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Cash boost for groups supporting victims

Victim services across the Northumbria Police area are set to receive more than £1m from the force's Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Supporting Victims Fund has awarded the cash to a range of organisations helping those considered to be the most vulnerable - domestic abuse and sexual violence victims, young people, victims of hate crime, and those with mental health needs.

It is the first round of victims funds to be announced this year, with more funding to be allocated to specialist services and charitable organisations over the coming weeks.

The latest beneficiaries include Sunderland Counselling Services, The Angelou Centre in Newcastle, Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, and Streetwise Young People’s Project.

Angelou Centre, Newcastle

Northumbria PCC, Kim McGuinness, said: “My top two priorities are to help our force prevent crime and ensure that when a crime does happen, the victim is central to all we do.

“With access to the right help at the right time, people can feel better, even stronger, but it can take time.

"Through coping strategies, therapies and opening up conversation, we can help people to recover and successfully move forward with their lives."

Motorist guilty of string of driving offences

Uninsured driver Lewis Nesbitt was arrested and charged with a string of motoring offences, after a high speed persuit near Houghton-le-Spring.

The 25 year old reached speeds of 70mph in residential streets and drove the wrong way around a roundabout, after refusing to pull over his Vauxhall Corsa last September.

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He knowingly and willingly endangered the lives of other road users as he drove down residential streets at excess speeds with only one thing on his mind – getting away from police."

PC Steven HackettNorthumbria Police

Woman, 89, seriously hurt after being hit by car

An 89-year-old woman has been seriously hurt after being struck by a car in Newcastle.

The pedestrian was hit on Gosforth High Street near to the junction with Hawthorn Road, shortly before noon.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “This was a serious collision which has left a woman with significant injuries in hospital.

“We are trying to establish a clear picture of the moments leading up to the collision and are appealing for anybody who witnessed the incident or was in the area at the time to get in touch."

Checkpoint project sees re-offending rates drop

BBC Newcastle

A scheme by Durham Police which gives people the chance to go into rehab for drink and drug problems while avoiding a criminal record appears to be cutting re-offending rates.

More than 2,600 offenders have taken part in the project, which began two years ago, with only six percent going on to re-offend.

The force's experiment called Checkpoint, lets people responsible for offences like thefts and burglars avoid a criminal record, so long as they get treatment for problems like drug and alcohol addiction.

It'll be discussed later this month at the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

Stay with BBC Newcastle for the latest on this

'Distinctive' motorbike seized during raid

Northumbria Police is looking to reunite a suspected stolen motorcycle with its owner after it was seized during a dawn raid in Newcastle.

A quantity of cannabis was also recovered when officers executed a search warrant at an address on Scafell Drive in Cowgate, after receiving intelligence about suspected drug dealing.

The "distinctive" Husqvarna motorcycle had false number plates and its serial number scraped off, leading police to believe it was stolen.

Officers have been working with local motorcycle shops in a bid to trace the owner, but so far have been unsuccessful, and have appealed to the public for help.

Anyone who recognises it, or has any information, is asked to contact the force.

Northumbria Police

Waste plant hearing to get under way

BBC Look North

North East and Cumbria

Plans for a waste plant in Washington described as a "monster incinerator" by protesters will be discussed at a hearing starting later.

The proposals for the Sunderland Renewable Energy Centre were turned down by the city council last year.

Rolton Kilbride's application said the plant would operate continuously, seven days a week, processing up to 215,000 tonnes of non-hazardous municipal, commercial and industrial waste every year.

Campaigners, including MP Sharon Hodgson, are expected to gather at the Stadium of Light this morning.

Artist's impression of the Sunderland Renewable Energy Centre
Rolton Kilbride

Heart transplant teen: I thought I might not make it

BBC Newcastle

A North East teenager says his life has been transformed after a heart transplant.

Jack Brotton, from Darlington, was on the urgent transplant list at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital before a donor was finally found.

The 13-year-old is telling his story in a CBBC documentary called My Life: My New Heart, which will be broadcast later.

"It's really amazing," he said. "I was very scared, I never knew what would happen. I thought I might not make it."

Jack's mum, Sarah, added: "It's been a rollercoaster. Life was very challenging. He's had the ultimate gift of life."

Jack Brotton being treated in hospital

Northumbria Police holds rural recruitment drive

People interested in a career with Northumbria Police have been invited to talk to officers about what it involves, especially in rural areas.

As part of its ongoing recruitment the force is hosting a number of events to give potential candidates a chance to speak to those already in the role.

One will be held on tomorrow at Coquetvale Hotel in Rothbury and another at the Twice Brewed Inn in Bardon Mill on Thursday.

All who join Northumbria Police are able to develop a wide range of skills. We are passionate about supporting both the professional and personal progression of our colleagues and offer flexible working options to cater for people’s work-life balance."

Supt Craig Metcalfe
Northumbria Police officers
Northumbria Police

Watch: BBC's Joe goes back to operating theatre

One of the north's most experienced heart surgeons gave a BBC presenter a major heart bypass operation, and then welcomed the patient and his microphone back into his "office".

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Arrest over Gina Miller ‘hitman’ funding page

A man has been arrested in connection with a crowdfunding attempt which sought to raise £10,000 to have campaigner Gina Miller killed.

The Sunday Mirror reported in October that the page, which described the businesswoman who twice won Supreme Court cases challenging the government on Brexit, as a "traitor of democracy", had been up for six months.

It had not raised any money, and when alerted GoFundMe took it down and apologised for any distress to Ms Miller, who called the page "horrifying".

Northumbria Police has now confirmed that a 52-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of making malicious communications.

He was later released while investigations continue.

Gina Miller

BBC Radio Cumbria's Joe goes under the knife and puts it on air

The veteran BBC Radio Cumbria presenter Joe Costin was so impressed by his own heart bypass operation that he went back into the theatre to watch his surgeon perform the same procedure on another patient.

Joe Costin in operating theatre to watch surgery

Joe, 73, was diagnosed with heart problems after a routine check-up with his GP, and had his operation done by Prof Stephen Clark, the consultant cardiac surgeon at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle.

BBC Radio Cumbria will be featuring Joe's story on programmes throughout the day next week, and Prof Clark will be on the Caroline Robertson show from 09:00 to 12:00 on Tuesday.

After the operation, I went to see Professor Clark and was so fascinated by the information he was giving me, and the number of people he told me were affected by heart disease, that I knew it would make a brilliant piece for the radio.

He invited me along to watch an operation and I said yes without thinking, but I thought the issue was so important that I had to see it through."

Joe Costin

Police crackdown on county lines drug crimes continues

Thirty-one people have now been arrested in a crackdown on county lines drug crimes.

Operation Sentinel and has seen a number of dawn raids carried out across Northumberland, Scotland and Merseyside in the past four weeks.

It's recovered a number of drug seizures including 1kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than £40,000.

Close up of packet of seized drugs
Northumbria Police

We will not bring this operation to a close until we are satisfied that we have done all we can to ensure this particular county line is stamped out and stays that way."

Jonathan BensleyDet Ch Insp, Northumbria Police

County lines is where criminal networks expand their operations from urban areas to more rural locations and smaller towns.

Police say it often involves the exploitation of vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction problems.

High cost of fly tipping in North East

Organised criminal gangs are being blamed for the continued rise of large fly-tipping across the UK.

Since 2012 it's cost our councils almost £60m in clean-up costs.

In the BBC Newcastle area alone there have been nearly 13,000 major fly-tipping incidents in the last nine years.

Sunderland City Council meanwhile, has seized another vehicle after it was allegedly seen in a fly-tipping incident in the Washington area.

It follows a similar incident in October when a vehicle was taken from outside an address in Hetton.

Councils have powers to confiscate any vehicle they suspect has been involved in environmental crime or fly tipping.

Owners can try to claim their vehicle back and if the council decides rules against, it could crushed or sold.

Councillor Denny Wilson said: "Fly-tipping is a major issue in our city, which we are taking a more proactive approach to tackling."

Fly-tipping is an arrestable offence and carries a maximum fine of £50,000 and up to five years imprisonment.

If you live in Sunderland and witness any fly-tipping in your area, you can report it to https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/report-flytipping

The seized van
Sunderland city council

Brick thrown by child from a bridge hits car windscreen

Police say a schoolboy was lucky not to kill someone when he threw a brick off a footbridge, sending it smashing into a car windscreen.

The boy, aged seven, hurled the brick on to the A182 Washington Highway on 4 February.

It shattered the windscreen of a car that was passing underneath, which had a child sitting in the back seat.

The impact caused the vehicle to swerve but no other vehicles were in the area and the driver was able to stop safely.

The shattered car windscreen
Northumbria Police

Police traced the boy and found that he had thrown the brick off the bridge to entertain his friends.

They have spoken to him and his parents and went to local schools to get the safety message across to other children.

Insp Nick Gjorven said: "Frankly, it is sheer luck that nobody was killed. The driver involved had just picked up his son from school and was driving at 60mph on a busy road when his windscreen shattered, causing him to swerve. It quite easily could have come through the windscreen and caused catastrophic injuries to all inside the car."

The age of criminality in the UK is 10 years old so police could not prosecute the boy.

Fire crews assist flood-stranded car couple

Crews from the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service supported colleagues in Northumberland in the rescue of a couple stranded in floods near Ovington.

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Bus funding: Where would it make the most difference?

Boris Johnson is pledging £5bn over five years to boost bus services and cycling in England and campaigners want it to restore "lost" routes in "disconnected" rural areas. Where would new bus funding make the most difference?

We don't yet know which areas will see the biggest shares of the money although the government promises it will benefit "every region outside London".

Official government figures reveal more than half of all England's bus journeys are now made in London.

Highest bus use graphic
Rise and fall in bus use

BreakingDriver jailed for fatal lorry crash

Jonathan Swingler

Video Journalist

A lorry driver who caused the death of another motorist when he suddenly stopped his vehicle has been given a three-year prison sentence.

John Robinson, 24, hit the back of Marcel Balan’s HGV on the A19 in March last year.

The 57-year-old denied causing death by dangerous driving but was found guilty at a trial last month.

Mr Robinson had been driving home on March 12th last year when his car hit the back of a lorry.

The HGV was driven by Balan, from Romania .

Marcel Balan
Northumbria police

The court had been shown dashcam footage of how his journey was progressing

He’d been driving southbound on the A19 but had stopped the vehicle - his trial heard he believed the load on the HGV had become loose.

Three seconds later after bringing his vehicle to a standstill John Robinson’s car collided with the back of Balan’s lorry.

Sentencing Balan, Judge Penny Moreland told him he carried out a “seriously dangerous manoeuvre on the carriageway”.

He was sentenced to three years in prison, disqualified from driving for four years and will do an extended driving test on his release.

John Robinson
Family handout

Severe accident: A1231 Tyne And Wear westbound

BBC News Travel

A1231 Tyne And Wear westbound severe accident, from Pattinson Road to A195 Northumberland Way.

A1231 Tyne And Wear - A1231 Sunderland Highway in North Hylton blocked and queues westbound from Nissan Roundabout to Northumberland Way Interchange, because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Undercover police to patrol Metro trains

Alison Freeman

BBC Look North

Teams of undercover police officers are to travel on the Tyne and Wear Metro as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

It follows a spate of incidents across North Tyneside since the turn of the year, including youths kicking out 10 windows of a carriage, which resulted in the train being taken out of service.

The operation will run over a number of weeks with plain clothes officers on board trains during the day and night.

Operator Nexus said it is forced to spend £500,000 a year cleaning up after vandals.

Council tax hike 'to pay for more police officers'

Stephanie Finnon

BBC Newcastle

Northumbria Police has said it plans to recruit almost 500 new officers paid for by a rise in council tax.

The force's police and crime commissioner, Kim McGuinness, has confirmed a near 2% hike in the police precept, which means some homes will pay £2.67 more a year.

Ms McGuinness said that would generate more than £1m, which will also be put towards better equipment for officers.

She said the tax hike was among the lowest in the country.

'Sentimental' machete stolen in burglary

A "sentimental" knife has been stolen in a burglary in Jesmond.

The address on Mitchell Avenue was targeted on 21 January by intruders who forced entry via a rear window.

Jewellery and a distinctive Kukri machete inscribed with the owner’s details were taken.

Northumbria Police said the knife holds huge sentimental value to the owner as it was gifted to him while he was in the army.

The force is now asking the person who took it to do the right thing and hand it back in to police.

Anyone with information about the burglary, which took place between 08:30 and 17:45, is also asked to contact the force.

Kukri machete
Northumbria Police

Coronavirus: Newcastle University student says she was discriminated against

A Chinese student at Newcastle University says feels discriminated against after being mocked amid the the panic around the coronavirus outbreak.

Elizabeth and her friend were walking near Eldon Square on Saturday at 16:00 when a group of teenagers, which she described as being "high school age", started screaming when they saw them.

"I didn't really know what happened, but later I realised maybe they take us as evil or the people who are already affected by the virus", she said.

Elizabeth asked the group why they screamed and what she had done to them, but says the group didn't say anything and instead stepped back from her.

"I feel humiliated", she told BBC Newcastle.

North East police forces are encouraging anyone who's been a victim to come forward.

Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police say they've not had any obvious rises in hate crime

Missing 87-year-old man believed to be in Amble

Police searching for an 87-year-old man who has been missing since Sunday believe he is in the Amble area of Northumberland.

Albert Gray has not been head from since leaving his house in Wideopen on Sunday morning.

Northumbria Police is increasingly concerned for his welfare.

It said it received a report he was seen getting off a bus at about 13:00 in Amble and heading towards the marina.

He is 5ft 10in, medium build, with short grey hair and is thought to be wearing a flat cap, black jacket and beige trousers and shoes.

Albert Gray

Universities facing strike action

Andrea MacMillan

BBC Tees

Two North East universities are to be hit by industrial action.

The University and College Union says the University of Durham and Newcastle University will be affected by 14 days of strike action in February and March.

The action will start on 20 February and will escalate each week, culminating with a week-long walkout from March 9 to March 13.

The strikes are over pay, working conditions and rising pension costs.

Newcastle University films grey seals clapping underwater
Dr Ben Burville spent 17 years trying to become the first person to record them making the noise.

Cabinet meeting in Sunderland marks Brexit

A number of events are taking place around the country to mark the UK leaving the European Union after almost half a century.

Boris Johnson is assembling his government for a special cabinet meeting in Sunderland later - it was the first city to declare for leave in the 2016 referendum.

There will be various celebrations around the region, and landmarks in Sunderland and Newcastle will be lit up in red, white and blue.

Groups opposed to Brexit will be holding vigils at locations including Newcastle City Centre and next to the Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough.

Union Jack outside EU parliament
PA Media

Whether you voted leave or remain, this is a momentous date in our nation's history and it is only right that we mark it."

Graeme MillerLeader of Sunderland City Council

Northern Rail franchise: Reaction from Newcastle Central Station

Passengers have been reacting to the government's takeover of Northern.

Everyone willing to comment was of the opinion that nationalisation could only be a good thing for the troubled rail company.

Janet Ulman

Janet Ulman, from Sheffield, said: "The system is broken and Northern is an example of a company not meeting customers' needs.

"It's unable to deliver but it's part of a wider problem.

"I hope public ownership will improve things. A national rail service would be better again."

Leonard Cole

Leonard Cole, from Washington, who was at the station to meet a friend off a train, said that although he did not usually travel by rail, nationalisation was a "really great idea".

"I drive because trains are too expensive, but if this can make them cheaper I think more people would use them", he said.

"It would get a lot of cars off the road."

Emma Finnigan

Emma Finnigan, from Darlington, said: "I'm really, really pro-nationalisation so in all aspects this is a good thing.

"It's been a bad sevice for a lot of money and while there have been problems with a national rail service, it's got to be an improvement."

However, she expressed concerns about its existing staff.

"People should not lose their jobs and existing workers' rights should be protected and looked after. That's really important."

Darren Robson

Darren Robson from Wallsend said: "Whenever I've used Northern Rail it's usually been OK.

"But I think this could improve things. It's a positive move."

University issues coronavirus 'protection advice'

Steph Cleasby

BBC Look North

Newcastle University has issued "protection advice" to about 300 of its students who have links to the Hubei region of China in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The death toll has risen to 26 worldwide, with 14 people being tested in the UK.

A university spokesperson said there would be a dedicated health event for any student who has arrived from China in the last month, "ensuring they register with a doctor."

Other universities in the UK have warned students returning home from Chinese New Year celebrations will be quarantined.


Sunderland University closes its history faculty

The University of Sunderland has closed its history faculty after just 14 students wanted to study the subject this year.

Its modern languages department will also close after no-one enrolled for its courses.

A combined history and politics degree will also no longer be an option after just 15 students signed up.

But students already on the course and part way through degree studies are meeting university bosses today.

Keith Bays, who is chairman of the Sunderland Students Union Council and is studying politics, says students are meeting to present a case to keep the faculty.

John Mowbray, chairman of the university's board of governors, said: "While recognising the value of the subjects the university is withdrawing from, the board of governors agreed that they do not fit with the curriculum principles of being career-focused and professions-facing.

"Nor are they of a size and scale to be educationally viable in the medium to long term, given the competition from other institutions."

About 34 academic staff will reportedly be affected by the changes.

The number of universities offering modern foreign languages has dropped by 40% in the past 15 years.

The decline reflects a trend also seen in A-levels. Since 2014, there has been an 8% decrease in the number of A-level entries for modern languages and more than a 25% decline in English. But entries in science, technology, engineering and maths have increased by 15,500, a rise of 6%.

The university said work is under way to develop courses "that provide clear routes into employment".

St Peter's Campus
University of Sunderland
Sunderland University

County lines police in Berwick raids

Dawn raids have been carried out in Berwick in what Northumbria Police call a "major offensive" against suspected drug dealing through county lines.

That's where criminal networks try to expand their operations from urban areas to rural towns and villages.

Eight men and three women were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

The suspects are all believed to have links to Merseyside.