The Telegraph 2024-06-12 13:08:41


Labour promises to fix one million extra potholes a year

A Labour government would fix one million extra potholes a year, Sir Keir Starmer has pledged…

Joe Biden will ‘respect’ verdict as son Hunter found guilty of all gun charges

Joe Biden said he would “respect” his son’s conviction after he was found guilty on all three counts in his federal gun case.

The US president’s only surviving son, Hunter, 54 was found by a jury in his hometown of Wilmington to have lied about his drug addiction to buy a handgun that he owned for 11 days in 2018.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison and $750,000 in fines, although a custodial sentence is considered unlikely for a first-time offender.

Mr Biden, 81, said: “I am the president, but I am also a dad”, describing his love for his son and pride in his recovery.

However, Mr Biden has ruled out issuing a presidential pardon for his son.

“I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal,” he said.

Democrats have presented the response as a dividing line between the president and his Republican opponent, Donald Trump, in the 2024 campaign.

Trump, 77, who was himself convicted earlier this month, has dismissed his own prosecution for falsifying business records as a political hit job intended to impede his return to the White House.

Tuesday’s verdict in Delaware undercuts those claims, Biden allies argued.

Hunter Biden is the first child of a sitting US president to be prosecuted by the government, on charges rarely prosecuted as standalone crimes.

Donald Trump Jr was quick to dismiss the verdict as a “red herring” designed to distract from more serious tax charges and allegations of shadowy foreign business dealings.

Hunter faces a second trial in California in September on charges alleging he failed to pay at least $1.4 million (£1.1 million) in taxes over four years.

The 2024 Trump campaign argued the prosecution was still proof of an unfair judicial system.

“This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden crime family,” said  Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign press secretary.

Jurors took just over three hours to reach their unanimous verdict, after hearing several Biden family members commit deeply embarrassing details of their private lives to the public record.

They heard the president’s scandal-plagued son in his own words describing his “superpower” ability to track down crack cocaine, as prosecutors played his narration of his 2021 autobiography, Beautiful Things.

Prosecutors then called some of his former lovers to testify.

His ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, revealed she was first confronted with his drug use when she found a crack pipe in an ashtray in their Washington DC home in 2015.

He would become “angry and short-tempered” while using, she said and ignored her pleas to seek treatment.

“I was definitely worried, scared,” she said. She told the court she would search her husband’s car before their three daughters used it, so they “wouldn’t drive with drugs”.

The couple divorced in 2017 after Ms Buhle discovered her husband’s infidelity, she told the court.

Zoe Kestan, 30, told the court she met the president’s son at a New York strip club in December 2017. She gave him a private dance while he smoked crack, she said.

She described him as “charming”, despite his need to take drugs “every 20 minutes” from waking during their hotel hook-ups. “Everybody loved him,” she said.

But it was Hallie Biden, the widow of Hunter’s military veteran older brother, Beau, who appeared as the star witness for the prosecution.

Following Beau’s death from brain cancer in 2015, Ms Biden began dating Hunter, a contentious episode in the Biden family drama.

She told the court Hunter “introduced” her to crack cocaine during their romance.

“I’m embarrassed and ashamed, and I regret that period of my life,” she said, facing him across the court. He bowed his head at the defence table as she spoke.

Ms Biden was a key witness to her ex-boyfriend’s drug use around the period he purchased a Colt Cobra .38 revolver in a Delaware gun shop.

He said he was not “an unlawful user” of drugs, or addicted to them, on a background check he filled out to buy it on Oct 6, 2018.

Ms Biden told the court that, on Oct 23, she discovered drug paraphernalia and the Colt revolver in an unlocked box in Hunter’s car.

She decided to dispose of the firearm in a bin outside a high-end supermarket near her home.

“I didn’t want him to hurt himself or my kids to find it and hurt themselves,” she told the court.

She later returned to retrieve the gun, but it was gone. She called the police to report the incident, setting in train the sequence of events that led to his conviction.

Abbe Lowell, Hunter’s defence lawyer, had argued that Hunter was not using drugs when he purchased the gun and did not consider himself an addict at the time.

Hunter sought treatment for spells before and after purchasing the gun, and has been sober since 2019, he told the court.

Mr Lowell argued prosecutors took Hunter’s descriptions of his battle with drugs out of context and noted that they had also failed to produce anyone who witnessed him taking drugs in the period when he purchased and possessed the gun.

The jury spent just over three hours deliberating to find Hunter guilty of two charges of lying on background check forms and one charge of illegally possessing a firearm.

Watching from the public gallery throughout the proceedings were Jill Biden, her daughter Ashley, and Melissa Cohen, Hunter’s second wife.

They were forced to relive painful chapters in their family history as prosecutors read deeply private text exchanges, and showed photos of a topless Hunter surrounded by drug paraphernalia in hotel rooms and baths.

The evidence prosecutors presented was, in their own telling, “personal, ugly and overwhelming”.

In summing up their case, prosecutor Leo Wise told the jury to ignore the famous faces “sitting in the gallery”.

“You may recognise them from the news,” he said, “but respectfully, none of that matters”.

Hunter left the federal court, where a portrait of his father hangs in the atrium, holding hands with his stepmother and his wife.

“I am more grateful today for the love and support I experienced this last week from Melissa, my family, my friends, and my community than I am disappointed by the outcome,” he said.

“Recovery is possible by the grace of God, and I am blessed to experience that gift one day at a time.”

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Kevin Spacey says he was ‘handsy’ with men

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June temperatures at half the level of this time last year

Temperatures in June 2024 are at half the level of 2023, the Met Office has said, although warmer weather is predicted towards the end of the month.

While London was experiencing 32C (89.6F) a year ago, temperatures were around 16C (60.8F) in the capital on Tuesday. Similarly Cambridge had temperatures of 30.3C (86.5F) on June 11 2023, and 15C (59F) on the same day in 2024.

Temperatures are around 2C (35.6F) below average for the time of year, with scattered showers this week that could turn into heavy rain by Thursday, while some areas could see ground frosts.

The Met Office said the cool temperatures were not unusual historically but they are a clear contrast to 2023’s balmy weather.

“You only have to go back to 2020 to see a cool start to the month and the temperatures then were further below average than we’re currently experiencing,” said a spokesman. “This is just normal variability of the UK weather.”

He added that ground frosts in June were much more common in the past, decreasing from 1.8 days for 1961-1990 to 1.3 days for 1991-2020, which could add to the sense that 2024’s chill is unusual.

Temperatures are expected to rise closer to the average by the end of the week but rainy conditions could make it still feel chilly.

“The UK is currently under the influence of a cool pool of air from the north, with a northerly airflow helping to subdue temperatures somewhat for the time of year,” said Stephen Dixon of the Met Office. 

“From Thursday, a front of rain from the west will bring a period of wet weather for much of the country, with 20-30mm of rain likely in some western areas, with totals reduced somewhat further east.

“This front will be the start of a period of more unsettled weather, with low pressure continuing to have an influence on the forecast through the weekend and into the start of next week.

“This means an unsettled weekend of weather is likely for much of the UK, with a mixture of showers and some more persistent rain at times.”

Summery conditions possible

But longer forecasts suggest that towards the end of June there may be warmer weather. The BBC said there could be a “trend towards calmer and even summery conditions” after the middle of the month in southern England and Wales.

The picture for Scotland was less sunny with “a risk of somewhat wetter and windier conditions”, the BBC said.

Jonathan Webster, the curator of RHS Garden Rosemoor, which is preparing for its Festival of Roses, said the weather was actually prolonging some flowering periods.

“Because we’ve got the moisture the plants are growing away happily,” he said. “It’s good for plants because it’s been moist with a bit of heat.

“Now, it’s not extreme cold, and some things will have an extended flowering period as we’ve still got moisture and the soil hasn’t dried out.

“Heat can stress plants and flowers, so some things will last longer due to less stress of heat or drought. Heat makes flowers end sooner.”

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Barrister died after crashing jet ski into sea wall on Christmas honeymoon

A barrister died on Christmas Day in a jet ski accident during her honeymoon in Dubai, an inquest has heard.

Michaela Danso, 46, hit a sea wall while using the jet ski on the third day of her trip in December 2022 while her husband Joseph looked on.

The couple were given only “basic instructions” on how to operate the powerful jet skis – despite neither of them having used one before, Walthamstow Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday.

After the instructor had left, Mrs Danso pressed the accelerator and hurtled towards the sea wall.

The jet ski hit the wall, causing her to “catapult” on to the ground in front of her.

A post-mortem examination found her cause of death was a head injury caused by blunt force trauma.

Mr Danso told the inquest: “Michaela was a bubbly person who lived life to the fullest. She was a gorgeous person and well liked by many members of the community. She adored music and danced to it even if it was coming from a passing car.”

He also said the company, called Aquablue, told them they were too big to fit on one jet ski – which he now believes was a ploy to make them rent two.

Mr Danso said: “It was never her intention to operate a jet ski alone. She had only reserved one for me and she wanted to sit behind me.

“She would be here if that claim hadn’t been made.”

He also told the inquest they were only wearing life jackets and not helmets, adding:  “I think if she had she still would be here”.

Mr Danso also told the inquest it took an hour for an ambulance to reach the port – in which his wife had died.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Danso said he had heard from police in Dubai that the boss of the jet ski operator had been arrested.

He said: “I was told if I said I forgave him that he would be released. I didn’t reply. I never want to hear anything more from that country again.”

Husband ‘thrown into police van’

Mr Danso also claims after witnessing the death of his wife, officers threw him into a police van to take him to the station to give his statement.

He said: “I was crying, screaming. I couldn’t believe what I had seen. I was traumatised and the officers kept telling me to ‘shut up’.”

Mrs Danso, from Holloway in north London, was a barrister with Charterhouse Chambers in Chancery Lane, and first practised criminal law before moving into family law.

Senior coroner Graeme Irvine said: “On arrival at the jet ski operator, it was explained to Mr and Mrs Danso they were not allowed to share a single jet ski and therefore something of a surprise and a change to the plan envisaged by Michaela was that they had to hire a second jet ski.

“The evidence I heard from Mr Danso was that Michaela didn’t plan to pilot a jet ski; she intended for her husband to pilot the jet ski and she would be a passenger for this pleasure ride.”

Mr Irvine described the jet ski as a “powerful piece of marine equipment”.

He said their briefing on how to use the jet skis was “very short and perfunctory” and the only safety equipment they were given was a “flotation vest”.

He said: “When she started the jet ski she lost control of it and she accelerated very speedily out of control.

“Her very short but fast journey stopped suddenly when she struck the sea wall and was catapulted on to the hard surface in front of her and she sustained fatal injuries to the base of her skull.

“Mercifully Mrs Danso’s injuries had left her unresponsive and unconscious from the outset.”

He said if the death had occurred in the UK he would be writing to the jet ski rental company about their safety procedures and equipment, and the local authority.

But he told the court: “Unfortunately I can’t do that because it is outside this court’s jurisdiction. I make it abundantly clear that if it were not, that’s what I would be doing.”

The court heard Mr Irvine contacted the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to request information from Dubai but after months of waiting no information was handed over.

Mrs Danso’s family agreed to go ahead with the inquest regardless.

The coroner recorded a conclusion of “accidental death due to injuries sustained in an accidental jet ski collision”.

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Woman, 90, comes home to find neighbour has erected scaffolding in her garden

A row has broken out between two elderly neighbours after one put up scaffolding in the other’s garden.

Gill Hayes-Newington, 90, has threatened legal action after she came home to find scaffolding crowding her flowerbeds and overlooking the bedroom window of her Grade II-listed cottage in Halesworth, Suffolk.

The structure had been erected by builders employed by her neighbour Dr Andrew Jones, 65, so that repairs could be made to the roof of his own Grade-II listed home.

Ms Hayes-Newington, a retired social worker, is adamant she knew nothing about the scaffolding until it went up, describing her neighbour’s actions as “egotistical” and “discourteous”.

She added: “He has violated and invaded my privacy – the scaffold blocks my bedroom window and they can peer right in. How would you react if you came home to find your neighbour’s scaffolding in your back garden?

“It is egotistical for them to assume this is OK and to assume that I didn’t have plans, such as a garden party with my friends.”

Dr Jones said his roof can only be safely accessed by scaffolding, which is mostly in his garden but also has some struts placed on Mrs Hayes-Newington’s side of their shared garden wall.

The retired town councillor added that he actually owns the thin strip of land on Mrs Hayes-Newington’s side, on which the scaffolding rests, and insisted that he warned her about the work in advance.

The pair have been neighbours on Rectory Street, a cul-de-sac in the market town, for more than a decade.

Dr Jones said: “My partner and I of course conferred with Gill about the essential maintenance to my roof.

“It is a little complicated because my home extends to her side of the wall so technically the scaffold, though her side of the wall, is in line with my house.

“I am very sorry that Gill is distressed by the work to my roof and the scaffold in her garden, but as she knows, the work is essential in order to maintain the Grade II-listed property.

“Furthermore she even knows the builders who are doing the work as they have done jobs to her home too.

“If she is taking legal action, I don’t think it will go far.”

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Watch: Swerving truck mounts pavement and hits multiple cars as suspected drink-driver arrested

A truck driver veers into oncoming traffic, driving along pavements and hitting multiple cars.

Footage shared online showed the tipper truck, loaded with equipment, swerving dangerously across roads in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire for around a minute before crashing and coming to a standstill.

At one point the truck can be seen lurching into the wrong lane, pinning an oncoming van against another vehicle and knocking off its wing mirror.

Further down the road, the driver was recorded rapidly spinning the steering wheel as the truck mounted the pavement and scraped along the sides of parked cars.

After two further collisions, the driver appeared briefly to straighten the truck before suddenly turning off the road entirely and crashing into a final car.

A man has been arrested and bailed in connection with the incident.

Thames Valley Police said: “A 34-year-old man from High Wycombe was arrested on suspicion of driving a motor vehicle with alcohol concentration above the prescribed limit, driving without insurance, failing to stop after a road traffic collision and dangerous driving.”

The force said no one had been injured.

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