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Facebook must be regulated, say NSPCC

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AN NSPCC investigation reveals that Facebook and the apps it owns were used in over half of online grooming cases after the introduction of a new offence, with Dyfed-Powys Police recording 19 cases in six months.

In the first nine months of a new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child, there were 1,628 crimes recorded in England and Wales, and police revealed what platform was used in 956 cases. Facebook was used in a third (32.6%) of cases, with Facebook owned apps Instagram and Whatsapp used in nearly a fifth (19.8%) of cases. The second most-used app was Snapchat with 176 cases.

In Wales, police forces recorded 149 crimes under the new grooming offence, with 46% of these using Facebook and Facebook-owned apps when the method was disclosed by police.

South Wales Police, which along with Dyfed-Powys Police only gave data for the first six months of the new offence instead of nine, saw the most recorded crimes with 74. North Wales Police was next with 35, followed by Gwent Police with 21 and Dyfed Powys Police with 19.

Matt Hancock, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has heralded the end of the ‘Wild West Web’, and the NSPCC has urged him to follow through by bringing in a regulator to force social networks to keep children safe.

At present DCMS has plans to introduce a voluntary code for social networks, which sites could choose to adhere to, or ignore, with social networks self regulating for the past ten years.

Figures from Freedom of Information requests to police forces across England and Wales show the number of cases where groomers used Facebook, and apps owned by Facebook. The youngest victim recorded was aged just two years old.

As part of its #WildWestWeb campaign the NSPCC has called for Mr Hancock to bring in an independent regulator for social networks with fining powers, a mandatory code which introduces safe accounts for children as well as mandatory transparency reports forcing social networks to disclose how many safety reports they get, and how they deal with those reports.

In May 2017 Welsh Education Secretary Kirsty Williams announced that the Welsh Government would create an online safety action plan for children and young people. NSPCC Wales is looking forward to its publication and calling on the Welsh Government to work jointly with the UK Government, to ensure children are better protected from harm online.

Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Cymru/Wales, said: “UK Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has a golden opportunity to put an end to the Wild West Web and force social networks to protect children online. Facebook has shown it is happy to use data for commercial purposes, but has failed to harness data in a way that can be used to prevent grooming.

“Facebook should be leading the way, but instead it has demonstrated time and again that self-regulation isn’t working and social networks can’t be left to mark their own homework. Mr Hancock could be the person who makes the internet a safer place, for every child now and in the future. We hope he seizes the chance to do that.”

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Pembroke Dock man caught up in Windrush problem

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A MEMBER of the Windrush generation who spent twelve years in Pembroke Dock has been told he is living in the UK illegally.

Whitfield Francis, 59, moved to Britain when he was seven years old, later living and working in Pembroke Dock, where family still live.

The Windrush generation refers to migrants from the Caribbean members of the Commonwealth, who arrived in response to post-war labour shortages.

This classification lasted until the 1971 Immigration Act, when Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain.

The name is a reference to the ship MV Empire Windrush, which arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on June 22 1948, bringing workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago amongst other islands.

Francis said how he moved from Jamaica as a child, and whilst he has relatives there, he is a ‘stranger to Jamaica’.

The pressure on placed him has left him living ‘a stressful life’ and he went on to say: “I can’t get a job because I haven’t got the paperwork.”

The PM and the Opposition have clashed in the House of Commons after the Windrush generation were told they are residing in Britain illegally, despite living and working in the UK for decades.

Issues in proving otherwise stem from the fact that landing cards of the original migration were destroyed in 2010, despite being used by the subsequent generations to prove they had a right to remain in the UK.

Most recently Mr Francis has been ‘sofa surfing’ between Pembroke Dock and his sister’s house in Birmingham where he hopes to get work, yet he is in need of a biometric card first, which will mean proving he is entitled to work in the UK.

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MP visits Central America on trade envoy mission

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Simon Hart MP: With President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina

SIMON HART MP has visited Panama, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica to encourage trade links with Wales and the UK in his new role as the UKs’ first trade envoy to the area.

Whilst in Central America he met the Presidents of all three countries and joined the British ambassador in hosting receptions for businesses interested in trading with the UK.

As trade envoy his role is to facilitate and negotiate trade relations and marketing interests between the three countries and the United Kingdom. 

The UK is the fourth largest investor in Panama, with $2.6bn spent there in 2016.  Many UK companies – in more than a dozen sectors – have their regional offices in Panama and the number one export from the UK to the area is alcoholic spirits.

“All three countries love their whisky in particular which is why I took each president a bottle of Penderyn whisky from Wales to introduce them to the product,” explained Mr Hart.

The Panamanian President, Juan Carlos Varela, announced Simon Hart’s arrival via his personal twitter: “We talked about the opportunities to strengthen the trade ties between Panama and the United Kingdom.”

As well as President Varela, Mr Hart also met British companies with an already established presence in Panama and visited the Miraflores Lock of the Panama Canal.

Mr Hart added: “My position as trade envoy to Panama was met with great hospitality and sincerity by all, it was a fascinating tour and I hope that it will result in closer trading links between our countries.”

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Local student wins writing competition

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Imogen Grimes, Hope Raymond, and Will Letten: With members of Saundersfoot Rotary Club

WILL LETTEN of Castle School successfully secured his place in the next round of this year’s Rotary Young Writers Competition against stiff opposition.

The judges from the Rotary Club of Saundersfoot were impressed by his story and the novel way in which he cleverly made sure it worked with this year’s theme – ‘A Different Perspective’.

Pupils from the local area were invited to enter and tasked to produce a piece of writing of no more than 500 words on any subject of their choosing. It could be fiction or non-fiction, a story or a poem. The only requirement was that it must relate to the theme.

Members of the club were fascinated by the variety of stories produced. Topics included the impact of humans on the environment, the ticking of a clock and the battle between wild animals.

They told us: “We know the children from Castle School put a lot of effort into their entries so it’s always difficult to choose a winner. And of course, creative writing is subjective.”

They were, however, intrigued to read Will’s take on the not-so opposing views of two soldiers from either side of no-man’s land during the first world war.

Will was surprised and excited to have won in the Intermediate age-group and told us: “I am very interested in everything about World War One. There is a lot about that time in the news at the moment, because of the centenary but for me it’s about an event that changed the course of history. I was particularly inspired by the tale of ordinary men in both the English and German trenches who held a temporary truce on Christmas Day to play a game of football.”

One of the judges, Jim Ball, commented that it reminded him of conversations he had shared with his one of his grandfathers, a WWI veteran and his recurring memories of the horror of war and of the casualties, both those who had fallen and those lucky enough to survive. This, he reflected, was in stark contrast to his other grandfather who had chosen never to raise the subject again.

Imogen Grimes and Hope Raymond were also picked out for their entries in the same age-group and, so difficult was it to choose between them, the judges decided to award two runner-up prizes.

Imogen was also surprised to win.

She told us: “I wrote about aliens coming to earth because I wanted to write something light-hearted. I wrote about humans from their perspective, making them out to be very judgemental, believing themselves to be a superior race and shocked by the damage we were doing to our own planet.”

The judges clearly agreed.

Mr Ball told us: “It was full of humour and made me laugh!”

In contrast, he felt that Hope’s poem was very moving and thoughtful. She had approached her chosen subject from a very different point of view, dealing with the way in which people cruelly regard others who are different from them.

Hope explained: “I feel very strongly that people who may appear ‘different’, perhaps having mental health issues. Often, they are misjudged and ignored or ill-treated and I think this is very wrong. I wanted to write a poem that challenged many people’s preconceptions about mental illness and to make them realise that they should be more sympathetic and supportive and not dismissive.”

Will now goes through to represent the region in Cardiff. Although judging is already in progress, he won’t find out the results until June 21, when the prizes are awarded in Cardiff. If successful, he will then go on to represent the country in the national finals which will take place later in the year in London.

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