Modern slavery

I WAS pleased to see that the NCA seems to be at last getting a grip of modern slavery (D&S Times, May 25) because to my knowledge this has been going in for at least 20 years.

I remember intervening between two North-East gangsters, about to come to blows, in a Category A jail in 2001, and when I investigated the reason I discovered they were arguing about the right “to protect” a local haulier who was allegedly bringing in “illegals” as a side-line.

Although traditionally the gangs involved in human slavery were small, the major criminal organisations have increasingly come to dominate, as it is such a profitable business. The slavers often use legitimate -seeming companies as a cover. Legitimate documentation is usually obtained with the victim vanishing after arrival, but they resort to faked documents and bribery as necessary.

The simple truth is transnational criminal organisations now run these enterprises and they are adaptable, sophisticated, extremely opportunistic and fully involved with a huge range of illegal (and legal) activities.

If the immigrants arrive safely, conditions are poor. Most work in hard manual jobs for a pittance. They may still owe a lot of money to the people who smuggled them, and may have to work for years to pay it off. Because they have no legal status, they have little protection from the forces of law and order.

Where women and children are involved they end up being used for sexual exploitation or forced labour. They are routinely abused and exploited, and may be forced to work as prostitutes, sex slaves, sweat-shop machine operators, servants and crop-pickers. They live in a continual atmosphere of violence, cruelty abuse and rape.

However organised criminals are already moving on, the use of “conditioning” of the vulnerable but asset-wealthy is the new crime of choice.

The IRA perfected conditioning prior the escape of 38 prisoners from the Maze prison in Northern Ireland. They reduced tension over a period of time, became more friendly to staff, volunteered to work...reduced staff to a sense of false security.

In a couple of counties in the south organised criminals have used this technique to obtain land and property for much, much less than market value from the vulnerable and elderly. Let's hope the NCA get a grip on this as matter of extreme urgency. Particularly in rural North Yorkshire keep your eye on your neighbours if you feel they may be vulnerable to this despicable crime.

Phil O'Brien, Northallerton

Silly question

YOUR item about the temporary chief constable of North Yorkshire (D&S Times, May 25) tells us that she has a “plethora of specialist training behind her”. Excellent. This is as it should be because we cannot have chief constables who have not been properly trained for the job.

The contrast with the police and crime commissioner is stark. As far as we are aware this lady who runs the North Yorkshire force has had no specialist training for her role whatsoever. And it shows for she has been a disaster.

In a separate item we were told the PCC is seeking views on the effectiveness of local police teams a year after changes were made. A silly question if ever there was one for members of the public are not in a position to judge properly whether changes have been effective or not.

As a former chief superintendent in the force I have a particular interest in its standards yet I have not the faintest idea what the changes were exactly and whether they have been successful. How can I? Like her annual exercise in “consulting” the public about her budget, the exercise on which she is embarking will be ineffective and she will do what she wanted to do in the first place.

The very name of the website we are invited to use – – confirms what this is really all about – personal publicity for the PCC. As I have remarked in your columns before, she publicises what she perceives to be favourable and ignores anything unfavourable.

In that context I would draw attention to Spectator’s column in the same edition. We are told of the “shoddy and unreliable” call-handling performance of the force last year. I do not remember that being publicised in those terms at the time. Now a “marked improvement” has been trumpeted by the PCC. As Spectator says - “time will tell”.

As far as views on policing changes are concerned, the change we would most like to see given her disastrous performance is the departure of the PCC herself. The government has accepted it should unpick the damaging changes to the NHS wrought by their predecessors and it should turn next to another of their failed experiments, that of police and crime commissioners. The office should be abolished and the sooner the better.

David Severs, Northallerton

‘Sponging’ Lords

BOTH Dave Walton and Derek Smith wrote misguided letters (D&S Times, May 25) criticising the letter by N Smith ( D&S Times May 18). I congratulate Mr N Smith on his letter which is the most constructive and objective letter I have read in the DST for some years.

Firstly Mr Dalton states misleading facts about Iceland, Norway and Switzerland being out of the EU but are members of the single market. These countries have “cherry picked” what parts of the single market they want to be in. For example Switzerland has over 100 separate trading agreements with the EU for goods such as specialist machinery, pharmaceutical products, cuckoo clocks and cheese, but not for their largest and most important industry ie financial services.

We will never reach an agreement with the unelected, undemocratic EU gangsters. They will put up any pathetic excuse why Britain should remain shackled to the corrupt incompetent EU gravy train. It is a pity we have gutless politicians who should tell the EU we are out NOW and you ain't getting a penny in a divorce settlement. They need us far more than we need them.

Secondly D Smith's praise for the House of Lords is absolutely laughable. To call them hard working honourable people is crass. The majority are there because of cronyism by all three main political parties and there are many examples of individuals who are definitely not honourable. They are either failed politicians or inept civil servants being put out to grass. It is an undemocratic gravy train club.

Britain is governed by 650 MPs and over 800 Lords. The USA is governed by 535 congressmen where 100 sit in the Senate and 435 sit in the House of Representatives and this is for a country with four times the population of Britain. We can't justify 650 MPs never mind 800 sponging Lords.

If we must have an upper chamber then it should be elected by the people for the people.

Trevor Nicholson, Leeming

Leave vote

I TAKE issue with the article “Group is created to mobilise opposition to Brexit package” written by Janet Gleeson (D&S Times, May 18).

A referendum can be won or lost by one vote. The UK voted to leave the EU by over a million votes.

In 1973 Edward Heath took the UK into the Common Market without a referendum and we have had numerous treaties since – without referenda. Thousands of people, like myself, did not agree, and for the past over 40 years, have had to live with the consequences.

The unelected, appointed bureaucrats in Brussels, dictate terms on everything and will not accept any points made by the UK.

If they will not accept a workable deal, then the UK should just walk away. After all, Brexit means Brexit.

JB Ramsdale, Northallerton

Fair fares?

I turned 60 this week.

I applied for my Senior Citizen’s Railcard and am looking forward to discounted rail travel. Someone joked about getting a bus pass. I looked into it and found I’m not eligible until the female retirement age for a man of my age – 66.

What I didn’t know was the ages for other parts of the UK: Scotland – 60, Wales – 60, Northern Ireland – 60. Then, to cap it all, It’s 60 in London too.

It’s strange. I thought I lived in the United Kingdom. It’s obviously more united for some than others. The north of England is a poor relation when it comes to Government spending and it’s time it changed.

Philip Knowles, chair, Richmondshire Lib-Dems

Exciting dream

HOW exciting to read (D&S Times, May 25) of the forthcoming performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Middleton Lodge by The Three Inch Fools on June 28 They have given wonderful indoor performances of As You Like It and Twelfth Night at Stokesley Parish Church in the last two summers, and I am pleased to report that they are coming to Stokesley again with the Dream on July 3.

Your readers may also be interested to know that The Three Inch Fools perform their other production - Hamlet - at Helmsley Castle on June 29 and on Whorlton Green on July 31.

Rev Paul Hutchinson, Stokesley

Building regs

IN June of last year we woke up to hear of the dreadful tragedy of Grenfell Tower where 71 people were burned to death because cladding on the exterior of the flats caught fire.

Here in Middleham over the last eight years the council have built three small “affordable housing developments”. One windy night part of the exterior wall of one house blew down. To date scaffolding has been erected on all the developments and the exterior walls dismantled brick-by-brick and re-erected using proper mortar on all of the developments.

We should have up-to-date building regulations that apply both to high-rise flats and houses, particularly ones built by the council, but also the properties should be inspected by qualified people at various stages to ensure the regulations are being adhered to.

For the council to build one development with the wrong mortar is bad, for them to build two is disgraceful, for them to build three shows a great degree of incompetence. Ultimately it is the taxpayer that has to pay for all this.

If we asked our MP for more money for schools or our council for better library facilities we would be told we live in an age of austerity, but that is just because our politicians are wasting money putting right their own mistakes.

Rest assured no councillor or MP will do anything about this (but they will ask us to vote for them). This incompetence is too ingrained in our political system.

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham

Divided nation

A RECENT survey has revealed that 85 per cent of British people think our nation divided.

It does not surprise me that immigration and religion emerge as the main causes of tension. Our government must face up to the fact that divisions will get worse unless existing immigrants are fully assimilated and the flow from abroad stemmed.

We should stop thinking of immigrants as a source of cheap labour. Instead, we should limit the influx to skilled workers and professionals who have something special to contribute and have a better chance of integrating into our national life. Religion should be a private matter, with no section of society imposing its beliefs and practices on another.

Positive discrimination and quotas, in favour of immigrants, should be shunned because such measures cause resentment amongst the indigenous community.

In short, immigration should be strictly limited until there is full assimilation; and admittance should be on merit, not according to one’s geographic, ethnic or religious origins.

Unless we face up to reality, and act accordingly, we shall be forever a divided nation.

Cllr Steve Kate, Moorsholm

Evacuees travels

YOUR feature on the Barnard Castle to Middleton in Teesdale railway (D&S Times, May 18), brought back memories of using this line regularly as an evacuee in the early years of the Second World War.

Boys of Middlesbrough High School were billeted in Cotherstone (chiefly), Romaldkirk and Lartington from the summer of 1940 and travelled into Barnard Castle daily by train to attend school in one end of Bowes Museum.

Indeed, I spent the first night of the evacuation in the home of the station master at Cotherstone, owing to a temporary shortage of accommodation, before being billeted with grocer Willie Hodgson and his housekeeper in his house next to the Methodist church.

At 91, I still have my season ticket, for the journeys to Barney, dated April 1941 – and, dare I say it, a strip bearing the legend “Reserved for Schoolgirls,” a reminder that girls from the Dale used to use the same trains to get to and from school in Bishop Auckland, with reserved compartments. I am not sure how I came by that.

I also have the label showing my name etc. which was attached to my lapel when we were evacuated, not to mention my old school cap from those days and other memorabilia. Most of our evacuees returned home with happy memories of their stay in Teesdale. In fact, for 25 years we held an annual reunion, but with our numbers inevitably diminishing, this was abandoned. Still a few of us left.

Malcolm Race, Great Ayton

Aircraft recognition

IN a letter last week (D&S Times, May 25) Michael Waldman correctly pointed out that the photograph in the previous edition was of a Halifax not a Lancaster bomber.

In the same edition the excellent article on “Northern Links with the Dambusters” included a photograph of a bomber dropping a bouncing bomb. Although not captioned the inference was that this was one of the Dambusters.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, as the aircraft shown is a twin-engine Wellington not the four-engine Lancaster flown by the Dambusters. Also, the bomb shown is a spherical “Highball” bomb, which although also developed by Barnes Wallis was not the type of weapon used by the Dambusters which was the cylindrical “Upkeep” mine. The Highball was a smaller device designed to be used against shipping, but which never saw active service during the war.

John Young, Richmond

Road repairs

I QUOTE from two national newspapers – “Local councils will get £21,000 per mile to maintain their roads” unquote. A start has been made, I see on North Road in Stokesley, with yellow rings around some, not all, and a black tar filled in on some of the holes. Well done, as it must have cost at least a tenner out of the £21,000 in the council coffers.

As I wrote previously the whole of North Road should be dug up and relaid as it is rapidly deteriorating, especially the speed bumps, and made one way from Allen Grove. Buses use it one way so that should not cause a problem.

I shall not comment on the state of the High Street with cobble stones uprooted and just lying around while the road itself continues to fall apart. Not a very good advert for our town to residents and visitors.

Derek Whiting, Stokesley

Leading the way

THE D & S Times, Northern Echo and Northern Farmer are to be commended for launching the “Lead the Way” campaign calling for it to be compulsory for dogs to be on a lead near livestock and to be securely housed in order to alleviate the very real problem of attacks on livestock.

In view of the many reports of people, pets and livestock being disturbed, attacked or even killed as a result of hunting dogs marauding across farms, public footpaths, nature reserves or even back gardens, perhaps this excellent campaign could be extended to cover the distress caused by hunting dogs.

VL Lonsdale, Nosterfield