UK politics news review

News of the World ‘ordered burglary’

Police probe link to break-ins at homes of MPs and stars

Detectives have evidence which suggests that a notorious private detective agency carried out a burglary while working for the News of the World.

In the latest twist to the phone-hacking scandal, a police intelligence report indicates that Southern Investigations, based in south London, targeted the home of a newsworthy individual in an attempt to dig up salacious information.

The Independent has established that the material – the first suggested link between the News of the World and burglary – is being held by Operation Tuleta, the police inquiry into illegal newsgathering techniques other than phone hacking and corruption. It refers to a “sortie” carried out into a woman’s home in Ascot, Berkshire, and mentions the name of Alex Marunchak – a long-serving executive on the News of the World.

A police assessment indicated that Southern Investigations or an associate had “gained unauthorised access into a private domestic premises with a view to gaining information on the resident”.

Separately, a former undercover policeman who infiltrated Southern Investigations said that it burgled MPs’ homes in an attempt to obtain embarrassing information for the newspaper. All those involved in Southern Investigations, and Mr Marunchak, deny any involvement in break-ins or knowledge of any illegal acts.

Britain’s most senior police officer was the target of a secret surveillance operation by the News of the World.

Lord Stevens, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police from 2000 to 2005, was tailed by a private detective agency working for the tabloid in 1999, shortly before he took charge of London’s police force.

The agency, Southern Investigations, received a tip-off that the then-deputy commissioner was using taxpayers’ money to fly a Metropolitan Police aircraft up to Northumberland to see his mistress. There is no suggestion that the tip-off had any foundation in truth.

According to Derek Haslam, a former undercover police officer who infiltrated Southern Investigations for Scotland Yard, the agency wanted to use the sensitive information to “control” Lord Stevens. Mr Haslam said: “I told my handler, ‘You’d better tell him they are on to him and they are looking at anything’. They saw filth on police and politicians as a way to control them.”

Jonathan Rees, a partner in Southern Investigations, rejected that allegation as “absurd” but confirmed the surveillance took place. In an interview with, he said: “We were given instructions and an allegation that he was using a Met Police plane from Biggin Hill to see his mistress in Northumbria [sic].

“Now we did organise a surveillance team because it’s what the News of the World wanted and we had team in Northumbria and here, but he never showed, so whether the allegation is true or not, who knows? The allegation was that he was using… a Metropolitan Police Federation plane bought by donations from charity… to travel up to [Northumberland] to see his mistress. You can see why people wanted… that story.”

Yesterday, a spokesman for Lord Stevens denied that he flew a police aircraft to Northumberland or had a mistress. He added that the former commissioner was unaware he was under surveillance.

Indeterminate sentences ruling due from European Court

The European Court of Human Rights is set to rule later on whether indeterminate prison sentences in England and Wales are lawful.

Three convicted criminals say their human rights were breached because they were stuck on a waiting list for rehabilitation courses.

The courses assessed whether prisoners given indefinite sentences were safe to be released.

[I]n the three cases before the Strasbourg court, the men said they could not get on to the courses to show they had changed.

Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years

One of the world’s leading ice experts has predicted the final collapse of Arctic sea ice in summer months within four years.

In what he calls a “global disaster” now unfolding in northern latitudes as the sea area that freezes and melts each year shrinks to its lowest extent ever recorded, Prof Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University calls for “urgent” consideration of new ideas to reduce global temperatures.

In an email to the Guardian he says: “Climate change is no longer something we can aim to do something about in a few decades’ time, and that we must not only urgently reduce CO2 emissions but must urgently examine other ways of slowing global warming, such as the various geoengineering ideas that have been put forward.”

These include reflecting the sun’s rays back into space, making clouds whiter and seeding the ocean with minerals to absorb more CO2.

Wadhams has spent many years collecting ice thickness data from submarines passing below the arctic ocean. He predicted the imminent break-up of sea ice in summer months in 2007, when the previous lowest extent of 4.17 million square kilometres was set. This year, it has unexpectedly plunged a further 500,000 sq km to less than 3.5m sq km. “I have been predicting [the collapse of sea ice in summer months] for many years. The main cause is simply global warming: as the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer.

“At first this didn’t [get] noticed; the summer ice limits slowly shrank back, at a rate which suggested that the ice would last another 50 years or so. But in the end the summer melt overtook the winter growth such that the entire ice sheet melts or breaks up during the summer months.

“This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates”.

Vivienne Westwood uses London Fashion Week to declare support for Assange

Jade Parfitt wears Vivienne Westwood Assange T-shirt at the Foreign Office
Jade Parfitt wears Vivienne Westwood Assange T-shirt at the Foreign Office

Dame Vivienne Westwood used a London Fashion Week show held at the Foreign Office to declare a message of support for Julian Assange.

The veteran British fashion designer handed out T-shirts bearing her photo and the slogan “I’m Julian Assange” to models and celebrities in the front row.

Her move will be seen as provocative because the show was held in the headquarters of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, off Whitehall, which is caught in a diplomatic stand-off over the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition.

The model Jade Parfitt was photographed wearing one of the pro-Assange T-shirts during the event on Sunday afternoon.

Lorraine Candy, the editor-in-chief of Elle UK magazine, posted a picture of the model online, together with the message: “Jade in Assange supporter Tshirt V Westwood has designed! It’s going to be controversial show at foreign office!”

Last month the 71-year-old designer, who came to prominence selling punk clothes with Malcolm McLaren, issued another public statement in support of Mr Assange.

The message, which included the phrase “we are all Julian Assange”, was delivered outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge where he has been holed up for almost three months.

27/11/13 Having received a takedown notice from the Independent newspaper for a different posting, I have reviewed this article which links to an article at the Independent’s website in order to attempt to ensure conformance with copyright laws.

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