Here are this week’s headlines:
- Police negligent in 90% of cases concerning sexual exploitation of children
Reported by Anna Flaherty
The police’s capability, in terms of safeguarding children, has been questioned by the NSPCC. Since a report (carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services) that was published a year ago, which highlighted the systemic failings of the police in terms of safeguarding, no improvement has been seen.
The police watchdog found that 90% of the child protection cases dealt with by Scotland Yard were not handled properly. This is a 15% increase in the negligent handling of cases since last year’s report. This assessment was made last month, highlighting how Scotland Yard has been worse at helping children at risk than it was a year ago.
The watchdog criticised officers for their poor attitudes in missing children cases. There were also criticisms based on delays in responding to cases, failures to record the concerns of children, and a lack of proactive investigation in such cases. As a result, the police will be reviewing hundreds of rape and sexual abuse cases. This comes after two trials collapsed due to a failure to disclose.
This inspection also showed that the police had been labelling missing children as being at “no apparent risk”, with some officers saying that “it’s what they [missing children] always do”.
A spokeswoman for the police said that ‘we recognise the urgency of improving our services, but we know that delivering real and sustainable improvements will take time to achieve. Our improvement plans are kept under continual review”.
Read more here.
- Unicef says 2017 has been a brutal year for children in war zones
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
Unicef has concluded that 2017 has been a brutal year for children caught in conflict, as concerned parties tend to bluntly ignore human rights and international humanitarian law.
The United Nations children’s agency found a shocking and increasingly common trend within war zones. According to the statistics, children in those areas are being used as human shields, suicide bombers or being recruited to fight. Children are often being raped or enslaved. These aforementioned areas of conflict include Iraq, Yemen, Myanmar and Nigeria.
Manuel Fontain, Unicef’s director of emergency programmes, said that “children are being targeted and exposed to attacks and brutal violence in their homes, schools and playgrounds”.
Across Nigeria, Chad, and Camaroon, Boko Haram, the jihadist organisation forced at least 135 children to be engaged in a suicide bombing attack. This is almost five times more than that in 2016.
In Yemen, at least 5,000 children died or were injured, with more than a million suffering from malnutrition.
Unicef’s Meritxell Relaño stated that “2017 was a horrible year for the children of Yemen”.
Pope Francis, in his Christmas message, drew attention to the plight of children in war zones. He said that “we see Jesus in the children worldwide wherever peace and security are threatened by the danger of tensions and new conflicts”.
Read more here.
- China accused of shipping oil to North Korea
Reported by Andrew MacDonald
Despite UN sanctions, the People’s Republic of China has been accused of shipping oil to a North Korean ship likely destined for Pyongyang. If this is so then China may be breaching a UN Security Council Resolution which bans ship-to ship transfers of any goods destined for the authoritarian and reclusive state.
The US-drafted UN Security Council Resolution 2397 aims to cut North Korea’s petrol imports by up to 90% by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year. This is the latest attempt to reduce Pyongyang’s ballistic missile testing capabilities.
However, US President Donald Trump has hit out at China tweeting that they it has been “Caught RED HANDED” as South Korean news reports have hinted that illegal Chinese oil transfers could have been occurring as of October. It has been suggested that the transfers could be happening in the West Sea close to China.
As of this Friday, South Korea revealed it seized a Hong-Kong registered ship last month, the Lighthouse Winmore, which is suspected of supplying 600 tons of refined oil to a North Korean ship.
As of September 2017, ship-to-ship trade with North Korea on the high seas is already forbidden as per the UN Security Council Resolution 2375. Such violations are extremely hard to detect.
Resolution 2375 also aims to ban North Korea’s textile exports (its second-biggest export after coal), end additional overseas labourer contracts, suppress smuggling efforts and to stop joint ventures with other nations.
The Resolution ‘will eventually starve the regime of an additional $US500 million or more in annual revenues,’ a US source told CNN.
China is North Korea’s main trading partner and it has repeatedly claimed it fully enforces all UN resolutions against North Korea. Beijing supported the latest US-drafted UN resolution 2397 aimed at the North’s petrol imports.
Donald Trump on Thursday said illegal oil transfers on China’s behalf would prevent ‘a friendly solution’ to the crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
The region has been experiencing increased tensions as America’s Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un have traded barbs concerning the North’s nuclear ambitions in recent months.
- Virgin secures £1 billion of NHS contracts
Reported by Sarah Mullane
Virgin Care, a private healthcare company owned by English business entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, has reportedly secured a record £1 billion of NHS contracts in the last year. The private provider of services to the NHS currently owns 24 GP-led provider companies and has over 300 NHS contracts. This information follows assurances by health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that privately held contracts play a marginal role within the UK healthcare system. Hunt’s assertions pose a striking contrast to the figures released for the 2016-17 period, which show that, of the overall 386 contracts put out to tender, almost 70% (267) were given to private firms. Figures also show that the sum of these contracts have risen by £700 million on the previous year, to a total amount of £3.1 billion. Paul Evans of the NHS Support Federation has stated that the figures “clearly show that privatisation has a strong momentum within the NHS.”
The recent rise in privatised contracts has not gone unnoticed by the public, with a recent YouGov survey revealing that 84% of the public wish to keep the NHS nationalised. The disdain over the direction in which the NHS is heading was further emphasised last month, after Virgin Care came under public backlash for receiving a £328,000 cash settlement from the NHS. This pay-out followed Virgin Care’s decision to file proceedings regarding the NHS decision not to grant it an £82 million contract to provide healthcare services in Surrey. Virgin Care cited “serious flaws” in the award of the contract. In response to the payment, more than 70,000 people have signed a position calling for the money to be returned, as the NHS is already facing “severe financial pressure.”