call

Indian variant could delay UK reopening, says Johnson

Johnson said the government would accelerate remaining second doses to the over 50s and those clinically vulnerable to just eight weeks after the first dose and would prioritise first doses for those eligible who had not yet come forward.

Even so, the spread of the variant could disrupt Britain’s progress out of lockdown, making it more difficult to move to the final stage of a staggered reopening of the economy in June, he said.

Johnson had aimed to lift all restrictions on June 21, after allowing people in England from Monday to hug again, meet in small groups indoors and travel abroad.

The United Kingdom has delivered one of the world’s fastest inoculation campaigns, giving the first shot to almost 70% of the adult population and a second to 36%, helping to reduce infection rates and deaths.

But the emergence of the B.1.617.2 variant in parts of northern England and London has prompted some scientists to call for the reopening to be delayed, and a rethink on the speed of the vaccine rollout.

At the national level, infections are still low, and fell for a fifth consecutive week in England, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed on Friday.

Truck driver caught with €2.2m cannabis jailed for eight years

A father-of-two who imported over €2.2 million of cannabis into the country has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years.

erard Donnelly (45) worked as a truck driver and a trailer he had transported from the UK was found to contain boxes filled with herbal cannabis and cannabis resin.

Donnelly of Beltany Grove, Omagh, Co Tyrone, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the importation of cannabis at Dublin Port on September 27, 2017. The court heard that he had no relevent previous convictions.

Detective Garda Mark Berrigan told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question, a truck being driven by the accused man was directed over to customs officials at Dublin Port and a drug detection dog took an interest in the trailer.

Det Gda Berrigan said Donnelly told officials that the trailer was filled with empty crates he had picked up in the UK the day before. An -ray scanner determined that not all the crates were empty.

Boxes containing 342kg of herbal cannabis and 8kg of cannabis resin were discovered in pallets at the very rear of the trailer. The total value of all the drugs was €2,216,800.

In interview with gardaí, Donnelly said he had travelled to the UK to drop something off on behalf of a customer of his employer. He said he then got a phone call from someone he did not know asking him to pick something up and bring it to Northern Ireland.

Donnelly told gardaí he went to the address he was given and met with a man he assumed was working on behalf of the same customer for whom he had just transported a load.

He said he helped load pallets onto the trailer and claimed he did not notice that two of them were “substantially” heavier than the others.

Det Gda Berrigan agreed with Kerida Naidoo SC, defending, that his client’s involvement was limited to being a courier. He agreed there was no suggestion that Donnelly’s lifestyle was “inconsistent” with being a lorry driver and no wealth was found.

The detective agreed with counsel that his client had been on bail and went into custody voluntarily after pleading guilty.

Mr Naidoo said his client expresses “genuine and deep shame” for becoming involved and apologises to the court. He said his client made “a very bad decision on this one occasion”.

Counsel said the evidence does not establish that his client knew the actual quantity of drugs he was transporting. He submitted that the court is entitled to treat his client as a man who has largely led a normal life.

He said his client has worked as a truck driver since 2000. He said his client is married and has two children.

Judge Martin Nolan said he inferred that Donnelly was going to receive “some kind of reward” for transporting the drugs. He said he accepted the accused was a courier.

Judge Nolan said that the accused did not own the drugs, “but he was essential to this drug dealing enterprise”. He said it is unlikely he will come back before the court for anything nearly as serious.

He sentenced Donnelly to eight-and-a-half years imprisonment and backdated the sentence to when he first went into custody on March 1, last.

This week’s Bromsgrove and Droitwich Standard letters……

Jersey and Guernsey should be applauded for French fishermen stance

WE NEED shed no tears for the French fishermen claiming that they can’t survive under the proposed new regulations, and they will need to do what our fishermen were forced to do in the 1970s, when Edward Heath ceded the nation’s sovereignty to the EU/Common Market.

He personally agreed to our compliance with their CFP Common Fisheries Policy (never discussed by Parliament), wreaking economic havoc in Grimsby, Whitby, Lowestoft, Peterhead, Brixham, and dozens of smaller fishing communities.

It required thousands to seek alternative employment.

It was a monumental betrayal, and even the ‘party of the working class’ has ignored their plight for nigh on 50 years.

Today the subject is studiously avoided by the media, remainers and Westminster, so we should applaud Jersey, Guernsey et al for putting it centre stage.

Peter McHugh

Alvechurch

Freedom passports for UK pubs and shops will countinue rights erosion

LAST year the Prime Minister introduced bills that would remove many people’s rights, freedoms and civil liberties.

Since then the economy has been on its knees, small businesses ruined, hospitality killed and billions of pounds spent.

We have had restrictions on hugging friends and family and loved ones who live in different houses.

Billions have been spent on test and trace and people told to wear masks and we have been locked down on several occasions.

Children have been told to wear masks in lessons and had to have tests shoved up their noses twice a week.

According to the figures there are now hardly any deaths in the UK yet the idea of freedom passports are still being mooted for people to get into pubs, shops and other venues.

Surely with so many of people’s rights, freedoms and civil liberties eroded, if we are going to get back to normal, those civil liberties need to be returned – and returned without the condition of so-called ‘freedom passports’.

Phil Haynes

Catshill

Appreciative and humbled by Droitwich electorate

WE ARE humbled and appreciative of all the generous support during the recent election.

Working together, we will fight for Droitwich and look to ensure we get investment and support.

We have a terrific heritage offer to champion and we must see the investment we need to support our growing population with suitable infrastructure.

Coun Richard Morris

Coun Bob Brookes

Worcestershire County Council

More help needed to stop children being exploited and abused

ACROSS the country, thousands of children and young people are subjected to horrific exploitation and abuse every year.

They are groomed by predators with offers of friendship, gifts, cash and status then coerced using terrifying threats and violence into crimes like trafficking drugs in ‘county lines’ operations. Children are also exploited for sex and some are forced to work in premises like car washes and nail bars.

In the West Midlands in 2019/20, gangs were identified as a risk 1,650 times in assessments of children referred to social services, while trafficking was deemed to be a factor on 460 occasions, both indicators of child criminal exploitation.

Risks of child sexual exploitation were highlighted in 2,040 assessments and in 1,990 instances, children going missing, also a sign of exploitation, was pinpointed as a factor.

Many children are too scared to tell adults what is happening.

That’s why we need your help. During the week from Monday, May 17, The Children’s Society is running a ‘Look Closer’ Awareness Week with the National County Lines Coordination Centre and police forces across the country including British Transport Police.

Our ongoing #Look Closer campaign urges everyone – from commuters and delivery drivers to hotel and shop staff – to look out for signs of child exploitation in public spaces and their neighbourhood and report any concerns.

Signs could include children carrying large amounts of cash, appearing under the control of others, looking lost, or travelling alone at night.

Trauma may lead to children appearing angry or aggressive rather than vulnerable or upset as people might expect – so look beyond the obvious.

Anyone worried about a child can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

If there is an immediate risk to a child dial 999. If you are on a train text British Transport Police on 61016

You may not be sure about your concerns, but trust your instincts.

Your phone call could be a crucial first step in helping a child escape a situation of terrible abuse and unimaginable trauma.

Mark Russell

Chief Executive

The Children’s Society

Will you be making Summer Vegan Pledge this June?

THIS June Animal Aid will once again be hosting our Summer Vegan Pledge.

The Summer Vegan Pledge is the perfect opportunity for those who are interested in trying a plant-based diet to do so.

The production of animal products, such as meat and dairy, is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, water pollution, land use and fresh water.

Those who sign up to the Summer Vegan Pledge will have access to all of the information they need to go vegan.

Sign up for free at: animalaid.org.uk/SVP21[1]

T Bradbury,

Animal Aid

ALTHOUGH many telephone boxes will probably have not been used for years, their ornate appearance – particularly traditional red kiosks – definitely adds something to the landscape which is why communities taking them over makes sense.

As well as ‘providing the best of both worlds’, Farrah McNutt’s vision for the ‘Digital Safety Pods’ – which will be piloted in Rubery – could also be life-saving.

So anyone out there who can support this project, please come forward and help make a difference.

What pressing issues do you feel need addressing in Droitwich and Bromsgrove? Send us your views to [email protected][2]

References

  1. ^ animalaid.org.uk/SVP21 (animalaid.org.uk)
  2. ^ [email protected] (droitwichstandard.co.uk)

Truck driver who transported drugs sentenced to 8½ years

A father-of-two who imported cannabis worth more than €2.2 million into the country has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years.

Gerard Donnelly (45) worked as a truck driver when a trailer he had transported from the UK was found to contain boxes filled with herbal cannabis and cannabis resin.

Donnelly of Beltany Grove, Omagh, Co Tyrone, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the importation of cannabis at Dublin Port on September 27th, 2017. The court heard that he had no relevant previous convictions.

Detective Garda Mark Berrigan told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question, a truck being driven by the accused man was directed over to customs officials at Dublin Port and a drug detection dog took an interest in the trailer.

Det Gda Berrigan said Donnelly told officials that the trailer was filled with empty crates he had picked up in the UK the day before. An x-ray scanner determined that not all the crates were empty.

Boxes containing 342kg of herbal cannabis and 8kg of cannabis resin were discovered in pallets at the very rear of the trailer. The total value of all the drugs was €2,216,800.

In interview with gardaí, Donnelly said he had travelled to the UK to drop something off on behalf of a customer of his employer. He said he then got a phone call from someone he did not know asking him to pick something up and bring it to Northern Ireland.

Donnelly told gardaí­ he went to the address he was given and met with a man he assumed was working on behalf of the same customer for whom he had just transported a load.

He said he helped load pallets onto the trailer and claimed he did not notice that two of them were “substantially” heavier than the others.

Det Gda Berrigan agreed with Kerida Naidoo SC, defending, that his client’s involvement was limited to being a courier. He agreed there was no suggestion that Donnelly’s lifestyle was “inconsistent” with being a lorry driver and no assets beyond what might be expected had been found.

The detective agreed with counsel that his client had been on bail and went into custody voluntarily after pleading guilty.

Mr Naidoo said his client expresses “genuine and deep shame” for becoming involved and apologises to the court. He said his client made “a very bad decision on this one occasion”.

Counsel said the evidence does not establish that his client knew the actual quantity of drugs he was transporting. He submitted that the court is entitled to treat his client as a man who has largely led a normal life.

He said his client has worked as a truck driver since 2000. He said his client is married and has two children.

Judge Martin Nolan said he inferred that Donnelly was going to receive “some kind of reward” for transporting the drugs. He said he accepted the accused was a courier.

Judge Nolan said that the accused did not own the drugs, “but he was essential to this drug dealing enterprise”. He said it is unlikely he will come back before the court for anything nearly as serious.

He sentenced Donnelly to eight-and-a-half years imprisonment and backdated the sentence to March 1st when he first went into custody.

Sadiq Khan confirms he will expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone

Sadiq Khan confirms he will expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone that will cost up to 350,000 motorists £12.50-a-day to drive into London

  • Sadiq Khan will make the Ultra Low Emission Zone 18 times larger than it is now 
  • Owners of older, more-polluting vehicles must to pay £12.50 daily fee if in zone 
  • 100,000 more cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries must now pay the fee
  • TfL estimates total income from the expanded ULEZ, congestion charge and low emission zones, will hit £762million this financial year
  • Between 2022 and 2023, this number could hit £1.157billion, it estimates 

Sadiq Khan[2] has confirmed he will expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone in a move set to cost up to 350,000 motorists £12.50-a-day to drive into London[3].

The newly re-elected Mayor of London will make the zone 18 times larger than it is currently. 

The move will force owners of older, more-polluting vehicles that don’t comply with strict emission standards to pay a £12.50 daily fee – in addition to the congestion charge – if driving through the zone.

Around 100,000 more cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries will be affected. Lorries and buses who don’t pay the fees will be slapped with a £100 fine.

The AA put its estimate at the number of motorists affected at 350,000.

Transport for London has estimated its total income from the expanded ULEZ, along with congestion charge and low emission zones, will hit £762million this financial year.

Between 2022 and 2023, this number could hit £1.157billion. 

Sadiq Khan has confirmed he will expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone which is set to cost up to 350,000 motorists £12.50-a-day to drive into London (a London road, file image)

Sadiq Khan has confirmed he will expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone which is set to cost up to 350,000 motorists £12.50-a-day to drive into London (a London road, file image)

Sadiq Khan has confirmed he will expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone which is set to cost up to 350,000 motorists £12.50-a-day to drive into London (a London road, file image)

The newly re-elected Mayor of London will make the zone 18 times larger (expansion proposal, pictured) than it is currently

The newly re-elected Mayor of London will make the zone 18 times larger (expansion proposal, pictured) than it is currently

The newly re-elected Mayor of London will make the zone 18 times larger (expansion proposal, pictured) than it is currently

The move will force owners of older, more-polluting vehicles that don't comply with strict emission standards to pay a £12.50 daily fee - in addition to the congestion charge - if driving through the ULEZ (file image)

The move will force owners of older, more-polluting vehicles that don't comply with strict emission standards to pay a £12.50 daily fee - in addition to the congestion charge - if driving through the ULEZ (file image)

The move will force owners of older, more-polluting vehicles that don’t comply with strict emission standards to pay a £12.50 daily fee – in addition to the congestion charge – if driving through the ULEZ (file image)

Will your recent buy be hit by ULEZ charges? 

The Alliance of British Drivers has published a list of cars which will fall foul of ULEZ charges:

  • 2015 Citroen C3 Edition 1.6 Bluehdi 100 Edition 5dr 90bhp
  • 2015 Citroen C4 1.6 e-HDi Airdream VTR+ Hatchback 5dr Diesel 115bhp
  • 2015 Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic Style 5dr 94bhp
  • 2015 Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi 115 Zetec 5dr 113bhp
  • 2015 Fiat Panda 1.2 MULTIJET POP 5d 75 BHP
  • 2015 Fiat 500 Lounge1.3 Multijet 3dr 95bhp
  • 2015 Nissan Juke 1.5 ACENTA DCi 5 DOOR 110 BHP
  • 2015 Renault Clio 1.5 dCi ECO Expression + 5dr 90bhp
  • 2015 Toyota Auris 1.4 D-4D Excel (s/s) 5dr 90bhp
  • 2015 Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTi Ecoflex Design 94BHP
  • 2015 Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex Elite 163 bhp
  • 2015 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 16V Ecoflex Design 5dr 108bhp 
  • 2015 VW Golf hatch 1.6tdi Bluemotion tech S 104bhp
  • 2015 VW Golf Bluemotion 1.6tdi estate 108bhp
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Petrol cars must comply with the Euro 4 engine standards – usually vehicles registered from January 2006 – or face paying the fee. 

Meanwhile, diesel cars will need to pay up unless they meet the Euro 6 standard – meaning they were registered after September 2015. 

The capital’s Ultra Low Emission Zone – which was introduced in 2019 – will cover the streets inside the North and South Circular roads under Khan’s new plans.

The move will come into force on October 25. 

Mr Khan said: ‘I pledge to be the greenest Mayor London’s ever had with a mandate from Londoners to put the environment and climate policies at the heart of my second term in office. Today I am reaffirming my commitment to speed up the cleaning of London’s toxic air.

‘In central London, the Ultra Low Emission Zone has already helped cut toxic roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution by nearly half and led to reductions that are five times greater than the national average. 

‘But pollution isn’t just a central London problem, which is why expanding the ULEZ later this year will benefit Londoners across the whole of the city and is a crucial step in London’s green recovery. 

‘There is no time to waste. We know pollution hits the poorest Londoners the hardest which is why I’m doing everything I can to improve the health for all Londoners.’

Jemima Hartshorn, founder of pollution campaign group Mums for Lungs, said: ‘Mums for Lungs has campaigned for an expansion of the ULEZ for over three years now, so we are glad that this scheme will be implemented very soon. 

‘The ULEZ in central London has really reduced NO2-pollution across the area, and more children will benefit from ULEZ expansion. 

‘But more is needed to ensure that London meets World Health Organization guidelines, so we call on the Mayor, national government, councils and business to work together to ensure breathing no longer harms the health of London’s children.’

Among the car models which will fall foul of the ULEZ charges are some 2015 Ford Focus, Fiat Panda, Citroen and Vauxhall Astra models.

The new ULEZ zone will operate 24 hours a day for seven days of the week within the same area of central London as the Congestion Charge.     

Research showed the health damage from cars and vans across the UK costs £6billion a year to the NHS and society, with the bill in London £650million.  

Officials said expanding the ULEZ – and stricter standards for heavy vehicles across London – would result in more than 100,000 Londoners no longer living in areas exceeding legal air quality limits in 2021.

All areas in the capital are expected to see reductions in pollution. 

Furthermore, research shows that those exposed to the worst air pollution are more likely to be deprived Londoners and from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. 

There is also emerging evidence linking air pollution with an increased vulnerability to the most severe impacts of Covid. 

Mr Khan has been pushing hard for London to spearhead new measures to reduce vehicle emissions in the capital since being sworn in as mayor in 2016.

This includes the introduction of the T-Charge in 2018 – which was superseded by ULEZ in 2019. 

Last year, a study by Environmental Defense Fund Europe found that harmful air pollution from diesel vehicles was 23 per cent higher outside London’s current ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ).

The study – which gathered pollution data from 231 sites in London and tracked levels of toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) – found the five worst locations were all outside the ULEZ. 

In 2018, Mr Khan (pictured) confirmed the extension of the ULEZ after growing concerns about rising pollution levels in the capital

In 2018, Mr Khan (pictured) confirmed the extension of the ULEZ after growing concerns about rising pollution levels in the capital

In 2018, Mr Khan (pictured) confirmed the extension of the ULEZ after growing concerns about rising pollution levels in the capital

NOx pollution is an umbrella term which includes nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which can lead to health issues like inflaming airways while aggravating existing heart and lung diseases.  

London has breached legal limits for NO2 since 2010 and last year it was revealed more than 2 million Londoners are living in areas exceeding legal air limits – including 400,000 children.  

As well as NOx, common pollutants from diesel include unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter – microscopic particles of matter.

Diesel vehicles pour out more ultra-fine particles than all other vehicles, which are the most toxic of the air pollution particles. 

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ULEZ 

 The ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) was introduced in London in April 2019. Here are some of the key questions around the scheme: 

What is it?  The ULEZ is a way of charging vehicles which emit the most nitrogen oxide for entering parts of London.

When does it apply?  The daily charge runs from midnight to midnight every day.

Where is it happening?  The scheme is initially within the same area as the congestion charging zone, before being expanded to within the North and South Circular roads from October 2021.

What vehicles are included?  All vehicles are affected apart from black taxis.

How much does it cost to enter the zone with an older vehicle?  It costs £12.50 for most vehicle types, including cars, motorcycles and vans. Heavier vehicles such as lorries, buses and coaches are liable for a £100 charge.

How can I avoid the charge?  To be exempt from the Ulez charge, petrol cars, vans and minibuses must meet the Euro 4 emissions standard and diesels must meet Euro 6. That means the oldest cars that can be driven in central London without paying are roughly a four-year-old diesel model or a 13-year-old petrol model.

What happens if I don’t pay?  If you fail to pay the charge, car drivers face a £160 Penalty Charge Notice (reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days). Lorry drivers will be handed a much larger fine of £1,000 (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days).

What if I don’t know my vehicle’s emissions standard?  Drivers can check whether their vehicle is liable for a charge by entering its registration on the Transport for London website.

Why was ULEZ introduced?  London Mayor Sadiq Khan says the scheme will improve the capital’s air quality, which he says is responsible for thousands of premature deaths and other serious conditions.

Has there been any opposition to the scheme?  Conservatives on the London Assembly claim Mr Khan’s decision to introduce the scheme earlier than planned could catch out some motorists – particularly those from the poorest households – who have not already upgraded their vehicle to a newer model. They also warn that expanding the zone to the whole of inner London will not effectively tackle pollution and will affect people and businesses in areas with low pollution.

What vehicles are covered by ULEZ?

It’s not just cars and vans that will be subject to extra charges in London.

These ULEZ non-compliant vehicles will also be impacted:  

– Motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles, quadricycles

– 4X4 light utility vehicles and picksups

– Motorised horseboxes

– Ambulances and fire engines

– Motorcaravans

– Minibuses

– Lorries

– Buses and coaches

– Breakdown & recovery vehicles

– Snow ploughs and gritters

– Refuse collection vehicles and road sweepers

– Concrete mixers and tippers 

 

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References

  1. ^ Jemma Carr For Mailonline (www.dailymail.co.uk)
  2. ^ Sadiq Khan (www.dailymail.co.uk)
  3. ^ London (www.dailymail.co.uk)

Accident-plagued North Staffordshire road closed after concrete lorry overturns

A road has been closed after a lorry overturned.

Police were called to Trentham Road in Butterton at around 11.30am today.

Photographs from the scene show a Readymicks Concrete lorry on its side, blocking the road.

It is not thought anyone was injured in the incident. West Midlands Ambulance Service said it had not attended.

Traffic monitoring company Inrix reports that Trentham Road is currently closed in both directions from the A53 Whitmore Road to the Butterton turn-off, causing delays. It is affecting traffic between Whitmore and Hanchurch.

Recovery services are said to be at the scene working to remove the lorry.

StokeonTrentLive has contacted Staffordshire Police for a statement regarding the incident.

Anyone with any information should call the police on 101.

Top stories from today’s newsletter

Not signed up to the newsletter? Try it outhere[1]

Sign up now to receive it for freehere[2]

References

  1. ^ here (e.stokesentinel.co.uk)
  2. ^ here (www.stokesentinel.co.uk)

Trains between Gourock and Glasgow cancelled and delayed this afternoon

Those using Scotrail trains between Gourock and Glasgow face delays this afternoon after a lorry collided with a bridge.

Services from Gourock will either be cancelled or started at Port Glasgow following the incident believed to be ongoing at Cartsdyke bridge.

Scotrail has only provided information regarding services until 1.30pm today.

The 12:08 and 12:38 services from Gourock to Glasgow Central will no longer call at Gourock, Fort Matilda, Greenock West, Greenock Central, Cartsydke or Bogston.

Updates can be found via the Scotrail app or website[1].

References

  1. ^ website (www.scotrail.co.uk)