Former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie has denied sexually assaulting a woman 11 years ago.
Mr Leslie, 54, is accused of sexually touching the woman, then aged 30, without her consent in Westminster on 5 December 2008.
Judge Jeffrey Pedgen released Mr Leslie on unconditional bail after he pleaded not guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday.
Mr Leslie, from Edinburgh, is due to stand trial in March 2020.
He presented BBC’s Blue Peter between 1989 and 1994 with co-hosts including Caron Keating, Tim Vincent, Anthea Turner and Diane-Louise Jordan.
Mr Leslie, whose full name is John Leslie Stott, then went on to present ITV’s This Morning and was also a regular host of the Wheel of Fortune game show.
A lightning strike and the sudden loss of two large electricity generators caused nearly a million people to lose power in England and Wales earlier this month, an interim report has found.
The National Grid outage affected homes, businesses and transport, and while power was restored quite quickly, disruption continued into the next day.
Regulator Ofgem has opened an investigation into National Grid and other companies involved.
That could involve a financial penalty.
Ofgem said its investigation “would try to establish what lessons can be drawn from the power cut to ensure that steps can be taken to further improve the resilience of Britain’s energy network”.
The regulator will also establish whether the companies involved breached their licence conditions.
Any punishment could involve a fine of 10% of the firms’ turnover, an order to pay money to charities to help less well-off consumers, or to put cash into a fund to compensate those who lost out because of the power cuts.
Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s executive director of systems and networks, said: “It’s important that the industry takes all possible steps to prevent this happening again.”
A National Grid spokesperson said: “It is now right and proper that the investigation looks at the system-wide performance of the energy networks on 9 August, in both the performance of the electricity system, and subsequent significant disruption to transports networks and critical infrastructure.”
Rare and unexpected event
The power cut, which happened just before 17:00 BST on Friday 9 August, caused blackouts across the Midlands, the South East, South West, North West and North East of England, and Wales.
Thousands of homes lost power, people were stranded on trains and traffic lights stopped working
Power was restored by 17:40 BST, but problems on the rail network carried on over the weekend.
Two almost simultaneous unexpected power losses at Hornsea and Little Barford occurred independently of one another – but each associated with the lightning strike.
The main reason why there were so many travel problems was that about 60 Govia Thameslink trains were affected by the outage.
About half were able to restart when power was restored, but the other 30 required engineers to be despatched to restart them, and the delay to them moving again caused a backlog.
At the height of the Friday rush hour, all trains out of King’s Cross were suspended and remained so for most of the evening.
And by 21:00 BST, more than 1,000 passengers appeared to be stranded at the station, with London North Eastern Railway and National Rail advising customers not to travel for the rest of the day.
One passenger told the BBC her train took nearly 13 hours to reach London King’s Cross from Edinburgh – a journey that would normally take fewer than five hours.
As well as Network Rail, other critical infrastructure affected on the day included London Underground’s Victoria Line and Newcastle Airport.
Problems were also caused at Ipswich Hospital, where the back-up generator, which was supposed to supply power to outpatient areas, did not work after the outage because of a faulty battery.
This affected outpatients, X-rays, scans and pathology for nearly half an hour, but the hospital stressed no patients were put at risk.
By Dominic O’Connell, Today programme business presenter
Like the opening scene of an Agatha Christie novel, National Grid’s preliminary investigation into the power cut 10 days ago is replete with clues and plausible villains, but lacks a final verdict on who or what cut the power.
There is a handy timeline of events – a lightning strike before 17:00 BST, the failure of two big power generators a few seconds later, and the subsequent loss of electricity across part of the country.
The authors though tread carefully when ascribing causality. The report says the power station failures were “associated” with the strike, but points out that such strikes are not uncommon, and would normally not lead to power stations going offline. It also says there were many other lightning hits on the same day, none of which caused a problem.
That gap at the heart of the report is what Ofgem will now investigate. It will want to know whether the lightning did cause the power station failures, and if so, how?
It will also explore whether there were other problems at the power stations that caused them to go offline, and whether the lightning strike is in reality a red herring.
There are other issues further down the chain to be resolved too. Once the power was cut, customers were automatically disconnected. Did that happen in the right order, or should critical users, including hospitals and power supplies for transport, be the last to be unplugged?
The answers could make uncomfortable reading for National Grid and the other companies involved in the power cut.
‘Great case study’
Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, told the BBC’s Today programme the incident raised plenty of questions.
“What are the most critical elements of our infrastructure across this country and which elements do you turn off first?” he said.
“Have we got that order of priority right? And so why was it the railways went down as opposed to those of us living at home not losing some of our electricity?”
Sir John added: “The important thing is this a great case study in a way. It is a very unfortunate one, a lot of people were impacted by it, but it is something which everyone involved can learn from.”
Ofgem is to investigate National Grid ESO, National Grid Electricity Transmission, 12 distribution network operators in England and Wales, as well as generators RWE Generation (Little Barford Power station) and Orsted (Hornsea) in relation to the power cut.
The distribution companies are part of six network groups: Electricity North West Limited, Northern Powergrid, Scottish and Southern Energy, ScottishPower Energy Networks, UK Power Networks and Western Power Distribution.
The National Grid has to publish a final, technical report by 6 September and any Ofgem enforcement action will follow after that.
Dutch-owned firm Abellio has taken over the East Midlands rail franchise, promising £600m of investment.
It won the eight-year contract after Stagecoach was disqualified from bidding as it refused to take on pension liabilities.
Abellio, owned by the Dutch government-owned rail firm, has promised new trains, 165 new carriages, and improved infrastructure.
East Midlands Trains will now be called East Midlands Railway (EMR).
The rail franchise had been operated by Stagecoach since 2007.
The company – owned by the state-owned operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen – already operates five other rail franchises, including Scotrail and Greater Anglia services between Norwich and London.
Part of Abellio’s investment will include a complete overhaul of the rail stock, with new high-speed Hitachi intercity rail trains.
It said £400m would be spent on 33 five-carriage trains, which will include air conditioning, wi-fi and plug sockets for passengers.
The new intercity trains will begin serving cities and towns like Sheffield, Chesterfield, Derby, Leicester, London, and Lincoln by 2022.
Abellio managing director Dominic Booth said: “[The new trains] will respond to what our passengers have told us they want with more frequent services, faster journeys between the East Midlands and London, and provide more capacity.”
‘Believe it when I see it’
Vicky Henry travels from Nottingham to London about eight times a year.
She said: “I’ll believe [the investment] it when I see it. They always talk about investing money but the whole set-up of the network means any improvements come from the state, not the individual train operators.”
One daily commuter from Burton-upon-Trent to Nottingham said: “Recently there have been a lot of delays and cancellations so I’m not particularly happy with the service.
“The investment is certainly welcome, and hopefully the delays can be either stopped or reduced so the trains can run a bit better.”
Sophie Harrison frequently travels between Nottingham and Leicestershire.
The Nottingham Trent University student said: “New trains will make the railways more user-friendly, especially if there are more services.”
Arsenal, Manchester City, Glasgow City and Hibernian will learn their Women’s Champions League last-32 opponents when the draw is made on Friday [12:30 BST].
Women’s Super League champions Arsenal are back in the competition for the first time since 2013-14.
Hibernian pipped Welsh side Cardiff Met in qualifying, joining Scottish champions Glasgow City and England’s top two clubs in the knockout stages.
French side Lyon have won the European title in each of the past four seasons.
Last-32 ties will be played over two legs in September, with the first legs on 11-12 September and the second legs on 25-26 September.
Lyon – whose squad contains England quartet Lucy Bronze, Nikita Parris, Alex Greenwood and Izzy Christiansen – are the favourites to lift the trophy again at this season’s final in Vienna, Austria on 24 May 2020.
Arsenal and Hibs are both unseeded for Friday’s draw and fans will hope their side avoid a tie against one of the stronger seeded sides, including the holders and last season’s beaten finalists, Barcelona.
The Gunners are the only British women’s club side to have won a major European title, lifting the title in 2007 as they secured a quadruple of trophies.
Chelsea reached last season’s semi-finals in Europe but their third-place finish in the WSL last term saw them miss out on qualification for this campaign.
BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.
FirstGroup is to take over the running of the West Coast mainline train route, connecting London Euston to Glasgow Central, from December.
Along with Italian firm Trenitalia, FirstGroup said the route would pave the way for an era of high-speed rail.
First Trenitalia replaces Virgin Trains, which was barred from bidding to keep the route.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the bid was part of a shift to a new model for rail.
Mr Shapps said the partnership was supported by Keith Williams, who has been commissioned to look at changes to the rail franchising system and who has told the BBC that government involvement should be limited to overall policy and budget decisions.
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The transport secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was a “new type of contract, the idea here is that the risk is shared so that when it comes to the changes that Keith Williams has proposed this is fully compliant with it.
“We need them [the rail companies] paid for running the blooming trains on time and not for doing a bunch of other things. And that’s what this new contract on the West Coast is about.”
The new partnership will operate in two phases. The first will run from 8 December to March 2026, when First Trenitalia will operate the existing InterCity West Coast services. The second phase will run from March 2026 to March 2031, when it will operate the HS2 high-speed rail service.
It said its 56 Pendolino trains would be completely refurbished, with more reliable free Wi-Fi and better catering. By 2022, it says, it will offer more than 260 extra services each week, increasing seat miles by more than 10% compared with 2017-18. This will cost £117m, the Department for Transport said.
The trains that run up and down the West Coast Main Line are called Pendolinos, with underlying technology supplied by what was Fiat Ferroviaria. Fitting, then, that an Italian company should finally start running the line – Trenitalia is the joint venture partner of First Group in the new West Coast franchise.
Some rail commentators greeted this morning’s announcement with surprise: not that First Group and the Italians had won it, but that a decision had been made at all.
The government’s franchising policy has been in disarray, with legal challenges, an abandoned competition, and in the background, a wide-ranging review of how the railways are run.
The findings of that review, by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams, are about to be published, so why award an important franchise just when the railways might be on the brink of another reorganisation?
The Department for Transport says the West Coast deal is, in fact, a vision of things to come and has Mr Williams’ blessing.
It is apparently flexible enough to cope with whatever he recommends and the indications are that his main finding – that Network Rail should take a big role in the strategic direction of the railway – won’t much impinge on this franchise.
Another potential trap awaits, however. Stagecoach, one of the First Group’s rivals, was in the running for the West Coast deal until it was blocked from bidding, because it refused to take on pensions risk. It has won the right to a judicial review of that decision.
‘Risk v reward’
FirstGroup, based in Aberdeen, is being awarded the contract at a time when it has been overhauling its business, seeking a buyer for its Greyhound buses in the US. It is also looking at spinning off its UK bus division, First Bus.
Its First Rail business also operates the South Western Railway and TransPennine Express.
Its chief executive, Matthew Gregory, had indicated the group’s train franchises could be reviewed, depending on the terms offered by the government.
However, Mr Gregory’s concerns about the profitability of train franchises appear to have been addressed by the Department for Transport.
Mr Gregory said: “The differences between this contract and more traditional rail franchises were reflected in the terms set out by the [Department for Transport], which has resulted in a more appropriate balance of risks and rewards for us as operators.
“The West Coast Partnership’s first phase allows us to earn returns on the significant investments in services and facilities for passengers, but protected by a much improved revenue risk-sharing mechanism.
“This will transition to a management contract in the second phase, ensuring we can really focus on using the respective skills and experience within our joint venture to deliver the desired benefits of the HS2 project for passengers and the country.”
‘Flawed franchising system’
The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, described it as a “another political fix by a government whose privatised franchise model is collapsing around their ears” and warned it was “doomed to failure and sure to result in yet more rail chaos”.
Questions about the rail franchising system were raised last week, when the government cancelled the competition to operate rail services between London, Kent and parts of East Sussex – currently run by Southeastern.
The awarding of the West Coast Mainline route prompted Labour to renewed its call to nationalise the railways.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “Awarding a complex contract for both the West Coast Partnership and HS2 services to FirstGroup, a company with questions over its finances, is a gross error of judgement.”
But Paul Plummer, chief executive of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Virgin-Stagecoach have brought significant benefits to passengers on the West Coast route including nearly tripling the number of trains between London and Manchester. We have no doubt that First Trenitalia will build on that record with plans for new trains and more services.”
‘Book travel as normal’
But Mr Shapps told the BBC: “Privatisation has allowed the railway to expand massively – twice as many people, twice as many journeys and record number of people travelling on our railways, so I don’t think nationalisation is the answer at all. Why would you put politicians in control?”
The Department for Transport said the new contract award was a “significant move away from the previous flawed franchising system” and would use a forecast revenue mechanism (FRM) – which offers protection against shortfalls in estimated revenues – to avoid a repeat of the issues that affected the previous East Coast Main Line franchise.
Last year, services on the East Coast Main Line were brought back under government control.
FirstGroup said that if such a system had been in use on its South Western Railway and TransPennine Express, these contracts would have remained profitable.
A spokesperson for Virgin Trains – which has operated train services for 22 years – said it would work with First Trenitalia to “ensure a seamless handover for customers, who should still book and travel as normal”.
The Department for Transport said that by December 2022, there would be 263 extra train services every week, with Motherwell set to become a major calling point for most West Coast Partnership services. Direct services from London to destinations including Llandudno and Gobowen will now be introduced, while Walsall will get its first direct InterCity services.
Subject to approval from the Office of Rail and Road, First Trenitalia will operate two trains an hour between Liverpool and London – a route that Virgin Trains had said it also hopes to run by launching a new hourly train service between the two cities from May 2021.
More than £100,000 has been donated to help the family of a vulnerable teenager who went missing while on holiday in Malaysia.
Some 350 people are taking part in the search for 15-year-old Nora Quoirin, who disappeared from her room at the Dusan resort on 4 August.
Two crowdfunding sites have been set up to raise funds as the search continues.
Police are treating it as a missing persons case but Nora’s family believe she may have been abducted.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Met Police have joined Irish police in providing support to authorities in Malaysia.
Search teams are currently covering an area of about 1.5 square miles (four square km) with locals also joining the operation.
Personnel have described conditions in the jungle as “difficult” with the weather hot and muggy.
More than £89,000 has been donated on a page set up by Nora’s aunt, while another site set up by her uncle to allow people to pay in euros has raised over 14,000 euros (£13,000).
The money is intended to cover expenses incurred by the family while the operation goes on.
According to the missing persons charity the Lucie Blackman Trust, which is supporting the family, Nora’s parents are also considering offering a reward for help to find her.
The Quoirins, an Irish-French family who have lived in London for 20 years, arrived at the Dusun forest eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state on 3 August.
Nora was discovered missing from her room the following morning with her bedroom window open.
The 15-year-old was born with holoprosencephaly, a disorder which affects brain development, meaning that her communication is limited and she struggles with co-ordination.
Her family have said she is “not independent and does not go anywhere alone”.
Malaysian police have set up a hotline – 0111 2285058 – to give information to help the search.
LBT have also provided a phone number and an email address – +448000988485 or email email@example.com.