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'Significant new information' in Yousef Makki case
The High Court has quashed the first inquest and ordered a new one. Plus: Radio 4 visits Mill HQ
Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s Mill briefing, all 30,142 of you. We got a big boost in new signups and paying members this morning after Radio 4’s Today programme broadcast a great segment about us and how we are trying to rebuild high-quality local journalism.
Here’s what they said: “Started two and a half years ago as a one-man band with 23 subscribers, it now has a full-time staff and it’s making a profit. So could this offer a model for others to follow?” asked the programme’s presenter Amol Rajan.
“The paid readership is quite a lot smaller than the sales of the Manchester Evening News, but although it’s small, it’s influential,” says the reporter Rowan Bridge. “It includes the likes of council leaders and chief executives and it means the Mancunian movers and shakers pay attention to The Mill.”
There are also great quotes about us from Salford’s mayor Paul Dennett, who we interviewed last week, and one of our longtime members Caroline Jackson. You can listen to the whole thing here (just skip to 1.22.20).
We’ve signed up 15 new members since the report went live, and more than 150 new Millers have joined the list. Welcome to all of you. And a huge thank you to all of our existing members (we’re now on 1,790) who have backed us to the point that one of the BBC’s flagship news shows is paying a visit. There’s massive momentum building behind this venture right now, but many of you got on board when it was a one-man experiment with no office or staff — we haven’t forgotten that.
In today’s briefing, we speak to Jade Akoum after a High Court judge quashed the finding of the inquest into her brother Yousef Makki’s death and ordered a new one be heard. Plus: we tell you how much tax you will be paying to Andy Burnham this year, and link to a great long read by the Financial Times about how council funding cuts have undermined the government’s levelling up efforts. Oh and we’ve found a very cosy three-bedroom stone cottage in Bolton for £250,000.
Our members’ stories: Last week we sent paying members an excellent piece of data journalism by our new data reporter James Gilmour, who mapped out which neighbourhoods in Greater Manchester are working from home and showed how starkly uneven home ownership is by local area. And on Thursday Dani Cole went to meet the man whose north Manchester home is an Aladdin’s cave of rare antiques. Coming up:
Tomorrow we have a fascinating read about why on earth councils across GM are buying up failing old shopping centres. Can it make financial sense?
On Thursday we take you inside an effort by activists at the University of Manchester to persuade their fellow students to stop paying rent.
There are many problems in this country that are very difficult to solve — the crisis in the NHS, the yawning productivity gaps between London and the regions. But the good news is that one very pressing problem is actually extremely easy and cheap to fix. If you are not a Mill member, your problem is that you are missing out on a lot of very high-quality local journalism, must-read cultural reviews and useful recommendations. And the problem can be solved in 10 seconds and at frighteningly (almost suspiciously) little cost by clicking on the button below.
Broadening minds since 1781
Today’s sponsor: For almost a quarter of a millennium, the Manchester Lit & Phil have been at the centre of this city’s intellectual life, challenging people to think more deeply and helping them to understand how the world is changing. They count Alan Turing and Ernest Rutherford as past members and today their membership community includes hundreds of Millers too. To spread the word, they are sponsoring today’s briefing and offering Millers a special 30% discount on monthly and annual memberships (ignore the bit on the payment page about the annuals ending in September — they will adjust that). Just click those links to get your discount before it runs out later this week, and check out their brilliant line-up of upcoming talks.
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This week’s weather
Our forecast is from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says we won’t see any further snow this week as high pressure brings in milder air. But he warns: “However, sunshine will be at a premium until later in the week.”
Monday 🌥️ Dry but predominantly cloudy with limited brightness. Max 6°c.
Tuesday ☁️ Overcast and mostly dry away from any drizzle locally. Milder. Max 8°c.
Wednesday ☁️ Cloudy with light rain moving in from the North West during the afternoon. Breezy. Max 9°c.
Thursday 🌤️ Fresher with sunny spells and the odd rain shower. Max 7°c.
Friday 🌥️ Mostly dry with occasional bright spells. Max 7°C.
Weekend ☁️ Remaining settled and predominantly dry with temperatures a touch above average.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: The Makki family’s final throw of the dice
Top line: The family of Yousef Makki has been granted a fresh inquest into his death by the High Court. Makki was stabbed by school friend Joshua Molnar in Hale Barns in 2019 but Molnar was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter, arguing that he acted in self-defence. An inquest did not find that Makki was killed unlawfully, ending in a “narrative conclusion”.
The latest: That outcome was quashed by a judge on Friday, who ordered a new inquest in front of a new coroner. Makki’s family have fought for a fresh inquest because they felt the first one failed to properly scrutinise witnesses and the evidence.
Context: The original inquest, carried out in November 2021, returned a narrative conclusion, in which a coroner lays out the facts of the case but doesn’t arrive at a verdict like lawful killing, unlawful killing or “accident or misadventure”.
White flag: Coming to a narrative conclusion is a coroner’s “raising of the white flag” Matthew Stanbury, the Makki family’s solicitor, told us outside the Civil Justice Centre on Friday. “The law requires coroners to strive to reach a conclusion on the evidence,” he said. “The [High] Court found she hadn’t sufficiently strived to reach a conclusion.”
What went wrong: One point of contention was Molnar being called to give evidence at 3:30pm on a Friday. The family requested an adjournment to the next week, so there could be more time for questioning, but that wasn’t granted and Molnar’s evidence was concluded that afternoon.
To be clear, the High Court quashing the narrative conclusion doesn’t mean that conclusion was incorrect. Instead, it means it is an unreasonable conclusion because the inquest that returned it wasn’t carried out adequately.
An inquest is a fact-finding exercise rather than — as in a criminal trial — an exercise in determining guilt. Indeed, at the time of the inquest, the coroner said it would not be a “rehash” of the trial.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Makki’s sister Jade Akoum said:
We’re hoping it will be a chief coroner this time, or a judge. Hopefully they will ask the right questions, and they’ll spend more time questioning key witnesses. I felt at the [first] inquest they weren’t questioned enough.
New today: The family’s solicitor just released a statement saying: “We have this morning received significant new information, which will remain confidential so as not to prejudice the new inquest, and we are now asking anyone else with relevant evidence to come forward.” Witnesses should email email@example.com.
Bottom line: This is a huge win for the Makki family, who have faced four years of setbacks in what they see as their search for justice. “I feel like we’ve been believed, for once,” Akoum told The Mill. She called the new inquest “the absolute last throw of the dice.” She’s started a fundraiser to pay for legal representation, with a goal of £20,000. “I’ve got hope,” Akoum said on Friday. “I think that will help us going forward. I'm glad that we have got something to focus on now. And then, I’ve got the rest of my life to grieve.”
Home of the week
This cosy three-bedroom stone cottage in Bolton is on the market for £250,000. It has underfloor heating and sweeping views of Winter Hill and the surrounding countryside.
Your Mill briefing
Andy Burnham is freezing the “mayoral general precept” for 2023/24, the slice of local tax paid by Greater Manchester residents on top of their council tax. However, before you go and spend your new-found riches down the pub, bear in mind that the fire precept — which funds Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service — is going to increase by £5 a year. Burnham’s team blames this on the government, which “has not provided adequate funding to mitigate the significant impact of inflation and energy costs, or firefighter pay to help them through the cost of living crisis.” Band A properties paid a combined precept (general and fire) of £68.63 this year and Band B properties paid £80.07.
Manchester City Council is opening two homes for the increasing number of young people stuck in hospitals. It follows multiple cases of children having to be housed by residential providers at steep costs. As the Guardian’s Helen Pidd reports: “Five Manchester children with complex emotional needs spent many weeks in hospital in 2022 because no children’s homes would take them because of their challenging behaviour, according to the city council’s director of children’s services.” The council hopes to have the two new homes ready by March.
Christian Wakeford, the Tory defector and now Labour MP for Bury South, has accused the government of “dragging their feet” in building a new school in Radcliffe. The town, one of the borough’s most deprived, hasn’t had a school in over a decade, and Wakeford says “it also has some of the lowest attainment for GCSEs and progression into higher education”. The department for education said that a new school, Star Leadership Academy, would be built to provide 750 places for pupils in year 7-11 by September 2024.
And finally, it’s been announced today that pop legend Grace Jones will headline this summer’s Bluedot festival at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. A representative of the festival — which combines music, culture and science — called Jones "one of the most influential musicians of her generation", and announced that Pavement and Roisin Murphy are also headlining.
Our favourite reads
The budget cuts that are threatening ‘levelling up’ — The Financial Times
An in-depth piece by the FT’s Manchester-based reporter Jen Williams, who takes a look at the legacy of austerity and high inflation for local government. With £15 billion cut from their budgets between 2010 and 2020, councils are devoting huge chunks of their money to social care provision, leaving insufficient cash for key services like buses, libraries, parks and street cleaning. Now, with inflation at 9.2%, there are troubling signs of local authorities reaching “a tipping point” where further financial intervention will be needed.
Acclaimed designer Peter Saville — famed for creating the record sleeves of Joy Division and New Order — is on the hunt for a lost artefact of the 1970s Manchester music scene. The original sign for the first Factory club night, which “set the course for the entire Factory aesthetic”, has been missing since the 1990s, when it appeared at gallery and art venue Cornerhouse. If found, the piece will feature in a British pop archive curated by Professor Jon Savage.
Here’s a problem you didn’t think we had: criminal gangs breeding “American Bully” dogs and selling them to launder money. Meeting with a business partner of Muscletone Bullys at a dog fertility clinic in Wigan, BBC reporter Sam Poling goes undercover to unveil the close relationship between organised crime and dog dealing.
Our to do list
🎧 We start the week with an immersive “dark listening” session at Ducie Street Warehouse, which keeps you in complete darkness while you listen to an album or LP in full. The concept is that by removing your vision, your sense of hearing is enhanced. Tickets are £10.
🎞️ All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, the story of the renowned artist and activist Nan Goldin and her fight against the opioid crisis, is a frontrunner to win best documentary at the Oscars this year. It’s showing at HOME this week, and tomorrow, there will be a Q&A with the director Laura Poitras. Don’t miss out.
🗣️ Michael Gove, secretary of state for levelling up, will be speaking at Manchester Central Convention Complex this Wednesday as part of the Convention of the North, an annual conference that brings together political and business leaders like Andy Burnham, Bev Craig and Lisa Nandy MP. Register here.
📽️ As part of their regular indie film screenings, Cafe Blah in Withington is showing Kill Your Idols, a documentary film about a new wave of punk spirit in ‘70s New York. It’s free.
💿 It’s Fleetwood Mac night at the Old Courts, a beautiful non-for-profit arts venue in the centre of Wigan, which hosts free feel-good vinyl nights on the fourth Thursday of every month. More here.
For our glitteringly well-informed weekend to do list — which we send out every Thursday — hit the button below to join us as a member.