News digest - Joker's apology after obscene lights outrage, no jail for Preston man who balanced on scaffold poles and police search for masked raiders

David Mullholland from Walton le Dale had been working on the roof of a multi-storey hotel in Central Manchester
David Mullholland from Walton le Dale had been working on the roof of a multi-storey hotel in Central Manchester
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Catch up with all the latest headlines from across Lancashire and the country with our morning roundup

PRESTON MAN AVOIDS JAIL AFTER BALANCING 90FT HIGH ON SCAFFOLD TUBES ​

This is the moment a builder from Walton le Dale was snapped balancing 90ft high on metal scaffold tubes in the rain. David Mullholland, 25, of Victoria Road, Walton le Dale, had been working on the roof of a multi-storey hotel in Central Manchester on 21 January 2015 when he was spotted by horrified office workers a court heard last Monday (19 December).

Manchester Magistrates Court heard that a member of the public had contacted Health and Safety Executive claiming that a man had been seen balancing on scaffold tubes in the rain while working on the roof of the multi-storey hotel. HSE Inspectors attended and found David Mulholland working on the roof.


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MAN JAILED FOLLOWING SEX OFFENCES WITH GIRLS

A 19-year-old man has been imprisoned after admitting multiple sexual offences with girls from Walton-le-Dale and Leyland.

Reece Hodgson was sentenced at Burnley Crown Court on Friday (December 16) after pleading guilty to five counts of penetrative sexual activity with girls aged 13 to 15 at Preston Crown Court at an earlier hearing in September. Hodgson, who was 16 and 17 at the time of the offences, admitted four counts of sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl in Walton-Le-Dale and a further offence of sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl in Leyland.

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‘I’M SORRY’: JOKER'S APOLOGY AFTER OBSCENE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS OUTRAGE

A festive joker who covered his home with obscene Christmas decorations had apologised after landing himself in hot water with police.

Steve McGawley, 43, used fairy lights to draw a penis along with an obscene word on the front wall of his Rodwell Walk home in Grange Park, Blackpool.

He later removed the obscenity and used the lights to draw a picture of a bell, accompanied by the word ‘end’. He was arrested on Monday after refusing to take down the ‘offensive’ display, in an exchange with police that he filmed and later posted on social media.

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SEARCH FOR MASKED MEN AFTER ARMED ROBBERY AT SHOP

Police have released CCTV footage of the armed robbery as they appeal for help to track down the men.

The incident happened at the Co-operative, on Manchester Road, Astley, at the junction with North Lane, at around 9am on Wednesday, December 7.

Two masked men, who were carrying a hammer and shotgun, forced two members of staff to hand over a large quantity of cigarettes and cash.

They stuffed the stolen items into a duvet cover before leaving the shop and turning left.

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MANHUNT FOR BERLIN TRUCK ATTACK SUSPECT WHO WAS UNDER SURVEILLANCE FOR MONTHS

An international manhunt was under way for the prime suspect in the Berlin Christmas market massacre amid questions over why he was free to carry out the attack.

German officials had decided that Anis Amri was a threat long before a truck ploughed into the market on Monday, leaving 12 people dead and 48 injured, including 12 with very serious wounds.

The Tunisian had been kept under covert surveillance for six months this year before the operation was halted, leaving critics asking how closely German authorities are monitoring the hundreds of known Islamic extremists in the country.

TALKS OVER BA CABIN CREW STRIKES SET TO RESUME

Talks aimed at averting strikes by British Airways cabin crew on Christmas Day and Boxing Day will resume on Thursday.

Unite leader Len McCluskey and other union officials spent a second day meeting the company under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas, before talks were adjourned at 12.30am.

A spokesman said the union continued to pursue progress in the dispute, seeking an improvement on the "poverty pay" of cabin crew employed in the so-called mixed fleet.

PATIENTS ARE SUFFERING BECAUSE OF 'FRAGMENTED' CARE SERVICES, WATCHDOGS WARN

The "fragmented" nature of health and social care services can cause problems for patients with providers sometimes arguing over who has responsibility for giving care, watchdogs have found.

The division of labour and "poor communication" among providers often leads to complaints from family members about care services, a joint report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman has found.

In one case study, a leukaemia sufferer named in the report as "Gail" was left without morphine for her final six days alive as neither the council nor the NHS trust made sure the GP prescription for the painkiller was delivered to her.

SUPERFAST BROADBAND FOR 600,000 HOMES AND FIRMS IN CONNECTION NOT-SPOTS

Around 600,000 extra homes and businesses in broadband not-spots are in line for superfast services, the Culture Secretary has announced.

Some £440m will be used to connect properties in the hardest-to-reach parts of the UK under the Broadband Delivery UK programme (BDUK), Karen Bradley said.

The cash is made up of £150 million in savings from "careful contract management" and £292 million released through a clawback system that re-invests money when people take up superfast connections installed under the scheme.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE INCREASES BUT INDEX WARNS OF TRIALS IN MONTHS AHEAD

Consumers have proven their resilience at the end of a rollercoaster year with their confidence slightly up, amid warnings that their positivity is likely to be tested in the months ahead.

Shoppers remain relatively confident about their personal finances, according to GfK's long-running Consumer Confidence Index, which has ended the year up one point this month to minus 7.

But GfK forecast that confidence "will be tested by the storm and stress of the year to come".

4.5 MILLION BRITONS WILL TRAVEL ABROAD FOR CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR

More than 4.5 million people will head abroad from the UK over Christmas and New Year, new figures show.

Travel association Abta said Friday is expected to be the busiest day.

Popular short haul destinations for winter sun include Tenerife, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, while flights to Cape Verde, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Goa have seen strong demand by people taking long haul sunshine breaks.

BIONIC EYE IMPLANTS TO GIVE BLIND PATIENTS HOPE OF REGAINING SIGHT

The NHS will pay for 10 people with an inherited form of blindness to be fitted with "bionic eye" implants.

Five patients with a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa will be treated at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and five at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London next year.

They will be given a pair of glasses mounted with a camera which captures light and sends wireless signals to an implant in the retina.

SIR CLIFF RICHARD SAYS FAITH IN GOD 'EVEN STRONGER' AFTER FACING SEX ALLEGATIONS

Sir Cliff Richard has said that spending nearly two years facing sexual allegations has made his faith in God "even stronger".

In an in-depth interview with LBC presenter Steve Allen, the singer revealed that learning to forgive his accuser was the turning point that helped him release "all that hate and anger."

His comments came during Allen's In Conversation With programme and is set to be broadcast on Christmas Day at 6am and 8pm.

CUT PRISONER NUMBERS BY 40,000, SENIOR POLITICIANS URGE

The number of prisoners in England and Wales should be cut by almost a half, two former home secretaries and a former deputy prime minister have urged.

Former Tory home secretary Kenneth Clarke, Liberal Democrat MP Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister in the coalition government and Jacqui Smith, who served as Labour's home secretary between 2007 and 2009, called on the Government to act to curb the "escalating prison population", in a letter published in The Times.

The cross-party trio said the population of prisons in England and Wales had "gone well beyond what is safe or sustainable" and that numbers should be reduced from around 85,000 to 45,000.

EX-FOOTBALLER 'HURT' POLICE HAVE NOT CONTACTED HIM OVER SEX ABUSE ALLEGATIONS

Former footballer Andy Woodward has said he is "still waiting" to provide police with information about the alleged sexual abuse he suffered as a junior player.

It comes as new figures from Operation Hydrant, the UK-wide police investigation into historical child sex abuse, revealed the growing scale of the scandal engulfing the world of football.

Some 429 victims - aged between four and 20 - have been identified by police along with 155 potential suspects, the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said on Wednesday.