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Why porn’s obsession with ever younger girls is putting our daughters in danger

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why porns obsession with ever younger girls is putting our daughters in danger

Like every teenager in the country, my daughter has spent most of the year cooped up at home in lockdown. 

Unsurprisingly, since the arrival of summer, she has wanted to make up for lost time and get out and see her friends.

Now, however, Claire is having her freedom curtailed for a very different reason.

Every time she goes out alone, or travels on public transport, Claire is stared at or commented on by random men.

Claire is just 15. Such is the entitlement of these strangers, they seem to view her normal summer attire of lightweight dresses or t-shirt and jeans as an invitation to look her up and down.

As Claire, who has chosen to speak out on this, tells me: ‘I hate the way they look at me as if they have a right. If I look back, they smirk as if to say “What’s the problem?” They have no shame'

As Claire, who has chosen to speak out on this, tells me: ‘I hate the way they look at me as if they have a right. If I look back, they smirk as if to say “What’s the problem?” They have no shame’

If it’s not the drivers outside the cab office on the corner, who think it’s a perk of the job to rate passing females, it’s the men lounging in the open doorways of the takeaways, who call out ‘Nice a**e!’ 

Or the men who, on three occasions, have drawn up alongside her in cars to ask her questions and even suggested she might, inexplicably, want to get inside.

The other day she came home flustered because one driver had reached out and got so close, she thought he was going to pull her in.

She’s not safe on the Tube either; men of all ages sit opposite her so their eyes can feast on her flesh.

There was the scruffy grandpa-type who followed her so closely through the empty tunnels of our local station that she felt his breath on her neck. 

She sought refuge with a small group of passengers at the other end of the platform but still his eyes followed as she got on the train. 

She was so alarmed she slipped out back onto the platform to shake him off.

As Claire, who has chosen to speak out on this, tells me: ‘I hate the way they look at me as if they have a right. If I look back, they smirk as if to say “What’s the problem?” They have no shame.’

No parent wants to see their daughter reduced to the sum of her sexual parts, but for me the frustration is particularly acute (file photo)

No parent wants to see their daughter reduced to the sum of her sexual parts, but for me the frustration is particularly acute (file photo)

At first, this may sound like an age-old complaint. When I was her age, I still remember the fug of shame, powerlessness and fury when I realised that creepy adult men were checking me out as I walked home from school. 

But can we remind ourselves that this is 2020 — not 1982, when The Benny Hill Show was still on our screens?

Since I was Claire’s age, we’ve made huge strides towards equality. More women than ever are taking to the political stage. 

Men are rethinking their roles and wanting to take equal responsibility for childcare. The gender pay gap is closing. 

There have also been powerful movements, like Everyday Sexism and Me Too, specifically designed to stamp out this intimidation.

Yet when it comes to street harassment, little has changed. In fact, in many ways, it’s got worse. 

Among girls and young women aged 14 to 21, 66 per cent have experienced unwanted sexual attention in a public place, according to children’s rights group Plan International UK.

Nearly four in ten girls say they still experience verbal harassment, like cat-calling and sexual comments at least once a month, while 15 per cent say they are touched, groped or grabbed.

A recent parliamentary inquiry also concluded women and girls are regularly sexually harassed on public transport, with MPs uncovering evidence of widespread abuse of girls, even in school uniform.

No parent wants to see their daughter reduced to the sum of her sexual parts, but for me the frustration is particularly acute.

When Claire was six, I wrote a book about what easy access to violent, misogynistic pornography could mean for our daughters if it was left to mushroom unchecked. 

A recent parliamentary inquiry also concluded women and girls are regularly sexually harassed on public transport, with MPs uncovering evidence of widespread abuse of girls, even in school uniform (file photo)

A recent parliamentary inquiry also concluded women and girls are regularly sexually harassed on public transport, with MPs uncovering evidence of widespread abuse of girls, even in school uniform (file photo)

When I saw porn become even more degrading in the years that followed, I wrote ‘Girls Uninterrupted’, when Claire was ten, to help our daughters stand up to this onslaught.

Yet society’s denial that the proliferation of porn is a public health issue and the Government’s failure to take on the big companies means that material has only become even more extreme.

After all, the pornography industry’s business model is to persuade punters to part with their cash and buy material that’s even more hard-core than the stuff they can get for free.

All this means that the future I feared for my daughter — and wanted to help avert — has become a reality.

This is because a range of research is now showing that this harrowing material has leached into real-life attitudes to females.

The most popular genre of porn now features girls described as ‘barely legal teens’ and ‘schoolgirl sluts’. 

Within a two-second online search this week, I not only found free clips, selling themselves as ‘high school slut rape videos’, but also hundreds dedicated to showing girls of this age being ‘abused’ by ‘fathers’, ‘stepfathers’ and ‘teachers’.

One site has 27,418 paying subscribers and a total of nearly five million views. 

It comes with the promise: ‘Are you willing to watch innocent teens lose all dignity and self-respect? Are you willing to watch poor little schoolgirls get absolutely humiliated? If so, you will feel right at home.’

Many clips were advertised on the basis that they show young girls submitting to acts described as ‘painful’.

Another site sells itself as a place which is ‘your best bet when it comes to enjoying the hottest barely legal teens getting ravaged . . . in beautiful HD quality’.

The Bill was passed only after it was initially blocked by Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope, triggering cries of ‘shame’ from his colleagues and fury on social media

The Bill was passed only after it was initially blocked by Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope, triggering cries of ‘shame’ from his colleagues and fury on social media

Porn has also become a place where the growing practice of upskirting has become its own sexual fetish — with teenage girls particular subjects, just as they are in real life.

Indeed, according to the Plan International research, nearly one in ten girls report experiencing upskirting — in which someone takes a photograph up their skirt without their permission.

Suddenly I see why I should no longer be surprised to hear from Claire that one of her friends had a man put his hand up her school skirt as she went up an escalator.

Upskirting became a criminal offence in England and Wales last year after a year-long campaign by a woman targeted at a music festival. 

The Bill was passed only after it was initially blocked by Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope, triggering cries of ‘shame’ from his colleagues and fury on social media.

The 73-year-old has consistently blocked Private Members’ Bills because they aren’t fully debated in Parliament and believes they ‘meddle in people’s lives’. 

Offenders will face up to two years in prison for taking an image or video under somebody’s clothing in order to see their genitals or underwear.

Recent research by Fiona Vera-Gray, Assistant Professor in Sociology, and Clare McGlynn, a professor of law, both at Durham University, found nearly 2,500 upskirting clips on the landing pages of the UK’s three most accessed mainstream sites, freely and easily accessible for a first-time user.

Fiona says: ‘They are not hidden or only findable with specific search terms. Nor are they relegated to a niche specialist site in some corner of the internet.’

But as these academics also point out, the effect extends beyond the computer screen.

‘As images on pornography sites are there primarily for sexual arousal, this means that such videos, even if simulated, are contributing to a cultural landscape where men are encouraged to seek sexual gratification from a woman’s non-consent.’

Indeed porn is now so out of the box — and so fused with real life — that there is a growing number of calls to ban it from being viewed in public places, like buses and trains. 

Professor Gail Dines, president of Culture Reframed, a charity that shows parents how to make their children resilient to porn, has researched this subject for more than 30 years.

Over that time, she has interviewed sex offenders who have abused underage girls — and they themselves have revealed how quickly the boundaries between porn and real life start to blur.

Professor Dines says: ‘They told me they couldn’t even go to a shopping centre and see young girls without thinking of porn. Every time they saw a young girl, it reminded them of the porn they had seen. So this is what they were wired to do — associate them with pornography.’

Yet it doesn’t end there. Research has found that watching ‘barely legal’ teen porn is a gateway to developing a sexual interest in even younger children.

Indeed among the hundreds of ‘slutty schoolgirls’ clips, there are plenty advertising girls who are ‘extra small’, ‘petite’, ‘sweet’ and ‘flat-chested’.

Indeed, according to a 2013 study in the journal Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, such porn fetishising young girls does not just attract paedophiles.

It is also ‘contributing to the crystallisation of those interests in people with no explicit prior sexual interest in children’.

We need legislation to prevent porn sites attracting views by showing young girls being raped, abused and harassed (file photo)

We need legislation to prevent porn sites attracting views by showing young girls being raped, abused and harassed (file photo)

In other words, some men who had no previous interest in child pornography are being drawn down this dangerous rabbit hole.

Another study in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour found in 2016 that about half of male porn users have found themselves searching for content they previously considered ‘disgusting’ or ‘unappealing’.

For many parents, the way young girls are represented in porn is too painful a subject to contemplate. I completely understand — but it is time we woke up and mobilised.

We need legislation to prevent porn sites attracting views by showing young girls being raped, abused and harassed. 

If we stand by and say nothing, the ones who pay the price are our daughters — in too many ways to count. 

It’s the porn industry that has exposed our girls to this daily onslaught on our streets — by cynically exploiting them to such an extent that some men now believe our girls are as sexually available in real life as they are on a computer screen.

As the recent parliamentary inquiry on sexual harassment in public places concluded: ‘The damage is far-reaching.

‘It shapes the messages boys and girls receive about what is acceptable behaviour between men and women, and teaches girls to minimise their experiences of abuse.

‘The memory or fear of it affects women’s behaviour and choices and restricts their freedom to be in public spaces.

‘It can make women and girls scared and stressed, avoid certain routes home at night or certain train carriages.

‘It has a wider effect on society, contributing to a culture in which sexual violence can be normalised or excused.’ 

Now when Claire goes out, I find myself urging her to take more clothes to cover up with, as if she needs a suit of armour.

Claire responds that she should feel free to wear what she wants: ‘I don’t think I should be forced to dress differently.

These men should know they are not entitled to look at me like they own me.’

And she is so right. 

  • For free courses for parents on how to talk to children and young people about porn and help them stand up to its effects, go to Culture Reframed. See www.culturereframed.org

Tanith Carey is author of Girls Uninterrupted: Steps For Building Stronger Girls In A Challenging World. See www.amzn.to/3k5ddFX.

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It’s CRIMINAL’: Furious Pret founder savages Boris for ‘spouting Churchillian nonsense”

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its criminal furious pret founder savages boris for spouting churchillian nonsense

A multi-millionaire former associate of Prime Minister Boris Johnson today savaged him for ‘spouting Churchillian nonsense’ and his ‘criminal’ six-month work from home bid.

Pret a Manger founder and Itsu boss Julian Metcalfe – who has an estimated £215million fortune – described last night’s speech as a ‘man sitting down with his Union Jack talking utter nonsense’.

And in a further furious broadside he slated his ‘exaggerated nonsense’ before adding he feared Mr Johnson’s plans would see millions of jobs lost.

It was a far cry from nine years ago when the PM, as then Mayor of London, said he was ‘delighted’ as he appointed Mr Metcalfe as the leader of a taskforce for Croydon following riots in the area. 

Speaking today, the hospitality entrepreneur praised Chancellor Rishi Sunak for his efforts to help struggling businesses, before aiming his focus on the Prime Minister.

Mr Metcalfe said: ‘Unless we get some clarity from the government we end up having to keep many, many – I dread to think how many – people will end up being made redundant, it’s heartbreaking. 

‘It’s hundreds and thousands of hospitality businesses. The knock on effects are on the people who look after them, who service them, who bring them food, and clean them – it’s hundreds of thousands, millions of jobs.

‘What we need is the government, particularly our Prime Minister, this man sitting down with his Union Jack talking utter nonsense, that’s where we need leadership

‘What I would advise our Prime Minister to do, number one is get aligned with his team.

‘To turn to an entire nation and say stay at home for six months and to spout off some Churchillian nonsense about we’ll make it through, it’s terribly unhelpful to this country

‘This talk of six months is criminal, it should be we will review it, we are here to serve you as civil servants. We will review the information and the data each week, each hour, we will behave like responsible people.’

It came as tens of thousands of Britons vowed to battle on to save the economy today as they headed back to work after the Prime Minister’s call to avoid the office.

Some of the county’s biggest firms declared ‘nothing had changed’ following Boris Johnson‘s desk-banging performance last night.

Most had already been allowing staff to split time between home and the office and said their business needs meant it would continue. 

Mr Metcalfe added to Radio 4: ‘The repercussions on this six months is going to be devastating to so many people, to local councils, to industry, to people all over our country, devastating.

‘We have just not begun to touch the seriousness of this. How long can this continue, this vague work from home? Don’t go on public transport?

‘Meanwhile the industries that keep this country going, they’re all expected to go to work, our hospitals and everyone in them. What happens to the thousands of people who look after and maintain shopping centres, the ramifications of this are just enormous. 

‘Not, everyone stay at home for six months and we’ll see where we are because the scientists – all disagreeing with each other – have said X, Y or Z. It’s just nonsense.

‘We need leadership, we don’t need exaggerated nonsense.’

Meanwhile the City of London Corporation said the government needed to find a way to deal with coronavirus that ‘Doesn’t cripple the economy’.  

Just 18 hours after the Prime Minister’s speech: 

  • Business leaders urged Mr Johnson to think about other ways to stifle the spread of coronavirus
  • Traffic data from the UK’s biggest cities showed no change following his big speech to the country
  • Commuters on the way to the office blasted his guidance as ‘conflicting’ and ‘confusing’
  • One banker warned the mixed messaging would inflict a ‘devastating impact on the economy’
  • Catherine McGuinness, policy chair for the City of London Corporation, said it was ‘disappointed’ with the work from home suggestion and said ‘We feel that this will set back the recovery’
  • The Chief Executive of UKHospitality called the restrictions as ‘another crushing blow’ for many businesses
  • Transport eateries Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza reported a £1.3billion lockdown loss 
The Tubes were jam-packed again this morning as thousands of Britons continued to make their way into work, defying the Prime Minister's call to avoid the office

The Tubes were jam-packed again this morning as thousands of Britons continued to make their way into work, defying the Prime Minister’s call to avoid the office

Scores of passengers wearing masks make their way off an Underground train on the Jubilee Line this morning

Scores of passengers wearing masks make their way off an Underground train on the Jubilee Line this morning

The Underground was packed with commuters again this morning, despite the Prime Minister's pledge to stay at home

The Underground was packed with commuters again this morning, despite the Prime Minister’s pledge to stay at home

Furious Tory MPs have turned on 'authoritarian' Boris Johnson as he ordered the British public to obey his draconian new coronavirus restrictions – or face an economically devastating second national lockdown

Furious Tory MPs have turned on ‘authoritarian’ Boris Johnson as he ordered the British public to obey his draconian new coronavirus restrictions – or face an economically devastating second national lockdown 

Among those still in are head offices for supermarket chains, as well as high street banks who need to have personnel in their buildings.

Asda, who last month said staff could return to its Leeds HQ, said they could still attend but had told workers not to come in unless they had to.

NatWest and RBS, who had 10,000 staff back in throughout the pandemic to help customers, are still having them in their offices to help customers.

Barclays had started to bring even more people back but were revealed yesterday to have told 1,000 of them to return to a working from home set-up.

KPMG is also understood to expect a large number of its 5,000 workers to continue working from home. 

An industry source told MailOnline: ‘Most businesses have covid-secure settings and need people in offices to be able to help their customers.

‘Nothing has changed for many after the Prime Minister’s speech.’

A NatWest Group spokesperson said its priority had been looking after staff and customers.

They added: ‘Enabling the majority of our colleagues to work from home has allowed us to support our customers in a safe way. For most people, this will continue into 2021.

‘However, we have more than 10,000 colleagues working in branches and offices across the UK – as we have throughout the pandemic – to make sure our customers have access to the support and services they have need.’

Public transport also told the same story with workers packing trains as they headed to their jobs.

Executive recruitment consultant Greg Comer, 29, was heading to his office in Waterloo from his home in Greenwich this morning.

He said: ‘I saw the Prime Minister’s speech last night about working from home if you can.

Waterloo Station was at the same level of use as before the Prime Minister's announcements yesterday to the public

Waterloo Station was at the same level of use as before the Prime Minister’s announcements yesterday to the public

Waterloo station had workers milling around to head to the office during rush hour this morning

Waterloo station had workers milling around to head to the office during rush hour this morning

Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza owner SSP lose £1.3billion in lockdown

Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza owner SSP has said nearly two-thirds of its sites still remain closed as it revealed a sales hit of around £1.3 billion due to the pandemic.

The group said it has reopened around 1,100 outlets since lockdown, which decimated trading at its food and drinks sites in airports and railway stations as passengers numbers plunged.

SSP said sales are set to plummet by around 86% in its second half to September 30, with revenues down about £1.3 billion, while operating losses will be in the middle of its predicted £180 million to £250 million range.

The group recently warned that up to around 5,000 jobs are under threat – more than half of its 9,000-strong peak season workforce – as it looks to slash costs in response to the pandemic.

It had warned that only around a fifth of its sites in the UK would open by the autumn, but it has been able to reopen more sites as sales have improved slightly since full lockdown restrictions eased.

A slight improvement in passenger demand has seen weekly sales declines narrow to around 76% from 95% in its third quarter, it said.

In the UK, it said there had been a small recovery in air travel, although it was held back by ever-changing quarantine restrictions, while rail travel remained very weak with a slow recovery as workers tentatively returned to offices.

The latest restrictions brought in on Tuesday by the Prime Minister, including instructions for office staff to work from home where they can, are likely to deal another blow.

SSP cautioned that demand “may well remain subdued” over the winter months.

Simon Smith, chief executive of SSP Group, said: “We have seen some improvement in passenger demand since the start of the crisis and we have reopened units swiftly and profitably in response to this, with over one-third of our units now trading.

“Our model is flexible and we will continue to align unit openings with demand, meeting the needs of our customers whilst managing operating costs and cash flow tightly.

“In the medium term we expect to see the gradual return of passenger travel to more normalised levels.

“The actions we are taking to rebuild the business will enable us to emerge fitter and stronger.”

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‘I believe there has to be a balance struck between pushing forward economic activity and concerns over health.

‘Personally I find working in an office environment much more beneficial in terms of work rate and practicality.

‘I enjoy interacting with members of my team in person to get a bit of a buzz going.

‘The office has been open since July 16 and I’ve been in every working day since.

‘We’re working to about 25 per cent capacity, there’s about 10-12 of us In the office out of a team of 40 so we’re able to easily observe social distancing guidelines.

‘Maybe going in to the office is a risk, maybe travelling in on public transport is a risk but until we get a much more distinct set of instructions from the government, like during the first lockdown, then I think many people will continue to take those risks.’ 

At Bank underground station, workers were defiantly returning to work, claiming the Government’s guidelines were confusing and that they were far more productive working in an office rather than home.

James Jeffs, 47 director of Vir2ue Comms, a telecoms company based in the City of London said: ‘I could work from home, but you can’t create the same atmosphere as you can in the office. You can’t bounce ideas off other people and I also miss the banter.

‘The Government is sending out very mixed messages about working from home. My fear is that telling people not to come to the office again is going to have a devastating impact on the economy. Just look at the City. All the shops, cafes and restaurants are empty.

‘Boris has got this wrong. He should be encouraging people to return to work while maintain all the coronavirus guidelines, not sit at home.’ 

Jas Bhachu, 47, a finance director of an international payments company said: ‘We are getting conflicting messages from the Government and once again, they had done another major U-turn over its latest announcement on working from home.

‘I’m not going to listen and will continue coming into the office. I could work from home if I wanted to, but I find that I’m a lot more productive when I’m in the office. Some of our staff have been furloughed while others did work from home for a while but we’re all now back in the office.

‘I like the office environment; you get through things a lot quicker.

‘The Government doesn’t really have a plan. They keep changing their minds and it’s causing a lot of confusion.’

Max Porter, 24, director of a charity said: ‘Like most people, I’m quite confused by the Government’s latest announcement. First, they told us to stay at home, then they told us to return to work and now they’re telling us to stay at home again.

‘I’ve been coming into the office since July and I prefer it to working from home. It’s a lot more productive and professional. The Government needs to make up its mind on what it wants us to do.’

Banker Jerry Wu, who is also studying for an MBA said: ‘I’m from Hong Kong and the Government there has a far clearer idea of what it wants people to do during this pandemic.

‘The British Government keeps changing its mind. This is confusing people and will have a devastating impact on the economy. The messaging is all wrong and not being delivered properly.

‘I think it’s better for people to be in an office environment because that will also help kick start the economy.’

Mr Wu added: ‘I know one bank which employs 700 people and only five of them turned up for work today following the Government’s announcement.’

Following the huge U-turn, the premier faced fire from all sides, with small business owners saying they will go bust if staff stayed home. 

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Traffic from some of the UK's biggest cities showed no sign of motorists heeding advice to stay home

Traffic from some of the UK’s biggest cities showed no sign of motorists heeding advice to stay home

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair for the City of London Corporation, the local authority for the Square Mile, said it is “disappointed” over new coronavirus guidance for workplaces.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Clearly safety has to come first and we’re at a moment when measures need to be taken.

“But we are disappointed at the blanket call for office workers to return to working from home where possible.

“Firms have taken huge steps to make sure that their offices are Covid-secure. It’s clear that this virus isn’t going to go away quickly so we need to find a way of living with it that doesn’t cripple our economy.”

She claimed other financial centres had people back in the office without apparent related increases in infection and called on the Government to look “really closely” at coronavirus evidence.

Ms McGuinness said the City of London Corporation would be asking companies to comply with government guidance, but highlighted that the fourth-quarter forecast was “looking very bad” and there were “job losses down the road”.

She also said she was “concerned” about the knock on effect on local supporting businesses.

“We’re not happy, we are disappointed and we feel that this will set back the recovery, but… we have to take steps at this difficult time,” she added.

Rush hour in Bristol saw the usually packed M5 extremely quiet after the Prime Minister's address to the nation last night

Rush hour in Bristol saw the usually packed M5 extremely quiet after the Prime Minister’s address to the nation last night

Queues of traffic were nowhere to be seen as motorists shunned motorways in their cars after the speech from Number 10

Queues of traffic were nowhere to be seen as motorists shunned motorways in their cars after the speech from Number 10

Further restrictions, which could last for well into next year, will see pubs and other leisure and hospitality businesses like restaurants face a 10pm curfew from Thursday.

People working in retail, those travelling in taxis, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality will also have to wear face coverings – except while seated at a table to eat or drink.

In a grave Commons statement the Prime Minister warned that the new curbs could last for six months – taking them well beyond Christmas – ‘unless we palpably make progress’.  

Mr Johnson was barbed for introducing new measures including a 10pm pub curfew and £200 fines for mask rule-breakers among new restrictions on social settings in England.

The PM also announced he is making the British Army available to help the police enforce stringent new coronavirus rules.

He said officers will now have the ‘option to draw on military support where required’ to free up staff so more can crackdown on rule-breakers as he revealed fines are being doubled to £200.

But Downing Street ruled out deploying soldiers on the streets, saying they would be used for ‘backfilling certain duties, such as office roles and guarding protected sites, so police can be out enforcing the virus response’.

Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Ken Marsh slammed the announcement as ‘a nonsense’ and National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter said it ‘lacked any detail’.

Meanwhile Chief Executive of UKHospitality Kate Nicholls described the restrictions as ‘another crushing blow’ for many businesses. 

Responding to the address, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: ‘We all want nothing more than to beat this dreadful virus and get back to normal. 

‘Sadly, today’s statement from the Prime Minister confirms this is a long way off and there will be difficult times ahead. 

‘The Prime Minister must take responsibility for what has gone wrong, and apologise for the chaotic failure of his ”world beating” test and trace system. It is inexcusable that this vital test and trace operation has been totally overwhelmed in recent weeks. 

‘Ministers must outline details of the practical steps they are taking to fix the test and trace system as quickly as possible. This is the only way to avoid yet more restrictions.

‘With millions of people worried about their jobs, businesses and livelihoods, the Prime Minister must also urgently set out a new economic plan, including the extension of furlough and more help for the self-employed and small business.’

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Coronavirus UK: Man in ‘plague doctor’ outfit seen scaring children

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coronavirus uk man in plague doctor outfit seen scaring children

Pranksters dressing up as ‘plague doctors’ have returned once again as police in Gloucester confirmed they are investigating a sinister figure seen scaring children near a duck pond. 

Officers said they want to offer advice on the ‘appropriateness’ of the outfit, which is similar to those seen a number of times up and down the country throughout the pandemic.

A member of the public posted on social media on Sunday alerting people that a man wearing the mask was in Saintbridge near Coney Hill.

The mask is similar to what doctors wore when they were treating people affected by the Bubonic Plague in the 17th Century.

Police are investigating a sinister figure wearing a 'plague doctor' costume around Gloucester

Police are investigating a sinister figure wearing a ‘plague doctor’ costume around Gloucester

Officers said they want to offer advice to the individual on the 'appropriateness' of the outfit

Officers said they want to offer advice to the individual on the ‘appropriateness’ of the outfit

Plague doctors thought beaked masks containing lavender would protect them 

During the plague doctors dressed in certain clothes they believed protected them from the airborne diseases.  

They wore long, ankle-length overcoats and bird-like beak filled with plants and herbs that had a smell, usually lavender. 

They also wore gloves, boots and wide hat. 

Historians think  the outfit was invented in 1619 by Charles de Lorme who got the idea for head-to-toe clothing from a soldier’s armour. 

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Chloe, from Coney Hill, said: ‘I was there chilling at the duck pond on Sunday and I saw a man when I was walking on top of the bridge.

‘He was talking to the kids, and one child ran off because they were so scared.

‘The group of children were very young and small, the one who ran off must have been about 10 years old.’

The man has been spotted wearing the mask and a long brown overcoat.

A Gloucestershire police spokesperson said: ‘We are aware an individual has been seen wearing medieval style costumes in and around Gloucester.

‘While it is not an offence to dress in this way, we will be looking to speak to the individual to give advice on the appropriateness of the costume at this time.’ 

Plague doctor costumes have appeared a number of times since the start of the pandemic earlier this year.

At the end of April, concerned locals in Norwich reported a prankster to police after seeing them wearing a long black cloak, hat and pointed beak-like mask. 

Norfolk Police later unmasked the ghoulish figure as a local teenager who had dressed up in the outfit as a joke.

Officers said they have spoken to the boy about the ‘consequences of his actions’, but he will escape prosecution unless he defies police to continue his display.

Just days later, another eerie figure wandered through London’s Crouch End, much to the amazement of locals who peered through their windows. 

As he went about his business in the capital, the prankster popped into a local supermarket and ‘tipped his hat’ to people as he passed them. 

A plague doctor was then also spotted at a protest in Hyde Park in July, where hundreds of activists had gathered to oppose the imminent policy of making face coverings mandatory in shops. 

A prankster in Norwich dressed up as a 17th century plague doctor on their daily walks during the coronavirus lockdown - the perpetrator was later found to be a local teenage boy

During the plague in the 17th century European doctors would wear the outfit when they tended to patients because they believed the outfits could purify poisonous air

A prankster in Norwich dressed up as a 17th century plague doctor on their daily walks during the coronavirus lockdown – the perpetrator was later found to be a local teenage boy

A 17th-century cloaked plague doctor was seen walking the streets of London during the coronavirus lockdown

The eerie figure wandered through Crouch End, much to the amazement of locals who peered through their windows

A 17th-century cloaked plague doctor was seen walking the streets of London during the coronavirus lockdown

A plague doctor was then also spotted at a protest in Hyde Park in July, where hundreds of activists had gathered to oppose the imminent policy of making face coverings mandatory in shops

A plague doctor was then also spotted at a protest in Hyde Park in July, where hundreds of activists had gathered to oppose the imminent policy of making face coverings mandatory in shops 

THE CAUSE BEHIND EUROPE’S BUBONIC PLAGUES

The plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, was the cause of some of the world’s deadliest pandemics, including the Justinian Plague, the Black Death, and the major epidemics that swept through China in the late 1800s. 

The disease continues to affect populations around the world today. 

The Black Death of 1348 famously killed half of the people in London within 18 months, with bodies piled five-deep in mass graves.

When the Great Plague of 1665 hit, a fifth of people in London died, with victims shut in their homes and a red cross painted on the door with the words ‘Lord have mercy upon us’.

The pandemic spread from Europe through the 14th and 19th centuries – thought to come from fleas which fed on infected rats before biting humans and passing the bacteria to them.

But modern experts challenge the dominant view that rats caused the incurable disease.

Experts point out that rats were not that common in northern Europe, which was hit equally hard by plague as the rest of Europe, and that the plague spread faster than humans might have been exposed to their fleas. 

Most people would have had their own fleas and lice, when the plague arrived in Europe in 1346, because they bathed much less often. 

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Woman jailed 10 months for putting cleaning fluid in boss’s coffee

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woman jailed 10 months for putting cleaning fluid in bosss coffee
Fenchurch Street station cleaner Aurora Iacomi (pictured), 32, poured the liquid into her manager Angelina Raychinova's flask at the central London station on April 22.

Fenchurch Street station cleaner Aurora Iacomi (pictured), 32, poured the liquid into her manager Angelina Raychinova’s flask at the central London station on April 22.

A London station cleaner who spiked her supervisor’s coffee with cleaning fluid as an act of ‘revenge’ after she was given a telling off has been jailed for 10 months.

Fenchurch Street station cleaner Aurora Iacomi, 32, poured the liquid into her manager Angelina Raychinova’s flask at the central London station on April 22. 

A court heard how Iacomi tried to justify her actions as a ‘prank’, intended to annoy her victim, who had left her feeling ‘humiliated’ through a telling off at work.

But at a sentencing hearing at Inner London Crown Court, Judge Benedict Kelleher said Iacomi, of Redbridge, east London, was motivated by ‘revenge’. 

Judge Kelleher also said she had not taken care to know the level of risk her actions entailed.

He sentenced Iacomi, a university graduate originally from Romania who had no previous convictions, to 10-months in prison. 

Prosecutor Philip Allman told the court that there had been a ‘history of work-related tension’ between Iacomi and her colleague in the build up to the incident.

He explained that between 3.20pm and 4pm on the day of the incident, Ms Raychinova had left her flask in the cleaners’ compound within the station. 

‘When she returned, she took a sip from the coffee flask, immediately felt a burning sensation on her lips and spat out the contents,’ Mr Allman said.

Ms Raychinova said she ‘smelt cleaning fluid’ that was used to remove chewing gum from floors, the court heard.

Mr Allman also said Ms Raychinova had ‘previous issues with one colleague, this defendant’.

Police examined CCTV footage, searched lockers and examined the coffee flask and its contents.

A court heard how Iacomi tried to justify her actions as a 'prank', intended to annoy her victim, who had left her feeling 'humiliated' through a telling off at work

But at a sentencing hearing at Inner London Crown Court, Judge Benedict Kelleher said Iacomi was motivated by 'revenge'

A court heard how Iacomi tried to justify her actions as a ‘prank’, intended to annoy her victim, who had left her feeling ‘humiliated’ through a telling off at work. But at a sentencing hearing at Inner London Crown Court, Judge Benedict Kelleher said Iacomi was motivated by ‘revenge’

Samples were also taken from a bottle of cleaning fluid, Mr Allman explained.

He said the CCTV showed ‘this defendant entering the cleaners’ compound during the time that the flask was left unattended’.

‘On the CCTV, she could be seen holding a plastic bottle and moving it towards where the coffee flask was.’

Iacomi, originally from Romania, told police she was ‘having trouble’ with Ms Raychinova and had been subject to an internal disciplinary hearing at her company.

Ms Raychinova supervised Iacomi’s work at the station but worked for a different company.

‘She explained that she was not very fond of Ms Raychinova,’ Mr Allman said.

He told the court that Iacomi had initially admitted to police entering the compound that afternoon but denied putting anything in the coffee, despite later pleading guilty to the offence.

Mr Allman said the substance dropped into the drink was Graffi Green, which was ‘cleaning liquid to remove graffiti’.

He told the court that Iacomi had received training on hazardous substances and the ‘danger or hazard that attaches to them’.

Flavia Kenyon, mitigating, said Iacomi was from a ‘law-abiding, decent, hard-working family in Romania’ and a university graduate.

‘She found herself on that afternoon acting out of impulse,’ Ms Kenyon said.

‘This is not a premediated act, it’s not as if she put herself with that bottle at home to go to work with the intent to cause the victim harm.’

Ms Kenyon added: ‘It was a prank. Thoughtless? Yes. Reckless? Yes. Stupid? Yes, and she has paid a very heavy price for her stupidity.’

She explained Iacomi had lost her job, highlighting it would be difficult for her to find a new one in the current economic climate.

Ms Kenyon said Iacomi wanted to ‘apologise to the victim’ and that she ‘did not intend to cause the victim any harm’.

She explained that during a work break, Ms Raychinova had approached her and ‘told her off in front of everybody else’, leaving Iacomi feeling ‘belittled and humiliated’.

Iacomi had placed a ‘tiny drop’ of the liquid in Ms Raychinova’s flask ‘to spoil and to ruin her coffee break in order to annoy her’, Ms Kenyon said.

Iacomi had placed a 'tiny drop' of the liquid in Ms Raychinova's flask at Fenchurch Station (pictured) 'to spoil and to ruin her coffee break in order to annoy her', Ms Kenyon said

Iacomi had placed a ‘tiny drop’ of the liquid in Ms Raychinova’s flask at Fenchurch Station (pictured) ‘to spoil and to ruin her coffee break in order to annoy her’, Ms Kenyon said

She emphasised that the cleaning fluid ‘isn’t toxic’ and was ‘an alcohol-based substance, not acid’ which is described as ‘a mild irritant’.

Sentencing, Judge Kelleher said it was ‘clear’ from the case that Iacomi felt ‘unfairly treated’ by her victim and ‘wanted revenge’.

He said Iacomi’s actions were ‘premeditated’ and intended to cause ‘some harm’ because of a ‘grudge’ she held.

The judge highlighted that Iacomi ‘did not know the level of risk’ she was exposing Ms Raychinova to.

He told her: ‘In my judgement, an ordinary person would assume that liquid used for the cleaning off of graffiti could be damaging if ingested.

‘You suggested that your actions were a prank and the author did not accept that explanation and neither do I.

‘You felt unfairly treated at work by Mr Raychinova and wanted revenge. 

He added: ‘Your actions were premeditated and your intention was clearly to cause some harm.

‘It was a premeditated offence and your intention was to cause harm.

‘This was a case in which you deliberately set out to cause injury to a colleague because you bore a grudge against her and did not know the level of risk you exposed her too.’

She pleaded guilty to one count of administering a noxious substance with intent to injure, aggrieve or annoy.

The prosecution chose not to pursue a charge of administering poison or noxious substance so as to endanger life, to which Iacomi entered a not guilty plea. 

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