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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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Mount Estate: Man arrested after gas explosion threat

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Armed police: In the Mount Estate (pic. Herald)

ARMED POLICE have arrested a man on the Mount Estate in Milford Haven this afternoon (Oct 16) after responding to reports of a man who is threatening to set a fire using the gas supply in his flat.

The windows of the first floor flat, in Birch Mead, were smashed and a man was shouting to officers below threatening to cause an explosion.

Threatening: To cause an explosion (pic. Herald)

A Herald reporter at the scene had counted at least a dozen Dyfed-Powys Police vehicles, including vans and undercover cars.

Nearby residents have been evacuated and a cordon has been set up.

Emergency services: Gathered by the flat (pic. Herald)

Police asked residents and a Herald reporter at the scene to move back further after the arrival of the armed officers.

Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue, as well as specialists from the gas board, are also at the scene.

Watching: Locals were evacuated (pic. Herald)

A large crowd has gathered by the cordon.

MORE TO FOLLOW.

Armed officers: Locals were asked to move back upon their arrival (pic. Herald)

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Work goes on for NRW in aftermath of storm

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AFTER a weekend of heavy rain and floods which hit South West Wales particularly hard, the clear up has begun.

For Natural Resources Wales officers this means inspecting flood defences and other assets to assess and repair any damage caused by the high river levels and volumes of water.

Jeremy Parr, NRW Head of Flood and Incident Risk Management said:

“Our sympathies go out to anybody impacted by these floods and Storm Callum, it is an unwelcome reminder of the damage that severe weather can do.

“While some communities were significantly affected, for many the flood defences did their job and reduced the worst of the impacts.

The weekend storm caused 80 properties to flood across south west Wales and led to major disruption of businesses and transport across the whole of the country.

The River Teifi at Llandysul reached its highest level since records began in 1971 and the Towey above Carmarthen was at its highest since 1987.

NRW officers were on duty around the clock ensuring defence structures were sound, operating flood gates, erecting temporary defences and clearing trash screens.

In Abergwili, in the Tywi Valley, the flood gates were closed and prevented flooding despite the water level rising to within 180mm of the top of the gate, just short of the evacuation trigger of 150mm.

More people than ever visited NRW’s website to check the latest flood warning information. Before and during Storm Callum NRW’s flood pages received more than half a million-page views, while warning and informing messages on social media reached over 110,000 people.

Jeremy added: “After any major flooding event there are lessons to be learned and Storm Callum is no exception, so we will review what took place and how we responded to identify where improvements can be made.

“As is usual after any flood event, we now have our people out and about checking our defences for any damage, and to ensure they can continue to help protect people and property.”

“We won’t just look at the flood defence network, but also at our incident response and our warning and informing before, during and after the incident.

“While there were significant impacts in some areas, the initial indications are that these elements worked well.

“We will be working with our partners in local government and the emergency services to ensure we continue where possible to reduce the impacts of incidents like this.”

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Police appeal following five burglaries

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is appealing for information that could help their investigation into five burglaries in the Solva and St Davids areas.

They are thought to have happened between 8pm and midnight on Sunday, September 30. Cash, jewellery and a mobile phone were stolen.

A witness has described seeing a man wearing tracksuit bottoms in the area at the time. He may have been a passenger in a small silver car.

A man (aged 32) and woman (aged 39) from Cardiff have been arrested on suspicion of burglary. The woman has been released under investigation while the man has been recalled to prison for a separate offence.

The investigation is ongoing, anyone who saw anything, or has any information is asked to contact Sgt. Huw Watson at Haverfordwest Police Station 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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