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AM leads debate on safety of children online

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am leads debateREBECCA EVANS AM, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales, has led a debate at the National Assembly for Wales on the safety of children online.

Mrs Evans brought forward the debate at the Senedd to explore the dangers facing children online following a series of tragic and high profile cases tied to internet use, and the publication of several pieces of research highlighting the challenges facing children online.

Mrs Evans told the Assembly that although the role of internet service providers, search engines and social networks in protecting children lay beyond the scope of the Assembly, “to shrug our shoulders and say that the challenges are too big, or that it is just not our job would absolve us from our responsibility to use every opportunity that we do have in Wales to equip children, parents, teachers, youth workers and so on with resilience, knowledge and support, so that they are best able to deal with the challenges faced by children online day in, day out.”

Mrs Evans explored peer-to-peer issues such as bullying and exploitation, as well as stranger dangers including online grooming, and easy access to explicit adult material which may be extreme or violent in its content.

Mrs Evans said: “Most children now have a phone with internet access and nine out of 10 of them say that there are no parental restrictions on its use. For most children, their virtual lives are synonymous with their real lives, and what happens online affects them offline.”

Tackling cyberbullying

After the recent publication of a Funky Dragon survey which found that over a third of 11 to 17-year-olds in Wales who had been bullied had suffered from cyberbullying, Mrs Evans asked the Welsh Government how it was addressing the unique challenges posed by bullying online.

Mrs Evans said: “Online bullying is relentless; it is 24/7 and it follows bullied children everywhere that they go. They carry it around on the phone in their pocket.”

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler has also echoed these concerns. Responding to the debate, the Deputy Minister announced that “As part of the 2013 Anti–bullying Week, from 18 to 22 November, the Welsh Government will be launching a campaign to raise awareness of cyberbullying and to highlight where to go for help.”

A force for good too

Mrs Evans ended her contribution by being clear that she “did not want to give the impression that cyberspace is a wholly dangerous and nightmarish place to be avoided at all costs.”

“In fact,” she said, “it is quite the opposite. Access to the internet can be incredibly enriching. Children can talk to other children thousands of miles away and develop global citizenship and a sense of responsibility to other people on the other side of the planet. They can have fun and stay in touch with friends, and it is a wonderful learning environment and research tool, a gateway to almost limitless knowledge, and a forum to develop skills and ideas.

“By educating children and those who protect and support them about the safe use of the internet, including recognising danger and the importance of privacy settings and content blocks, for example, we can make the internet a much safer place for them. By helping children to put what they see and experience online into context offline we can build their resilience. There is a huge amount of very good work already taking place in Wales by parents, schools, the third sector, police and others, and I would ask the Government to explore how we could bring all of this good practice together to make the internet a safer place for children.”

Mrs Evans looks forward to meeting with the Deputy Minister in order to further discuss actions to ensure the safety of children online.

Let’s talk about sexts

Modern trends such as sexting – the act of sending sexually explicit messages, photographs, or video content, primarily between mobile phones – are causing children’s charities in Wales concern.

Speaking in the debate, Mrs Evans said: “NSPCC Cymru and ChildLine have warned that many children are frequently taking big risks when making and sending sexual texts, photos and videos of themselves. They found that sexting is considered a normal, everyday activity among young people as young as 13 years old, with around a quarter of them having made photographs or videos to send on to others. Barnardo’s Cymru has also identified what it calls peer-based exploitation as an increasing trend.”

Mrs Evans warned that once the image has been sent on, it is out of the young person’s control and told the Assembly that the Internet Watch Foundation has reported that images are regularly shared around school, uploaded to social networks and sometimes find their way on to paedophile websites. In just 40 hours, an IWF analyst found more than 12,000 images of teens that were originally sent as texts on 70 paedophile websites.

Mrs Evans said that after seeing calls about sexting rise by 28% last year, ChildLine has developed a “fantastic app” called Zipit, which provides witty and safe comebacks that children and young people can use to reply when faced with requests for explicit photos. She asked the Deputy Minister for Skills, Ken Skates AM, to consider how the Welsh Government could promote the app and similar resources.

Responding to the debate, the Deputy Minister asked Mrs Evans to meet with him and his officials to discuss in further detail how sexting can best be addressed.

Parents have a big role to play

Mrs Evans told the Assembly that parents were “probably the most important defence that children have against the darkest elements of the internet,” but added that they sometimes needed support to be able to fulfil that role.

She referred to research by web safety organisation Knowthenet which suggested that some parents may be failing to protect their children in cyberspace, simply because they do not understand the net speak that peppers online exchanges.

Mrs Evans said: “For many parents, their understanding of everyday slang starts and ends with ‘LOL’, but they can be sure that their children’s vocabulary is much wider. A Knowthenet survey of 1,000 parents found that the least understood term was ‘LMIRL’, which means ‘Let’s meet in real life’. Also among the least-known acronyms were ‘ASL’, which means age, sex, location and ‘POS’, parents over shoulder.”

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The Pembrokeshire man on the Titanic

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ON the morning of April 15 1912, in the North Atlantic some 450-miles south of Newfoundland, the RMS Titanic slowly slid beneath the sea just two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg.

Stories from that night are famous, from the lookouts misplacing their binoculars to the ship’s band playing even as the sea washed over their feet, the sinking of the Titanic holds a special place in the public consciousness and continues to grab our attention some 109 years after the ‘unsinkable’ ship sank.

Over 1500 people lost their lives in the biggest maritime naval disaster at that point.

Among the dead were American and British millionaires, White Star Line employees and countless anonymous immigrants from across Europe who were all seeking a better life in America.

908 crew were on board the Titanic when it left Southampton on its fateful maiden voyage, one of the crew was a man called Charles Essex Edwards, 38, who sometimes gave himself the first name of ‘Clement’.

Charles was born in 1862 to John and Harriet Edwards of St. Martin’s Place, Haverfordwest.

He worked as a carpenter as a 19-year-old man and would end up moving out of Pembrokeshire and going to sea.  By the time he married a lady called Lavinia Ann Poulter, from Llanstadwell, in May 1892 he was living in Newport.

Lavinia, a Pembrokeshire woman herself, was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Poulter who lived on Lawrenny Terrace in Neyland.

By 1895, Lavinia had returned to Pembrokeshire following the death of her mother. Charles and Lavinia’s marriage suffered but Charles would continue visiting Lavinia and stayed at his father-in-law’s house when he was on shore leave.

Although still married in the eyes of the law, Charles and Lavinia were basically separated by 1901.

Charles signed on to work on the brand new RMS Titanic after it had completed its sea trials in Belfast Lough, he gave his address as 7 Brunswick Square, Southampton. He worked on the Titanic as an assistant pantry-man steward who earned a monthly wage of £3 15s on his previous ship the SS Zeeland.

SS Zeeland: The ship Charles worked on before the Titanic

When RMS Titanic left Southampton a massive crowd had gathered to see the newest addition to the White Star Line fleet depart. Charles Edwards was there. He was there when the ship picked up more passengers at Cherbourg and Cobh.

He would’ve been working during the day, his job entailed keeping the ship’s pantries stocked with food and wine, a vital job on a ship with such a high-class passenger list as the Titanic.

He was, more than likely, sleeping when Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg in the ship’s path at 11:40pm on Sunday, April 14. He would’ve been woken by the noise of metal on ice and the ship shuddering as it was torn open on the starboard side.

As the ‘unsinkable’ ship took on water Charles, as a White Star Line employee, would’ve been given the unenviable task of waking up passengers, informing them of what happened and getting them to put on their lifejackets.

Once the scale of the situation on the Titanic became apparent, the command structure effectively disintegrated.

Captain Edward Smith would’ve cut a forlorn figure as he wandered around near the wheelhouse and his last words to his crew, according to reports at the time were:

“Well boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you.

“You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.”

This would’ve been around 2:10am, at that point Charles would’ve faced a literal up-hill battle with male members of the crew only having a 24% chance of survival and many people gathering ‘like bees’ on the stern of the stricken liner which, experts say, raised to a 12 degree angle.

The Pantryman-stewards from the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic

Many male crew members elected to stay at their posts as, according to Victorian culture it was better for men to die than to live and be perceived a coward, so the lights of the ship remained on until about 2:18am, just two minutes before Titanic broke apart and began its journey to its final resting place some 12,000ft below on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

But now you know there was a man named Charles Edwards who was born in Haverfordwest and who died when the Titanic sank in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. His body, if it was recovered, was never identified and we don’t even have a picture of him.

When news of the disaster broke, The Pembroke County Guardian described the tragedy as ‘one of the most appalling calamities in the long history of shipwreck’.

Four men from Maenclochog, it was later revealed, had a lucky escape as their plans to emigrate that April on the Titanic were thwarted by one of their number being unable to travel, so the group decided to wait for their friend. That decision saved their lives.

Pembrokeshire responded to the sinking by raising money for the Titanic Relief Fund, Pembroke Dock raised £12 2s 0d through a collection at the Royal Dockyard and, in Haverfordwest, Sidney White, who would later go on to own The Palace Cinema, hosted benefit performances to packed houses which raised £5 15s.

Lavinia, after a legal battle with Charles’ brother William, was given £192 in compensation for Charles’ death and went on to look after her father at Railway Terrace, Neyland until he passed away.

Lavinia went on to move to Middlesex where she lived until 1934. She left her estate to her chauffeur.

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Marloes pensioner in child abuse images case

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A PENSIONER has been bailed to attend Swansea Crown Court by magistrates sitting in Haverfordwest Law Courts this week.

Derek Lister, 72, of Marloes is accused of making indecent photographs of children.

He appeared before the bench, on Tuesday (Apr 13).

Lister was represented by Redkite Solicitors.

The court heard that between June 2009 and November 2019 in Marloes, Pembrokeshire, Lister allegedly created 3 indecent category A images of a child, 14 indecent category B images of a child and 152 indecent category C images of a child.

He will now appear at Swansea Crown Court on May 11 at 10am for the next hearing after the local court declined jurisdiction.

Lister has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Derek Lister: Accused of making child abuse images
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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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