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Prison officer 'wrote to governor over abuse trials'

PA Media

A prison officer at a top security jail emailed a prison governor asking him to have a "quiet word" with a guard who was giving evidence at a series of abuse trials against former officers, a jury heard.

John McGee, 50, from Burnopfield, County Durham, told Durham Crown Court the email was a "moment of madness" after his father had been convicted for his part in the mistreatment of inmates at Medomsley Detention Centre in the 1970s.

He denies a single count of perverting the course of justice, saying he did not think Phil Husband, the number one governor of Durham Prison, would act on the email he sent.

Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, said an officer called Hugh Cockburn gave evidence at three trials at Teesside Crown Court about seeing young inmates being assaulted in the reception at Medomsley.

He now worked at Durham Prison, where Mr Husband was the boss. McGee's father, also called John, was convicted of misconduct in a public office in December 2018, in the second of three trials of ex-guards.

The trial continues.

Video views of Extinction Rebellion protest

And here's a view of the Extinction Rebellion protest against the expansion of a mine near Dipton, County Durham.

View more on twitter

'Rogue fish trader' sentence welcomed by consumer watchdog

A trader who filled a disabled South Lakeland pensioner's freezer with fish without her permission, and then charged her £200, has been sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid work and a three-month curfew at Preston Crown Court.

Paul Dawson, 54 of Pelton Fell, Chester-le-Street, County Durham admitted an offence under trading standards legislation at Preston Crown Court.

Councillor Celia Tibble, the county council cabinet member for trading standards, said the case should be a warning for other unscrupulous door-to-door sales people.

"Rogue traders such as Mr Dawson charging exorbitant rates for unwanted goods are not just cowardly criminals; they are also damaging the security and confidence of the elderly and vulnerable."

I am delighted to see that justice has been served for the aggressive and deceitful practices that this criminal pursued.”

Celia Tibble

Theatre to close for £500k revamp

A theatre in County Durham will shut for five months to undergo a £500,000 upgrade.

Durham County Council is investing the money in Consett's Empire Theatre which needs essential roof repairs.

Empire Theatre
Durham County Council

The project will also involve refreshing the auditorium's decor, as well as updates to lighting and backstage facilities for visiting acts.

The 500-seat venue, which was built in 1885, will shut on 1 April and reopen in early September.

Four Darlington schools closed

Four schools have been closed in the Darlington area, Darlington Borough Council said.

They are:

  • Heighington CE Primary
  • Wyvern
  • Holy Family
  • Rise Carr College

Dozens of schools have also closed across County Durham because of the snow. The latest list can be found here.

Snowy scenes across region

Snowy scenes can be found across the region this Monday morning.

These were the views in Consett and Chester-le-Street this morning.

You can send us your photos by tweeting us or contacting us via our Facebook page or email.

Snow in field
BBC
Snow on estate
BBC

More schools closed by snow

More schools in County Durham have announced they will close today because of the weather.

Newest additions to the list include:

  • Seascape Primary School
  • Castleside Primary School
  • Consett Academy
  • Bloemfontein Primary School
  • Hamsterley Primary School
  • Roohope Primary School
  • East Stanley School
  • Bishop Barrington School
  • Benfieldside Primary School
  • St John's Chapel Primary School
  • Stanley Crook Primary School
  • North Durham Academy

Click here for the latest updates on school closures.

Director revealed for award-winning play of 'hope'

A respected theatre director will oversee a production in County Durham.

Conrad Nelson has been appointed to direct the Gala Theatre’s production of Cathy, which runs at the Durham City venue from 5 to 9 May.

The play, by award-winning playwright Ali Taylor, was inspired by Ken Loach's 1966 television drama, Cathy Come Home, and follows Cathy and her teenage daughter Danielle, who are forced out of their flat by spiralling living costs.

But despite the serious issues it explores, Conrad insists the production will be as heart-warming as it is hard-hitting.

“Cathy explores what happens when someone falls between the cracks in the system,” he said.

Conrad Nelson
Gala Theatre

PCC's widow calls for assisted dying law change

BBC Breakfast

The widow of former Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg has told BBC Breakfast she now supports assisted dying and is calling for a change in the law.

Mr Hogg campaigned for it to be de-criminalised before he died in December, aged 68, months after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Having previously been against such a move, his wife, Maureen, said her views had changed:

"His condition was deteriorating almost by the day. At that point we were just trying to get through each day.

"To see him cry, to be in that situation, was heartbreaking and that's something he had to live through and the memory is something I have to live with for the rest of my life.

"It's not what I would've wished for, so yes, I have changed my thinking."

It is illegal in England and Wales to encourage or assist a death and it holds a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

The Royal College of GPs is set to announce its stance on the issue later.

Ron Hogg in a hospice with his wife, Maureen
Family handout

Severe accident: A194(M) Tyne And Wear northbound

BBC News Travel

A194(M) Tyne And Wear northbound severe accident, at A195 Northumberland Way.

A194(M) Tyne And Wear - A194(M) in Tyne and Wear entry slip road blocked and queues northbound at A195, Follingsby Roundabout, because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Crematorium closed for six-month upgrade

Birtley Crematorium is to close for six months while its outdated equipment is upgraded.

Gateshead Council the said the 30-year-old furnace needed replacing so it was also taking the opportunity to improve other facilities.

This included levelling the chapel floor, improving staff welfare facilities, and installing a mercury abatement system to reduce emissions and make it more environmentally friendly.

From 16 March, all cremations in Gateshead will take place at Saltwell Crematorium.

Burials at Birtley Cemetery will still be carried out during the works, although they will be arranged around times when noisy building work is carried out.

Birtley Crematorium
Google

The cremator at Birtley was installed in 1989 and although it has been well maintained, repair costs are rising and there is an increasing need to replace worn parts."

Linda Green,Cabinet member for communities and volunteering

Protesters to oppose coal mine extension

Jill Archbold

BBC Look North

Climate activists are expected to stage a protest in County Durham later against plans to expand an opencast coal mine.

The owners of the Bradley site near Dipton, Banks Mining, want to extend the site to extract more coal.

Extinction Rebellion members are set to gather outside Durham's County Hall. A decision about the plans will be made by councillors later this year.

Dipton mine site
BBC

Waste plant hearing to get under way

BBC Look North

North East and Cumbria

Plans for a waste plant in Washington described as a "monster incinerator" by protesters will be discussed at a hearing starting later.

The proposals for the Sunderland Renewable Energy Centre were turned down by the city council last year.

Rolton Kilbride's application said the plant would operate continuously, seven days a week, processing up to 215,000 tonnes of non-hazardous municipal, commercial and industrial waste every year.

Campaigners, including MP Sharon Hodgson, are expected to gather at the Stadium of Light this morning.

Artist's impression of the Sunderland Renewable Energy Centre
Rolton Kilbride

Council says let there be light...

James Harrison

Local Democracy Reporter

Extra cash will be put aside for streetlights, potholes and community wardens, among a range of other initiatives, in County Durham’s spending plans for 2020-21.

The finance team has put up £31m for two years' worth of initiatives in the county to help hit climate change targets and for "sprucing up local communities".

And county bosses have insisted their generosity, which coincides with the council passing a quarter of a billion pounds worth of cuts since 2011, is not related to pending or previous elections.

“We know these are the things people want and this is the challenge on local government,” said Simon Henig, the leader of Durham County Council.

“We know people want more spending on towns and villages and neighbourhoods, but because of the pressures of adults’ and children’s social care it has left us frustrated and unable to do what the people want us to do.

“These are the things we would really like to be able to do on a permanent basis across County Durham.”

Simon Henig
Durham County Council

We know these are the things people want."

Simon HenigDurham County Council leader

Brick thrown by child from a bridge hits car windscreen

Police say a schoolboy was lucky not to kill someone when he threw a brick off a footbridge, sending it smashing into a car windscreen.

The boy, aged seven, hurled the brick on to the A182 Washington Highway on 4 February.

It shattered the windscreen of a car that was passing underneath, which had a child sitting in the back seat.

The impact caused the vehicle to swerve but no other vehicles were in the area and the driver was able to stop safely.

The shattered car windscreen
Northumbria Police

Police traced the boy and found that he had thrown the brick off the bridge to entertain his friends.

They have spoken to him and his parents and went to local schools to get the safety message across to other children.

Insp Nick Gjorven said: "Frankly, it is sheer luck that nobody was killed. The driver involved had just picked up his son from school and was driving at 60mph on a busy road when his windscreen shattered, causing him to swerve. It quite easily could have come through the windscreen and caused catastrophic injuries to all inside the car."

The age of criminality in the UK is 10 years old so police could not prosecute the boy.

Five teenagers charged with Camberwell estate murder

Clinton Evbota stabbing crime scene
Getty Images

Five teenagers have been charged with the murder of an 18-year-old man who was stabbed to death in Camberwell last year.

Clinton Evbota was one of 23 teenagers fatally stabbed in the capital in 2019 when he was attacked on the Brandon Estate on 10 October.

The Met Police say five teenagers including Rio Williams, 18, of Stockwell, have been charged with Mr Evbota's murder.

Mr Williams, a 17-year-old from Coulsdon, a 15-year-old from Camberwell and a 17-year-old from Camberwell will all appear at Bromley Magistrates' Court later today.

A fifth teenager, a 15-year-old boy from Camberwell, is due to appear at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court in County Durham.

Hospital plans 'not yet decided'

Local Democracy Reporting Service

James Harrison

"No decision" has been made on the future of Shotley Bridge Hospital, Durham County Council bosses have insisted.

It follows the approval last week of plans which could see services moved to the former site of Consett’s steelworks.

However, the North Durham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is behind proposals to overhaul health care in the area, claims other locations for a new hospital are still being considered.

A spokesman said: “The CCG is reviewing the future of Shotley Bridge Community Hospital and recently carried out a period of patient and stakeholder engagement, with a view to going out to public consultation sometime this year.

“Ahead of any public consultation, an independent exercise was carried out to look at potential sites in the area that would be suitable for a redevelopment and a shortlist of options is being compiled.

“This is to ensure that any future site meets the needs of the local population and to ensure its suitability as a modern healthcare environment.”

Shotley Bridge Hospital
Google

Severe disruption: A194(M) Tyne And Wear southbound

BBC News Travel

A194(M) Tyne And Wear southbound severe disruption, at A195 Northumberland Way.

A194(M) Tyne And Wear - A194(M) in Tyne and Wear lane closed on exit slip road southbound at A195, Follingsby Roundabout, because of flooding. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe disruption: A1(M) Tyne And Wear northbound

BBC News Travel

A1(M) Tyne And Wear northbound severe disruption, at J64 for A195 Western Highway.

A1(M) Tyne And Wear - A1(M) in Tyne and Wear lane closed on exit slip road northbound at J64, A195 (Washington), because of a break down. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe accident: A1231 Tyne And Wear westbound

BBC News Travel

A1231 Tyne And Wear westbound severe accident, from Pattinson Road to A195 Northumberland Way.

A1231 Tyne And Wear - A1231 Sunderland Highway in North Hylton blocked and queues westbound from Nissan Roundabout to Northumberland Way Interchange, because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Steel site hospital and hotel plan a 'no brainer'

James Harrison

Local Democracy Reporter

A new hospital, hotel and even a micro brewery could be built on the site of the former Consett steel works if "no brainer" plans are approved by county bosses.

About 3,500 jobs were lost when it shut down in 1980, but there have been a number of developments to regenerate the site.

The latest one, discussed at a meeting of Durham County Council’s County Planning Committee, was for the land south of the Puddlers Corner roundabout.

Weardale councillor John Shuttleworth said: “It is what the people of Consett want and deserve, there’s much economic benefit and improved social benefits from new health care facilities.

“This application is not finely balanced, it is a no brainer."

Artist's impression of steelworks site development
BBC

Submitted by Project Genesis, the organisation set up to redevelop the site, a second, more detailed, version would have to be approved before construction could start.

The meeting was told just one letter of objection had been submitted to the county council, raising concerns about traffic and loss of green space used by dog walkers.

Sinkhole repair work to get under way

Work to repair a huge sinkhole in a County Durham village is due to get under way, two weeks after it opened up.

Two properties on Clervaux Terrace in Fishburn have been declared unsafe, forcing the occupants to find alternative accommodation.

Durham County Council has put fencing in place around the sinkhole and installed temporary lights to keep traffic moving.

Mark Readman, the council's highways services manager said: "[We] were made aware of a sinkhole at Clervaux Terrace two weeks ago and the emergency response team attended to make the area safe.

"Following preparation of a scheme of repairs, we are beginning work today and will ensure local residents are kept informed as this progresses."

Fishburn sinkhole
BBC

Severe disruption: A194(M) Tyne And Wear northbound

BBC News Travel

A194(M) Tyne And Wear northbound severe disruption, from A195 Northumberland Way to A184 Newcastle Road.

A194(M) Tyne And Wear - One lane blocked and queues on A194(M) northbound in Wardley from A195, Follingsby Roundabout to A184, White Mare Pool Roundabout, because of a break down.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe disruption: A1 Tyne And Wear northbound

BBC News Travel

A1 Tyne And Wear northbound severe disruption, at J66 A167 Durham Road Bowes Incline.

A1 Tyne And Wear - One lane blocked and it's very slow on A1 Western Bypass northbound in Gateshead at J66, A167 (Bowes Incline), because of a break down.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Northern Rail franchise: Reaction from Newcastle Central Station

Passengers have been reacting to the government's takeover of Northern.

Everyone willing to comment was of the opinion that nationalisation could only be a good thing for the troubled rail company.

Janet Ulman
BBC

Janet Ulman, from Sheffield, said: "The system is broken and Northern is an example of a company not meeting customers' needs.

"It's unable to deliver but it's part of a wider problem.

"I hope public ownership will improve things. A national rail service would be better again."

Leonard Cole
BBC

Leonard Cole, from Washington, who was at the station to meet a friend off a train, said that although he did not usually travel by rail, nationalisation was a "really great idea".

"I drive because trains are too expensive, but if this can make them cheaper I think more people would use them", he said.

"It would get a lot of cars off the road."

Emma Finnigan
BBC

Emma Finnigan, from Darlington, said: "I'm really, really pro-nationalisation so in all aspects this is a good thing.

"It's been a bad sevice for a lot of money and while there have been problems with a national rail service, it's got to be an improvement."

However, she expressed concerns about its existing staff.

"People should not lose their jobs and existing workers' rights should be protected and looked after. That's really important."

Darren Robson
BBC

Darren Robson from Wallsend said: "Whenever I've used Northern Rail it's usually been OK.

"But I think this could improve things. It's a positive move."

Severe disruption: A1(M) County Durham southbound

BBC News Travel

A1(M) County Durham southbound severe disruption, at J63 for A167.

A1(M) County Durham - A1(M) lane closed on entry slip road southbound at J63, A167 (Chester-Le-Street), because of a lorry having a tyre changed. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe disruption: A1 Tyne And Wear northbound

BBC News Travel

A1 Tyne And Wear northbound severe disruption, between J66 A167 Durham Road Bowes Incline and J69 A692 Lobley Hill Road.

A1 Tyne And Wear - One lane closed on A1 Western Bypass northbound in Gateshead between J66, A167 (Bowes Incline) and J69, A692 (Dunston Interchange), because of vehicle tyre change.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe accident: A693 County Durham both ways

BBC News Travel

A693 County Durham both ways severe accident, from Shieldrow Lane to B6532 Wear Road.

A693 County Durham - A693 Rotary Way in Durham closed and queues from the Shieldrow Lane junction to the B6532 Wear Road junction, because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe accident: A1(M) County Durham northbound

BBC News Travel

A1(M) County Durham northbound severe accident, from J61 for A688 Tursdale Road to J62 for A690.

A1(M) County Durham - Lane blocked and it's slow on A1(M) northbound in Durham from J61, A688 (Bowburn) to J62, A690 (Carrville), because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe disruption: A1(M) Tyne And Wear southbound

BBC News Travel

A1(M) Tyne And Wear southbound severe disruption, at J64 for A195 Western Highway.

A1(M) Tyne And Wear - One lane blocked and it's very slow on A1(M) southbound in Tyne and Wear at J64, A195 (Washington), because of a break down.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe accident: A1(M) County Durham northbound

BBC News Travel

A1(M) County Durham northbound severe accident, from J62 for A690 to J63 for A167.

A1(M) County Durham - One lane blocked and it's very slow on A1(M) northbound in Durham from J62, A690 (Carrville) to J63, A167 (Chester-Le-Street), because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Whorlton Hall danger signs 'under watchdog's noses all along'

Nick Triggle

Health Correspondent

The undercover Panorama filming at Whorlton Hall shook the sector. It came eight years after an expose at a similar facility, Winterbourne View.

That scandal prompted ministers, inspectors and senior people in the learning disability sector to promise it would not happen again.

People would be moved out of these type of units and tougher regulation would ensure these vulnerable patients were treated with dignity and respect.

So the fact that warnings over the care being provided at Whorlton Hall went unheeded seems unforgiveable and prompt even more questions about how these institutions are regulated.

After the BBC programme was aired, the Care Quality Commission claimed it was incredibly difficult to spot the signs of problems in the closed cultures that characterise these sort of institutions.

But it is now clear the evidence the CQC needed to prompt them to take a closer look was under their noses all along.

If the concerns of Barry Stanley-Wilkinson had been acted on, his bosses at the Care Quality Commission would surely have been compelled to keep a closer eye on what was going on at Whorlton Hall long before the BBC did.

BreakingUnpublished Whorlton Hall report 'missed opportunity'

The health watchdog was wrong not to publish an inspection report raising concerns about Whorlton Hall, four years before a Panorama investigation alleged abuse was taking place, a review says.

Former Care Quality Commission inspector Barry Stanley-Wilkinson said not publishing his 2015 report was a "missed opportunity" to prevent abuse.

Undercover filming at the facility near Barnard Castle appeared to show patients with learning difficulties being mistreated.

Ten workers were later arrested.

The CQC commissioned David Noble to carry out an independent review into how it dealt with the concerns raised by Mr Stanley-Wilkinson's draft inspection report and how they were addressed through its internal processes.

Whorlton Hall
BBC

Chester-le-Street man speaks of Wuhan experience

The UK is to begin monitoring flights arriving from China, as part of a series of precautionary measures after the spread of a new coronavirus.

The measures, to be announced by the health secretary later, will apply to flights from Wuhan to London Heathrow.

Alex Field teaches English at a high school in Wuhan and has lived there for more than two years, but returned at the weekend to visit his family in Chester-le-Street.

He said he was screened on his transit through Hong Kong airport by having his body temperature checked, but now understands this is happening on the plane, before passengers are allowed off.

Referring to how the news emerged in China, he said: "Initially it came out that a few people had the flu, a virus, then it sort of went away and we were told it couldn't spread any more.

"But the day after I came back to England for the holiday it sort of exploded again."

From what he has heard people are heeding advice to avoid crowds.

"No-one is going out at the moment, everyone is staying indoors", he said.

"People have been told not to panic, but I understand some families have actually cancelled their Chinese New Year dinner over worries of either taking out or bringing in the virus."

He is now concerned that his girlfriend, who is due to fly out of China and join his family at the weekend, might be unable to do so.

As for his own return to Wuhan he is expecting to get feedback from the school.

"I'm not due back until the 7 February so guess I'll hear something closer to the time."

Viruses
Getty Images