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Bid to suspend Bryn collapses

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The extraordinary meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council to decide if the Chief Executive, Bryn Parry Jones should be suspended has collapsed, amongst unprecedented scenes at County Hall today.pensions investigation

Opposition Councillors received legal advice from a top QC that they should withdraw from the meeting due to comments they had made in the press.

Tim Kerr QC, the lawyer advising the Council on the ‘tax-dodge’ pension arrangements read out a list of Councillors who he felt could not participate in the meeting due to negative comments they had made about Bryn Parry Jones to The Pembrokeshire Herald and The Western Telegraph.

In light of this, most members of the opposition walked out of the council chamber and the one remaining signatory to the notice of motion that Mr. Parry-Jones be suspended, Cllr Phil Baker, withdrew the vote.

Cllr. Phil Baker told the Herald just now: “I knew something was afoot when the QC was allowed to remain after the Wales Audit Office report was discussed.”

He added: “I think that a lot of IPPG members as well as opposition Councillors are not happy about what has happened today. Very shabby indeed, its like the old East Germany.”

PEMBROKESHIRE ALLIANCE

The Pembrokeshire Alliance Group have made a statement about the  meeting

A spokesman said: “This meeting was an insult to democracy. The people of Pembrokeshire deserve openness, transparency and good governance and this meeting was an example of what happens when these principles are quite deliberately not followed.”

The Pembrokeshire Alliance Group says it is now in discussions with other opposition groups and non affiliated Councillors as to what should happen next.

AM WANTS BRYN STRIPPED OF RETURNING OFFICER POWERS

reWELSH Labour AM Rebecca Evans has called for embattled chief executive of Pembrokeshire Council Bryn Parry-Jones to be stripped of his role as Returning Officer for Wales in the European elections this May until local Councillors are allowed to debate the issue properly and the police investigation has concluded.

This follows last week’s full council meeting that descended into farce after the council enlisted lawyer declared a number of people had pre-determined the outcome of the discussion which led to a walk-out and prevented a vote on suspending Mr Parry-Jones.

Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales said: “After the embarrassing spectacle that was Friday’s ‘extraordinary meeting’ of Pembrokeshire council, it is clear that the Pembrokeshire council leadership is content to allow the debate to descend into farce rather than grapple openly and in public with the serious issues presented by the Wales Audit Office reports.

“It would now be utterly preposterous for Bryn Parry Jones to preside over the European Ballot as Returning Officer while his pension payments are still under police investigation. The public must have complete confidence in the election process, and in all of the people involved. Until the police investigation is concluded, alternative arrangements must be made – and that means relieving Bryn Parry Jones of his Returning Officer role.”

Paul Miller, leader of the Labour group in Pembrokeshire said:
“Sometimes, particularly around planning issues, pre-determination rules help ensure fairness but last week it was worrying to see those rules used to stifle debate and silence critics in a totally unjust and undemocratic way. Many opposition Councillors felt cornered having a QC tell them that they had to leave. Having sought legal advice, I know that no Labour councilors pre-determined the debate. Pre-determination is a matter for individuals not lawyers. Enlisting a barrister in a crude attempt to undermine our roles as Councillors and prevent us from seeking to represent the views of our constituents on this hugely important issue is nothing short of Orwellian.

“The public deserve reassurance that this matter is being dealt with properly. I will not lie down and be silenced by the puppet administration running Pembrokeshire, and will continue to fight to ensure that full council are able to debate this.”

PLAID CYMRU SPEAKS OUT

Pembrokeshire Plaid Cymru leader Cllr Michael Williams has called on the Welsh Government to intervene in the running of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Cllr Williams told The The Herald: “The recent events are yet more evidence of the gross incompetence of the Independent Group which presently masquerades as the controlling group of the Council. We say “masquerade” as it is patently obvious that the authority is run by a small cabal of out of control senior officers orchestrated by the Chief Executive, who are bringing the Council into disrepute.”

He added: “After their appalling performance in the Council meeting on Friday, is it any wonder that PCC is the laughing stock of Wales? Pembrokeshire tax payers deserve better. We deserve honesty and integrity, and they have consistently failed to deliver.”

“This Council staggers from crisis to crisis, from travel claims which were years late from the Leader to the misuse of Council computers by Councillor Rob Lewis to produce Independent group election literature.  This together with failures to properly safeguard our children, a failed social care provision and recently dubious grant dealings in Pembroke Dock render them unfit.”

It was amazing to see on Friday their efforts to extricate themselves from their self inflicted problems. Legal advice of forty five pages. which we as elected Members were not allowed to see, and the costs of at least one Q C, with another expert flown in from Edinburgh. This plus the mysterious brown envelope left on the passenger seat of the Council vehicle which transported the Q C with information enclosed selectively identifying those Members who had stated that the CEO should go. The rulers of North Korea would be proud.

Mr Parry-Jones should step aside immediately, and take his poodle, Jamie Adams with him. The Welsh Government should immediately install Commissioners to take over the running of PCC” he concluded.

LEGAL ADVICE WAS  ‘WRONG’

The Pembrokeshire Herald took independent legal advice before publishing comments made by County Councillors this month, in the days leading up to the vote over the suspension of chief executive of Pembrokeshire council, Bryn Parry Jones.

During the extraordinary meeting of Full Council, members were given legal advice by a barrister appointed by senior officers and leaders of the authority.

Mr Tim Kerr QC told members that some of them had ‘crossed the line’ by showing predetermination over whether the chief executive should be suspended. Mr Kerr told members that this predetermination was demonstrated by comments made in the newspaper article.

Mr Kerr had been given photocopies of selected press cuttings from The Pembrokeshire Herald’s February 8 edition by the monitoring officer, Mr Laurence Harding. He told the meeting that the newspaper article had been ‘brought to his attention’ but refused to say by who. However, Deputy Leader, Cllr Rob Lewis told members that he also had copies of the same documents. He did not admit to giving them to Mr Laurence Harding, however.

Pembrokeshire Herald editor Thomas Sinclair said: “There is legislation regarding the issue of predetermination that was not brought up at the meeting. Section 25(2) of the Localism Act 2011 provides that ‘a decision-maker is not to be taken to have had, or to have appeared to have had, a closed mind when making the decision just because the decision-maker had previously done anything that directly or indirectly indicated what view the decision-maker took’.”

Mr. Sinclair added: “This legislation clearly applies to all County Councils in the United Kingdom, but this law was not followed at the meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council on Friday.”

He concluded: “In the newspaper’s view if Tim Kerr QC was acting in the best interests of all the members of the council, rather than just those on the side of Mr. Bryn-Parry Jones then, he would have advised members of the existence of this critical piece of legislation, which has been on the statute books for three years.”

 

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Thousands sign online petition against Welsh supermarket ban on selling ‘non-essential goods’

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THOUSANDS of people in Wales have signed an online petition calling on the Senedd to intervene to allow supermarkets to be allowed to sell ‘all non-essential items’ during Wales’ 17-day-long ‘Fire-break’ lockdown.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said supermarkets should stop selling items such as clothes as a matter of “fairness” to smaller retailers who have been asked to shut, until 9 November.

On Thursday (Oct 22), the Welsh Government confirmed that supermarkets would be told not to sell non-essential goods, like clothes, toys, decorations and electrical items during the 17-day firebreak.

Supermarkets have covered over shelves selling ‘non-essentials’

The online petition against the non-essential goods ban, which was created by Wales resident Gareth Howell, reads: “The Welsh Government, as part of its 17 day “firebreak” lockdown, is banning the selling of non-essential goods from shops that are allowed to remain open. We do not agree that this is a prudent or rational measure, and will create more harm than good.
“We do not agree for example that parents should be barred from buying clothes for their children during lockdown while out shopping. This is disproportionate and cruel and we ask that the decision be reversed immediately.”
The petition follows calls from the Welsh Conservatives to end the policy. They have called banning certain items in supermarkets ‘ludicrous’.

Andrew RT Davies has called on Labour’s health minister to intervene.

Ban is ludicrous, says Andrew RT Davies

He said: “Anger is growing across Wales at the decision from the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, and shoppers have condemned the decision arguing that items such as books, electronics, clothing, and bedding are essential.

“I have never witnessed such a fierce backlash against a decision from the Welsh Labour Government.

“This ludicrous ban has caused real anger across Wales and it’s not fair on those staff working in our supermarkets, and the general Welsh public who are already at their wit’s end with a difficult fortnight looming.

“Whilst the First Minister might not be for turning, the health minister Vaughan Gething must surely acknowledge the damage this will do to public confidence and I ask him intervene and tell Mark Drakeford and his colleagues that this has to be dropped immediately.”

Guidance published for retailers on the Welsh Government’s website says aisles selling homeware and decorations, toys, mobile phones, clothes and games, should be “closed to the public”, and some areas may need to be cordoned off.

Speaking at Friday’s Welsh Government briefing, Mr Drakeford said the decision to stop supermarkets from selling all but essential items was based on a “need for fair play”.

“I’m not prepared to treat small businesses in Wales in one way, requiring them to close – they are not able to earn a living during these two weeks, as part of our national efforts – and then simply because another sector in society are more powerful, are bigger, that they think that they can be treated differently.

“It is a straightforward matter of fairness, we are in this together here in Wales.

“No individual and no organisation is above the effort that we are all required to make.”

At the time of publishing this article the petition had reached 17,551 signatures.

You can find the petition here.

Greetings cards are non essential items, says Mark Drakeford

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Man arrested at marina, police dog finds ‘drugs’ next day

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A MAN was arrested at Milford Haven Marina following an alleged incident involving domestic assault.

Police officers were seen in the area around the docks in large numbers on Tuesday (Oct 20) at around lunch time.

The Herald understands that the male had evaded arrest and ran to the boatyard where police caught up with him.

On Wednesday (Oct 21) police returned to the same area with a sniffer dog and recovered what police believe could be illegal drugs which were found in a plastic bag.

The police will now send off a sample for testing.

A press officer for Dyfed-Powys Police told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Dyfed Powys Police were investigating an allegation of a domestic assault in which a man made off and was later detained at the Boat Yard, Milford Haven Marina, at around 12.45pm on Tuesday, 20 October.

“During a search of the area officers have recovered items they believe to be controlled substances, with the assistance of the dog section.

“A 29-year-old man was arrested as part of the investigation and has been released under investigation pending forensic examination of the substances seized.”

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BBC Wales investigation uncovers potential new evidence in Clydach Murders case

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A BBC WALES investigation has uncovered potential new evidence casting doubt over the guilt of a man for the horrific murders of three generations of one family 21-years-ago.

In a powerful one-hour documentary made by the BBC Wales Investigates team, later tonight on BBC One Wales at 9pm and then on BBC iPlayer, reporter Wyre Davies explores whether the conviction of David Morris for one of Wales’ most shocking crimes could be a miscarriage of justice.

Mandy Power, her elderly mother and two young daughters were brutally bludgeoned to death with a metal pole coated in fibre glass at their home in Kelvin Road, Clydach, near Swansea in the summer of 1999. It led to South Wales Police’s largest ever murder inquiry.

Seven years after the murders, local labourer Morris was sentenced to four life prison terms at Newport Crown Court in 2006, later to be reduced to 32 years, after being found guilty of the mass murders.

A year earlier his conviction from a previous trial at Swansea Crown Court in 2002 had been quashed in the Court of Appeal but he was soon to be convicted again.

The brutal murders had sent shockwaves through the close-knit Welsh community in the summer of 1999 and it soon emerged 34-year-old Mandy Power had been involved in a serious love affair with former police officer Alison Lewis at the time she was killed.

Alison Lewis was married and living with her husband – South Wales Police Sergeant Stephen Lewis – when the murders occurred sometime between June 26th and the early hours of June 27th in 1999.

In a twist to the tragic events, Stephen’s twin brother Stuart, an acting inspector with the force at the time, was the most senior officer to arrive at the crime scene that morning.

All three of the Lewis’s quickly became suspects in connection with the murders and just over a year later – in July 2000 – Alison and Stephen Lewis were arrested on suspicion of murder and Stuart Lewis was arrested on the suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

They were questioned but weren’t charged as the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence. All three maintained they were innocent of any involvement.

The focus of the police investigation then sharply turned to Morris after police linked him to a gold chain left at the murder scene, which he admitted was his just weeks before his first trial. He was arrested in March 2001, questioned and charged with the horrific killings in the same month.

However, a new eyewitness account from the night questions whether South Wales Police missed investigating potentially important information during their original inquiries.

Tonight’s programme will hear from a taxi driver, Mike, who claims to have seen twin brothers Stephen and Stuart Lewis walking along Vardre Road minutes away from the crime scene in Kelvin Road after 2am.

“There were two blokes walking towards me on the pavement next to the taxi my side,” Mike said.

“And what struck me was they were very, very similar. Both dark hair, cropped. Very, very similar features.”

Mike says that after seeing their photos in local press coverage he was “100% convinced” the two men he saw were the Lewis brothers. He was working as a taxi driver for a local firm on the night of the murders. He said he contacted police twice about the sightings but says his calls and information he gave to police were never followed up.

Stephen Lewis issued a statement, saying any witnesses who suggest he was in Clydach on the night were mistaken as he was at home all night.

Stuart Lewis has said he did not see either Alison or his twin Stephen that night and was on general patrol when the killings took place; while Alison has said she was at home in bed with her husband, Stephen.

BBC Wales now understands Mike has given his statement to the police, who are investigating.

Wyre Davies also talks to another potential eyewitness in the programme.

John Allen claims to have seen a man carrying a green coloured “kit bag” under his arm near to the crime scene as he drove as a disqualified driver in country lanes in the early hours of the morning with three others.

He says he regrets not informing police at the time but has come forward now.

“I seen him perfectly. Standing there in the middle of the road. When I come round the corner I had to slam on or I would have hit him cause he was practically on my bonnet,” Mr Allen said.

Mr Allen did not report what he saw to the police at the time, and admits that he was driving while disqualified, but says he has now come forward as it’s “been on his mind” for 20 years, and he wants justice.

Another witness who actually gave evidence at David Morris’ trials, also claims to have seen a man carrying a bundle that night near to Kelvin Road.

Nicola Williams reported what she saw to police, provided an e-fit and later identified the man as Stephen Lewis at a video ID parade. At trial her evidence was disputed and it seems it didn’t cause the jury to doubt David Morris’ guilt.

Morris’ legal team believe the potential new sightings could be significant and their testimonials should be investigated by police and the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Solicitor Maslen Merchant said: “It’s very, very interesting the accounts that they’ve given.

“It’s interesting that they describe events and seeing the same individual – or possibly one of two individuals – around that area at exactly the right time.

“Potentially, new witnesses could provide Dai with a ground of appeal; new “witnesses could get these convictions quashed.

Morris, who has spent more than 19 years in prison for the crime, has always protested his innocence.

His DNA and fingerprints were never discovered at the crime scene in Kelvin Road where he was said to have started four fires to destroy the house after brutally beating his victims to death.

The most incriminating evidence against Morris was the gold chain found at the crime scene which he lied was his until weeks before his first trial.

Winchester University lecturer Brian Thornton has been investigating the murders for more than 10 years from the Crime and Research Centre he set up at the university. He gave BBC Wales access to the original court files housed in a bunker at the university containing thousands of documents and exhibits from the case to investigate.

Professor Thornton said the potential new evidence could prove significant and hopefully provide a breakthrough in terms of getting the case reviewed and back to the Court of Appeal. They plan to include the potential new evidence in a fresh application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

“The threshold that you have to pass is you have to establish that there is fresh evidence, new evidence, essentially evidence that the jury never heard.

“And this new evidence is going to be right at the heart of the fresh application,” Brian Thornton said.

Morris’ defence team also believe the key to potentially proving his innocence could still lie in the forensics, despite their client’s DNA never being discovered at the scene.

Forensic scientist Joanne Millington has been looking at the case again with fresh eyes.

In the programme she argues there were shortcomings in the original DNA testing of the murder weapon as well as a blood-soaked sock thought to be used as a glove by the killer and both found at the crime scene. Her findings will be included in the new application to be submitted to the CCRC.

Ms Millington says it is already known that an unidentified partial male DNA trace was detected on the murder weapon that isn’t a match to an elimination sample provided by Morris.

“We have an elimination sample from him to compare directly and it doesn’t match his profile,” she said.

Wyre Davies also traces the steps of Morris on the night of the murders and examines the potential sequence of who was killed at the victims’ home in Kelvin Road.

Also appearing in the programme is barrister Simon McKay who has expertise in disclosure and high-profile cases around terrorism and security.

After looking again at disclosure details in both of Morris’s trials, he raises concerns that too many documents were withheld from the defence under the legal umbrella of Public Interest Immunity (PII). The type of documents normally held back as PII are usually only those seen as important for protecting government and public security as well as covert police intelligence.

Mr McKay said: “This case certainly has a significant volume of material which was subject to a series of public interest immunity applications and there is not an obvious reason why you would expect that to arise.

“When one looks at the entire context of the case … then it’s understandable that one walks away from this case with serious concerns that justice has been done.”

The 21-year-old murder case has been back in the spotlight following a campaign set up by Morris’s family.

An online Facebook page aimed at freeing him now has more than 22,000 members. Before lockdown, meetings were held regularly in Swansea to rally support.

Supporters who believe there has been a miscarriage of justice wear or decorate their cars or house with yellow or green garlands and bows.

Morris’ sister Debra Thomas has always protested her brother’s innocence and says she hopes the programme will convince other potential witnesses to come forward with information.

Two attempts to convince the review body to take a fresh look at the case have so far failed, the latest in 2018.

South Wales Police says it undertook an extensive investigation; Morris has twice been convicted by a jury and they await the content of the programme with interest.

The victims’ families – the Dawson and Power families – both issued statements earlier this week, saying they believe the right man was behind bars for the killings.

The Clydach Murders: Beyond Reasonable Doubt airs on BBC One Wales tonight (Thursday) at 9pm; and will be available on BBC iPlayer.

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