Seagull Weekly Briefing 06/03
Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Monday Briefing. This week it looks like we might be getting some snow, so wrap up warm and pop some tea in a thermos—but before you leave, make sure to warm your brain with the latest news in Brighton and Hove—or listen below, as we're now recording the briefing so you can listen to it whenever you want. On the bus, in the shower, when running for a train...
News This Week
University employee convicted of £2.4 million fraud
A University of Brighton employee who stole more than £2 million in cash over a 30-year period has been convicted in court.
David Hall, 64, of Shepherds Way in Ringmer, worked as the university's head of income and payments. During his time there, he embezzled around £2.4 million, covering up his activity through fraudulent entries in the university’s accounts.
In November 2021, the university discovered the fraud and reported the matter to Sussex Police. We broke the story after the information was circulated in a Universities and Colleges Union newsletter.
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 admitted his offences soon after and was charged with fraud by abuse of position, theft by an employee and false accounting, pleading guilty to all charges at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.
He is due to be sentenced at a court to be confirmed on 16 March.
Investigator Rose Horan said:
Year after year, the hole in the university’s finances became larger and more difficult for Hall 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.
I would like to thank them for their cooperation and will now look ahead to the sentencing next month.
Pietro Addis found not guilty of murdering grandmother
Pietro Addis has been found not guilty of murdering Sue Addis after stabbing her seventeen times while she was in the bath, including fatal injuries to her chest and neck, in January 2021.
The 19-year-old was acquitted on Friday 3rd March, due to 'diminished responsibility', having previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
At Lewes Crown Court, the jury deliberated for just six hours before finding him not guilty.
The court heard during the trial that he suffered from a 'brief psychosis' and delusions that his grandmother wanted to kill him.
Sue Addis, who was 69 when she died, was the owner of Donatello's and Pinocchio's, popular restaurants in The Lanes and North Laine. The court was told about the special relationship the pair had; Addis lived with his grandmother and they were very close.
Addis has been remanded in custody. A sentencing hearing for manslaughter is set for Friday 5th May.
Fabrica ends large-scale exhibition and volunteer programmes due to loss of funding
Art gallery and event space Fabrica is being forced to make cuts as Arts Council England (ACE) will be ending their funding for the venue next month.
The funding, which was a third of their annual income, has come at a time of rising costs and several other funding losses over the years.
As a result, they are ending their large-scale exhibition programme from April this year, and ending the volunteer programme.
This is an extremely difficult decision that will have a profound negative impact on our audiences, our commissioning opportunities for artists and our volunteer programme.
Over the past 25 years, Fabrica has consistently presented a programme of high-quality exhibitions, artist commissioning and support.
(These) have diversified Brighton and Hove’s visual arts offer, developed new audiences for the visual arts and raised the ambition of our sector to produce and present excellent work here.
The exhibition programme is the 'main driver and draw' for the volunteers Fabrica work with.
However, they say Fabrica will not be closing its doors any time soon. Moving forward, the focus will be on audience engagement and commercial income so they can continue to do charity work with various individuals and groups in the community. They said:
Our aim is to reach and connect with people who face barriers to accessing the arts, by providing vital arts and wellbeing programmes for at-risk individuals.
In the meantime, we are planning a programme of events and film screenings for 2023 and we will continue to present works by up and coming photographers via the In Between Gallery, Fabrica’s picture window into Duke Street.
They also said how they will have greater flexibility to work with local and national arts programmers, artists and other creative collaborators, and they hope to re-introduce a commissioned artistic programme in the longer-term.
Council budget set at £895 million
Brighton & Hove councillors have set the council's budget for next year at £895 million.
They say more than £30 million will go into frontline services like children's services, housing, public toilets, refuse and recycling, adult social care, trees, and sports and leisure facilities.
Almost half of it is ring-fenced on schools, public health, council housing and housing benefits.
Council tax will be going up by 4.99%, with 2% of this earmarked for adult social care to provide services to vulnerable, disabled and frail older people, which they say is 'due to the government not increasing funding for adult social care'.
🖋 News in Brief 🖋
- Afrori Books has launched a fundraiser to help find a new home for its shop after their rent was quadrupled by their landlord. There's a month left, and they need to raise another 12,000. Find out more here.
- Brighton & Hove Pride has launched its Low Income Ticket Scheme for this year's festival. Low income tickets offer a 50% reduction on the full price of a General Admission ticket, and are reserved for residents of the city on a limited income who cannot otherwise afford to attend Brighton & Hove Pride. They are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis subject to meeting the criteria, and they will be on sale until 1st July 2023 or until they have sold out. To find out more, and to apply, click here.
- ACORN has promised to keep pressure on the council over public toilets, after campaigning to stop the closure of many earlier this year. They've promised to 'wait to see what the council actually does to both re-open these public toilets and make sure that all toilets across the city are safe, clean and functioning for both residents and visitors alike'.
- You've almost definitely seen the news about the baby found in Hollingdean; we won't go into it here because it's been covered extensively elsewhere, but it's a very sad story and The Seagull commends everyone in the community who worked so hard to find the baby.
- 26 days until the Volks returns!
The Big One
scrutiny report published into missing children
What's happening? The council published a scrutiny report into the missing asylum-seeking children from a Hove hotel authored by Chris Robson, the independent scrutineer of the city's Safeguarding Children Partnership.
What was revealed? Since July 2021, more than 1,600 children have been in the hotel, and 137 have been reported missing. 60 have been found, 1 was transferred to another police area, and 76 are still missing.
What steps are being taken to find the children? Sussex Police have increased capacity in their Missing Persons Team to form a dedicated taskforce, and Robson was 'reassured that children who go missing from the hotel are dealt with in the same way all children would be'. The report highlighted that there was 'evidence of good practice and investigation by local agencies when children do go missing'.
Were any decisions made as to whose responsibility the children should be? As over 1,600 children have been placed in the hotel, the demand associated with giving the council responsibility for them would result in, according to Robson, 'unmanageable risk', and would require more resources than the council has—but the report falls short of apportioning blame.
What recommendations have been made? Among other things, that the Home Office make an immediate decision on the continued use of the hotel to house children, that OFSTED inspects the hotel's suitability if it's still used and that plans are put in place to fund the extra resources needed to safeguard the children.
What was the conclusion? The report concluded that it is unlikely children will stop going missing unless the way they are assessed and housed is changed. While evidence was provided of 'good practice and investigation by local agencies when children do go missing', there is little more that can be done.
Deb Austin, executive director of Families, Children & Learning said:
At the heart of the matter are the children themselves and that’s why the council was keen for this scrutiny to take place.
Hotels are not an appropriate place for children, and it is unacceptable that children have gone and remain missing from the hotel in the city and elsewhere in the country.
While it is encouraging that the numbers of children going missing has significantly reduced, as the report highlights this is likely to escalate again as small boat crossings increase again, and more children are placed in the hotel. It’s essential that Home Office has a plan in place to avoid a repeat of the large numbers of children going missing that occurred over the summer of 2022.