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Badger and a question of honour

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badgersquestionREADERS: Badger finds himself in an unusual position today. Admittedly a position not quite as unusual as the one involving a snorkel, a small rubber chicken on a spring, and a set of bagpipes which made last weekend so entertaining; but a very odd position, nonetheless. There have been times (many times), readers over columns (many columns) in which Badger has suggested that if the combined integrity of certain members of the IPPG were converted into manure, the resultant odour would not manage to stink out a matchbox. Now, readers, integrity comes in many guises: Badger always had a soft spot for the late Rev Dr Ian Paisley. Badger eschewed the late Doctor’s anti-Catholicism and immoderate social views, but there is always something attractive about absolute certainty and fixity of purpose. You did not have to agree with anything Ian Paisley (Lord Bannside) did and said to know that there was a man totally sincere in his beliefs and possessed of the will and integrity to persuade others to follow him. And that sincerity led him to reach a conclusion to his political career that caused him to understand that there is, indeed, “a time for war, a time for peace”. Badger never thought that the day would come that in a certain black-hearted and bleak way he would ever say that in a Council vote, Brian Hall acted with integrity and consistency. Not least as the only thing that Councillor Hall (Pembroke Dock: Market) has in common with the late Ian Paisley is an inclination towards a certain shouty, puce-faced rage. Along with John Allen Mirehouse (Hundleton), whom Badger respectfully suggests needs a long run up and a following wind to catch up  with current events, Brian Hall was one of only two IPPG councillors to stand up for the position their group has maintained since time immemorial.

The third councillor to back Bryn, Owen James (Scleddau), who palpably dances to a tune only he can hear, is unaffiliated. Daphne “Brains” Bush; David Pugh, the grants guru: and John “Cwrnbetws” Davies, Stalin to Jamie’s Krushchev, abstained. Of course, readers, Daphne might have been confused in the no confidence vote by the two IPPG voters ahead of her in the alphabetical list being Adams (For) and Allen-Mirehouse (against) and just picked the middle option. The other two are, by and large, yesterday’s men. Badger wants you to be very clear about this readers: apart from this paper’s revelation about his conduct towards councillors and the content of East Williamston blogster Jacob Williams’ website, no new information has reached the public domain about Bryn’s conduct since the last time the !PPG rallied around him to save his skin. Moreover, The Herald had the guts to publish a story about Bryn’s behaviour by following up a story that was known in County Hall for some time before it hit our front page. In other words, readers, it is not Bryn’s faults and flaws that have caused the MPG to abandon him but public knowledge of the same. Think about it readers: what has changed to compel Jamie Adams to drop the !PPG’s pilot? What has come to the !PPG’s attention that has changed their minds about whether or not Bryn retains their confidence? Nothing. There was no moment on the Road to Damascus. No blinding light that led them to the paths of righteousness. The IPPG made the same sort of decision that any political party would make:

even a political party which is not a political party. Faced with the little boy shouting that their emperor had no clothes, the IPPG voted to try and save its own skin. Now readers, Brian Hall is not the Messiah. In fact, Brian is notorious for being a very naughty boy. But Brian, who has been close to Bryn Parry Jones for many years, did not abandon Bryn for reasons of expediency. Brian stood by his man. And for that, Badger can sort of respect Councillor Hall. Brian Hall is wrong but he showed more spine than the hordes of the IPPG who played follow-my-leader after Jamie’s tortuous and tortured address. Brian Hall is wrong but, compared to others in the IPPG, he had the courage to be unpopular. Reverend Huw George, the Minister of Mirth and Pancakes (please, readers, watch last Friday’s webcast for more on this Batter of Faith; you will not believe your very eyes and ears!), will be familiar with John 15:13. In Badger’s King James Version of the New Testament, the verse goes something like “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The !PPG’s conduct reminds Badger of a famous political quote. In 1962, Harold Macmillan, the Tory Prime Minister, sacked seven of his Cabinet in an attempt to bolster his administration’s rapidly declining popularity and enhance its electoral chances. Even the loyal Selwyn Lloyd, then Chancellor of the Exchequer was thrown to the wolves. The Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe, freely adapted the biblical text for political purposes. He opined: “Greater love bath no man than this: that a man lay down his friends for his life.” And so it was with the IPPG and Bryn. Theologians have found inventive ways to re-interpret the Bible. Some of the Ten Commandments are apparently negotiable, although – as a non-believer – Badger would hesitate to say which. Perhaps the Maenclochog Mystic can tell Badger which of The Commandments are open to flexible interpretation. When he exhorts his congregation to follow the precepts of “the good book”. perhaps Huw likes to skip over John 15:13 as one of those more “problematic” passages. However Huw chooses to mangle his words and play with their sense. Badger has concluded that there is more likely to be honour among thieves than honour (or a sense of shame) within the IPPG. Apart from — and in a very
limited sense Brian. A man called Brian.

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Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

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New trees planted to help town

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SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

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Golden goodbye report likely to be critical

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A REPORT by Audit Wales into the departure of former CEO Ian Westley is very likely to contain criticism of senior council officers.

In November 2020, Mr Westley left Pembrokeshire County Council with a £95,000 pay-out, something which has been criticised by a number of councillors.

In a document before the Audit and Governance Committee on Tuesday (April 13), it says that termination payments to Chief Officers are routinely examined by Audit Wales but in the case of Mr Westley, the audit team was unable to locate a recorded decision to enter into the settlement agreement which led to a termination payment being made to the Chief Executive.

An Audit Office spokesperson said: “This appeared unusual and therefore the audit team decided to undertake an early examination of the process that resulted in the payment being made.”

No complaints were raised, by councillors or any other body, with Audit Wales but the number of concerns and questions being raised at following council meetings prompted them to commence an audit.

Audit Wales state: “Our audit fieldwork is substantially complete. However due to the complex nature of some of the issues involved we considered it necessary to take some external legal
advice. We are currently considering that advice. 

“In the near future we will draft a document setting out our provisional findings and conclusions. 

“Once this document is ready we will commence a clearance process to confirm factual accuracy. 

“If the document contains criticism of identifiable individuals, in the first instance we will provide those individuals with any extracts of the document that pertain to them. Once
we have confirmed the factual accuracy with individuals, we will send the full draft document to the Council’s Chief Executive to identify any remaining factual inaccuracies. 

“We will only issue the finalised document once the clearance process has been completed. #

“We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process.”

Only a handful of senior officers were involved in the procedure surrounding Ian Westley’s departure.

The inference which can be safely drawn from Audit Wales’ report to the Audit Committee is that some of its content will be critical either of councillors, senior officers, or both.

The process of asking those named to respond is known as Maxwellisation, a legal practice that allows persons who are to be criticised in an official report to respond prior to publication.

The report highlights the exceptional nature of the case at Pembrokeshire County Council and demonstrates the sensitivity of the issues raised.

If senior officers are sharply criticised or found to have failed in their duty to their employer, they will almost certainly have to go.

The council’s interim Chief Executive will read the document after maxwellisation.

It is also likely that the council’s newly appointed Chief Executive, Will Bramble, will have a chance to see it.

The Audit Wales spokesperson added: “We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process. We are unable to respond to queries about our emerging findings whilst the audit is progressing, and until we have finalised our conclusions.”

In January, Cllr Jamie Adams had called for the council to commence an internal investigation into Mr Westley’s departure but that was deferred to allow for the Audit Wales review to be completed.

Cllr Adams said that the decision of payment should have been a ‘democratic decision’ and has asked why that wasn’t the case.

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