Lanark, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via STEPHEN JONES and Mirror
A police force in Scotland have been condemned for excessive force after officers handcuffed a schoolboy with autism after he got into a fight with his brother in class, The Mirror newspaper reports.
Twelve-year-old Colin Gow, who attends Lanark Grammar school in Lanark, got into a dispute with his older brother Keiran, aged 13 and also autistic. He allegedly hurled a plastic bottle at his brother which set off the fight, and was then subsequently handcuffed by police. Colin was said to have been left ‘distressed and sobbing’ after the incident, which took place at a special Additional Support Needs class.
Colin and Keiran’s father, Colin Gow Senior, told the Mirror: “It broke my heart to see my son in handcuffs.
“It wasn’t the way to deal with this incident.”
“The first thing I did was ask the officer to take the handcuffs off – he was clearly very distressed – and I put my arms round him to comfort him,” he said.
Lanarkshire authorities said that Colin had to be handcuffed for his own and others’ safety, but the boy’s parents have demanded an urgent review of how the incident was handled by police and the school. The incident took place just before the end of the school day on February 2nd, and a pair of officers were called to Lanark Grammar, where they handcuffed Colin, who also has spina bifida and is only 5’1″ tall. As a result, Colin’s parents now say he has developed a phobia of the police. The child also had to be taken for treatment at Wishaw General Hospital in Wishaw, north Lanarkshire county, the Mirror states.
Police and education chiefs at South Lanarkshire Council insist Colin had to be restrained to keep everyone “safe from physical harm”. Police representatives also claimed that Colin’s special education needs and his conditions were not made apparent to them at the time.
According to the Daily Record newspaper, Colin started attending Lanark Grammar, which was founded in 1183 and is one of Scotland’s oldest secondary schools (for pupils aged 11-16), after he was expelled from his previous school for allegedly punching a teacher. Lanark Grammar has a specialist unit for children with ‘Additional Support Needs’, including those with autism and dyslexia. During the day, Colin attends the unit and mixes with the non-unit students during morning assemblies, break times and lunch hours.
Despite the school’s specialism, Colin’s parents expressed concerns about the way his condition is being handled. His mother, Sharon, said that she was informed that they as parents would not have to do anything as the school’s dedicated staff would handle any issues that arose. They were at first optimistic that Colin would thrive at Lanark Grammar, but Sharon told the Mirror that Colin was not getting the support he badly needed.
South Lanarkshire Council’s head of education Carole McKenzie confirmed the police were called into the school as a result of “concerns for the pupil’s safety”.
She said the boy was attempting to leave school grounds without permission, which his parents deny.
Superintendent Louise Skelton, of Police Scotland, said officers quickly established “no criminality”.
She said: “In order to protect the boy involved, staff and officers, handcuffs were deployed in an effort to keep all parties safe from harm.
“Officers remained with the boy until he was left in the care of a relative.
“Police Scotland has been engaging with the family. No complaint has been received at this time.”
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“Police handcuff 12-year-old autistic boy after fight with brother at school” – Stephen Jones, Mirror – News – UK News – Schools/MGN Limited (12 February 2017) http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/police-handcuff-12-year-old-9803082
“Handcuffed Girls Qiqi Lourdie December 05, 20104” – Steven Depolo, Flickr (5 December 2010) https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/5242520722
Sheffield, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via The Mirror
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills, a government agency tasked with supporting business development and work initiatives in the United Kingdom, has announced this past Thursday it will be closing down its office in the northern English city of Sheffield and moving jobs to London, the Mirror reports.
The closure is due to go into effect by 2018, possibly seeing the loss of 250 jobs at the Sheffield office, and several other DBIS offices may also face the axe as the Department cuts back under the government’s cost-saving austerity programme and as DBIS leaders look to centralise their operations in the UK’s capital.
Often dubbed the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ for its efforts to promote business in the North of England, the DBIS may close another 12 or so offices, including six in the North, despite previous parliamentary intentions to encourage more investment and job creation in the region, which is one of the poorest pasts of the country, having lost many of its heavy industry output since the 1980s.
The DBIS plans have not been warmly received in Sheffield, a city of 563,749 inhabitants in South Yorkshire, once famed for its stainless steel cutlery manufacturing, but having experienced severe decline until recently. Local MP (Member of Parliament) Nick Clegg , former party leader for the Liberal Democrats, told the Mirror: “This flies directly in the face of the Northern Powerhouse agenda.”
“I want to be clear that no one ever put this to me in Government and I would not have agreed to it if they had.”
Labour’s Shadow Civil Service Minister Louise Haigh also lambasted the ruling Conservative party’s decision to close the Sheffield and other northern offices, saying that the plan “demonstrates the utter contempt the Tories have for the North.”
DBIS civil servants have allegedly already been informed of the closure, scheduled for January 2018, with the department looking to move towards a “smaller workforce and more streamlined structures”, according to the Mirror. A spokesperson for UK prime minister David Cameron said “The Business Department, like all departments, seeks to operate as efficiently as it possibly can to deliver the best quality of service to provide the right kind of guidance and advice to ministers.
“This is part of their process of becoming leaner and more efficient.”
The DBIS plans to close its regional offices and focus on fortifying operations at its central HQ in London, where most government departments are situated. Currently the department oversees twelve other regional centres in the towns and cities of Billingham, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Darlington, Guildford, Gateshead, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Watford – all of which are likely to go with much job losses or relocations.
The DBS will possibly replace them with six ‘business centres’ and some staff will be offered the chance to relocate to them. Each of the new business centres will be connected to a particular business activity, for example higher education, but there will not be one in Sheffield, a huge blow to the city’s economy and business community.
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield said: “Sheffield needs jobs and London’s overheating. This move makes no sense and it exposes George Osborne’s empty rhetoric about the Northern Powerhouse once again.
“I’ve pressed Ministers to move public sector jobs out of London, as Labour did, and I’ll be challenging this decision at every opportunity.
“Well paid civil service jobs provide opportunities for local people. They enable graduates of our two universities to stay in the city.
“Their spending in the local economy creates more jobs. And we need more of the country’s top decision makers to experience life in the regions, not see everything through the distorted experience of London.”
Speaking to Sheffield-based civil servants this morning, the DBIS permanent secretary Martin Donnelly said: “Today’s announcement is part of implementing our BIS 2020 strategic plans to modernise the way we work, reduce operating costs and deliver a simpler, smaller department that is more flexible and responsive to stakeholders and businesses.
“Our operating model needs to be designed in a way that works for this smaller workforce with more streamlined structures.”
“The decision to close Sheffield by 2018 has not been taken lightly. The unions are being consulted and will be involved throughout the process.
“It is my top priority that all our staff are fully briefed and consulted on the process. We will provide comprehensive support to all those facing a potential change or loss of job.
“In relation to the new business centres, we will be working closely with our Partner Bodies over the coming months to develop firm plans for their office locations.”
The DBIS is a relatively new government department, created in 2009 by the merger of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). It is headed by Conservative MP Sajid Javid who is also the president of the Board of Trade. The department is responsible for many aspects of business matters, law and education, along with the promotion of trades, scientific research and skills. The DBIS even has remit for business aspects concerning outer space and the postal services. Most deicisions on important policy areas are undertaken at DBIS HQ in Westminster, London.