To Serve and Eject: A night on the Covid-party police beat

Reporter Courtney Cameron joined Police Scotland officers as they were called to break up parties on Friday night.

STV News

Glasgow. Friday, 10.45pm. Overcast. 

Lockdown rules in effect.

Everyone knows the rules by now – gatherings limited to six people from two households. Yet here I am, racing toward a party behind a police van. We are uninvited guests, the real-life fun police dispatched to bust clusters of enjoyment across the city.

With the rate of coronavirus rising, this is a serious job. Groups tend to spread the virus easily. Well-intentioned partiers with bellies full of booze? Full-scale biohazards.

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I expect a quiet night. Staying in saves lives. Going out in large groups puts lives at risk. Everyone I know follows the rules, so everyone else must follow the rules. Wrong.

The first call – a party at a student accommodation building. The area around the flats is noisy, busy with students. The closer we get, the more they disperse. Nobody wants a run-in with the squad that fun forgot.

“The officers approached the students and explained why they were there,” said chief inspector John McQuilter.

“Within a couple of minutes they did disperse.”

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The students get off lucky. They don’t argue and break up right away, no need for fixed penalty fines.

Scotland: Officers arrested six people across the weekend.

It won’t be a quiet night. We’re together for four hours, we’ll visit five properties to lay down the law.

That’s just a small percentage of the 405 houses in Scotland which received a complaint and were visited by officers across the weekend.

Once we’re done dealing with the students, it’s off to Whiteinch. 

Party reported. Numbers unknown.

The officers make their way to the stairwell after spying several silhouettes in a window. I stand outside to keep the numbers down, desperately trying to eavesdrop. The party went quiet, the rain started.

Five minutes later, the officers step back into the night with two hooded figures. There were four people inside, neighbours had popped by for a visit.

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Time to go home and use the phone instead.

“Two people live there, the other two live across the street,” the officer says.

“They were confused and weren’t sure of the regulations. We gave them a bit of guidance and the two boys left and it was fine. No issues.”

Chief inspector McQuilter  wants his officers to educate rather than arrest people or issue fines. Most of the time it works out.

“It’s all about speaking to people and making sure that they are aware that it’s their safety that’s at the bottom of this,” he says.

“It’s only in very few circumstances that we have to turn to enforcement. It’s all about education, engagement and explaining.”

Over the weekend, just one person was fined and six arrested at house parties across Scotland. Officers say they only issue a fixed penalty fine if the host of the party refuses to comply with their guidance.

Guidance: Police will only issue a fixed penalty fine as a last resort.

Midnight. A new day, a new party.

After ten minutes of close listening, we figure out which West End house the music is coming from and we head to shut it down.

Turns out it’s a birthday party – only four people in the house, they’re all related. But party time is over – birthdays aren’t exemptions.

Near the end of our shift. It’s off to Hillhead – where 16 students are piled into a flat. They think they have a good excuse – no pub would take them.

“They couldn’t get a drink anywhere so they came here instead,” the officer says. 

They get no satisfaction at the flat either. Police send them back into the night, individually, to think about what they’ve done.

Tonight’s work is done, but police expect the number of calls to increase as people become increasingly concerned about the virus cutting its way through house parties and then hitting everyone in the community.

“We would expect members of the community to call us when they are concerned,” said deputy chief constable Malcolm Graham.

“In terms of houses, gardens and outdoor spaces, if we are called about incidences where people are breaking the law, we will respond to that in the consistent way that we have done up until now.”

Two weeks ago, Police Scotland recorded a significant increase in the number of reports of noise, public nuisance and disturbance compared to the same time in 2019 as neighbours looked to shut down anything resembling a good-time gathering.

Last week, the trend continued. Officers responded to 1852 reports of such incidents across the country – an increase of 41% compared to the same weekend last year.

Patience is running out – and neighbours have 999 on speed dial.

First Minister set to ease restrictions on outdoor meet-ups

The First Minister will make a statement in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

Russell Cheyne/PA via PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon could announce an easing of restrictions on outdoor meetings.

An easing of the restrictions on outdoor meetings could be announced by Nicola Sturgeon in her latest coronavirus update.

The First Minister is due to give a statement on the ongoing fight against Covid-19 to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

She has already indicated a change in the rules on outdoor meetings – which at the moment only allow for two people from two different households to get together – could be coming.

On Friday, Sturgeon indicated “good progress” with the vaccination programme and the falling number of infections could mean that “greater normality is firmly on the horizon”.

“The First Minister has been clear that we will try to relax lockdown as quickly as we possibly can do, but we have to do it in a sustainable manner.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney
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She said then she was “hopeful” the Scottish Government may be able to make some “relatively minor, but I think important, changes in our ability to meet outdoors and also how young people are able to interact with their friends outdoors”.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed on Monday any changes to the current lockdown regime would be set out by Sturgeon.

He added: “The First Minister has been clear that we will try to relax lockdown as quickly as we possibly can do, but we have to do it in a sustainable manner.

“That means taking the appropriate steps in the appropriate sequence to make sure we don’t run the risk of the virus running away from us again.”

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The easing of lockdown restrictions began in February when children in the first three years of primary, as well as nursery youngsters, were able to return to the classroom.

Older primary children are expected to return to school full time from next Monday, March 15 – with secondary school pupils also to get some time back in the classroom from this date, before returning full-time after the Easter holiday.


Reaction to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview

A series of shocking claims were made by the couple during a two hour interview covering racism, mental health and the Royal Family.

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The interview with Oprah Winfrey was broadcast on STV on Monday night.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have said the institution of the Royal Family failed to care for them while their mental health suffered or protect them from racism in the tabloid press.

Harry and Meghan made a series of shocking statements during their interview with Oprah Winfrey broadcast on STV on Monday night.

Meghan said she had suicidal thoughts and was refused help by senior staff in the Royal household.

She also told Ms Winfrey that Harry had been asked about “how dark” their son’s skin would be. The Duke said he would never reveal the details of the conversation had with an unamed family member, but Ms Winfrey later said that it was not the Queen or Prince Philip.

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During the two hour interview, which was first aired in the US overnight on Sunday, the couple revealed their second child, due in the summer, is a girl.

Harry and Meghan moved to the US in 2019 after deciding to “step-back” as working royals. Meghan said that the Royal Family institution failed to protect her and Harry from false stories in the tabloid press.

In a previously unseen section of the interview, Harry said the British tabloid media is “bigoted” and that this filtered out to the rest of society.

Asked about the Royal Family, Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to comment beyond praising the Queen.

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At the Downing Street press conference on Monday, he said: “I have always had the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth.”

But on “all other matters to do with the royal family, I have spent a long time now not commenting on royal family matters and I don’t intend to depart from that today”.

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party, said: “The issues that Meghan has raised of race and mental health are really serious issues.

“It’s a reminder that there’s a lot more to do. Nobody but nobody should be prejudiced because of the colour of their skin or mental health issues.

“Well they’re serious allegations, and we’ll have to see how the institution reacts to this.

“It’s bigger in a sense than just the Royal Family, because that experience of racism, I’m sad to say, is too prevalent still in the 21st century. We have to take that very, very seriously.”

The Society of Editors said the UK media “is not bigoted and will not be swayed from its vital role holding the rich and powerful to account”.

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Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: “It is not acceptable for the Duke and Duchess to make such claims without providing any supporting evidence.”

Buckingham Palace is yet to publicly respond to the interview.

If you or someone you know needs help, Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. Or, if you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

Man accused of murdering woman and two-year-old girl

Andrew Inness is accused of murdering Bennylyn Burke, 25, and two-year-old Jellica Burke.

Avon and Somerset Police via Facebook
The charge states that Bennylyn Burke was repeatedly hit with a hammer.

A man has appeared in court charged with murdering a woman and her two-year-old daughter.

Andrew Innes, 50, appeared at Dundee Sheriff Court on Monday.

He was charged with repeatedly hitting 25-year-old Bennylyn Burke with a hammer and murdering her.

Innes is also accused of assaulting Jellica Burke by “means unknown” and murdering the two-year-old.

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It’s alleged both murders took place at a property in Troon Avenue, Dundee, between February 17 and March 5.

Innes, who made no plea, was held in custody following the hearing while the case was continued for further examination.


Teen charged after ‘attempted murders’ at football pitches

Three men were taken to hospital after being stabbed in Glasgow.

Police Scotland
The stabbings happened at Greenfield Football Centre on Duror Street.

A teenager has been arrested and charged in connection with two attempted murders and a serious assault in Glasgow.

Three men, two 21-year-olds and a 19-year-old, were stabbed at Greenfield Park football pitches on Duror Street, in the east of the city, on Saturday, February 27.

A 19-year-old has been charged in connection with the incident which happened at around 8.20pm and resulted in the three men being taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary with serious injuries.

Detective sergeant Stephen Greenshields, of Shettleston CID, said: “We would like to thank the local community for helping us with our investigation and providing information.”

© Google Maps 2020
Greenfield Football Centre on Duror Street (Google Maps)
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The 19-year-old is due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday, March 9.


Medieval skull removed from auction after ‘unethical’ warning

Antiquarians say human remains should be 'treated with respect' as skull recovered from excavation site is pulled from sale.

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Skull was due to be put up for auction in Edinburgh.

A medieval skull expected to fetch £700 when it went under the hammer was removed from auction – after experts warned it was unethical to sell human remains.

The skull, recovered from a Victorian-era excavation near Durham, was pulled from sale at Ramsay Cornish Auctioneers in Leith, Edinburgh.

Antiquarians had raised concerns about the skull, due to be sold on Saturday, claiming the sale of human remains raised ‘ethical and moral’ issues.

Dr Simon Gilmour, director of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, said while it’s not illegal to sell human remains, they should be ‘treated with respect’.

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He said it was a grey area but that he wanted to work with auction houses to stop the sale of human remains, and close the “loophole” which allowed it.

Dr Gilmour said: “The key thing herd is that selling such an item is legal – that is the core thing.

“There is a blind spot where human remains are concerned. You cannot own a human body or remains so we find it odd that you can sell them.

“It is a grey area and it is one that we want to tackle and close the loophhole.

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“For us, it is an ethical issue.

“You are talking about part of a human body, a person, someone’s son or daughter and it should be treated with respect.

Dr Gilmour said archaeologists and those working with human remains were bound by a strict code of ethics with disturbed remains to be reburied following analysis.

He added: “If remains end up being sold, then it is very unlikely that it will be re-buried.”

A skull which belonged to the Edinburgh artist Sir William Mactaggart and which was used as a studio prop fetched £900 at the auction house in December.

A spokeswoman for the auction said a market existed among those with an interest in the macabre, as well as oddities and curiosities.

But she added they would not auction off any more skulls until “a wider debate can be had”.

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The British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO), described the sale of human remains as unethical.

They said there have been “numerous cases” in recent years where human remains have been bought and sold for financial gain.

A statement said: “It is ethically objectionable to commodify the remains of people as objects, and the concept of ‘ownership’ of most human remains is not recognised in law.”

It said there was a wider concern that trade encouraged looting of both archaeological and contemporary burial sites.

A spokeswoman for Ramsay Cornish Auctioneers said the item was removed soon after contact was made by Dr Gilmour.

She added: “The skull came from a dig, a burial site, and that is why we wanted to remove it.

“A skull which comes from a medical provenance might be viewed differently. It is very delicate territory but I am comfortable with the decision.

“There is a lot of censoring of objects and there are debates to be had, with each side listened to.

“Some might question whether it is legitimate to excavate a burial site. The reality is these are very important issues.

“Our leaning would be not to include any more skulls until a wider debate has been had.”

Driver attacked as teenagers ‘tampered’ with bus

The number 26 bus was travelling along towards Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh on Friday when the gang targeted the vehicle.

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Lothian Buses confirmed services including the number 26 would return to Clermiston as scheduled with an increased police prescence.

A bus driver was assaulted by a teenager as he tried to stop a gang from tampering with his vehicle in Edinburgh.

The number 26 bus was travelling along Drum Brae Drive towards Corstorphine Hill at about 10pm on Friday.

As it came to a halt at a bus stop, police say the group of youths – three males and a female aged between 15 and 18 – tried “tampering” with the vehicle from the outside when the driver got off.

He was attacked by one of the group, who is described as 6ft tall, of slim build and wearing a black jacket.

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Inspector Johnny Elliott said: “This was an unprovoked assault on a man who was simply trying to do his job and it is vital we trace the individuals involved.

“I am appealing for anyone who was in the area on Friday evening and either witnessed the incident, or noticed a group of youths matching the above description behaving suspiciously, to get in touch.

“I would also ask any motorists with dashcams who were on the roads at the time to please check their footage in case they have captured anything which could be of significance.

“Anyone with information should contact police on 101, quoting incident number 3774 of March 5. Alternatively, you can contact the Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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Lothian Buses initially removed services, including the number 26, after “a serious incident of anti-social behaviour”.

But on Monday the operator confirmed services would return to Clermiston as scheduled with an increased police presence.

Operations director Sarah Boyd said: “Our drivers have played a critical part in keeping services operating for keyworkers and those that require to make essential journeys across the last 12 months and it is extremely disappointing that we are being targeted at various locations across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

“Following a serious incident on Friday evening and a significant increase in instances of antisocial behaviour, we made the difficult decision to remove services from the Clermiston area on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

“While we offer our sincere apologies to any of our customers who were inconvenienced, the safety of our drivers and customers remains our absolute priority and we will not hesitate to take similar action again if necessary.

“Working closely with Police Scotland we will continue to monitor the situation as our services return to Clermiston this evening.”


Autistic teen sends almost 700 thank you cards to NHS staff

Paddy Joyce hopes to send more than 5,000 letters by the end of the year.

NHSGGC/PA via PA Wire
Paddy Joyce has sent almost 700 thank you letters to hospital staff.

An autistic teenager has sent almost 700 thank you cards to staff at a hospital to share messages of support with those on the front line dealing with Covid-19.

Paddy Joyce, 17, from Glasgow, began writing to healthcare staff in mid-January as a way to help with his anxiety after he became very upset over the death statistics.

With the assistance of staff at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI), he has now been able to hand-write 663 individually named cards to members of the team.

So far Paddy, who has autism with significant global development delays, has written more than 1,000 cards and hopes to send more than 5,000 by the end of the year.

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Hospital staff have been touched to receive the cards (NHSGGC/PA)
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He said: “I saw how sad and upset they were on the news. My mum said I should write to someone, so I asked her to find someone and lots of people wanted one, so I want to write to everyone.”

His mother Indra said writing the letters helps with Paddy’s concerns about Covid.

She said: “Statistics make sense to him because they are numbers and organised.

“He honed in on Covid death stats and they made him very upset, but he couldn’t stop looking at them.

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“Now, he’ll read them, and they make him determined to write more cards so he can help make the doctors and nurses happy.

“And because a fair few respond to him, he feels he is making a difference. He now feels he has purpose.”

The first of the cards were opened by people working in the intensive care unit (ICU) at GRI and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said staff have been touched by Paddy’s gesture of kindness.

Pat Cruickshanks, charge nurse within the ICU, said: “This last year has been so different to anything we’ve known and it’s not over yet.

NHSGGC/PA via PA Wire
The cards have been sent to staff at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (NHSGGC/PA)

“We’re still very busy with both Covid and non-Covid patients and gestures like these provide something of a boost to keep us going.

“I know that everyone in the team and across the hospital is really grateful and I hope, at some point, we all get to meet Paddy to say thanks to him in person. He should be so proud of what he has done.”

Margaret Cooper, an auxiliary within the ICU, said: “You sometimes think that no-one else cares or sees what you are going through, so it’s just nice to feel that we’re not forgotten.

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“It’s amazing that he’s thought of all of us and the amount of work he’s put in is just fantastic. I really do appreciate it. He sounds like a very kind young man and I hope we can see him soon.”

Paddy will soon be starting sixth year at secondary school and despite his complex needs, he hopes to follow a pathway which could lead to him working within the NHS.

Dr Barbara Crooks, consultant anaesthetist at the GRI, who helped to co-ordinate the task of getting names together for Paddy to write the cards, said: “I know this was a tremendous effort from Paddy to write an individual thank you to so many of our team.

“They have been blown away by Paddy’s heartfelt messages, which have been quite touching and certainly lifted our spirits.

“Thank you to Paddy and his mum Indra for providing a much-needed morale boost.”

Ponsati lawyers vow to fight on after MEPs remove immunity

Former Catalan politician could face extradition to Spain over her role in Catalonia's unsanctioned independence referendum.

Jane Barlow via PA Media
Clara Ponsati faces a charge of sedition.

Lawyers for a politician who could face extradition to Spain have vowed to fight on after the European Parliament voted to remove her immunity.

Clara Ponsati faces a charge of sedition over her role in Catalonia’s unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017.

MEPs voted on Monday to lift the immunity of the St Andrews academic as well as the former president of Spain’s Catalonia region, Carles Puigdemont, and former Catalan health minister, Toni Comin, in a move that could pave the way for their extradition.

Aamer Anwar, Ponsati’s lawyer, tweeted: “Shameful vote by @Europarl_EN giving into Spain to lift immunity of MEPs @ClaraPonsati @toni_comin @KRLS Who face extradition & political persecution for exercising the democratic will of the Catalan people-The legal battle goes on”

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The Spanish government immediately welcomed the decision by the European Union’s legislature as a victory for the rule of law and against those who sought to break the north-eastern region away from the rest of Spain.

The decision is likely to extend the three-and-a-half year legal saga on the fate of the three separatists by months, if not years, since many avenues for appeal remain open before any possible extraditions.

Ponsati, a University of St Andrews academic, became an MEP after five seats in the European Parliament were given to Spain when the UK left the EU in January 2019.

This afforded her and the other two – who also became MEPs – protection as members of the EU assembly.

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She could be sentenced to 15 years behind bars if convicted, with nine other Catalan officials given jail sentences of between nine and 13 years for the same offence in autumn 2019.

An extradition case hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in Edinburgh last year heard there would be no point discussing the matter until the immunity issue was resolved.

The court had been expected to centre on the competency of the extradition warrant and issues surrounding dual criminality, which relate to whether the law is an offence in both countries.

A number of subsequent hearings have since been delayed.

This latest development could clear the way for that argument to be played out in court.

Meanwhile, Puigdemont’s legal team is planning to appeal against losing his immunity to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee had already voted 15-8 with two abstentions last month to recommend waiving their immunity.

Cancer patients ‘relying on handouts for heating and clothes’

Figures show Macmillan Cancer Support provided £1.2m in grants last year to almost 3700 people.

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Necessities: Figures show Macmillan Cancer Support provided £1.2m in grants last year to almost 3700 people.

Scots cancer patients are relying on “handouts” to pay for essentials such as heating and clothes, according to a charity.

Figures show Macmillan Cancer Support provided £1.2m in grants last year to almost 3700 people to help them pay for necessities.

The charity says this highlights the financial stresses cancer causes and called on political parties in Scotland to pledge their support for the rapid rollout of a model of support, ahead of the Holyrood elections in May.

Janice Preston, head of Macmillan in Scotland, said: “No one dealing with a life-threatening illness should have to worry about how to pay their rent or heat their home.

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“While I’m pleased Macmillan was able to give one-off grants to so many people in urgent need, these figures show just how badly cancer can affect people financially.

“That’s why it’s vital everyone with cancer in Scotland is offered an in-depth assessment of their needs, followed by the right support, from benefits advice to counselling.

“In 2019, Macmillan and the Scottish Government pledged £9m each to fund the Transforming Cancer Care programme which aims to make this a reality, and the need for the programme in a post-Covid world was made clear in the recent cancer recovery plan.

“We’re calling on all political parties and candidates to pledge their support for the programme and its rapid rollout across the country.”

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Derek McKeown and Jacqueline O’Neill (handout)
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About £150,000 was given to people with cancer to help them afford new beds, mattresses and bedding, while about £85,500 went to cover hospital travel costs.

The charity also provided almost £457,000 to help pay for heating, while another £370,000 was awarded to help them buy new clothes, often needed due to a change in body shape resulting from treatment.

Derek McKeown, a security guard from Inverclyde, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in October.

The 55-year-old was given a £350 Macmillan grant to buy new clothes, which he used to buy a suit for his wedding with Jacqueline O’Neill after losing three stone.

He said: “We are able to sleep at night a little easier thanks to all the help. I’m now two sizes smaller than I was, so the Macmillan grant has also helped to buy a new suit for the wedding.”


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