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Koko Camden: Fire engulfs famous music venue

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Media captionOne third of the roof of Koko in Camden was on fire at one point, the London Fire Brigade said

One of London’s most famous music venues has been badly damaged in a blaze.

The dome on the roof of Koko in Camden has been destroyed by fire, according to the London Fire Brigade.

Sixty firefighters helped fight the flames after the blaze broke out just before 21:00 GMT on Monday. No injuries have been reported.

The venue began life as the Camden Theatre in 1900 and has hosted stars including Madonna, Coldplay and Prince.

Station commander Jon Lewis said the fire was brought under control at about 02:30 on Tuesday, adding: “Firefighters’ quick action and hard work in the early stages meant the fire was contained to the roof and saved the rest of the building.”

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Madonna performing at Koko in 2005

Koko owner Olly Bengough said he was “deeply saddened”, adding: “We’ll be doing our best to get the redevelopment of this iconic building back on track.”

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The fire in the building’s roof was brought under control in the early hours of Tuesday

Koko, which was closed for refurbishment, was also previously known as the Camden Palace and Camden Hippodrome and has been one of the capital’s most iconic live music venues for decades.

The Rolling Stones, The Clash and Ed Sheeran are among other star names to have performed at the venue, which is close to Mornington Crescent underground station.

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Opening night at Camden Palace 1981 with Steve Strange (left)

It was reportedly the last venue where AC/DC’s Bon Scott was seen drinking before his death from alcohol poisoning in 1980.

In the early 80s it served as a major venue for the punk and New Romantic scene, with singer Steve Strange of the band Visage holding club nights.

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Oliver Cooper

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About 60 firefighters helped tackle the fire at Koko in Camden High Street

Music lovers have been sharing their Koko memories on Twitter.

Veteran DJ Tony Blackburn who held his legendary soul nights Shakatak also tweeted about the fire.

Koko and the nearby Roundhouse effectively “bookended” Camden’s music scene, according to music writer Carl Allen.

On Twitter, the Roundhouse said it was “really sad” to hear the news about its Camden neighbours.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said on Monday night: “Heartbreaking watching the Camden Palace/Koko up in flames this evening, a building that holds so many memories and means so much to us in Camden.”

The venue was set to reopen in the spring after a “major state-of-the-art” refurbishment, after the purchase of two adjacent buildings.

An investigation is under way into how the fire started.

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The venue hosted the BBC’s Electric Proms in 2007

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Koko has hosted some of music’s biggest names including Madonna, The Rolling Stones and Prince



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New Year’s Eve: Police warning as UK prepares for 2020

Fireworks in Edinburgh on New Year's Eve

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Fireworks are let off from Edinburgh Castle as part of the Hogmanay New Year celebrations in Edinburgh

Police are warning people not to attend New Year celebrations on the River Thames in London without a ticket, as spectators gather to usher in 2020.

More than 100,000 tickets have been bought for the sold-out fireworks display.

Firework shows are also to be held in cities including Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Inverness and Nottingham.

Hogmanay celebrations have begun in Edinburgh, where crowds have gathered ahead of a massive display at midnight.

Fireworks have already been let off from Edinburgh Castle.

The Metropolitan Police urged those without tickets in London to watch from home or attend other events in the city.

Ticket-holders who had queued at designated entrances in London rushed to pick out their spots when the gates opened.

In a statement to those visiting London for the celebrations, the Met said it wanted “everyone who comes to London for New Year’s Eve to have a good time”.

However, referencing the fireworks on the Thames, the force added: “If visitors do not have a ticket, entry will not be permitted to the event, so the advice from the Met is to watch the fireworks from the comfort of your home.”

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Media captionLondon counts down to the 2019 New Year fireworks

In London, approximately 12,000 fireworks are set to light up the capital’s skyline when the clock strikes midnight on Tuesday. Roughly 2,000 of the fireworks will be fired from the London Eye, with the remainder coming from barges that will be moored in a central location along the River Thames.

Big Ben’s chimes will sound the start of the display, despite them being silent this year while renovation work is completed.

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Some 2,000 fireworks will be fired from the London Eye

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the the city’s role in hosting several key games in the Euro 2020 football championship would be celebrated.

“We may be leaving the European Union, but we’re not leaving Europe. So tonight’s fireworks celebrate us as a global city, us as a European city,” he added.

He stressed that London and the UK need to be brought “together again” in the 2020s.

“I’m not pretending that fireworks and one night can do that, but I think it’s really important [that] we celebrate, tonight, some great things about our city and our country,” he said.

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In Edinburgh, thousands took part in a pre-Hogmanay torchlight procession on Monday evening

In Edinburgh on Monday night, crowds created a huge “be together” symbol of two people reaching out a hand in friendship in a display of fire art in Holyrood Park.

On New Year’s Eve itself, tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the Hogmanay street party featuring acts including Mark Ronson, Marc Almond and Idlewild.

The event covers at least part of more than a dozen streets in the city centre.

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The crowds created a huge “be together” symbol of two people reaching out a hand in friendship

The evening is set to be cold but dry for many, with temperatures in Scotland and parts of northern England forecast to be around 1C (33.8F) or 2C (35.6F), according to the Met Office.

The rest of the UK is likely to see the mercury fall to around 5C (41F).

A yellow weather warning for fog has been issued by the Met Office for parts of north eastern England. The warning is in place from 19:00 GMT on New Year’s Eve until 03:00 GMT on New Year’s Day.

Parts of central England could see some drizzle on Tuesday evening while there may also be patches of fog appearing across the UK, according to Met Office forecaster Greg Dewhurst.

However, it is unlikely that visibility will be poor in either London or Edinburgh, he added.

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Media captionNew Year’s Eve: Bangs and bright lights set off new decade

New Year celebrations have already begun in some parts of the world.

The first places to welcome 2020 included the tiny Pacific island of Kiribati, neighbouring parts of Samoa and the Chatham Islands.

Auckland in New Zealand was the first major city to ring in the new decade, with thousands welcoming 2020 at a fireworks display at the city’s Sky Tower.

The traditional fireworks display in Sydney Harbour also went ahead, despite calls for it to be cancelled due to Australia’s bushfire crisis.

The uninhabited Baker Island and Howland Island, on the other side of the International Date Line, will be the last to leave 2019 behind.

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London’s City Hall provides Christmas meals for homeless

Sadiq Khan hands out food

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Sadiq Khan helped serve 100 Christmas Dinners to guests at City Hall

Christmas dinners have been served to Londoners who are reliant on the city’s homelessness services.

Hairdressers and opticians were also made available at City Hall before guests were given a three-course meal.

Last year, 8,855 people were seen rough sleeping in London, an 18% increase since last year, and more than double the number in 2010.

“Events like this help bring a sense of community back in to London,” Claire, a former rough sleeper, told the BBC.

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Claire said she had been “looking forward” to the Christmas Dinner

Claire, who spent 30 years either living on the streets or in prison, said: “It’s the type of event that does matter. It forms partnerships and builds bonds.

“If it wasn’t for the support of St Mungo’s, I’d either be dead or doing what I was before.”

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Guests were treated to rendition of carols by the London International Gospel Choir

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Around 100 people who use London’s homeless services were invited to City Hall

Guests were chosen from the thousands of Londoners that currently receive assistance from services funded by City Hall and delivered by charities St Mungo’s and Thames Reach.

But Claire said services were still “hit and miss”.

“Where I live I’m still waiting for support with my mental health,” she added.

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Sadiq Khan said “it is shameful that in one of the richest cities in the world we still have the levels rough sleeping that we do”

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Guests were given a three-course Christmas Dinner

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “St Mungo’s and Thames Reach are struggling with finances.

“Since I became mayor we’ve more than doubled the amount of money we’ve spent on rough sleeping and the size of our outreach team.

“But we’re just scratching the surface. We’ve not got the money or the resources to do much more – as it is I’m criticised for going outside my remit and my power.

“It is both heartbreaking and shameful that in one of the richest cities in the world we still have the levels rough sleeping that we do.”

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Free opticians services were put on by charity Humanity First

Last year 15,470 people were accepted as being homeless by London councils.

There were 55,000 families living in temporary accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts and hostels.

Hundreds more people are estimated to be sleeping on London’s night buses.

Petra Salva, Director of Rough Sleeper Services at St Mungo’s, said: “It’s wonderful that the Mayor has opened the doors of City Hall for this festive event.

“Christmas can be a time of mixed emotions for clients in our services and our staff work hard to support those who stay with us over the holiday period.”

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Black cab rapist John Worboys given two life sentences

John Worboys

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John Worboys was jailed in 2009 for a string of sex attacks on women in his taxi

Black cab rapist John Worboys has been handed two life sentences with a minimum term of six years for attacking four more women.

The 62-year-old, who is now known as John Radford, was jailed in 2009 for assaults on 12 women in London.

The four victims came forward after a public outcry caused by a Parole Board ruling that he was safe to be freed.

Sentencing Worboys, Mrs Justice McGowan said she did not know when “if ever you will cease to be a risk”.

In 2009, Worboys was locked up indefinitely for the public’s protection with a minimum term of eight years after being found guilty of 19 sex offences against 12 women between 2006 and 2008.

In January 2018, the Parole Board said Worboys would be freed after serving 10 years but victims challenged the decision.

That decision was later overturned by the High Court, leading to a review of the decision where the Parole Board decided Worboys must remain in jail.

Among the reasons given for refusing Worboys parole were his “sense of sexual entitlement” and a need to control women.

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Media captionBecki Houlston told the BBC that Worboys drugged her in Bournemouth

Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC told the Old Bailey that psychiatrist Philip Joseph found Worboys had been “fantasising” about attacking women since 1986.

A probation report in August this year found “he is potentially just as dangerous now as the point of the first sentence”.

After the four women came forward, Worboys, of Enfield, admitted two charges of administering a drug with intent to commit rape or indecent assault.

He also pleaded guilty to two further charges of administering a substance with intent to commit a sexual offence.

Mr Penny said the first victim was targeted in 2000 or early 2001 after a night out at a wine bar in Dover Street in Soho.

The second victim, a university student living in north London, was picked up after a night out with friends at a club on New Oxford Street in 2003.

Worboys’ third victim was picked up after a night out on King’s Road in 2007 where he told her he had won £40,000 at a casino and offered her champagne.

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Worboys would win victims’ trust before pouring them a glass of drug-laced alcohol

The court heard Worboys told the fourth victim he had won the lottery and offered her and her friend miniature bottles of champagne.

Mr Penny said: “She woke up in bed the following morning. The bedclothes had not moved and her hands were crossed over her chest, which was unusual.

“She was sufficiently unnerved to check herself. There were no visible signs she had been touched.”

Mr Penny told the court: “The consistent themes throughout, together with the content of what took place, seems to be the profound effect not knowing what happened has had in each of these women throughout their lives, as a result of having been unfortunate enough to get into the defendant’s black cab.”

Analysis

Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent

If an offender tells lies, does that increase their risk of committing harm? That’s the key issue at the heart of this case.

John Worboys lied to psychologists before his parole hearing in 2017, giving a carefully-crafted account that tallied only with the crimes he’d been convicted of.

He was assessed as safe to be released from prison. But, when more victims came forward Worboys changed his story.

Despite this Dr Jackie Craissati, an experienced clinical forensic psychologist, told the court she believes Worboys poses a low risk of sexual reoffending.

She says she doesn’t expect offenders to give “truthful and full” accounts of their behaviour when assessing how dangerous they are.

The judge clearly did not agree, and many others may baulk at the idea that someone who can’t be trusted to tell the truth about their crimes can nevertheless be trusted in the community.

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Met Police

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The black cab used by Worboys in his attacks

Police believe Worboys may have carried out more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults on women in London.

Becki Houlston, who has waived her right to anonymity, said Worboys drugged her in Bournemouth.

“He was pretty pre-meditated from the get-go, and I was a woman on my own,” she told the BBC.

“He is highly manipulative and relentless. It becomes easier to just accept a drink to shut him up.”

In Ms Houlston’s case, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

Reacting to the sentencing, the CPS’s Tina Dempster said: “John Worboys is a dangerous predator who still poses a clear threat to women.”

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GP Manish Shah guilty of sex assaults on 23 female patients

Manish Shah

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Manish Shah worked as a family planning specialist

A GP who cited Angelina Jolie and Jade Goody to instil fear in his patients about their health has been found guilty of sexually assaulting 23 women.

Manish Shah preyed on cancer concerns to carry out invasive intimate examinations for his own sexual gratification, the Old Bailey heard.

He convinced his victims to have unnecessary checks between May 2009 and June 2013.

He was convicted of 25 counts of sexual assault and assault by penetration.

Jurors acquitted 50-year-old Shah, of Romford, of five other charges.

They were told afterwards he had already been found guilty of similar allegations relating to 17 other women, bringing the total number of victims to 23.

He will be sentenced for all the offences on 7 February. The BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym said it was one of the biggest cases of its kind involving one doctor.

‘Took advantage’

The trial heard Shah mentioned a news story to one patient about Hollywood star Jolie having a preventative mastectomy, before asking if she would like him to examine her breasts.

In another instance involving a different complainant, he mentioned TV personality Goody – who died of cervical cancer – and advised an examination was in her best interests, it was claimed.

Prosecutor Kate Bex QC told the trial: “He took advantage of his position to persuade women to have invasive vaginal examinations, breast examinations and rectal examinations when there was absolutely no medical need for them to be conducted.”

One of Shah’s patients told the BBC how she became one of the GP’s victims.

“He would say you need to have these sexual health tests, to make sure you’re safe – you never know if somebody goes with somebody else even though you might have a safe partner,” she said.

“He was just encouraging the tests along when I didn’t think anything of it, I thought if a doctor suggests it you pretty much go along with it.

“He just duped so many people. He used our weaknesses and fears and took complete advantage. But not one time did I actually think he was doing anything untoward.”

The NHS in London said it “extended sympathies” to the victims and added: “As soon as the allegations came to light, swift action was taken and we have supported the police throughout their investigation.”

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Loughton hit-and-run: Family tribute to Harley Watson

Harley Watson

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Harley Watson’s family described him as a “good, kind, helpful and lovely boy”

The family of a 12-year-old boy killed in a hit-and-run near his school say they are “devastated” by his death.

Harley Watson was struck near Debden Park High School in Loughton, Essex, at about 15:20 GMT on Monday.

A 51-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of his murder, as well as the attempted murder of four teenagers and a 23-year-old woman who were hurt in the crash.

Harley’s family described him as a “good, kind, helpful and lovely boy”.

In a statement, they said: “We are so devastated by what has happened.

“We would like to thank everyone for their kind wishes and concern.

“However, as a family we would like people to respect our privacy and allow us to grieve in peace.”

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Flowers and messages to Harley and his family have been left at the scene of the crash

Essex Police said the 51-year-old man was arrested in a pub car park in Fiddlers Hamlet at 23:00 on Monday.

Ch Supt Tracey Harman said there “may be connections” between the crash near Debden Park High School and an earlier incident of a car mounting a pavement near Roding Valley High School in Loughton, 10 minutes before the fatal collision.

The force has referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct based on “previous contact” it had had with the arrested man.

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Harley’s death has been described as a “young life so tragically lost”

It is understood all the injured children – two 15-year-old boys, a 13-year-old boy, and a girl, 16 – are pupils at the school.

Debden Park’s head teacher Helen Gascoyne, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and all those affected. The school will be open [on Tuesday] with a number of counsellors on hand to support our community.”

Christian Cavanagh, executive head teacher, described Harley’s death as “a young life so tragically lost”.

He said: “This young man had made his mark on the school and was liked and loved by staff and students. We will consult with the family and our school community to decide how best to commemorate his life.”

‘I’ve been hit by a car’

Donna Mills, the mother of Alfie Barnes who was one of the 15-year-olds struck by the car, said he was “still in shock… battered and bruised”.

“He remembers the car coming towards him, he remembers getting hit, but it is a bit of a blur. He hit his head and I think he blacked out for a bit,” she said.

“Alfie rang me and said ‘mum I have been hit by a car’, so I shot down there as fast as I could. It was horrendous.

“It was… horrible to see, kids laying on the floor, just terrible.”

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Debden Park High School opened on Tuesday for staff and pupils to support each other

Essex Police said officers are looking for a silver Ford Ka “likely to have damage to [its] front”.

Earlier, the force took the step of naming Terry Glover, 51, as someone they wanted to speak to in connection with the crash.

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Man who killed fiancee after row about cross-dressing jailed

Amy Parsons

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Amy Parsons grew up in Australia but moved to the UK when she met and got engaged to Roderick Deakin-White

A man who beat his fiancée to death when he was “unwilling to accept” her decision to leave him amid a row over his cross-dressing has been jailed.

Roderick Deakin-White used a metal bar to launch a “savage” attack on Amy Parsons at their Whitechapel flat in April.

A trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court heard “jealous” Deakin-White attacked Ms Parsons as she was showering.

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to a minimum of 17 years.

The court heard Ms Parsons had become increasingly unhappy with her relationship, particularly due to Deakin-White’s cross-dressing interest.

Prosecutor Gareth Patterson QC said: “She was unhappy about this and this was something he had often wanted to do when they were intimate.”

Judge John Lafferty, sentencing, said Deakin-White killed Ms Parsons in a “most horrendous, savage and brutal way”.

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Roderick Deakin-White attacked Amy Parsons with a ‘metal pull up bar’

He told jurors Deakin-White became angry and jealous after Ms Parsons began a relationship with a colleague a few weeks before the killing.

Mr Patterson added: “Unwilling to accept that she was going to leave him, he used a metal bar to hit her repeatedly around the head while she was showering.”

Deakin-White fled the flat before confessing to a man in Edmonton, who persuaded him to hand himself in.

In police interviews Deakin-White admitted attacking the 35-year-old with a metal bar but denied murder, claiming it was an “accident”.

‘Bright light’

At his sentencing, Ms Parsons’ sister, Eve, spoke of her family’s grief and described her as the “bright light” of the family and a “beautiful person”.

“Nothing could have prepared me to deal with this loss,” she said. “All of our family are as heartbroken as it is possible to be.”

Judge Lafferty told the 38-year-old killer: “Your view was that if you can’t have her, no-one can have her, and you killed her.

“There is no sentence I can pass upon you today that will bring back Miss Parsons – a young, successful, vivacious and kind-hearted young woman, whose life was brutally taken by you.”

Speaking after the hearing, Eve Parsons, 40, said her family was “disappointed” by the length of the jail term and would be lodging an appeal.

“Seventeen years does not do her justice,” she added.

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Julian Assange: Sweden drops rape investigation

Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on 11 April 2019

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Assange was arrested in London after Ecuador abruptly withdrew its protection in April

Prosecutors in Sweden have dropped an investigation into a rape allegation made against Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange in 2010.

Assange, who denies the accusation, has avoided extradition to Sweden for seven years after seeking refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012.

The 48-year-old Australian was evicted in April and sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions.

He is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London.

The Swedish investigation had been shelved in 2017 but was re-opened earlier this year following his eviction from the embassy.

What did the prosecutors say?

Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Eva-Marie Persson took the decision to “discontinue the investigation regarding Julian Assange”, the Swedish Prosecution Authority said.

“The reason for this decision is that the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question,” it added.

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Eva-Marie Persson said the decision had been taken after interviews with seven witnesses

Ms Persson said: “I would like to emphasise that the injured party has submitted a credible and reliable version of events.

“Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed; however, my overall assessment is that the evidential situation has been weakened to such an extent that that there is no longer any reason to continue the investigation.”

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Media captionJulian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy in London

Separately, the prosecutors held a news briefing in the Swedish capital Stockholm, saying that the decision to drop the inquiry had been taken after interviews with seven witnesses in the case.

What was the Swedish investigation about?

Assange was accused of rape by a woman and sexual assault by another one following a Wikileaks conference in Stockholm in 2010. He has always denied the allegations, saying the sex was consensual.

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Media captionWho is Julian Assange?

He also faced investigations for molestation and unlawful coercion, but these cases were dropped in 2015 because time had run out.

What charges does Assange face in the US?

The US is seeking Assange’s extradition from the UK over his alleged role in the release of classified military and diplomatic material by Wikileaks in 2010.

Australian-born Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion in the US. He is accused of participating in one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets, which could result in a prison term of up to five years.

In June, the then UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javed, formally approved an extradition request from the US.

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Joseph McCann: Man embarked on ‘series of depraved sex attacks’

Joseph McCann

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Joseph McCann is accused of 37 offences against 11 alleged victims

A man embarked on a series of “depraved” sex attacks on women and children, one as young as 11, a court has heard.

Joseph McCann is accused of 37 offences against 11 alleged victims, including rapes, kidnap and false imprisonment, over two weeks in April and May.

The Old Bailey heard the 34-year-old snatched two women off London streets and told one he would “never release her” as he raped her multiple times.

Mr McCann of Harrow denies the charges.

The jury was told the defendant’s “spree of sex attacks” started in Watford before continuing in London, Greater Manchester and Cheshire.

One 21-year-old woman was grabbed at knifepoint and bundled into a car as she walked home with her sister from a Watford nightclub on 21 April.

Prosecutor John Price QC said she was released later that morning in a “state of great distress”.

‘Rape a child’

A 25-year-old woman was abducted as she walked home in Walthamstow, east London, just after midnight on 25 April.

Mr Price said the defendant told her “to stop screaming or he would stab her” then dragged her into a car “and drove off”.

The court heard the woman was raped “many times” by Mr McCann in various locations over the next 14 hours and subjected to acts of “shocking depravity and violence”.

“He made her call him ‘daddy’ and say that she was a child. At one point the man parked the car near to a school, saying that he wanted to make her rape a child,” Mr Price said.

Later the same day, and while still holding the woman prisoner, the defendant abducted a 21-year-old woman in Edgware, north London, as she walked along the street with her sister, the court heard.

CCTV of the woman being bundled into a silver people carrier just after midday was played to the jury.

Mr Price said she “suffered a similar fate” to the 25-year-old woman before the pair managed to escape while in Watford where Mr McCann had booked a hotel room for two nights.

He told the jury they would have come to “further harm” but one of the women hit their captor over the head with a vodka bottle and some builders “bravely” intervened to prevent them being recaptured.

Pensioner abducted

The attacks resumed 10 days later in the North West of England where, over 12 hours on 5 May, three women, three young girls and a boy of 11 were assaulted, the Old Bailey heard.

Mr McCann allegedly conned his way into a mother’s Greater Manchester home where he tied her to the bed and raped her 17-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

The court heard he then abducted a 71-year-old woman who was in her car at a Morrisons car park.

He raped her and also sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl before both managed to escape at Knutsford Service Station on the M6, the court heard.

The 34-year-old is accused of then snatching two 14-year-old girls in Cheshire.

Mr McCann, who was not in court, is charged with:

  • Ten counts of false imprisonment
  • Seven counts of rape
  • One count of rape of a child
  • Two counts of causing or inciting a person to engage in sexual activity without consent
  • Seven counts of kidnap
  • One count of attempted kidnap
  • Three counts of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity
  • Three counts of assault by penetration
  • One count of sexual assault
  • Two counts of committing a sexual offence with intent

The trial continues.

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Can my landlord lock my thermostat in a box?

Alex Milsom with the thermostat cover

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Alex Milsom says he cannot unscrew the box and there is no access to it from the side

On Saturday afternoon, the hot water went off in Alex Milsom’s shared house in west London. Discussing the problem with his housemates on WhatsApp, one person replied: “It’s because there’s a cage on the thermostat.”

“I said I would put the water back on, but obviously I couldn’t get past the new lock box,” Alex said.

His landlady had visited the property to install a clear thermostat cover over the Google Nest thermostat – which can control heating and hot water.

“We have no idea what the temperature is,” he said. “The Nest screen only lights up when you stand up close to it, but the box has stopped that from working and we can’t see the number.”

Alex, 21, has been living with six or seven others in a semi-detached house in Ealing since August. Rented from a private landlady, he pays £700 a month, and the landlady covers his utility bills.

In a multi-occupancy dwelling like Alex’s, the landlord is permitted to control the heating, with no rules against boxing off the thermostat, experts say. The same is true of a standard rental property with fewer than three tenants, if the landlord pays the bills.

But, until now, Alex and his housemates have had control over the temperature of their home and the hot water via the thermostat in the communal kitchen.

“It’s just quite funny,” he adds.

“On Sunday night I woke up in a sweat because the heating was on, but the next morning I had to shower at work because there was no hot water,” he says. The water has since returned.

Alex shared his story on Twitter on Saturday, which went viral and prompted queries over the legality of the move.

Some landlords responded to the thread by saying the move could be understandable in a situation where tenants were being careless with the heating.

So can a landlord box off a thermostat?

David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, says there are no rules around boxing off thermostats.

But adds: “It is a matter of good tenancy management and we encourage landlords to speak first with tenants before taking such action.

“In shared homes there can often be disputes between tenants who want the thermostat set at different temperatures.”

However, the issue is not clear cut.

A tenant has a right to heating and hot water, says Daniel Fitzpatrick, a partner at Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors.

But whether a landlord can box off a thermostat depends on the terms of the tenancy agreement.

“If the tenant is just paying a basic agreement where bills are not included, that could be why the landlord installed the fitting – usually thermostats can be covered,” he says.

“Should that not be the case, then there could be various actions against the landlord.

“It’s a basic right to be able to turn on heating and hot water, and it would be a breach of health and safety if the tenant could not.”

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Most homes in the UK are heated with a boiler and radiators, with controls such as boiler or room thermostats or timers

Housing experts from Citizens Advice say the legality of a landlord-controlled thermostat is likely to rely on whether it results in hazards – excess cold or possibly extreme heat.

According to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which governs housing conditions, heating can be centrally controlled by the landlord in a house in multiple occupation.

But the guidance adds that if this causes “unreasonable extremes in temperature” then this may represent a hazard – over which the local authority can take action against the landlord.

Risks of adverse health effects arise when indoor temperature drops below 19C, with serious health risks occurring below 16C, it says.

What can a tenant do if they are still unhappy?

Under the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, all residential tenancies after 20 March 2019 are required to be free of hazards.

If a tenant feels this is not the case they could try making a claim against the landlord.

But Citizens Advice says it is better to try to “negotiate amicably” if at all possible – “due to the limited security of tenure which private tenants tend to have” – and it warns of the risk of an escalating row.

“The tenants might consider trying to take control of the heating themselves by using electric heaters.

“There is a risk, however, that the landlord may respond negatively to a huge electricity bill, and perhaps seek to serve a section 21 notice (no fault eviction notice) to terminate the tenancy at the end of the fixed term, or seek to alter the rent or other tenancy terms as a condition of any renewal.”

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