Bitesized Blighty: May 3, 2019

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  • Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions. The 47-year-old was found guilty of breaching the Bail Act last month after his arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy. Mr Assange’s continued residence for the last 8 years and the process of bringing him to justice is estimated to have cost taxpayers £16m. He took refuge in the London-based embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has denied. In a letter read to the court, Assange said he had found himself "struggling with difficult circumstances". He apologised to those who "consider I've disrespected them", a packed Southwark Crown Court heard. Sentencing him, Judge Deborah Taylor told Assange it was difficult to envisage a more serious example of breaching the bail act.
  • The humble penny has been saved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has pledged to safeguard the future of cash in the UK. Despite long-standing speculation that 1p and 2p coins may be scrapped, Philip Hammond announced there will be no changes to the mix of coins and notes. He also safeguarded the future of the little-used £50 note. Concerns have been raised over access to cash as more and more people opt to use cards, phones and watches. Free-to-use cash machines are disappearing at a fast rate with more than 1,000 ATMs converted to charge fees in March alone, according to the consumer group Which? However, 2.2 million people are estimated to be almost entirely reliant on cash in their daily lives. The elderly, vulnerable and those in rural communities are thought to be most at risk if access to cash declines.
  • Gavin Williamson has been sacked as the UK’s defence secretary following an inquiry into an unprecedented leak from the National Security Council over Chinese technology giant Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network. In a letter to Mr Williamson, a former rising star in the Conservative party, Theresa May said he had failed to engage with the leak inquiry, led by cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, and that the evidence suggested he was to blame. In response, Mr Williamson released a letter to the Prime Minister in which he “strenuously” denied being responsible for the leak. Mr Williamson, who has served at the Ministry of Defence since 2017, was a close confidant of Mrs May in the run-up her Conservative party leadership campaign in 2016 and later served as the government chief whip. 

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