading the highly contagious diseases to others.

The decision on mask-wearing is made by local service providers depending on how bad infection rates in the area are.

Whooping cough is as contagious as measles and more so than Covid-19, with young children who are not protected at the greatest risk from serious complications.

Dr Philippa Kaye, a London-based GP, told the Mail on Sunday patients with suspected whooping cough should wear a mask while travelling.

The outbreak has been widespread across the country but the south east and London have seen the most cases so far.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed that five babies –  all under three months of age – died after contracting the infection in the first three months of the year.

There have been reports of further fatalities since, including Evie-Grace Lewis, who died last week at just 15 days old.

It is the highest number of deaths caused by whooping cough in a decade and experts fear more will follow as case numbers could hit 40-year highs.

The surge in cases has been attributed to circulation of the disease being slowed during the pandemic and lockdowns, as well as the decreasing uptake of the whooping cough vaccine, particularly among pregnant women.

The latest figures show just 37 per cent of pregnant women in London had been vaccinated by the end of last year, down from 61 per cent before the pandemic.

Across the country, take-up fell by 19 per cent in pregnant women, while take-up among under-fives fell by 4 per cent.

The NHS recommends all pregnant women are vaccinated against whooping cough between 16 and 32 weeks to protect their baby in the first weeks of its life before it can get its own vaccinations.

Confusion over vaccine responsibility

However, experts claim there is confusion about whether the GP or antenatal team should be responsible for offering the jab.

The NHS website says the whooping cough vaccine, first made available for pregnant women in 2012, is available from the GP and some antenatal clinics, where expectant mothers go for check-ups during pregnancy and “may be offered the vaccination”.

Dr David Elliman, a consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said “a lack of clarity as to who is responsible” for giving the vaccine to expectant mothers was the most probable reason behind low uptake.

“There is no evidence that the low uptake of whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy is due to women declining the vaccine,” he said. “More likely is a lack of clarity as to who is responsible for giving it – primary care or maternity.”

The vaccine is 92 per cent effective in protecting a newborn baby if given to the mother while pregnant, providing protection before the baby can get its six-in-one vaccination at eight weeks old.

Immunity from the jab passes through the placenta to protect newborn babies in their first weeks of life.

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League tables of migrant nationalities with highest crime rates opposed by civil servants

Civil servants are trying to block plans for league tables of the migrant nationalities with the highest rates of crime.

The proposal, backed by 40 Tory MPs as an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, would require the crime rates of each nation’s migrants in England and Wales to be published annually.

Ministers would present a report to Parliament each year detailing the nationality, visa status and asylum status of every offender convicted in English and Welsh courts in the previous 12 months.

The move, first revealed by The Telegraph and led by former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, would mirror an approach by some US states and Denmark, where league tables show the crime rates of those from Kuwait, Tunisia, Lebanon and Somalia are far higher than those of Danish nationals.

It is understood that Home Office ministers are in favour of the plan in principle as it would enable Government and law enforcement agencies to assess the scale of criminality in specific migrant populations.

However, civil servants have advised that Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, is likely to rule the amendment is not “in scope” for the Bill.

This means that it would be judged to be out of kilter with the thrust of the legislation which primarily aims to crack down on knife crime, drugs, anti-social behaviour and other crimes.

There are also concerns within Whitehall that it has become a “Christmas Tree” bill, with multiple amendments potentially added to it including on decriminalising abortion and combating county lines gangs.

Ministers are understood to be seeking to get the data published irrespective of whether there is legislation. “It can just be done. You don’t need legislation,” said a source.

“It is actually mainly an operational issue. How do you collect the data and make sure it is reliable?

“There are all those considerations rather than legislative commitment going forward. Ministers like the idea. We want to work out how to do it.”

The plan has been backed by MPs from all wings of the Conservative party from Right-wing former Commons leader Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg to Sir Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, a One Nation Tory.

Backers of the league table plan believe it will help the Government strengthen immigration policy on three fronts.

First, they said it would allow the Home Office to tighten screening of visas from countries with nationals linked to higher crime rates in the UK.

A similar approach could be taken to asylum applications. They also say it would enable the Home Office to focus deportations and returns agreements on those countries.

“We cannot hope to fix our immigration system without understanding the problem. The national debate on legal and illegal migration is hindered by a lack of data on the fiscal, economic and societal impacts of migration,” said Mr Jenrick.

“There is mounting concern that the UK is importing crime, particularly violent crime, sexual assaults and drug production. We need to have transparency so the public knows what’s happening and policy can be formulated accordingly.”

Denmark has strong immigration policies

The Danish Government’s data on migrant crimes enables researchers to compile league tables showing which nations have the highest conviction rate relative to Danish nationals.

Japanese, US, Australian, Austrian, Argentinian and Indian citizens have the lowest rates at half those of Danes, while more than 40 nations have higher conviction rates for violent crime.

Denmark has some of the toughest immigration policies in Europe and has been seeking to work with other EU countries to deport migrants to a third country outside the bloc where their asylum claims would be processed.

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JK Rowling calls trans football manager ‘straight, white, middle-aged bloke’

JK Rowling has branded a transgender football manager a “straight, white, middle-aged bloke” as she angrily denied bullying…