INDEPENDENT 2024-05-14 16:05:07

Charity boss used N-word in full – during diversity training

A boss at an award-winning charity used the N-word in full – during a meeting about diversity, The Independent has learned.

Angharad Orchard, the former deputy chief executive of Mayday Trust, was leading the session in April 2023 and used the slur while making a point about the acceptable use of language.

Mayday Trust provides coaching to people “going through tough times” and has been referred to internally as “the language police.”

One of the presentation slides, seen by The Independent, said “instead of ‘queer’ – compare to the N-word, try LGBT+, LGBTQ+, in group term”, and Ms Orchard said the N-word in full and admitted to doing so, according to internal documents.

The incident prompted several colleagues to make formal complaints to the charity’s human resources department.

“Ms Orchard was unaware that the “N-word” must not be used in any context even if to highlight a point about her discomfort in using it to describe someone,” according to a HR letter replying to a formal complaint, seen by The Independent.

“Angharad did not use the word in a derogatory manner, nor did she do so in a violent way or within a racist statement.

“Mayday does not currently have established requirements, guidelines or policies around the use of language and therefore Angharad had no obligation to study the history and context behind the ‘n-word’ as part of her role as Deputy CEO.”

The Independent has approached Ms Orchard for comment.

Colleagues in the room, including chief executive Alex Fox, heard Ms Orchard use the word but nothing was said immediately in response and disciplinary action was never taken , according to the HR letter seen by The Independent.

She remained a safeguarding lead within the organisation for three months thereafter, several staff members said.

The diversity session did not cover the unacceptable use of racist slurs towards Black people such as the N-word and, according to former staff members, who have since criticised the charity for failing to take appropriate action.

According to an internal complaint seen by The Independent, a staff member who witnessed the incident says she “zoned out” from shock for the remainder of the meeting.

A senior Black staff member also raised a complaint about Ms Orchard’s use of the N-word. Shortly after this was lodged, that staff member was made redundant.

Following the complaints, the deputy CEO told the charity’s HR department she was aware that the N-word is offensive and should not be used, but she thought this was only in the context of trying to offend or describe someone, not within the context of a discussion around language, according to the HR documents.

Mayday Trust’s diversity policy states: “We believe that any form of direct or indirect discrimination is a barrier, both within ‘the system’  but also generally within society. These barriers create isolation, stereotyping and internalised damage.”

Additional concerns have been raised at the charity regarding race, including an absence of policy on how to deal with internal and external instances of race discrimination.

The charity has recently merged with mental health charity Platfform and Homeless Network Scotland as part of ‘New System Alliance’, a collaboration geared towards helping people through “tough times”, such as poverty and racism, with over 100 projects and services across Wales and the UK.

This merger has been funded with public money, namely through the National Lottery Community Fund and the NHS.

No Black people sit on the board of trustees across Platfform, Homeless Network Scotland or Mayday Trust.

Meanwhile, the deputy CEO who used the slur and CEO who ultimately oversaw the charity response have since resigned and moved on to new roles within the social care and charity sectors.

Despite this, a number of former employees who spoke to The Independent, both Black and white, are calling upon Mayday Trust to apologise to all staff members who were affected by the deputy CEO’s language, and for the way in which the situation was handled.

Ex-staff members accused the Mayday Trust of institutional racism and called for the Equality Act to be enforced across the charity sector.

One former employee member told The Independent: “It’s important that I speak out because it’s about exposing how unsafe working environments like charities are. People often give quite willingly, financially, to charities, and don’t realise that they’re funding quite toxic working environments.”

Responding to the incident, a spokesperson from Charity So White, a campaign group that works to tackle racism within the charity sector told The Independent: “It is wild that in 2024 we are talking about why it is unacceptable for a leader in the charity sector to use the N-word. Even the most obviously hurtful and dehumanising of racist slurs like this are excused and defended by charities.

“Time and time again, we see charity leaders go to extraordinary lengths to shift the goalposts of ‘acceptable behaviour’ and infantilise themselves to avoid anti-racist accountability.”

A spokesperson for Mayday said: “We are aware of the allegations relating to Mayday. We can make no further comment whilst legal processes are ongoing.”

Putin builds up 30,000 troops around Kharkiv in major new offensive

The frontline of the war in Ukraine is “on the edge” as Vladimir Putin’s troops advance on the northeast of the country, Ukraine’s top military spy warned.

General Kyrylo Budanov said “every hour” counted and Moscow’s assault was intended to exhaust Kyiv’s thin reserves across the frontline.

“The situation is on the edge. Every hour this situation moves toward critical. I’ve used everything we have. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone else in the reserves,” Budanov told the New York Times.

Russian troops captured at least six villages in Kharkiv Oblast last week after storming the border as thousands of residents were forced to flee.

Up to 30,000 Russian troops are involved in the attack after Moscow began targeting the region, Kyiv’s security council warned.

“At the moment, Russian actions in the border area are ongoing,” Oleksandr Lytvynenko, the recently appointed secretary of Ukraine’s security council, said.

“We can say that we don’t see any threat of assault on the city of Kharkiv. But there are a lot of Russians, quite a lot. About 50,000 were on the border.” He warned that “more than 30,000” were involved in the current attack.

‘OnlyFans, drugs and 9/11 taunts’: Dublin to New York portal taken offline

It was supposed to bring two cities closer together, but the Dublin-New York portal has been closed down temporarily after reports of “inappropriate behaviour”.

Sculptures had been placed in both cities, featuring live streams that allowed residents of one place to see the other. The innovative idea allowed grandmothers to see their grandchildren, performances of Irish jigs were beamed across the Atlantic and there was even a proposal.

But in less wholesome behaviour, New Yorkers and Dubliners were seen flashing their rear ends at each other, an OnlyFans model bared her breasts and one Dubliner even taunted the Americans with images of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Another woman was escorted away by Irish police after she was seen grinding against the portal itself as others made rude gestures at each other.

In a statement, a spokesman for Dublin City Council said: “The overwhelming majority of interactions are positive.

“The Portal offers a window to other cities and is connecting people and cultures in a unique manner – what we are seeing between Dublin and NY is reflective of a wider narrative of cultural behaviour. Unfortunately, we have also been witnessing a very small minority of people engaged in inappropriate behaviour, which has been amplified through social media.

“While we cannot control all of these actions, we are implementing some technical solutions to address this and these will go live in the next 24 hours.

“We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming days with our partners in New York to ensure that Portals continue to deliver a positive experience for both cities and the world.”

The Portals Organisation said: “As Portals Organisation, we do not intend to suggest people to interact with Portals in any particular way – our goal is to open a window between far away places and cultures that allows people to interact freely with one another.

“We encourage people to be respectful and from our position as observers, we see that the absolute majority of experiences is on the bright side.”

Mass protests in Georgia as parliament approves ‘Russian law’ bill

The Georgian parliament has approved in its third and final reading a divisive bill that sparked weeks of mass protests and saw politicians fighting each other.

The bill requires media and non-governmental organisations as well as other non-profits to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad.

Critics see it as a threat to democratic freedoms and the country’s aspirations to join the European Union.

Georgian politicians brawled in parliament on Tuesday during a debate on the third and final reading of the bill that has plunged the South Caucasus country into a crisis and sparked mass protests.

Georgia television broadcast scuffles between ruling party and opposition lawmakers, who pushed each other and gesticulated angrily during debates on the bill, which government critics and Western countries have criticised as authoritarian and Russian-inspired.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has said she will veto the bill. But parliament, which is controlled by the ruling party, can override her veto, setting the scene for further protests in a crisis that may determine whether Georgia stays on a path towards integration with Europe or pivots back towards Russia.

The bill would require organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence, imposing onerous disclosure requirements and punitive fines for violations.

Opponents have dubbed the bill “the Russian law”, comparing it to Russian legislation used to target critics of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

Georgia‘s government says the bill is needed to promote transparency, combat “pseudo-liberal values” promoted by foreigners and preserve the country’s sovereignty.

As Tuesday’s debate got under way, about 1,000 protesters picketed the fortress-like parliament building amid a major police presence, with water cannon idling nearby.

Demonstrations have been running for weeks and typically peak in the evening, where crowds numbering in the tens of thousands have mounted some of the biggest protests seen in Georgia since it regained independence from Moscow in 1991.

The European Union, which gave Georgia candidate status in December, has repeatedly said that the bill will be a barrier to Tbilisi’s further integration with the bloc.

The ruling Georgian Dream party says it wants to join both the EU and NATO, even as it has adopted harsh anti-Western rhetoric in recent months.

Polls show Georgian public opinion is strongly supportive of EU integration, while many Georgians are hostile to Russia over Moscow’s support for the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The Kremlin, which denies any role in inspiring the Georgian bill, said on Tuesday that the crisis was Tbilisi’s internal affair and accused outside powers of meddling.

“We see an unveiled intervention in the internal affairs of Georgia from the outside,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“This is an internal matter of Georgia, we do not want to interfere there in any way.”

The United States, Britain, Germany, Italy and France all urged Georgia to withdraw the bill.

Teacher accused of sex with students ‘ruined dream job with mistakes’

A teacher told a jury she had ruined her “dream job” with stupid “mistakes” but denied having sex with two teenage pupils.

Rebecca Joynes, 30, admitted she had broken safeguarding rules as a teacher by being in contact with the boys on Snapchat and then having them back at her apartment in Salford Quays.

She was already suspended from her high school job and on bail for alleged sexual activity with Boy A, 15, when she allegedly took the virginity of a second boy, known as Boy B, 16, who she later became pregnant by. Neither teenager can be identified.

Joynes denies any sexual activity took place with Boy A, whose semen was recovered from her bedsheets and said that the relationship with Boy B only began after he had left school and she had lost her job as a teacher, so no legal offence was committed as she was no longer in a position of trust.

On Tuesday, the defendant was cross-examined by prosecutor, Joe Allman, for a second day, as he pointed out “similarities” in both cases.

He said both boys were 15 when she began taking each one into her flat and both had been communicating with her on Snapchat – where messages are deleted and not recoverable by police.

In both cases, the activity was a secret from their parents and they both flirted with her, Boy A, calling her “sexy” and Boy B, sending her a message saying, “Get your t**s out.”

“What did you reply?” Mr Allman asked.

“Laughing faces,” Joynes replied.

Mr Allman said instead of shutting such behaviour down, Joynes gave “ambiguous” responses.

“Can we remind ourselves, this is a 15-year-old boy,” Mr Allman said.

“I know, yes,” Joynes said.

Joynes maintained that sex with Boy B only began after he turned 16 and had left school and she was dismissed from her job.

Mr Allman said: “So, even though you have been having Boy B around your flat since the age of 15, sex only began within five days of being dismissed?”

“Yes,” replied Joynes.

Mr Allman continued, “You did not find him sexy until the point it became legal.”

Boy B has told the jury that while he was still at school, Joynes firstly straddled and kissed him at her flat, and then on a second occasion, they had full sex.

This was after Joynes had been arrested, suspended from her job and bailed while police investigated allegations of contact with Boy A.

Joynes said Boy B contacted her to see how she was and, as she was lonely, she liked the attention and a friendship grew.

They would go for walks and he would visit her flat, as she preferred staying in her apartment in Salford rather than with her parents on the Wirral.

Joynes said: “Speaking to my family, I had made mistakes, I had basically ruined my chances with my dream job.”

Mr Allmans said Joynes had a supportive family, a sister and a best friend back home, but instead chose the company of a 15-year-old boy in Salford.

“How on earth can that second scenario be a draw for you?” Mr Allman asked.

Joynes said: “I was stupid but I did choose that option, obviously I was breaking my bail conditions.”

The defendant claimed that her relationship with Boy B soured and he became “controlling”.

Mr Allman said: “Let’s look at the reality of the situation. You were 29, living in a flat, had a good income, drove an Audi A1. He was a child, you were an adult. He was a pupil, you were a teacher.

“He lived with his mum and dad, they were not supposed to know about your liaisons with him. Who was controlling who?”

Jurors at Manchester Crown Court heard Joynes and Boy B rowed and could not decide on whether to keep their baby or have an abortion.

Boy B says he tried to end the relationship but did not know how to, he called Joynes a “paedo” and told her to find someone her own age but claimed that she put emotional pressure on him to keep their relationship going.

Mr Allman cited a letter she wrote to Boy B, saying: “Every inch of you is perfect. You are all I ever dream about.”

Joynes said: “This was a year after he left school. I was in love with him. I was pregnant with his child.”

Joynes denies six counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child, including two while being a person in a position of trust.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday morning.

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.

You’ve fired the election starting gun, Mr Sunak, let’s get on with it

If anyone still harboured any doubts that the UK is now in the run-up to a general election, the prime minister’s wide-ranging speech at a true-blue London think tank will have allayed them.

With the local and mayoral elections out of the way, Rishi Sunak was clearly keen to put the Conservatives’ losses behind him, and he did so by firing the starting gun on what could be a long and gruelling campaign.

You could see his logic: seize the initiative, set out the big choices, try to quash criticism about any perceived inadequacies in the vision department by embracing the future – and presenting Labour as the party of the past.

What’s behind Esther McVey’s attack on civil service lanyards?

Esther McVey, informally known as the minister for common sense, has not been especially visible since her appointment to Rishi Sunak’s government last November. Now, though, she has put her head above the parapet in a big way by calling for an end to the wearing of different coloured lanyards in the civil service and reiterating the duty of civil servants to be politically and ideologically neutral at work.

It’s a purely informal title, but it has caught on. Officially, McVey is a minister without portfolio at the Cabinet Office. But it was made known when she was appointed, that she would have a roving brief to cast what might be called the cold light of sanity on to government ways of working and to nip potential problems in the bud.