Magistrate suspended after trying to pay asylum seeker’s court charge resigns over treatment

A senior Leicestershire magistrate was suspended and investigated by one of the country’s highest judicial bodies after he tried to pay a defendant’s fine in court.

Nigel Allcoat, 65, of Burbage, who has since resigned, tried to pay towards the £180 criminal courts charge levied on a penniless asylum seeker who appeared before him at Leicester Magistrates three weeks ago.

Since April, dozens of magistrates across the country have resigned in protest at the court charges, which came into effect in April, after being introduced by the previous justice secretary, Chris Grayling. The charges were brought in as a means of ensuring convicted adult offenders paid towards the cost of running the criminal justice system.

Mr Allcoat, a world class musician, said: “What happened in my court three weeks ago in the Magistrates’ Court in Pocklingtons Walk was utterly appalling. It concerned an asylum seeker in his 20s who was ordered in June to pay this charge of £180. He was before me as a fine defaulter. As an asylum seeker his papers and situation is still being considered by our country and the immigration officials. He has a top-up card of £35 a week to purchase necessities in designated stores.”

He added: ” When he first appeared in court in June before another bench, a friend who runs a Leicester food stall, who occasionally fed him, paid a £60 victim surcharge on behalf of the asylum seeker. This was a generous and human act and should be applauded.

“However, before me as a fine defaulter, he was going to be further criminalized for non-payment of the court charge. If he was found with, or earned money, he would also break the law and thus jeopardise his status as an asylum seeker. I was appalled that he should be in such a Catch 22 situation, as which ever way he went he would break the law.”

He added: “As a magistrate, my main aim was to stop re-offending. Therefore, I took money from my pocket in court to pay some of the £180 in a pure humanitarian act to stop him being brought back to court as a fine defaulter again.

“This act brought me suspension and a full enquiry by the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee and I have not sat since that day. Now that my resignation has a long last been accepted I can now speak openly.”

He added: “To be taken to task in such a way for what I considered a humanitarian act beggars belief.

Manchester: Homeless people face jail over city centre tent camps.

A group of homeless people in Manchester face jail after pitching tents in the city centre, the latest episode in a long-running battle between the council and an ever increasing number of rough sleepers.

Six men and one woman are due in court in Manchester on Wednesday, accused of breaking a court order brought by Manchester city council and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). This injunction aims to prevent anyone from pitching a tent in the city to protest against the council’s homelessness policies.

The defendants insist they are innocent and that they were not protesting but simply living on the streets as comfortably as they could. The council sees it differently, accusing them of disrupting residents and businesses in the city centre via vandalism, intimidation and public urination. If the defendants lose they face a fine of up to £5,000 or two years in prison.

Some of those named in the court action had been living for over a month in a makeshift homeless centre dubbed the Ark, underneath the Mancunian Way flyover on Oxford Road on land leased by MMU.

Just one of a number of camps which will greet delegates at this weekend’s Tory party conference in the city, the Ark had portable toilets and a TV powered by a generator, as well as furniture and camp beds donated by the general public. A sign out front declared: “This is not a protest.”

The Ark was cleared by bailiffs on 18 September after the MMU and the council obtained a court order. It followed clearances at other tent camps across the city, including outside the Central Library, in the busy shopping area around St Ann’s Square and by Castlefield nightlife district.

On 3 August the council obtained an unusually wide-reaching injunction from Manchester county court. This stated: “Persons are forbidden from erecting and/or occupying tents or any other moveable temporary forms of accommodation for the purposes of or in connection with protests or similar events arising from or connected with the [council’s] homeless policy” within prescribed city limits.

Following the Ark eviction, the university subsequently erected fences around the dry spot under the bridge where homeless people have slept ever since the flyover was built 50 years ago.

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Single mum has benefits stopped because HMRC thinks local SHOP is her boyfriend

Debbie Balandis says her child tax credits have been stopped because her bank account showed a ‘Martin McColl’ – the newsagents where she collects her benefits

A single mum has had her benefits stopped because the taxman believe she is in a relationship – with her local SHOP.

Debbie Balandis, 40, was shocked to receive a letter from HMRC saying her £140-a-week child tax credits would be stopped because she had a new man, the Daily Record reports .She immediately called the tax office and was told activity on her bank account showed a Martin McColl – the trading name for her local newsagent chain RS McColl.

The mum-of-two, from Glagow, tried to explain that she collects benefits from the post office at her local RS McColl and that was why the name appeared on her bank statements. But she was told her weekly payments were being stopped until she can prove Martin McColl isn’t her live-in lover.

Debbie, who relies on tax credit to look after her 13-year-old son, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter to say my payments were being stopped so I called them up to see what the mix-up had been.

“I expected it to be sorted over the phone but instead I was told they knew I had a new partner.

“Shocked, I asked them who that was – because I’ve not been in a relationship for 10 years. The call handler said they had looked through my benefit payments and asked me who Mr McColl was? At first I was surprised – I’d never heard of anyone with that name – but suddenly I realised it was the name of the shop where I was withdrawing my money. I begged HMRC not to leave me without a penny all because of a fictitious boyfriend.

“But they didn’t believe me and have now stopped my benefits for supposedly having an affair with the post office.”

Daughter of man who committed suicide after being found fit to work takes human rights case to UN

THE grieving daughter of a disabled man who took his own life after being wrongly declared fit for work is getting help from Scottish disability rights campaigners to take his case to the United Nations over human rights violations and also make an official complaint to the General Medical Council (GMC).

Medical adviser Dr Stephen Carty, an Edinburgh GP and medical adviser for the Black Triangle campaign group, is helping Michael O’Sullivan’s daughter Anne-Marie compile a complaint against the GMC’s handling of her father’s assessment and their failure to act.

As part of the UN’s investigation into Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, they are putting together a dossier of information about the 60-year-old’s tragic case.

Details of a coroner’s report, which ruled that father-of-two O’Sullivan died as a direct result of being found fit for work by the UK Government’s disability assessors, was exposed by the Disability News Service investigative journalist John Pring last week and it’s the first time the UK Government’s ruthless welfare cuts have been blamed for the death of a claimant.

In the report to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the coroner for inner north London demanded it take action to prevent further deaths after concluding the “trigger” for O’Sullivan’s suicide was his fit-for-work assessment.
The north London man was moved from Employment Support on to Jobseeker’s Allowance after 10 years despite providing reports from three doctors, including his GP, stating that he had long-term depression and agoraphobia and was unable to work. He killed himself at his home on September 24, 2013.

Anne-Marie insisted her father should never have been ruled fit to work and plans to explore very avenue in her fight for justice.

John McArdle, Black Triangle campaign manager, said: “We are helping Anne-Marie to compile a complaint against the GMC and their lack of action against the doctor, employed by Atos, who ignored all other medical advice and found her dad fit for work.

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Half of all services now failing as UK care sector crisis deepends

Five years of funding cuts blamed for crisis threatening the welfare of elderly and disabled people

Nearly half of social care services visited by inspectors in the past year were found to be failing the frail and vulnerable, in what relatives and experts say is a symptom of the growing financial crisis in the sector.

An update given to the board of the Care Quality Commission last week showed that 41% of community-based adult social care services, hospice services and residential social care services inspected since last October were inadequate or required improvement. Of the 8,170 services examined, less than 1% (38) were outstanding and 58% (4,381) were good, according to the chief executive’s report, which was delivered last Wednesday.

The CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, Andrea Sutcliffe, told the Observer that the figures were extremely worrying. They will raise fresh concerns about the state of the sector after social care providers and council leaders warned in a joint submission to the Treasury last week that the fragility of the care sector was affecting their ability to perform their legal duties to elderly and disabled people.

Earlier this year, this newspaper revealed that the CQC was receiving more than 150 allegations of abuse of the frail and elderly in social care settings every day, prompting Sutcliffe to warn that a broken system was turning good people into bad carers as a consequence of poor working conditions, a lack of training and inadequate staffing.

There is also growing evidence of the crisis having an effect on the health system. A key part of the reason why Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, one of the NHS’s most prestigious hospitals, was put into special measures last week was that 200 of its beds were being occupied by patients who could not leave because there was a lack of social care in place to support them.

Last week’s appeal to the Treasury by providers and local authorities in advance of the government’s November spending review was made in recognition of the “unprecedented scale and severity of the financial challenges facing the whole of the social care sector”.

 Since 2010, cuts in council-funded adult social care have totalled £4.6bn, or 31% in real terms of net budgets. And these budgets will be cut by a further £500m this year.

PIP man cannot reach hospital for cancer x-rays after loss of Motability car

A disabled man who lost a leg to bone cancer says he has been left unable to travel to hospital for vital x-rays, after crucial evidence was ignored by an assessor testing his eligibility for the new disability benefit.

Tom Carter (pictured) was awarded the enhanced mobility rate of personal independence payment (PIP) last year after an above-knee amputation.

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Tragedy as baby who slept in car with homeless parents dies

A BABY forced to sleep in a car with his homeless parents has died.

A BABY forced to sleep in a car with his homeless parents has died.

Donald, who was born prematurely at Poole Hospital, was just two-months-old when he passed away.

He and his parents featured in the Daily Echo in July when they spoke about their struggle to find a home in the Bournemouth area.

 The cause of Donald’s death is not known at this time.

The family’s plight was originally highlighted by Claire Matthews, who runs the Hope for Food soup kitchen in Bournemouth. Claire contacted the Echo to say Donald had died and said his parents, now living in Kent, were “grief-stricken.”

 “They are in a very dark place at the moment, they have nothing to live for now,” she said.

Claire, whose organisation has offered to help pay for Donald’s funeral, said the parents did not want to talk more about the circumstances of his loss at this time.

The couple are understood to be living in a bed and breakfast and have yet to find permanent housing.

In July, they said they were unable to find enough money for a deposit and had stayed at a Boscombe bed and breakfast for a couple of nights, and had also slept in their car.

They said they felt let down by local councils.

 Both Poole Borough Council and East Dorset District Council were contacted for comment after it emerged the mum had contacted their housing departments for help in the past. A spokesman for East Dorset said they had never received any requests to re-home the family. requests to re-home the family.

Poole Borough Council confirmed their housing officers had spoken to the couple, and had offered advice and support, but were unable to help because she was based in Verwood at the time of her inquiry.

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