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Editor Tom Sinclair’s appeal adjourned for a fifth time

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A SECOND judge stepped down from hearing the appeal of Herald editor Tom Sinclair at Swansea Crown Court today (Jan 12).

The 38 year old is appealing against a conviction for allowing a story to be published in the Ceredigion Herald in 2016 which could have led to the identification of the victim of a sexual offence – a failed attempt at voyeurism.

As the offending article from The Ceredigion Herald was read out in court, His Honour Peter Heywood QC realised that he had heard the failed appeal of the would-be voyeur and therefore had to recuse himself.

“A very unfortunate co-incidence… I would feel uncomfortable sitting on this case” he said.

Last year his colleague, His Honour Paul Thomas QC, also had to stop proceedings and call an adjournment because deputy editor Jon Coles – a likely witness in the case – is known to him personally.  They previously worked in the legal profession together when Judge Thomas was a barrister.

After a period of uncertainty, a third judge, His Honour Keith Thomas QC, was made available to hear the case.

The court heard how the victim of the sex crime had not been aware of the article in the newspaper – and was only made aware when contacted by a police officer. That officer had obtained copy of The Ceredigion Herald from The National Library of Wales after the sex offender’s solicitor complained to the police.

Judge Keith Thomas, sitting with two magistrates, rejected the first limb of the appeal when he ruled that the court report had contained so much detail that the victim could have been identified, even if only by family, friends and those who already knew something about her family.

Sinclair argued that he knew nothing about the report until he was made aware that police were investigating a complaint and wanted to interview him.

He said the Ceredigion Herald had been part of the Pembrokeshire, Llanelli and Carmarthen Herald group and as editor of all four titles all stories would be emailed to him before publication – but only as a way of searching out the important stories and deciding the layout of the first 20 pages. It would have been impossible for him to have read and edited 1000 articles per week himself, he claimed.

He said that a time sheet maintained by a security guard at the group’s main premises in Milford Haven showed he had left the building on June 23, 2016, at 11.26am – before the report had been emailed to him.

He then travelled to Heathrow airport for a flight to Oman to try to raise business investment.

Consequently, he had not had any editorial input in relation to the article.

But cross examined by Craig Jones for the CPS, responding to the appeal, he agreed he had not mentioned to the interviewing police officer anything about a trip to Oman on the day in question or about an unread email.

“Are you simply trying to wriggle out of your responsibility,” asked Mr Jones.

“Is the reality that you did see the article?

Sinclair said: “No, I didn’t see the article. I had my main man nurturing the court reporter and checking her articles. It was agreed that Jon Coles would check her articles but with me having the final say.”

Sinclair said that on previous occasions when he made a mistake he admitted it – such as when he printed an article naming the 17 year old captain who crashed his fishing boat.

He agreed he had told the police officer that in his opinion the article “sailed close to the wind, but by the skin of its teeth its ok.”

The court decided it needed to hear evidence from Mr Coles, who will connect to the court on January 22 by video link with Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court. The hearing was adjourned until then.

Sinclair said in court that negative publicity surrounding the case led to an impact on advertising sales, which was one of the reasons why he decided to close the print edition of The Ceredigion Herald to concentrate on online news in that region.

 

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Pembroke Dock: Former nurse jailed for 18 months

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A FORMER nurse from Pembroke Dock who lied to an inquest about the death of a vulnerable patient has been jailed for 18 months.

Lorraine Stevens, aged 62, told the hearing she had prepared a risk assessment on John Shelley, a mentally ill man prone to drinking harmful substances.

But she fabricated the assessment only after he drank a bottle of Fairy Liquid and died the following day.

Stevens admitted perjury.

Swansea Crown Court heard how Mr Shelley, aged 68, had been brain damaged at birth and needed constant care.

Mr Shelley’s brother Martin was told he was about to be transferred to 10 Church Close, in Begelly near Tenby, west Wales, a four bedroom bungalow for mentally ill patients.

Mr Martin Shelley, an engineer familiar with risk assessments, visited the premises and became alarmed at the lack of internal locks.

In particular, he didn’t want his brother having unsupervised access to the kitchen where he might find something harmful to drink.

Stevens, of Kitchener Close, Pembroke Dock, should have completed a risk assessment but didn’t.

Catherine Richards, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that on July 13, 2013, a kitchen window had been left open on the hottest day of the year and Mr Shelley reached in and drank from the Fairy Liquid bottle.

Stevens, the team leader and the only qualified nurse on duty, told staff to give him plenty of water to drink and, later, to give him ginger biscuits and milk.

Stevens left work early. The staff who took over became concerned and he was taken to Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest.

But his condition deteriorated and he died the following day through multiple organ failure.

Martin Shelley told the authorities he had not seen a risk assessment and Stevens suddenly produced one, assuring him that staff would have been shown it.

The report was produced at an inquest into Mr Shelley’s death held in 2014. Stevens told the coroner the four page report, which addressed Mr Shelley’s access to the kitchen, had been prepared on April 14, 2013.

Mr Shelley became suspicious because it had been signed only by Stevens herself when all staff should have signed to confirm they had read and understood it.

Police became involved and seized a computer from 10 Church Close which showed the report had been compiled on July 18, 2013, four days after the fatality.

After her arrest, Stevens maintained the report was genuine and dated accurately.

When she was told later about the computer findings she declined to answer any more questions.

Stevens’ barrister, Jon Tarrant, said she would live forever with the guilt and remorse she felt over Mr Shelley’s death, but described it as a tragedy without intention.

It was difficult to know, he added, if a proper risk assessment would have avoided the fatality.

Mr Martin Shelley was allowed to address the court and said he believed his brother might not have died if all staff had understood how important it was to keep him away from harmful liquid substances.

The bungalow, he said, housed four mentally ill patients but had not been purposely built for someone with his brother’s difficulties.

“I was assured that a risk assessment would be carried out before he moved in, particularly in relation to the lack of internal locks.

“He was let down in his hour of need.

“His death, pain, suffering and distress could have been avoided,” he added.

The court heard that Stevens had been struck off as a nurse.

Judge Keith Thomas told Stevens she had fabricated the report and then lied about it to avoid criticism.

“You did this to cover up the fact you had not made proper provision for the challenges posed by Mr Shelley.

“I am not dealing with you for causing the death but for you did cause additional distress and anxiety to his family.

“You were deceitful and your lies were persistent,” he added.

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Pembrokeshire Lottery player wins brand new car

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PEMBROKESHIRE LOTTERY held their long-awaited Big Birthday Draw to celebrate their 25th anniversary. The lucky player who won the prize of a Fiat 500 from PMS Cars in Haverfordwest was Diane Boucher from Pembroke.

The draw was aired on 102.5 Radio Pembrokeshire and presenter Tommo rang Diane live on air to break the happy news.

Diane, who works at Hafal Crossroads in Haverfordwest didn’t realise it was the special birthday draw and thought she’d won the usual £2,000!

A couple of days later, Diane met Pembrokeshire Lottery Manager Abigail Owens and was handed the keys to her brand-new car. PMS owner John Green, who very generously upgraded the car to a top of the range Lounge model, was on hand to congratulate Diane in person.

The Big Birthday Draw comes as the Lottery’s special year of celebrations nears its end, but there are still extra prizes in December plus the £10,000 Christmas Superdraw.

If you don’t play yet, ring the Pembrokeshire Lottery on 01646 690800 to join and help them to assist more businesses in Pembrokeshire and create even more jobs. You could be a lucky winner too!

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Allied Healthcare to ‘minimise disruption’ as it looks to sell and transfer services

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ALLIED HEALTHCARE, who provide care services across Pembrokeshire, is exploring a range of options which include ‘the sale or transition of care and support services’, the Herald can reveal.

An employee from the troubled firm, who wished to stay anonymous, has shown the Herald a letter which has been sent to all employees this afternoon (Nov 16).

In the letter, the company says that the firm is looking to ‘minimise disruption to continuity of care’.

They go on to add that ‘our absolute priority will be to maintain continuity of care for our service-users and minimise disruption to you, our employees’.

In a letter to the employees, Narinder Singh, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, said: “As you know, early last week, CQC Market Oversight – the Regulator that monitors large social care providers in England – issued what is known as a Stage 6 Notification to our Local Authority customers in England. This type of notification is intended to inform Commissioners that a Company is at risk and therefore Local Authorities or CCGs should consider making plans to ensure continuity of care.

“Unfortunately, I am writing to you today to inform you that, because of the impact of the Stage 6 notification on our business, and because the upcoming winter period is when ensuring continuity of care is most challenging, we have taken the decision to actively explore a range of options in order to minimise disruption to continuity of care.

“This will include the sale or transition of care and support services on a regional or contract-by-contract basis to alternative providers best placed to deliver care at a local level. This process will be conducted in close cooperation with all our customers.”

The letter goes on to reassure employees that they are ‘likely’ to be transferred to a new provider.

“It is our intention to transfer all of our Contracts to other providers.  This will mean that you are likely to transfer out to a new provider. When arranging the transition of our services to alternative providers, our absolute priority will be to maintain continuity of care for our service-users and minimise disruption to you, our employees.

“We will continue to trade safely while this transition process is underway and, during this period, there will be no changes to the terms of employment, salary or benefits of our employees. To reiterate, this means that you will continue to be employed by the Company and receive pay and benefits while the transition of our care services is arranged.

“I understand that this news will come as a surprise to you and may be unsettling. Please be assured that we will continue to do all we can to support you throughout this period and will respond to any concerns or questions you have throughout the process.

“On behalf of the Executive team and myself, I would like to offer our most sincere thanks for the continued support and efforts you have shown to the business during this very difficult time. We continue to remain committed to supporting you, our employees and Allied.”

A spokesperson for Allied Healthcare said: “The Stage 6 notification has negatively impacted Allied Healthcare, leading a number of customers to transfer care services to alternative providers, and disrupting staff retention and recruitment.

“These developments have intensified the impact of the challenging environment within which we operate and come immediately prior to the Christmas period, when pressures on care providers are at their highest. This has also meant that we have had to re-evaluate our long-term business plan.

“We are therefore actively exploring a range of options in order to minimise disruption to continuity of care, including the sale or transition of care and support services on a regional or contract-by-contract basis to alternative providers best placed to deliver care at a local level. Such sales or transitions will involve the transfer of staff. This process will be conducted in close cooperation with our customers.

“We continue to trade safely while this process is underway. RBS as our existing lender has agreed to extend our current credit line by up to three weeks beyond 30 November, enabling us to deliver safe continuity of care whilst we explore and implement these options.

“We will work closely with the CQC and all commissioners of care to ensure that there is minimal disruption to the care that we provide across the UK whilst this transition takes place. Continuity of care is our number one priority.”

Pembrokeshire County Council said it would like to reassure Allied Healthcare service users and their families that it has robust contingency plans in place ‘to ensure the continuity of care for customers of Allied Healthcare’

“Those plans will now be implemented”, a spokesman said.

In a statement, the Authority added: “County Council officers and staff at Allied Healthcare will continue to work closely with each other and with health colleagues and the Welsh Government to
ensure that continuity of care is maintained through this challenging time.

“We will continue to keep service users and their families briefed as the situation unfolds.
If customers do have any concerns over the weekend, they are advised to contact Allied Healthcare.”

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