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Mr MacAskill has angered Scotland's eight police...

Mr MacAskill has angered Scotland's eight police authorities by giving them just two weeks to respond to a Scottish Executive plan...

 

MacAskill threatened with legal action over police chief veto plan...

KENNY MacAskill, the Holyrood Justice Secretary, has been threatened with legal action by furious councillors over a move to give ministers new "veto" powers in the appointment of chief constables.

Mr MacAskill has angered Scotland's eight police authorities by giving them just two weeks to respond to a Scottish Executive plan to give Paddy Tomkins, HM chief inspector of constabulary (HMCIC), a more formal role in appointing senior officers.

New guidelines from the Executive directorate general for justice and communities say that Mr Tomkins should report to ministers once police authorities, made up only of councillors, have chosen a new chief constable.

According to the Executive document, ministers will then look at Mr Tomkins's report to see if "evidence has been properly recorded and weighed" and whether his advice to the boards has been followed. If it has not, ministers will have the power to reject the selected candidate - a power that local authorities say undermines the powers in law of councillors to choose the police chief best suited to their area.

A strongly worded letter to Mr MacAskill from Paul Rooney, the convener of the Scottish Police Authorities Conveners Forum and the convener of the Strathclyde police board, accuses the Executive of "outrageous" behaviour in setting the two-week consultation deadline.

In the letter, Mr Rooney writes: "Broadly, what is proposed under the guise of greater ministerial involvement in the process is to give HMCIC a significantly higher role in the process to an extent that the police authorities and elected members of the authorities are made subservient to his oversight. This gives this officer a role which he does not have in statute and is both insulting and demeaning to those elected members who do have a statutory duty to perform in the appointment of senior officers."

It then states Mr Rooney has advice that what is proposed is ultra vires - outside the law - and says that, if insisted on, "can only involve police authorities and Scottish ministers in unnecessary litigation".

Last night, Mr Rooney said: "I do not wish to comment on this at this time."

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said the role of the HMCIC was "to act as the senior government adviser on policing matters and to assist boards in making their selection". She added:

"New guidelines are being revised by the police advisory board for Scotland to ensure the appointment process is open, fair, trans-parent and based on merit. There will be no changes to statute which requires appointments to be made by police boards following consultation with, and subject to approval of, Scottish ministers."

One well-informed Executive source said: "Ministers have a legal responsibility to ensure important jobs are filled properly.

There has to be a way to make sure selections are made professionally and not on the basis about questions on Masonic lodges or Celtic season ticket-holders or being a friend of a council leader."


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Drivers risk two years in jail for using their mobile phones.

Motorists who use a hand-held mobile phone or fiddle with a satellite-navigation system while driving could be jailed for up to two years.

Prosecutors have said they could be charged with dangerous driving in a dramatically tougher approach to such offences.

Those caught fiddling with an MP3 music player or texting on a mobile at the wheel could also face the charge.

using mobile while driving

Prosecutions will be brought whenever it is judged that using the equipment posed a danger, such as forcing a car to swerve or causing a distracted motorist to jump a red light.

Those who kill while using a mobile phone will face 14 years behind bars under the charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald said: "There is widespread public concern about the use of mobile phones and other hand-held electronic equipment while driving.

"We accept that in cases where there is clear evidence that danger has been caused by their use - such as texting while driving - then our policy should spell out that the starting point for charging will be dangerous driving."

Victim: Trinity Taylor died when a lorry driver hit her car on the M3 as he was using his phone. He was jailed for four years.

Motoring groups said the move was a "dramatic" heightening of the seriousness of the offence.

The current offence of careless driving, which applies to those who drive unsafely by using a mobile or equipment such as a satellite-navigation system, carries only a £2,500 fine or community order.

More commonly, drivers are punished for the simple offence of using a mobile while driving which, since February, carries a fine of £60 and three penalty points.

The changes follow a Crown Prosecution Service review of the penalties for "bad driving", which also suggests a charge of manslaughter could be brought in some cases against drivers who kill.

Supporters say that despite fines and penalty points for using a mobile, many drivers still flout the law, sometimes with fatal consequences.

Trinity Taylor, 23, from Aldershot, Hampshire, died in 2005 after lorry driver John Payne ran into her car on the M3 in Basingstoke while using his mobile.

Payne, 31, of Chesham, Buckinghamshire, was jailed for four years.

But Edmund King, of the RAC Foundation, said existing punishments should be properly enforced.

He said: "The message to motorists is clearly that, if you are using a hand-held mobile or satnav, beware because the law is going to clamp down on you."

He added: "If it really is interpreted that using a handheld mobile phone is dangerous driving, that is a dramatic change to what is currently happening.

"Despite the threat of three penalty points, which could be a threat to a person's livelihood, we all see thousands of motorists driving dangerously using mobile phones.

"It is not just about sentencing, it is about enforcement. We ought to look at what is alreadly in law first."

Paul Smith, of campaign group Safe Speed, said careless driving - the current charge - is not an offence that most drivers commit deliberately.

Shifting it to a new category of dangerous driving will therefore have no deterrent effect, he claimed.

Mr Smith said extreme care should be taken when deciding to prosecute a driver.

"You cannot say because someone had a mobile phone they were driving dangerously. There must be evidence they were actually posing a danger to other people."

Under the changes, motorists who cause death on the roads face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Current guidelines say manslaughter is "very rarely appropriate" in road death cases.

But, under reforms being introduced on September 24 this year, a driver who has killed on the roads could be charged with manslaughter as well as causing death by dangerous driving, leaving a jury open to return the lower charge if they find manslaughter has not been proved.

Full guidance due later this year will contain more details of which offences are to be prosecuted more harshly.


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Locked up, thug who zapped teacher with a million-volt stun gun...

 

Violent: Drug user Marvin Airey has been lcoked up for six years...

A teenager who electrocuted a teacher with a stun gun of almost 1 million volts has been jailed.

Marvin Airey, 19, temporarily paralysed maths teacher Peter Kelly when he zapped him outside the school gates.

A teaching assistant came to her colleague's aid. But Airey, who was never a pupil at the school, punched her in the face, leaving her unconscious, with a fractured skull.

Airey's attack was completely "unprovoked", Bristol Crown Court heard.

Judge John Foley told him: "There is no justification or rational reason for doing what you did, which is an example of appalling gratuitous violence of the very worst type."

He sentenced him to six years in a young offenders' institution.

Airey bought the device, called a Black Viper Defender, on the internet.

Mr Kelly was walking home for lunch in October last year when Airey jumped out of a friend's car and zapped him in the back.

He then punched the teacher repeatedly in the back in front of pupils at Ashton Park Secondary School in Bristol, until Mr Kelly fell to the ground.

Mollie Dawnay, who was on supply at the school, pleaded with Airey to stop, but she too was attacked.

Jonathan Stanniland, prosecuting, said: "Mr Kelly felt a sharp pain and thought he had been stabbed, because the stun gun discharged several thousand volts of electricity into his back.

"He tried to defend himself using his umbrella but to no avail.

"As he repeatedly punched Mr Kelly, Mrs Dawnay pleaded with him to stop but he didn't stop, he struck her with one long, hard blow to her left jaw. She fell on her face and she appeared to be unconscious before she hit the ground."

Airey sped away in a car with blackedout windows. Police found the gun, which is illegal in Britain, at the scene.

The device is manufactured by Viper Defender, which says it is "the most powerful self-defence stun device of its kind".

 

Viper: the stun gun Marvin purchased online...

Airey, of Knowle, Bristol, pleaded guilty to one count of causing grievous bodily harm, one of possessing a prohibited weapon, and one of battery.

Initially he had claimed he had an alibi. The court heard he had lived alone since he was 15, and that he took drugs. He was expelled from three schools and had no job.

On the day of the attack, a friend had driven him to the school, where the pair were 2goading" each other into using the gun.

Ramin Pakrooh, defending, said: "The stun gun was purchased on the internet by Mr Airey and the plan had been to use it on somebody."

He added: "It was Mr Kelly's misfortune the stun gun was used on him."

Mr Kelly returned to the school soon after the attack, but Mrs Dawnay suffered months of trauma, the court heard. She only returned to teaching five months later.

Her son Mark, 20, said: "It's been really hard for my mum. He's got what he deserves."


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Chatroom users 'goaded man in web suicide'...

A coroner yesterday called for "insult chatrooms" to be regulated after members of one site encouraged a man to commit suicide while dozens watched live over the internet.

 
Kevin Whitrck commited suicide publicly on the internet
Kevin Whitrick, 42, had a history of depression...

  • Kevin Whitrick, 42, tied an electrical cord around a ceiling joist and wrapped one end around his neck before hanging himself.

    He is believed to be the first person in Britain to take his life publicly on the internet.

    Detectives discovered that some chatroom users had been "egging on" Mr Whitrick and thought he was joking when he said he was going to kill himself.

    Between 40 and 60 people were logged on to the site, called Kel's Friendly Insult Chatroom for Everyone, at the time Mr Whitrick died on March 21, but only one alerted police.

    Officers forced their way into Mr Whitrick's flat in Wellington, Shropshire, but despite attempts at resuscitation he was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Michael Gwynne, the Telford and Wrekin coroner, recorded a verdict that he had taken his life as it was broadcast over the internet on a webcam.

    He told the hearing: "Here is a person who, on the face of it, had been hanging himself in front of other people who are watching and only one of these possible people are so concerned as to make contact with the police.

    "It's the sort of site where people seem to enjoy getting verbally abused and having degrading things said.

    "That to my mind is exactly what these people are like. They must be extremely inadequate to have that sort of relationship.

    "It seems to me that the death of Kevin Whitrick should not be allowed to pass without someone trying to see whether it's possible to prevent chatrooms of this nature being on the internet. I am all for communications, but it does seem to me in this instance that abuse, threats of physical injury are not normal within everyday relationships.

    "Thought ought to be given on how such chatrooms can be regulated. I don't have the answer."

    Mr Whitrick, an electrician, had a history of depression and had attempted suicide in 2003 after he and his wife Paula, with whom he had 12-year-old twins, separated.

    He became a "troubled man" who was badly injured in a car crash eight months before his death and had also been deeply affected by the recent death of his father.

    The inquest heard that Mr Whitrick had contacted the site's owner, Kel Buckingham, to tell him that he was going to kill himself on camera.

    As the event unfolded, Mr Buckingham's voice could be heard over the speaker saying: "This is serious, someone call the police, get his address."

    Soon afterwards the webcam feed was stopped by the site's moderators.

    Det Sgt Mark Bellamy, of Shropshire police, told the hearing that a user called Carole Vickers raised the alarm.

    He said: "She saw Kevin wrapping a noose around his neck and she made desperate efforts to talk him out of it.

    "This is that first case that I am aware of in the UK where somebody committed suicide over the internet."

    In a statement, Miss Vickers said that other users had goaded Mr Whitrick to kill himself and as his body swung from the noose, one mocked: "He's not dead, he's still twitching."

    Mr Buckingham did not attend the inquest at Telford, which was told that he no longer runs the chatroom.

    Speaking after the hearing, Mr Whitrick's elder brother, Malcolm, said that he did not think chatrooms had played a part in his brother's death, but he felt they should still be monitored.


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    Britain is in the grip of a cocaine epidemic, with the number of addicts seeking help rising 400 PER CENT in five years.

    The shocking figures from national support group Cocaine Anonymous follows a United Nations report which showed Britain tops the European league for cocaine and heroin use.

    The UN revealed that around 910,000 Brits - one in every 45 adults - regularly use cocaine.

    Anti-drugs charities say children as young as 11 are turning to cocaine with dealers offering "economy" rates and "buy one get one free" deals - as well as pushing special "junior" versions of the drug to get kids hooked.

    Martin Barnes, chief executive of charity DrugScope, said: "One of the primary reasons cocaine use is still widespread is the offers being struck by dealers - and the fact that the street price has halved in the past 10 years."

    From 2007/2008, the Government has earmarked £1.5billion to help stamp out drug use and last year 10 tons of cocaine were seized by HM Revenue and Customs.

    Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said: "Tackling Class A drugs is a top priority."

    But Mr Barnes said: "The Government has cut funding for projects that work specifically with young people by 10 per cent in the past year and when you look at these figures, it is indefensible."

    Celebrities such as supermodel Kate Moss, 33, singer Robbie Williams, 33, and TV star Kerry Katona, 26, have all been to rehab after being linked with the drug.

    Cocaine Anonymous was set up 15 years ago by two Alcoholics Anonymous members who were battling drug and drink addictions.

    A volunteer at the group, former cocaine addict Robert, 44, told the Sunday Mirror how at the height of his addiction his weight plummeted and he suffered from horrific psychotic outbursts.

    He said: "I got involved with the charity because I was going to die. When I knew there was nowhere else to go, I looked for help and for the first time I was able to sit in a room of people and share my experiences."


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    Reply with quote  #51 

    $6million for dinner - the shocking price of inflation in Zimbabwe...

    A diner pulls out a huge wad of bank notes to pay a $6million bill at a Harare restaurant, underlying the economic chaos caused by hyperinflation in Zimbabwe.

    With Zimbabwe's international isolation growing, the country's rapidly depreciating dollar means there are acute shortages of food and the most basic goods.

     

    Don't worry about the tip: a diner prepares to pay his bill in Harare...

    The southern African state has the world's highest official inflation of nearly 7,000 percent. Independent estimates put real inflation closer to 25,000 percent and the International Monetary Fund has forecast it reaching 100,000 percent by the end of the year.

    And today British Airways announced it is halting all its flights to the country - citing mounting losses on the route as the southern African nation faces its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980.

    The airline it will discontinue its three weekly round-trip services between Harare and London from 28 October.

    Acute fuel shortages in Zimbabwe have forced the airline to bring in fuel by road and refuel its planes in neighboring countries.

    State carrier Air Zimbabwe, South African Airways and two other African airlines will now be the only airlines flying to Harare.

    Steve Harrison, British Airways commercial manager for southern Africa, said spiraling operating costs and falling passenger numbers left British Airways with "considerable" losses on the Harare route.

    "The economic situation in Zimbabwe has contributed to a decline in market demand. The withdrawal of Harare flights is for commercial reasons as it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify our operation," Harrison said in the statement.


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    Britain is in the grip of a cocaine epidemic, with the number of addicts seeking help rising 400 PER CENT in five years.

    The shocking figures from national support group Cocaine Anonymous follows a United Nations report which showed Britain tops the European league for cocaine and heroin use.

    The UN revealed that around 910,000 Brits - one in every 45 adults - regularly use cocaine.

    Anti-drugs charities say children as young as 11 are turning to cocaine with dealers offering "economy" rates and "buy one get one free" deals - as well as pushing special "junior" versions of the drug to get kids hooked.

    Martin Barnes, chief executive of charity DrugScope, said: "One of the primary reasons cocaine use is still widespread is the offers being struck by dealers - and the fact that the street price has halved in the past 10 years."

    From 2007/2008, the Government has earmarked £1.5billion to help stamp out drug use and last year 10 tons of cocaine were seized by HM Revenue and Customs.

    Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said: "Tackling Class A drugs is a top priority."

    But Mr Barnes said: "The Government has cut funding for projects that work specifically with young people by 10 per cent in the past year and when you look at these figures, it is indefensible."

    Celebrities such as supermodel Kate Moss, 33, singer Robbie Williams, 33, and TV star Kerry Katona, 26, have all been to rehab after being linked with the drug.

    Cocaine Anonymous was set up 15 years ago by two Alcoholics Anonymous members who were battling drug and drink addictions.

    A volunteer at the group, former cocaine addict Robert, 44, told the Sunday Mirror how at the height of his addiction his weight plummeted and he suffered from horrific psychotic outbursts.

    He said: "I got involved with the charity because I was going to die. When I knew there was nowhere else to go, I looked for help and for the first time I was able to sit in a room of people and share my experiences."

     

     

    is it a coincadence that flights entering the uk from usa have also went up over 5 years by 500%?


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    Reply with quote  #53 

    It would most definitely be the case if it was Colombian Airways


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    Revised Highway Code unveiled...
     
    A new Highway Code - the first revision for eight years - has been unveiled by the Government.

    Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick described the new code as "a crucial tool for all road users" but the AA said it would be harder to decipher.

    Increasing in size by about 50% and containing 29 more rules, it has a new safety code for novice drivers.


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    Identity theft warning to web networkers.

    An advertising campaign to warn of the dangers of disclosing too much personal information should be launched on social networking websites, according to a report by MPs on identity theft.

    The all-party group also urged the government to appoint an identity fraud tsar, and called for a review of the law and more resources for the police.

    Official figures show that identity theft costs the economy £1.7bn a year, though the true figure could be much higher. Some victims have had their bank accounts plundered while others have discovered that credit cards have been taken out in their name and used to make purchases abroad.

    In its report, the group said young people were the least protective of their personal information. More than 60% of 16- to 25-year-olds do not destroy personal documents before throwing them away, and one in six have published sensitive information on a blog or social networking website or in a chatroom.

    "Even mobile phone numbers are appearing on sites such as Facebook," said the MPs. "An advertising campaign on social networking sites including Facebook, Bebo and MySpace would be an effective way of raising awareness among this group and others."

    The group was critical of government efforts, pointing out that in the last two years there have been three ministers with responsibility for ID theft. It said an identity fraud tsar would create a single point of contact across government, police and the private sector.

    MPs also criticised banking bodies for their reluctance to admit that ID theft was a serious issue. "The banking industry must accept that identity fraud is a growing problem."

    However, the insurance group Axa had disclosed that it had been the victim of a fraud when a subsidiary's registered office address was changed. "This allowed a fraudster to rent property and obtain goods, none of which were ever paid for," the company said in its evidence to the group.

    The report also called for:

    ·A review into how effective a single, specific offence of identity fraud would be.

    ·More money for tackling the crime. Dedicated police officers would allow forces to be more effective.

    ·All councils to offer safe and secure hard drive disposal facilities as part of their recycling services.

    ·A hotline to allow people to quickly find out how they should respond to an ID fraud attack.

    ·"Secure sharing" of data between government and the private sector.

    Nigel Evans, Conservative MP for the Ribble Valley and chair of the all-party group, which was set up in 2006 to monitor developments on identity fraud, said: "The group has been stunned by the damage identity fraud is having. I don't think any of us truly understood the scale and impact of the problem, and we are extremely shocked by what we learned."


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    COPS have sparked fury by using a secret “willy-cam” to spy on men in a public toilet.

    Officers hid the tiny device at waist height to tape evidence of blokes using the loo for SEX.

    But it filmed thousands of innocent men as they went for a pee.

    The month-long sting – codenamed Operation Winchester – was launched in Wirral, Merseyside, after complaints of men using the loos for “cottaging”.

    Two cameras were set up by a urinal – one at waist level for evidence and the other at head height to identify the offender.

    Footage was then stored on DVD and used to charge six men and caution a further 32 under the Sexual Offences Act.

    An off-duty police sergeant based in Liverpool was also caught and fined 13 days’ pay.

    Undercover surveillance to detect crimes or protect public health is lawful as long as police can persuade a court the tactic is “proportionate and necessary”.

    But gay and lesbian groups have accused Merseyside Police of being “heavy-handed”.

    One local added: “The idea of a cop watching you take a pee is terrible. The toilets are used by lots of people, not just cottagers.

    “Police may call it surveillance, but in my book someone who watches you on the loo is called a Peeping Tom.”

    Merseyside Police launched an inquiry to see if the operation could have been handled in a “more sensitive manner”.

    But councillor Adrian Jones said: “All decent people will be grateful that the abuse of a public lavatory – which should be safe for kids and adults to use without stumbling into this sort of activity – has been stopped.”

    A spokeswoman for Merseyside Police said: “The operation did raise concerns with some members of the community and we are directly addressing these concerns.”

     

    Cottaging - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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    British teacher Gillian Gibbons has been jailed for 15 days after insulting Islam's Prophet by allowing her pupils in Sudan to name a teddy bear Muhammad. What are the rules on using the name?

    The Arabic name Muhammad is now the second most popular name for baby boys in Britain, adding together its 14 different spellings in English.

    Muslim families - of which there are an increasing number in the UK - often choose names which honour the Prophet or show a link to their religion in another way.

     
    But is it acceptable to name a toy Muhammad? The arrest and subsequent jailing of Ms Gibbons has sparked debate in Islamic circles. As is the case in so many religious matters, the question is open to interpretation.

    The issue has been a vexed one for Muslims through the ages. Some believe that the name can only be given to boys - to give it to an object is idolatry. Others say that pets and toys can bear the name.

    Ibrahim Mogra, chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain's interfaith relations committee and an imam in Leicester, says the name should be reserved for boys. "Some of us believe we are assured of heaven if we name our children Muhammad."

    But he says it's ridiculous that Ms Gibbons is being punished for a "miscalculation".

    Gillian Gibbons, of Liverpool, may face blasphemy charges
    Gillian Gibbons asked her class to name the bear
    "If someone clearly intends to insult and cause offence with a toy in the form of a pig, for example, and someone knowingly and intentionally names it Muhammad, we know exactly where they're going with it - the idea is to cause offence. If it's just a miscalculation, we don't need to go overboard."

    Dilwar Hussain, of the Islamic Foundation, has no problem with a teddy bear called Muhammad. For some years, the Islamic Society sold a soft toy made for British Muslim children named Adam the Prayer Bear. "Adam is also the name of a Prophet."

    Would it be acceptable to give a religious name to a pet? In much of the Muslim world, he says, animals are seen as functional and so are rarely given names.

    But Adel Darwish, the political editor of The Middle East magazine, says that Muslim children - "like children everywhere" - give their pets the names of characters they liked, be it a religious figure, sports hero or pop singer.

     
    "Millions of Muslim children in Muslim nations give their dolls, pets and teddies Muslim names of the Prophet and his mother, daughters and wives."

    Gill Lusk, the associate editor of Africa Confidential and a specialist on Sudan, says the incident will have offended many in the country. As Sudan is a place where religion is never mocked or satirised, it's "unthinkable" that a toy or pet could be given a religious name.

    "You're not supposed to give a religious name to any objects - it could be seen as idolatry."

    But the majority of Sudanese people won't have wanted to see Ms Gibbons in trouble for the naming of the teddy bear.

    "People are very forgiving of foreigners, particularly Europeans. Nobody would think she was trying to offend them - they would just think she was ignorant."


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    ALL drivers in Scotland are to be breathalysed if they are stopped by police for any motoring offence...

    The change, which is expected to be announced tomorrow, will mean motorists will now be breath-tested if they are caught committing offences such as speeding, running red lights or holding mobile phones.

    Many forces had previously routinely breath-tested drivers only if they had been involved in a crash or officers suspected they had been drinking.

    The new policy comes into force with the start of this year's Scottish Christmas drink-drive campaign tomorrow.

    It is the latest attempt by police to curb the increasing number of drivers being caught over the limit.

    Last year's festive campaign saw a 12 per cent rise, with over 100 more motorists caught than in 2005. A summer blitz in July recorded a 3 per cent rise on last year.

    New figures have also shown drink-drivers have accounted for an increasing proportion of motorists involved in injury crashes in Scotland over the past eight years.

    The total of such drivers who were over the limit or refused to be tested has risen almost every year, from 3 per cent in 1998 to 4 per cent last year.

    Police chiefs hope breathalysing drivers for all offences will pose a significantly increased deterrent to drinkers getting behind the wheel.

    They think many drivers continue to drink because they don't believe they will be caught.

    One official said: "Some people believe the chances of detection are very slim."

    The move follows a trial of the policy during the summer drink-drive campaign, when motorists stopped for other offences, such as defective lights and number plates, were also breathalysed.

    A survey published by motor insurers esure.com today found over three in four of the 1,000 motorists questioned would be drinking at least once or twice a week during December.

    More than half of these said they were likely to consume enough alcohol on each occasion to take them above the drink- drive limit.

    Commenting on the rise in drink-drivers involved in crashes causing injury, John Vine, the Tayside chief constable and chair of road policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), said : "It is disheartening to see an increase, albeit a slight increase, in the number of drivers who are positive or who have refused to take a breath test.

    "They are to be reminded that they face the full brunt of the law for failing to comply with a police officer's request."

    However, some motoring groups said the move was pointless. Paul Smith, founder of the anti-safety camera campaign Safe Speed said: "I applaud roads- policing initiatives, but breathalysing clearly sober drivers is a waste of police time.

    I'd rather they spent those few precious minutes looking for real road dangers and especially drunk drivers.

    "We should trust the judgment of front-line police officers to decide if a breath test is warranted. Their good judgment is crucial to effective roads policing, and ultimately our safety."

    The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland will also use tomorrow's launch to re- affirm its backing for the drink-drive limit to be cut from 80mg/100ml to 50mg. A UK-wide consultation is expected early next year, but the Scottish Government has said it may go it alone if Westminster is opposed.


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    The next time Hunky Bob from Plymouth flirts with you on a dating website, beware.

     
    Computer
    CyberLover can conduct flirtatious conversations 

    He could be a "flirting robot", the latest tool used by hackers to gain access to your personal details and passwords.

    Called CyberLover, the piece of software developed in Russia masquerades as a real man or woman who is seeking love online.

    It is capable of conducting flirtatious conversations with people on chat-rooms and dating sites as a means of luring vital information from its unwitting victims.

    According to its creators, it can establish a new relationship online with up to 10 people in just 30 minutes.

    Security experts said they were concerned that internet users were being lured into a false sense of security before parting with personal information such as their address and date of birth which can be used to access bank accounts.

    They said that the answers to simple questions such as, "Where can I send you a Valentine's Day card?" or "What's your date of birth? I'm planning a surprise for your birthday?" could leave people exposed to identify fraud.

    PC Tools, the suppliers of computer security products, said that CyberLover compiled a detailed report on every person it met, which it sent to hackers across the world.

    "As a tool that can be used by hackers to conduct identity fraud, CyberLover demonstrates an unprecedented level of social engineering," said Sergei Shevchenko, a senior analyst at the company.

    "Internet users today are generally aware of the dangers of opening suspicious attachments and visiting URLs, but CyberLover employs a new technique that is unheard of. That's what makes it particularly dangerous.

    "It has been designed as a robot that lures victims automatically without human intervention."

    Although the software is currently targeting Russian websites, Mr Shevchenko said that all social networkers and online daters should be aware of giving away information to strangers.

    The warning follows a report that internet crime has become a major commercial activity worth billions of pounds.


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    House prices are slumping, we're drowning in an ocean of debt and energy bills are soaring.

    Money experts say the prospects for 2008 are grim and Gordon Brown has warned of a looming global financial crisis.

    Happy New Year, folks.

    If predictions prove correct we're all going to be feeling the crunch.

    Not least with our fuel bills as customers face massive increases, some as much as 16 per cent.

    Npower's price hike last week, blamed on soaring oil prices, is expected to trigger other suppliers to follow suit, leaving millions of Brits struggling to keep on top of their bills.

    But there are ways you can protect yourself from the grip of monetary misery.

    Follow our 10-point plan and you could save yourself thousands of pounds, just when you might need it the most.

    1 BUDGET

    We spend more than we earn and owe far more than we save.

    Set a weekly spending limit and stick to it. Make a list of your total income and every single outgoing from food bills to council tax. Write everything down so you know exactly where each pound is going.

    It might sound like a bit of a slog but once you get started life will become far more manageable - and you might even find the task itself rather satisfying.

    2 SHIFT YOUR DEBT

    Move all your credit and store card debt to an interest-free credit card.

    It's the best way to start making a serious dent in the amount that you owe.

    Egg, for instance, is currently offering 15 months' 0 per cent interest on balance transfers.

    That gives you more than a year to work on the debt without worrying that you're just treading water.

    Work a monthly payment plan into your budget - and DON'T use the credit cards in the meantime.

    3 MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MONEY

    Are you paying over the odds for train tickets? Is your mobile phone deal the best one for you?

    These are the sort of expenses which are part of everyday life, but it's very likely that you're shelling out more than you need on them.

    When it comes to trains the earlier you book the better. Bear in mind that sometimes two single tickets are cheaper than a return fare.

    As for your mobile, spend a bit of time researching the different tariffs available and work out which one is best suited to you. One of the best websites to help you do this for both contract and pay-as-you-go phones is http://www.onecompare.com

    4 START SAVING

    Now you've got your new weekly budget, work out how much you can afford to put away for a rainy day.

    Even if it's a just a spare tenner each week, it all adds up over the year. Shop around for the best interest rate deals and start building your nest-egg.

    Look at http://www.moneysavingexpert.com for some brilliant advice on where to stash your cash.

    5 FOOD SHOPPING

    When you're doing your weekly food shop, make a list and don't deviate from it.

    Only buy the items you need and don't get seduced into topping up your trolley with unnecessary fancy treats. It's also worth remembering that the later in the day you do your shop, the more discounts you can find.

    Stores reduce stock where the packaging is damaged or when the goods are nearing their sell-by date. Pounce on them.

    Snap up any 'buy one get one free' offers, but ask yourself if you honestly needed the item in the first place.

    It's not a bargain if you're buying something you otherwise wouldn't have.

    When it comes to fruit and veg, make a bit more of an effort and get them from a market. The food is often tastier than what's on offer at the supermarket and it'll certainly be cheaper.

    6 USE THE INTERNET TO SHOP

    You can save a fortune by shopping online. It's also far easier to compare prices from the comfort of your front room than battling your way through the scrum of the January sales.

    Price comparison sites such as Kelkoo, Pricerunner and Checkaprice will do all the hard work for you.

    But make sure you take into account the delivery charges as these can often unexpectedly bump up the cost of your purchases.

    7 THE GYM IS BAD FOR YOUR WEALTH

    According to research, 15 per cent of people with gym memberships visit less than once a week.

    With the average monthly cost of a membership at £40, your cash is doing the 100m dash and the only part of you getting thinner is your wallet.

    Even if you go a respectable four or five times a week, there are far cheaper ways of staying in shape.

    Go for a run - it's free and will put the colour back in your cheeks after all the seasonal feasting and drinking. Walk instead of taking the car, get off the bus a couple of stops earlier and use the local baths for a swim.

    8 DIY LUNCH

    The lunch hour market is booming. Cafes, delis and supermarkets are charging extortionate amounts for simple salads and sarnies - and we're only too happy (or too lazy) to cough up.

    If you brought in your own Tupperwarepacked lunch or sandwich to work every day, think about how much you would save every week.

    You could even go one step further and avoid paying a high price for a cup of tea or coffee by bringing in a flask of the stuff from home. Together, these changes could save you around £100 each month.

    9 DECLUTTER AND LINE YOUR POCKETS

    You might not want your old junk any more, but you can be pretty sure that somebody somewhere will. Stick any unwanted Christmas presents or items which are just gathering dust in the loft on eBay.

    Or find out when there are local car boot sales on and get rid of it there.

    10 SLASH YOUR UTILITY BILLS

    Are you sure you're getting the best deal on your gas and electricity?

    If you've never switched supplier before, you could end up saving as much as 20 per cent.

    Use an online price comparison service such as http://www.energyhelpline.comor

    http://www.moneysupermarket.com to check.

    Some websites even offer a cashback incentive if you decide to switch.


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