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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


250 people reported for domestic abuse in Fife in just two months

February 15 2012

More than 250 people in Fife have been reported for domestic abuse offences in only two months. Fife Constabulary released figures related to offences alleged to have been committed during a national domestic abuse campaign which ran from the beginning of December to the end of last month. Superintendent Alex Duncan, who led the campaign in Fife, said: ''Our officers and partners continue to be focused on protecting victims, including any children living within an abusive environment, as well as arresting anyone who abuses their partner. ''What people forget is domestic abuse isn't just a police problem, it's everybody's problem and we can all do something to help. ''It can be something as simple as supporting a friend or family member who you suspect of being a victim of domestic abuse or even speaking to a friend who you suspect may be an abuser. Every one of us can say no to domestic abuse.'' Fife has a dedicated domestic abuse court in Dunfermline. The court, which was made permanent recently after a successful 12-month pilot, is designed to bring domestic abuse cases to trial swiftly and ensure a consistent approach to better protect victims. Anyone experiencing domestic abuse or looking for help, support and guidance can contact free and confidential numbers including Women's Aid on 0808 802 5555, the Scottish Domestic Abuse helpline on 0800 027 1234 or Fife Constabulary on 0845 600 5702. Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Scottish politics

Lawyer slates Scotland’s ‘over-zealous’ approach to domestic abuse

November 22 2016

An “over-zealous” approach to tackling domestic violence is having a “devastating” impact on families and clogging up the courts, a former prosecutor has warned. The whistle-blower, who served Tayside and Fife as procurator fiscal, said the system adopted by ministers, police and the prosecution service is “incredibly over-zealous, intrusive and counter-productive”. The anonymous lawyer said innocent people are being caught up in the criminal system because officers and prosecutors have a lack of discretion within a “rigid and unrelenting approach” to allegations of violence in the home. Prosecutions often proceed with “incredibly scant evidence”, the whistle-blower claimed. In a letter to Scottish Legal News, they said: “It is no secret and certainly well-known within legal and criminal justice circles that criminal cases involving a ‘domestic’ element are being subjected to an incredibly over-zealous, intrusive and counter-productive approach led in policy partnership by the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and COPFS.” The letter refers to people being detained by police on the back of neighbours overhearing loud voices. It added: “Nobody really seems to care about the devastating impact all of this can have on innocent people caught in the web of this policy.” James Wolffe QC, the Lord Advocate, said he makes “no apology for taking a rigorous approach to domestic abuse”. “This is a form of criminal behaviour which for far too long was not taken sufficiently seriously by the criminal justice system and which can cause significant and enduring harm to direct and indirect victims - including children,” he added. “Any suggestion that prosecutions will be initiated where there is insufficient evidence in law is inaccurate and represents a misunderstanding of the position.” Chief Supt Barry McEwan said domestic abuse is a top priority for Police Scotland. He added: “Officers undertake professional and diligent enquiries and apply their professional judgement and discretion in each and every case they deal with. "If a crime has been committed and there is sufficient evidence that the perpetrator is responsible, officers will detain or arrest them.” A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Police Scotland and the Crown Office are to be commended for the robust and consistent approach taken when dealing with domestic abuse cases and the fact that more perpetrators of domestic abuse are being brought to justice and convicted should be welcomed.”

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

UK & World

Domestic abusers could be electronically tagged under new Government proposals

March 8 2018

Domestic abusers could be banned from drinking alcohol and electronically tagged under a Government crackdown.New civil orders will expand the potential restrictions courts and police can impose on criminals who torment partners, spouses and other family members.Perpetrators could be required to attend parenting programmes or drug and alcohol treatment to reduce the risk of them carrying out further abuse.For the first time courts will be given express powers to impose electronic monitoring as a condition of the proposed Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (DAPOs). A Government consultation on the plans, to be published on Thursday, says tagging could be used as part of a perpetrator’s compliance with conditions such as an exclusion zone, or a prohibition on drinking alcohol.The measure would also enable the monitoring of the subject’s location to establish behaviour patterns or provide evidence of someone’s movements, which in turn could help prevent stalking or intimidation, according to the document.It says electronic monitoring will only be used where it is proportionate and necessary to prevent further abuse.DAPOs would bring together the strongest elements from existing protective orders, while giving courts the power to set a wider range of restrictions and for longer periods than the current 28 days.The proposed orders could be imposed at the outset of a case, when abuse is suspected but before the subject has been found guilty of any crime.Courts could issue an order during any ongoing proceedings, including on conviction or acquittal in any criminal proceedings, the consultation says.Breaching any conditions attached to an order would be a criminal offence.The details emerged as the Government launched a consultation to set out a host of proposed measures to be included in a draft Domestic Abuse Bill.It will also introduce a new statutory definition of domestic abuse, which includes a reference to “economic” abuse for the first time.The existing definition recognises financial abuse but the consultation says this can be “restrictive” in circumstances where victims are denied access to basic resources such as food, clothing and transportation.Cases where abusers force victims to take out loans could also fall under the economic strand.Other measures being weighed up for inclusion in the new Bill include:– The creation in law of an independent domestic abuse commissioner– Tougher sentences for domestic abuse that affects children– Enshrining in legislation the scheme known as Clare’s Law, under which police can disclose information about previous violent offending by a new or existing partner– Giving domestic abuse victims the same status in court as those who have suffered modern slavery or sex offences.Prime Minister Theresa May said the proposals have the potential to “completely transform the way we tackle domestic abuse”.She said: “Domestic abuse takes many forms, from physical and sexual abuse, to controlling and coercive behaviour that isolates victims from their families and has long-term, shattering impacts on their children.”An estimated 1.9 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the last 12 months, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales for the year ending March 2017.Figures also show 82 women and 13 men were killed by a partner or former partner in 2016/17.Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “It is appalling that in 21st-century Britain, nearly two million people every year – the majority of them women – suffer abuse at the hands of those closest to them.“Through this Bill I want to fundamentally change the way we as a country think about domestic abuse, recognising that it is a crime that comes in many forms – physical, emotional, economic.”Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “The damage caused by domestic abuse can last a lifetime. We have a duty not only to support those affected but to prevent others falling victim in future.”Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, welcomed the consultation.She added: “We want to see the Bill encompass and go beyond changes to the criminal justice system to include policies on housing, education, health, immigration and the welfare system to name but a few, to ensure that every survivor and her child can safely escape domestic abuse.”

UK & World

Social workers involved in St Helena child abuse inquiry take legal action

March 23 2018

Two social workers who say an inquiry report into allegations of child abuse on the British overseas territory of St Helena destroyed their professional reputations have taken legal action.Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama, who worked on St Helena and made cover-up allegations, have sued the Foreign Office and the senior barrister who led the inquiry.They say they “stand by the accuracy and honesty of their disclosures” and say conclusions were reached on the basis of an inquiry which was procedurally unfair.Lawyers representing ministers and inquiry chairman Sasha Wass QC dispute their claim and say the litigation should not proceed.A judge was on Friday considering issues in the case at a High Court hearing in London.Barrister Neil Sheldon, who is leading a legal team representing Foreign Office ministers, asked the judge, Master Victoria McCloud, to halt the litigation and dismiss the claim launched by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama.The inquiry had been set up by ministers following corruption and cover-up allegations which had been raised in newspaper articles and leaked documents and made by Ms Gannon and Martin Warsama.An inquiry report published in December 2015 concluded that: St Helena did not “attract sex tourism”; said allegations that the island in the South Atlantic was a “paedophiles’ paradise” were not true; reported “no corruption at all”; and found no evidence of any attempt by the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, the St Helena government or police to cover up child abuse.The report said: “We stress that there was no ‘cover-up’ as alleged by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, rather an ignorance of proper safeguarding procedure.”Nicholas Bowen QC, who represents Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, told the judge the conclusions of the Wass Inquiry “destroyed” the professional reputations of his clients.He said the inquiry process was “procedurally” unfair and said Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama were entitled to “just satisfaction” for their loss.Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama say their claim should not be dismissed but say evidence should be analysed at a trial.

Top prosecutor welcomes new domestic abuse laws

February 1 2018

New domestic abuse laws will give prosecutors the tools they need to tackle the “very real” psychological harm caused by perpetrators’ undermining and controlling behaviour, according to Scotland’s top law officer.Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said the legislation will allow the Crown to prosecute “insidious abusive behaviours” not previously covered by the criminal law. He said the legislation marks another step forward in changing how Scotland understands and deals with abuses carried out within the home.“Victims of domestic abuse should be in no doubt that where criminal conduct is perpetrated against them and they come forward and report it, they will be taken seriously and they will be treated with respect,” he said.The Domestic Abuse Bill, which was passed at Holyrood on Thursday, creates a specific offence of domestic abuse that covers not just physical abuse but other forms of psychological harm and coercive and controlling behaviour.It covers the full breadth of violent, threatening, intimidating and other controlling behaviour which can destroy a victim’s autonomy and further recognises the adverse impact domestic abuse can have on children.Mr Wolffe said: “The Domestic Abuse Bill will make criminal insidious abusive behaviours, intended to isolate, humiliate, degrade, subjugate, punish or control, that at present we are unable to prosecute.“For the first time, it will allow us not only to lay the whole story before the court, but to mark that whole story for what it is – a course of criminally abusive conduct deserving of prosecution in the public interest.”Speaking during a visit to Edinburgh Women’s Aid (EWA), Mr Wolffe said coercive behaviour can blight the lives of those who suffer it.He told Press Association Scotland: “In the experience of prosecutors who deal with domestic abuse, what we see is the damage that the kind of systematic, undermining, controlling behaviour can do to victims.“The damage may not be physical but psychological harm is very real and at present the criminal law doesn’t address that.”The Lord Advocate said the ability to put the “full lived experience of the victim” before the courts is at the heart of the changes to tackle what has so far been a “significantly under-reported problem”.“We’ve gone from a time which some of us can still recall when the criminal justice system regarded what went on in people’s homes as a private matter which was not for the law to interfere with,” said Mr Wolffe.“We now recognise that domestic abuse … causes real harm to victims and where criminal behaviour is perpetrated within the home, it is absolutely right that the criminal justice system steps in.”The top prosecutor said he would measure the success of the changes in the confidence of victims to come forward and report cases, and “in a culture change in which the kind of behaviour that we’re dealing with here is recognised to be not simply unacceptable but unlawful”.He added: “I think there’s a sense of excitement across the system that this really does allow the system to respond in a more effective way to the kinds of circumstances that they see every day in their working lives.”EWA chief executive Linda Rodgers said: “EWA welcomes the new legislation and are hopeful that once enacted that this will lead to more positive court outcomes for the women we support.“This will mean that the law will now recognise what our clients tell us on a daily basis about their experiences which is that abuse is about more than physical or aggressive behaviour.”


Former brother-in-law says SNP were warned of ‘tyrant and bully’ Bill Walker

August 23 2013

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's office was given evidence that Bill Walker was "a tyrant and a bully" before he became an SNP MSP, it has been claimed. Walker, 71, an independent MSP for Dunfermline, was convicted of a string of domestic abuse charges spanning almost three decades following a trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. The First Minister has urged him to resign his seat in the Scottish Parliament. Walker’s former brother-in-law Rob Armstrong said he gave court documents to a staff member in Ms Sturgeon's parliamentary office in February 2008, years before Walker was elected and subsequently convicted for domestic abuse. SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said such allegations were "absolutely correctly" passed on to the party as they would not be a matter for an MSP's office. Mr Armstrong said the staff member "photocopied certain newspaper articles and advised me that she would pass this on to the executive and that I should expect to hear from someone in the executive in due course. I never heard anything further." When asked if the documents contained "hard evidence" about Walker's past, he said. "Yes. There was also the judgment of a Swindon court, where a judge described William George Walker as a tyrant and a bully." Ms Fabiani said Ms Sturgeon's constituency office acted "absolutely correctly" in passing the information to headquarters. "It's not a party office," she said. "It's your office as representative of the Scottish Parliament, and when someone comes in with a party issue the MSP's staff would say quite clearly that it's not a parliamentary matter, it's not a matter for the MSP." The SNP's vetting process is "stringent" but it is difficult to weed out liars, she said. She said: "We're not the police. We know that Bill Walker is a consummate liar. He denied everything in court. We know that he is manipulative and it's very difficult to get through that sometimes." Ms Fabiani said Walker should "never set foot in our parliament again" but acknowledged that parliamentary rules only permit MSPs to be ejected if they serve more than a year in prison. She added: "It was a summary case, so he won't go beyond a year whatever the sentence is. This has to be discussed and there will be many calls for that, and we should be discussing with Westminster how the rules can be changed." Sheriff Kathrine Mackie found the 71-year-old, from Alloa, guilty of 24 offences, which all took place between 1967 and 1995. She said he was not “a credible witness”. Mr Walker, elected for the SNP in 2011 but now serving as an independent MSP, denied all charges. Sheriff Mackie said: “There was evidence showing the accused to be controlling, domineering, demeaning and belittling towards the three complainers, his former wives. “The evidence also showed him to be untrustworthy, disloyal and unfaithful towards others including his present wife.” Walker, who has so far refused to stand down from Holyrood, will be sentenced on September 20. First Minister Alex Salmond and SNP leader Alex Salmond said: “Although he has yet to be sentenced, in my view someone convicted of these offences is not fit to be a public representative and therefore he should stand down from the Scottish Parliament and allow the people of Dunfermline to elect a new MSP. “Mr Walker was expelled from the SNP in April 2012 and his conviction by a court of law reinforces his expulsion.” Labour’s Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty said: “Bill Walker must now allow West Fife to be served by an MSP who is capable of performing the role properly and resign from the Scottish Parliament straight away.” A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “It’s astonishing the SNP thought this man was fit to be an MSP after Nicola Sturgeon’s office was informed of a number of allegations against him.” Labour’s Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker also called for Walker to stand down for his “vile conduct” which she said “shames the Scottish Parliament”. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “What sort of message would it send to victims of domestic abuse if Bill Walker was allowed to keep his seat in Parliament despite his conviction?” Walker refused to comment outside the court following the verdict but stood beside his solicitor, Russel McPhate, who made a statement on his behalf. Mr McPhate said: “Mr Walker is obviously disappointed to be convicted of all the charges. “The verdict and, in particular, the comments of the sheriff will be very carefully considered. “In the meantime, he would like to thank his wife, his family, his colleagues, his staff and his friends who have supported him throughout this ordeal, which of course has lasted since March last year and is not over yet.”