7 Days

Yorkshire train crash At least 13 people died and 70 were injured - 30 seriously - in a train disaster near Selby, North Yorkshire. A GNER passenger train travelling at 125mph crashed into a 1,000-tonne freight train travelling at 75mph in a collision caused by a Land Rover careering off a bridge on the M62 and on to the track. All nine carriages of the 4.45am Newcastle to London train were derailed, and some were overturned. Railtrack described the scene as "absolute devastation". The driver of the Land Rover escaped injury and dialled 999 on his mobile phone just before the crash.

Criminal records to count in court Judges will take account of convicted criminals' previous records when sentencing, under new proposals that work on a "just deserts" principle. This will mean harsher sentences for persistent offenders, bringing criminal justice into line with sentencing for civil offences.

Paid sabbaticals for teachers Teachers in tough schools will be given six weeks' paid leave if the General Teaching Council's recommendations to David Blunkett are adopted. The aim of this proposal is to attract new teachers and stem the exodus of trained staff from the profession.

Autism on the increase The number of autistic children has risen tenfold since 1983. The Autism Research Unit refused to rule out the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine as a possible cause, although it states that pesticides, hormones, plastics, as well as heavy metals in food and water, may also cause the tragic condition.

Private cops Tony Blair's call for private police patrols was criticised by the Police Federation, which condemned the scheme as "a substitute for properly trained police officers". The plan to provide police-accredited private security in busy places was first mooted by the former Tory home secretary Michael Howard.

This article first appeared in the 05 March 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - Democracy can be bad for you