Submarine deal shows France-Australia ties in 'new phase'

PARIS (AFP) – A giant submarine deal between France and Australia is the latest sign of deepening relations between the two countries, which are being driven together by mutual concern about China and Britain’s changing role in the world, analysts say.

Australia announced last week that it had finalised a A$50 billion (S$48.1 billion) deal to buy 12 attack-class submarines from the Naval Group consortium, partly owned by the French state.

The contract had been under discussion for years – a preliminary deal was signed in 2016 – but the final signature capped a period of intense diplomatic activity propelled by French President Emmanuel Macron.

“France and Australia have entered a completely new phase. We’ve never been this close,” Australia’s ambassador to France, Brendan Berne, told AFP.

“It’s more than a contract; it’s a partnership based on trust. Through this project the French are entrusting us with key elements of sovereignty.”

Although ties between Paris and Canberra were improving even before Macron’s election in 2017, Berne said the 41-year-old leader “sees Australia through new eyes”.

Macron made his first official visit to Australia in May last year, when he proposed strengthening the axis of democracies between India, Australia and France in what was billed as a major foreign policy speech.

Underpinning the relationship is a concern about the future of the Indo-Pacific region which stretches from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of the Americas, and includes the disputed territories of the East and South China Seas.

As Admiral Phil Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said in January during a speech in India, “the future for prosperity – not only for the United States, but all nations of the region – is resident in the Indo-Pacific.” It hosts vital international trade routes and abundant natural resources, which many nations have an interest in claiming – above all regional superpower China.

Setting a precedent

France has a major stake through its colonial-era Pacific territories – French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Reunion, Mayotte, and Wallis and Futuna – which are home to more than 1.6 million citizens.

Because of the scattered territories, France possesses the world’s largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ) of nearly 9 million square kilometres.

As Berne points out, France’s biggest maritime border in the world is with Australia, and the capital of New Caledonia can be reached by just a two-hour flight from Brisbane.

Both nations have also been alarmed by increased Chinese assertiveness, particularly in the South China Sea, where Beijing is building up its military presence in a bid to claim the strategic seaway as its own, analysts say.

“For France, because it has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world, respect for the law of the sea isn’t an abstract concept,” said Philippe Errera, an advisor at the French foreign ministry.

“If the law of the sea is not respected today in the China Sea, it will be threatened tomorrow in the Arctic, in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Indian Ocean,” he said.

Apart from Australia and India, France has also been trying to beef up ties with Malaysia and Singapore, and plans to soon deploy its aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, to the Indian Ocean.

High stakes

For Australia, France’s renewed interest in the region under Macron is welcome support at a time when US commitment to the region under President Donald Trump is increasingly questioned.

“China is the biggest challenge for Australian foreign policy,” Michael Fullilove, executive director of the Lowy Institute, an Australian foreign policy think tank, said at a recent conference in Paris.

“How do we give a strong message to China – we know China doesn’t respect weakness – without ruining a relation that is unavoidable, forever?” he asked.

Australia and France, he said, are “beneficiaries of a rules-based order” which together they can try to uphold.

Australia is also reassessing its relationships in Europe in light of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

London’s tortuous negotiations to leave the bloc have sapped its diplomatic energies, while Britain increasingly lacks the defence manufacturing capabilities that France has retained.

“The UK has lowered its international ambitions,” said Fullilove, adding that “France is a global power with global power-projection capacity.”

Maaike Okano-Heijmans, a senior research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, noted that France and Britain are the only European nations with a significant military presence in Asia.

But she says there are worries that France under Macron might overstep.

“France is up for it, but I think some Europeans are worried to see the French go there alone, too fast, or too strongly, at the risk of compromising relations with China,” she said.

But the French task force to the Indian Ocean will include ships from Australia, Britain, Denmark, Portugal and the United States, according to the chiefs of staff deputy spokesman Colonel Guillaume Thomas.

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How is Dublin preparing for a possible no-deal Brexit?

Standing on top of the roof of the Dublin Port Company’s headquarters, you can see lots of building work amidst all the docked ships at the River Liffey’s mouth.

And while that construction is not entirely Brexit-related, management at the port says it has to be prepared for the possibility of a no-deal and any potential economic fallout.

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March, whether or not there is a negotiated deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is hoping that her draft Withdrawal Agreement will get through the House of Commons, but preparations are under way in case it does not.

There is agreement across Irish society that Brexit will have an adverse effect on the country, but the worst scenario as far as the Irish government is concerned is that the UK leaves without a negotiated settlement.

Politicians here refer to that option as a “hard” Brexit.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts that Ireland’s economic growth would take a 4% hit “in the long run” if there is a “cliff-edge” break with the EU, because of the highly integrated nature of the Irish and UK economies.

And the independent Dublin-based think tank The Economic and Social Research Institute estimates that a “hard” Brexit could cost households up to €1,400 (£1,260) a year, because of a potential increase in food prices and possible trade tariffs.

Despite no-one in authority being in a position to predict how Brexit will unfold, the Irish government has already announced plans for an extra 1,000 customs and veterinary staff to work at Dublin and Rosslare ports and at airports, as well as new money to train people in sectors likely to be badly affected.

It has organised a series of very well-attended roadshows around the country with the involvement of state agencies with the theme “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready” for every Brexit scenario.

And there is evidence that more companies – worried about possible delays and resulting costs at Dover – are forsaking the UK land-bridge for new “Brexit-busting” super-ferries that would sail directly between Dublin and Zeebrugge and Rotterdam, bypassing uncertainty in Britain.

It is too early to say what impact they are having, but the development is seen as significant.

There is an Irish political and economic consensus on Brexit.

For political reasons there is widespread agreement that there has to be a so-called “backstop” unless and until there is a wider trade agreement to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

It is feared that such a border could risk a return to violence after a hard-won peace.

Parts of the Conservative Party and the DUP as a whole strongly oppose the backstop, believing it risks weakening the union between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

They also feel it may effectively trap the UK in a customs arrangement with the EU, preventing it from making its own trade deals with non-EU states.

There is also a consensus in Dublin that for economic reasons, the Republic of Ireland wants as close a relationship with the UK as possible for the sake of jobs and mutual prosperity after the UK leaves the EU.

And yet, despite that consensus, the opposition parties in the Dáil (parliament), Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, have frequently criticised Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael government for not doing enough to prepare for the no-deal scenario.

There has also been an often unspoken fear that the EU might, at the last moment, try to force Ireland to relent on the backstop to allow Mrs May to get her deal to pass in Westminster.

That concern is largely based on what happened during the financial crisis, when Dublin came under enormous pressure to apply for a bailout to protect its banks.

But Irish government ministers insist that the remaining EU27 countries are at one on the issue.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, and the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, have been frequent visitors to Dublin, expressing solidarity with their Irish counterparts.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reiterated that support at this week’s Global Ireland conference in Dublin, appearing alongside Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

While a no-deal Brexit is most definitely seen by many as a threat to the Irish state, it also offers opportunities.

The Industrial Development Authority, which is responsible for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country, notes that more than 55 companies have moved at least part of their operations from London to the Irish capital because of Brexit.

Those companies include Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, helping to make 2018 a record year for FDI job creation.

There is a fear, though, that domestic companies – which tend to have a closer economic relationship with the UK than the multinationals – could suffer with resulting job losses, especially if the pound falls as a result of a failure to agree a deal.

That would make Irish exports less competitive and British imports cheaper, raising the prospect of some companies lobbying for possible state support.

Amid all the confusion and uncertainty about Brexit, the Irish government has consistently said that it thinks it more likely than not that a no-deal Brexit will be avoided, but stresses it necessarily has to plan for all eventualities.

Management at Dublin Port is taking the politicians at their word, and getting ready for a no-deal Brexit scenario, preparing to house more customs officials and veterinary inspection staff.

It seems certain that the cranes, trucks and construction staff at the mouth of the Liffey will be busy for some time to come.

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Man (26) jailed for 'chilling' assault on partner's baby, fracturing her skull

A YOUNG man who assaulted his girlfriend’s infant daughter, fracturing her skull so badly that it shattered, was jailed for eight years for an attack a judge described as “chilling”.

The 26-year-old – who cannot be named for legal reasons – was warned by Judge Sean O’Donnabhain that he had shown “no insight and little remorse” for what the nine month old girl had suffered.

“This was an enormous breach of trust,” he warned.

“The evidence (from a consultant radiologist about the injuries inflicted) was chilling.”

“There is (also) the seriousness of an assault by a grown adult on a baby.”

Judge O’Donnabhain said that medical experts at Cork University Hospital (CUH) assessed the infant’s head injuries as life threatening.

He noted that “significant force” would have been required to inflict the scale of skull injuries involved.

It was unclear whether the infant had sustained a single, powerful blow to the head or whether her head had been driven forcefully up against a hard surface.

Health Service Executive (HSE) experts acknowledged that while the child has since made a good physical recovery from her injuries, there were still concerns about her.

The child suffered from headaches in the wake of the incident and also displayed an aversion to bright lights.

“There are a number of behavioural queries (over her),” a Garda said.

The young man denied charges of assault causing serious harm and wilful neglect of a child before Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

However, a jury of seven men and five woman unanimously convicted him last November following almost 90 minutes of deliberation after a week long trial.

He was convicted of assault causing harm to the nine month old little girl and wilful neglect of both her and her two year old sister.

The charges all related to an address in Cork on December 31 2016 and other dates that month.

The defendant had been remanded in custody for the past three months to allow for the preparation of a victim impact statement.

He remained silent as Judge O’Donnabhain jailed him for eight years.

The man received a 10 year sentence for assault causing serious harm to the infant but had the final two years suspended.

Judge O’Donnabhain imposed a consecutive two year sentence for the man’s neglect of the infant and her older sister but agreed to fully suspend this.

During the trial, the infant’s mother said she was shocked on returning home on December 31 2016 to see the physical condition of her infant daughter.

The woman had left her infant daughter – who was sleeping in a cot – in the care of her boyfriend while she took her two year old daughter to the park to play.

She had both children with a previous partner with whom her relationship had ended some time beforehand.

The woman then became involved in a relationship with the defendant and he was caring for her infant that day.

Their relationship had commenced only a few months previously.

She was appalled at the injuries visible on the infant when she returned.

The mother of two said: “Her head was deformed – on a huge scale.”

In giving evidence, the young mother became extremely distressed in recalling the scale of the injuries the infant had suffered.

“Her ear was nearly down by her jaw and you could see her blood vessels. She just seemed in shock. I screamed and I was crying, just like I am now.”

The woman said she immediately confronted her then-boyfriend about precisely what had happened.

“I started firing angry question at him – why he did not answer the phone (earlier)?”

“He said, ‘I was downstairs smoking a cigarette (at the front door). I heard three bangs. She (the infant) was on the floor’. I shouted at him and I asked him to leave.”

The mother recalled that the only response she got from the defendant was a request that he be allowed take from the house the PlayStation console he had received as a Christmas present.

“That was the end of all – just get the hell out of my house,” she told the court she had ordered him.

The young mother immediately sought medical assistance for her distressed infant.

The woman has since been convicted of neglect and received a suspended sentence.

However, Judge O’Donnabhain described her as “a truthful and forthcoming witness” and said her neglect was “not seeing what was going on and not protecting her children.”

A paramedic who attended the scene that day said the defendant insisted the nine month old girl was in her cot crying when he went to check on her.

The trial heard from paediatric consultant, Prof Jonathan Hourihan, about the scale of the injuries suffered by the infant.

He said her skull fracture amounted to a very serious injury which involved an effective shattering of the skull.

Other fractures were also found.

“It is not one skull fracture – it is nearly ten fractures,” he said.

Consultant Radiologist Prof Michael Moore, said the head injury was peculiar in that it involved both sides of the child’s skull.

Judge O’Donnabhain said the injury was clearly life-threatening.

“The force (used) had to be massive. The skull was, in effect, shattered,” he said.

He also noted that both the infant and her older sister were left “traumatised.”

The court was told the defendant had a number of previous convictions including one for an unprovoked 2011 assault on a man walking home.

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Ninth lawmaker quits Britain's opposition Labour Party

LONDON (REUTERS) – British lawmaker Ian Austin resigned from the opposition Labour Party on Friday (Feb 22), becoming the ninth person to do so this week, saying it was “broken” and had been taken over by the “hard left”.

Mr Austin said he did not currently have any plans to join the Independent Group in Parliament, set up by seven of his former Labour colleagues earlier this week and joined by an eighth as well as three former members of the governing Conservatives.

“The Labour Party has been my life, so this has been the hardest decision I have ever had to take, but I have to be honest and the truth is that I have become ashamed of the Labour Party under (leader) Jeremy Corbyn,” Mr Austin told the Express and Star newspaper, citing the issue of anti-Semitism in particular.

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Viktorija Sokolova: Teen detained for life over hammer attack murder

A teenage boy has been detained for life after the hammer attack murder and rape of a 14-year-old girl.

Viktorija Sokolova was subjected to a “ferocious and sustained” attack in Wolverhampton in April last year.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, used horrific levels of violence to kill the 14-year-old before dumping her body on a park bench.

He denied the crime during a three-week trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court but was unanimously convicted by a jury on 14 December.

At the same court today he was sentenced to life, with a minimum term of 19 years.

Detectives said the boy used a hammer, which was never found, to launch what prosecutors called a “ferocious and sustained” attack on Viktorija.

She suffered a fractured skull and spine.

Viktorija was lured to West Park late on 11 April last year after she was contacted by her killer on Facebook messenger.

He was caught on CCTV as he attempted to cover up the offence, by hiding clothing. He also deleted Facebook messages and hurled the victim’s phone towards a lake.

The boy, who refused to give evidence, claiming to suffer from learning difficulties, even denied ever meeting Viktorija.

Earlier in the trial, the court heard Viktorija had been hit on the head 21 times in the attack.

Her body was found by a dog walker who initially thought it was a blow-up doll and dismissed it as a prank.

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Stolen Swedish royal jewels ‘recovered’

Sweden’s priceless royal treasures which were stolen last July may now have been recovered, police say.

An online statement says police “are working intensively” to confirm the items are genuine.

Thieves took two crowns and an orb belonging to one of Sweden’s 17th Century monarchs before making off by speedboat on a nearby lake.

Local media reports suggest the items were found on top of a rubbish bin in a Stockholm suburb.

“All indications are that Karl IX’s stolen funeral regalia have been found in the Stockholm area,” the statement says, with authorities striving “100%” to identify them.

The thieves ran into Strängnäs cathedral, west of Stockholm, to grab the jewels.

A 22-year-old man is currently on trial for the theft, but authorities are still looking for “additional perpetrators”, the statement says.

The items are adorned with pearls, precious stones and gold, and come from the 1611 funeral regalia of Karl IX and Queen Christina.

A police spokesperson at the time described them as “invaluable items of national interest”.

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Alesha MacPhail’s killer named as Aaron Campbell after judge lifts banning order

The teenager who brutally raped and killed six-year-old Alesha MacPhail on the Isle of Bute has been named as Aaron Campbell.

Judge Lord Matthews agreed to lift a legal restriction on revealing the 16-year-old’s identity following an application by Sky News and other media organisations.

Campbell, who is from Ardbeg near Rothesay, was convicted of raping and murdering Alesha at the High Court on Thursday and will be sentenced on 21 March.

He abducted Alesha at knifepoint from her bedroom at her grandparents’ home on the Isle of Bute in July 2018.

He then carried her half a mile to a woodland clearing on the Scottish holiday island, where she was raped and smothered to death.

Upon conviction, Judge Lord Matthews told him he had committed “some of the most wicked and evil crimes this court has ever heard of in decades of dealing with depravity”.

Prior to conviction, Campbell was living at home with his mother and younger sister. His father works offshore in the oil industry.

His mother, Jeanette Campbell, gave evidence during the murder trial.

She told how the family had moved to the Isle of Bute in 2006, describing her son as very clever at school, well-liked with lots of friends.

The court was told he was fit, that he used gym equipment and did “parkour”.

His mother also told how he smoked cannabis and would use his pocket money to buy it from Alesha’s father Robert MacPhail.

On the night of Alesha’s murder, he held a party with school friends at the family home to celebrate the end of exams.

It was after his friends left that he went to Alesha’s grandparents’ home and abducted her at knifepoint.

After carrying her to woodland in the grounds of a disused hotel, he brutally raped and murdered Alesha, who suffered 117 injuries.

After a jury found him unanimously guilty at Glasgow’s High Court, Alesha’s mother Georgina Lochrane said: “Words cannot express just how devastated I am to have lost my beautiful, happy, smiley wee girl.

“I am glad that the boy who did this has finally been brought to justice and that he will not be able to inflict the pain on another family that he has done to mine.”

Alesha’s family added in a statement: “We hope that the boy who took her from us is jailed for a long time because of what he has done to our family.”

The child’s murder shocked the island community on the Firth of Clyde, where crime is rare, with one local parish minister telling Sky News it had created an “air of unreality”.

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'They beat me with a baseball bat' – Deliveroo driver leaves Ireland following vicious assault

A DELIVERY man who had been living in Dublin for seven months has returned home to Brazil after suffering a broken nose in a violent attack.

Francisco Teruliano de Oliviera Neto, known as ‘Neto’, has spoken about his injuries after footage of a separate incident involving an assault on Deliveroo cyclists emerged on social media.

The video shows a group of young men throwing eggs, and then a bike, at the delivery men on Dublin’s Westmoreland Street on Wednesday.

One witness said she was horrified by what she saw when she came upon the group of men throwing items at the riders.

“I was in shock. We were telling them to please, stop fighting,” she told Independent.ie.

Gardai confirmed to Independent.ie that they are investigating the incident and that a man in his 40s was arrested.

The footage has sparked outrage among the Brazilian and wider foreign-language student community in Dublin, who say it is their “daily reality”.

Neto (30) was a victim of a similar alleged assault in Dublin last weekend, in which his nose was broken and he suffered various head and limb injuries.

Neto had been working for Deliveroo for five months, but never had any negative experiences with customers until then.

He was delivering an order to Tolka Valley Park in Finglas when he was attacked by a group “as large as 11 men” from behind.

“When I arrived there the customer’s phone number was wrong, so I called the support line. I was then surprised by several men, who appeared to be between 17 and 19 years old,” Neto told Independent.ie.

“They got out of the bushes and attacked me from behind, knocked me over with what seemed to be a baseball bat. I was wearing a helmet but after the blow, which hit me to the ground, they started to hit me all over the body, kicks and punches.

“Some of the boys took my phone and the bike, others started to take my wallet in my back pocket, some people passed the avenue and did nothing to stop them.”

Neto reported the incident to gardai and was taken to hospital, where a doctor confirmed that his nose was broken.

Neto then decided to fly home to Brazil for treatment.

“I always enjoyed working as a rider, because I can make my schedules and I can organise my time for studies. I never had a similar situation working as a rider, I only heard stories,” he said.

A spokesperson for Deliveroo said that they were aware of the incident on Westmoreland Street this week.

“We are aware of this incident and we are investigating. Riders work hard to bring customers amazing meals and should be able to do so without being subject to harassment or threats of violence,” a spokesperson told Independent.ie.

In a letter sent to staff, seen by Independent.ie, Deliveroo advised riders to only work in areas that they feel safe in.

“We’ve received some extremely concerning reports about an incident that took place last night on Westmoreland St, where delivery riders from Deliveroo and other companies were targeted and attacked by a passing group. It’s never acceptable to have your safety threatened,” the letter reads.

“We take reports about safety extremely seriously and will do everything we can to protect you from having your property stolen or from being attacked. We’ve reached out to an Garda Siochana to highlight these concerns and will be working to assist their investigations.

“If you have concerns about an area do not work there. If you do not feel safe delivering to a certain area you do not need to deliver there. Your safety is our priority, so if you feel unsafe contact the team to discuss other areas available to work in.”

Alan, another Deliveroo driver from Dublin, said he has been attacked three times while working.

“I was lucky to get away each time… one time I was going along the quays and a guy dragged me by the jacket at the chest and tried to grab me off the bike,” he told RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline.

“Another time I was on York Street near St Stephen’s Green, close to the flats there, and there was a guy who threw a firework at me on Halloween night and it whizzed past my face.

When asked if people are doing it for financial gain, or a “bit of craic,” Alan said he thinks it’s a “bit of both”.

“I know people who have been threatened with knives as people were after cash even though we don’t have much cash… do they really think customers are tipping that much?”

Drivers are organising a demonstration for next Saturday in response to the assaults.

They are protesting against violence towards immigrants, xenophobia and the stealing of bikes and motorbikes. 

“We are going to change it once and for all, we only want to live in peace,” a spokesperson said.

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'She's somewhat of a warrior' – first injury settlement with lifelong payments for girl with brain damage

A 13-year-old girl is to receive lifelong €610,000 annual payments under a High Court action against the Rotunda Hospital over the care provided to her mother before her birth.

Saibhe O’Connor’s is the first case to come before the courts which has been finalised with life-long payments.

The young girl, who has already received interim settlement payments totalling €2.94million, is the first to accept the life-long periodic payments, which means an amount will be paid out annually for her care and needs.

The settlement of Saibhe’s case in 2012 was without an admission of liability.

Approving the final settlement in the form of periodic payments of €610,000 annually for Saibhe’s lifetime, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice  Peter Kelly, said it was the first case where a family had availed of the new legislation allowing for periodic payments.

He said he was satisfied it was an appropriate case in which to make a periodic payment order.

He said Saibhe had demonstrated herself to be ‘somewhat of a warrior’ and he thanked her parents Michelle and Eddie for the care they have given their daughter.

The judge said he was taking in to account Saibhe’s parents were happy with the periodic payments. Mr Justice Kelly said he was satisfied the periodic payment order was in Saibhe’s best interests to ensure she has all she requires for her lifetime care.

He added it was a wise decision in Saibhe’s case to go for periodic payments and he was sure her parents are delighted it was their last time to come to the Four Courts in relation to their daughter’s case.

Saibhe O’Connor, Croftwood Green, Ballyfermot, Dublin had through her mother Michelle Farrell sued the Rotunda Hospital, Parnell Square, Dublin over the circumstances of her birth on November 7, 2005.

It was claimed there was alleged negligence and an alleged breach of its duty of care towards Saibhe in the treatment and management of her mother’s pregnancy.

The Rotunda had denied all claims.

Ms Farrell, it was claimed had gone to her GP and the doctor fearing the onset of pre-eclampsia had she had been referred  to the Rotunda Hospital as an emergency admission.

In hospital on November 2, 2005, Ms Farrell was diagnosed with pre-eclamptic toxaemia. It was claimed that despite objections from her family, she was discharged on November 6, to be reviewed two days later.

The following day Ms Farrell’s condition worsened. An ambulance was called but en route Ms Farrell suffered an eclamptic seizure, and had to be brought to the nearest city hospital  for an emergency cesarean section.

In court today, Saibhe’s counsel Aongus O Brolchain SC said the O’Connors had intended to go for a final lump sum payment but given the way she has improved it was decided  to accept a periodic payment.

He said the legal team felt it was more prudent to take the periodic payment. He said they thought it was an appropriate case to consider a PPO order.

He said Saibhe can smile and has been on holiday in Spain and loves the heat.

He said her parents have been giving Saibhe significant and dedicated care.

Counsel said Saibhe’s parents are happy with the settlement and prefer to be confident that funds will be available for the rest of their daughter’s life.

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Consumers ‘gambling with their teeth’ by using whitening kits

Some high street teeth whitening products “have the potential to significantly harm” our teeth and should be banned, according to a new study.

Five over-the-counter products – available from Boots and Superdrug – were tested to determine whether or not non-hydrogen peroxide products are safe.

Dr Joseph Greenwall-Cohen, lead author of the study, said they found “significant damage to the surfaces of teeth, similar to what you’d see if you used a highly acidic product on a tooth”.

He added: “What we saw is a change in the appearance of the teeth, it looked almost like they’d been scratched.

“There’s such an ease of accessibility of these products, you would want there to be some evidence to justify how safe they are, but there was very little evidence to show how safe and effective they were.”

The past decade has seen a rise in the development of non-hydrogen peroxide whitening products.

In 2011, a European directive was introduced to ensure that bleaching with higher strengths of hydrogen peroxide could only be carried out by dentists.

It has meant that DIY home kits can only contain less than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide, a level that’s too weak to have much of a whitening effect.

As a result, manufacturers are increasingly turning to alternative ingredients to get around the directive, which – according to the research – could be even more damaging for our teeth.

The study, published in the British Dental Journal, raises concerns about the active ingredient sodium chlorite. It was found in three of the products tested (Mr Blanc Teeth, Janina Ultra White Strips and the Brilliant Five-Minute Kit).

Researchers found “substantial evidence” of how products which also contained a bonding agent called EDTA and citric acid “seriously damaged the hardness and strength of teeth”.

The study warns that, as a result, we could start seeing widespread enamel damage in the next few years.

The British Dental Association’s scientific adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, said: “At best, people may be wasting their money buying over-the-counter and online products to whiten teeth… the lack of clarity over chemicals used in over-the counter and online products means you could be gambling with your teeth.”

A spokesman for Boots said: “The safety of our customers is extremely important to us and we thoroughly assess all of our dental care products before we put them on sale.”

Superdrug responded: “We will be reading the British Dental Journal’s report with interest. The safety and well-being of our customers is always our primary concern and we are always happy to work with official bodies taking their research and guidance on board.”

When approached for response, the manufacturers of Janina Ultra White Strips said the product has now been “delisted”.

Mr Blanc Teeth and Brilliant Five-Minute Kit did not reply to our request to a response.

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