Friday, 22 January 2016

Book reviews: Wapping by John Trow

Book review - The Life and Times of a Baby Boomer

Wednesday, 6 January 2016



Police force refers itself to IPCC over inferno 
Survivor of 1985 fire welcomes the move 
West Yorkshire Police’s decision to refer itself to the police watchdog over the 1985 Bradford City fire disaster has been welcomed by Martin Fletcher, who survived the fire but lost four of his relatives to it. 
West Yorkshire Police’s (WYP) referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) comes after officers met Fletcher and his legal representatives to discuss new claims about the fire in his recent book. 
The IPCC must now decide whether to look into WYP’s role in investigating the inferno, in which 56 people died. 
Fletcher was 12 when he watched the Bradford City- Lincoln City game in the 74-year-old main stand at the Valley Parade ground, with his father, brother, grandfather and uncle. He was forced to flee when smoke began rising from the all-wooden structure. 
All four of his relatives died in the fire. Heartbroken, Fletcher paid little attention to the inquiry, which began just 13 days after the forensic search of the site was completed and lasted only five and a half days. It did not take witness statements from most survivors. 
The inquiry’s judge, Lord Popplewell, had said beforehand “blame will not be apportioned”. He concluded the fire’s cause was the dropping of a lit match, cigarette or tobacco on to litter that had collected underneath the stand. 
As he grew older, Fletcher began investigating events on that fateful day of 11 May. Earlier this year he released his book Fifty-six: The Story of the Bradford Fire. It unearthed flaws in the inquiry and inconsistencies between what the Bradford City owner Stafford Heginbotham and the club told the press and authorities. 
Fletcher had also examined fires at Heginbotham’s other businesses. Investigative journalist Paul Foot first wrote about them after being contacted by a local fire safety officer in 1985. 
The football ground fire was discovered to be one of nine. All had a similar pattern, spreading quickly, producing huge amounts of toxic smoke and devastation, and catching the fire brigade unaware. 
The response of the football authorities, including supporters’ organisations, has been to ignore Fletcher, and some Bradford City fans have criticised his efforts. But he has been sent fresh evidence. 
‘Serious issues’ 
According to a WYP spokesperson the force has contacted the IPCC because “serious issues have been raised, both in a book by Martin Fletcher and subsequently by Mr Fletcher’s legal representatives. A senior officer met with them both to discuss these matters in detail. These issues relate not just to WYP, but to a number of other agencies and organisations.” 
Fletcher said he was “delighted” by the move. “It is a proper testament to the open and transparent nature of modern policing,” he said. 
Fletcher has previously praised the courage of WYP officers and the emergency services, and believes that without their bravery the death toll in 1985 would have topped three figures. “Any criticism of the emergency services I have concerns the command and control failures that were never properly addressed,” he said. 
Fletcher’s book has sold well and was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. But he is likely to return to his tax consulting work. 
“The IPCC decided within a month to investigate when South Yorkshire Police referred itself to them over the 1989 Hillsborough disaster so I would hope a decision is pending,” he said. 
An IPCC spokesperson confirmed it was “considering the referral before making
a decision as to whether it should be investigated”. 


Bar none - Kelham Island Tavern

Big Issue in the North magazine. 
Mark Metcalf has a few beers with Trevor Wraith, landlord of award-winning Sheffield pub Kelham Island Tavern 
A Sheffield pub is in line to capture the Campaign for Real Ale Pub of the Year award for a record third time. Success would be a testament to the passion and endeavour of Trevor Wraith who acquired the disused White Hart pub in 2001 and converted it into a roaring success. 
The renamed Kelham Island Tavern first won Camra’s award in 2008, repeating the accolade a year later. No other pub has finished first on more than one occasion. Having been picked – along with Broadstairs micro-pub the Yard of Ale, the Drovers Rest in Carlisle and the Sandford Park Ale House in Cheltenham – as one of the top four pubs in 2015 the Kelham Island Tavern could take the title again when the result is announced in February. 
“I’d be delighted to win the award again,” Wraith tells me as I enjoy a few glasses of beer, some at just £2.40 a pint, early on a midweek evening before Christmas, when there are at least 40 people of all ages in the premises. “We serve a fine selection of real ales from right across the country, with a special emphasis on Yorkshire brews and especially North Yorkshire, where there are beers of exceptional quality.” 
Wraith began working part time in the pub trade in Doncaster as a teenager in the 1970s. When his sales job at Don Valley Engineering came to an end in 1992 he decided to use the skills he’d learnt from serving customers and from running a local pub when the landlord was on holiday. 
“I managed to acquire a ten year lease on the Rutland Arms in Sheffield and I expanded the trade considerably. But when the brewery sold the pub to Punch Taverns I did not like the idea of a being a middleman and I decided to try and strike out on my own.” 
Wraith found himself outbid by housing developers when he tried to buy a number of pubs and was getting desperate when he was told that the White Hart, a site where there has been a pub since the 1830s, was up for sale. His bid was successful but he says, “I did wonder if I had done the right thing”. 
Parts of the roof needed replacing before the small pub could be re-opened. Wraith then began the task of moving on the previous clientele, which included some unsavoury characters. He stopped serving certain drinks and began introducing real ale. Previous clients didn’t appreciate the changes and quickly left. To attract more customers he spent money extending the pub and installing a small kitchen to serve traditional food. 
To help customers chat, Wraith has taken away background music. Folk and quiz nights are confined to one area. House rules include “no bad language or uncouth behaviour”. Wraith says: “We don’t do shots or fancy cocktails or allow people to swig out of bottles. People want to be able to relax when they come in here. I don’t want to be calling the police and it is a difficult enough job being a landlord without having to keep a check to make sure people are behaving themselves.” 
The range of beers his pub serves is impressive. Customers can choose from up to 13 real ales including a mild, porter and stout. Regular beers include Abbeydale Moonshine, Acorn Barnsley Bitter, Bradfield Farmers Blonde and Pictish Brewers Gold. Wraith is passionate about real ale. “I make it my business to know the constituents of each brew and I visit the breweries where I order my beers from. I help educate all nine staff about the beers and that means customers can obtain reliable information before selecting a particular brew.” 
Wraith’s current favourite tipple is Mosaic Pale, brewed by a new microbrewery – one of many that have proliferated in recent years – in Scarborough called North Riding. 

“It’s marvellous to see the increasing popularity of good beer. Camra has done an excellent job in bringing about a major cultural change in people’s drinking habits. For that, whether I win the 2015 Pub of the Year Award or not, then everyone should raise a glass in celebration.”

Puppy law needs more bite

Big Issue in the North magazine. 

Record number of calls about illegal trading 
RSPCA wants national database of dealers 
Amid RSPCA claims that the sale of scrap metal is taken more seriously than the
sale of dogs the government has indicated it will not be introducing legislation to regulate the country’s puppy dealers. 
To ensure puppies are adequately cared for before being sold, the 1999 Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act forces every UK puppy seller to obtain a local authority license. But since January 2011 the RSPCA has responded to over 10,000 calls – including a record 3,232
so far this year – concerning illegal dog trading and breeding. 
In October three Stockport puppy dealers – Peter Jones, Grace Banks and Julian King – were jailed after a lengthy RSPCA investigation revealed they were dumping sick and dying dogs in buckets. 
It was estimated the dealers were making £35,000 a week puppies imported from Ireland. 
Jones, imprisoned like Banks for five months, and King, given a six-month sentence, had both breached their 10-year bans on keeping dogs after earlier being prosecuted for similar offences. 
Stronger penalties 
The RSPCA believes many puppy dealers import dogs from the Continent and Ireland. Costing around £100, they sell for six to 10 times as much. 
With many puppies bought as Christmas gifts, the organisation has started campaigning for a Puppy Dealers Act. This would mean stronger penalties against dealers failing to get a license, a national database of puppy sellers funded by license fees, all internet and offline adverts having to display the seller’s license number requirement, and all sellers having to produce their license when they sell a puppy. 
The RSPCA believes such legislation would remove a huge layer of unregulated trading and give local authorities the tools they need to protect puppies and their buyers, many of whom, it argues, are unaware they are purchasing sick, under-age and dying puppies. 
The RSPCA states: “Current laws fail puppies and their parents. They are being traded like scrap with no regard for their welfare. The government should treat puppy dealing in England as seriously as they did scrap metal when it introduced new laws to tackle the criminal scrap metal trade in 2013.” 
Medical attention 
Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge and former shadow animal welfare minister, backed the RSPCA campaign. 
“When I was minister in 2014-15 I asked the coalition government to deal seriously with puppy farms that ignored animal welfare,” she said. “Now the present government should advance plans to stop puppies and kittens being either brought into the country illegally or bred in poor conditions. Animals are suffering and so do potential owners of these animals, which often need medical attention.” 
The website of Pets4Homes., which carries dealers’ advertising and has over five million monthly visitors, states: “It is the buyer’s responsibility to make any necessary checks on the advertisers before buying or adopting a pet.” 
It also says: “We do our best to prevent puppy farmers trying to use our website by monitoring the number of adverts we allow each advertiser to place, and check advertisers’ local authority breeding licenses to make sure they are valid.” 
A Pets4Homes spokesperson said: “We fully support any act or legislation that can help combat the illegal puppy trade and importing of puppies. We would happily incorporate checks against a national database of puppy sellers into our current approval process. 
“Our concern is legislation may target genuine, honest dealers and illegal traders would advertise on websites that don’t check licenses. The agency maintaining a database – would they enable access to allow for the checking of names and addresses or will there be data protection issues? 
“We clearly need better checks to prevent puppies being imported in vans and tougher penalties for those convicted of puppy dealing, many of whom carry on after being punished.” 

A spokesperson for Defra, the government department responsible for animal welfare, did not answer questions about the RSPCA’s campaign but said: “We are committed to tackling the illegal trade of pets in the UK and there is a stringent compliance checking regime for pets entering the country. Anyone with pet smuggling information should inform the local authorities or the police.”