Seagull Weekly Briefing 20/03

All the top stories in the city.

Seagull Weekly Briefing 20/03
Source: The Brighton Seagull 
Seagull Weekly Briefing 2003

Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Monday Briefing. It's an exciting week: the clocks go forward this weekend, the Volks returns next week,  and spring is drawing closer with every day that passes. Longer days, warmer weather—we can almost smell the barbecues and hear our hammock calling.

In The Seagull this week, Rosy Gee shared with us her childhood memories of Brighton in the 1960s. We too have worried we'd fall through the slats on the pier—she's not alone on that one!

Childhood Memories: Black Rock, Brighton rock, and falling through the slats
Rosy Gee recounts her fond childhood memories of family visits to Brighton in the 1960s.
This edition of The Brighton Seagull is sponsored by Cybersyn, a friendly digital analytics consultancy based right here in Brighton.

News This Week

University employee who defrauded the university out of £2.4 million jailed for six years

A picture of the University of Brighton's Checkland Building
Source: Michael John Wilson

In a thrilling conclusion to the fraud story we broke last April, a University of Brighton employee who stole more than £2 million in cash over 30 years has been jailed.

David Hall, 64, of Shepherds Way in Ringmer, appeared at Hove Crown Court on Thursday 16th March, where he was sentenced to six years in jail. He had previously pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position, theft by an employee and false accounting.

In his position as the head of Income and Payments at the university, he embezzled around £2.4 million, covering up his activity through fraudulent entries in the university’s accounts.

An independent financial investigation commissioned by the university, alongside the police investigation, uncovered a complex string of financial cover-ups by Hall which were only revealed through forensic scrutiny.

He was on holiday in France when the university contacted him about the theft, the court heard, to which he replied: "I guess I should have come clean sooner. I’m going to jail."

During the trial Hall claimed the frauds had first started due to his own personal debts.

Addressing Hall at court, HH Judge Chapple said:

The scale and breadth of your dishonesty over 30 years is breathtaking. It was systematic, persistent dishonesty, causing stress, heartache and pressure on other employees.

Where did it go? On holidays and fine dining.

Judge Chapple added that ordinary members of the public who face debt day in, day out, would not dream of being dishonest, and said Hall’s actions were motivated by greed.

Hall's defence, Tom Nicholson-Pratt, told the court of Hall's poor background and experiences with bailiffs, as well as credit card debt.

When Nicholson-Pratt said Hall should be considered of good character, Judge Chapple replied: "Can I really give him the credit of good character when he’s been acting dishonestly for 30 years?"

The university sent an impact statement, describing the effect of Hall's actions on staff, finances, the student experience and the university's reputation, saying staff in the finance department are under extra pressure, workload, and there's now an 'atmosphere of suspicion', as well as worries over future funding.

Investigator Rose Horan said:

Over time, Hall’s activity became more difficult for him to conceal.

After an audit uncovered the scale of Hall’s embezzlement, the University of Brighton was quick to report the fraud to Sussex Police and their support throughout the investigation has been invaluable in bringing David Hall to justice.

Despite 30 years of dishonesty, the judge considered Mr Hall's candour once his actions were uncovered, and reduced what would have been a nine year sentence by one third.

The university's impact statement categorised the damage done, including its impact on fellow staff. Confiscation will take its course over the next few months but it is likely that the full amount will not be recovered.

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🖋 News in Brief 🖋

  • The Great British Spring Clean launched on Friday, and runs until Sunday 2nd April. To celebrate this, the council is organising cleaning, weeding and litter picking events to prepare for the spring and summer. You can find all the events they have planned here.
  • The hire bikes are coming back! As of Friday 31st March, 75 brand-new Beryl BTN e-bikes will hit the streets, across 19 different bike hubs in the city. This number will increase in coming months to a total of 468 e-bikes and 312 regular bikes across Brighton and Hove, including 15 new hubs. We don't know about prices yet, but we do know the e-bikes will cost more to rent than the push bikes. Download the Beryl app now so you're ready for the big day!
  • Seagull saves pigeons: The Seagull was incredibly distressed to hear of an injured pigeon in Imperial Arcade last week. After making some calls, he is being looked after at South Coast and Sussex Bird/Gull Volunteer Network, where his injured leg can be healed.

Our deputy editor also startled a fox who was carrying a pigeon in its mouth (the pigeon flew away), so we're all heroes here.

  • Volks returns NEXT WEEK!!! Saturday 1st!!! 12 days!!!

Swoop in

If you have a story for Seagull, please get in touch with our editor at [email protected].

The Big One

16-year-old girl and family who fled Sudan have asylum application denied; school fighting to overturn it

Source: Georgia Hamilton

What's happening? A 16-year-old girl whose asylum application was rejected is fighting to stay in Brighton, along with the support of her school.

Who is she? Ann Bashir, her mum Giehan Yassi and her older sister Enji Bashir fled Sudan in 2020; they have not heard from her father since leaving and he is missing, presumed dead. They worry he was killed for protesting against president Omar al-Bashir, something which her mum and sister were arrested for in 2019 and which prompted their fleeing Sudan. They came to Brighton to live with Ann's aunt.

What happened since moving to Brighton? Ann has attended Cardinal Newman High School in Hove, and is about to take her GCSEs. Since her family's asylum application was rejected in November, they were forced to move to a detention centre in Tower Hamlets where she commutes from each day—a three hour round trip. Despite this, her school says she has never missed a day.

A petition started by her school is now at more than 6,300 signatures. Georgia Hamilton, who started the petition, said:

For three years, our friend and her family have been living in the UK and have become valued members of our community, especially at our school. But now they face the threat of being deported, through no fault of their own.

We do not want to put Ann in danger. We do not want to lose a valued member of the community. We refuse to accept that our friend may be at risk.

This family has already faced prosecution from the Sudanese government and it is extremely unlikely if they were to return, that the same government would treat them fairly.

A vigil was held by her school on Tuesday, attended by hundreds of students, councillors and Peter Kyle, MP for Hove, in which a letter written by Ann was read out.  She thanked the school for the work they've been doing, which has been led by house captains, and she shared her family's story, calling their experience 'a nightmare that can never be forgotten'.

She explained how during 2018, frustrations were growing due to president Omar Al Bashir's strict rules, which led to demonstrations calling for a civilian government. She said:  

We, as a family, joined these peaceful protests, wanting to voice our concerns.

Al Bashir’s services oppressed the demonstrations with violence and tear gas. People died and most of us were injured.

Despite the violence we didn’t give up and  we continued to demonstrate.

We lived in fear of terrorism during this time. We feared being killed, raped, threatened with detention, and other things words can’t describe.

But we never regretted that we stood up for freedom and justice for ourselves and country.

What has Peter Kyle said? Peter Kyle said:

Ann is in her final year of study for her GCSEs and as part of the asylum system in this country she is allowed to appeal and continue to study.

‘To haul her out of Hove, where she has a huge circle of friends and support, drop her in Tower Hamlets and disrupt her studies at this crucial moment is a disgrace.

What has the Home Office said? Their rejection of the appeal was due to, they said, 'not well-founded' fears. When we emailed them for a comment, they said:

All asylum applications are considered on their individual merits in line with the asylum rules and the evidence presented.

We do not routinely comment on individual cases.

What happens now? Ann's family are appealing the case and hope to be heard soon. Ann hopes to become a psychotherapist working with young people with trauma.

What can I do to help? Sign the petition and email your local councillors and MP to call on them to support Ann and her family, and ask them to write to the Home Office about their decision.

That's all for this week—please subscribe, and forward to friends who might be interested!