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Fire crews in Kent fighting huge blaze on industrial estate

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Thousands of people visit Rochester's Dickens Festival

A parade through the town kicked off the festival Credit: ITV news

Thousands of people are expected to visit Rochester's Dickens Festival, which started today. The event kicked off with the annual parade. This year's theme was Oliver Twist.

Dicken's "Fagin" joins the crowd Credit: ITV news

Dickens enthusiasts, strolling players, re-enactors, Dickensian 'characters', join the public in a Festival to commemorate and celebrate the life of Charles Dickens. The event also includes readings, competitions, re-enactments and street entertainment

Charles Dickens spent much of his childhood in Medway while his father worked at the Dockyards. Many of his novels and characters have been based on the places he visited and people he met whilst living in the area. Medway is proud of its history with this national legend, who created some of the world's most memorable fictional characters and remains generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period.

Rochester pays homage to its famous author

He's Rochester's most famous resident, and this weekend author Charles Dickens is being remembered along with his famous characters and novels. The Dickens Festival attracts thousands of people each year. Andrea Thomas spoke to Medway Council's events manager Carl Madjitey and Steve Martin from the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship. Oh, and a rather risque group of enthusiasts!

PC found guilty of shield assault during riots

A policeman from Kent has been found guilty of knocking a man's tooth out with his riot shield during the 2010 student protests.

Royal Holloway student William Horner tried to break free from a kettled area on Parliament Square, in Westminster, London, when Pc Andrew Ott struck out with his shield, knocking the student's tooth out.

Pc Ott, 36, was found guilty of one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, but cleared of perverting the course of justice, London's Southwark Crown Court said.

Pc Calvin Lindsay and Pc Thomas Barnes were both cleared of perverting the course of justice, the court said. Jurors heard that Ott was taped on his personal recording device threatening violence towards the crowds that had gathered near the Houses of Parliament. He talked about "getting" the protesters.

The jury heard the assault happened after Ott chased Mr Horner as he tried to scale a fence.

Giving evidence, Ott said: "I believed he had done something wrong or was about to do something - I wanted to contain him. I bring my shield around - I believe it was on my left arm - and momentum, and also the fact that I bring my shield around my body, I collided with him. I struck him with the shield, yes. At that moment in time my threat assessment was high. He was a threat to me - I dealt with it as I saw fit. I struck his upper body. If his head got hit, then it got hit - I didn't aim for his head. To get a chipped tooth from a shield like that - unlucky."

Jurors heard the incident was captured on the audio device Ott had on his uniform. The violent protests saw riot police pelted with missiles, including rocks and concrete blocks, and statues in Parliament Square were daubed with graffiti.

No further action was taken against Mr Horner. Ott, of Rochester, will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court at 9.30am on Wednesday.

Man jailed for sex attack on teenager

Steven Kinsella has been sentenced to seven years in prison Credit: Kent Police

A Rochester man who carried out a predatory sexual attack on a lone teenage woman in the early hours of the morning has been convicted by a jury and locked up.

Steven Kinsella, 38, denied he followed the woman and then assaulted her as she walked to a party following a night out in Rochester on 20th September last year.

However, a jury at Maidstone Crown Court found him guilty of sexual assault and he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with an extended licence period of two years. He will also register as a sex offender for life.

The jury heard the 18-year-old woman had been on a night out with friends in the city centre before leaving them at about 2am to go to a party at a nearby address.

She began making her way along Crow Lane in the direction of Maidstone Road when she felt she was being followed by a man pushing a bike.

As she walked on, he got closer to her and asked if she was having a good night and whether she had a boyfriend. The victim was texting a friend at the time, saying she felt she was being followed.

Just as she made her way along Maidstone Road, Kinsella grabbed her from behind and pulled her backwards, before pushing her to the floor.

He pinned her to the ground with his hand round her throat before sexually assaulting her. He then got on his bike and left the area.

The victim got up and ran into some friends nearby.

Detectives investigating the report trawled CCTV and saw Kinsella sitting on a nearby park bench before the attack and then follow the victim as she walked towards Maidstone Road.

A witness came forward and positively identified him in an ID procedure.

Kinsella denied he committed the offence during a police interview and refused to admit he was the man captured on CCTV.

"I cannot begin to comprehend what the victim went through and the impact this will undoubtedly have had on her. Kinsella had been hanging around the area and it is clear he targeted and followed this lone woman with the intent on causing her harm. Kinsella is no doubt a danger to the public and the community can rest assured he will be behind bars for a significant period of time. While he still refused to admit what is a truly abhorrent crime, we were able to put together a comprehensive case using all tools available to us and I am pleased it was enough for a jury to convict him. I also welcome the sentence, which ensures he will be off the streets for a number of years and no longer poses a threat to the community."

– Investigating officer, Detective Constable Gary Seamark of Kent Police

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Missing teens could be in Kent

Melanie Abbott may have travelled to Kent to be with Jonathan Culwick. Credit: Hertfordshire Police

Police are appealing for information about the whereabouts of a 13-year-old girl from Hertfordshire who's believed to be with a 17-year-old from Kent.

Melanie Abbott was last seen on February 19 in Hertford.

It's thought she may have travelled to Kent and could be with Jonathan Culwick from Rochester.

Melanie is described as white, 5ft7ins tall and of a medium build.

Whilst Melanie’s family have had some contact with Melanie we need to trace her and Jonathan as soon as possible.

We believe that Melanie and Jonathan maybe using trains around the London and North Kent area.

– Detective Inspector Jon Dick

Rochester Airport expansion set to create hundreds of jobs

Rochester Airport has received millions of pounds in funding Credit: ITV

Rochester Airport is set to expand thanks to a £4.4 million funding boost which will create hundreds of jobs.

The money will be used to create new innovation space at the airport and is part of a £46.1million package announced under the South East Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal.

A planning application to remove one of the two grass runways and to construct a new hard-surfaced runway is currently being considered by Medway Council’s planning committee.

The airport was built in 1933 and is owned by Medway Council.

“We are delighted funding has been announced for the airport and this will help secure its long-term future.

“The money will be used to create new space which will in turn create new jobs in the area.

“It will help establish Rochester Airport as an economic location of real significance.”

– Cllr Alan Jarret, deputy leader of Medway Council

Dean of Rochester Cathedral resigns

The Very Reverend Dr Mark Beach has resigned voluntarily from his post as Dean of Rochester Cathedral.

He is taking on a new role outside ordained ministry, and has been appointed to the post of Director of the Blackfriars Settlement.

He will be leaving the Cathedral with immediate effect.

I am also able to announce today that the Reverend Canon Philip Hesketh has accepted my invitation to take on the role of Acting Dean, and I ask your prayers for him and for all who share with him in leadership at Rochester Cathedral.

– The Bishop of Rochester
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