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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 June 2023

1

Relatives turn backs on Hancock

Grieving relatives “turned their backs on Matt Hancock” at the Covid inquiry, reported The Mirror. The relatives turned around when the former health secretary approached them in the public gallery after giving evidence. Some shouted “killer” at him as he left the building in central London. Hancock had criticised the UK’s pandemic planning before Covid, saying it was “completely wrong”, and said he was “profoundly sorry” for each death.

Covid inquiry: can it bring about meaningful change?

2

Wagner chief reaches Belarus

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner group, has arrived in Belarus, three days after his mercenary’s 24-hour mutiny. “Yes, indeed, he’s in Belarus today,” leader Alexander Lukashenko announced, claiming credit in arranging his exile. Prigozhin flew into Belarus on his private jet yesterday, as Moscow claimed the paramilitary force had agreed to hand over its weapons after the group’s aborted insurrection.

Yevgeny Prigozhin and the other Kremlin contenders who could replace Vladimir Putin

3

UK net zero plans attacked

The government’s plans to hit net zero have been “comprehensively criticised” in a “withering report” by its own advisers, said The Guardian. According to the Committee on Climate Change, fewer homes in the UK were insulated last year under the government-backed scheme than the year before, there is little progress on transport emissions, no coherent programme for behaviour change, and still no decision on hydrogen for home heating. The chair said the UK had “lost the leadership” on climate action shown at Cop26 in 2021.

UK’s ‘green day’: is net zero achievable?

4

Trade in AI abuse images

Paedophiles are using artificial intelligence technology to create and sell child sexual abuse images, reported the BBC. Using AI software called Stable Diffusion, intended to generate images for graphic design, a network is creating life-like images of child sexual abuse. Some people are “accessing the images by paying subscriptions to accounts on mainstream content-sharing sites such as Patreon”, said the BBC. But Patreon insisted it had a “zero tolerance” policy about such imagery on its site. The National Police Chief’s Council said some platforms were making “huge profits” but not taking “moral responsibility”.

5

Sunak uses erasable ink pen

There are fresh concerns over government transparency after The Guardian revealed that Rishi Sunak routinely uses erasable ink pens to make hand-written notes on official documents. Sunak has often been pictured using the disposable Pilot V fountain pens during his time as chancellor and prime minister. This has raised concerns that his hand-written notes “could be erased” from official papers handed over to the government archives or to independent investigations, said the paper. A No 10 source told The Guardian the PM “has never used the erase function and nor would he”.

Is Rishi Sunak delivering on his five pledges?

6

Boots to close hundreds of stores

The owners of the Boots chain is to close 300 of its branches in the UK over the next 12 months. Walgreens Boots Alliance said it will shut down stores in close proximity to each other as part of plans to “consolidate” the business. The BBC said there will be no redundancies and staff will be offered work at nearby stores. The parent company cut its yearly earnings forecast and said customers were becoming cautious in their spending due to high inflation.

7

Spacey trial begins in London

Kevin Spacey is to stand trial today on sexual assault charges against four men. The 63-year-old Oscar-winning actor is due to appear in person at Southwark crown court for the four-week trial, where he faces 12 charges of sexual assault, indecent assault and causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. “Not for the first time, the world’s media will descend on the south London court” where “celebrities including Boris Becker and Rolf Harris have been tried in recent years”, said The Guardian.

8

Prince Harry case concludes

Prince Harry is suing tabloid newspapers as part of a crusade to “reform the British media” and has no evidence to support his case, said lawyers for Mirror Group Newspapers. In closing submissions, the tabloid publisher said the Duke of Sussex’s “unique role” in public life did not exempt him from the burden of proof and accused him of bringing the litigation “as a vehicle to seek to reform the British media” as part of an ongoing crusade. The Duke sued Mirror Group Newspapers over unlawful information gathering, including phone hacking.

Prince Harry trial: five other famous royals who have appeared in court

9

Actor confirmed dead in California

Human remains found in a California mountain area are those of British actor Julian Sands, authorities in the US have confirmed. The 65-year-old was reported missing in January in the Mount Baldy region of the San Gabriel mountains after going on a hike. Sands, 65, was best known for his roles in the Oscar-winning film “A Room With A View” and TV dramas “24” and “Smallville”. He was a keen hiker.

10

Judge calls defence ‘Johnsonesque’

A judge has been criticised after branding a man’s defence as “Boris Johnsonesque.” Jane Rowley, a crown court judge, made the remark as she sentenced Michael Swain, a 35-year-old IT specialist, for groping a young female’s buttocks during a work night out in London. Swain told police it was down to “drunken boisterousness” but Rowley said this was  “almost a Boris Johnsonesque defence”. Allies of Johnson said the comparison was “unacceptable”.

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