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Council changes snoopers’ charter

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county hallPEMBROKESHIRE County Council has adopted a code of practice in relation to controversial legislation enabling it to mount covert surveillance operations.

The widespread misuse by public authorities of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) led the Coalition government to clamp down on its use to mount trivial and intrusive investigations at public expense into minor breaches of the law, such as putting bin bags out too early.

Although County Council leader Jamie Adams claimed that the Council had not used powers under RIPA, The Pembrokeshire Herald can confirm that Councillor Adams was mistaken in so claiming. The Pembrokeshire Herald has established that, despite Councillor Adams’ assurances to the contrary, in the three years from 2008-2011, the County Council has disclosed that it used RIPA powers on seven occasions.

In 2008-2009, the Council used RIPA powers in two animal welfare cases. In 2009-2010 it used the same powers in relation to an investigation into a car dealership issuing credit without a consumer credit licence and to investigate the sale of alcohol to a minor. In 2010-2011 it used its RIPA powers on three separate occasions, two of which related to the sale of alcohol to a minor, the other relating to a trading standards investigation. In none of the seven cases in which the Council used its covert surveillance powers has it disclosed the outcome of the investigations concerned.

In the three year period 2008-2011, Pembrokeshire County Council used RIPA powers on fewer occasions than most other Welsh local authorities.

The Herald can reveal that the new code of practice provides that Mr Mike Kent, one of the Council’s in-house legal staff, will have day-to-day responsibility for the making of applications for the Council to launch surveillance operations targeting Pembrokeshire’s citizens.

The code of practice provides that the Council can only use its powers if the application is approved by a Justice of the Peace and if the criminal offence being investigated is of an offence that can lead to a prison sentence of at least six months’ duration. The powers can also be used to investigate the sale of tobacco and alcohol to children.

The Council will be permitted to use so-called “Covert Human Intelligence Sources”. This means that the Council can use a person who establishes or maintains “a personal or other relationship” with the target of a council investigation to obtain information from them and feed it back to their County Hall spymaster.

The Council will also be permitted to monitor, observe and listen to personal communications, including surveillance with the assistance of technology for that purpose. The Council is therefore permitted, provided it establishes that the use of such resources in proportionate, to bug phones and access personal email accounts.

Lower level surveillance as authorised by a local authority can be accessed by organisations including, but not limited to, the police, the Gambling Commission, the Food Standards Agency, Office of Fair Trading, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Gang-masters’ Licensing Authority.

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Ethiopian sailor absconds from ship docked at Valero

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A SEARCH is underway for an Ethiopian sailor who has failed to return to his vessel after taking shore leave from a ship berthed in Pembrokeshire.

The male, who is understood to be a cadet in his twenties, was a crew member on the Perseus-N; a chemical products ship.

He failed to return to the ship on Tuesday night after 9pm (Aug 20).

The Liberian tanker has already left Milford Haven without the missing member of crew.

The Herald understands that the missing man was with a group of other sailors from the ship in the Milford Haven are using the marina’s leisure facilities.

The group then headed to Tesco in Milford Haven, where all went in to the store except the missing sailor who slipped away, according to CCTV which was checked by police.

One theory, The Herald has been told, was that he left on the train from Milford Haven station by hiding in the toilet. The station is next to the Tesco store.

Border Force have been contacted for a comment in relation to the incident.

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Former Chequers nightclub to reopen

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AN APPLICATION for a new premises licence for the former Chequers night club succeeded at a meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Licensing sub-committee on Thursday (Aug 22).

The former nightclub closed its doors for the last time in 2003, when it ran as a private members’ club, having had an application for a full on-licence rejected.

After failing in an attempt to close the club on that occasion, Pembrokeshire County Council became the only local authority in Wales to classify mobile homes as permanent residences in an effort to shut down the club once and for all.

The new applicant, Mrs Carmen Clemas applied for a new premises licence in respect of the club, which will be renamed the Queen of Clubs.

The Committee heard objections to the licence from local residents and heard representations from both the Police and Fire Service which pointed out that the building would need significant remedial works to it before it could re-open.

While Penally Community Council objected on the basis of events and problems at the premises almost twenty years ago, neither the Police nor Fire Service had an objection to the Club’s re-opening in principle.

Both emergency services emphasised that, even though they had no objections, they had concerns that had to be addressed.

Dyfed-Powys Police licensing officer Nigel Lewis highlighted road safety as a significant issue as it was “quite a nasty stretch of road.”

He said: “A solution will have to be found if the premise licence is to be granted, it’s way too dangerous to let a patron leave your place and and enter into that section,” he added.

The Committee granted the application, refusing permission for licensable activities at the Club on Sundays, apart from Sundays before Bank Holidays, and imposing strict noise control measures.

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St Davids RNLI to feature in new series of a popular TV documentary

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THE volunteer lifeboat crew of St Davids RNLI will be taking to the small screen next week as they will feature twice in the first episode of the BBC TV series Saving Lives at Sea.

Now in its fourth season the documentary series, which showcases the lifesaving work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), will be aired on BBC Two on Tuesdays at 8 pm, as well as being available on the BBC iPlayer following the broadcast. The new 10-part series features real rescues carried out by the charity’s volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards around the UK and Ireland – including St Davids RNLI.

Each programme gives a unique insight into the lives and work of the charity’s lifesavers who are needed more than ever before, rescuing thousands of people and saving hundreds of lives around our coastline and on inland waterways every year. The new series features more dramatic real-life rescue footage, accompanied by emotive testimonials from the volunteer crews, lifeguards and the people they rescue and their families.

This forthcoming episode, on 27 August, sees St Davids RNLI launch to a crashed plane in one shout, and tow a yacht stranded in a shipping lane in another. These shouts are shown alongside rescue stories from their colleagues at other stations and beaches around our coasts.

Judd Kohler, Station Mechanic at St Davids Lifeboat Station, said: “The first episode of Saving Lives at Sea shows two very different shouts that St Davids RNLI responded to. The programme is a great chance for RNLI supporters to catch a glimpse of the work that their kind donations go towards. We want to say a huge thank you to supporters of the RNLI, who help us to save lives at sea.”

Filming took place over the past year, with lifeboat crews and lifeguards carrying special cameras and welcoming film-makers into their day-to-day life. Rescues from the RNLI’s archives are also revisited, and we get a glimpse into the everyday lives of the thousands of men and women who give up their time to save lives.

Last year alone, RNLI lifeboat crews around the UK and Ireland rescued 9,412 people, saving 211 lives, while the charity’s lifeguards aided 32,207 people and saved 118 lives on some of the UK’s busiest beaches.

Saving Lives at Sea begins on Tuesday 27 August at 8 pm on BBC Two, and will continue throughout August, September and October.

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