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UK police pay ‘lip service’ to protecting women, says father of abuse victim

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UK police pay ‘lip service’ to protecting women, says father of abuse victim

The father of a woman who died after being choked by her abusive partner has accused police of paying “lip service” to the protection of women and girls and called for a public inquiry into the culture of UK police.

West Midlands police apologised last month for a number of failings in the case of Suzanne Van Hagen, 34, who suffered months of domestic abuse before she died in February 2013.

Suzanne’s father, Les Van Hagen, said police were called nine times to the flat his daughter shared with her partner, John Worton, who had a history of being abusive to former girlfriends and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

On one occasion, he said, police officers were called to an attack on Van Hagen but ended up arresting her after finding cannabis belonging to Worton. Worton was not arrested despite the assault, he said.

West Midlands police have admitted missing several opportunities to protect Van Hagen before she died.

Her father said: “We should never have been put through what we were put through. You trust these people and they don’t do their job properly.”

The police’s handling of violence against women and girls is under new scrutiny after the murder of Sarah Everard by the Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens.

Mr Van Hagen backed calls for a public inquiry into claims of institutional misogyny in UK policing, saying his daughter’s case was “just not taken seriously” by West Midlands police.

A neighbour, who was asked by police to keep a log of suspected abusive incidents at Van Hagen’s flat, made a note of 27 occasions before she was found dead with bruising around her neck.

The force initially told Van Hagen’s family that she had been murdered by Worton who had then killed himself.

But detectives later changed their view and issued a statement saying she died from a suspected drug overdose, after alcohol and stimulant BZP were found in her system.

Officers said that bruising around her neck was the result of a sex game and ruled the cause of death was an accidental drug overdose.

But a police review in 2017 found that the senior investigating officer in the case failed to make proper enquiries about marks to Van Hagen’s neck. The force later admitted that its initial assumption about drugs had led to an “inaccurate narrative” about her death.

In a statement last month, the West Midlands chief constable Dave Thompson apologised for the “serious shortcomings” in the force’s handling of the case, before and after Suzanne’s death.

He said: “We deeply regret a number of missed opportunities to investigate Suzanne’s circumstances more widely and to engage with her.

“We could and should have done more to protect Suzanne and her daughter from the abuse they were suffering. To compound the family’s pain, they were let down by a failure to properly investigate Suzanne’s death.”

Mr Van Hagen said on Monday that the family had still not received a written apology from the police, despite the force publishing a video apology last month.

“It’s just lip service,” he said. “They found out they had made big, big, big mistakes in Suzanne’s case about three and a half years ago. It’s taken another three years to get this apology.”

On one occasion, a police family liaison officer told Van Hagen’s younger sister: “Your sister had two legs and she should have used them.”

Wayne Jones, the detective who led the failed investigation into Van Hagen’s death, was sacked two years later for sexually harassing four female colleagues.

The Van Hagens’ family lawyers, Deighton Pierce Glynn, said the case highlighted the “institutional discrimination against women by the police”.

Mr Van Hagen said: “The guy had a criminal record as long as your arm, he was not allowed to see his children because of domestic violence and yet he was allowed to have access to our granddaughter. The police knew, the social services knew, the mental health people knew this – but they just didn’t do anything about it. And then to cap it all, when Suzanne died they didn’t bother to investigate her death.”

After complaints by the family, a West Midlands police professional standards report found: “The police response to the domestic violence suffered by Suzanne Van Hagen was very poor, inadequate, lacked positive action and was not as the force and the public could have reasonably expected. West Midlands police did not take this domestic violence seriously.”

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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