Devon and Cornwall the worst area for COVID-19 rule breaking in UK

More people in Devon and Cornwall flouted coronavirus lockdown regulations more than any other part of the UK, research has revealed.

George Thorpe

Freedom of Information requests submitted by The University of Law (ULaw) show that between March 23 and June 30, there were 956 cases of rules being broken across the two counties, equating to 21% of the 4,490 offences dealt with by the authorities.

It puts the area at the top of the list for UK by some distance with Derbyshire second on 570 and Leicestershire third with 479.

Northamptonshire and the West Midlands complete the top five with 436 and 376 offences respectively.

Speaking about the research’s findings, Jennifer Schmidt-Petersen, programme and student lead for policing programmes at ULaw, said: “In September, we’ve seen many people return to work and children return to school with a heightened appreciation for our emergency services.

“While public authorities were already under immense pressure during lockdown earlier in the year, it is shocking to see this research highlighting the huge number of those defying lockdown rules set by the Government, which were there to protect us.

“During this same timeframe, public authorities around the UK also dealt with a total of 68,747 general crimes, further putting pressure on their resources.

“Lockdown was hard for many people and the laws were put in place in order to slow the spread of the virus, as is shown with Leicestershire, not abiding by these lockdown rules may result in us being placed under tighter restrictions once again right across the UK.

“Getting caught in breach of the lockdown restrictions can put you at risk of ending up with a criminal record, which will have a serious long-term impact on your life.

“With new restrictions now coming into play, we’d encourage the public to take note and make sure they are fully informed when it comes to the powers of the police and their local authorities.”

From today (September 24), new COVID-19 restrictions introduced by the Government will require hospitality and entertainment establishment such as pubs, restaurants and bowling alleys to close at 10pm and not reopen until 5am.

Pubs, bars and restaurants must also offer table service only.

People are also being encouraged to work from home if possible while a maximum of 15 people will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions from Monday.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also unveiled a series of financial measures aimed at helping the country’s economy including VAT cuts and wage subsidies.


Lowlights of Sasha Swire’s Diaries – the first half

“there is even a website (East Devon Watch)  which perpetuates a new type of politics – one that encourages paranoia and hate.  We need to expel this extremism …!”

(The Toilet Seats are identified in this half)

Lowlights of Sasha Swire Diaries – first 50%

One of Owl’s correspondents kindly offered to undertake the onerous task of reading the “salacious” diaries.

Here is a summary of the lowlights of the first half of the book.

(Owl’s correspondent now deserves to lie down in a darkened room for a while).

Year 2010

Kindle version – numbers relate to Kindle location

92: Men + power = whores

110 Hugo liked being called Minister very much and kept asking S to say “Yes Minister

126 – loved having two bodyguards

232 – when he asks her to do something she doesn’t want to do, he says he should because she is his wife.  She retorts that the taxpayers pay her and he can see her contract if he wishes

257 – people ignore her because she is just an MPs wife – but she “carries revenge in her heart forever”

294 – her mother-in-law, the Dowager Marchioness Townsend informs her mother that she will be accompanied by her butler on a visit.

(Various) many bigwigs entertained at the rented home in Sidbury including PM, Gove, Osborne, etc where they often seem to get very drunk (472)

546 – He spends 3 days a week in Northern Ireland.

658 – the Queen ignores her, S thinks she is seen as “small and irrelevant.

745 – Hugo buys a Jeep Cherokee “for image reasons”.

783 – he and Cameron and Osborne stay up to watch Keira Knightley’s nipples in a film

816: Forestry Commission – biggest despoilers of land.

899 – finds out a “smelly Libdem” has stayed in their Government-owned and allocated flat in Northern Ireland.

1049 – the testicle-grabbing incident (grabbed by Sasha).

“324 – H’s new job in FO described as “running the world”.

1879 – West Hill Conservatives AGM – members complain it is like Hugo “has disappeared off the planet” as “not seen all year.  Average age: 70s, they by and large “hate foreigners, Europe, defence cuts, gay marriage, Liberals, BBC, Germans, Japanese and garlic”.  “H has fallen out of love with these people.

1969 – East Devon Scouts Day – the toilet seats are Anne and Graham Liverton because they are always “up and down at town (sic) council meetings”. [Owl flushes out a relevant local news story “Councillor quits over humiliation of wife”]

1991 – Graham Liverton “a symphony in green … think John Inman in “Are You Being Served”.

2129 – it’s 2014 and H wants to go – sounds out a headhunter about other jobs.

2460 – Claire Wright causing no end of trouble, quite a good operator, attacks Hugo personally, infuriates Sasha.

2500 – First pre-election hustings – H says hello to everyone except Ms Wright.

2522 – the notorious “benefits auction” where H makes joke about those on benefits not being able to buy his honey, a jar of which sells for £15,000.

2532 – Claire Wright exploits it “like a rat up a drainpipe”

2572 – Hustings in East Devon “quite tiresome” H tries not to be riled by Claire Wright.


2572 – Claire Wright’s supporters intimidating officers regarding postal votes.  [EDDC CEO and Returning Officer] Mark Williams “irritated”.  East Devon Alliance is “causing no end of trouble.


3317 – Claire Wrights supporters are “intolerant” – “there is even a website (East Devon Watch)  which perpetuates a new type of politics – one that encourages paranoia and hate.  We need to expel this extremism …!

3542 – (post-election) Hugo is miffed that he is to be sacked by May.  Defies the whip to “return to mid-Devon as he wants to have a good summer”.

3654 – Fundraiser at Woodbury Golf Club – “hideous development”, poor turnout (52).  All stand for the loyal toast except Jill Elson and her sister who try but fail to stand up.

3647 – They have ended their relationship with “Express and Echo” because it is too pro-Claire Wright.  But S says they no longer need them.

Darryl Nicholas (Mayor Exmouth) wants to be new MP.  S notes that Darryl’s “chaotic love life” has settled down.

S dances with the “alarmingly right-wing Colonel Peter Morrison from Westhill.

Graham Liverton draws the raffle – in a high camp manner like the dame he is going to play in pant.

But …”we do love each and every one of them”.

3985 – Bloody year .. the Claire Wright agenda and worse.


Hugo is at a dinner with Duchess Camilla, he drinks too much, she congratulates him on his election, he says “Do you mean my erection?” and she is not amused.

4208 – the terrorist attack outside Parliament – MP Tobias Ellwood goes out and gives first aid to a policeman, Hugo wishes it was him

4261 – Another election in the offing but “H doesn’t have all his ducks in a row [to stand down]” and “we have to take on Claire Wright again with all her cronies spreading their bile about us”.

4322 –  11 May Claire Wrong (stet) is up and running … even has a Campaign Manager, pitching it as a David and Goliath contest, which is hilarious since she has well over 500 helpers and we have one: Toby.  She’s energetic, she gets herself around social media nimbly… We still have the same bunch we had 20 years ago, now 89-99.  Hugo incandescent – one email sent out [by his “campaign”] says he will be on the campaign trail every day – except they sent it to Wright herself”.

4344 – Peter Faithfull – a shiny new nutter – also standing.

4382 – why don’t I canvass with Hugo “I can’t bear the aggression to H”.

Mother-in-law canvasses for H – “gets the usual 20% negative – we never see him around here”.

4415, Election night, Sidmouth.  SS doesn’t have her HRT patch on her leg.  Express and Echo tells her to “go away” when she tries to woo them away from Claire Wright.

Claire Wright also tells H to go away while she is doing an interview and he wants to interrupt her.  “Claire Wright’s henchmen start to circle around me.  Clean fight my arse …”


10,000 more deaths than usual occurred in UK homes since June

Some 10,000 more deaths than usual have occurred in peoples’ private homes since mid June, long after the peak in Covid deaths, prompting fears that people may still be avoiding health services and delaying sending their loved ones to care homes.

Pamela Duncan 

Some 10,000 more deaths than usual have occurred in peoples’ private homes since mid June, long after the peak in Covid deaths, prompting fears that people may still be avoiding health services and delaying sending their loved ones to care homes.

It brings to more than 30,000 the total number of excess deaths happening in people’s homes across the UK since the start of the pandemic.

Excess deaths are a count of those deaths which are over and above a “normal” year, based on the average number of deaths that occurred in the past five years.

In the past three months the number of excess deaths across all settings, has, in the main been lower than that of previous years. However, deaths in private homes buck the trend with an average of 824 excess deaths per week in people’s homes in the 13 weeks to mid-September.

Experts are citing resistance from the public to enter hospitals or home care settings and “deconditioning” caused by decreased physical activity among older people shielding at home, for example not walking around a supermarket or garden centre as they might normally.

During the pandemic in April and May, occupancy of care homes also fell significantly from 88% to 79% according to one internal industry survey seen by the Guardian with fewer people being placed into homes by their families. Weekly admission fell from 22 per 1,000 residents on 29 March 2020 to 8 per 1,000 by 31 May, according to the Knight Frank report. Given there are about 400,000 UK care bed occupants, that means a fall from 8,800 weekly admissions to 3,200 over that period – creating a substantial cohort of people who would have been in care, but stayed at home or with relatives instead.

“In the most recent weeks we can exclude the fact that much of the excess mortality is due to Covid because infection is much lower,” said David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “So what we see is probably more to do with decisions that are being taken by families, by individuals, their GPs and also hospitals’ willingness to admit.”

A total of 30,260 excess deaths have occurred in private homes since the first coronavirus deaths were recorded in the UK in early March. The total number of deaths occurring in people’s homes across the UK since the first death in early March is now 43% higher than in previous years. However, less than one-in-10 of the excess home deaths are due to Covid (9%).

The latest available figures show that A&E attendances in NHS hospitals in England are below levels a year ago: there were 3.8m attendances at A&Es between June and August, down from 5m in a normal year or 29%.

NHS England said the drop was “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response”, an indication that people are still avoiding hospitals due to the pandemic.

Delayed access to care during lockdown and people dying of non-Covid conditions which have worsened due to the person previously having the virus may also be contributing to the trend.

Leon stressed the precise reasons for the pandemic having resulted in many more deaths occurring at home was difficult to disentangle, but added it was clear that “compared to the previous five years, deaths are not occurring in hospitals”.

The ONS’s head of health index and projections, Greg Ceely, said that due to a “lower number of Covid-19 deaths in recent weeks, we would not expect delays to be caused by healthcare service capacity”.

Ceely also pointed to the possibility that deaths at home include some which occurred due to undiagnosed Covid-19 “or that the conditions people are dying of other than Covid-19 have potentially worsened due to the person previously having Covid-19”.

He added that there has been some evidence elsewhere that coronavirus can have longer-term effects on the cardiovascular system, with other countries observing an increase in non-Covid deaths from heart-related conditions in areas where C deaths from the virus have occurred.

“There is something quite profound about the fact that many more families are having to deal with people dying at home regardless of the reason,” said Leon.

More than 1,000 people died with Covid-19 every day in the UK for 22 consecutive days in April, peaking at 1,445 deaths on 8 April.

The analysis is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, National Records of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

Analysis of excess deaths covers a 27-week period for England and Wales and Scotland (weeks 11 to 37) and four months in Northern Ireland (1 March to 30 June).


Download coronavirus tracing app to protect your families, public told

The public will be told to download a coronavirus tracing app to protect their families today in one of the biggest government advertising campaigns.

Owl notes the “However…….” and “…It was once the centrepiece of contact tracing, then downgraded to the “cherry on the cake”. Now it seems to be barely more than a high-tech reminder to keep your distance.”

Is this another “Moonshot” over-hyped damp squib?

Chris Smyth, Whitehall Editor | Tom Knowles, Technology Correspondent 

Attempts will be made to convince people that their risk of infecting vulnerable relatives will be reduced if they use the delayed app, after appeals to civic duty were less effective.

However, one in three people told to isolate by the app will have been given a “false positive”, in which it will have wrongly thought that they had been within two metres of an infectious person for 15 minutes. This is because of its reliance on Bluetooth signals, which can be affected by nearby objects.

Officials said that this accuracy matched other countries’ apps. However, testing chiefs are downplaying hopes for the contact-tracing function, once heralded by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, as a way to get the nation back to normal. The officials now say that the app’s main benefit could be to prompt people to stick to social distancing and hygiene rules.

Mr Hancock will say today that the launch is “an important step forward”, and urge people to use the app “to protect themselves and their loved ones”.

Developers are aiming for up to a third of the population of England and Wales to download the app. Scotland released its own app this month and Northern Ireland launched one in July.

Wolfgang Emmerich, of Zühlke Engineering, which helped to build the app for England and Wales, said it was “arguably the best in the world”. Called NHS Covid-19, the app is available on Apple’s store for iPhone and Google’s Play store for Android phones. Users will be asked to confirm they are over 16 and to enter the first part of their postcode. There are plans for local lockdowns to be triggered and imposed using an automatic traffic light system, with alerts sent to phones using the app.


It was once the centrepiece of contact tracing, then downgraded to the “cherry on the cake”. Now it seems to be barely more than a high-tech reminder to keep your distance.

In playing up the personalised information provided by the contact-tracing app, testing chiefs are partly trying to tempt people to use it: who otherwise would download software whose principal feature was that it might order you to stay at home for two weeks?

But it also reflects diminished hopes for a product that became a victim of Silicon Valley hype and the techno-enthusiasm of Matt Hancock. Testing chiefs now admit it should not have been built up as a technology that would magically help to control the pandemic.

Britain looked to have been left behind while others surged ahead. Now officials insist the technology launching today is as accurate as anywhere in the world and a false positive rate of one in three may be better than the ready reckoning of human contact tracing.


Are Britons too ‘freedom-loving’ to follow Covid rules?

When Boris Johnson sought to explain during his address to the nation on Tuesday why some people had failed to follow the coronavirus rules, he had a surprising explanation: they’re just too British.

Archie Bland

We have kept that virus at bay. But we have to acknowledge this is a great and freedom-loving country, and while the vast majority have complied with the rules there have been too many breaches – too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected.”

The message prompted some obvious questions: just how fervent is Britain about freedom, and how has that affected the country’s response to the coronavirus?

Sunder Katwala, director of the thinktank British Future, is sceptical that breaches of the rules are the result of a innate libertarian streak.

“British people are actually quite authoritarian,” he says. “There is a difference from what the political elite, left and right, say about something like, we would never ban the burka, and what the public say – which is that they would.”

In the current crisis, the same rules persist, says Opinium’s head of political polling, Adam Drummond. As a rule of thumb since coronavirus hit, “the British public will always choose the more ‘safety-first’ option,” he says. “Objections to lockdown measures are a minority pursuit.”

He points to polls finding the public backing the ‘rule of six’ by 66% to 15%, compulsory face masks by 74% to 11%, and quarantine for returning holidaymakers by 64% to 13%.

Deborah Mattinson, cofounder of BritainThinks and author of a new book, Beyond the Red Wall, looking at the voters Labour lost to the Conservatives in 2019, notes a 2018 survey which found that when asked to select the three ideas that most embodied British values, respondents chose ‘being proud to be British’, ‘respect for the rule of law’, and ‘being polite’. ‘Valuing individual freedoms’ came 7th, fractionally below ‘having a Sunday roast’.

“I thought what [Johnson] said was quite muddled,” says Mattinson. “Freedom is not the thing that people are most motivated by, especially right now – and in those red wall seats, the people he is really keen to communicate with, ideas like pride come way higher in terms of what people think of as quintessentially British.”

While Johnson tied his vision of British libertarianism to rule breaking, Katwala suggests that the evidence suggests otherwise.

To begin with, young people are three times as likely to oppose the new measures as the over 65s – yet they tend to be left of centre and far removed from the prominent critics of lockdown in the public sphere.

“Those people feel cooped up, they are politically disaffected. It’s not some big ideological commitment, it’s not ‘I’m a free-born Englishman’ – it’s just they’ve had enough.”

And, he notes, “frustration is high, scepticism in principle is very, very low.”

James Weinberg, a lecturer in political behaviour at Sheffield University who is researching politics in an age of distrust, says that all the evidence shows adherence is much more strongly linked to psychological or demographic profile than principles.

“The people who break the rules, they’re usually doing it because they feel they have no choice – they’re on precarious contracts, or living in multi-occupancy households,” he says.

“The desire to turn this into a jingoistic idea of what it is to be British might be appealing to certain politicians, but it rings quite hollow on the ground.”

Instead of ideology, says Mattinson, qualitative work undertaken by BritainThinks suggests that the likelihood of public adherence to the rules is driven by confidence and understanding of exactly what they are.

“Yes, there is increasing frustration with the rules, but that’s not about having them, that’s about struggling to follow them because they’re seen as confusing and inconsistent and a bit unfair.”

Correspondingly, most polls show higher levels of confidence in the government and willingness to follow lockdown when the rules have been simplest, even if they were also more draconian.

The pattern of the public’s willingness to wear face masks offers a clear example of the broader British approach, says Katwala.

In April, Ipsos MORI found that only 16% had already worn a face mask – which was among the lowest numbers in the world. But 74% said they would do so if they were told to, and after the guidance changed, adherence shot up to 83%. Only 4% said they would refuse a mask for reasons of personal freedom.

“If you don’t have to do so, it’s not very ‘us’,” Katwala says. “But if we’re under instruction, that means there’s good evidence. People actually want to be told whether or not to do things at the moment.”

Just one question remains, then: who, exactly, was Johnson talking to?

One explanation, suggests Mattinson, is that his message wasn’t for the public at all. “I think the audience he had in mind for that line was his more libertarian backbenchers,” she says. “He will feel has to keep his own tribe onside throughout all this.”

Or maybe it’s even closer to home. “My personal guess, I think Johnson is obviously a very liberal Conservative,” says Katwala. “His image of the public is his image of himself.”


Brexit Ferry Firm Hired By Chris Grayling Despite Having No Ships Goes Bust, Owing £2m

The company infamously contracted by Chris Grayling to run ferries in case of a no-deal Brexit – despite having no ships – has gone bust.

Seaborne Freight went into liquidation earlier this month, owing nearly £2m, mainly to creditors.

The firm was handed a £13.8m contract by Grayling to bring vital supplies like food and medicine across the Channel in case there was a no-deal Brexit.

But the then-transport secretary was forced to cancel the contract more than a month before the expected Brexit date of March 29 2019, amid fierce criticism. The Department for Transport said at the time no taxpayers’ money was paid to Seaborne.

To relieve pressure on Dover, Seaborne aimed to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate in Kent to the Belgian port of Ostend.

But amid political chaos, Brexit was repeatedly delayed until January 31 this year, when the UK left with a withdrawal agreement and no requirement for special ferries.

The Seaborne fiasco led to huge criticism of Grayling, who was dubbed the “worst transport secretary of all time” by Labour and eventually sacked by Boris Johnson when he became prime minister in July 2019.

Grayling refused to apologise for the debacle, describing criticism of him as “baffling” and at one point telling the Commons “I did see ships”, in a reversal of Horatio Nelson’s famous quote. 

Commenting on Seaborne Freight’s liquidation, Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “The disastrous legacy of Chris Grayling lives on.

“Giving out a ferries contract to a company that didn’t actually have any ferries is the epitome of Tory incompetence and wasteful spending.

“Things don’t look to have improved under his successor.

“The Seaborne ferries debacle highlighted how woefully underprepared the government is in planning for our future in a no deal scenario, so with just a few weeks left of current negotiations with the EU the government must double its efforts and deliver the deal it promised the British people.”

Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson, said: “The demise of Seaborne Freight is a stark reminder of the challenges facing business right now, and haulage firms are no exception.

“With the economy falling off a cliff, we need the government to commit to securing a deal with Europe – this is essential to prevent further economic chaos.”

Jardine also called for “greater transparency” in the awarding of contracts, with “clear accountability” should things go wrong.

Grayling has recently taken on a role as a “strategic adviser” to Hutchison Ports Europe, for which he will earn £100,000 a year for just seven hours of work per week.

Papers filed with Companies House show Seaborne decided to enter voluntary liquidation on September 8. Quantuma have been appointed joint liquidators.

The company’s assets amount to nearly £32,000-worth of computer equipment, nearly £4,500-worth of furniture and equipment, and £2,620 cash in the bank.

The company will go bust owing nearly £2m – made up of £1.2m to trade and expense creditors, a £400,000 loan, £323,000 in directors loans and a £100 corporation tax bill to HMRC.


South West Tories demand exemption from further lockdown as infections remain low

Conservative MPs across the region claim their constituents should be exempt from any second national lockdown after region suffered UK’s highest job losses hit since pandemic hit

By David Parsley 

Conservative MPs in the South West of England are calling on Boris Johnson to exempt the region from any future national lockdown as their rural constituencies continue to have the lowest number of Covid-19 infections in the country.

The rural counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset have already been hit hard by lockdown restrictions, suffering the most jobs losses per head in the UK, according to new research.

Conservative MPs – which make up 29 of the 31 Parliamentary seats in the region – from the area told i they were lobbying ministers for a number of concessions on restrictions, including a “regional unlocking” and an exemption from any full lockdown should cases remain low.

Reliance on hospitality hits region’s workers hardest

According to a study of jobless figures from the Office for National Statistics by work tech company Orka, the rate of unemployment has risen fastest in the South West, from 3.1 per cent before the pandemic struck to 3.8 per cent now. The area has the highest concentration of workers in the hardest hit food and hospitality sectors, with one in ten relying on tourist trade for secure employment.

Anne Marie Morris, Conservative MP for Newton Abbot, said: “The South West does need to be treated differently given our low infection rates and the impact of lockdown measures on our economy. “

Christopher Loder, the MP for West Dorset, added his constituents were being punished for those breaking Covid-safe guidance and laws in towns and Cities across the UK.

“The measure taken are probably proportionate across the UK, but in my constituency of West Dorset we have the lowest infection rate in the whole of England and Wales,” said Mr Loder. “We also have one of the highest proportion, some 97 per cent, of micro businesses, with many of those in the hospitality sector. For me it is unthinkable we would face another national lockdown given our economy is so reliant on tourism and we have the lowest number of cases.”

A case for ‘regional unlocking’

Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “There are questions about whether we could have even more tailored measures for individual counties, like Devon, where cases are lower. I would support that.”

Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, said: “I have been speaking with ministers about looking at regional unlocking as well as regional lockdowns to reflect this as we move into the next phase of the pandemic.”

Seven other Conservative MPs in the region, who asked not to be named, said they were also discussing the idea of exempting their constituents from any future national lockdown with ministers due to the limited spread of the virus in the region.