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Castlemartin: Officers had ‘total disregard for safety’ before fatal shooting

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Ranger Michael Maguire: Fatally shot at Castlemartin during a live fire exercise

A COURT martial trial has been told that two Army officers and a warrant officer ‘had a total disregard for the safety’ on the day in which 21-year-old Michael Maguire was killed at Castlemartin.

Ranger Michael Maguire, from the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, came under machine gun fire during a live ammunition training exercise in May 2012. He had joined the battalion in May 2010 and had already completed one tour of Afghanistan.

The training exercise was preparation for a tour of Kenya, Africa.

He was fatally shot in the head from a neighbouring range, roughly 1km away.

Prosecuting, Nigel Lickley QC said that that the soldiers under fire would have been visible from the range where the gunfire was originating from.

32-year-old Captain Jonathan Price, now of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish, stands accused of manslaughter by gross negligence, by failing to set up and supervise a safe exercise.

45-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bell and 40-year-old Warrant Officer Stuart Pankhurst are accused of negligently performing a duty.

Addressing the court, Mr Lickey said: “All three men played their part in causing this catastrophe in different ways.

“The common sense of the situation is you do not point guns at people, you do not design, permit or allow an activity that allows machine guns to fire directly in line with your men, men that you know are there, men that you might be able to see, if not the vehicles that are with them.”

Price, he said, failed to attend a recce of the range as he prepared a Range Action Safety Plan, and also placed targets too close to each other.

“Crucially he allowed firing to take place beyond the permitted arcs of fire,” he added.

Mr Lickey said that the range of the two weapons used in the exercise, the SA80 assault rifle and GPMG general purpose machine gun, meant that anyone on the public beach 3km could have been hit by the ammunition.

He added it was ‘fortunate’ that nobody else was injured following the exercise.

In turn, Mr Lickley said that Bell failed to review or counter-sign the Range Action Safety Plan produced by Price, in his role as Senior Planning Officer, and also failed to supervise or support him during the exercise.

Pankhurst, Mr Lickley added, failed to voice any ‘caution or concern’ as he supervised the exercise, despite the fact he had both attended the recce and had knowledge of the neighbouring range.

All three deny the charges.

Seven senior officers will be visiting the site at a later date.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks.

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Can Pembrokeshire still afford Wales’ lowest council tax?

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PEMBOKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Finance Director, Jon Haswell said council tax would need to rise significantly to meet service needs in the wake of a 0.4% cut in Welsh Government funding.

Although its the smallest cut out of all the councils in Wales, the cut puts the authority £600,000 out of pocket

He was effectively saying that the councils coffers will be empty and that something has to change, and change fast.

Last year Pembrokeshire’s council tax went up by 12.5% – the first double-digit increase in Wales since 2004 – but Pembrokeshire’s Council Tax bills are still the lowest in Wales.

At the Audit Committee meeting on Thursday (Oct 18), Mr Haswell warned that on current predictions, based on the Welsh Government’s standard spending assessment of what it thinks the council needs, council tax would need to rise by 28% or more unless services were cut.

That is 2% less than Plaid Cymru councillor Mike Williams’ said it would be at Full Council the week before (Oct 11), but it’s pretty close.

As we reported on Friday in our print edition, Cllr Williams turned his own fire on the previous administration for placing Pembrokeshire into its current financial position, pointing out that the actual rise in Council Tax needed to address the funding gap in March this year was in excess of 30%.

He said: ‘It’s about time some members had a wake-up call’ as to the current state of the Council’s finances and the previous administration’s totemic policy of having the lowest Council Tax in Wales. Firmly pointing the finger at Cllrs Adams and Davies following their earlier questions, he suggested they needed to look to themselves to find the origins of the authority’s current difficulties.

RECAP – WHAT WE REPORTED LAST WEEK

A 0.5% cut in funding to Pembrokeshire County Council will result in significant and potentially devastating cuts to public services.
As we previously reported, the Welsh Government announced its budget settlement for Welsh local government last week.
While that settlement shows ‘only’ a 0.5% cut in the Pembrokeshire’s Revenue Support Grant, the reality behind that headline figure is grim.
And there is little comfort to be taken in the news that Pembrokeshire’s cut is smaller than that inflicted on neighbouring Carmarthenshire. Pembrokeshire’s budget is far smaller in proportion to Carmarthenshire’s. Our County’s resources are stretched to breaking point following years of the folly of the ‘lowest Council Tax in Wales’ policy in twenty-two years of rule by the ‘Independent’ group, most lately under Jamie Adams.
While money was washing around local government that policy was sustainable. However, once systemic cuts came in 2008 – and persisted for ten years and rising – there was no fat to trim and cuts are now deep into the bone of frontline services.
The Welsh Government funding takes little or no account of the Council’s obligation to pay wage increases negotiated centrally which far outstrips the money provided to meet them, changes in National Insurance, changes to teachers’ pensions, the effects of inflation, and the impact of regulations affecting buildings’ maintenance.
Hit seven ways from Sunday by a barrage of deep cuts to its budget delivered year-on-year for the last decade and in the teeth of the fallout of a Council Tax policy which has left the Council’s cupboard bare, there is no way for the Council to resolve its financial position without making even deeper cuts than those already contemplated and revealed exclusively in this newspaper last week.
The social care budget’s ‘protection’ by the Welsh Government has left all Councils floundering; because Pembrokeshire has a high proportion of older residents, it has been hit hard. The Council has even less money to spend on other services as the proportion of a smaller revenue ‘pie’ is taken up by protected budgets.
The devastation being wreaked by cuts is unsurprising. In 2014 dire warnings were given about the cumulative effects of continuing cuts before that year’s budget. Almost five years’ on, the situation is even worse than predicted.
With the Cabinet unwilling to ask for a further large Council Tax increase for next year, real savings will be hard to find. Something somewhere has to give.
The only hope is that the UK Government actually delivers real relief from austerity instead of tinkering at the edges.

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Man who assaulted Tenby barmaid avoids jail

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A MAN who touched a barmaid’s bottom and then offered her money for sex has been made the subject of a suspended prison sentence.

Mark Adams, aged 55, had denied sexual assault but was convicted by a jury after a trial at Swansea Crown Court.
Today, Adams was jailed for six months, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 20 days of rehabilitation.
He must also pay £3,230 in prosecution costs.
The jury heard how Adams did not dispute that he asked the barmaid in a Tenby pub for a “selfie” as a pretext to get close to her and touch her bottom.
He then offered her £300, and then £400, to spend time with him but agreed that really meant having sex with him.
Adams, of Tintagel Way, Portsmouth, told the jury the approach had worked in the past with other women.
Judge Keith Thomas told Adams he had followed up with sexual assault with a humiliating offer of money for sex.
His behaviour, said the judge, came from an inflated sense of his own importance.
The court heard that his victim no longer felt safe in her place of work or in her home town of Tenby.
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Missing pensioner last seen in Haverfordwest

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is conducting enquiries to find missing 72 year old, Gordon Phillips. He was last seen on the afternoon of Sunday October 14 at the County Hotel in Haverfordwest.

He is described as white, approx. 5’8 tall, has white collar length un-brushed hair, a white beard, and was wearing a shiny black puffer jacket, black baseball hat and baggy blue jeans.

Anyone who has seen Gordon, or has any information about his whereabouts is asked to contact police by calling 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number: 07811 311 908.

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