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Magpie

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admin

In response to Magpie's previous post about the new craze, Streetwars, I watched a programme about it yesterday, and have to say, I think it sounds like fun.

 

Five, Four, Three, Two, One

The Street Wars game has just begun

It's takin place in the city of London

They squirt each other with a water gun

Until the Police arrive and spoil the fun.

Who Won?

 

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BBC NEWS Tuesday, 25 July 2006

 

Police chief asked to step down
 
Maria Wallis

Devon and Cornwall Police's chief constable has been asked to resign.

The BBC has learned that senior figures in the Police Authority have asked Maria Wallis to stand down after losing confidence in her management.

The authority is holding a meeting about her future. It follows criticism over a pay review and a subsequent climbdown by the force.

Mrs Wallis, who has been in the post since 2002, has refused to go. She was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Mrs Wallis joined the force in 2002, but in 2004 she angered detectives in a row over pay and resources during a series of murder cases, and some withdrew out-of-hours cover in protest.

'Sense of relief'

Rank and file were also angered after some beat officers' photographs were published on the police website in a move to raise their local profile in 2004. Legal action was threatened before a compromise was reached.

In April last year the force backed down over a pay review which Mrs Wallis authorised and proposed cutting hundreds of workers' salaries.

The force said the review was designed to ensure staff were paid fairly.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is carrying out an investigation into allegations made against Mrs Wallis and assistant chief constable Caroline Winter following the pay review.

Crime reduced

Responding to the possibility that Mrs Wallis might leave, Steve Pierce, of the Police Federation, said: "I think that there will be a sense of relief. The constabulary has been sort of moving along a little rudderless at the moment.

"People will look at it and say 'with all the problems we have got it is time for a change'."

Keith Townson, head of fingerprinting at the force, said: "I think that there is a need for a injection of inspiration of the force for it to move credibly forward.

"If that means a change of leadership at the top then so be it. That is probably inevitable."

Mrs Wallis has also been responsible for an increase in the number of local beat officers since she joined.

 

Earlier this month figures showed the force had the fourth largest reduction of total crime nationally, down 7% between April 2005 and March 2006 against a national average of 1%.

 

 

 

 

Maria Wallis's fall from favour
by Jonathan Morris
BBC News South West

Maria Wallis
Maria Wallis: Faced protests by civilian staff over pay review
Maria Wallis, the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, said in her New Year message that 2006 would be a defining year for the force.

With hindsight, she could have included herself in that prediction.

While the force she has led since 2002 has been saved from amalgamation, Mrs Wallis is fighting to save her job.

The BBC has learned that senior figures in the Police Authority who employ her have asked her to stand down after losing confidence in her management.

Mrs Wallis, 50, joined the force in 2002 and was popular for being seen as more relaxed and approachable than her predecessor, Sir John Evans.

Officers were also impressed when she declined a tailor-made uniform, instead taking one off the peg.

But in 2004 detectives were involved in a row over pay and resources during a series of murder cases and some withdrew out-of-hours cover in protest.

'Lack of understanding'

Rank and file officers were also angered by the publication of some beat officers' photographs on the internet and legal action was threatened before a compromise was reached.

The force said at the time that the move was because its "policing style meets the changing needs of local communities".

Last year Mrs Wallis took responsibility for a pay review which meant hundreds of civilian workers faced losing up to £8,000 from their salaries.

The force later backed down over the review after a series of protests by banner-waving staff outside police HQ in Exeter.

An investigation by the Metropolitan Police into the row found that "there appeared to be a lack of understanding of the strategic importance and significance of the project by some members of the command team [the force's most senior officers]".

Police website
A row erupted over putting pictures of officers on the force website

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is also investigating the role of Mrs Wallis in the pay review following complaints by a former chief superintendent.

Mrs Wallis has been praised for an increase in the number of beat officers from about 3,000 when she joined to 3,500 now.

She has also been pressing for a rise in police community support officers.

Earlier this month figures showed the force had the fourth largest reduction of total crime nationally, down 7% between April 2005 and March 2006 against a national average of 1%.

Mrs Wallis, who is married, joined the Metropolitan Police as a constable in 1976 after graduating from Bristol University with a degree in Social Administration and Sociology.

5,800 staff

She worked in south London as a constable, sergeant and inspector before joining New Scotland Yard in 1987 as a chief inspector with responsibility for developing policies on domestic violence and racial attacks.

In 1991 she was promoted to work as a detective superintendent in south east London and in 1994 she joined the Sussex force as assistant chief constable, rising to deputy chief constable in January 2000.

When Mrs Wallis took up her post as a Devon and Cornwall Chief Constable in 2002 she was one of only four women to have held the position in any English police force.

Mrs Wallis, who earns about £130,000 a year, controls an annual budget of £243m with a total workforce of more than 5,800, including 3,500 officers.

But her employers, the police authority, appear to have lost patience and Mrs Wallis could be near the end of her time as chief constable.

Mrs Wallis was unavailable for comment.

 

 

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Every year over 100 people are killed in Scotland in violent attacks. This is a shocking statistic and places Scotland amongst those countries with the highest violent crime rates in Europe. The Link opens in new windowprofile of these violent attacks is often all too similar. 

We cannot afford to sit back and watch lives wasted through needless violence.  These deaths are all preventable and we must act now to prevent further lives being lost. In December 2005,  the Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson announced Link opens in new windowa new strategy to challenge the culture, and in some cases acceptance, of violence in Scotland.

That is why the Scottish Executive has joined forces with the Link opens in new windowViolence Reduction Unit (VRU) to create a national approach to tackling violence across Scotland.  Our ambition is to create a Link opens in new windowNational Violence Reduction Alliance of anti-violence practitioners to work together to find effective solutions.  This website will play a key role in bringing together contacts from across the country to share good practice and help generate ideas for solving violence in local areas.  If you would like to become a part of this alliance and receive regular updates on violence prevention please register here.

We have created a Link opens in new windowViolence Working Group to support the work of the VRU and ensure that everyone is committed to addressing the issues, whether from health, education, criminal justice or beyond. 

We are also running a 12 month Link opens in new windowSafer Scotland Anti –Violence Campaign, beginning in March with a Strategic Violence Conference, which will initially focus on building local Violence Reduction Alliances at a local level similar to those groups already in existence in Glasgow, South Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. A Link opens in new windowpledge was taken by the delegates at the conference in March to demonstrate their support for the Violence Reduction Alliance. A Link opens in new windowKnife Amnesty is also planned to commence on 24th May. 

In addition, the Scottish Executive is introducing Link opens in new windownew legislation on weapons, including tougher sentencing and increased police powers. 

 


Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson Interview

Click to hear Link opens in new windowCathy Jamieson Justice Minister set out the challenge ahead….


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Update:

 

The Times July 27, 2006

Woman chief constable resigns after losing force's confidence


THE woman in charge of policing Devon and Cornwall announced her retirement yesterday with immediate effect.

Maria Wallis was only Britain’s second female chief constable when she was appointed in 2002. But her tenure in charge of England’s largest geographical force was marred by disputes with officers under her command and a bungled pay review that had vital civilian staff, including forensic science experts, on the verge of walking out.

Mrs Wallis, 51, said that personal reasons had led to her decision to take early retirement, including the death of her mother and a serious illness suffered by her father.

However, her police authority had this week urged her to “consider her position”. David Money, the authority chairman, said: “There has been damage to the confidence of the staff, damage to the confidence of the police officers and damage to the community. We need to move forward to restore confidence.

“There came a point where, for all our sakes, change was necessary and desirable.”

Asked whether Mrs Wallis had capitulated under pressure, he said: “The chief constable asked for early retirement as from today. There has been no edict from the authority which gives any other interpretation of that.”

Mrs Wallis said that it was with great regret that she was retiring, adding that the past two months had been very challenging personally and professionally.

She added: “We are now the sixth-safest policing area in the country. I have been pleased to lead on the positive improvements we have made in Devon and Cornwall.”

The calls to quit were backed by unions representing the civilian workers and the local Police Federation. PC Steve Pierce, the federation chairman, said: “The force is a bit rudderless at the moment. We need to get a grip and if that means the chief constable has to go because the authority have lost confidence, then she has to go.”

Mrs Wallis is facing five inquiries into alleged mismanagement, incompetence and “neglect of duty” during the job evaluation programme. The cost of the inquiries has exceeded £1 million and the police authority wanted her to go before the bill grew further.

The job evaluation scheme was scrapped last April after 900 of the 2,400 civilian staff threatened to walk out over proposed pay cuts of up to £5,000 a year. The force has since lost many experienced experts in fields including fingerprints and forensic science.

A further inquiry by the Government’s conciliation service, Acas, condemned the way that the scheme was handled.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating a dossier from Chief Superintendent Neil Page, 48, who resigned on May 30 in protest at the chief constable’s management.

He sent a 30-page letter of resignation which said: “It is an organisation where I feel many people seem to hold little respect for some members of your command team, and where staff morale is at the lowest ebb that I, and others, can ever remember.”

Last year detectives threatened to restrict their work on murder inquiries after cuts in overtime payments were ordered. Other officers were also furious when their photographs were put on the force website without agreement.

Many rank and file officers also complained about being taken off their normal duties to attend diversity courses, which they consider to be exercises in political correctness.

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The Times July 27, 2006

Police to be sued over failure to save girl from paedophile


THE family of the three-year-old girl who was snatched from her home and sexually assaulted by the paedophile Craig Sweeney announced yesterday that they will sue South Wales Police for “their failure to protect our child against this known and dangerous child molester”.

Chief Constable Barbara Wilding apologised after an investigation found that her officers could have prevented part of the child’s terrifying ordeal.

She admitted: “[The incident] was not dealt with as effectively as it should have been. In that regard, I have apologised to the child and her family, as clearly, we let them down — and for this I am very sorry.”

The Independent Police Complaints Commission partially upheld complaints by the girl’s father that the police response was ineffective and too slow.

It also recommended that officers should face a misconduct panel for failing to be conscientious and diligent in the execution of their duties.

Moments after the child was abducted her mother made a frantic phone call to the police, telling officers Sweeney’s name and that he was living in Newport, South Wales.

But Sweeney, who had been convicted for sexually assaulting a six-year-old, was able to drive his victim back to his accommodation in Newport and repeatedly sexually assault her.

He was caught only by chance in a high-speed chase in Wiltshire after local officers saw him ignoring a red traffic signal with his lights turned off.

The victim’s mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “The only thing the police couldn’t have stopped is her being taken from her house but the rest could have been prevented. They could have been where Sweeney was staying before he even got there.”

Sweeney, then 24, was living in Newport after early release from jail. His licence period for the earlier attack had expired days before he struck.

Tom Davies, the commission’s Wales Commissioner, said: “This was an abhorrent and horrific crime.”

However, he said that South Wales Police made the error of not considering the abduction was carried out for sexual motives when the incident was first reported. He said: “The early decision to follow the procedures for dealing with the incident as a ‘kidnap for gain’ rather than a ‘child abduction with possible sexual motives’ was arrived at incorrectly and followed by officers of increasing seniority during the early crucial part of the incident.”

Communication failures also delayed the police response, he added. The watchdog has identified policy and training issues for the force to deal with on abduction cases and made recommendations about access to intelligence about known sex offenders for control room staff.

Of the three officers whose conduct was referred to in the investigation, one is at inspector level, and another is a superintendent. The third officer has since retired.

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Glasgow station at centre of internet battle...

A SUBURBAN railway station in Glasgow's west end has become the unlikely focus of a battle in cyberspace.

An online encyclopedia article about Jordanhill station has had to be given similar protection to entries about George Bush and Tony Blair, after cyber-vandals rushed to deluge the internet page with superfluous and even hoax information.

The entry, on the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, has been changed more than 1,000 times since being created by Ewan MacDonald - a Greenock-based computer expert - in March

The railway station became the one millionth Wikipedia page in English, a milestone in the information service, which is compiled and maintained by volunteers.

After it appeared, the entry was altered no fewer than 44 times within an hour of being created. While most of the changes added more information, including photographs, some were viewed as vandalism and were removed.

The alterations included a hoax paragraph, which claimed that the station had been a link to a magical world, had been used by Germanic tribes "for brewing liquer(sic)" and that it was smaller than a grapefruit.

The frenzy led to the entry having to be protected from changes - a move normally reserved for pages dealing with contentious subjects such as major politicians and religious controversies.

A spokesman for Wikipedia said: "We needed to protect the entry... from the rush of changes. We normally try to avoid closing pages to changes because we believe in making the Wikipedia as free as possible and encouraging contributors to make sure that entries are accurate and up to date."

Ewan MacDonald, 23, who created the page, said he was not surprised by the interest in the one millionth entry.

He said: "I had been about to write up the page anyway, but I heard in an internet chatroom that people expected the one millionth entry to be created later that evening. So when I wrote it, I hung around before finishing it off.

"I didn't engineer it that way but I was angling for it. As it happened there was a burst of new pages about the time I sent mine off, and I was later told mine was the millionth."

He added: "I became interested in the small railway stations around Glasgow because I was travelling round them when I was a student. I became curious about the history behind them all, so I began researching and writing about them."

Related topics

 


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The Sunday Times July 30, 2006

Investigation

Pirates of the Mediterranean

It’s a second home to millions of British people, but what are we buying into? For Spain has become a country full of corrupt politicians, prostitutes and gangsters — all fuelled by laundered money. By Stephen Burgen

Spain is different.” So said that famous Spanish tourist-authority slogan – and so it is, though not in the ways they want to crow about. The sun, sea and sangria destination that attracts 55m tourists a year has, over the past four or five years, acquired a dark underbelly, as the demand for a place in the sun has turned Spain into the money-laundering capital of Europe. Vast sums amassed through arms-smuggling, drugs and prostitution are being recycled into holiday homes for us British and other north Europeans.

Three headlines that have appeared during the past few months sum up what has been happening here since 2001, the year before the introduction of the euro: “Spain, Europe’s brothel”, proclaimed El Pais. “Spain, Europe’s second home”, said La Vanguardia. “Black money gathers strength in Spain”, ran a story, also in El Pais.

“People come to Spain to launder their money because there is an end market made up of people who want to take up residence here. Everyone depends on the end user, the Mr and Mrs Smith from Britain. That’s the way it works,” says Antonio Flores, a property lawyer in Marbella, a town which has become a paradigm of the corrupting power of the dirty money washing up on Spain’s Mediterranean shore.

Various events and forces – the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Balkan wars and the peculiar characteristics of the Spanish economy – have combined to bring organised crime, practically nonexistent here before the mid-1990s, to Spain. The other is the euro. Sometime before “E-day” on January 1, 2002, a lot of people woke up to the fact that the francs, deutschmarks and pesetas under the mattress were about to become worthless, so they looked around for ways of converting them into something more durable. What they found was property, and in Spain they found not only a booming property market but a culture where, thanks to a stamp duty of around 10%, almost every property transaction involves a degree of black money as both buyer and seller agree on a lower, fictitious official price, and settle the difference in cash.

All property transactions in Spain are overseen by a public notary, who takes care of conveyancing and pockets 2.5% of the purchase price. When it comes to completing the transaction, the notary will clear his throat and announce that he has to go to the lavatory, thus allowing the parties to complete whatever part of the deal is being done in cash without having to witness it himself. Everyone does it, rich and poor alike.

According to the Bank of Spain, in 2001, 100,000 Spanish properties changed hands for cash. In June, the Agencia Tributaria (Spain’s Inland Revenue) announced that it was trying to recover tax on €11 billion that changed hands during the first nine months of 2001, most of it spent on property, luxury cars and works of art. Critics of the tax department say that there was a Europe-wide agreement to turn a blind eye to money-laundering in 2001 so as to smooth the transition to the new money.

“There’s a big difference between the person who had some money stashed in a sock in francs or deutschmarks and needed to get rid of them before the euro, many of whom did so by buying property, and the huge sums we’re dealing with now that originate in drug-trafficking or the traffic of arms or human beings. These are people who are looking for legitimate ways to recycle their dirty money,” says Ines Barba, a criminal lawyer in Malaga. Leaving aside the fact that €11 billion would fill a pretty big sock, the point she is making is that the pre-euro spree opened people’s eyes to Spain’s potential as a place to launder money. “The suitcases of money didn’t start arriving until after the euro was introduced,” says Antonio Flores.

In the days of the peseta you needed a big suitcase, if not a sea trunk, but with the advent of the euro and the €500 note (worth about £345), even a small briefcase can fit millions. In a new twist on drug mules, women transport cash back to eastern Europe in condoms stuffed with €500 notes which are inserted into their vaginas. When the deputy mayor of Marbella, Isabel Garcia Marcos, was arrested, police found €350,000 worth of €500 notes in her house. Nearly two-thirds of all the €500 notes in circulation in the EU are to be found in Spain.

In 2005 the police investigations into organised crime and money-laundering led to the confiscation of €4 billion in money and property, a hundredfold increase on the year 2000. This increase is attributed not just to the euro. While at first the money was brought into the country from criminal operations conducted abroad, now, increasingly, the money originates from criminal activities in Spain. Bear in mind that Spain is the main European entry point for hashish from Morocco and cocaine from Latin America. Cocaine busts in Spain, typically in the northwest province of Galicia, where many have family links to South America, tend to be measured in tonnes, not kilograms. Recorded crime, however, remains low, at 49.3 offences per 1,000 inhabitants, about 20 points below the EU average.

Javier Gaspar, of the Guardia Civil police force and a specialist in organised crime, says: “Around 2000, these mafiosi from various countries, mainly in the East, set up operations centres in Murcia and Levante. They brought their bodyguards and conducted operations in their own countries from Spain. But now they have bases in Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia and Madrid. Their three main sources of income are arms, prostitution and drugs, and all of this produces money that has to be laundered.”

As we shall see, there are many factors that attract money-launderers to Spain, but the key element is construction, and to understand this, the sheer scale of building in Spain – and not just on the costa – has to be appreciated. In 2005, 800,000 new homes were built in Spain, more than in Britain, France and Germany put together. Another 860,000 are scheduled for 2006. One in every three new buildings in Europe is being built in Spain, to the point that there are now 23m homes for a population  a of a little over 40m. Nearly 2m of these are officially empty, and far more are unoccupied for most of the year. Of the 800,000 built in 2005, only 350,000 were needed to cope with population growth and immigration. The rest, therefore, are second homes, concentrated on the Mediterranean coast. Altogether, 34% of Spain’s Mediterranean coast is already built up; the figure rises to above 50% in areas such as the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca.

And it’s not just the coast. Up to 15 miles inland, in parts of Valencia and Andalusia, the countryside is disappearing. On the 25-mile stretch of road that runs inland from Marbella to Malaga, there are dozens of holiday developments. Marbella itself is a place apart, geographically in Spain but otherwise in a world of its own. It is not just some Skegness-in-the-sun like Torremolinos: it is more international than that, far more Dolce & Gabbana than fish and chips, a place for the pampered who can choose between any number of beauty and health clinics to prepare them for a browse around Prada or Cartier. Women with big hair and implants, 50-year-old men sporting 30-year-old abdominals – like an animated version of Hello!

This frenetic pace of development poses serious questions of sustainability, both because of Spain’s limited ability to generate electricity and its even more fragile water supplies. A huge new urban development of 13,500 flats near Toledo, south of Madrid, was given the green light despite the fact that there was insufficient water to maintain it. Water has since been diverted from hundreds of miles away.

The Toledo development, where permission had been granted by successive Partido Popular (the People’s party; conservative) and Socialist administrations, reflects official ambivalence towards the funding of property development.

All parties are implicated in, effectively, selling planning permissions. It is an open secret that this is a significant part of how political parties fund themselves, so nobody is in a position to throw stones. While it is impossible to say to what degree the government benefits directly from money-laundering (aside from the 16% Vat on all transactions), it is clear that if you took construction out of the Spanish economy, the country would be in a state of collapse.

Despite fears that Spain may be killing the golden goose if overdevelopment destroys its innate attractions, at present there is no sign of
a slowdown, and with demand high and supply sustained by dirty money, no power on earth seems capable of putting a brake on construction.

Close to 250,000 Britons are registered as permanent residents in Spain, with a further 133,000 Germans and about 300,000 other European nationals. These are figures for people who live here year-round, and don’t take into account those who spend a few weeks a year in their holiday villa or time-share. According to the Madrid Association of Construction Companies, 80,000 foreigners will buy homes in Spain this year, as they did in 2005, spending an average of e280,000 per home. Close to 2m Spanish homes are owned by foreigners. According to a study by Barclays, 65.7% of Britons choose Spain for their second home.

Even before the introduction of the euro and the arrival of organised crime, it was estimated that the black economy accounted for about
22% of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP). Some of this derives from tax evasion – property isn’t always involved. But it is also the result
of a bureaucracy that places so many obstacles in the way of legitimate enterprises, such as setting up your own business. “It’s certainly much higher than 22%, because nobody knows how much black money is circulating. We’re dealing with something much more professional, and on a much bigger scale, than before,” say Ines Barba. She adds that competition between government and police agencies over who should control money-laundering and organised crime plays into the hands of the criminals. Spain did not set up an organised-crime squad until May this year. It is not that the police are overstretched, she says, so much as a lack of co-ordination, as well as a need to update the law.

What has changed is the level of corruption.

As the Guardia Civil’s Javier Gaspar comments, “Money doesn’t give you power in itself, but it does in respect to what you can offer me.” In other words, everyone has their price. Corruption has always been widespread in Spain, especially in relation to large construction projects, but this has tended to be corrupción blanca (“white corruption”), which effectively amounts to nepotism, as distinct from cases full of banknotes. The sheer quantity of bad money looking for a good home has changed all that, and Gaspar says the challenge for the police and society is to stop the political corruption that this money can buy.

“We’re dealing with sums greater than a local official could hope to earn in a lifetime,” says Barba. “We’re not just talking about tens of thousands of euros, but enormous sums.”

“The Mediterranean has always been more corrupt than the north,” says Flores. “Someone like a mayor who is earning maybe €4,000-5,000 a month, which is not a bad salary, given the opportunity of earning €500,000 for putting his signature on a document… Obviously, it’s going to be hard to resist.”

Corruption in Marbella has produced the clearest picture yet of how dirty money goes hand in hand with development. It is alleged that Juan Antonio Roca, an unelected town-hall official, controlled all planning permission in the Marbella area, said to have generated €12 billion over the past 15 years. Planning permissions – as many as 10,000, it is alleged – were bought with black money, which Roca then used to enrich himself and to pay off local officials with sums of €6,000 to €200,000. At present, 18 local officials, including the mayor and 11 construction-company executives, are either in jail or on bail in connection with the investigation.

If organised criminals were using Spain as a money laundry, it is clear that they are now also using it to make more dirty money, much of
it through prostitution. Since 1995, prostitution has been legal here, though living off immoral earnings is not.

Once a country synonymous with sexual repression, post-Franco Spain now offers sex at every turn, whether in the form of sex shops and cinemas, or street prostitution and the ubiquitous roadside puticlubs (brothels). There are as many as 4,000 of these clubs, some of which house up to 200 prostitutes. They are easy to spot by their neon signs, which often say no more than “club”. In the tiny Galician village named with ironic bitterness Esclavitude (Slavery), a huge neon sign announces baldly: “Sex club”. As for street prostitution, it is not a matter of red-light districts. It is everywhere. The area around FC Barcelona’s football ground is a favourite.

To get a sense of the sheer intensity of the Spanish sex market, you need only take a stroll along the Ronda Sant Antoni in central Barcelona on a summer night. By day it is the place to go for bargain cameras and DVD players, but by night the only thing for sale is sex. At 10.30pm, along a 200-yard stretch, there are about 50 women dressed in the trademark skintight white Lycra; by midnight that number doubles. They are all either Latinas or eastern European. Some just stand, but others are more forceful, blocking your path, demanding that you go with them. One woman takes my arm and tells me to come with her. She has a Colombian accent. I say no thanks. “Frances sin,” she offers – “French without”, meaning oral sex without a condom. I politely shake her off. Behind her come-on look it’s clear she’s scared. She’s this pushy because somewhere among the men sitting at the cafe tables, her pimp is keeping an eye on her, making sure she isn’t slacking.

The scale of prostitution in Spain has grown exponentially, fuelled by women from eastern Europe and Latin America (fewer than 5% are Spanish). Police now estimate that there are as many as 200,000 prostitutes in Spain, performing 1m sexual services daily in a business estimated to be worth €50m a day. As Eduardo Martin de Pozuelo, a La Vanguardia journalist who has made a special study of the subject, says, “If the money was going into the women’s pockets, they’d be the ones buying houses on the costa, instead of renting in a brothel.”

“Spain is Europe’s gateway to prostitution and Catalonia is its capital,” says Gaspar, who is among those who believe that Spain is becoming a destination for sex tourists. Marcela Torres, of the Barcelona group Ambit Dona, which offers health and other advice to prostitutes, says: “There are three types: freelance prostitutes, generally working in the street, there are the semi-freelance who work in clubs but have to hand over some of their earnings to the club owners, and those who have been trafficked.”

“In Catalonia alone there are 20,000-30,000 prostitutes,” says Gaspar. “On the main highway from Alcanar in the south and La Jonquera in the north there are an enormous number. Here, 78% are Romanians, who have pushed out the Russians, and the Romanian mafias share the territory with Albanians. We know for a fact that in Moldova, Romania and Albania, women are even kidnapped on trains in their own countries.”

Others come of their own free will, knowing they will have to work off their debt first. “Some, such as the Nigerians, arrive with a debt to pay off; they pay it, and that’s that,” says Gaspar. “With women from the East, who are often sold on from one pimp to another, the debt can never be paid off. Mafias buy them, put them to work in clubs for a year or two, then sell them, for €15,000 to €45,000. Some are sold by their own families. Some are kidnapped, and some come in order to make money for their families.”

The women from the East, unable to speak Spanish and in the hands of small mafias, are the most vulnerable. “You have to understand that most of these women come from countries where you wouldn’t dream of asking the police for help,” says de Pozuelo.

“We’re not talking about the old days, a pimp with one or two prostitutes,” says Gaspar. “Now one of these pimps, who controls six or seven trafficked women, can make €100,000 a month. The pimps who treat their women with the most respect are the Brazilians and the Russians. The worst are the Romanians.” Women who try to escape the trap are threatened. “They said they would strangle my children,” a Moldovan woman told La Vanguardia. In Madrid, a Nigerian couple were arrested after it was revealed that they had forced a woman into prostitution by kidnapping her baby, which they held hostage for four years until she paid off a €45,000 debt. The only recourse is to bring criminal charges against the pimps, but few women do. “Court cases in Spain take a long time,” says Gaspar. “Few women can stick it out, above all because of threats to their families.”

The sex clubs get around the law against living off immoral earnings by claiming that both the prostitutes who live there and their customers are “clients”. The women pay rent and get a commission for every overpriced drink they get a client to buy. They also pay the owner a percentage of what they charge for their services. Manuel Nieto, a lawyer representing Spanish sex-club owners, hastens to explain that this is not a cut of what they earn from sex, which would be illegal. “They pay between €15 and €18 to the proprietor for cleaning and chambermaid services, changing the sheets, supplying fresh condoms, perhaps a bowl of fruit.” This he claims, comes from a typical €60-100 charge per sex act, although most sources say women can only charge €20-50, as the competition has pushed down prices, making it harder still for them to pay off their debts.

The club owners say that the women turn up of their own free will, but this doesn’t explain how they come to be rotated from one area to another, lest clients complain about the lack of fresh flesh on offer. “Sometimes they are co-owned by pimps or mafias in different parts of the country in order to facilitate the rotation of women from one club or area to another,” says Gaspar. “Most live in the clubs, usually for 21 days at a time,” says Nuria, who works in an HIV/Aids project with prostitutes on the Costa Brava.

So is sex tourism the latest of Spain’s many attractions? “I don’t think Barcelona is turning into a sex-tourism destination,” says Marcela Torres. “Most of the consumption is internal. Spain has always had this relationship with prostitutes. It’s a very Latin attitude that a prostitute is just another worker, like you. Of course tourists will take advantage of what’s on offer, but more people come here for Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia than for prostitutes.”

Gaspar disagrees, believing that supply clearly exceeds internal demand: “Women choose to work the highway because they know that truck drivers and tourists will pass. The man in the car doesn’t have to go to a club: he passes all these women and if he wants one, all he has to do is pull over.”

In a recent raid on a Catalan sex club called Lady’s Dallas, close to the French border, of the 225 clients questioned only 13 were Spanish, while 178 were French. The nationalities of the 142 woman at the club provide a snapshot of prostitution in Spain: 98 were Romanian, the remainder an assortment from eastern Europe and Latin America. Not one was Spanish. The raid provoked an indignant editorial in La Vanguardia that concluded that Spain “needs to decide if it wants to become a destination for sex tourists”. In Andalusia, home to the Costa del Sol, prostitution is said to have a turnover of €2 billion a year.

It is clear that Spain has become an operations base for a lot of dirty business, from trafficking in drugs to human beings, which in turn feeds off the leisure industry and above all the demand for second homes. Forget the cosy, Del Boyish image of the costas. This is not a couple of blokes from Bethnal Green flashing their gold Rolexes while they blow the few thousand quid they stole from a post office. The crimes on the costas these days cast a much darker shadow in the sunshine.

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New powers to seize criminal cash
Money - generic
Mr Henry said small-time criminals and drug dealers would be targeted
Police have been given the power to seize smaller sums of money from criminals in Scotland.

The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Poca) enabled police and customs officers to seize money suspected to be the profits of crime or intended for use in crime.

The minimum cash-seizure threshold has now been lowered from £5,000 to £1,000.

It aims to tackle those who have sought to transport tainted cash in amounts just below the previous threshold in order to evade the Poca provisions.

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry said: "We are determined to continue using the powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to disrupt criminal activity.

We will show that while a life of crime may have short-term attractions it will no longer be an easy way to make cash
Lord Boyd
Lord Advocate

"Reducing the threshold so officers can seize cash of stashes of at least £1,000 will allow the police to target local drug dealers and other small-time criminals whose activities destroy lives and blight communities."

Nearly £10m of criminal assets has been recovered in Scotland since the act came into force in 2003.

"Criminals should be in no doubt - the net is continuing to widen over the ill-gotten gains of those who seek to profit from the misery of others," Mr Henry said.

The Lord Advocate, Lord Boyd, said: "We will use the full powers available to us under the act to ensure that crime does not pay.

"In communities across Scotland we will identify and recover the proceeds of crime, and show that while a life of crime may have short-term attractions it will no longer be an easy way to make cash.

"There should be no doubt that we will take all possible action to deprive people of their ill-gotten gains, and to improve the quality of life for the law-abiding majority."


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The Times July 31, 2006

Disrupting funds is vital in war on crime and terror


The Economic Secretary to the Treasury explains why the Government is calling for a tighter crackdown on money-laundering and criminals' finances

THE first duty of every British Government is to protect its citizens. Today, however, we face a very different challenge to any previous administration — because the biggest threat to citizens comes not from external forces but from organised criminals and terrorists living and operating inside our country.

As a people, we are proud of our traditions of liberty and tolerance and are determined to protect our rights, but the new threats we face from serious organised crime and fanatical terrorism place new responsibilities on us all — and require new powers.

Central to this challenge is recognising the links between organised crime and terrorism. When I discussed these issues with my American counterparts last week, I was struck that the US Treasury has been fighting these problems for more than 80 years, since the era of prohibition. The US authorities have always understood — from the era of Al Capone to the present day — that the way to defeat organised crime and terrorism is to follow the money trail and strangle the sources of finance.

We estimate that the economic and social costs of organised crime to the UK is more than £20 billion a year — in addition to the lives blighted by drugs, people-trafficking and prostitution.

Since 1997, we have responded to these threats legislatively, strategically and by enhancing enforcement.

One of my first decisions as Economic Secretary to the Treasury was to review and reform the rules on the benefits paid to the families of individuals listed by the UN due to their links to terrorism. I had to balance my duty to ensure that benefits paid to these households could not be diverted and misused against our responsibility to see that children in these households are not unfairly deprived.

While my decision first to stop these benefits and then to make all payments subject to strict licence conditions was controversial and is being legally challenged, I am confident that we struck the right balance.

Through legislation, Parliament has strengthened our toolbox to tackle the funding of criminal and terrorist activity. But because the nature of the threat is always evolving, we accepted the need for further regulation — expanding the scope of our controls beyond the financial sector to include the diverse range of UK businesses that risk being used for money laundering and terrorist financing. Yet in order to be effective, our controls must also be adequately enforced. That is why, on April 1 this year, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) came into being. Its mission is to disrupt and dismantle serious organised crime gangs nationally and internationally — and so both reduce their harm to society and seize far more of their assets.

Already our approach of concentrating on criminal and terrorist finance is reaping rewards. The obligations on financial firms to disclose suspicious transactions have led to the exposure and disruption of major money-laundering operations.

Our task now is to build on these controls. Our financial services sector is a world leader not just because of our economic stability and the quality of our companies and people, but also because of the renowned transparency and probity of the sector.

Our interventions must be well-targeted and not involve excessive regulatory burdens on the financial sector.

But we must also recognise the seriousness of the threat we face. It is in everyone’s interests, including the financial sector, that we strengthen our controls against money laundering and terrorist financing.

We have led the way by securing the adoption of the third EU Money Laundering Directive under our presidency last year. The directive provides an opportunity for a co- ordinated EU approach to disrupt the networks of international criminals and terrorists, and, crucially, it will provide a level playing field for firms across the EU and bring all European countries up to the standards we apply to counter money laundering and terrorist financing.

Today, I am publishing our proposals for implementing the Money Laundering Directive in the UK. Crucial to our approach is partnership. Government, law enforcement, regulators and, crucially, the businesses we regulate, must continue to work together in improving our ability to detect, deter and disrupt criminal and terrorist activities. And it is important that all interested groups help us to get the regulations right so that they are effective and proportionate.

I want to strengthen the partnership between business, Government and our law- enforcement agencies to tackle criminal and terrorist finance. It is no exaggeration to say that our future security and prosperity depend on it.

Ed Balls is the Economic Secretary to the Treasury

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Britons shot during drug turf battles in Ibiza

Giles Tremlett
Tuesday August 1, 2006
The Guardian


A suspected drug turf war between rival British gangs broke out on the Spanish holiday island of Ibiza yesterday.

Three British men were taken to local hospitals with gunshot wounds, according to police in the resort town of Sant Antoni de Portmany. Two were treated for flesh wounds and then arrested, while the third was still in intensive care last night after surgery to his chest.

Police believe the shootings were part of a battle between gangs of dealers looking to increase their share of the drug market on the party island. An estimated half a million Britons visit Ibiza every year.

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Terror threat level revealed for the first time

Armed policeman

Police and security agencies are dealing with a severe threat of terrorism

- Check the terror threat level
- Search: Britain and terror attacks

The official level of the terrorist threat to Britain has been made public for the first time.

The current state of alert was published first on a new Government website - http://www.intelligence.gov.uk - explaining the role of the "intelligence community''.

As already indicated by Home Secretary John Reid, the threat level was given as "severe'', with a link to a web page explaining the new terror threat system.

The information later appeared on the MI5 website - http://www.mi5.gov.uk - and was also due to feature on the Home Office's home page at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk.

The official system has been simplified from seven levels of alert to five.

The five levels are: low, moderate, substantial, severe and critical.

"Severe'' means an attack is "highly likely''. The new version merges previous categories of "severe general'' and "severe defined'' into a single "severe'' grade.

And, tellingly, it eliminates the previous lowest category of "negligible''.

Under the previous system, the national threat level had been set at "severe general'' since August 2005.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: "We welcome this new public system of alert and threat levels. We have been calling for this for some time.''

The new Intelligence website includes brief histories of the security and intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 and Government listening post GCHQ, plus the Defence Intelligence Staff and Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre.


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The Times August 03, 2006

Police enlist the power of prayer


Police in Lincolnshire are turning to prayer in their latest efforts to tackle crime. The force is asking churchgoers to concentrate their prayers on crimes such as burglaries and violent attacks.

The Prayer Watch scheme, a spiritual version of Neighbourhood Watch, has been proposed by members of the Lincolnshire branch of the Christian Police Association. The plan is for the police to e-mail churches and Christian groups with details of specific crimes, which worshippers can then focus on in their prayers.

Dick Holmes, a police spokesman, said the project is designed to encourage communities to keep an eye on the churches themselves. “They are prime targets for thieves and vandals and there have been well-publicised spates of trouble across the county.

“Obviously there is the spiritual element which lets communities know about specific incidents in their area so they can focus their prayers on them if they wish.”

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SATURDAY 5 AUGUST

Tommy Sheridan
Divisions emerge within the Scottish Socialist Party as a power struggle looks set to unfold in the wake of Tommy Sheridan's victorious defamation action.

Cat
The actions of a domestic cat throw up a new theory about the history of ancient stone burial cairns in Caithness.

Benidorm
The death of a Scottish holidaymaker after a street fight in Benidorm was being investigated by Spanish police.

FRIDAY 4 AUGUST

Gail and Tommy Sheridan
Tommy Sheridan won his defamation case against the News of the World and was awarded £200,000 in damages.

Rangers fans
Details of a fresh drive to eradicate sectarian songs sung by supporters of Rangers Football Club were released on Friday.

Gail and Tommy Sheridan
Jurors in the Tommy Sheridan News of the World sex claims defamation case retired to consider their verdict.

THURSDAY 3 AUGUST

Gail and Tommy Sheridan
Closing speeches in the Tommy Sheridan defamation case ended with the jury set to begin deliberations of Friday.

Mark Kennedy-Stewart
A housing landlord was criticised over the wording of a job advert for a part-time manager to handle a proposed expansion in Hawick.

Tommy Sheridan
Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan offered to strip off for the jury to disprove News of the World claims in his £200,000 case against the paper.

WEDNESDAY 2 AUGUST

Tommy Sheridan
Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan offered to strip off for the jury to disprove News of the World claims in his £200,000 case against the paper.

Mary Queen of Scots' death mask
Mary Queen of Scots' death mask, her sapphire ring and a casket worth £1.5m went on show in Edinburgh as part of a free exhibition.

Japanese engineer assessing the bridge
Japanese engineers began working on the Forth Road Bridge to assess whether or not they can dry out the suspension cables.

TUESDAY 1 AUGUST

Gail and Tommy Sheridan
The wife of Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan spoke of her disgust at an allegation that he had sex with another woman.

Portmahomack (Pic: Undiscovered Scotland)
A 20-year-old canoeist drowned in the Dornoch Firth off the beach at Portnahomack, the emergency services revealed.

Cecile Shea
The US Consulate General in Edinburgh has defended using Prestwick Airport for US planes carrying weapons to refuel before flying to Israel.

MONDAY 31 JULY

Gail and Tommy Sheridan
The wife of Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan spoke of her disgust at an allegation that he had sex with another woman.

Crash on A9 - BBC Scotland news website
Two teenage exchange students from Peru and an 82-year-old man were killed in a crash on the A9 in Inverness.

Coastguard car - generic
Two fishermen died after getting into difficulty in the sea off the south west coast of Scotland on Sunday afternoon.


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Police in work to rule threat if pay talks fail

Jamie Doward, home affairs editor
Sunday August 6, 2006
The Observer


The police may work to rule unless the government comes up with an 11th-hour pay offer this week. A failure by both sides to reach a settlement would seriously damage relations between the police and the Home Office and prompt accusations that public protection is being put at risk because of budget constraints.

Normally Britain's 160,000 police receive an automatic pay rise linked to inflation. The deal is agreed at the Police Negotiating Board between the 'staff side', representing the police, and the 'official side', for the government.

But to the dismay of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, the official side looks as if it will reject the deal for the first time since the formula was introduced 28 years ago.

The Home Office wants a deal linked to a commitment by forces to modernise, a demand that has infuriated the Police Federation. 'I can see 160,000 police officers becoming very angry over this situation,' said Jan Berry, the federation's chair.

'The perception is that they are being made to pay for the performance of the Home Office in other areas,' Berry said, referring to a commitment to increase the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's budget.

The pay formula was established because police are barred from going on strike. But Berry warned they could still make their grievances felt. There have been suggestions of a mass march on Whitehall, which would bring unwanted publicity for the Home Office at a time when the Home Secretary, John Reid, is keen to be seen turning the beleaguered department around. 'The police could opt to work to rule which would be counterproductive for justice,' Berry said. 'The one public service you have always been able to rely upon was the police.'

All police, from constables up to chief constables, had expected their annual pay rise to kick in this September. Instead, if there is no agreement, both sides will have to go to conciliation with any agreed pay increase unlikely to be introduced until much later in the year.

A spokesman for the Home Office stressed it was still hoping to find a solution. 'At this time every year the staff side of the Police Negotiating Board table a claim for the up-rating of police pay. This year is no different. The official side of the Police Negotiating Board is now considering the claim... and will respond in the near future.'

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