MPs have shied away from banning the use of Taser stun guns in psychiatric wards.The ban was proposed by the human rights campaign group Black Mental Health UK, and taken on by the Liberal Democrat MP and former care services minister Norman Lamb.Lamb proposed an amendment to the government’s policing and crime bill, which would have banned police officers from using electroshock weapons on psychiatric wards.He said he wanted to prompt a debate about the use of such weapons, which although they were described as “non-lethal”, have been linked to almost 10 deaths in the past 10 years.Lamb (pictured speaking in the debate) told fellow MPs, during the bill’s report stage: “I am delighted that the home secretary herself has said: ‘I have been hearing stories, for example, of Tasers having been used in mental health wards and you think, ‘Hang on a minute, what is happening here?’’He added: “That is what we should all be doing: we should be questioning whether that is appropriate.”Labour MP Kevan Jones backed Lamb’s amendment and said: “I can envisage no circumstances in which it would be necessary to use a Taser on a mental health ward.”The Conservative MP Charles Walker proposed his own amendment, which would mean that a police force would have to notify the home secretary within a week if it used a Taser on a psychiatric ward.He said: “[Norman Lamb] will argue, with great justification and passion, that Tasers should never be used on mental health wards.“My heart is with him, but my head says that there may be some highly-charged situations where a Taser needs to be used.”Walker also proposed an amendment which would mean that the home secretary would have to be notified within a week if police officers were deployed on a psychiatric ward.Walker said: “I know that Black Mental Health UK never wants to see police officers used on mental health wards, and I share that view, but there will always be occasions where that possibility remains.“When police are deployed on mental health wards, that information needs to be made available immediately.”The policing minister, Mike Penning, said: “As [Charles Walker] said earlier, my heart tells me that the use of a Taser within a secure mental health facility must be wrong, but my brain and my experience tell me that in exceptional circumstances – it must not be the norm – it could happen.”He added: “I understand the risks that [Norman Lamb] alluded to, but Tasers have saved lives.”Penning said that ministers would work with MPs to improve the recording and reporting of incidents involving police officers and Tasers on psychiatric wards, which he suggested would be a role for police and crime commissioners (PCCs).He said: “If we believe in and are aiming for localism, PCCs should know what is going on in their part of the world, and that information should be made available to the public and not left opaque.”None of the three amendments proposed by Lamb and Walker have been added to the bill, which will now be considered by the House of Lords.Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK), criticised Penning’s response to Lamb’s amendment.She said: “Police weaponry has no place in a clinical mental health setting.“Tasers were originally introduced as an alternative to guns, so that police officers had what is described as a ‘less lethal’ option available to them.“During the ongoing expansion of Tasers to frontline officers, mental health providers have drawn up clinical policy on their use in hospitals.“Tasering patients on locked psychiatric wards raises serious human rights concerns.“The United Nations (UN) Committee Against Torture (CAT) has stated that Taser X26 weapons provoke extreme pain, and constitute a form of torture.“There is little point in the UK being a signatory to UN treaties like the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, if the protections that they afford are not extended to the most vulnerable in our society. “Minister Mike Penning’s response to the amendment Norman Lamb MP tabled for BMH UK for the ban of Tasers is not acceptable.“You do not monitor human rights abuses – you stop them, and as such the use of Tasers or the new phase of conductive electrical devices (CEDs), which will be introduced shortly, need to be banned in clinical mental health settings.”
A petition calling for an inquiry into deaths linked to the actions of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has secured the support of more than 20,000 people in less than two weeks.By thismorning (Thursday), more than 22,000 people had signed the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, more than a fifth of the way to thetarget of 100,000 which should ensure it is debated in the House of Commons.The LiberalDemocrats added their support this week, with their disabled president,Baroness [Sal] Brinton, signing the petition and confirming that she backedeach of its key demands, following similar support last week from theGreen party.But there isstill a lingering question over the commitment of the Labour party to thepetition.Despitebacking it on Twitter, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha deCordova, has yet to make a statement on its demands, 10 days after DisabilityNews Service first asked her to comment.The petitionwants to see any evidence of criminal misconduct by ministers or civil servantsthat is produced by the inquiry to be passed to police.It alsocalls for MPs to recognise DWP as “institutionally disablist and not fit forpurpose”, and to push DWP to introduce urgent changes to make the safety of allclaimants a priority.Jodey Whiting,who had a long history of mental distress, had her out-of-work disabilitybenefits stopped for missing a work capability assessment when she wasseriously ill, and took her own life just 15 days later.DWP failedfive times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to hersuicide in February 2017, an independent investigation foundlast month.BaronessBrinton said: “What happened to Jodey Whiting was incredibly tragic and shouldnever have happened.“However, weare continually hearing of other worrying tales of how disabled people arebeing treated by the Department for Work and Pensions and we must see actiontaken by the Conservatives to guarantee wholescale reform of the system. “They mustact to ensure that a tragedy such as Jodey’s never happens again.”Meanwhile, freshevidence has emerged this week that DWP is not fit purpose.A report from the Demos think tank has concluded that disabled people havelost all faith in DWP, with only 19 per cent trusting jobcentre staff to treatthem fairly.And a report by the National Audit Office(NAO) concludedtoday (Thursday) that DWP still has “limited evidence of what works when itcomes to supporting disabled people to work”.Christine Jardine, DWP spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said theNAO findings “simply addto the mounting stack of evidence showing that the DWP is not fit for purpose”while de Cordova said the government had “bitterly failed to support disabledpeople into employment”.
SAINTS have announced their 19-man squad for Saturday’s trip to Leeds Rhinos.Gary Wheeler returns to the side after successfully coming through the Reserves’ win over Quins last week.Although named in the squad, Tony Puletua and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook are both serious doubts for the match.Shaun Magennis and Andrew Dixon are therefore on stand-by.Royce Simmons’ 19-man squad is:1. Paul Wellens, 2. Ade Gardner, 3. Michael Shenton, 5. Francis Meli, 8. Josh Perry, 9. James Roby, 10. James Graham, 11. Tony Puletua, 13. Chris Flannery, 14. Scott Moore, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 16. Paul Clough, 17. Gary Wheeler, 18. Matty Ashurst, 19. Andrew Dixon, 20. Jonny Lomax, 21. Shaun Magennis, 22. Jamie Foster, 25. Lee Gaskell.Brian McDermott, Leeds’ Head Coach, will choose from:1. Brent Webb, 2. Lee Smith, 4. Keith Senior, 5. Ryan Hall, 7. Rob Burrow, 9. Danny Buderus, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 12. Carl Ablett, 13. Kevin Sinfield, 14. Ali Lauitiiti, 15. Ben Cross, 17. Ian Kirke, 18. Luke Burgess, 19. Kallum Watkins, 20, Weller Hauraki, 21. Chris Clarkson, 22. Jay Pitts, 24. Paul McShane, **. Zak Hardaker.The match kicks off at 5.45pm and the referee is Richard Silverwood.If you can’t make the match, it will be covered extensively in the new look Match Centre as well as on Saints’ Official Twitter and Official Facebook sites.You can also listen by tuning in to Wish FM on 102.4 FM, DAB or by clicking here.Stats:Last ten meetings:Leeds 32 St Helens 28 (CCSF, 7/8/10)(at Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield)Leeds 28 St Helens 24 (SLR20, 3/7/10)St Helens 41 Leeds 20 (SLR12, 24/4/10)Leeds 18 St Helens 10 (SLGF, 10/10/09)(at Old Trafford, Manchester)Leeds 18 St Helens 10 (SLR26, 4/9/09)Leeds 18 St Helens 22 (CCR4, 5/4/09)St Helens 26 Leeds 18 (SLR6, 20/3/09)Leeds 24 St Helens 16 (SLGF, 4/10/08)(at Old Trafford, Manchester)St Helens 38 Leeds 10 (SLQSF, 19/9/08)Leeds 16 St Helens 26 (CCSF, 26/7/08)(at Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield)Super League summary:Leeds won 22 (includes wins in 2007, 2008 and 2009 Grand Finals; 1998 and 2005 play-offs)St Helens won 23 (includes wins in 1999, 2001, 2007 and 2008 play-offs)Leeds highest score: 74-16 (H, 2001) (Widest margin: 70-0, H, 2004)St Helens highest score: 62-18 (H, 1999) (Widest margin: 56-10, H, 2004)
He was 70 years of age.To a generation of supporters he was the voice of St. Helens rugby league – one of our own, seemingly plucked from the very bowels of the ‘Scaff’ [actually, his original gaff was the Best Stand Paddock] whose commentaries were what every dyed-in-the-wool Saints’ fans wanted to hear.Let’s face it … he was irresistibly parochial; one-eyed; ribald; irreverent and positively bled red and white! His good friend and fellow bus driver Vernon Roby once christened him ‘Ronnie Beep’ as he was prone to utter the occasional profanity and thought that it might be a problem for him in the heat of a Saints-Wigan derby!For well over a decade, you could hear his distinctive tones in every self-respecting pub and club in the town the week after the match. At the end of the day, it was always his love and enjoyment of the game that he portrayed with such infectious enthusiasm and an often wicked – yet never demeaning – sense of humour.He was a real one off, a larger-than-life character, with his wit and banter honed by years of driving buses around the St. Helens and the Merseyside region.Ron began his stint with the microphone in the mid-1980s, with Brian Peers on camera and continued well into the new millennium. His commentaries highlighted an era when the Saints tried desperately to get one over on their deadly rivals from the other side of Billinge Lump.Ron loved those derby clashes against the dreaded foe, the ‘Pie Eaters’ of Wigan: akin to gunfights at the OK Coral, where only the toughest survived, with huge, baying crowds at Knowsley Road and Central Park. Great players too. The wizardry of Shane Cooper; the jack-rabbit running of Neil Holding; the power and defiance of Chris Arkwright; the pace of Barry Ledger and such redoubtable warriors as Bernard Dwyer, Kevin Ward and the redoubtable Jarrod McCracken, who were all quite capable of giving their opponents what Ron invariably called ‘a real Sister Duffy’!He talked our language, and we adopted such catchphrases for our own use on the terraces.“I try to put some humour into the broadcast. Some love it…some hate it….but that’s life! Being involved with the coaches, players and backroom staff at St. Helens on match days and, hopefully, giving the public entertainment gives me great pleasure.”His most talked about ‘They think it’s all over’ moment came in a relatively nondescript game against Hull at Knowsley Road, on a cold, dank night in February 1991.Ron took up the story: “We were getting beaten with just seconds to go when the ball came out to Les Quirk on his own ‘25’. He skirted the touchline, past scrum half Entat’s attempted tackle and scored us the try which won the match. I described the try as one of ‘orgasmic proportions.’ What I meant to say was that it was the ultimate climax to a great game.”Needless to say, Ron’s description of that marvellous four-pointer is forever enshrined in the folklore of St.Helens R.F.C!Despite Ron’s apparent bias towards his hometown club, he always had a glint in his eye and, at the end of the day, it was only, really, a game of rugby league! Wasn’t it?Ron was also a keen collector of programmes and other Saints-related memorabilia and was, for many years, a familiar face at the various programme fairs.We send our condolences to his wife, Chris [they were married in 1979] and daughters Anne and Pam, plus a grand-daughter, as well as sisters Val and Win and Son in Law Dave.Written by Alex Service