Covering the story of the Syrian refugee accused of sexual assault in Newcastle, the prospect of a new referendum for Scotland, the Marmite economy, and Margaret Atwood.
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They escaped Syria's civil war only to find themselves centre
Three refugees are accused of sexual assault in Newcastle.
They say false claims were the product of
Newsnight has followed the family of one of those accused over
We were with them as the verdict came through.
Did you ever think, this is worse than what we left behind?
They're using the result as a cover for a hard Brexit for which they
But which they intend to impose regardless.
Sturgeon pulls no punches as she tells the Prime Minister
to listen to her on Brexit or face the consequences of a second
We'll hear live from former Scottish Europe Minister and leader
of the SNP's In campaign, Humza Yousaf.
Mortify my flesh that I may be multiplied.
The Handmaid's Tale is only one of the politically inspired novels
that today won Margaret Atwood the 2016 Pinter Prize.
She tells me why her dystopic novel of female enslavement feels even
Unfortunately, at the time I wrote it, there were people
who were saying this could never happen in America.
I don't think people are saying that much any more.
What should rich countries like ours be doing to help
the millions of people trying to escape Syria's
It's a question that has paralysed Europe for much
After argument and agonising, Britain agreed to take 20,000
A tiny number compared to the million offered
But when one of the first to arrive in Britain was charged with sexually
assaulting a schoolgirl earlier this year, some feared even this
modest influx could create dangerous tensions.
Newsnight has been following the family at the heart of this
Today 18-year-old Omar Badreddin and two other Syrian refugees
were cleared of sexually assaulting a schoolgirl in a park in Newcastle.
Katie Razzall and producer Maria Polachowska chart one family's
journey from a war-ravaged Syrian town to the steps
The film contains some disturbing images.
Relief for a family that has suffered so much. For the past three
weeks, Omar Badreddin has been on trial at Newcastle Crown Court,
charged with sexual assault. Today he was found not guilty.
The Badreddins came from Syria, looking for respite after years of
war. But this family quickly found that in taking up the offer of
century, they had replaced a war zone with a different kind of hell.
Did you ever think this was worse than what you had left behind?
Newsnight has been filming this family for 11 months. What began as
a story of escape from war became a window on the isolation of beginning
a new life. In a country where not everybody wants you, where a sexual
assault charge provokes a far right demonstration. Faced off by
antiracism campaigners. A 14-year-old girl had accused Omar
Badreddin along with two other Syrians of working together to grope
and kiss her behind a pavilion in this local park. Her friends said
they had done the same to her. The jury unanimously found all the man
not guilty. At a time when we are navigating how
to help people in desperate need, plenty are suspicious of newcomers,
with their different customs and traditions. And that, believes Omar
Badreddin, was at the heart of the case against them.
Their nightmare began on May the tenth this year, the first the
family knew of their son Omar's arrest was when he didn't come home.
Omar and one of his co-accused spent a month in Durham prison before
getting bail. Jordan is where I first met Omar's
family in November last year, just before they moved to the UK and the
next extraordinary chapter in their lives began. Like many Syrians, they
were renting a flat in the capital. I mother, father and four children
who had fled Syria two years before, leaving one son, their eldest,
Abdul, behind. There are 670,000 Syrian refugees
living in Jordan. With their father blind in one eye and suffering
various health conditions, only Omar, who was then 17 Thommo could
earn money. He worked 14 hour days in a shoe shop. After paying for
water, food and rent, there was no money left for schooling. The
children had lost years of formal education, though they tried to keep
up. They are from Muthana, near Damascus. At our first meeting, they
told me they had gone on peaceful demonstrations against the
Government when the uprising began. The army cracks down.
We can't verify the truth of these claims, but the family and their
testimonies have been vetted by UNHCR to get into Britain, because
unlike most Syrian refugees, they were lucky, deemed vulnerable enough
by UNHCR to require resettlement. Last November, Britain took them in.
What was your first thought when you were told you were going to Britain?
This family never planned to leave their home, never conceived of
moving to Britain, but when they boarded that plane, they could not
have envisaged what lay ahead. This is your house? The first time
we met in Britain, they were settling into their new life, full
of hope. They have a council flat in
Newcastle. The council asked us not to identify where exactly.
Omar and Mohammed? Like around 3000 Syrians so far, they have been
brought to the UK on the Government's vulnerable persons
relocation scheme, expanded by David Cameron last year. The family are
3000 miles from Syria, but the front line is never far away.
Now you are sitting here watching the news from here, further away
from Syria, do you think the West should be doing more? What do you
think should be happening? As new arrivals, apart from school
and English classes, the family mainly stayed at home. Omar at this
stage didn't appear to have friends or a social life, and his father
poured over the so-called Caesar files, more than 50,000 images
smuggled out of Syria, many of which apparently document people who have
died in government detention, his friends amongst them. Who is this
man? How did you know him? Bashar al-Assad was asked about
these, and he said, you say this is torture, but anybody could have done
it, the Syrian government hasn't done this.
Marwan claims to speak from experience. Torture is one of the
criteria listened as qualifying Syrians for the resettlement are
grand that brought the family to Britain he was tortured either
regime. What did they do to you? For this family, things were about
to get a lot worse. Their first ever trip to the beach was perhaps the
last time Maymouna would smile before their lives would implode
again. This conservative family stood out a bit in ten white, even
on the beach, for some members, paddling on the beach is done fully
clothed. Less than two months after this day
trip, Omar was arrested. But one of his sons on remand in a British
prison, only a few days later, another misfortune struck the
family. They talked to me about their eldest son, who they said got
stuck in Syria when they fled. In May they heard he had died.
Like much that happens in civil War, the truth is Liz McColgan kidded and
we later learned that for the past year, he was fighting for an
Islamist group. All of this father denied that made him an extremist.
A sexual assault in this park would have put their second son behind
bars. Face of it the case involves three older men preying on two
underage girls but the court heard one of the girls had told lies in
the past. The defence wanted it to run out and damning statements made
by the men in police interviews turned out to have been
mistranslated. As the evidence emerged, Syrian men appeared less
sexually experienced than the girls who they were supposed to have
attacked. Another defendant revealed he had never even seen two people
kissing. 18-year-old Omar told me he never had a sexual encounter of any
kind. The reaction by far right groups to
the impending trial was not surprising. But others, particularly
since the six attacks in Cologne, were ready to blame cultural
differences by the way the Syrians were alleged to have behaved. His
parents never accepted that. Do you think it is possible that boys like
Omar see women in the West, girls in the West, they view them differently
from how they view and the respect they have for women from their own
culture? No. No. Britain has promised 20,000 Syrians
will be resettled in the UK by 2020 on the same scheme as a family. I
asked local council had offered new arrivals, 73 in Newcastle, any
classes on attitudes to in Britain. Did you talk to Omar and other
children about what the council said in that cultural talk?
With the trial hanging over them, they have tried to make these
difficult times happier for their other children. They have been
introduced to the cultures and traditions of the strange new land,
learning more about a country they will likely never call home.
Especially after what has happened. This visit to the beach feels like
an age ago, A time of optimism when Britain felt like it was offering a
new start. Now they are grateful that justice can beat me to died
fairly but for them, indication has come too late to repair the
reputational damage a family with so little prizes so very much. --
vindication. Scotland's First Minister has fired
a warning shot to Theresa May that she must listen
to the SNP on Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon told her party
conference today that if the Conservative government
was not prepared to listen, she'd demand a second
Independence Referendum. She confirmed to the surprise
of many supporters that she would publish a referendum
bill for consultation next week. Or a step on the way
to a second vote? Nick Watt is at the conference
for us. Well, this was the week when the
harsh reality of Brexit across the UK struck home. First it was
turning, then the supermarkets and today Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon
caused some surprise when she said she wanted to create the possibility
of an independent Scotland being ready to join the EU before those
Brexit negotiations have concluded. If it is a hard Brexit. I will be
joined by the Scottish transport minister but first, here is my take
on the events of today. It's wild expanses can make Scotland feel
remote from the rest of the UK. But today, this semi-detached corner of
Britain showed that it can shape events across our island. I can
I can confirm today that the independence Referendum Bill will be
published for consultation next week.
APPLAUSE Nicola Sturgeon has been treading
carefully since the EU referendum after the people of Scotland took a
different view to the rest of the UK and voted to remain. Unexpected
spike in support for independence failed to materialise but today the
Scottish first Minister warns Theresa May that she might formally
demand a second independence referendum before the end of the EU
negotiations if the Prime Minister negotiates a hard Brexit. The SNP's
new Deputy Leader says his party does mean business. Perhaps what is
happening at the conference is a wake-up call and there needs to be a
realisation in Downing Street and in the Labour Party that there is a
strong mandate in Scotland to protect our place in Europe and if
our friends site of the border do not get that, we are going to get on
with it ourselves. It was a big moment when the first minister but a
second independence referendum on the table, delegates who feared she
was going soft on the defining issue for their party left to their feet
but Nicola Sturgeon is no gambler and she made clear she would only
take this momentous step if she fails in her first girl to build up
a cross-party Alliance to campaign against a hard Brexit for the whole
of the UK. But events might move more quickly than the SNP had
expected. Donald Tusk, European Council president, said in Brussels
today there is only one way to leave the EU- are hard Brexit. In my
opinion, the only real alternative to a hard Brexit is no Brexit.
APPLAUSE Even if today, hardly anyone
believes in such a possibility. Angus Robertson made clear that a
referendum will be held if that is the only way to preserve Scotland's
membership. Unless you realise that remain means remain, we will take
the power into our own hands as a nation whether people are sovereign,
having voted 62% to remain, and will do whatever it takes be sure we
protect our place in Europe. Scotland's most eminent historian,
who supports independence, warns that an early second referendum
would be a risk. It would be counter-productive for the current
government to go again to the country until, as they previously
said, something like 60% of April independence vote in the opinion
polls over a period of time. One of the things that concerned me about
this is the Canadian situation. Quebec. When they left it for too
long to go for the other boat and the constitutional position in
Canada is more or less stable. The leader of the Scottish Conservatives
agrees. I think Nicola Sturgeon is trying to ride two horses, half of
the members want another referendum tomorrow and she is trying to keep
them happy and she also has the opinion polls telling her we don't
want another referendum, we want to move on and it was another one
tomorrow she would lose, she knows then she would have to go and the
SNP independence project would be defeated. Ruth Davidson warns that
Scots might not be wildly enamoured of the EU. Very few people who go to
sleep underneath European flag... That is a hard sell. I would not
underestimate that one was not a proxy vote from the other. The
largest block of supporters of any political party that voted to leave
the European Union and Scotland were SNP voters, around 400,000, if it
was not a proxy for others... I want to stay part of the UK but I've
ordered to remain so the SNP cannot co-opt my vote to mean something
else. The warnings from north of the border were given short shrift in
London, which believes Nicola Sturgeon might be bluffing. Theresa
May will hope she only has to battle over one union. I am joined by Hamza
Yousuf, the Scottish transport minister. Nicola Sturgeon outlined a
two point plan, forming a coalition of the willing across the UK to keep
Britain in the single market but that does not work she talks about a
referendum on independence before the end of those negotiations. If it
is a hard Brexit but today Donald Tusk said there is only one form of
Brexit and it is hard. Why not hold that referendum right now? The first
Minister is doing what she said she would do in the run-up to the
Scottish election but the European referendum, that would be that we
maintain our place in the EU if Scots wanted that and they did. We
will put together a proposal which will hopefully not just give
Scotland and the single market, I want to see the whole of the UK
remaining within the single market and the ball would be in the Court
of Theresa May, if she can secure those proposals, secure those
interests for Scotland then that would be great, we will stay within
the EU and will have access to the single market. If not, we reserve
the right to have that referendum and that option is on the table. It
is not the first resort. Do not have a problem? You thought there would
be a surge of support for independence if the UK voted out of
the EU. That has not happened and also, your fiscal prospectus you put
before Scotland in 2014 has disappeared with collapse in the oil
price? Let's take those points one by one.
On the financial and fiscal case the independence, we put together a
report by various economists, I think we could have done better on
the economic case for independence, but we need to go through those
arguments and put together a stronger case for the economy. But
before we get to that point, we are not saying we will hold an
independence referendum immediately. Every poll has shown an increase in
independence, but let's argue for Scotland's interests and make sure
that we can protect Scotland's lace within the European Union, access to
the single market, but if that is not able to be secured, then we
reserve the right to hold another referendum.
But here we are talking about Scotland and the Constitution, but
you failed to get a majority in the Holyrood election earlier this year.
Don't you need to be talking about bread-and-butter issues? I don't
think it is one or the other. The two I linked. We achieved a historic
third term that no other political party has achieved in the Scottish
Parliament, so that is a huge mandate for us to move forward.
Literacy and numerous erects are falling, you should be defined on
that not the Constitution. NHS waiting list are going down, record
investment in our transport system, we're doing incredible things in the
third term like free prescriptions, three education, concessionary
travel. We are getting on with the job, but we shouldn't say that we
won't be protected Scotland's interests. If we don't get access to
the single market, that will affect businesses. There was a widespread
knowledge report today that that could reduce wages by ?2000 for
workers. That is people's real life, so we have to protect Scotland's
interests as best we can. And indeed, as you say, get on with the
bread-and-butter job of Government. If we weren't doing that, we
wouldn't have been elected for a third term. OK, Humza Yousaf, thank
you very much. MLA, back to you in the studio.
Marmite, it seems, will live to see another day on UK
This evening, Unilever confirmed the price dispute was over.
Last night Tesco halted sales of many Unilever brands
after the supplier threatened to raise prices due to a fall
Last night on this programme, former Northern Foods Chairman Lord Haskins
told me that Brexit had thrown what he called a "huge wobble"
Lord Simon Wolfson, the CEO of Next, who today announced the Wolfson
Economics Prize would be awarded to the best solution for overhauling
We are going to come onto roads and your prize in a moment. Thank you
for coming in. As a retailer, how do you make sense of a dispute that
seemed to be making such waves last night, and has gone today? I think
the reality is it is probably a very bad idea to have your negotiations
in public, but underlying all of this is the simple fact, if that
pound devalued by a lot, then prices of imported goods will go up, and
there isn't any way around that. I don't think they will go up by as
much as people think, and not as much as the pound has devalued,
because retailers will negotiate as hard as they can to keep prices
where they are. And it will be the same on the high street? Is that
something you with your stores and others would expect a scene for the
consumer? Yes, it will flow eventually through to the economy,
but the thing to bear in mind is most of us have bought our currency
for next year already, so these changes will take time, and it
depends whether pound ends up, and that will depend on people's
confident in the British economy, which is where things like investing
in infrastructure is so important, because those things will get our
economy moving. I know you hate the term is hard and soft Brexit, but
you have warned against becoming isolationist as a country. What is
the direction you favour at the moment? Do we need to be in the
single market? Can only flourish out of the single market? What would be
best for you as a businessman? The hard and soft Brexit language is
very dangerous. What we need to say is do we want an open or closed
Brexit. If we are going to pull up the drawbridge and set up all sorts
of barriers, then our economy will fail. So it is important that we
remain in a customs union? Not necessarily. What is important is
that we remain an open economy, and that depends on our attitude to all
sorts of things like immigration, trade agreements with other
countries as well as the European Union, and our attitude of going
into negotiations with an open mind and wanting to get the best
Austevoll deal for Britain. And contributions? We have understood we
will probably be paying quite substantial amounts of money to get
access in some shape or form to the single market? Is that money worth
paying now? I think it depends on what we get in return, and
ultimately running any form of free trade organisation will involve some
cost. If those costs are reasonable than they are worth paying. But
ultimately we have to recognise that the more free trade we have in the
world the better. That doesn't mean we can't be an independent nation.
One of the things people got confused about is they assumed
Brexit is a vote isolation, but is about the independence. Whether we
become isolated or a free trading at Wood looking nation depends on what
the Government does in the next two or three years. And you are looking
specifically at roads and infrastructure around them with your
prize. Do you think more money should be going into that? It should
be going in the right way, and politicians love to talk about how
much they are spending, but it is whether it is spent well or badly.
Investment in bad infrastructure is wealth destruction, investment in
good infrastructure creates wealth. 90% of our journeys are on roads.
The taxpayer, the British road users, pay ?33 billion in taxes to
use the roads, mainly through fuel tax, and the Government only spends
?9 billion on roads. Do you think infrastructure has been ignored up
until now? We know there has been this shift of focus away from QE to
infrastructure. Do you think that is overdue? I think the emphasis has
been an wrong infrastructure, grand projects like HS2, Hinkley point.
Big projects that cost an enormous amount of money rather than the
myriad of small projects we need, things like the extra little mini
roundabout that will make someone's Jenny to work 20 minutes faster. So
you would get rid of HS2 and Hinkley point? I think we need to look at
the returns Government are getting on any type of investment, and that
should make money for Government, because it is all of our money that
they are investing. The road user gets a benefit with a better road,
and the Government should get the return from investing in it. If they
don't, and there is no return in HS2, there is a real risk that the
money will be wasted. If it is invested in the roads, it can get
people to work faster and home faster, there is a chance not only
of improved quality-of-life but also of boosting our economy. Thank you
very much for coming in. Thank you very much.
When Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid's Tale
more than 30 years ago, a dystopian novel of female
subjugation, many told her the world she created was too
Today, she won the Pen Pinter Prize, awarded for an "unflinching,
unswerving gaze upon the world" and says she believes today's
political climate in America means the work has more resonance
I went to meet her as she publishes her latest novel, Hagseed,
I began by asking her whether she ever imagined reality
would get anywhere close to the world she created
Probably writing The Handmaid's Tale, which Harold Pinter did the
screenplay for, that was when I first met him. So that, because I
used nothing in the book that hadn't been done at sometime somewhere. And
do you think with The Handmaid's Tale it feels like it belongs to an
era, or could you be writing the book today without it having dated?
Unfortunately, at the time I wrote it there were people who were saying
I don't think people are saying that much any more.
Because of the kinds of things we have seen coming out
Just recently the hashtag #RepealThe19th, which means take
So that comes dangerously close to the world of The Handmaid's Tale.
I doubt that you would get those exact same costumes!
But a lot of the diminishment, disempowerment, disenfranchisement
What is it that brings you to The Tempest?
And is it too simplistic to say you were inspired by the political
Because I started writing this several years ago but those themes
of revenge and power are, of course, in a lot
of Shakespeare's work and in a lot of work of all kinds.
Those are two very strong human themes.
Among other things, we see Trump already feeling that he should get
revenge on the Republican Party for not going along
I want to just get back to Felix and Hagseed, and getting back at people.
That seems to be how it is working in various parts of the world.
Except that people are being blamed for conditions that they have not in
fact created. Like what? Like what. Is it the fault of all Muslim
immigrants to the United States that there have been some terror attacks?
Like that. Let me just ask you about the Nobel Prize for Literature
awarded to Bob Dylan. What you think about that?
I think it is a very strategically placed win.
The US election and everything that is going on there.
A US countercultural figure from the '60s is selected.
You think it was intended to send a message
But these things are often political in the broad sense of the term.
So choosing a person from that time, that place, who had that message,
I would say is sending a very broad message, which is not
And in this scenario, Trump is the Nixon of
We don't know because I can't read people's minds.
Margaret Atwood talking to me earlier. That's all we have time for
this evening. Evan is back here tomorrow night. Good night.
Hello there. It was cold if you were caught in the wind and showers.
Probably colder in the south, although we have fewer showers here.
Bracing in the North, and there will still be showers
In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Emily Maitlis. Covering the story of the Syrian refugee accused of sexual assault in Newcastle, the prospect of a new referendum for Scotland, the Marmite economy, and Margaret Atwood.