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Downing Street have insisted they are not seeking to impose rape prosecution targets


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Downing Street has batted away suggestions it is considering imposing rape conviction targets on the police and prosecutors.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister dismissed suggestions Number 10 had been looking at a scheme to boost prosecution rates, saying any such move would “undermine prosecutorial impartiality”.

It comes after The Guardian reported that the prime minister’s crime and justice taskforce is mulling seting targets for the police to refer more rape cases to the Crown Prosecution Service, and for the CPS to bring more of those cases to trial.

The paper said the cross-government taskforce was considering the plans due to falling numbers of rape cases being taken to trial.

Official figures show police referrals to the CPS have dropped 40% since 2016-17, while prosecutions dropped by 59% of over the same period, despite reports of rape rising by a third.

But asked if they were considering such a scheme, a Number 10 spokesperson, said: “The short answer to that is no.

“Quotas or numerical targets would undermine prosecutorial impartiality where cases are individual by nature and require a specific set of considerations in each instance.”

They added: “We are determined to protect victims of rape and to give them the confidence that everything will be done to bring offenders to justice.”

The comments come after a judge granted a woman’s group the right to seek a judicial review into how the CPS prosecutes rape cases, after it was reported that prosecutors in England and Wales had been advised in training seminars to take some “weak cases out of the system” to boost conviction rates.

The CPS has denied they had changed their decision-making processes.

A government spokesperson added: “We are determined to restore faith in the justice system and give victims of rape the confidence that everything will be done to bring offenders to justice.

“We will continue to work with the police to look at ways to improve their role in the investigation and prosecution of rape, and ensure that their guidance and best practice is implemented in every police force area.”

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Botswana: Mystery elephant deaths caused by cyanobacteria

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image copyrightSupplied

Toxins made by microscopic algae in water caused the previously unexplained deaths of hundreds of elephants in Botswana, wildlife officials say.

Botswana is home to a third of Africa’s declining elephant population.

The alarm was raised when elephant carcasses were spotted in the country’s Okavango Delta between May and June.

Officials say a total of 330 elephants are now known to have died from ingesting cyanobacteria. Poaching has been ruled out as a cause of death.

  • Africa Live: Updates on this and other stories

  • Why elephants are seeking refuge in Botswana

The toxic bacteria can occur naturally in standing water and sometimes grow into large blooms known as blue-green algae.

Warning: Some people may find the following images upsetting

The findings follow months of tests in specialist laboratories in South Africa, Canada, Zimbabwe and the US.

Many of the dead elephants were found near watering holes, but until now the wildlife authorities had doubted that the bacteria were to blame because the blooms appear on the edges of ponds and elephants tend to drink from the middle.

image copyrightSupplied

“Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are bacteria found in water,” the Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ Principal Veterinary Officer Mmadi Reuben told a press conference on Monday.

The deaths “stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of [water] pans”, AFP quotes him as saying.

Reports in June noted that tusks had not been removed. Poaching has been ruled out as cause of death, as has anthrax poisoning, according to senior wildlife department official Cyril Taolo.

But questions still remain about the deaths, Mr Reuben told reporters.

“We have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only. We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating.”

image copyrightSupplied

Hundreds of carcasses were spotted with the help of aerial surveys earlier this year.

Dr Niall McCann, of the UK-based charity National Park Rescue, previously told the BBC that local conservationists first alerted the government in early May, after they undertook a flight over the delta.

“They spotted 169 in a three-hour flight,” he said. “To be able to see and count that many in a three-hour flight was extraordinary.

What is cyanobacteria?

image copyrightDe Agostini/Getty Images

  • Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, is found worldwide especially in calm, nutrient-rich waters
  • Some species of cyanobacteria produce toxins that affect animals and humans
  • People may be exposed to cyanobacterial toxins by drinking or bathing in contaminated water
  • Symptoms include skin irritation, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, fever, sore throat, headache
  • Animals, birds, and fish can also be poisoned by high levels of toxin-producing cyanobacteria.

Source: WHO

Related Topics

  • Botswana

  • Wildlife
  • Elephants

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Australia’s coronavirus lockdown strategy worked. Could this be a model for the US?

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But Andrews — a Labor Party politician who has run Australia’s second-largest state since 2014 — has remained popular with Victorians throughout the lockdown, local polls show. And this week, his hardline approach was thoroughly vindicated.
On Sunday, Victoria recorded just 11 new coronavirus cases, down from over 670 at the height of the most recent outbreak last month. Next week, Melbourne will begin lifting some restrictions if new cases remain below a fortnightly average of 50 per day. A nightly curfew is slated to remain in effect until October 26.
“We can do this,” Andrews tweeted Sunday, echoing his words at the beginning of the lockdown: “We are Victorians — and we will get through this as Victorians. With grit, with guts and together.”
And while it may have provoked outrage from some elements of the Australian media, and criticism from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Victoria’s experience shows once again that targeted lockdowns are effective in containing the coronavirus: driving down infections, relieving pressure on hospitals and medical staff, and creating space for contact tracing and mass testing.
This was first shown in China, where the government imposed an intense lockdown on Wuhan, the city where cases of the virus were first detected late last year. Wuhan spent 76-days under lockdown, which was finally lifted as the daily caseload slowed to a trickle.
That was back in April, and now Wuhan is basically back to normal, even able to host massive water park raves without much concern. And the model has been successfully applied to other cities across China, including the capital Beijing, suppressing new spikes as they appear and keeping national figures down.

“The Covid-19 epidemic in our country has gone through four waves,” Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Saturday. “Besides the first wave (in Wuhan), the other epidemic waves were clusters that were regional and small-scale and were effectively controlled.”

For some lockdown skeptics, China’s experience was easy to dismiss: the country is an authoritarian, one-party state, and its methods could not necessarily be applied in democracies.

But the situation in Victoria proves that the lockdown strategy does work elsewhere, and that, given the proper information and reassurances, people are willing to make the sacrifices required to contain the virus.

With the outbreak in Victoria contained, the number of cases throughout the rest of Australia has continued to trend down. On Sunday, New South Wales, which includes Sydney, reported four new cases, while Queensland state reported just one.

New Zealand too, which on Monday began reducing social distancing regulations after daily cases dropped to zero, has seen positive results from lockdowns, enabling the country to return to relative normality far faster than nations which did not take such measures.

Elsewhere, however, lockdown strategies have been less successful, with partial closures bringing with them the misery of a full lockdown while not actually containing infections. This could make it far more difficult to introduce further restrictions in future, such as when infections spike in winter months, as most experts believe will happen.
There is also considerable political resistance to lockdowns, or even partial shutdowns, in some countries, particularly the United States, where last week Attorney General William Barr said a nationwide closure would be the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” in history “other than slavery.”
Potential lockdowns have also provoked backlash in the European Union and United Kingdom in recent days, despite a spike in case numbers across the continent.

The US, however, remains the worst hit country in the world, with more than 6.7 million coronavirus cases and almost 200,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. As those figures potentially rise through winter, and with less and less reason to go outside, some people may start to reconsider their anti-lockdown sentiment.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that authorities in Melbourne would consider lifting a nighttime curfew next week. The curfew is currently in effect until October 26.

CNN’s Angus Watson and Eric Cheung contributed reporting.



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Cruz: Ginsburg was ‘one of the finest Supreme Court litigators to have ever lived’

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“He obviously worked every day with Justice Ginsburg, and I will say he admired what a careful lawyer she was,” he said. “Consistently of the lawyers on the left, of the judges on the left. Chief Justice Rehnquist was always most willing to give an important opinion to Justice Ginsburg because she wrote narrow, careful opinions.”

Cruz also honed in on the importance of filling Ginsburg’s vacancy with a constitutionalist judge ahead of the November election. The senator had been on President Donald Trump’s shortlist of Supreme Court nominees.

“We’re one vote away from seeing our religious liberty rights stripped away, from our free speech stripped away, from our Second Amendment stripped away,” he added. “This election matters, and I think it is the most important issue in 2020 — electing presidents and a Senate who will nominate and confirm strong constitutionalists to the court.”

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