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Sort pub or ‘lives could be lost’, say police

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lives could be lostCOUNCILLORS deciding the future of the Alma Hotel in Milford Haven on Wednesday failed to reach an immediate decision on the future of the troubled premises.

Dyfed Powys Police had requested a review of the premises licence following a series of incidents, which they say makes the Alma the worst out of 900 licensed premises in the force area.

At the start of the Licensing Sub-Committee meeting on Wednesday, David Lloyd, a barrister and County Councillor for St. David’s asked the chairman, Cllr David James, if he could make an application to represent Alma manger Debbie Haughey. After consulting the legal advisor the chairman told Cllr Lloyd that he would not be allowed to represent Ms. Haughey.

Cllr. Lloyd told the committee: “I am bitterly disappointed” before leaving the room.

The council legal advisor had said that despite the hearing being about Ms. Haughey’s pub she was not ‘a party to the proceedings’ as she had not made any written submissions before December 5, 2013.

However, Ms. Haughey remained at the table and was eventually allowed to speak, albeit unrepresented, after a change of heart by the chairman. First to speak was Police licensing officer, Nigel Hayes, who told the licensing committee: “In my written submission to you today there is a large number of incidents recorded. Some are irrelevant, some are hoax calls, but some will be relevant.

“We are here today because as a concerned party, we are entitled to ask for a review of the licence of the Alma for the good of the community. This review is called in the interest of the prevention of crime and disorder, protection of children and the protection of persons from harm”.

‘Worst pub’ in the force area

Nigel Hayes continued: “There is indisputable evidence of a high level of crime at the Alma. There have been 29 arrests in the last two years and 26 of these have been for violence. We have identified 16 individual victims of crime. There have been 34 999 calls. And in one incident, Debbie Haughey withdrew her door staff, closed the door and allowed victims and attackers to get on with it.

“In one incident, 12 police vehicles were deployed to the premises, which proved a huge commitment of police resources. We believe that there is underage drinking, admittedly, there have been no prosecutions. The reason for this is that the number of reports have been made some time after the event. There has been little engagement by Debbie Haughey.

“In one incident, a 16-year-old girl was found to be serving behind the bar and appeared to be in charge of the premises. But Debbie Haughey is the designated premises supervisor, and she has responsibilities. She has though been obstructive when dealing with the police. The attitude of Debbie Haughey has been uncooperative, and it is my submission that she has failed to recognise the licensing objectives.

“There are 900 premises with a licence, but the one above the radar for the police is the Alma. In fact, a further incident involving the premises took place just 36 hours before this formal review. You can put up a smoke screen, but there comes a point when you reach saturation point. There is a real problem with the Alma, and this is causing problems to the community, the police and the health board.”

‘Lives could be lost’

Nigel Hayes read out a report written by the Chief Inspector of Pembrokeshire which said:

“The Alma has a history of long and persistent abuse of the licensing laws. The Alma is not a large establishment, but instead a thorn in the side of the police. I fear lives could be lost if the situation remains unchanged. Many individuals said when in contact with the police they had been drinking in the Alma as late as 4 or 5pm”.

The licensing committee were then shown a video of a young man and woman dancing on top of the bar at the Alma in a sexually provocative way to loud music.

Afterwards, Nigel Hayes said: “I have been a police officer for 31 years and I have never heard of this kind of behaviour being tolerated at a bar. The options here today are to close the bar down, remove the current designated premises supervisor or to change the profile of the premises to reduce the hours of operation”.

Councillor John Brinsden asked the police licensing officer if there were any problems before Debbie Haughey took over the premises. He also asked how the Alma compared to other pubs in Milford Haven. Councillor Brinsden also wanted to know if there had been an improvement since the licence was put up for review last year. Mr Hayes called on Sergeant James to answer the committee.

Sergeant James said: “Dealing with the Alma has been the worst experience of my life as an operational officer. I have seen drunken louts having to be picked up off the street. They often make reference to the Alma. I am born and bred in Milford haven. The Alma has never been like this before”.

Milford Haven man Terry Page made representations to the Councillors regarding his experience with the Alma.

He said: “My partner used to work at the pub, and was attacked one night after she had finished her shift. She was attacked by two girls who came from the premises and the landlady was heard telling her door staff to leave it and I tried to break up the fight.

“I am positive that one of the girls had taken something, I cannot possibly say whether it had been on the premises or not, but I have seen many drunk people in my time and they do not act like that.

“When the police arrived at our home to speak to us, we were told that one of the girls that had attacked my partner was 16 years of age. I had found it to be a good pub and it used to be very respectable. I have not been there since as I am completely disgusted.

“My partner had also found a new job at South Hook LNG, though could not work because of the injuries she had and lost her job. One of the injuries that she had suffered included chunks of her hair being pulled out and cuts to her head”.

Alma ‘damaging business’,

says Frankies Bar. The manageress of Frankie’s Bar, Charles Street, which is in close proximity to The Alma, made representations to the licensing committee that her business had been adversely affected by the Alma.

Miss Becky Onisiforou told Councillors: “People who have been there sometimes come to us covered in blood having been fighting in the Alma”.

Her partner, Michael McGuiness said: “Debbie Haughey’s partner came to our pub and threatened us. He said that if the Alma was to lose its licence, he would kill us. He had been told that we had made hoax calls about the Alma, but most of what he had been told was untrue. We cannot understand how a premises can have so many incidents – it is affecting our business as well”.

Miss Onisiforou added: “People are not coming out as much now, Milford is a lot quieter because of the Alma. People aren’t going to the night club because they know they can stay at the Alma late and they don’t want to be involved with what happens in Milford Haven. It’s not about going for a drink and having a laugh any more”.

After breaking for lunch, for the committee moved into private session, where the representatives from Brain’s, Mr. Matthew Phipps of TLT Solicitors and Mr. Ross Matthews, area manager for Brains, went through the police incident reports one by one.

Mr Phipps told the committee that Brain’s had an estate of around 250 public houses, and that they have never had a licence revoked. They were a large professional organisation, and there had only been one review of a licence concerning a CCTV system which had become faulty, but was later fixed.

Mr. Phipps made representations to the committee that now Brains were aware of the problem, an organisation of their size, would not have any problems turning the premises around.

Revocation a nuclear option

Mr Phipps pointed out that in the national guidelines the police authority should contact the licensee of the premises if there was a problem to enter into dialogue so that improvements could be made. In this case, the police, he said, had applied for a review as a first step.

Mr Phipps continued: “I don’t think that we are at the stage where we have to use the nuclear option to revoke the licence. A revocation at this point, where the licensee has not had a chance to improve the premises would only be reserved for the most serious cases such as a pub selling firearms or harbouring a paedophile ring”

The committee will now decide over the next five working days if the licence should be revoked, if the premises should operate with reduced opening hours or if Debbie Haughey should be removed as the manager of the premises.

“90% of all violent incidents happened after midnight”, the police licensing officer said.

 

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Milford Haven School to lose sixth form due to falling pupil numbers

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COUNCILLORS have today backed a recommendation to publish a Statutory Notice to remove the sixth form of Milford Haven School.

The move followed the governing body of Milford Haven School requesting the Council to consult on the removal of the sixth form due to declining pupil numbers, reduced curriculum options and provision not meeting the needs of learners.

The governing body described the move as ‘one of the most difficult decisions we have ever undertaken.’

In October last year Pembrokeshire County Council agreed for the Director for Children and Schools to undertake statutory consultation on the proposal to remove the sixth form.

County Councillors today considered the report following the period of consultation which showed an overwhelming show of support for maintaining the sixth form.

In total, 168 responses were received.

The report stated that the sixth form has played a significant role as part of the local community.

However, on the basis of the significant decline in sixth form population at the school over the last 10 years, it is clear that the support received as part of the consultation is not reflected in the actual numbers choosing to stay in the sixth form.

Analysis of learner numbers in the sixth form over the last 10 years shows a steady decline in numbers, equivalent to a 77% reduction, with just 46 learners as of January 2020.

Education watchdog Estyn said: “The proposal to close the sixth form at Milford Haven School and for pupils to attend other provision instead appears to be a reasonable way forward. It is Estyn’s view that this proposal is likely to at least maintain the current standards of education and provision in the area.”

By 30 votes to 22, Councillors backed the recommendation that the Director for Children and Schools be authorised to publish a Statutory Notice to effect a regulated alteration to Milford Haven School in order to remove its sixth form.

This will be followed a 28 day objection period. If objections are received an Objection report will be prepared.

As the proposal is one to remove sixth form provision it requires approval by Welsh Ministers.

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Death on Freemens Way

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A 56-YEAR-OLD man has died following an incident on Freemens Way, Haverfordwest, on Wednesday night (Jul 15).

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “A 56-year-old man has died following an incident at Freemens Way, Haverfordwest, last night.

“He was taken to hospital with severe injuries, but sadly passed away.

“His family has been informed and is being supported by local officers.

“An investigation is ongoing but the circumstances are not believed to be suspicious.

“HM coroner has been informed.”

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Two arrested for shouting racist comments at BLM protest

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TWO teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of shouting racist comments at Black Lives Matter protestors, at the latest event in Haverfordwest on Wednesday night (Jul 15).
Commenting on the incident, Superintendent of Pembrokeshire division, Ross Evans said: “On Wednesday evening (July 15) a peaceful protest took place on Picton Fields, Haverfordwest, as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The demonstration, which was attended by around 70 people, was overseen by local officers as part of appropriate plans in place to allow for peaceful protest.

“Sadly, officers present observed a man and a boy shouting a number of racist comments towards those attending the demonstration, and promptly arrested both, one aged 19 and the other 14, on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences.

“The comments understandably caused a great deal of upset and distress to those from the demonstration who heard them.

“The two men arrested have been taken to Haverfordwest custody, where they remain currently. Anyone who witnessed the incident and has any information is asked to contact police by emailing us at: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or call 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311908.”

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