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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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Strong winds close Cleddau Bridge, other traffic problems reported

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THE CLEDDAU BRIDGE closed to all traffic this evening due to high winds, but there are other problems on the roads.

Here is the latest.

Between Cresselly and Lawrenny a large tree has been uprooted with the council reporting that a nearby bridge may have been damaged.

The council is reporting that there is flooding on the following roads (as at 17:00 HRS):

  • Rosemarket to Honeyborough
  • Road between Sutton and Nolton

A large tree has been been blown down between Lawrenny and Cresselly and has possibly damaged a bridge, meaning that the road will need to remain closed until Monday.

Reports of flooded roads:

  • Trewent – Freshwater East
  • Targate Raod between Freystrop and Johnston
  • Old Hakin Road, Haverfordwest as leaving Merlns Bridge
  • Druidston – Nolton Haven Road
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Home office is ‘misleading the public’ over police funding, says Police and Crime Commissioner

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THE POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER has told The Herald that he believes that the Home Office is ‘misleading the public’ that his force will have an increase in funding in 2019/2020.

On the face of it, it appears that Dyfed-Powys Police will have an increase in funding of £8.1 million in 2019/20. However this figure is based upon the presumption that PCC Dafydd Llywelyn will increase the current Band D property precept level by £24 annually.
After what he describes as a frustrating delay, the Government’s provisional grant funding settlement has been announced, which sets out the position for Dyfed-Powys Police for the 2019/20 financial year. On the face of it, it appears that Dyfed-Powys Police will have an increase in funding of £8.1 million in 2019/20. However this figure is based upon the presumption that PCC Dafydd Llywelyn will increase the current Band D property precept level by £24 annually.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn said: “The way in which the Home Office and Central Government are misleading the public is disgraceful and I am very disappointed in the way this settlement once again shifts the burden onto local tax payers. I continue to try and do the right thing to protect our communities but I feel we are being let down by the Government in London as their actions are likely to impact on our local services.”
“I am currently consulting with the residents of Dyfed-Powys; asking if they would be willing to pay additional police precept to continue to safeguard our communities. Within the survey I have outlined the impact of for Dyfed-Powys Police and its communities. My decision will be made by listening to local communities and the professional advice of the Chief Constable.”
“I am working closely with the Chief Constable to critically review all aspects of the budget requirement. Given the scale of financial challenges that are faced, a precept increase will be unavoidable, but how much this is increased by should not be dictated by Government.”

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Police issue warning over sheep attacks in Pembrokeshire

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE has issued advice to pet owners following a spate of livestock worrying incidents in the Saundersfoot, Narberth and Crescelly areas.

There have been six reports of dog attacks on sheep in the past three weeks, one of which caused a dog to be shot after it was caught attacking sheep in Solva.

PC Gerwyn Davies of the Pembrokeshire Rural Crime Team, told The Herald: “It is important dogs are always kept on leads near livestock, but especially so at this time of year. Sheep are heavily in lamb and their numbers have increased because they come from high grounds in mid Wales for the winter.

“Sheep worrying can have a long term effect on ewes as they can lose pregnancies as a result of stress. This obviously has a negative impact on farmers who not only lose out financially, but it is also very upsetting.

“Sadly, three ewes have been killed and several more injured in the past few weeks. One family dog was shot in Solva after it attacked sheep, which is a sad situation for the dog’s owner and upsetting for the farmer.”

Farmers can legally shoot any dog if they believe it is the only reasonable way of stopping it worrying livestock. If your dog chases or attacks livestock you should make arrangements to contact the landowner/livestock owner.

Anyone who has information about, or wants to make a report of livestock worrying, can contact the Pembrokeshire Rural Crime Team by calling 101.

Dog owners are reminded of this advice when walking in the countryside:

  • Do not allow your dog to enter a field on its own and keep it under your control at all times.
  • Keep your dog on a lead when crossing through fields that contain livestock.
  • Stick to public right of ways.

When at home:

  • Make sure you know where your dog is at all times.
  • Ensure that your property is secure and that your dog cannot escape day or night.
  • If you know your dog has previously chased or attacked sheep then take responsible measures to prevent it happening again.
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