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Swan ‘killers’ in court

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Swans: The family in Withybush Woods before the shootings (pic. The Herald)

THREE people accused of shooting four swans at Withybush Woods in October last year appeared before magistrates at Haverfordwest Law Court today (Mar 14).

There should have been four people in the dock, however Joseph Lawson, accused of jointly harming a swan with his co-defendants, did not attend court.

Magistrates issued a warrant without bail and hoped he would be brought to court immediately, before officers became aware that Lawson was in Mansfield.

The defendants who decided to show up to the hearing were: 32-year-old Gareth George Mattson of Goshawk Road in Haverfordwest; 24-year-old Benjamin Phillips of Jury Lane in Haverfordwest; and a 13-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The 13-year-old boy and Phillips both pleaded guilty to the charges against them, however Mattson denied the allegation.

Prosecutor, Vaughan Pritchard-Jones, told the court that a problem with the swans was reported to Maria Evans of the Wildlife Trust. Ms Evans attended Withybush Woods on October 20, and could see a female adult swan was dead, but she was unable to recover it.

Mr Pritchard-Jones said: “The swan still hasn’t been recovered, and may still be there unless it has been taken away by a predator.”

He explained to the court that the following day, a cygnet had been found on the bank of the lake and was recovered. It was taken to All Pets Vet Care in Milford Haven for a veterinary examination.

At this point, it was still alive.

Mr Pritchard-Jones said: “It had received an injury to its wings. An x-ray taken of its wing showed fragments of an air pellet. The main bone had completely severed and was out of alignment. It had completely snapped.

“There were four or five metal fragments in its wing. It had to be put down, as it was unable to make a recovery.”

Three days later, a male swan was found dead in the same location. This bird was too taken to All Pets Vet Care, and underwent an X-Ray.

Mr Pritchard-Jones explained: “One pellet was in the middle of the abdomen, and one was near the joint of the leg by the hip joint.”

A fourth cygnet was recovered by the RSPCA the following day, which had damage to its wing consisting of a ‘soft tearing injury’.

Mr Pritchard-Jones told the court that there was no pellet found in that cygnet. However the wound ‘could’ have been made by a pellet passing through.

He went on to say that after police had made enquiries, suspicion fell on the four defendants. They made prepared statements, and the police and prosecution pieced together what had happened from these.

There were no eyewitnesses.

Phillips told officers that ‘the plan was to shoot some rabbits’, but they found none, and instead decided to look for ducks to shoot instead.

Mr Phillips said: “The swan was shot and I took a shot to put it out of its misery. I aimed for its head but I missed. The gun was passed around.

“I regret bitterly that I became involved. Things got out of hand. This was not a prank – it was a big mistake.”

The court heard that before the shooting of the swans commenced, there was a discussion about whether it should be done or not. The court heard that the 13-year-old had said: “I think it would be funny as f**k.”

Defending the 13-year-old boy, Katy Hanson, said: “He is only 13 and has no previous convictions. He’s never been in trouble, and it’s incredibly sad to see someone so young here today.

“What he says, is he had gone shooting and assumed that it was okay to have an air rifle. He not got a great knowledge of the law, and trusted adults not to lead him astray.

“He was with three people who were significantly older. They suggested shots should be taken at the swans and the gun was passed to him. He took one shot, and purposefully missed the swan.”

Ms Hanson continued: “He has ADHD and hyperactivity disorder. His mother is horrified by the incident and trusted [the adults] to look after him.

“This has had a huge impact on his life. He had difficulty sleeping and eating. He is in school, and finds things stressful.”

Magistrates imposed a 12 month referral order, and ordered that the 13-year-old pay £85 prosecution costs and £20 victim surcharge.

Magistrates then turned their attention to dealing with Phillips.

A report from the probation service said that he felt an ‘immense’ amount of peer pressure, and that if he was in this situation again he would call the RSPCA.

Defence solicitor, David Williams, said: “My client recognises the immense public disapproval and upset that his participation has caused.

“Phillips took three to four shots to put the swan out of its misery. He did not shoot at any of the other swans, and was not in possession of the gun after he had done what I have described.”

Mr Williams commented on the fact that it has taken five months for the matter to come to court, and explained what has happened in Phillips’ life in that time. He said: “The public disapproval has manifested itself in worse ways.

“On March 10, my client’s family car was vandalised. It had on its bonnet, on one side from front to back and on one wheel arch, obscene words scratched on it. I won’t repeat the obscenities, but one was ‘swan killer’.”

The chair of the bench told Phillips: “This is a difficult and distressing case. The community feel very strongly about the case, and we believe it has crossed the custody threshold.”

Magistrates sentenced Phillips for four months imprisonment, suspended for a total of 12 months. He must complete 150 hours of unpaid work and complete a 15 day rehabilitation activity requirement. He must also pay £85 prosecution costs and £115 victim surcharge.

A trial date for Mattson was set, and will take place on Wednesday, April 19 at 10am at Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court.

He was released on bail until then, on condition that he made no contact with prosecution witnesses.

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Police and drugs advice service issue warning over ‘deadly batch’ of heroin

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POLICE have asked the media to issue a warning over a batch of heroin.

The drug circulating in west Wales, first detected in Llanelli, is particularly dangerous, it has been confirmed.

“We are warning drug users to take extra care following reports of a particularly harmful batch of heroin circulating in the Llanelli area” said a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson.

“We have reasons to believe some drugs being distributed and used in the Carmarthenshire area at present have been contaminated with other substances and could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately if they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone you believe could come into contact with these drugs.

”In an emergency or if you think someone’s life is at risk always dial 999.”

Earlier this week Barod, the drug and alcohol abuse service reported a dangerous and toxic heroin circulating in Pembroke Dock which a spokesperson described as being ‘potentially deadly’.

To comes as Public Health England issued a formal alert about the risks of heroin containing fentanyl or carfentanyl.

The warning reads: “There is significant evidence from a small number of post-mortem results of recent drug user deaths and from police seizures that some heroin may contain fentanyl or carfentanyl added by dealers.

“These are highly potent synthetic opioids and very small amounts can cause severe or even fatal toxicity.

“Those of you in contact with heroin users should be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from heroin cut with these synthetic opioids, be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately.”

The fentanyls are a group of synthetic opioids; some have legitimate uses while others are illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and is a licensed medicine used to treat severe and terminal pain. Carfentanyl is 4,000 – 10,000 times more potent than morphine and principally used as an animal tranquilliser.

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Tenby’s famous walrus ‘Wally’ has been spotted again

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TENBY’S most famous marine animal has been spotted again after fears she had been scared away.

Wally was spotted on Friday evening by the seaside town’s Lifeboat station.

Thought to be a two-year-old male, the walrus’s return comes after it was feared she had been disturbed by people flocking to catch a glimpse of her and “getting too close”

The animal has attracted hundreds of people to the seaside town now that the travel restrictions with Wales have been lifted to coincide with the Easter school holidays.

Wally was last seen on Monday, but  members of the public were warned it was in the animal’s “best interests” to be “left alone” as much as possible and they were urged to “avoid the temptation to get near and disturb” her.

A joint statement was issued by the RSPCA, Tenby harbour master Chris Salisbury, Welsh Marine Life Rescue, Tenby lifeboat coxswain Phil John, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Natural Resources Wales and CSIP Marine Environmental Rescue said that they were concerned to hear that people had tried to get close by using personal watercraft or paddle and surfboards.

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Police plan to deter badly behaved youths from gathering in Tenby

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POLICE in Tenby responded to community concerns over antisocial behaviour and groups of between 15-20 youths gathering and clashing over the Easter bank holiday weekend. They moved the youths on, seized alcohol from them and stopped matters escalating when there were clashes between the groups. And they have a clear message ahead of this weekend – there will be extra police patrols and presence in Tenby, including on the trains, so this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers used powers under the Antisocial Behaviour Act to disperse groups of youngsters meeting to drink alcohol in and around Tenby, many of whom had travelled by train to the area to meet up.

Based on these scenes from last weekend, plans are in place as part of a joint operation with Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers and British Transport Police, to address and prevent any further gatherings.

A Section 34 Order is in place covering Tenby, which allows officers to move people out of the area and prevent them from returning for up to 48 hours.

Sergeant Stuart Wheeler said: “Following last weekend we had some concern from the community of Tenby, due to antisocial behaviour related to the groups of youths from Pembroke, Pembroke Dock and Tenby, and subsequently those groups clashing. Alcohol consumption by these youngsters was a factor.

“Proactive action was taken, and we are keen to avoid a repeat of this behaviour this weekend, and have therefore put plans in place. Additional resources have been allocated, which will allow us to respond quickly and prevent matters from escalating.

“Tenby Neighbourhood Policing Team and response officers, will be carrying out high visibility patrols in the area, covering areas known to be popular with youngsters. Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers will be assisting us in ensuring youngsters can’t buy alcohol in the area by visiting shops and reminding them of the laws around selling alcohol, and if they bring it with them it will be seized. And our colleagues in British Transport Police will be patrolling the train network to prevent problematic groups getting to Tenby by train.”

Police are also appealing to parents and carers to know where their children are, and what they are doing.

Sergeant Wheeler added: “We would like to appeal directly to parents to be aware of where their children are, and prevent them from gathering in large groups. This type of behaviour is distressing for people living and working in Tenby, and we are urging you to be accountable for your children’s actions.

“We understand that the past few months have been difficult, and that children want to see their friends, but remember that only 6 people from 2 households can meet outdoors still. Please do your best to ensure they are adhering to regulations that are in place for all our safety.”

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