His hobby nonetheless might have stalled decades ago if he hadn’t connected with his best single box-score source, a kindred spirit who collected NBA stats for a living: Harvey Pollack. The Philadelphia 76ers’ director of statistical information has been working in pro basketball since before the NBA, debuting with the league’s forerunner, the Basketball Association of America, in 1946. The two men aren’t clear on when they began collaborating. Pfander said in a telephone interview he thinks it was 1956; Pollack, who is 92, recalled that they started working together when he expanded his annual NBA stats book in the 1970s. They met at most a few times, but they communicated at least a dozen times each year by phone and mail.Pollack, who has worked for the Sixers since the team’s first season in 1963-64, was also collecting box scores for every game, though his collection didn’t go back as far as Pfander’s. Pollack would send Pfander his book of box scores, and Pfander would send back results of his data analysis — tidbits such as when the league’s millionth point was scored. That archival work helped when the NBA marked later milestone league totals. “He’s the one who started with it,” Pollack said. “That was his idea. I’ve kept it alive ever since.”Pollack put many of these small discoveries in his annual books, always crediting Pfander, whose stats were meticulously calculated and, before he started using a computer, meticulously handwritten, with a fountain pen. “He has the best handwriting you have ever seen,” said his daughter Colleen Greff.Pfander said he used to check the box scores Pollack sent, to make sure the numbers added up. Then he would generate 33 or 34 different stats for Pollack in return. Pollack said his latest book includes at least 40 stats furnished by Pfander.Filling holes in the recordPart of the fun of sports is measuring today’s players and teams against their predecessors, and you can’t do that without a complete record of what past players did. Every sport’s fan base includes completists, people who feel unsettled by the lack of certainty in the records.Ten years ago, Justin Kubatko founded the website Basketball-Reference.com as a resource for fans who want to know every detail about basketball history. Seven years ago, he left his job teaching statistics at Ohio State University to work full time on basketball stats.Before he connected with Pfander, Kubatko had game-by-game data on his site going back only to the mid-1980s.“I’m a completist,” Kubatko said in a telephone interview. “It did kind of bug me. We had 40 years of information that was just not there. I was also a realist. I knew there was really no easy way to acquire that data.”Kubatko doesn’t recall when he first heard of Pfander’s box-score collection — perhaps from the discussion boards at the basketball analytics site APBR.org, where Pfander has been a frequent topic of discussion. “I got his contact information, we talked for a few weeks, we worked out a deal, and we bought what he had,” Kubatko said. “He is an extremely generous and extremely nice man.”By this time, Pfander had digitized his box scores, scanning and sorting them — meticulously, of course. The disk Kubatko received, in 2008, had folders for each year and subfolders for months and for days. Even so, the box scores were saved as images, not spreadsheets or databases, so it wasn’t easy to add them to a stats database.Kubatko sat on the trove for at least a year. “Then we said, ‘You know what, this is kind of silly,’” he recalled. “People are probably interested in what we have as it is.” He wrote a script to link the team abbreviations Pfander used with those on the site and to pair each scan with that game’s unique Basketball Reference ID. Then he fixed the mismatches that arose from errors in the box scores or in the site’s schedule data.In January 2012, Kubatko announced that Basketball Reference now had every box score for every NBA game. His blog post credited Pfander, “who did the lion’s share of the work for this project.” At Grantland a few days later, Robert Mays wrote about the pair and Pfander’s unlikely collection.Fans wouldn’t be able to work with the old stats, though, until Kubatko could get the games into the database. He found Sean Wrona, a champion competitive typist, who “keyed in all this stuff for us off the scans, and we paid him to do that,” Kubatko said. “He did the first several seasons we put out there. All I’ll say is I found a more efficient way to handle the other seasons.”Wrona said in an email1Presumably typed quickly: He’s been clocked above 250 words per minute. that each box score took him about 10 minutes, or just five when it was abbreviated and missing some statistical categories. “Accuracy is far more important than speed for archival work (unlike for competitive typing, where raw speed is far more important), so I don’t come close to my peak typing speed while archiving, but it still helps,” Wrona said. He continues to do data-entry work for Sports Reference, Basketball Reference’s parent company.Wrona’s typing was the fastest part of the project. To merit inclusion in the database, a box score had to make sense: Players’ numbers had to add up to team totals, for instance. Newspaper box scores are the first draft of basketball statistical history. Kubatko estimated that each season had about 100 errors. He could resolve most using online news databases. Kubatko also sought help from his readers, posting on the blog his “most wanted” list for box scores where the sum of players’ scores didn’t equal the team total.The NBA steps inKubatko’s effort to build a publicly accessible archive of the game’s history made slow but sure progress.2In October 2012, Kubatko announced partial box scores were available for the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons. In December, Basketball Reference’s database stretched to 1981-82. The next month, he’d added one more year. By March of last year, the database went back to 1976-77, the first year after the NBA merged with the American Basketball Association. Last March, he announced a big breakthrough: The database now went back to 1964-65.Since then, the work has stalled: Basketball Reference has added just one more year. One reason is that Kubatko left Sports Reference in August, citing “creative differences.”3He retains a stake in the company, and is, as of earlier this month, an NBA consultant, through his company, Statitudes LLC.Sports Reference’s founder and president, Sean Forman, says the work to fill in the remaining 18 years of box-score data continues, but it isn’t a priority. That’s because the NBA itself announced in February 2013 that it had posted the box score for every game, all the way back to 1946-47, to NBA.com. “We want to be first on things,” Forman said. “Now that the NBA already has that data up, it’s a little bit less of an impetus.”So where did the NBA get that data? It always had “thorough statistical records,” league spokesman John Acunto said, but hadn’t figured out how to best publish most of them online until partnering with SAP, the tech company that powers the NBA’s revamped stats site. Before the site relaunch last year, the NBA offered game-by-game stats online going back only to 2007, Acunto said.Pfander’s box-score archive was one source the league used to fill gaps. “We have acquired from Pfander and others additional references and sources to cross-reference and validate our information,” Acunto said.Pete Palmer, a veteran sports statistician, said he and Pfander collaborated on using the box-score collection to correct errors in the league’s records. Palmer said that Pfander also sold his box scores to the statisticians at the Elias Sports Bureau.4“As I remember it, some of the box scores were hard to read and Dick had to prepare typed files for Elias,” Palmer said by email.Steve Hirdt, a statistician at often-secretive Elias, declined to comment on whether the company worked with Pfander. “It’s just not something we discuss,” he said by phone.The legend retiresPfander is far from the only amateur completist to aid sports historians. Pollack, of the Sixers, credited regular contributions from other basketball enthusiasts in his book over the years. David W. Smith has led a team of volunteers in the ongoing, ambitious effort to fill the record of every Major League Baseball play. Wrona built an online auto-racing database for a dozen series. Forman cited the contribution of Ed Washuta, who entered minor league baseball stats over a century old. “Pfander is an exemplar in that he has produced such a tremendous set of data for the public,” Forman said.The work of filling and correcting the NBA statistical record goes on. Many of the older box scores contained only field goals made, free throws made and points scored for each player. And some box scores are missing players, such as these on NBA.com. Fans often write to the league to suggest corrections, which it makes when appropriate, Acunto said. Sports Reference similarly invites corrections from readers.Pfander, a user of the site, continued to help Sports Reference’s efforts after shipping his data. “Some of those older scans are really poor,” Kubatko said. “It was very hard to read some of them. He was trying to find replacements for those, and occasionally he would send us stuff that would give us a better scan.” Pfander also did some digitizing work himself, typing old box scores into Microsoft Word documents — Word tables were his instrument of choice for organizing his digital data. “He was committed, definitely,” Kubatko said.5Pfander also sent along his ABA box scores, and inputting those is another project waiting to be completed.The work could go on forever. “You’re never going to get a perfect set of box scores,” Kubatko said. “It’s just not going to happen.”Today, though, Pfander is no longer actively working on NBA statistics. In November 2012 — just as Basketball Reference’s effort to input his data was gaining momentum — Pfander had surgery for a brain aneurysm. Afterward, he was confused, “and he actually made the joke, something about, you should never have brain surgery during NBA season, because it just messes up all the statistics,” his daughter Colleen recalled.Later that month, on his 78th birthday, Pfander suffered a stroke. The stroke has affected his short-term memory, Pfander and his children say. They tell him that the speech he gave at his wife’s memorial service was the best they’ve ever heard, and he laments that there’s no recording for him to listen to and remind him of what he said.The stroke also has interrupted Pfander’s statistical work. He continues to watch the NBA from his current home at a care facility but, he said, “I’ve had some physical setbacks, and I just don’t do it anymore.” He added, “I started a couple of different times, and I guess I’d say I don’t have the interest in making all those copies of box scores and then filling in the blanks so that I can add ’em up and see strings of double-figure scoring and things like that.”His daughter Julaine has cleaned up his computer’s desktop so that it has just two folders, one of them labeled “basketball stats.” She’s also backed up his data onto an external hard drive. It’s all ready for him to dive back in. “He doesn’t seem to want to do that,” she said. “Part of me thinks he worries that if he doesn’t do it exactly right, he might mess something up. He knows he has all this great data out there, and the last thing he would want to do is not do it the way he used to do it.”“It’s so sad now,” Colleen said. “It was such a passion for him, oh my goodness, he could not bear to fall behind. Now the desire to do statistics is just not there.”If he never revisits basketball stats, Pfander’s legacy is secure, and that’s some comfort. “I think he was probably happy that all of this work he had done — because he had really done it for really personal reasons — he was happy that it would be able to reach a larger audience, and that other people would be able to benefit from the work he had done,” Kubatko said.Of his hobby’s role in completing the Basketball Reference database, Pfander said, “It makes me feel that it was useful.” Dick Pfander has spent most of his life collecting and analyzing box scores from every NBA game since the league’s founding. He did most of his work in solitude, by hand, before the age of personal computers. And he did it simply for his own pleasure, surrounded by supportive family members who cared neither about basketball nor statistics, let alone their intersection.Today, his analog hobby is paying digital dividends for stats-obsessed basketball fans. His work has helped fill gaps in the league’s statistical record for both its official website and the leading independent reference site. The project continues — but without Pfander.An all-consuming “job”Pfander started clipping box scores from newspapers as a teenager in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the late 1940s. He did it during high school, after his marriage to Colette Waterman, through jobs as a teacher and with the Defense Department, through the birth of his three children, and through Colette’s death, in 2009.On vacations, Dick and Colette would travel to places where “he thought there might be a newspaper of use to him” in the local library’s archive, his daughter Julaine Eddy said in a telephone interview. “She’d drop him off and go do things around town while he sat in front of the microfiche machine.”Pfander’s children say they and their mother didn’t share his passion for NBA stats, but they didn’t resent it. It was just one way he expressed his love for basketball and for statistics. He also refereed basketball games and compiled the stats for local youth baseball tournaments and swim meets. He didn’t mind that none of his children played basketball or got into stats.Most of all, he sat in front of the television, “going back and forth between watching the basketball and working on the stats,” said his son, Greg. “It never bothered me that he did it — it was his thing. It just seems like that’s my dad, that’s what he always did.”Julaine’s memory of her father working on his stats is vivid. “Dad had this huge desk at home, and it was him sitting at that desk. The TV was visible from that desk, and he sat there and worked,” she said. “And as a kid, you think, ‘That must be a job he’s doing.’”Why did he do it? Pfander, 79, isn’t expansive on the topic. “It was a hobby for me,” he said in an interview last week. “It was a fun thing for me to do.” He considered himself a statistician long before NBA teams started hiring statisticians. “I had always been interested in statistics,” Pfander said, and “I kind of liked doing statistical-type things.”He added, “I don’t think anybody would do all that unless they enjoyed it.” Dick Pfander Courtesy of Colleen Greff
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh was on the losing side of an $100,000 appeal that he filed challenging the charge he received for blocking below the belt.Roosevelt Barnes, one of Suh’s agents, told the Associated Press he was notified Friday of the arbitrator’s decision.The Washington Post reported:“Suh was fined for a sixth time in his four-year career on Sept. 10, two days after making an illegal block on Vikings center John Sullivan. He apologized to Sullivan, and to teammates for negating an interception return for a touchdown in Detroit’s season-opening win.”Barnes played video of the tackle, frame by frame, in order to prove his client’s defense.“We’re disappointed that Ndamukong was fined at all and that it wasn’t reduced,” Barnes told The AP in a telephone interview Friday. “It is clear from the film, when you slow it down frame by frame, that Ndamukong was clearly in front of the player and that his head and shoulder, when he started off blocking him, were above the player’s waist. But because Ndamukong left his feet, he was going to hit the ground and was going to get tangled on the lower part of the player’s body.”Suh has officially become the first football player in history to receive a fine of $100,000 and has been fined six times, suspended for two games for a total of $342,794.
The Carolina Panthers on Thursday released Steve Smith, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, and he was snapped up Friday by the Baltimore Ravens — so it’s a good time to take stock of his career. The numbers say Smith is one of the best, and most underrated, wideouts of all time.As my former colleague Chase Stuart has repeatedly noted, Smith’s raw numbers have always understated his worth because of an unfortunate combination of injuries, a mediocre supporting cast at quarterback and receiver, and the team’s run-heavy strategy. But when Smith was healthy, he was as valuable as any pass-catcher.After the 2012 season — and before the 2013 season, when it became clear Smith had exited his prime years — Stuart found that Smith rated as the sixth-best receiver ever in two important yet under-the-radar stats: individual percentage of team receiving yards and receiving yards per team passing attempt. Neither metric is the final word on a receiver, but both reflect aspects that are central to the position.A player’s share of his team’s receiving yards is important because it represents a receiver’s market share of available statistics. As Pro-Football-Reference.com founder Doug Drinen once pointed out, receivers are the only players in football who directly compete with their own teammates for touches. (Other positions have their skirmishes, but they rarely battle while on the field at the same time.) So it really means something when a team funnels so many of its passes to one guy.Yards per passing attempt is also crucial. It accounts for how much a team throws the ball. Stuart and I conducted research last summer suggesting that when a team increases its passing attempts by 2 percent, its receivers will see about a 1 percent boost in production — a factor that can really add up at the extremes. Smith’s numbers were stunted relative to his peers because he played in rush-focused offenses that passed about 8 percent less than the NFL average over the course of his career.After we account for these handicaps, Smith looks like an all-time great. His 2005 campaign ranks extremely high in the aforementioned metrics, and his performance in 2008 stands out as one of the most commanding ever by a receiver. That year, Smith led the NFL in receiving yards per game despite the Panthers attempting the fewest passes in the league — the only time that’s happened since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.Smith’s numbers have dropped off in recent years (no surprise; he’ll turn 35 in May), so it’s not clear how much production he’ll bring to Baltimore in 2014. But when he was at his peak, few receivers ever dominated their team’s passing game more.
2015-16Miami5.0– 2008-09Miami3.1– 2016-17Chicago3.1%– The percentage of Wade’s offense that came from cuts to the basket basically doubled during the years he teamed with LeBron and then dropped back to its original level as soon as James went back to Cleveland. Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Utah Jazz23461238.2 After being bought out by the Chicago Bulls, 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade had a handful of solid options to consider when deciding which team to sign with.There was the fairy-tale possibility of rejoining the Heat, the franchise he was drafted by and where he won three titles. The suddenly fortified Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs — the team that effectively ended Miami’s Big Three era back in 2014 by winning the title that year — were also suitors. But as enticing as those teams might have been, none of them have LeBron James.So it isn’t surprising that Wade is choosing to sign in Cleveland, where he not only has a great chance at reaching the NBA Finals again but also gets to reunite with one of his closest friends. But if we only examine those two factors, we might be overlooking the biggest incentive Wade has in all this: LeBron and the Cavs may be a fountain of youth for the 35-year-old.James makes life easier for everyone he plays with (well, Mario Chalmers might disagree), and Wade was no exception while the two were in Miami. Wade logged career bests in effective field-goal percentage and true shooting percentage during that four-year run, from his age-29 to age-32 seasons. His stark improvement as an off-ball threat — specifically as a cutter who would make his break toward the basket while defenses were preoccupied with James — helped take the Heat’s offense to another level. 2007-08Miami3.0– 2012-13Miami11.4– TEAMMAKESATTEMPTSSHARE So depending on how quickly the duo jells (or re-jells), Wade may get far easier shots than he got last season in Chicago, when he generated just 3 percent of his offense from cuts to the basket and took his average shot attempt from more than 12 feet away, tied for the longest average shot distance of his 14-year career.Some will question whether Wade — and to a greater extent, Derrick Rose — is a good enough jump shooter to keep defenses honest while James is running the show and probing for driving lanes. But a closer evaluation of Wade’s game suggests that he can more than hold his own as an off-ball threat if used properly.Wade has shown himself to be a competent 3-point shooter when stationed in the corner, shooting almost 38 percent138 of 101. from the corner in the seven seasons since James signed with Miami in 2010 — considerably better than his 27 percent2147 of 550. on all other 3-point tries over that same span. That’s particularly meaningful for Cleveland, which led the NBA in corner 3-point makes and attempts by a huge margin, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Cavs launch far more corner triples when James — one of the best passers in the sport — is on the court compared to when he’s on the bench.) Wade cut to the basket far more when playing with LeBron CORNER 3S 2013-14Miami9.4– 2014-15Miami4.3– Cleveland Cavaliers35385041.5% Boston Celtics25362340.6 2009-10Miami4.6– 2011-12Miami8.6– SEASONTEAMSHARE OF OFFENSE THAT STEMS FROM CUTTING TO THE BASKET 2010-11Miami6.5– The years in bold highlight seasons in which Dwyane Wade was teammates with LeBron James.Source: Synergy Sports Technology Houston Rockets26769038.7 Miami Heat27769040.1 The Cavs take (and make) more corner 3s than anyone elseFor the 2016-17 regular season One variable that figures to be vital is how much Wade is being asked to do; especially in an offense that already features LeBron, Rose, the oft-forgotten Kevin Love and, at some point after the new year, Isaiah Thomas, who was acquired in the Kyrie Irving deal. It’s not hard to imagine Wade frequently handling the ball to give James a rest, though his game and Rose’s are similar in that both can develop tunnel vision when they’re driving to the basket.It would be wise for Cleveland to take a conservative approach that helps maintain Wade’s aging body for the postseason. J.R. Smith is seemingly a better fit for the Cavs’ starting lineup, thanks to both his size and his superior outside shooting.None of this is meant to suggest that Wade will be a perfect fit with the Cavs, as there are a handful of things that James and Wade simply won’t be able to replicate this many years after their first partnership. Chief among them: The swarming, blitzing defense the Heat used to trap pick-and-rolls. (Chris Bosh was truly special defensively with those teams.) In fact, a defense featuring the two of them might be a half-step slow now.However, even if Wade performs more fluidly during the regular season, it’s possible that, given his age, he and his body may not be totally dependable come playoff time, no matter how the Cavs manage his minutes. The 2014 Finals, in which the Heat got blasted by San Antonio four games to one, were a prime example.But if there’s one thing we’ve seen with Wade’s game in the past, it’s that James’s presence — as it has done for many others — will lessen the physical toll on Wade and possibly help offset the effects of Father Time. And that means the Cavaliers have little to lose with this signing.
Percentage of plays for zero or negative yards25.6%26.6 Notre Dame6940 The Sooners have gotten better under MurrayOklahoma’s offensive production in 2018, with Kyler Murray at quarterback, vs. 2017, with Baker Mayfield at quarterback Oklahoma12854 TeamOffensive SnapsDefensive Snaps 20075.05373.8224.522.626.4 20106.96444.12188.8.131.52 20166.47455.3210.321.031.9 20095.96403.0187.920.630.1 Percentage of first downs or TDs per play41.0%37.6 One year ago, the Oklahoma Sooners fielded the worst defense to ever qualify for the College Football Playoff. Under first-year head coach Lincoln Riley, and behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma took a 17-point lead on Georgia, the eventual national runner-up, before losing in the Rose Bowl semifinal. Twelve months later, Riley has another Heisman-winning quarterback in Kyler Murray and has piloted another one-dimensional Sooners team to a playoff berth.The reward — a date with Alabama, college football’s lead power broker — seems more like a punishment. The Tide, long a defensive force under coach Nick Saban, now boast what’s likely the best offense in program history. Las Vegas oddsmakers cared not for Oklahoma’s three-game winning streak against the Tide and opened with Alabama as two-touchdown favorites. According to FiveThirtyEight’s college football prediction model, Alabama has a 41 percent probability of winning the national title. Oklahoma faces much taller odds, with an 11 percent probability of winning it all.Here’s what to look for the when the two programs meet in the Orange Bowl semifinal Saturday at 8 p.m. Eastern.Will Tua Tagovailoa or Kyler Murray win the QB showdown?Seldom do a Heisman winner and his runner-up meet after the winner is crowned. Even given that rarity, this may be the best postseason clash of college quarterbacks we’ve ever seen. Both are coming off of historic regular seasons, with each in line to trump the record for Total Quarterback Rating, which ESPN has tracked since 2004 and is measured on a scale of 0 to 100. Bama rarely plays from behindTotal first-half snaps when trailing for this year’s playoff participants This is Saban’s most dominant Alabama offenseAlabama’s offense by season under head coach Nick Saban 20085.52355.8171.118.825.6 SeasonYardsYardsPassingYards1st DownsOffensive Points Per playPer Game Clemson6324 Metric20182017 20137.15454.1248.523.234.2 As if spring-loaded, Murray’s legs have minced opposing defenses. On a 75-yard touchdown run against Kansas, a broadcaster declared, “You’re not going to catch him,” before Murray had passed the 40-yard line. The junior is the country’s pre-eminent dual-threat wizard, whose 892 rushing yards place him seventh among all Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks this year.At the same time, Tagovailoa has been the figurehead of the Tide’s offensive ascension since replacing Jalen Hurts in last season’s national championship game. Saban has been in Tuscaloosa since 2007, and this year’s offense has been his best in terms of, well, everything. 20126.95445.5218.021.637.2 20116.46429.6215.221.632.1 But it’s not just the quarterbacks. In terms of offensive efficiency, this is the best matchup since the playoff began in 2014. Oddsmakers have taken notice, setting a points over/under total that’s unprecedented in the playoff era.It seemed logical that the departure of Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft, would abate Oklahoma’s offensive horsepower. That 2017 team had the most efficient offense ever tracked, according to the ESPN Stats & Information Group.1It has measured efficiency since 2005. But in Murray’s first full season as a starting college quarterback, the Sooners’ offense has actually improved. “Kyler Murray has accomplished more in one season and had more impact on the Sooners’ tradition in one season than any other player in our history,” former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer told The Athletic. “He’s broke all the damn records.” Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Yards per play8.88.3 20187.92527.6325.524.643.9 20176.59444.1193.422.236.1 Both Murray and Tagovailoa are having little difficulty stretching the field. If they keep up this pace during the playoffs, each would rank in the top three among all QBs since 2004 in single-season passing yards per attempt, with Murray’s current 11.92 mark in line to set the all-time record.They won’t, however, be competing against equally proficient defensive units. Murray will be staring down a top-flight fortress that spent the past few months razing offensive lines and leveling quarterbacks. The Crimson Tide rank second in defensive efficiency, behind Clemson, and they lead the country in adjusted defensive quarterback rating, which accounts for the strength of the opposing quarterback. The Tide ranks among the 15 best teams in opponent completion percentage (51.8 percent) and yards allowed per pass attempt (5.86).Tagovailoa will have the luxury of playing against a defense that might seem as though it’s providing Alabama an escort to the end zone. Oklahoma ranks 92nd in defensive efficiency, unseating last year’s squad as the new worst defense to make it to the playoff; the Sooners have allowed 56 touchdowns this year, 13 more than Alabama has allowed since the beginning of the 2017 season. Uninspired performances led to the midseason firing of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. But the unit’s play hasn’t improved. After giving up 39 first downs to Oklahoma State, the most allowed by any FBS team this season, interim defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill found room to praise his team for making “critical stops.”Pass defense, in particular, has been ghastly for the Sooners. No FBS team allows more passing yards per game (291.4), and only five allow more completions (22.3). The Sooners love to give up the long play, having allowed 56 passing plays of 20-plus yards, the fourth-most by any team.It’s unlikely that the turnover margin will favor the Sooners — even though Tagovailoa threw as many interceptions in his last outing as he did the rest of the season total. Oklahoma has generated 11 takeaways all season, the fewest of any qualifying team in the playoff era. Alabama has forced 11 since the beginning of October — and 21 in total.On the opening drive of the SEC championship game, Tagovailoa suffered a high ankle injury, which required surgery the following day. The sophomore has said that he’ll be unencumbered come game time, and given how little he rushes — generating just the 89th-most rushing yards among QBs — he won’t need much mobility. Even a pocket-locked Tagovailoa can still shred an opposing defense.Can Oklahoma survive Alabama’s first-half avalanche to win the second half?Players come and go, and each season carries idiosyncrasies, but the narrative arcs of the Sooners’ two previous playoff appearances were seemingly penned by the same author. In both, a lead evaporated and a dominant first half gave way to a second-half dud.In those appearances — in the 2015-16 Orange Bowl and the 2017-18 Rose Bowl — the Sooners outscored opponents 48 to 33 in the first half and were pummeled 49 to 14 in the second.2Excluding the overtime periods against Georgia in last season’s Rose Bowl. Those losses, Riley said,3Riley was Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator during the 2015-16 season. could be traced to physical opponents and conservative play-calling.Rewriting the script, then, will be paramount this time around for Oklahoma.Offensively, the Sooners seem to have the first half covered. No team puts up more first-half yardage than Oklahoma, which averages 313.4 yards a game. The team racks up 9.5 yards per first-half play — nearly a first down on each play. Riley’s offense is outscoring opponents by an average of 11.3 points in first halves this season, the eighth-best mark in the country.Of course, what separates Alabama from Oklahoma is its defense. The Tide allow 7.9 points per game in first halves, 12th-fewest in the nation and 7.9 fewer points than the Sooners. Alabama doesn’t just shut the door on its opponents in the opening 30 minutes — it packs their bags, shuttles them to the airport and ushers them through TSA. Remember when the Tide turned Tiger Stadium into a morgue by the third quarter of November’s top-five showdown with LSU? Or when the Tide took a trip to Oxford, watched Ole Miss score on its opening play and then blitzed the Rebels with 62 unanswered points, including 49 in the first half?4Alabama was playing a third-string quarterback in the third quarter of that one.LSU and Ole Miss aren’t alone. Saban’s squad is outscoring opponents 388 to 103 in first halves this season. On average, the Crimson Tide enter the locker room at halftime with a 21.9-point lead, the second-biggest margin by any team since at least 2004, the first year for which data is available.5The best mark over that stretch belongs to the 2010 Boise State Broncos, with an average 24.2-point halftime lead. Ninety-three teams have scored fewer total touchdowns than Alabama has scored in first halves. Only four teams in the past 15 seasons have scored more first-half touchdowns than the Tide’s 53.These lopsided first halves mean that the Tide hardly ever fall behind on the scoreboard. The average college football team this season played 178.6 first-half offensive snaps when trailing. Alabama played 18 — 32 fewer than the next-closest team. Offensive points per game47.043.6 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Alabama1812 Percentage of first downs or TDs per pass attempt51.1%49.4 20146.66484.5277.924.336.3 20155.89427.1227.121.930.1 National average177129 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Coming into the SEC title game, teams had run a combined 388 first-half plays against the Tide defense. They didn’t have the lead on any of them. Georgia finally broke through in the SEC championship; the Bulldogs ran 43 first-half offensive plays against the Tide and led for 12 of them.The nightmare doesn’t end for Alabama opponents in second halves: Then they’re outscored by a touchdown and a half, on average. In second halves, teams score 0.92 touchdowns per game against the Tide, tied for the sixth-fewest.Conversely, Oklahoma’s dominance tapers off considerably in the final two quarters, when it outscores opponents by only 5.2 points, which ranks 24th nationally.Little if any of that decline is attributable to the offense, which roars from start to finish. But defensively, the bottom seems to fall out for the Sooners after halftime, as they allow an average of 2.23 touchdowns per game in second halves, the most by any team in the Big 12 and tied for the 20th-most nationally. Riley’s defense has allowed 29 second-half touchdowns, the most by an Oklahoma defense since at least 2004.However, should Oklahoma keep the game close down the stretch, it has a peerless crunch-time quarterback in Murray. The Sooners have played seven games decided by 14 or fewer points, while Alabama has played only one. In the fourth quarter, when the scoring margin is within 14 points, Murray has a nation-leading quarterback rating of 99 — that’s on a 1-to-100 scale, mind you.There’s an argument to be made that Oklahoma is better equipped — certainly more experienced — to handle high-leverage situations.6Before the SEC title game, Tagovailoa had played three snaps the entire season in which his team was trailing. But Alabama has been so dominant that it simply hasn’t mattered.
Brian Rolle started the 2009 season trying to fill the shoes of former Ohio State All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis. Heading into 2010, Rolle, a senior from Immokalee, Fla., has taken on his own leadership role during spring practices. “I take it to heart that the coaches feel I can lead this team,” Rolle said. “I majored in sociology, so I like to help people now that the coaches have given me a role to help guys more, being that I’m an older guy.” Rolle, who wears the No. 36 that Buckeye linebacker legend Chris Spielman did, started for the first time in 2009. He had an immediate impact with a crucial interception in the Buckeyes’ season-opening 31-27 victory over Navy. However, Rolle felt he could have had a better season. “Personally, I would say it was average because I feel I could do so much better,” Rolle said. “I’m kind of tough on myself and most people say it was a good year for a first-year starter.” This season, Rolle will be sharing the leadership reins with fellow senior linebacker Ross Homan, who will be a third-year starter for the Buckeyes. “We’ve grown, we were great friends throughout the years, kind of helping each other out and coming up the ranks,” Homan said. One of the things Rolle said he takes to heart is watching younger players working hard in practice, especially fellow linebackers and other defensive players. “I’m doing a great job at letting the guys know what they need to do to get better,” Rolle said. One of the young players Rolle spoke highly of was junior linebacker Etienne Sabino from Miami, Fla., who is competing for a starting position. “I look at him as a situation I was in, behind guys who were really good and really talented,” Rolle said of Sabino. “And now he’s in a role where he’s got to play because we don’t really have anybody more experienced than him.” Linebacker coach Luke Fickell has coached Rolle throughout his four seasons at OSU, and is proud of the growth Rolle has shown as a leader. “B-Rolle has shown a natural ability to do it, and he is an outgoing kid,” Fickell said. “That is kind of something that you try to push guys to do.”
The Ohio State Buckeyes lit up the scoreboard as they pushed their record to 4-0 Saturday, defeating the Florida A&M Rattlers 76-0.The Buckeyes started out fast, scoring early and often against the Rattlers. After throwing an interception on the first drive of the game, redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton recovered and threw four touchdown passes before the end of the first quarter, spreading the ball around in the process.Junior tight end Jeff Heuerman, junior wide receivers Evan Spencer and Devin Smith and senior running back Carlos Hyde all caught passes for scores from Guiton, helping OSU jump to a 34-0 lead.Guiton’s success this season in Miller’s absence is a result of how much he has pushed himself and developed, according to OSU coach Urban Meyer.“He pushed himself academically, and he’s an exceptional guy,” Meyer said of Guiton. “He’s an efficient player right now, he’s an incredible manager, coach on the field so, you know, his time came. It’s not because he had the buckeye in his pocket or his lucky T-shirt; it’s because he worked hard with the position coach to get ready for his opportunity and boy did he.”It was Hyde’s first action of the season after being suspended by Meyer for his involvement in an incident at a Columbus bar in July. Hyde finished the game with 41 yards on five carries to go along with his touchdown catch.With his return, one of the game’s story lines was how he was going to fit into the offensive system moving forward. Meyer addressed that following the game.“I think you have three (running backs) that are above the others right now, you have Jordan Hall, Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde are the top three backs,” Meyer said. “(Redshirt-senior running back) Jordan Hall gives you flexibility, too. I’m evaluating what to do.”OSU continued to pile it on in the second quarter, as Hall scored his second touchdown of the game on an 18-yard scamper to give his team a 41-0 lead.Guiton set the OSU record for touchdown passes in a game just before halftime, when he connected with Spencer in the back of the end zone for his sixth scoring toss. That score gave the Buckeyes a 55-0 lead at the break. Guiton completed 24 of 34 passes for 215 yards with six touchdowns and one interception, and said it was “a lot of fun” setting a record like that.“It’s a blessing. Like I said, thank God, thank the O-linemen. I had all day,” Guiton said. “The coaches wanted to come out throwing the ball around, I thank them for the trust they put in me to be able to do that, and I just trust the receivers and make plays.”With the game in hand, OSU’s backups started the second half and played the rest of the game. Freshman running back Ezekiel Elliot found the end zone for the first time in his OSU career in the third quarter on a 16-yard run. He scored again later in the quarter on a 13-yard run, as the Buckeyes took a 69-0 lead into the fourth quarter.Redshirt-freshman quarterback Cardale Jones ran 10 yards for a touchdown late in the game to make the final score 76-0.Starting redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby said the defense’s goal was to not allow FAMU to score any points, and that it felt good to achieve that goal.“As a defense we shut them out,” Roby said. “That was our goal and we were able to accomplish that, so that’s always a good feeling, leaving a game with a goose egg.”A moment of silence was taken before the game to honor Maria Tiberi, an OSU student who was killed in a car accident Sept. 17. Meyer said they presented the Tiberi family with an OSU football helmet.“Once again with a heavy heart and sympathy and prayers for (the Tiberi) family,” Meyer said. “We gave them a helmet, and you wish you could do more for that family.”OSU is scheduled to start Big Ten play next Saturday against Wisconsin at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
OSU coach Urban Meyer removes his headset on the sideline during The Game Nov. 30 at Michigan Stadium. OSU won, 42-41.Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editorOhio State football coach Urban Meyer was less than pleased when he took to the podium at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center following the completion of yet another spring practice.The eighth practice — the midpoint of the spring season for OSU — was one Meyer categorized as “Bad Day Tuesday.”“It was a bad day. And what is today — Tuesday? Bad Day Tuesday,” Meyer said. “Gotta make sure there’s not Bad Day Thursday.”On top of the poor practice effort, the injury bug bit the Buckeyes again, as senior tight end Jeff Heuerman underwent surgery Monday to repair what Meyer called a “sprain” in his foot.Meyer, who expects Heuerman back in June, said he is not too worried about the senior’s injury.“Jeff’s going to be fine. I think it’s probably right with the normal number of injuries,” Meyer said, referring to the team as a whole despite the injuries.With Heuerman out, Meyer said he is still confident in the remaining tight ends left on the roster, despite a less than stellar practice.“(Redshirt-junior) Nick Vannett’s done very well and one of our most improved players,” Meyer said. “And (redshirt-freshman) Marcus Baugh actually has had some good days, today not being one of them.”The loss of Heuerman for the remainder of the spring is just another hit to a Buckeye team that has already lost senior quarterback Braxton Miller, sophomore safety Vonn Bell and sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall to injury.The loss of Marshall however, is the one that hurts the most, Meyer said.“Jalin’s the one. Because he was really making a move and he got hurt,” Meyer said. “He was making a move…”With Miller out, redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones had been receiving the bulk of the first team reps in spring practice and had been progressing well until Tuesday, Meyer said.“Cardale was bad today. And when I say bad, real bad,” Meyer said. “But to the point coming up till today, he was one of our most improved players on our team. It’s spring ball. You’re going to have a bad day. We gotta get that out before next fall, but he’s clearly the No. 2.”One positive of practice Tuesday was what Meyer had to say about junior linebacker Joshua Perry, who is looking to fill the shoes of departed First Team All-Big Ten and All American performer Ryan Shazier.“Josh Perry’s turned into an Ohio State linebacker … about. He’s not there yet,” Meyer said.An area of concern for Buckeye coaches and fans has been the lack of experience on the offensive line, as OSU lost four of five starters up front to graduation following the 2013-14 season. Junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker, the lone remaining starter, will be looked to as a leader on the team next season Meyer said, but he also took a step back on Tuesday.“Taylor was part of the bad day syndrome. But up to that point, very impressed with what he’s done,” Meyer said. “Leadership, toughness and doing all the things that previous group did, but today was not a good day.”With less than two weeks left of spring practice — which concludes with the Spring Game April 12 at Ohio Stadium — Meyer said his team cannot afford another poor practice.The Buckeyes are scheduled to start the 2014 campaign when they take on Navy Aug. 30 at noon at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
The pathologist said Mr Buchanan-Browne died from multiple stab wounds to his head and neck from a small-bladed weapon, such as a penknife.His ankle was also broken and may have been stamped on.There were reports at the time that his laptop was open and his briefcase had been damaged.He had booked into the hotel on September 27th, 2014, and was seen having dinner with two women.CCTV later showed two women approaching his hotel bedroom on September 28, just minutes before he also went to his room.The women emerged about 40 minutes later and left the hotel by a rear entrance.A medical card was found in the room belonging to Diana Manu-Kesia, a woman he knew from an earlier visit to Sierra Leone and whom he had contacted to say he would be visiting Ghana.The Ghanaian police were confident she was one of the women who entered his apartment, but she has since returned to Sierra Leone.Interpol has issued an international warrant for her arrest in relation to the death. The other woman has not been identified.The coroner heard evidence from Detective Chief Inspector Nick Gossett, of Kent Police, who relayed the findings of the Ghanaian police.Mr Buchanan-Brown’s wife Binta Ishaku and daughter Amanda attended the inquest in Maidstone, but refused to comment.His LinkedIn account said he had worked in Africa for 34 years and had “substantial experience in temperate/tropical agriculture and rural development”.A student at the former Wye Agricltural College, he was a senior partner with organic fair-trade co-operative Africulture:Transfarming Africa. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The hotel room where Adrian Buchanan-Browne was found deadCredit:ALAMY A British businessman seen having dinner with two women in Ghana who later went to his bedroom was found stripped naked and stabbed to death.Belfast-born farming expert Adrian Buchanan-Browne’s legs were tied together and he was lying in a pool of blood when a cleaner found him in his apartment at the Paloma Hotel in Accra, the capital of Ghana.An agricultural consultant, father-of-two Mr Buchanan-Browne, 59, of Wye, near Canterbury, Kent, was in Africa on business for the Market Development Programme.Now Kent coroner Patricia Harding has decided that he was unlawfully killed after hearing that the results of a post mortem by Dr David Rouse after the body was flown back to the UK.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Aerial footage shows huge traffic tailbacks after a truck struck an overpass and collapsed a pedestrian bridge onto one of England’s busiest motorways, the M20.
Given the scarce resources local councils have at their disposal people will rightly question if this is a sensible use of public moneyMaurice Golden, MSP Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The idea was for adults to use it outside school hours, but that was kicked into touch after a solitary resident complained the plan would lead to more noise.Residents say they are astonished that money which would normally be spent on books or teachers will be spent instead on an acoustic fence.Shop owner Shah Arshad, 28, who runs the Serve N Save shop just yards from the pitch, said: “This shop has been run by my family for 30 years and I’ve never heard any noise from people playing football.”It’s incredible really – it’s caused a real stir in the community. People really don’t understand why the council is so keen to spend the money on a fence.”Council officials then took the matter further, suggesting worshippers attending Sunday services at nearby St Peter’s Church could be offended by profane shouting from footballers.As a result, use of the all-weather pitch has been limited to pupils of two primary schools while plans are drawn up for the noise blanketing wall.It is due to be built by August.Neighbour Johnny Millar, 28, a print assistant, said: “The only word to describe this is ludicrous. There’s always been a pitch there and my friends and I played on it when we were younger.”There’s never been an issue – I spoke with the local priest as well and he said none of his parishioners were against it or had spoken to the council.”It seems one moaner is going to cost us all.”Maurice Golden, Tory MSP for West of Scotland, said: “The decision to build the acoustic fencing should be reviewed immediately.”Given the scarce resources local councils have at their disposal people will rightly question if this is a sensible use of public money.”Acoustic fences can be found near busy roads to keep noise to a minimum.The structures work by either “absorbing” sound waves or “reflecting” them back.In 2011, supermarket chain Morrisons agreed to build an acoustic fence around its supermarket delivery yard in Paisley after residents complained lorry traffic was keeping them awake.And a year later St Mirren Football Club built a partial wall at its training ground amid complaints residents at a nearby upmarket housing estate could hear “foul language” from its players.Last night, West Dunbartonshire Council defended the outlay – which would be enough to pay for 132,275 meals on wheels or hire nine full-time teachers.Convener of planning, councillor Lawrence O’Neill, said: “We are finding the cash from the existing school budget. There has only been one complaint but if we increase the use of the pitch we can expect to see that number increase.”Ultimately we are finding money to ensure the pitch is not wasted and more young people can enjoy the use of the facility.” Council bosses are spending up to £500,000 on a sound-blocking fence at a football pitch after a single complaint.Labour-run West Dunbartonshire Council considered scrapping hot school dinners, school milk and paid traffic wardens as it battles a £6.2 million shortfall.One local slammed the expenditure as “ludicrous”.Building the sound-blocking “acoustic fence” will cost at least £250,000, but the final bill could be as much as £500,000, according to some estimates.The new state-of-the-art 3G pitch pitch at Bellsmyre Education Campus, in Dumbarton, opened last summer and replaced a previous worn-out pitch.
The Duke of Edinburgh has met Royal Marines who have completed a mammoth 1,664 mile trek – his final official Royal event before he retires from public engagements.In the grounds of Buckingham Palace, Philip celebrated the achievements of servicemen who have taken part in the 1664 Global Challenge, a series of strength and endurance feats raising funds and awareness for the Royal Marines Charity. Despite his age, Philip’s decision – which was fully supported by the Queen and was not medically related – came as a surprise as he still appeared to relish meeting people and carrying out his public role. The Duke of Edinburgh meets Royal Marines in the forecourt of Buckingham PalaceCredit:Yui Mok/PA During the event, Philip will also meet veterans and cadets before receiving the 1664 Global Challenge baton.The parade will end with a march past, a royal salute and three cheers for the Captain General.Over the years, Philip has attended many Royal Marines events and in 2014, to mark the Corps’ 350th anniversary, the Duke wore his full ceremonial uniform as Captain General to the state opening of parliament. Royal Marines from around the globe have also been taking part in extreme events including a 34-mile swim underwater and a company of Royal Marines lifting more than 20,000 tonnes and running 10,000 kilometres. Prince Philip doffs his hat at his final solo public engagementCredit:Yui Mok/PA The Duke of Edinburgh attending the Captain General’s Parade Credit:Yui Mok/PA The Queen’s Consort announced in May he would be retiring from royal engagements after more than 65 years supporting the monarch in her role as head of state and attending events for his own charities and organisations. Buckingham Palace has stressed although the Duke’s diary of engagements will come to an end on Wednesday, he might decide to attend certain events, alongside the Queen, from time to time.The Queen’s public schedule continues as normal, but other members of the Royal Family will step up in support of the monarch in her role as head of state. The Duke is known for his quips and over the past few months has been joking about his impending retirement, even telling celebrity cook Prue Leith at a Palace event “I’m discovering what it’s like to be on your last legs”. Prince Philip with military leaders in the grounds of Buckingham PalaceCredit:Yui Mok/PA His association with the Royal Marines dates back 64 years to June 2, 1953 when he was appointed Captain General in succession to the late King George VI.The challenge, which recognises the year 1664 when the Corps was founded, has seen Royal Marines all over the world raising money for the military unit’s charity with a number of ingenious feats. The Duke of Edinburgh waves goodbye at his final official solo engagementCredit:EDDIE MULHOLLAND FOR THE TELEGRAPH In the forecourt of Buckingham Palace Philip, in his role as Captain General of the Royal Marines, attended a parade to mark the finale of the 1664 Global Challenge. The 1,664 mile running challenge began in Plymouth on April 25 with Royal Marines running 16.64 miles a day for 100 days, with the gruelling trek due to end at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.The Duke will meet some of the runners including two Royal Marines who have completed the entire distance. Philip, 96, was praised at the time for his public service with Prime Minister Theresa May leading the tributes saying he had given the Queen “steadfast support”, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Duke’s “clear sense of public duty” had inspired people for more than 60 years. Show more The Duke of Edinburgh, pictured inspecting troops during the annual Trooping the Colour parade in 2012, is Captain General of the Royal MarinesCredit:Dominic Lipinski/PA Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
David Bryant, a former firefighter, was wrongly convicted of historic child abuse and his conviction will be overturnedCredit:Eddie Mulholland Show more Harvey ProctorCredit:Paul Grover He was freed from jail only after it emerged that Mr Day, from Bromley in Kent, had previously sought medical treatment for being a ‘chronic liar’. Among his lies, Mr Day had falsely claimed he had been selected for the British boxing team at the Los Angeles Olympics but dropped out because of the trauma. Mr day had also brought a false claim for civil damages from Mr Bryant. Mr Bryant’s lawyer Rupert Butler said: “Danny day got £11,000 compensation for the alleged rape. There is no provision for clawing back the money once it has been paid out, even in the event of somebody successfully appealing the conviction.”Mr Butler suggested that one deterrent for the CICA is the expense of taking a false claimant to court to try to get money back. The CICA’s legal fees in going to court could easily exceed the compensation paid out, while there is no guarantee false accusers had not spent the money by the time they are exposed.The CICA defended its actions and insisted it did all it could to recover money wrongly paid out. The CICA refused to comment on specific cases and was unable to disclose the extent of the problem.The CICA says in its charter that it must “ensure all incidents of fraud or suspected fraud are dealt with promptly and appropriately; report fraud to the relevant police authority and support any police prosecution; and seek to recover awards of compensation, from the public purse, if awarded as the result of a fraudulent claim.” Jemma Beale, 25, who is to be sentenced for making a series of false rape and sexual assault allegationsCredit:PA The CICA insisted a team was employed to investigate fraudulent claims which could then be passed on to police. But opponents complain there is no easy mechanism for recovering money already paid out and likely to have been spent.Alleged victims of crime can receive money even where no perpetrator has been found or convicted.The CICA scheme consists of a sliding scale for compensation depending on the seriousness of the injury. Some law firms even publish a “sexual abuse compensation calculator” on their websites that allows people work out how much money they are entitled to.Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee, said: “The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is in place to allow victims of crime to receive the compensation they are entitled to.“Whilst fraudulent claims are rare, it is crucial that any accusation of abuse of the system is fully investigated. Where it is clear a claim is false, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority works closely with the police to prosecute perpetrators and recover any funds paid out.“It is vital that the public can have absolute confidence in the system. We will investigate these claims fully and will not hesitate to take action if evidence of wrongdoing is uncovered.” The problem has been compounded, according to victims of false allegations, by a compensation culture that has included lawyers touting for business for sex abuse victims. Some firms have even advertised in prison publications for clients. The friend said: “Nick has been exposed as a complete fantasist. It is outrageous that the compensation money has not been clawed back. The whole thing is completely mad.”Harvey Proctor, the former Tory MP, who lost his home, job and reputation after being falsely accused of rape and murder by ‘Nick’, said: “Compensation should not be paid out in cases where there is an ongoing criminal investigation until that investigation has been completed. Also there ought to be some mechanism whereby the money can be automatically recovered if the person is found to have lied.“It is completely at odds with justice to be handing out public money to people who are making up claims and provides an incentive for people to do so.”Another serial liar who received £11,000 from the CICA is Danny Day, who falsely accused David Bryant, a Dorset fire chief, of rape. Mr Bryant, 66, spent two and a half years in jail before the Court of Appeal exonerated him. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Fantasists who allege they were sex abuse victims are being allowed to keep taxpayer-funded compensation – even after their claims have been exposed as false, a Telegraph investigation can reveal.Last night, ministers launched an investigation into why thousands of pounds paid out to fake victims has not been clawed back.Critics fear the system could have helped to encourage an industry of false claimants.The Telegraph can disclose that the man who falsely accused Field Marshall Lord Bramall and Lord Brittan, the former Home Secretary, of involvement in a VIP paedophile ring has hung onto £50,000 paid to him by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). Lord Bramall Credit:Geoff Pugh A friend of Lord Bramall, the 93-year-old D-Day veteran and former head of the Army, said it was deeply worrying that ‘Nick’ still had his money and that there was no automatic guarantee it can be reclaimed after he was exposed as a fantasist. The man, who can be identified only as ‘Nick’, has been under investigation for almost a year for perverting the course of justice.A second man, whose false allegation of historic rape led to a fire brigade chief being wrongly jailed, has not been required to pay back £11,000 awarded to him.A third fantasist Jemma Beale, who was convicted of perverting the course of justice last month over a string of false rape claims, also received £11,000 from CICA. Bob Neill, the Conservative chairman of the all-party Commons Justice Committee, said he would raise the issue when the committee reconvenes this month.Mr Neill said: “It is quite wrong that it should be so easy for people to be paid compensation on the basis of something that has not been tested and proved, and even worse that nothing is done to get that money back if the allegations prove to be false.“I hope steps will be taken to recover this money and if there is no mechanism to do so there certainly ought to be one.“We will be looking at a raft of issues and it’s certainly something I will raise with colleagues when the committee is reconstituted.”‘Nick’ has been under police investigation for almost a year for making false abuse claims and also for receiving compensation for his alleged ordeal. Metropolitan Police officers assigned to investigate his lurid claims of murder and abuse even helped him with his CICA claim. He received the compensation even though nobody was ever charged over his false allegations.
Recipients are therefore being forced to contact their local magistrates court in order to trace what their alleged offence was. In one incident a man was charged with a driving offence, despite being abroad at the time, but as a result of the mounting late repayment charges was left with no choice but to pay up.Mark Thornton, 46, of Kilburn, North London, told the Mail on Sunday how, out of the blue, he received an official letter demanding £183. “Someone else in her shared house put her name on the licence. But she had no way of proving that.”The Ministry of Justice have since said that those who believe they are being wrongly accused can appeal at magistrates court.An HM Courts and Tribunals Service spokesman said: “The Historic Debt project was set up to tackle outstanding debt.’It has collected £9 million, including compensation owed to victims of crime. Anyone who believes they have been wrongly contacted can appeal through their local magistrates’ court.”A spokesman added that not all debtors have been contacted at this time and that the pursuit of following up the debts will continue.If you have been contacted the Ministry of Justice advise that you make immediate payment or contact the National Enforcement Service contact centre. Tens of thousands of people have been left bewildered after receiving letters and text messages demanding payment of hundreds of pounds in fines dating back over a decade.The demands for unpaid parking tickets and invalid TV licences have been issued in a bid to claw back millions of pounds lost from historic fines.The orders are part of a scheme being run by the Ministry of Justice with the help of new technology, using databases held by other government departments and online tracing tools which have even managed to locate people who have moved homes. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Since the scheme was launched in September 2016 around £9 million has already been recouped for the taxpayer, but it was not until March this year that the Historic Debt team expanded their tracing activity to include outstanding debts of over 10 years old.The letters have however left many people confused with some even believing it was a scam and ignoring the requests all together.The confusion can be blamed in part to the letters failing to include information on the particular incident in question, leaving people to wonder how they are able to prove their innocence. He said: “It didn’t actually say what the fine was for but eventually we were told it was for an untaxed vehicle. My wife and I were living in Switzerland in 2010, when it was supposed to have occurred.“’We didn’t have the paperwork any more and we didn’t want to rack up more fees so we just paid it. It felt Kafka-esque.”The government department responsible has advised that it has been contacting debtors in order to seek payments and further enforcement activity will follow where appropriate.Such incidents were also reported by The Mail on Sunday with some recipients being hit with further charges from bailiffs and threatened with court action.Sandra Straupmanis, 54, of Shadwell, East London, received a demand for £205, which related to non-payment of a TV licence seven years ago.Her son, Dagnis, 29, said: “My mother was very distressed. She rang the number on the letter and discovered it was for a property she had long moved out of.
Meghan Marklehas been left “distraught” after her pet beagle broke two legs, it has been claimed.Ms Markle, who brought one of her two pet dogs with her to London from their Canadian home, has taken beagle Guy to be treated by vets, according to the Mail on Sunday.The accident is understood to have happened shortly after her engagement to Prince Harry was announced at the end of November.The newspaper has reported that the dog is being treated by Professor Noel Fitzpatrick, described as a “world-class orthopaedic-neuro veterinary surgeon” and known for his work on television. Meghan Markle makes her first public appearance in NottinghamCredit:AFP Ms Markle has previously spoken of her deep love for her two dogs, Guy and Bogart. Bogart, a labrador-shepherd cross , has been left behind with friends in Toronto after he was considered unfit to fly with the former actress to her new home at Kensington Palace. Speaking to the BBC after the engagement was announced, Ms Markle said: “One [dog] is now staying with very close friends and my other, little Guy, he’s in the UK, he’s been here for a while.”I think he’s doing just fine.” Prince Harry’s fiance has previously described her dogs as “my boys” and “my loves”, and said that they “mean the absolute world” to her. “I think Kate and William are a bit absorbed in having young children and keeping the work show on the road. “There are always tensions about money and who’s going to do what and I’m sure they’ll go on. They won’t necessarily get any better or worse.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Meghan Markle with Guy and Bogart in TorontoCredit:Instagram Prince Harry and Meghan MarkleCredit:PA Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in their engagement photosCredit:Alexi Lubomirski He told the Sunday Times: “It’s a great story at a time when the whole country is wrestling with issues of diversity. “The idea that Harry is marrying a strong, mixed -race campaigner for human rights ” Asked if he has met her, Bradby added: “I have. She’s incredibly likeable and warm.I’m sure she’s got her flaws, like all of us, but it’s difficult to see what they are. “She’s got a feeling of zen around her, and if you look at Harry over the past year and a half, he’s really calmed down. “The only thing he gets exercised about now is protecting her from the media.” The Mail on Sunday reported that Guy is receiving treatment at a facility in Surrey, with Prince Harry travelling with a “very upset” Ms Markle to support her. A spokesman for Kensington Palace has not yet commented.Ms Markle was described this weekend as having a “feeling of zen” around her by broadcaster Tom Bradby, a former Royal correspondent and friend of Prince Harry. Asked whether there might be concern among other members of the Royal Family that Ms Markle will claim their spotlight, Bradby said: “There are bound to be tensions — there just will be, but they’ll probably be between the generations.
Flu has reached epidemic levels in some parts of the UK with the “Japanese” strain now dominant after the NHS failed to vaccinate against it, official figures show.Latest data from Public Health England shows that cases of flu have risen by 150 per cent in two weeks, fuelling a “significant excess” of elderly deaths.The statistics show that epidemic levels have already been reached in the city of York, with Herefordshire and north Somerset close behind.Health officials said the current season is the worst for seven years. If trends continue, an epidemic will be declared across England within a fortnight.GPs last night urged sufferers to stay at home, rather than adding to pressures on practices and fuelling the spread of the virus. Figures from internet surveillance suggest more than 15 per cent of people have suffered flu like illness in the past week – amounting to more than 8 million people.More than 31,000 are estimated to have visited their GP because of flu symptoms in the last week.Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said family doctors were under “huge” pressures as she begged patients to stay away if they could look after themselves.“We do encourage patients who are ill to think hard about whether they do need to see a GP – not just in terms of reducing pressures on the NHS, but to minimise the possibility of passing viruses, such as flu, to other people, particularly in at-risk groups, such as those with long-term conditions or pregnant women,” she said. Professor Paul Cosford, medical director, PHE said the hospital admissions reflected “the most significant flu season since the winter of 2010/11 and the preceding pandemic year of 2009”.He stressed that the current national levels have not crossed the epidemic threshold.An NHS England spokesperson said: “Young children, who are most likely to spread flu, are now given the quadrivalent vaccine, which is the most effective protection for them. But for older people, medical experts have advised GPs that it was unlikely to provide them with extra benefits, so GPs and pharmacists took account of this when many months ago they ordered their stocks for this flu season. Looking ahead to next flu season, the latest research will be factored in to help GPs decide the best vaccines for next year.” Eighteen local authorities now have high levels of flu, the PHE figures show, while one -York – has crossed the epidemic threshold of 109 cases per 100,000 people. In Herefordshire there are 102.5 cases per 100,000 people, with 95.3 cases per 100,000 people in north Somerset.Across the country, the figure is 53.1 cases per 100,000 people – a rise of 152 per cent in two weeks, with 120 deaths so far from flu this winter. Dr Scriven said: “We need to look again at the decisions the NHS is making on vaccinations; year after year, we are not getting it right.”The new data shows “significant excess” deaths last week among over 65 in England, and among those in all age groups in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Senior doctors have accused health officials of fuelling the crisis, by attempting to cut costs on vaccines.Health officials had been fearful about the impact of a strain of flu A (H3N2) dubbed “Aussie flu” after it fuelled the worst flu season in Australia for a decade. But the new figures suggest that B strains are now dominating, making up more than six in ten hospitalised cases last week. The vast majority of those cases involve a strain called B-Yamagata – known as “Japanese flu” – which is not covered by the vaccines most patients have received. The latest statistics suggest around 4,500 people were admitted to hospital with flu last week.Of those, 61 per cent – were suffering influenza B, the vast majority with the B-Yamagata strain.Dr Nick Scriven, President of the Society of Acute Medicine said: “It’s very clear that Japanese flu is pushing up admission rates, and having a major impact on intensive care units – it can be really nasty.”It follows concern that the vaccinations are failing to sufficiently protect the elderly against the “Aussie flu” strain, with a new type of jab planned for next year, after last year’s had zero effectiveness among over 65s. Two types of vaccine were available to the NHS – a £5 trivalent version covering three main strains of flu, and an £8 quadrivalent version protecting against four strains.But NHS senior managers say GPs were put under pressure by health officials to choose the cheaper option – excluding the Japanese strain now spreading through hospitals. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
The CPS needs to show continuously that it adds value to the criminal justice processChief Inspector Kevin McGinty Police and prosecution lawyers are failing to correctly disclose evidence in nearly half of court cases, watchdog review has found.Inspectors identified a number of shortcomings in a sample of hundreds of criminal cases over two years in England.The report from Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) said police fully complied with their disclosure obligations in relation to unused material in 734 out of a snapshot of 1,290 cases, or 56.9%, with partial compliance in a further 36.7%.Poor descriptions of items on unused material schedules were the main cause of marking down nearly half (41.9%) of the 556 cases that did not fully meet the standard expected.In other instances, items were listed wrongly or witnesses’ previous convictions were not dealt with properly.The review came after police have been accused of not carrying out basic procedures in a string of high-profile cases, which subsequently collapsed.Failures to uncover key evidence that exonerated or supported the case of defendants has lead to the collapse of four rape trials in recent months.It also comes after a former special adviser to Sir Michael Fallon accused the police of a “cruel public shamming” after he was acquitted of sexual assault in May. Richard Holden arriving at Southwark Crown Court, where he was found not guilty of sexual assaultCredit:Gustavo Valiente /i-Images A CPS spokesman said: “It is encouraging this report showed strong leadership across the CPS.”Tackling the issues around casework and disclosure are a top priority.”We are working with the police and partners across the criminal justice system to bring lasting improvements to the way we handle disclosure and a number of measures are already in place.”By September our prosecutors will have completed mandatory disclosure training; local and national improvement plans are in place and we will continue to monitor progress closely.” Richard Holden, 33, accused the police of “delayed and incomplete” disclosure in the case. A jury took just an hour to find him not guilty. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The inspectorate said it saw “limited evidence” of prosecutors identifying police lack of compliance in reviews or other notes on files, or of them feeding that back to the police.Prosecutors’ compliance on initial disclosure was “not much better than that of the police”, with 557 out of 954 cases (58.4%) fully meeting requirements.Continuing disclosure was better handled, with 64.8% of applicable cases fully meeting the expected standard.Of 429 cases that failed at the initial and or continuing stages, eight featured a failure throughout the life of the proceedings to disclose material that undermined the prosecution case or assisted the defence, the report said.No miscarriages of justice were detected as a result of the eight “complete” failures.Inspectors said that although the number of cases looked at, as a percentage of the total number of cases conducted by the CPS nationally, was small, they are representative of the picture in the regional areas examined for the report.Confidence in the criminal justice system was rocked last year after a flurry of cases collapsed. In the lead-up to trials, police and prosecutors are required to hand over relevant material that either undermines the prosecution case or assists the defence.The regime came under sharp focus after defendants facing rape allegations had the charges against them dropped when critical material emerged at the last minute. The revelations prompted a review of every live rape and serious sexual assault prosecution in England and Wales, which found issues with the disclosure of unused material in 47 cases.Elsewhere, HMCPSI said that while leadership was found to be strong nationally there was cause for concern about casework handling.Between first appearance and trial, in many cases the CPS did not manage progress effectively and too much work was left until a late stage, the assessment found.Chief Inspector Kevin McGinty said: “The CPS needs to show continuously that it adds value to the criminal justice process.”This is about getting the right cases before the courts, ensuring that disclosure has been dealt with appropriately and progressing cases efficiently to ensure cases are trial ready at the earliest opportunity.”It is encouraging that leadership, staff engagement and public engagement were found to be strengths of the CPS. But the CPS needs to improve on the timely review of casework if it is to reduce delays and inefficiencies in the trial process.”
Britain’s rarest seabird has seen a change in its fortune having successfully bred on a Welsh island for the first time in a decade. Roseate terns almost went extinct after their feathers were used as a fashion accessory in women’s hats.But nature lovers are celebrating after two chicks hatched successfully on the safety of the Skerries off Anglesey – and one has already flown the nest.They were only born after a major conservation project by the RSPB, and warden Ian Sims said the news “cannot be overstated”.The chicks’ progress is being monitored by two animal experts who have gone to extreme measures to help the terns breed.They designed nest boxes for the terns and used lures playing roseate calls and with the aim of attracting passing roseate terns.They also warded off potential predators including gull scarers with loudspeakers and monitor the island for rats.Mr Sims said: “We have been working to protect the seabirds on the Skerries for many years and when it comes to breeding roseate terns, they have quite a variable history.”In 2016 one pair bred but did not fledge any young. Before that they last bred in 2006 – when a pair fledged one chick.” The Skerries – although inhospitable for humans – are crucial for breeding terns who migrate each spring from western Africa to just a handful of colonies in the UK and Ireland. The coastal birds, with pale plumage with slight rosy flush, a black cap and a black beak, arrive at their breeding colonies from mid-May.There are only 116 breeding pairs of Roseate terns in the UK, restricted to just Coquet Island in England. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Other translations included “popo or feds” which means “police” and “swear down” which means “tell the truth,” it said.A Lancashire Police spokesman said the list was on display at their station in St Annes.“It’s in place to help the neighbourhood team understand some of the terms and phrases used by teenagers,” he said.Sheldon Thomas, chief executive of Gangsline, a consultancy that trains professionals to understand gang mentality, recently highlighted the need for officers to become more “street” in order to effectively communicate with young gang members and other youths.He said slang words such as “gwop,” which means a wad of cash and “sweets” which means bullets were akin to a foreign language to most serving officers.”This is how they speak,” he said. “You have to adapt your strategy. How can you serve a community if you don’t understand the community?”Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, has warned that police and social media firms are failing to detect gang videos because they don’t understand “youth language,” which evolved so quickly the criminals were keeping ahead.He cited as an example “plugging”, the practice by which gangs compel a child to carry drugs internally with the risk that if caught by rivals, the drugs are forcibly removed. If the “popo” want the kids on the street to “swear down” they should take careful note.Police officers at on the Fylde coast in Lancashire have compiled a list of street slang in a bid to teach officers how to decipher youth language.The list, scrawled on a whiteboard, explains that Stormzy is a rapper from Croydon as opposed to being concerned with meteorology.It states that “beef-ting fam” means “starting an argument” while “peng” means “good/attractive” and “GOAT” stands for Greatest of all Time.A photograph of the board was posted on Twitter by a police officer from Lancashire.“Spotted at a Police station somewhere on the Fylde coast,” he wrote.“Never have I ever laughed so hard. Would genuinely be lost in a conversation with youth today.”The list of translations was spotted by a member of staff on the Reigate and Banstead beat in Surrey and published on its Facebook page, with the tongue-in-cheek claim that it was rolling out youth language training to engage with “younger R&B residents”.When a member of the public suggested that “Wagwan” meant “what’s going on?” as opposed to “Hello, how are you?” the force replied: “Indeed. But that in itself translates to a greeting. ‘Wagwan?….Reet bruv’ = ‘Hello how are you today?…..I am very well Thank you squire.’” “This is dangerous because social media companies … or the police may not be aware of the context and may not flag up the content,” Mr Khan said.
Coming top in the healthy stakes was Edinburgh followed by Canterbury and Taunton.Also on the list were Cheltenham, York, Brighton & Hove, Eastbourne, Exeter and Cambridge. Muswell Hill in Haringey, Hornchurch in Havering and Pinner in Harrow were deemed the healthiest high streets in the capital. The list was first published in 2015 and was updated this year to reflect the changing face of the British high street.It added off-licences and the growing number of empty shops to the list of negative features on a high street, while cafes and vape shops were added to the positive influences. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Historic buildings and cafes line the high street in CanterburyCredit:Neil McAllister/Alamy “Unhealthy” high streets could be taking two and a half years off your life, according to a new report. Research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that residents living in towns with lots of bookies and off-licences die younger than those with plenty of libraries and pharmacies.Its ranking of 70 high streets found those living in the top 10 healthy areas lived an average of two-and-a-half years longer than those with the 10 unhealthiest high streets.Grimsby was crowned the unhealthiest town, followed by Walsall and Blackpool.The Health on the High Street: Running on Empty report used a scale giving points for pubs and bars, dentists, opticians, libraries, leisure centres, museums and galleries, pharmacies, coffee shops and vape shops.Points were deducted for betting shops, payday lenders, fast food outlets, off licences, tanning salons and empty shops.Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Northampton, Bolton, Wolverhampton, Huddersfield and Bradford all found themselves in the bottom ten. London’s many high streets were ranked separately, with Seven Sisters Road in Haringey, Roman Road West in Bow and Thornton Heath in Croydon coming bottom.