Extinction Rebellion: Olympic canoeing champion Etienne Stott arrested in climate change protests

Stott (left) earlier made a speech while sat on top of a bus stop alongside TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham

Olympic gold medal-winning canoeist Etienne Stott was one of hundreds arrested during climate change protests in London over the weekend.

The 39-year-old, who won C2 canoe slalom gold at London 2012, was carried from Waterloo Bridge by four police officers on Sunday evening.

He had shouted of the “ecological crisis” and earlier given a speech while sat on top of a bus stop.

Speaking on Saturday, Stott said the protests were “really important”.

“I don’t think there is anything more meaningful that I could be doing in my life right now,” said Manchester-born Stott.

“I feel like it is really tough to disrupt people’s lives like this, but this is really important because I believe the disruption that will come down the line if we do not declare a climate emergency and do not tackle this situation of climate change, it will just dwarf any inconvenience here today.”

As of 19:00 BST on Sunday, a total of 963 people had been arrested during the Extinction Rebellion protests in the UK capital, but only 40 people have been charged.

Thousands of people have been campaigning at sites including Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Westminster and Marble Arch.

Etienne Stott is carried by police after being arrested
Extinction Rebellion: Olympic canoeing champion Etienne Stott arrested in climate change protests
Etienne Stott won C2 gold at London 2012 alongside Tim Baillie

Extinction Rebellion: Climate protesters ‘making a difference’

Greta Thunberg was greeted with loud cheers as she took to the stage

A teenage climate change activist has told Extinction Rebellion protesters in central London they are “making a difference”.

Greta Thunberg, 16, was greeted with loud cheers and chants of “we love you” as she took to the stage in front of thousands at the rally in Marble Arch.

Earlier, one of the group’s members said the protests would be “paused”.

But another said they planned “a week of activities” including a bid to prevent MPs from entering Parliament.

Ms Thunberg, a Swedish teenager who is credited with inspiring an international movement to fight climate change, told the crowd “humanity is standing at a crossroads” and that protesters “will never stop fighting for this planet”.

“We are now facing an existential crisis,” she added.

“The climate crisis, the ecological crisis they have been ignored for decades and for way to long the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything at all.

“But we will make sure they will not get away with it any longer.”

Protesters gathered at Marble Arch
Thousands of protesters gathered at Marble Arch to hear Greta Thunberg speak

As of 19:00 BST on Sunday, a total of 963 people had been arrested during the climate change protests.

The Met Police said 40 people, aged 19 to 77, have been charged for “various offences including breach of Section 14 Notice of the Public Order Act 1986, obstructing a highway and obstructing police”.

Extinction Rebellion has said it hoped to negotiate with the Mayor of London and the Met over continuing its demonstrations at Old Palace Yard in Westminster and leaving other sites.

Organisers said there would be a “People’s Assembly” at Marble Arch on Monday afternoon to decide what will happen in the coming week.

police protest
Hundreds of officers from other police forces have been sent to London to help the Met

Earlier, Extinction Rebellion member Farhana Yamin said the group had offered to “pause” protests and begin a “a new phase of rebellion” to achieve “political aims”.

She said the move would show the group was an “organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with”.

However, another Extinction Rebellion organiser Larch Maxey told the BBC there “certainly won’t be a pause in our activities”.

He said: “On Tuesday we’ve got a series of strategic points around the city which we will be targeting to cause maximum economic disruption while simultaneously focusing on Parliament and inviting MPs to pause.”

Asked if MPs would be able to get into Parliament, he added: “Not if we are successful, we’re going to prevent them getting in so they have time to separate themselves from the politicking and concentrate on what’s at stake here.”

waterloo bridge disruption
Cressida Dick said Londoners had experienced “miserable disruption” because of the protests
Officers carry away pieces of wood as they break up the climate change activist's camp on Waterloo Bridge
Officers carry away pieces of wood as they break up the protesters’ camp on Waterloo Bridge

Police have been trying to confine the protests to Marble Arch but demonstrators have ignored the threat of arrest and continued to block roads across the capital.

Areas around Oxford Circus and Parliament Square have reopened to traffic after officers cleared protesters, but they continue to occupy Waterloo Bridge.

At about 15:40 BST on Sunday, some activists on Waterloo Bridge began removing their collection of trees and plants.

Police have also removed the skate ramp, cooking tents and other infrastructure from the activists’ camp on the bridge.

Officers also cut free and arrested protesters who were “locked on” or glued to Waterloo Bridge.

Free hugs
Climate change protesters have been demonstrating across central London since Monday

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said she had never experienced anything like the protests in her career.

She said: “I’ve been a police officer for 36 years, I have never known an operation, a single operation, in which over 700 people have been arrested.”

Ms Dick added she was grateful for the help from hundreds of police officers drafted in from several forces, including the neighbouring City of London Police.

Officers from Kent, Sussex, Essex, Hampshire and Greater Manchester have also been sent.

Officers carry sofa
Police have removed infrastructure from the activists’ Waterloo Bridge camp

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the protests were “counter-productive” to London and “more than 9,000 officers” had been responding to the demonstrations.

He said: “Londoners have suffered too much disruption and the policing operation has been extremely challenging for our over-stretched and under-resourced police.

“I’m extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer.

“It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk like this.”

oxford circus
Police cleared Oxford Circus of protesters on Saturday after six days of demonstrations
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What is Extinction Rebellion?

The co-founder of the protest group invites people to join them
The co-founder of the protest group invites people to join them

Since the group was set up last year, members have shut bridges, poured buckets of fake blood outside Downing Street, blockaded the BBC and stripped semi-naked in Parliament.

It has three core demands  : for the government to “tell the truth about climate change”; to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025; and to create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress.

Controversially, the group is trying to get as many people arrested as possible.

But critics say they cause unnecessary disruption and waste police time when forces are already overstretched.

Extinction Rebellion to ‘pause’ London protests

Hundreds of officers from other police forces have been sent to London to help the Met

Extinction Rebellion is to “pause” the protests that have caused widespread disruption across central London for seven days.

The group said it would mark “a new phase of rebellion” to achieve “political aims”.

A total of 831 people have been arrested during the climate change protests and 42 people charged.

Hundreds of officers from other forces have been sent to London to help the Metropolitan Police.

Extinction Rebellion said it hoped to negotiate with the Mayor of London and the Met over continuing its demonstrations at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, and leaving other sites.

Farhana Yamin, from the group, said being able to “pause” the protests showed it was an “organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with”.

“Today marks a transition from week one, which focused on actions that were vision-holding but also caused mass disruption across many dimensions,” she said.

“Week two marks a new phase of rebellion focused on negotiations where the focus will shift to our actual political demands.”

waterloo bridge disruption
Met chief Cressida Dick said Londoners had experienced ‘miserable disruption’ because of the protests

Oxford Circus has reopened to traffic after officers cleared protesters but they continue to occupy Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square.

Campaigners who glued themselves to the roof of a lorry on Waterloo Bridge were removed and the lorry was cleared in the early hours.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said she had never experienced anything like it in her career.

She said: “I’ve been a police officer for 36 years – I have never known an operation, a single operation, in which over 700 people have been arrested.”

waterloo bridge
More than 800 people have been arrested since protests began on Monday

Ms Dick added she was grateful for the help from hundreds of police officers drafted in from several forces, including the neighbouring City of London Police.

Officers from Kent, Sussex, Essex, Hampshire and Greater Manchester have also been sent.

Police have been trying to confine the protests to Marble Arch but demonstrators have ignored the threat of arrest and continued to block roads across the capital.

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg is expected to address Extinction Rebellion members at Marble Arch later ahead of meeting senior British politicians next week.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the protests were “counter-productive” to London and “more than 9,000 officers” had been responding to the demonstrations.

He said: “Londoners have suffered too much disruption and the policing operation has been extremely challenging for our over-stretched and under-resourced police.

“I’m extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer. It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk like this.

“My message to all protesters today is clear: you must now let London return to business as usual.”

oxford circus
Police cleared Oxford Circus of protesters on Saturday after six days of demonstrations
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What is Extinction Rebellion?

The co-founder of the protest group invites people to join

Since the group was set up last year, members have shut bridges, poured buckets of fake blood outside Downing Street, blockaded the BBC and stripped semi-naked in Parliament.

It has three core demands for the government to “tell the truth about climate change”; to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025; and to create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress.

Controversially, the group is trying to get as many people arrested as possible.

But critics say they cause unnecessary disruption and waste police time when forces are already overstretched.

Ilkley Moor fire: Arrests made over blaze

Helicopter drops
Helicopters are making water drops on Ilkley Moor in West Yorkshire to help with damping down and prevent further flames

Arrests have been made after a large fire took hold on moorland in West Yorkshire, police said.

Firefighters tackled a fire covering 25,000 sq m on Ilkley Moor on Saturday, with helicopters making water drops.

Bradford Council reiterated a warning for walkers to stay off the moors as crews were damping down.

The local authority called it a “full multi-agency response” with about 70 firefighters still in attendance on the moor.

Fire on Ilkley Moor
A wide area of Ilkley Moor, pictured here at 22:15 on Saturday, was well alight

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) said the fire was in the White Wells area of the hillside, with smoke still clearly visible from the spa town below.

Water jets, beaters and specialist wildfire units are also helping to deal with the aftermath of the fire.

Martin Langan, WYFRS incident commander, said: “We’ve managed to die the flames down but there’s a significant amount of smoke blowing into Ilkley.

“The critical point is around midday when it gets its hottest, that’s where the potential lies for us because that’s when the seat of fire can spark up again.”

Ilkley Moor
Fire crews were called in from across the region to help deal with the blaze

Police closed a section of Hangingstone Road near the Cow and Calf Rocks during the damping down operation.

Mark Hunnebell, who has run the White Wells Spa Cafe for two decades, said his business was evacuated when the “fire started to spread towards us” at 19:00 BST on Saturday.

He said: “We’ve seen some fires here in the past, but I’ve never seen anything like the scale of this one.

“The helicopters have made countless water drops for most of the morning; they’ve been backwards and forwards constantly.”

Ilkley
The fire took hold in the White Wells area above the spa town of Ilkley

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn Twitter that the “awful scenes” on the moor were a reminder “of why we urgently need to tackle climate change”.

Christina Cheney, whose house backs onto the moor near an area known as The Tarn, praised the fire service for keeping residents safe.

“A large swathe of the moor looks quite devastated this morning; we’re lucky our homes were all safe in the end,” she said. “The same can’t be said for so much wildlife.”

The Met Office confirmed that Saturday was the hottest day of the year with 25.5C recorded in Gosport, Hampshire.

Forecasters have said the UK is set for record-breaking temperatures over the rest of the Easter weekend.

Ilkley Moor fire: Crews battle ‘intense’ moorland blaze

Fire crews were called in from across the region to help deal with the blaze

Firefighters have been working through the night to bring a large moorland blaze under control.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) said several acres of Ilkley Moor caught fire on Saturday after a day of soaring temperatures.

The fire involves moorland above White Wells in Ilkley. Bradford Council is warning walkers to keep off the moors.

Crews from 10 engines remained at the scene of the blaze overnight to damp down.

Originally there were 14 crews at the scene but WYFRS said it had scaled back its response to the blaze.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the “awful scenes” on the moor were a reminder “of why we urgently need to tackle climate change”.

On Saturday night Martyn Hughes, a watch manager at North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service which is assisting WYFRS, tweeted: “The intense heat, steep slopes and rough terrain are causing the fire to spread rapidly whilst we try to get near the flames.”

The Met Office confirmed Saturday was the hottest day of the year with 25.5C recorded in Gosport, Hampshire.

Forecasters have said the UK is set for record-breaking temperatures over the rest of the Easter weekend.

Ilkley Moor
Moorland above White Wells in Ilkley is on fire

In June and July last year, firefighters from 20 different brigades were drafted in to help tackle two huge moorland fires which burnt for several weeks.

Crews spent more than a month battling a huge fire covering 18km sq (6.9 sq miles) at Winter Hill, near Bolton.

The Army was drafted in to help Greater Manchester crews deal with a blaze at Saddleworth Moor in Tameside, 30 miles away from Winter Hill.

Ilkley Moor
Walkers were told to stay off the moors while firefighters tackle the blaze

Extinction Rebellion: Met Police asks for 200 extra officers

police officers
About 200 extra officers from other police forces are being sent to London

The Metropolitan Police has requested about 200 extra officers from neighbouring forces to help deal with the Extinction Rebellion protests in central London.

Since Monday, climate change demonstrators have occupied Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square.

The Met says 715 people have been arrested and 28 have been charged.

Dozens of people are in Oxford Circus, despite being told by police to move.

The Met said it would continue to liaise with protesters and encouraged them to go to Marble Arch.

A statement added: “One thing that is unusual about this demonstration is the willingness of those participating to be arrested and also their lack of resistance to the arrests.”

Extinction rebellion
Protesters have blocked traffic through Oxford Circus since Monday

It is understood the Met made a request to the National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC) “late on Thursday” for help with extra officers from neighbouring regions in the east and south-east of England.

Essex Police confirmed it had sent officers “to support the Metropolitan Police under national mutual aid protocols”.

A spokesman for the National Police Chief’s Council said “forces routinely share officers through mutual aid” in order to deal with large-scale events.

He added: “It is used to ensure an appropriate police presence exists where there is increased demand for it.

“NPoCC works with forces to determine their requirements should the need arise.”

pink boat
On Good Friday, police spent hours removing protesters and towing away a pink boat

On Good Friday, police removed a pink boat that had been parked in the middle of Oxford Circus since Monday.

Earlier that day, actress Dame Emma Thompson addressed demonstrators from the top of the ship.

On Saturday morning, about 30 protesters moved closer to each other and sat down in the centre of the Oxford Circus junction as police threatened more arrests.

One demonstrator said to the group: “Holding the space is important and being arrested is not undignified.

“We are here for an important reason, so we should be prepared to be removed for that. Being arrested is a statement.”

Members of the public watching have been asked to move on.

A protester being led off by a police officer in Oxford Circus
A protester was led by police as they moved in on Oxford Circus

Extinction Rebellion: Police move in on London protesters

Officers surround the pink boat at Oxford Circus
Officers surrounded a pink boat in Oxford Circus as Dame Emma Thompson spoke to activists

Hundreds of police officers have closed in on Extinction Rebellion protesters in central London as demonstrations entered a fifth day.

Officers surrounded a pink boat in Oxford Circus as actress Dame Emma Thompson told activists her generation had “failed young people”.

More than 570 people have been arrested at protests this week in Oxford Circus, Parliament Square and Waterloo Bridge

Dame Emma joined the protests after flying from Los Angeles on Thursday.

She said: “We are here in this little island of sanity and it makes me so happy to be able to join you all and to add my voice to the young people here who have inspired a whole new movement.”

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Police are not letting people into the circle around protesters in Oxford Circus
Dame Emma Thompson
Dame Emma Thompson said: “This is the most pressing and urgent problem of our time, in the history of the human race”

Oxford Circus
Protesters have blocked Oxford Circus since Monday

On Friday morning protesters were setting up a children’s area in hopes of making it a fun family event for Easter.

Demonstrators have also started “people assembly meetings” to discuss the group’s next moves.

Dame Emma Thompson was greeted by crowds with cheers and songs as she stepped up to the bright pink boat, which seems to have become the centre piece of the protest.

After she spoke the crowds began to take their seats on the ground, making it clear they weren’t prepared to move anytime soon.

By midday, police filed into the protests and started to create a barrier to contain people.

Officers are starting to block every entrance to the event and seem to have a stronger stance compared to previous days.


It comes as a small group of demonstrators staged a protest at Heathrow Airport amid threats to disrupt flights over Easter.

Protesters stood by the tunnel leading to Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3, but all roads remain open.

Protests
Undeterred by over 570 arrests, climate change activists continued their demonstration into a fifth day in London

However, Robin Ellis-Cockcroft, 24, said the group had succeeded in creating an “emotional disruption” at Heathrow, adding that no further Extinction Rebellion protests would take place on Friday.

Protests are still being held at Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Parliament Square, but the Met Police said officers have been working 12-hour shifts and have had leave cancelled.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “This is very, very difficult for us because my colleagues have never come across the situation that they are faced with at the moment.

“They are dealing with very, very passive people, probably quite nice people, who don’t want confrontation whatsoever with the police or anyone else but are breaking the law.”

Environmental activists have also been in action in other parts of the world.

In Paris, they blocked the entrance of the Societe Generale bank headquarters, as part of a protest urging world leaders to act on climate change.

Pepper spray was used by anti-riot police in an attempt to disperse the demonstrators.

Activists also gathered outside the Ministry of the Ecological and Inclusive Transition in La Defense, near Paris, and blocked the entrance of the headquarters of French oil giant Total there.

Pepper spray was used against the protesters
Pepper spray was used against the protesters
Activists outside the Societe Generale
Activists outside the Societe Generale declared it a climate crime scene
The Societe Generale logo covered in molasses
Molasses, representing oil, was smeared outside the Societe Generale
TAYFUN SALCI/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES Police began moving campaigners from Waterloo Bridge in the early hours of Tuesday

Extinction Rebellion protest: 100 arrests as London roads blocked

More than 100 climate change activists have been arrested after blocking roads in central London.

Extinction Rebellion campaigners were ordered by the Met to confine their protest to Marble Arch after causing widespread disruption on Monday.

But activists camped overnight to hold other blockades at Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Oxford Circus.

Among a total of 113 arrests, five people were detained on suspicion of criminal damage at Shell’s HQ.

The majority of others arrested were detained on suspicion of public order offences.

Waterloo Bridge
Potted plants and graffiti remained at Waterloo Bridge overnight
Marble Arch
An order has restricted protesters to gathering in the area around Marble Arch

Transport for London warned bus users that routes would remain on diversion or terminate early.

Extinction Rebellion, which is calling on the government to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025, wants to “shut down London” until 29 April in a series of protests.

It called for “reinforcements” to help maintain the roadblock at Waterloo Bridge on Tuesday.

Boat in Oxford Circus
Oxford Street was void of traffic after activists parked a pink boat in the middle of Oxford Circus

On Monday, a pink boat was parked in the centre of Oxford Circus where some activists locked their arms together with makeshift devices, while oil company Shell’s headquarters on Belvedere Road were vandalised.

Organisers claim protests have been held in more than 80 cities across 33 countries.

The second day of action will include speeches at Parliament Square about how to tackle climate change.

Man arrested on Waterloo Bridge
Police officers said they would make arrests under the Public Order Act if people did not move on when asked to do so
Extinction Rebellion have blocked Waterloo Bridge

Extinction Rebellion: Climate protesters block roads

Thousands of people joined protests across central London as climate change activists blocked roads and vandalised Shell’s headquarters.

Extinction Rebellion campaigners parked a pink boat at Oxford Circus and blocked Marble Arch, Piccadilly Circus and roads around Parliament Square.

Protester Yen Chit Chong said: “This is our last best shot at survival.”

Five people have been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after a glass door at Shell’s HQ was smashed.

The three men and two women were taken to a police station in central London after the incident at the offices near Waterloo.

Later, police ordered the protesters to restrict their actions to the Marble Arch area to prevent further disruption.

Protests at Oxford Circus
Protesters have parked a boat at Oxford Circus to represent the threat posed by rising sea levels

Officers remain at the scene and have advised people travelling into London to allow extra journey time.

Organisers claim protests are being held in over 80 cities across 33 countries.

Protester Olivia Evershed, 23, said: “I hope that it’s really going to bring awareness about the emergency crisis that we are in, and encourage the government to act.

“We’ve got 12 years to act before there is irreversible damage to the environment and we start to see catastrophic changes. If we don’t do anything to change this, our children will die.”

Climate Change Action
A truck was used to block off a road in Marble Arch, with members locking themselves under the vehicle

Extinction Rebellion said protests would continue throughout the week “escalating the creative disruption across the capital day by day”.

The group said it planned to “bring London to a standstill for up to two weeks”, and wanted the government to take urgent action to tackle climate change.

In Parliament Square, protesters unfurled banners, held up placards and waved flags as speakers took to the stage.

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Who are Extinction Rebellion?

Since its launch last year, members have shut bridges, poured buckets of fake blood outside Downing Street, blockaded the BBC and stripped semi-naked in Parliament.

It has three core demands: for the government to “tell the truth about climate change”, reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025, and create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress.

Controversially, the group is trying to get as many people arrested as possible.

One of the group’s founders, Roger Hallam, believes that mass participation and civil disobedience maximise the chances of social change.

But critics say they cause unnecessary disruption and waste police time when forces are already overstretched.

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The Shell headquarters in Belvedere Road
Protesters caused more than £6,000 damage at the Shell headquarters in Belvedere Road
Police officers talk to a climate change activist outside Shell's London HQ
Oil company Shell had its London headquarters targeted

By intentionally causing more than £6,000 damage at the Shell headquarters activists aim to get the case into crown court to put their case to a jury, the campaign said.

A Shell spokesman said: “We respect the right of everyone to express their point of view. We only ask that they do so with their safety and the safety of others in mind.”

Protester Chay Harwood told the BBC: “We live in a very sick society at the moment. There’s a lot of social issues and social ills that need curing.

“But at the moment the biggest threat we face is the threat of climate change.”

Demonstrators during a Extinction Rebellion protest at Marble Arch
Demonstrators have blocked roads leading to Marble Arch
Demonstrators during a Extinction Rebellion protest in Parliament Square
Protesters have gathered to hear speeches in Parliament Square

The Met said it had “appropriate policing plans” in place for the demonstrations and officers from across the force would be used “to support the public order operation”.

In November, activists blockaded the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy by chaining themselves together on the pavement leading to 85 arrests.

The unusual sight of a pink yacht stands in the centre of Oxford Circus, surrounded by protesters holding aloft a sea of coloured flags.

The focus here is on the future of the planet – and there is a sense of urgency.

Some are wearing red to symbolise “the blood of dying species”, one group wants to “save the bees”, while a man dressed as a centaur holds a placard which says “climate change is not a myth …unlike centaurs”.

Two young women tell me they are not willing to have children due to their fears for the world they will be bringing them into.

Another man, who plans to protest through the night, says the protests will be peaceful but he is willing to be arrested.

“The more the authorities will get fed up with us the more it brings us to their attention,” he said.

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Organisers have encouraged people to set up camp in Hyde Park overnight into Monday – an offence under Royal Parks legislation.

A spokeswoman for The Royal Parks said Extinction Rebellion had not asked for permission to begin the protest in the park and that camping was not allowed.

Climate change protestors
Waterloo Bridge has been closed off to traffic
Joan Collins described the fire at her flat as "terrifying"

Joan Collins flees ‘terrifying’ fire in Belgravia flat

Actress Joan Collins has praised the NHS and fire crews after a “terrifying” blaze at her flat in central London.

The London Fire Brigade said they were called to a seven-storey building on Eaton Place, Belgravia, at about 16:30 BST on Saturday.

About 10 firefighters tackled the blaze which was brought under control by about 17:35.

The actress needed treatment for smoke inhalation and praised her “hero” husband.

Posting on Instagram she said: The remains of the day…see my recent #tweet Thank you @londonfirebrigade #shafetsbury !! ❤️❤️

In a tweet, also posted on Sunday, Collins thanked the NHS and ambulance service, as well as the Metropolitan Police for blocking off the street and the fire brigade for putting out the fire.

She also thanked her husband Percy Gibson, who “doused the flames consuming the entire wall with handheld extinguisher.”

A spokeswoman for the fire brigade said: “Part of a flat on the first floor of the seven-storey building was damaged by the fire.

“Two people left the property before the brigade arrived.”

Joan Collins and Percy Gibson
Joan Collins has been married to Percy Gibson since 2002

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said two people were treated by the London Ambulance Service but did not require hospital treatment, adding that the fire was deemed non-suspicious.

Joan Collins

Joan Collins and John Forsythe
Joan Collins, pictured with her Dynasty co-star John Forsythe
  • Born in London in 1933.
  • Made her stage debut at the age of nine.
  • She appeared in a string of TV movies and shows including Space 1999, Starsky and Hutch and Tales of the Unexpected.
  • Renowned for her ageless glamour and dozens of roles including the Alexis Carrington in US soap Dynasty, which brought her international fame in the 1980s.
  • She was made an OBE in the 1997 honours list in recognition of her work in the arts and for charity.
  • She was made a dame in 2015, for her continued charity work, including with the NSPCC and breast cancer research.
Joan Collins in 1978
Joan Collins was born in London in 1933
The man was found injured near the Bounds Green Road's junction with Nightingale Road in Wood Green

Wood Green stabbing: Man critically ill after attack

A man is fighting for his life in hospital after being stabbed in London on Friday night.

Emergency services were called to Bounds Green Road in Wood Green, north London, at about 21:30 BST.

They found a man, believed to be 19 years old, with a stab wound, near the road’s junction with Nightingale Road.

The man was treated at the scene and taken to a central London hospital where his condition was described as life-threatening.

No arrests have been made.

Inquiries continue and a crime scene remains in place.

London is one of seven areas where the change to stop and search will be trialled

Knife crime: More stop and search powers for police

Police in England and Wales are being given greater stop and search powers to tackle rising knife crime.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid is making it easier for officers to search people without reasonable suspicion in places where serious violence may occur.

It comes after fatal stabbings rose last year to the highest point since records began.

But campaigners said the move was “disappointing and regressive” and that stop and search is not effective.

Stop and search powers have been controversial for many years, with evidence that they are frequently misused and that they target black people disproportionately.

But Mr Javid said: “The police are on the front line in the battle against serious violence and it’s vital we give them the right tools to do their jobs.”

The change is being trialled in seven police force areas where more than 60% of knife crime occurs: London, the West Midlands, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Wales and Greater Manchester.

It makes it easier to use so-called “section 60” checks, where for a limited period of time officers can search anyone in a certain area to prevent violent crime.

Under the new rules, inspectors will be able to authorise the use of section 60. Currently, more senior officers have to give approval.

There will also be a lower threshold. Police will only need to reasonably believe serious violence “may” occur, not that it “will”.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said evidence-based stop and search was “a very important tool for police”.

But she added: “Random stop and search is not effective in bringing down levels of knife crime.”

Section 60 has been used at large events such as Notting Hill Carnival last year and after violent incidents such as the stabbing of a man outside Clapham Common Underground station on Friday.

Other powers which account for the majority of searches will remain the same, and will still require officers to have reasonable suspicion of an offence.

With 285 deaths from stabbings in 2017-18, the most ever recorded in the UK, ministers have come under increasing pressure to tackle knife crime.

Prime Minister Theresa May will host a summit on serious youth violence on Monday.

Youth mentor Dijon Joseph and Ch Supt Simon Messinger discuss stop and search

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said officers in London had increased the use of section 60 over the past 18 months, following 132 deaths from stabbings in the capital during 2017-18.

She said: “Stop and search is an extremely important power for the police. It is undoubtedly a part of our increasing results suppressing levels of violence and knife crime.”

But Katrina Ffrench, chief executive of StopWatch, which campaigns against excessive use of stop and search, said: “This decision is a disappointing and regressive move, which is about politics not saving lives.”

Removing the need for reasonable suspicion “will not only exacerbate the racial disparity, but has the potential to further damage the relationship between the black community and the police,” she said.

Garvin Snell, an anti-knife crime activist in Hounslow, west London, said that when stop and search was “used in the correct manner”, there was “nothing wrong with it”.

But he added: “I grew up in an era in the 1990s when you almost felt being young and black was enough to be stopped and searched and I don’t want to go back to that environment.”

He said some of the extra £100m the government has promised to help reduce knife crime should be used to open more youth centres.

“A lot of these incidents are happening in poorer parts of London,” he said. “Why don’t we do something to raise the aspirations of these young people?”

data study for the College of Policing into a decade of London stop and searches found them to be “inconsistent” and “weak” as a deterrent.

The extra powers reverse a key change made by Mrs May in 2014 as home secretary.

She introduced a revised code of conduct after an inquiry examined thousands of police searches and found 27% may have been illegal.

When misused, stop and search was “an enormous waste of police time” and “an unacceptable affront to justice”, she said.

Reflecting on the recent announcement, the prime minister said the powers were “an important tool in the fight against knife crime”.

Sajid Javid Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Steve House launching enhanced stop and search powers at Angel Underground station
It is vital police have the right tools to do their jobs, Home Secretary Sajid Javid says

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, welcomed the government’s renewed support for stop and search, saying it “had been lacking for far too long”.

He said it was a useful and accountable tool for officers to use in tackling knife crime and there was “no credible alternative”.

Partly as a result of the 2014 changes, the use of stop and search fell in England and Wales from a peak of 1.4m ten years ago to 277,378 last year.

The numbers of searches fell for every ethnic group, but ethnic and racial inequality has grown.

In 2014-15 black people were four times more likely to be searched than white people, while in 2017-18, they were 9.5 times as likely to be targeted.

Clapham Common stabbing: ‘Vicious’ knife attack was targeted

The victim was attacked near Clapham Common Tube station in south-west London

A man who was stabbed to death inside his car in south-west London was the victim of a “vicious and targeted” attack, police have said.

The 40-year-old driver was by three men as he was turning onto Clapham Park Road, near Clapham Common Tube station, on Friday.

The victim died at the scene outside the Belle Vue pub and his next of kin have been informed, Scotland Yard said.

No-one has been arrested in connection with the killing.

Det Ch Insp Paul Healy said: “This was a vicious and targeted attack on a man inside his car in a busy area.”

The force is trying to track down three male suspects, “all of slim build”, who were seen leaving the area immediately after the attack at about 14:30 GMT, he added.

The Met also urged any witnesses or people with dashcam footage to get in contact.

A section 60 order granting police in the area extra stop and search powers since the attack on Friday remained in place on Sunday.

Ch Supt Simon Messinger said he understood the “alarm and concern” of local residents as the attack came just two days after a fatal shooting in the same borough.

Police do not believe the deaths are connected.

There have been 22 fatal stabbings in the capital this year so far.


Knife crime victims in 2019

Photos of some of those killed in UK in 2019

Motives and circumstances behind killings have varied – as have the age and gender of the victims.

Prosecutors argued there was nothing to prevent Jack Shepherd being extradited from Georgia

Jack Shepherd: Speedboat killer will return to UK

Speedboat killer Jack Shepherd is to be sent back to the UK after agreeing to his extradition from Georgia.

The 31-year-old went on the run before his trial where he was found guilty of manslaughter following a speedboat crash on the River Thames which killed Charlotte Brown.

After months in hiding in the capital, Tbilisi, he handed himself into police and was jailed for three months.

Shepherd has been granted the right to appeal against his UK conviction.

Judge Arsen Kalatozishvili agreed to the extradition going ahead, following a hearing at Tbilisi City Court.

The court heard Shepherd’s extradition order was based on both the manslaughter offence and a separate assault charge.

The second charge relates to an incident – shortly before Shepherd fled to Tbilisi – in

Shepherd is accused of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Jack Shepherd’s cell in Tbilisi

Defence lawyers said Shepherd agreed to be extradited, but only if his safety was taken into consideration by the judge.

Speaking before the hearing, his lawyer, Mariam Kublashvili, told Rustavi-2 TV Shepherd feared for his safety in the UK.

She said: “Because of the attitude of the British media and public he truly does not feel himself to be human.”

Speedboat
Shepherd’s boat was found to have several defects

Outlining the extradition case, prosecutor Naniko Zazunashvili argued there was nothing to prevent Shepherd being sent back to the UK.

Ms Zazunashvili said: “He knew the boat was not in good working order and knew Charlotte Brown had no skills to control the boat – and he let her control the boat.

“While being on board the boat Jack Shepherd took obligation to take care of Charlotte Brown, but this obligation was violated.

“He knew boat was in poor working order. We are sure that if he is extradited there will be no threat to his life.”

Jack Shepherd
Jack Shepherd gave himself up in the former Soviet state in January after months on the run

In Courtroom Number 3, Jack Shepherd sat impassively while his fate was being decided.

After the prosecution had set out the case for extradition, Shepherd’s defence team dismissed the arguments as “groundless”.

But Shepherd had already decided to return to Britain. “He agrees to extradition,” announced one of the defence lawyers.

When the judge invited him to speak, Shepherd confirmed the decision. He was ready to return to the UK, he said, because he wanted to take part in his Appeal Court hearing.

Two months after he handed himself in to Georgian police, the legal process in Georgia appears to be nearing its conclusion. The extradition order will need to be approved by the Georgian Justice Minister, before Shepherd can leave Georgia.


Shepherd met Ms Brown online and they went on a date on 8 December. He invited her to go on a speedboat ride.

They were thrown from the boat when it hit branches in the water near Wandsworth Bridge at about midnight.

Ms Brown, from Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, was found in the water unconscious and unresponsive. Shepherd was clinging to the upturned boat.

Map: route taken by Jack Shepherd and Charlotte Brown

Shepherd made his first appearance at the Old Bailey on 26 January 2018, when he entered a not guilty plea to a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence.

He was released on unconditional bail by Judge Richard Marks QC, but failed to show up for his trial and was later sentenced in his absence to six years in jail.


Despite being on the run, Shepherd won the right to appeal against his conviction.

However, the Court of Appeal said Shepherd had been refused permission to appeal against his sentence.

Shamima Begum: 'I got tricked and I was hoping someone would have sympathy with me'

Shamima Begum: ‘We should live in Holland’ says IS husband

Yago Riedijk said he saw nothing wrong in marrying 15-year-old Shamima Begum.

The Dutch husband of Shamima Begum, who joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2015 aged 15, has said he wants her to return to the Netherlands with him.

Speaking to the BBC, he admitted fighting for the group but says he now wants to return home with his wife and their newborn son.

Mr Riedijk, 27, is being held in a Kurdish detention centre in north-eastern Syria.

He faces a six-year jail term for joining a terror organisation if he returns to the Netherlands.

In an interview with the BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Quentin Sommerville, Mr Riedijk said he rejected IS and had tried to leave the group.

He told our correspondent that he was imprisoned in Raqqa and tortured after the extremists accused him of being a Dutch spy.

Describing life under IS control, Mr Riedijk also said he attended the stoning of a woman for “fornication”, saw piles of dead bodies in the city and lost an infant daughter to malnutrition.

Ms Begum, now aged 19, escaped with her IS fighter husband from the town of Baghouz, the group’s last territory in eastern Syria, as the caliphate crumbled.

Mr Riedijk surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters, and Ms Begum and their newborn son, Jarrah, ended up among 39,000 people in the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria.

She has now reportedly gone elsewhere.

CCTV of Shamima Begum at Gatwick Airport in February 2015
Ms Begum pictured on CCTV at Gatwick Airport in February 2015

Mr Riedijk also told the BBC he saw nothing wrong with marrying Ms Begum – 15 at the time, while he was 23 – because it was “her choice”.

Describing how he met the schoolgirl from east London in the women’s centre in Raqqa, he said he was initially not interested because she was too young.

He said: “To be honest, when my friend came and said there was a girl who was interested in marriage, I wasn’t that interested because of her age, but I accepted the offer anyway.”

He added that she had seemed to be “in a good state of mind”.

Mr Riedijk, from Arnhem in the Netherlands, insisted: “It was her own choice. She asked to look for a partner for her, and I was invited.”

He conceded “she was very young, maybe it would have been better for her to wait a bit”, before adding: “But she didn’t, she chose to get married and I chose to marry her.”

Shamima Begum: 'I got tricked and I was hoping someone would have sympathy with me'
Shamima Begum: ‘I got tricked and I was hoping someone would have sympathy with me’

Ms Begum left the UK in February 2015 alongside Amira Abase, also 15 at the time, and Kadiza Sultana, who was 16. Ms Sultana is believed to have been killed in an air strike in 2016.

The UK has revoked Ms Begum’s citizenship on the grounds that she is a Bangladeshi national through her mother, who is a Bangladeshi citizen.

But Bangladesh’s ministry of foreign affairs has disputed this, saying Ms Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen and that she will not be allowed into the country.

And, last month, Ms Begum’s family told the home secretary they were going to challenge his decision to revoke her UK citizenship.

In the letter, seen by the BBC Shamima Begum’s sister Renu said they could not “simply abandon her” and asked for assistance in bringing her newborn baby to the UK.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, said Ms Begum had a “right to return to Britain” and called the decision to revoke her citizenship “extreme”.

Although Mr Riedijk is on a terrorism watch list, his Dutch citizenship has not been revoked.

However, our correspondent said: “The truth is Shemima Begum and Yago Riedijk lost control of their fate when they joined that extremist group, and Yago Riedijk might find its as difficult for him to return back home as it is for his wife.”

Mr Riedijk was born and raised in Dutch suburbia but abandoned his life in 2014 to join IS.

Sally Challen admitted killing her husband in August 2010 but denied murder

Sally Challen murder conviction quashed over husband’s death

A woman who killed her husband in a hammer attack after saying she suffered “decades of abuse” has won an appeal to have her murder conviction quashed.

Sally Challen, 65, of Claygate, Surrey, admitted killing 61-year-old Richard in August 2010 but denied murder.

She was convicted in June 2011 and ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years, later reduced by four years on appeal She will now face a retrial.

Her lawyers asked the Appeal Court to reduce her conviction to manslaughter.

The conviction was overturned by three judges who said the evidence of a psychiatrist, that Challen was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the killing, was not available at the trial and undermined the safety of her conviction.

Sally Challen murder conviction quashed over husband's death

Richard & Sally Challen
Sally and Richard Challen had two sons and had been married 31 years

Challen, who appeared at the appeal via a video link from HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, was visibly emotional as she was told the decision.

Relatives and supporters in the public gallery also cheered and applauded.

An application for her to be released on bail was denied.

The two-day hearing followed a high-profile campaign by Challen’s sons David, 31, and James, 35.

Karl Marx: Monument vandalised for second time in two weeks”:

Karl Marx’s memorial in Highgate Cemetery has been vandalised for the second time in two weeks

Karl Marx’s memorial in north London has been vandalised for the second time in two weeks.

The words “Doctrine of Hate” and “Architect of Genocide” are scrawled in red on the Grade I-listed grave in Highgate Cemetery.

This latest incident follows a “deliberate and sustained” hammer attack on 4 February that left the memorial badly damaged.

There have been no arrests in connection with either attack.

Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust said the German philosopher’s memorial would “never be the same again” following the previous attack.

MAXWELL BLOWFIELD/PA

The words “Doctrine of Hate”, “Architect of Genocide” and “Memorial to Bolshevik holocaust” were painted in red on the memorial

Maxwell Blowfield, from the British Museum, said he was “quite shocked” to see the most recent act of vandalism when he visited the cemetery earlier with his mother.

The 31-year-old said it was particularly sad because tourists regularly visited the site.

“It’s a highlight of the cemetery”.

“It’s a shame. The red paint will disappear, I assume, but to see that kind of level of damage and to see it happen twice, it’s not good,” he continued.

“I am just surprised that somebody in 2019 feels they need to [go] and do something like that.”

FRIENDS OF HIGHGATE CEMETERY TRUST

The marble plaque on the memorial was attacked with a hammer on 4 February

In 1970 a pipe bomb blew up part of the plaque’s marble face, that was first used for Marx’s wife Jenny von Westphalen in 1881.

The plaque was subsequently moved when both Marx and his wife were exhumed and moved to a more prominent location within the cemetery in 1954.

It has also been covered in Swastikas and emulsion paint has been thrown at it, in the past.

Police had been called over concerns about a woman inside a property and man with a gun

Police shoot man and arrest six others in Deptford, London

Police received a report of a woman being held by armed men in the Anchor pub but could not find her when they got there
Police received a report of a woman being held by armed men in the Anchor pub but could not find her when they got there

Armed police shot a man and arrested six others after stopping a car in south-east London.

The Met was called to Lewisham Road in Deptford just before 04:00 GMT over concerns about a woman’s welfare and reports about a man with a gun.

FGM: Mother guilty of genital mutilation of daughter

A man in his 20s was shot when officers stopped a vehicle near Blackheath Road. He was taken to hospital in a non life-threatening condition and arrested.

Six other men remain in police custody, Scotland Yard said.

Five were arrested for false imprisonment while one was held for possession of an offensive weapon.

Police were unable to confirm what the injured man had been arrested on suspicion of.

Roads in the area have been closed while officers carry out their investigation.

Lack of awareness’ around forced marriage law

The police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, sent investigators to the scene after being notified by the Met.

The force’s own Directorate of Professional Standards has also been informed.

The woman and her Ghanaian partner were on trial at the Old Bailey

FGM: Mother guilty of genital mutilation of daughter


The Old Bailey
The woman and her Ghanaian partner were on trial at the Old Bailey

A woman who mutilated her three-year-old daughter has become the first person in the UK to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The 37-year-old mother from east London wept in the dock as she was convicted after a trial at the Old Bailey.

Spells and curses intended to deter police and social workers from investigating were found at the Ugandan woman’s home, the trial heard.

Her 43-year-old partner was acquitted by the jury.

Prosecutors said the mother “coached” her daughter “to lie to the police so she wouldn’t get caught”.

The defendants, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, denied FGM and an alternative charge of failing to protect a girl from risk of genital mutilation.

Mrs Justice Whipple warned of a “lengthy” jail term as she remanded the woman into custody to be sentenced on 8 March.

The city with no homeless on its streets..

Can the UK learn from Finland’s approach to tackling homelessness?

FGM – intentionally altering or injuring the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons – carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.

During the trial, the woman claimed her daughter, then aged three, “fell on metal and it’s ripped her private parts” after she had climbed to get a biscuit in August 2017.

Medics alerted police to the girl’s injuries after they treated her at Whipps Cross Hospital, in Leytonstone.

She “lost a significant amount of blood as a result of the injuries they had delivered and inflicted on her”, jurors were told.

‘Sickening offence’

While the parents were on bail, police searched the mother’s home and found evidence of witchcraft.

Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC said two cow tongues were “bound in wire with nails and a small blunt knife” embedded in them.

Forty limes and other fruit were found with pieces of paper with names written on them stuffed inside, including those of police officers and a social worker involved in the investigation.

“These people were to ‘shut up’ and ‘freeze their mouths’,” Ms Carberry said.

“There was a jar with a picture of a social worker in pepper found hidden behind the toilet in the bathroom,” she added.

Campaigner Aneeta Prem believes more people will now come forward to report cases
Campaigner Aneeta Prem believes more people will now come forward to report cases

It is only the fourth FGM prosecution brought to court in the UK. The previous cases led to acquittals.

FGM campaigner Aneeta Prem, from Freedom Charity, said convictions were hard to secure because cuttings were “hidden in secrecy”.

“People are scared to come forward, professionals are scared to come forward to report this,” she told the BBC.

“The fact that we have a conviction today is a really historic moment.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said FGM was a “medieval practice”.

“We will not tolerate FGM and not rest until perpetrators of this horrific crime are brought to justice,” he added.

Essex man who ‘taunted’ police from Dubai jailed

Lynette Woodrow, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said the “sickening” offence had been committed against a victim with “no power to resist or fight back”.

“We can only imagine how much pain this vulnerable young girl suffered and how terrified she was,” she said.

“Her mother then coached her to lie to the police so she wouldn’t get caught, but this ultimately failed.”

Ms Woodrow said FGM victims were often affected physically and emotionally for “their entire life”.

line

Female genital mutilation

  • Includes “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”
  • Practised in 30 countries in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East
  • An estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk each year
  • About 125 million victims estimated to be living with the consequences
  • It is commonly carried out on young girls, often between infancy and the age of 15
  • Often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage and to ensure “pure femininity”
  • Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths

Source: World Health Organization

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The mother was born in Uganda but has lived in the UK for a number of years. FGM is banned in both countries, the CPS said.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the conviction sent “a clear message to those who practise this barbaric act”.

“Every woman and girl should be safe and feel safe wherever they are in London, and we will continue our fight to end FGM with every power we have,” he added.

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The number of rough sleepers in England has multiplied since 2010

The city with no homeless on its streets..


The number of people sleeping rough in the UK has multiplied since 2010. But in Finland’s capital Helsinki rough sleeping has been almost eradicated thanks to a groundbreaking scheme. What can cities in the UK learn from the Finns?

Emerging from Helsinki’s grandiose central railway station on a bitterly cold evening, it does not take long before you notice something unusual.

The city with no homeless on its streets..
Can the UK learn from Finland’s approach to tackling homelessness?

There are no rough sleepers and no-one is begging.

The contrast with the UK’s major towns and cities – where rough sleepers curled up in sleeping bags, blankets or tents are a common sight – is striking.

“In my childhood I remember there were hundreds, or even thousands of people sleeping in the parks and forests,” says Helsinki’s deputy mayor Sanna Vesikansa.

“It was visible, but we don’t have it any more. Street homelessness doesn’t exist in Helsinki.”

For the past 30 years, tackling homelessness has been a focus for successive governments in Finland.

In 1987, there were more than 18,000 homeless people there. The latest figures from the end of 2017 show there were about 6,600 people classified as without a home.

The vast majority are living with friends or family, or are housed in temporary accommodation. Only a very small number are actually sleeping on the streets.

Helsinki in the snow
The average minimum winter temperature in Helsinki is -7C (19F)

So how have the Finns managed it?

Since 2007, their government has built homeless policies on the foundations of the “Housing First” principle.

Put simply, it gives rough sleepers or people who become homeless a stable and permanent home of their own as soon as possible.

It then provides them with the help and support they need. That may be supporting someone trying to tackle an addiction, assisting them to learn new skills, or helping them get into training, education or work.

This is very different to the traditional approach in the UK, where a permanent home is only offered after a homeless person has sought help in a homeless hostel or temporary accommodation.

One person who has benefited is Thomas Salmi, who became homeless when he turned 18 and had to leave his orphanage.

He spent three years on the streets of Helsinki, where the average minimum temperature in February is -7C (19F).

“When you lose everything, it really doesn’t matter,” he says. “You’re thinking about suicide, am I going to die? Is it safe?

“It is cold, especially in the middle of winter. If you’re sleeping outside you might die.”

Thomas Salmi
Thomas Salmi braved three bitterly cold winters on the streets of the Finnish capital

For the past two years, Thomas has had an apartment of his own at a large complex run by the Helsinki Deaconess Institute (HDI), one of several organisations providing accommodation for otherwise homeless Finns.

Now 24, he says living at the HDI has helped him turn his life around. He used to drink heavily while living on the streets but now only touches alcohol at the weekend.

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Can the UK learn from Finland’s approach to tackling homelessness?

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Under Housing First, the offer of a home is unconditional. Even if someone is still taking drugs or abusing alcohol they still get to stay in the house or flat, so long as they are interacting with support workers.

They can pay rent through state housing benefit and people can even opt to stay for the rest of their lives.

Helsinki Deaconess Institute
The Helsinki Deaconess Institute has more than 400 apartments for ex-homeless people

“They told me that it’s my house,” says Thomas. “And I asked them – is someone going to tell me, ‘we need this house and you have to go’? But they told me ‘No, it’s your house, you can do whatever you want.’

“When I have a stable home, I can try to build everything else around it like work, studying, family, friends. But when you’re on the streets, you don’t have any of that.”

HDI has a total of 403 apartments in Helsinki and the neighbouring city of Espoo.

Tenants get together in the communal kitchen to make lunch and socialise in the lounge areas. Support workers are always on hand.

Pia Rosenberg
Pia Rosenberg has been off the streets for more the four years

Pia Rosenberg, 64, has lived in the same Housing First project since 2014 after being homeless for two years.

“It suits me good because I’m an alcoholic and I’m allowed to drink in my room,” she says. “And if I need help, then I get it.

“You don’t feel good if you don’t have a home.”

According to official figures, the number of rough sleepers in England has risen from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,677 in 2018.

Charities such as Shelter say the real number of people sleeping rough is much higher. Official figures are based on the number of homeless people counted on the streets on a single autumn evening each year.

Housing First’s success has caught the attention of the UK government, which last year agreed to pay for pilot schemes in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands.

There are already several small scale trials being carried out in Wales, some run by The Salvation Army, others by local authorities. Those behind the schemes say the results so far have been positive.

Trials in England are due to start shortly and will be aimed at helping the most entrenched rough sleepers.

But is it a good idea to essentially hand over the keys to accommodation, without any obligation to give up alcohol or drugs?

“We can see that it works in Finland, so why can’t it work here,” says Neil Cornthwaite, head of operations at the homeless charity Barnabus Manchester.

Homeless people
Several thousand people are sleeping rough in the UK, according to housing charity Shelter

“There are a lot of barriers to people getting into accommodation and certain groups of people are excluded from projects because of their addictions and/or their mental health.

“So if we’ve got another option where we can put people into a home and not just a bed, despite their issues, then I think that’s a really positive step forward.”

Will it work in the UK? While the scheme is regarded as successful in Finland, it does have drawbacks. Homes are not always available immediately and figures show roughly one in five people return to homelessness at some stage.

Housing people in this way does not come cheap. Finland has spent about £262m (300m euros) over the past decade, providing 3,500 new homes for the homeless and more than 300 new support workers.

The UK government is spending £28m on the three Housing First schemes and hopes about 1,000 homes will be provided.

One of the key architects of Housing First in Finland, Juha Kaakinen, believes it will only work if the UK authorities are fully committed.

“In many places, Housing First are small projects with a small number of flats available. You need to make it much bigger to end homelessness and for that reason it should be a national policy otherwise it won’t work.”

Mr Kaakinen suggests the UK’s priority should be tackling the housing crisis.

Rough sleepers in Manchester, 2017
The number of rough sleepers in England has multiplied since 2010

“The main issue seems to be the lack of affordable social housing. To solve homelessness, that’s something that you need otherwise it’s going to be a very difficult task.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is convinced the scheme is the right answer though.

“You cannot have good health or a good life without good housing,” he says.

“I’m confident we will show that Housing First can work. I will be asking the government to make this permanent.”

The Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Heather Wheeler, insists the government is listening and taking action.

“No-one is meant to spend their lives on the streets, or without a home to call their own.

“And evidence shows that Housing First has an incredible rate of success in helping people rebuild their lives.”

Sanna Vesikansa, deputy mayor of Helsinki
Sanna Vesikansa, deputy mayor of Helsinki

Back in Helsinki, deputy mayor Ms Vesikana believes tackling homelessness and ending rough sleeping is not only a moral obligation but may also save money in the long-run.

“We know already that it pays back because we have expenses elsewhere if people are homeless. They have more severe health problems which are then taken to emergency care and hospital.

“Homelessness and rough sleeping is something we just can’t have in our cities, people dying on the streets. It’s not the type of society or city we want to live in.”