Newspaper review: Lone wolf fear, cannabis psychosis and online courts

The aftermath of the shootings in Copenhagen that left three dead - including the suspected gunmen - is extensively reported in the papers.

The Guardian says Denmark's spy chief, Jens Madsen, said the attacks on a debating forum on free speech, and a synagogue, may have been an attempt to "stage a copycat attack of the three days of bloody mayhem" that happened in France last month, beginning with the murders at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices.

Image copyright AFP

The paper, in common with all of the press, but not Denmark's police, name the suspected gunman as Omar El-Hussein, a Danish-born 22 year old who had an extensive criminal background, and had just been released from prison for carrying out a seemingly motiveless stabbing on a train.

The Guardian adds: "The reality of the weekend's attacks and a normally peaceful city which prided itself on tolerance swiftly seeing itself saturated with armed police shocked many."

The Daily Mail says the firing on Saturday began during a speech about the Hebdo attack. The paper adds that the gunmen's probable target was Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks whose life has been under threat since he drew satirical pictures of the Prophet Mohammad in 2007.

In a sidebar the paper says Denmark "is fast becoming a hotbed for Islamic extremism" with jihadists returning from the Syrian and Iraqi warzone "given the kid glove treatment".

The Mail says the Nordic country is unique in Europe for offering a rehabilitation programme for militants, rather than jail.

The Times says the killings "threaten to stretch Nordic tolerance to its limits".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The suspected gunmen was tracked by CCTV and killed when he open fire at police outside his apartment

In an analysis piece, the paper's Europe Editor Charles Bremner says the Danish tradition of tolerance has collided "with a popular sense that the north European civilisation is threatened by a small but growing immigrant minority that clings to a culture deemed hostile to the region's values".

The Daily Mirror says the shootings on the other side of the North Sea have raised fears of a similar "lone-wolf" style attack in Britain.

"After recent terror attacks in France, Canada and Australia, MI5 believe it is only a matter of time before a similar atrocity is carried out in the UK," it expands.

Col Richard Kemp, a former commander of UK forces in Afghanistan, tells the paper: "The kind of attacks that we saw in Copenhagen and in Paris could easily happen here in the UK and probably will."


The Independent leads on proposals for online "courts" to settle legal disputes.

The "eBay-inspired revolution" in civil justice would see judges ruling on cases involving up to £25,000, without the need for courts being booked or the parties involved appearing in person.

The move, which is backed by senior judges, would also save the Ministry of Justice money, the paper adds.

The Civil Justice Council - which drew up the plan - admitted it was inspired by the online auction site "which settles a 'remarkable' 60 million disagreements between traders using online dispute resolution", the paper reports.

Image caption Online courts in smaller cases could free up the waiting time for major cases, proponents argue

Lord Dyson, the head of civil justice in England and Wales, is quoted as saying: "I see this as an exciting milestone in the history of our civil justice system.

"We have been very slow off the mark in this country in taking advantage of technology in our justice system. Other countries are way ahead of us."

The Indy notes that the Law Society has expressed concerns that courts may not receive robust enough IT systems to operate the new systems properly.

The Independent's opinion column echoes some of the worries, saying: "The government's track record in providing giant IT systems is poor, as the disastrous NHS system - scrapped at a cost of about £12bn - went to show."

The paper adds that "e-justice" has the potential to relieve the clogged-up court service, and help busy people find justice - "however if the 'computer says no', it won't".

The Daily Telegraph's leader column is broadly supportive of the concept.

"Since so many people carry out their lives online it makes sense for the law to recognise this reality and adapt accordingly," it states.

But it adds online courts should not be encouraged in criminal cases "where the way suspects and witnesses look and behave can be crucial".


The release of a major study into the affects of super-strength strains of cannabis on the nation's mental health is reflected in Monday's press.

The Daily Telegraph's headline states the study's main conclusion, that one in four psychosis cases in the UK could be linked to smoking strong "skunk" cannabis.

"The finding suggests that about 60,000 people in Britain are currently living with conditions involving hallucinations and paranoid episodes brought on by abuse of high-potency cannabis, and more than 300,000 people... will experience such problems in their lifetime," the paper reports.

Image caption The amount of strong "skunk" cannabis smoked in Britain is increasing, as a proportion of all use

The six-year study of cannabis smokers has led psychiatrists to call for a "drive to educate the public about the risks involved with the substance", and provided those opposed to cannabis legalisation with extra ammunition, the Telegraph continues.

"Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat former Home Office minister who has called for drug laws to be relaxed, said that there may be a case for giving skunk a new classification," it adds.

The Telegraph notes that cannabis use in the UK has fallen by 40% in a decade, but the potency of much of that smoked has risen.

Skunk typically has almost four times the psychoactive ingredients of normal "hash", it continues.

"The study concluded that the strength of cannabis and the frequency of use play a crucial role in determining the mental health risks," the paper writes, adding that the age of the user also can add to the risk of psychosis.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is quoted in the article saying: ""Far too many of those who end up in our criminal justice system have got drug and mental health problems.

"It's clear to me that drug addiction is at the root of a large proportion of crimes in the UK and that it causes mental health problems which are all too apparent in our prisons.

"That's why mental health will be our next big reform focus - but it's also why decriminalisation is not the right option."


The government has said council-provided carers should not give the frail and elderly people they visit five-minute time slots, but hundreds of thousands of such visits are taking place, the Daily Mail says.

The paper says figures it has seen show that 209,000 such "drive-by" visits took place in just six council areas, despite guidelines calling them "unacceptable".

"Town halls routinely outsource visits to contractors, whose workers can be poorly trained or ill-suited to the job," the Mail explains.

"It is not uncommon for a pensioner to see 10 or 15 different carers in a fortnight.

"Central government grant cuts have seen social care spending for the over-65s fall from £9.95bn in 2011 to £8.85bn last year.

"These cash pressures are likely to increase further the number of five-minute visits," it adds.

In some cases, the paper continues, carers have been told not to make conversation with the people they visit, so as not to "waste time".

It carries a case study of a Lincolnshire pensioner who says his dying wife was "treated like a dog" in her final weeks, by care workers rushing their job. His local authority denies the charge.

Image caption Paul Burstow

The Daily Express's editorial calls for the provision of social care to be protected in the Budget, in the same way NHS spending is.

"We are getting older, but unfortunately we are also getting more frail and we must look after the elderly in as humane a way as possible.

"That means keeping them out of hospital when we can."

The Daily Telegraph says: "Charities have raised fears that vulnerable pensioners are being neglected and are being forced to choose between being washed or fed."

It quotes former care minister Paul Burstow, as saying: "Turning care workers into clock watchers is one of the reasons care work has some of the highest staff turnover and vacancy rates anywhere in our economy.

"It exploits the worker and lets down the people they are caring for."

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