Stoke-on-Trent City Council Agree Out Of Court Settlement With Jeanette McGarry

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have agreed an out of court settlement for an undisclosed amount, with former Director Of Housing Environment & Neighbourhood Services Jeanette McGarry.

As previously reported on Pits n Pots it is believed that the action by Mrs McGarry was based on comments made by Council Chief Executive John van de Laarshcot about her at meetings in the Civic Centre.

Jeanette worked for Stoke-on-Trent City Council as Director of Housing, Environmental and Neighbourhood Services from June 2009 to April 2010. Sadly towards the latter part of her first year’s employment, Jeanette was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Her employment came to an end in April 2010 and an amicable resolution was reached which allowed her to focus upon fighting and recovering from her illness.

Jeanette was appointed as the Director of Housing, Environmental and Neighbourhood Services and was a full member of the Corporate Directors’ Board. In that role Jeanette managed a large portfolio of services with 1,249 employees, four Heads of Service reporting to her and responsibility for a budget of £132 million of expenditure and £91 million of income generation.
These services covered a wide range of activities and were all high impact public facing services. Jeanette relished the challenge posed by Stoke-on-Trent City Council being in “government intervention” and worked with and developed excellent relationships with elected members and partners.

During Jeanette’s time with the Council it achieved Government funding of £177 million for supported housing schemes, and under her directorship the City was the first city council to achieve 10:10 status (reduction of carbon footprint by 10% during 2010) and also met the Government recycling targets for the first time ever.

Without admission of liability, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and its insurers have paid Jeanette an undisclosed sum in settlement of her employment and libel claims. The Council wishes Jeanette well in her future career.

Sources within the Civic Centre have also told Pits n Pots that John van de Laarshcot was advised against making the public statement about Mrs McGarry and the termination of her employment with the council last April but continued to do so against the advice.

Police Rat Trap Secures 16 Arrests In Stoke-on-Trent

Over the past 6 weeks Staffordshire Police have been targeting those involved in the theft of motorbikes with a police “ËœRat Trap’. Detectives from the City’s proactive unit placed a motorbike in areas affected by this sort of crime and lay in wait until someone attempted to steal the very ordinary looking vehicle.

Motorbikes which were previously seized by police, and were facing destruction for being driven without insurance or other serious motoring offences were used. Using this approach the motorcycles were regularly changed to ensure the offenders never know which vehicle was being used as part of the rat trap.

Arrests were made in the Cobridge, Fegg Hayes, Tunstall, Fenton and Abbey Hulton areas of the city arresting people aged between 12 and 35. A number of those arrested and charged in connection with the theft of the rat trap are awaiting sentence.

Detective Inspector Jim Wood who leads the proactive team said ‘This operation has been extremely successful at tackling those involved in this sort of crime. We know that these stolen motorbikes are often involved in causing anti-social behaviour or involved in accidents. This week we have changed the vehicles we are using as part of this operation. My message to any person who may consider being involved in vehicle crime is that you can never be sure that you’re not about to be caught in our “ËœRat Trap’.’

Pupils in the Magistrates Court

Today I had the good fortune to drive one of the car loads of Trentham High pupils to Stafford magistrates court for a schools competition.

Pupils took roles in a mock trial, conducted in real court rooms, from a brief they had been given and prepared for in advance. The team from each school comprised at least; 3 magistrates, two prosecution lawyers, two defence lawyers, a legal advisor, a prosecution witness, a police witness, a defence witness and the defendant.

4 schools had entered the competition for our local area and the teams rotated such that each school was in the trial twice, as each side of prosecution vs defence; Trentham vs Biddulph, Biddulph vs Endon, Endon vs Thomas Boughey, Thomas Boughey vs Trentham. The magistrates team for each trial was seven rather than three, allowing for three from each of two schools and headed by a real magistrate. The pupils had worked hard and conducted their trials extremely well. The schools were judged on how they conducted all their relevant roles.

For me as an observer it was a fascinating day. The day was extremely well run, when we arrived there was a large team of real magistrates and court staff to welcome us, show us the courts, assist with the organization and answer questions.

At the point in each trial when the magistrates retired to consider their verdict, other magistrates talked to the rest of us in the court room about magistrates and court processes and answered questions. Some points discussed covered that magistrates are unpaid. They get expenses, not like MPs for duck houses and the like, but much more modest covering basic travel and a small lunch allowance. The process for becoming a magistrate starts with an interview to assess the ability to apply fairness and common sense and involves training with regular updates and appraisal. Ideally they include a representative range of population between the ages of 18 and 70. My personal opinion is the cut off at 70 is unfairly ageist and there must be people over 70 who could make a good contribution as magistrates. If magistrates have good skills in common sense I would think they should be capable of assessing for themselves whether any issues, connected with age or not, affect whether they should continue or step down. Magistrates have to do a minimum of 35 half day sessions per year. To me this would for some people be difficult in terms of being released from work.

Magistrates preside over the more minor cases leading to non-custodial sentences or short custodial sentences. Major cases are referred on to crown court. There is a chance of appeal against a guilty verdict. Defendants who plead guilty can expect a reduction of about a third in the punishment. Interestingly if a defendant states they are innocent but that they want to plead guilty to avoid the trial process and get it over with quickly, their plea can be denied by the magistrates. One pupil asked an extremely pertinent question. If a defendant wants to plead guilty in this way, but is denied this, then they are found guilty at trial, do they get the normal reduction in sentence? The answer seemed to be that the initial intention regarding the plea should be recorded so that out of fairness the reduced sentence should be given.

For one of the trials, while the magistrates were out deliberating a poll was done of us observers in the court, of which there were a fair number, as to whether we would find the defendant guilty or not guilty. We agreed unanimously on a not guilty verdict. However, when the magistrates returned the verdict was guilty. That was very interesting. Ordinarily even if the magistrates don’t unanimously agree, this is not revealed. But for the purpose of this exercise it was explained that the pupil magistrates were evenly split 3-3. That wasn’t one school on one side and one on the other, there was a split within school groups. So in the end the real magistrate had to decide. A real case like that would likely go to appeal.

Thanks to all the magistrates and court staff for giving up their own time to put on this valuable event for the schools. Thanks also to the teachers and other supporters. It was a very positive experience for all. A district judge spoke at the end and gave every encouragement to the pupils, praising their hard working and responsible attitude, which is the real norm in young people in contrast to the impression which could be gained from some of the real individuals facing trial at the courts. He pointed out that there were no losers in the competition, as they had all won by entering and contributing so well. Each school gained a trophy and all pupils got a certificate. A great enjoyable and informative day out was had by all.

Congratulations go to Endon for winning the competition. They go on now to compete with others at a larger regional level as part of this national competition.

Christmas Drink & Drug Driving Campaign Begins

The annual campaign to target drink and drug drivers in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire has begun in a bid to cut fatal and serious road traffic collisions and protect other road users.

In last years campaign in Stoke-on-Trent officers recorded 21 positive breath tests out of a total of the 442 they carried out. This was a slight improvement on 2007/08 which saw 452 tests carried out, and 24 proving positive. It is hoped that this years campaign will see a further reduction in positive tests.

Les Dyble, Staffordshire Police’s Traffic Management Officer, said: “Police officers will carry out random road-side stop-checks on vehicles and their drivers during the campaign. Any driver that an officer suspects has consumed alcohol or drugs or has committed a moving traffic offence will be required to provide a road-side breath test for analysis. Motorists involved in road traffic collisions are also breath-tested as a matter of routine."

“People going out for a drink with friends or family, or even staying at home and having a drink but driving the next morning, should think of the consequences of drink driving. You should always ensure you are fit to drive. The more alcohol you consume the longer it takes to clear your body. Remember, you can’t calculate your own alcohol level, but the police can.”

Driving while under the influence of drink or drugs is dangerous, against the law and has short and long term consequences:

  • when you are caught you will be breath tested and, if positive, arrested
  • you will be taken to a police station and if the station test is positive, or you fail or refuse to provide a blood or urine sample, you will be charged
  • you will attend court and if found guilty, be banned from driving for at least 12 months. You will have to pay a hefty fine, court costs and may be given a prison sentence.

What happens next?

  • losing your licence may mean losing your job and your standard of living
  • you will lose the respect of friends and family and you will have a criminal record
  • you may be banned from travelling to some countries. When you can drive again you will pay a lot more for insurance cover.

If someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of your involvement in a road traffic collision, you could be charged with a more serious offence. The consequences of this could mean:

  • your driving ban will be longer
  • your fine will be bigger
  • you are more likely to go to prison
  • great trauma for the victims and families of those killed or seriously injured which will stay with you and them for the rest of their lives

Mr Dyble added: “You already know the consequences; you’ve read the Highway Code and passed your driving test. You should know that the law applies to you."

“Remember, drinking and drug driving is anti social, against the law and wrecks lives and families. The family could be yours."

“Is drink or drug driving worth the risk of these consequences?”