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Debates continue about paedophile hunters following local conviction

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Simon Fleet: Arrested by police at Pembroke Dock train station

THE DEBATE rages on as to whether the police are relying too heavily on so-called paedophile hunters in investigations regarding child grooming.

In Wales, from 2015 to 2017 there were 31 cases where the police began proceedings against grooming suspects, in 19 of which, police used evidence gathered by vigilante groups.

Despite an investigation by the BBC finding that police in England and Wales used such evidence at least 150 times in 2017 – a seven-fold rise in two years, Dyfed-Powys Police have denied using evidence gathered from vigilante groups. Over the past three years, Dyfed-Powys Police recorded 82 cases, and took proceedings forward against just one person, but have not used the evidence gathered in any cases.

This comes after a man from Pembroke Dock was caught by paedophile hunter vigilante group Silent Justice, and jailed for 28 months in February. Simon Fleet, aged 43, had turned up at the town’s railway station with the aim of meeting an underage girl for sex, but instead he was met by police officers who arrested him. Fleet, of Water Street, admitted attempting to engage in sexual activity with an underage girl.

Swansea Crown Court had heard how Fleet had swapped messages with the ‘girl’ via the internet and thought he had talked her into meeting him. In fact he was exchanging messages with a group posing as children and waiting to be contacted by adults. They then try to identify those that are attempting to groom children, tracking them down and confronting them before police are called.

Judge T Mervyn Hughes warned Fleet that if the girl had existed he would have received a far longer sentence. Fleet was made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order and told to register with the police as a sex offender, both for the next 10 years.

Silent Justice are so-called ‘Child Protection Enforcers’ with a Facebook page liked by over 5,000 people, with members acting as ‘decoys’ posing as children online. They are not without controversy, removing a post from its Facebook page following the suicide of an alleged offender in Northern Ireland in August 2017.

Last year, a Cardiff judge was critical of such groups, and accused them of giving misleading evidence after the collapse of an alleged sex offender’s trial.

Judge Thomas Crowther QC had said: “This case underlines why criminal investigations should be conducted carefully, meticulously and by those who are trained and qualified to do so.”

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has spoken out on the issue, saying that: “While we have every sympathy for people concerned about suspected abusers, we believe that identifying offenders and investigating crimes is best left to the police.

“When members of the public take the law into their own hands it can run the risk of driving offenders underground, endanger on-going police work and the legal process or result in innocent people being targeted – all of which may put more children at risk of harm.

“If someone has concerns about a child’s safety the best way they can help is to alert the police. By speaking out they may be able to help investigations and contribute vital evidence.”

The debate about paedophile hunters has recently been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary, in which filmmakers followed around a group of the vigilantes.

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Appeal after woman sexually assaulted on cycle path near Haverfordwest

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POLICE officers in Haverfordwest are appealing for witnesses after a woman was sexually assaulted at approximately 4.30pm on Sunday (May 16).

The woman was walking along the cycle path between Haverfordwest and Tiers Cross when she was approached by a man who threatened and assaulted her, before walking away towards Haverfordwest town.

The male is described as a white male, between 5ft 4 and 5ft 11 tall , normal build with a welsh accent. He has short dark hair, a beard and a moustache, brown eyes, and wearing light blue jeans, navy/dark blue jersey with grey sleeves. Anyone who saw a man matching this description in the area between 3.30pm and 5pm in the afternoon.

A 35-year-old man has been arrested and is currently in police custody.

The cycle path is currently closed while the investigation continues.

Detective Superintendent Jayne Butler, who is leading the investigation, said “Incidents of this nature are extremely rare in the Dyfed-Powys area. The public may see an increased presence of police officers in the coming days as police investigate the incident. Anyone with concerns or information that could help our enquiries can speak to those officers or contact police. While a man was quickly arrested we would still like to speak to anyone who saw a man matching the above description in the area yesterday afternoon.”

Anyone with information which could help the investigation is asked to contact police. This can be done online at bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet endorses STEP Fusion application

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Cabinet have today endorsed proposals from Cllr Paul Miller (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) to further progress the nomination of a Pembrokeshire site to host a Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) fusion power station in the county.

Working with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), the proposed site is adjacent to the existing energy facilities on the South Shore of the Haven waterway.

If approved, the facility will initially host research with the ultimate aim of developing this technology which could offer a virtually limitless source of clean electricity by copying the processes that power the sun.

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economic Development said: “I am pleased my Cabinet colleagues endorsed this important programme of work. The Haven Waterway has provided livelihoods, underpinned by fossil fuels, for thousands of Pembrokeshire families, mine included, for more than 50 years. It’s my job to help ensure the waterway continues to provide high skilled, engineering, science and technology jobs for the next generation of this county – and so linked to our focus on climate change (and in addition to our existing multi-million pound commitments to supporting wind, wave and tidal clean power generation) my team have been exploring whether we can also support the development of clean, green fusion technology.

“It’s very early days in the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s site selection process but we’ll provide regular updates as things progress.”

•       STEP is an ambitious programme to design and build a prototype fusion power plant;
•       It is a UKAEA programme, currently with £222m funding from the UK Government to produce a concept design by 2024: https://step.ukaea.uk/

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Re-opening of indoor hospitality and attractions at Milford Waterfront

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RESTAURANTS and indoor visitor attractions in Milford Waterfront are welcoming the return of indoor services from today.

The re-opening of indoor dining allows all restaurants at Milford Waterfront to seat customers indoors. As well as all restaurants on the Waterfront now being able to offer this service, the brand-new Foam Domes overlooking the Milford Haven Waterway are able to open, with bookings being taken from the 19th May.

Indoor visitor attractions are also allowed to re-open. This includes the Waterfront Gallery, which is open today and Phoenix Bowl & Pirate Pete’s Adventure Play which is making preparations to open from Wednesday 19th May. Also, Milford Museum, which has had a new rendered exterior finish, is preparing to open for the end of May.

Lucy Wonnacott, Marketing Manager for Milford Waterfront commented: “We are delighted to see the re-opening of indoor hospitality and visitor attractions here at Milford Waterfront. Each business has their own safety and social distancing measures in place and we kindly ask that you respect and adhere to these for your own safety, and that of others. We hope you enjoy your visit to Milford Waterfront and stay safe!”

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