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Schoolboy praised for calling 999 after spotting fire

A 10-year-old schoolboy who called 999 after seeing a house fire in Ashington has been praised by by Northumbria Police.

Zak Dean was playing with friends in a park last month when he saw smoke and flames coming from the roof of a house on Rowlington Terrace in Ashington.

He had recently taken part in a workshop at SafetyWorks! where he and his fellow pupils learned about what to do in an emergency and how to call emergency services for help.

Zak said: “I told them what I saw and roughly where we were and they were able to track my location with the phone and came straight away.

“We kept screaming ‘fire!’ to warn anyone who might have been in the house to get out.”

Zak’s been presented with a commendation signed by Northumbria Police’s Chief Constable Winton Keenen.

Supt Helen Anderson, of Northumbria Police said: “He has a natural instinct to help people and his actions were incredibly brave.

"We could certainly use someone with Zak’s kind heart and quick thinking within the emergency services when he grows up.”

Zak Dean
Northumbria Police

Metro line between South Shields and Chichester to close for four weeks

South Shields Metro station

The Metro line between South Shields and Chichester is to close for four weeks for the completion of the town’s new £21m bus and Metro interchange.

It will be out of service from Monday 9 July until 4 August, when South Shields town centre’s new terminus opens.

A frequent replacement bus service, 900, will run during the line closure.

The current Metro station on King Street will be demolished.

'Police don't realise the impact'

Violent offenders are being handed informal punishments by the police, despite guidance restricting their use to low-level offences, the BBC's Shared Data Unit found.

County Durham student Ben Matthews, 18, was attacked by a prison guard. When the offence was committed, the attacker could have received a community resolution if he completed Durham Constabulary's Checkpoint scheme.

Since a legal change in April, the case will now be classed as a deferred prosecution, which also does not involve the attacker going to court.

Ben's mother, Jo Law, said: "We're petrified he'll walk away without a record.

"I would have liked him to go to court, for Ben's sake, and to show that they're taking it seriously.

"People who commit violent offences shouldn't be put on to such schemes, police don't realise the impact it's having on victims.

"I could have been going to Ben's funeral - I can't stop that going through my mind."

Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Jo Farrell said quality assurance methods were used to "ensure that at all times, we have done the right thing for the victim".

Ben Matthews

Violent offences 'dealt with informally' by police forces

More than 20,000 crimes have been committed in the North East which will not appear on a criminal records check.

Research from the BBC Shared Data unit shows that since 2014, forces across England and Wales have resolved more than 400,000 crimes with community resolutions - for offences ranging from theft and criminal damage through to sex offences and violent crimes.

The out-of-court disposals were used to resolve 8% of the total number of crimes recorded by Durham Police - the highest proportion of every force.

Durham's Chief Constable Jo Farrell said quality assurance methods were used to "ensure that at all times, we have done the right thing for the victim".

Driver jailed for pedestrian death

An uninsured motorist whose "dangerous and reckless" driving killed a popular Newcastle businesswoman has been jailed.

Ranjit Grewal was out for a walk with her family in the Spital Tongues area of the city in April last year when she was hit by a car driven by Ionut Mihai.

The mother-of-three suffered serious injuries and died in hospital. Her husband and sister were also badly hurt.

Mihai, who was driving at nearly 50mph while attempting to overtake in a 30mph zone, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and driving while uninsured.

A judge at Newcastle Crown Court sentenced the 22-year-old, of Claremount South Avenue, Gateshead, to five years and three months.

Ranjit Grewal
Family photo

Climate change: Newcastle professor says change is coming too late

Greenhouse gas emissions in the UK will be cut to almost zero by 2050, under the terms of a new government plan to tackle climate change.

Britain is the first major nation to propose this target - and it has been widely praised by green groups.

Head of engineering at Newcastle University, Professor Phil Taylor, says it's "necessary, feasible and cost-effective".

"But UK policy is still way off the mark and the foundations are not in place to be able to meet this target," he says.

"Even with all the evidence before us we are still opening new coal mines, extending Heathrow airport and pushing forward with fracking.

"We have unambitious building regulations, and our drive to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040 is too late."

Extinction Rebellion protest in London calling for action on climate change

Firefighters called to toddler in South Tyneside with loo seat stuck on her head

The Shields Gazette

A fun-loving toddler got more than she bargained for when she got a toilet seat stuck on her head.

Firefighters had to be called to free South Shields two-year-old Clara-Mae Davey from the plastic ring.

Mum, Chloe Clark, said: “She started holding it up to her face and said ‘I can see you mammy’ then the next thing I knew it was round her neck."

Toddler Clara-Mae Davey looking through child's toilet seat
Shields Gazette

Two held after trouble flares outside Chinese takeaway

Two men have been arrested after a fight broke out outside a takeaway, police said. Officers were called to Gateshead High Street just after 22:40 on Sunday after reports a 44-year-old man was attacked with a bottle. The victim had been in the takeaway when he got into an altercation with two men and trouble continued outside, a Northumbria Police spokesman said. The victim was taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries to his stomach and police are trying to trace other men involved in the fight.

Northumbria Police
Northumbria Police

Date set for police and crime commissioner by-election

A date's been confirmed for when voters will go to the polls to choose the next Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner.

Dame Vera Baird is standing down from the role after being appointed as the new victims' commissioner.

She was the UK solicitor general and Labour MP for Redcar before becoming Northumbria's first PCC in 2012.

The vacancy has now been declared and the notice of election will be published on Thursday.

If it is contested, voting will be on 18 July with the result announced in Sunderland the following day.

Anyone who has not yet registered to vote should do so by 2 July.

Dame Vera Baird, who was appointed Northumbria's first PCC in 2012.

Brazen burglar treats himself to burger meal

A brazen burglar who treated himself to a Burger King meal with a stolen bank card has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Steven Spencer, 49, went on a mini-shopping spree just hours after raiding a home on St Luke’s Road, Sunderland, in March this year.

The thief sneaked into the property while the occupants were inside and took a wallet and purse. He then used the stolen cards to spend more than £100 on goods including clothes, beer and chocolate.

He also bought a meal deal at Burger King during his hour-long spending spree before the quick-fire transactions prompted a suspicious alert sent to the victim's bank.

Appearing at Newcastle Crown Court Spencer, of Front Road, Ford Estate, Sunderland, admitted two counts of burglary and three charges of fraud by false representation and was jailed.

Steven Spencer
Northumbria Police

Warning over fraudsters using TV licence emails

Northumbria Police is warning the public to be aware of TV Licensing phishing emails that are currently circulating. Officers have had reports that members of the public are receiving emails with links to a convincing-looking website.

It then requests that people enter their personal details. They are then contacted by fraudsters who claim to be from a department of the bank people are registered with.

TV Licensing have provided some further advice in relation to this issue on their website here.

Police chief 'refuses to apologise' to Irish journalists

Mike Barton has declined to apologise to two journalists after an investigation into the suspected theft of confidential documents was dropped.

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey were arrested in August 2018 over the suspected theft of files from the Police Ombudsman's office.

They had been involved in a documentary on the Loughinisland attack in 1994 in which six Catholic men were shot dead by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force.

The Durham police chief was brought in by the PSNI to investigate the leaking of documents.

On Monday, police confirmed the case against the journalists had been dropped, following a court ruling that the search warrants issued against them had been "inappropriate".

Mike Barton

Speaking today at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Mr Barton said: "I absolutely respect press freedom.

"But I do not - in my view and I have been corrected by the lord chief justice - I do not think it appropriate that secret documents that put people's lives at risk are put out there in the public domain - I think those discretions should be fettered."

Your Pictures: Commemorating D-Day

Thanks to Mark Beadle for sending us this beautiful shot captured in South Shields to commemorate D-Day.

If you want to send us a photo, you can tweet us, contact us via our Facebook page or email us.

Mark Beadle

Police appeal for help over Sunderland-Coventry disorder

Police investigating trouble at Sunderland's home game with Coventry in April have released images of four men they want to trace.

Eight arrests were made after the game on 13 April with a further five people having been ejected from the Stadium of Light over their behaviour.

Northumbria Police has now released images of men believed to be Coventry supporters who they want to speak to.

Montage of men police want to trace
Northumbria Police

BreakingNew Chief Constable for Durham Police named

Jo Farrell has been confirmed as Durham police's new Chief Constable, making her the first female chief in the force’s history.

The Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Panel unanimously approved her appointment. She was previously Deputy Chief Constable.

She will take over the role from the current Chief Constable Mike Barton when he retires at the end of this week.

Lucy Hovvels, chair of the panel, said: “The panel was impressed with the quality of the answers provided by Deputy Chief Constabulary Jo Farrell and the breadth of her experience and was, therefore, pleased to endorse her appointment.”

The appointment of Deputy Chief Constable Jo Farrell to the top job will be subject to a confirmation hearing next month
Durham Police

Fire service remembers D-Day

The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service honours a firefighter who was also a war veteran.

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Emeli Sande 'honoured' to be Sunderland Uni chancellor

Singer-songwriter Emeli Sande has spoken of the "huge honour" of becoming Sunderland University's new chancellor.

Her parents met while studying at the then-polytechnic, and her birth in 1987 coincided with their graduation ceremony - so they could not attend.

She will be installed on 10 July and at her first ceremony as chancellor she will confer the academic award on them.

She said she was pleased to be involved with the university because of its work to try to "eliminate inequality in the education system".

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Police apologise over failings

Police have apologised to the family of a woman murdered by two convicted killers for failing to share information.

Failings by police and the probation service 'possibly contributed' to the death of Quyen Ngoc Nguyen Sunderland coroner Derek Winter said.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Bacon, Northumbria Police’s safeguarding lead, said: "We have apologised to the family for failing to share information with the Probation Service and I do so again publically.

“This was an extremely tragic case in which Ms Nguyen was murdered by two manipulative and callous individuals, who are now in prison serving whole-life terms.

“We acknowledge the findings of the inquest and following this case we carried out a review of how we share information with the Probation Service.

"As a result, improvements have already been made, which includes introducing an enhanced electronic flagging system – with additional measures – to ensure all relevant information is identified and appropriately shared.

“I want to reassure the coroner, our partner agencies and the communities we serve that Northumbria Police is committed to ensuring we have systems in place to manage offenders through effective risk assessment and information sharing.”

Social media trespassers arrest warning

People who break into derelict or abandoned buildings to take photos for social media could be arrested, police warn.

A number of dedicated social media pages have been sharing pictures taken on private property.

Photos from inside the former General Hospital on Westgate Road in Newcastle were posted online last week.

Intruders also took pictures inside old nursing accommodation on the same site.

These buildings are closed to the public for a reason and many are structurally unsafe or contain hazardous materials, including asbestos. Those who force entry to these sites could be putting themselves at risk and so we are urging people to stop.

We are aware of some groups on social media that have been set up to show people inside these buildings. This could inspire other people to follow their lead but we want to make it clear that trespassing on these sites is illegal.

Neighbourhood Insp Alan DavisonNorthumbria Police

'Nothing can bring my sister back now'

Outside court following the conclusion of the inquest, Quyen Ngoc Nguyen's sister Quynh said the police and probation service "should have carried out procedures more strictly and earlier" to prevent her sibling's death.

She said: "It's too late for my family now. At least a better system can help other families to prevent other such tragedies.

"Nothing can bring my sister back now, the suffering from her death is unbearable and has hugely affected our family members physically and mentally.

"I was hoping that there would be some support for victims of crime, because we have to carry on with our lives, but we have had no support from anywhere over the last two years".

Chief Constable's drug law disappointment

Durham Police's Chief Constable Mike Barton says he is disappointed there hasn't been more change in laws relating to drugs offences.

Mr Barton, who will retire this week after seven years, says he hopes legislation can be changed in the coming years.

He joined Durham Constabulary in 2008 as assistant chief constable and was promoted to deputy chief constable the following year.

Since taking up the role he has repeatedly called for debate over the approach to tackling drug addiction.

He recommended addicts be given free heroin and be supplied with clean needles in a safe environment known as a "consumption room".

PCC Ron Hogg, who shares his stance, has previously described Mr Barton as "foward-thinking" and praised his leadership as "unique and unequivocal".

Mike Barton
Durham Constabulary

Enforcement action 'may have moderated behaviour of Unwin'

Failings by police and the probation service "possibly contributed" to the death of a woman murdered by two convicted killers, a coroner has ruled.

Stephen Unwin and Wiliam McFall killed Quyen Ngoc Nguyen, 28, having met in prison while serving life terms for separate murders.

Sunderland coroner Derek Winter said breaches of Unwin's licence were not shared between police and probation.

If Northumbria Police had passed on information to probation about two incidents involving Unwin there would have been enforcement action, but short of recall as the threshold criteria had not been met.

At best such enforcement action may have moderated the behaviour of Unwin".

Derek WinterSunderland Coroner

Coroner concludes failures 'possibly contributed' to death

An inquest into the death of a mother at the hands of two convicted killers has concluded failure to tackle their breach of licence conditions "possibly contributed to her death".

Sunderland coroner Derek Winter heard killer Stephen Unwin was involved in a number of incidents after his release from prison for a previous murder.

Police had 26 pieces of intelligence about him between 2012 and 2017 but this was not shared with probation officers.

In August, 2017, Unwin raped and killed Quyen Ngoc Nguyen on Wearside.

The perpetrators of her murder were subject to life licence conditions, the known breaches of which were not acted upon in a sufficient, timely and co-ordinated manner, including a failure of information sharing, all of which were not causative but possibly contributed to her death".

Derek WinterSunderland coroner

Monitoring unit struggled under 'unmanageable workloads'

Peter Harris

BBC Look North

The inquest into the death of Quyen Ngoc Nguyen was told a Northumbria Police unit monitoring offenders struggled under 'unmanageable workloads' before a young mother was murdered.

The killers, Stephen Unwin, 40, and William McFall, 51, had been freed from prison on licence after previous murders.

Sunderland coroner Derek Winter was told Unwin got into further trouble with Northumbria Police after his release in 2012 but this was not passed on to probation officers.

Retired Det Ch Insp Jaqueline Coleman told the court a system of flags and markers highlighting incidents on offenders computer records was scrapped in 2015 because of the workloads issue and it was felt to be inefficient.

A streamlined version of the flagging system was brought back by Northumbria Police as part of a review after Ms Nguyen was killed.

The inquest also heard a warning note on Unwin's file giving information about his probation handlers had not been updated.

Quyen Ngoc Nguyen

Information not passed to probation officers

Quyen Ngoc Nguyen was tortured and dumped in a burning car at Shiney Row on Wearside in 2017.

Her killers, Stephen Unwin, 40, and William McFall, 51, (pictured below left and right) had been freed from prison on licence after previous murders.

Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter was told Unwin got into further trouble with Northumbria Police after his release in 2012 but this was not passed on to probation officers.

Stephen Unwin (left) and William McFall
Northumbria Police

The inquest, which started last week, heard Unwin was arrested after a disturbance in 2013 in which he threatened to burn a house down but was later treated as a witness.

He was separately alleged to have assaulted a teenager in 2015 and in 2017 a woman told police he sent her threatening Facebook messages saying he would "smash her jaw" and rape her.

One month later, in August, 2017, Unwin raped and murdered 28-year-old Ms Nguyen.

Killers were out on licence from prison

Peter Harris

BBC Look North

A coroner has said failures by police and probation could have contributed to the death of a mother.

Quyen Ngoc Nguyen was raped by Stephen Unwin in 2017 before he and William McFall dumped her body in a burning car on Wearside.

The inquest heard both men were out of prison on licence at the time and Unwin continued to get into trouble but police didn't pass information to probation officers.

Coroner to write to Justice Secretary

The coroner is writing to Secretary of State for Justice, Northumbria Police's chief constable and the probation service about the need for further training to help prevent future deaths.

He concludes by expressing sympathy to the family.

'Possible' that failures contributed to death

Peter Harris

BBC Look North

The coroner says it is "possible" that a number of failures contributed to Ms Nguyen's death.

Unwin and McFall were on life licence and a number of breaches were not acted upon, including a failure of police to share information.

Coroner Derek Winter said she was unlawfully killed.

Assessment 'fell below good practice'

Peter Harris

BBC Look North

Assessments of Unwin "fell below good practice", the inquest was told, with records updated retrospectively after Ms Nguyen's murder.

There were "multiple occasions" when information about Unwin should have been shared between police and probation.

Had police passed on information there would have been enforcement action against Unwin, although it would not have been enough to recall him to prison.

However, the coroner noted that it might have moderated his behaviour.

Issues not passed from police to probation service

The inquest was told that when Unwin was sighted in an an exclusion zone in breach of licence in 2015 probation weren't told by police.

A police log in July 2017 showed a Facebook message from Unwin threatening a woman, but probation was not told.

Other issues, said the coroner, were that the Probation Service in Sunderland had staffing and accommodation problems.

Unwin undermined supervision meetings and time with his supervisor was short.

There were no contemporaneous computer records between 2016 and his arrest for murder.

Killers 'emboldened by failure'

Peter Harris

BBC Look North

Coroner Derek Winter says he has looked at whether there were systemic and individual failures on the part of the police and the probation service and others charged with the supervision of Unwin and McFall.

He said he's examined if information about them was passed between police and probation.

He says Unwin and McFall broke trust in them on life licence and were "emboldened" by what they must have seen as failure by authorities to expose their deceit.

The system for protection of public was at times dysfunctional contributed to by human failings.

There was a disconnect between police and probation so when Unwin was arrested in 2013 there is no evidence probation were told.

Stephen Unwin and William McFall

Roker Park brawl: Boy taken to hospital and couple left 'bruised and shaken'

Sunderland Echo


A schoolboy was taken to hospital and a couple were left bruised and shaken after a mass disturbance in a Sunderland park.

Today's front page
Sunderland Echo

Shiney Row burning body murder inquest verdict due

Peter Harris

BBC Look North

Quyen Ngoc Nguyen

An inquest into the death of a young mother killed by two convicted murderers will conclude today.

Quyen Ngoc Nguyen was tortured, raped and dumped in a burning car at Shiney Row on Wearside in 2017.

Her killers, Stephen Unwin, 40, and William McFall, 51, (pictured below left and right) had been freed from prison on licence after previous murders.

Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter has been told Unwin got into further trouble with Northumbria Police after his release in 2012 but this was not passed on to probation officers.

Stephen Unwin (left) and William McFall

The inquest was told the police department monitoring offenders in the community - known as MAPPA - was suffering "increasingly unmanageable workloads" during part of the period it had Unwin on its radar with staff cuts and civilians replacing police officers.

The coroner has said one purpose of the inquest is to examine any "missed opportunities" to return Unwin to prison before the murder of Ms Nguyen and to look at the way he was managed after being released on a licence in 2012.

The coroner is due to record a verdict from midday.