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Police warn against vigilantism and ‘taking law into own hands’

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Police in Haverfordwest: A group gathered earlier this month follows reports of a convicted paedophile living in the town (Pic: Herald)

DYFED-POWYS POLICE is urging members of the public not to engage in vigilantism following recent incidents in Pembrokeshire.

They say officers have been called to areas of the town where there have been pockets of disorder based around a group of people with a desire to reveal the identities of offenders.

This includes an incident in Haverfordwest following concerns a convicted paedophile had been released into the community earlier this month.

The police force has warned that action will be taken against those who commit offences during these incidents.

Chief Inspector for Pembrokeshire Mark McSweeney  said: “Following recent incidents, I have personally met with members of the Monkton community, along with the Pembroke Neighbourhood Policing Team, a councillor, and representatives of Pembrokeshire Council, to discuss issues that were causing all parties concern.

“I am confident that we and our partner agencies now have plan moving forward that will begin to address some concerns that the community has raised.

Angry mob: Up to 200 people gathered in a street in Monkton in 2017 over concerns about a sex offender (Pic: Herald)

“We understand that the drive behind this activity is to protect the community, but any member of the public who has information about any offences should get in contact with the police first so we can investigate and bring people to justice.

“By engaging in activity in the attempt to disrupt criminal activity, people are taking risks they don’t understand, and can undermine ongoing police operations. For example, revealing the identity of alleged suspects gives that person the opportunity to destroy evidence before the police can investigate them.

“It also leads to people who have been identified going missing or raising concerns for their safety. This can divert significant resources into protecting suspects, which would be better invested in investigating and, where there is evidence, prosecuting them.

“There is also the risk of wrongly accusing someone and the impact that has on them, and importantly, they have no way of safeguarding victims, unlike our officers.

“We are aware that in some instances local action has been taken against people residing in a community that others do not believe should be there. We would like to reassure that where there is a need to monitor individuals, officers will be carrying out these duties diligently.

“Once again, I would urge people not to take the law into their own hands, but to contact us to raise concerns.

“To report an ongoing incident where there is an immediate threat to life or property, always phone 999. In a non-emergency situation dial 101.”

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Llangwm: Solicitor jailed for six years for £1m fraud

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A PEMBROKESHIRE solicitor who overcharged clients by almost £1m has been jailed this week for six years.

Edgar Stephen Thomas, aged 58, charged one client at the rate of £20,000 a week without doing any work at all.

Another was charged at £12,000 a week and went on to lose a total of £100,000.

Thomas, of Stephen’s Green, Deerland Road, Llangwm, admitted 23 offences of fraud and theft, which stopped only when his firm of Steve Thomas and Co was closed down by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

Jim Davis, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that Thomas got away with the frauds by deducting monies from the estates of deceased people without telling the beneficiaries.

“He grossly overcharged and then deducted the payments directly from the estates of deceased people,” he said.

“He helped himself without telling them what he was doing.”

The overcharging began in 2005 when he was asked to handle the estate of Richard James Rogers. He charged the estate £41,800 plus VAT but internal documents showed that as the work decreased his bills increased.

Thomas agreed overcharging that estate by £12,000.

Thomas went on to plunder many more accounts.

The most outrageous example, said Mr Davies, related to the estate of Audrey Williams, who died in 2013.

Thomas charged £127,250 plus VAT, sometimes raising–but not posting–two invoices a day. He agreed he had overcharged by £100,000.

Mr Davis said Thomas’ offending did not stop there. His firm was hired by Vaughan’s Radio, an electrical store in Haverfordwest, to handle the purchase of a business in Aberystwyth.

Thomas simply kept for himself £50,000 of the purchase price.

Mr Davis said Thomas had worked for Eaton Evans in Haverfordwest, rising to becoming a partner, before leaving to form his own firm in 2005.

His accounts had to be audited and as a result the SRA were alerted to fears that he was overcharging.

A detailed forensic examination of his accounts was carried out and the fears were confirmed, along with the discovery of a shortfall in his client’s accounts of £144,326.

There was then an administrative error at the SRA and the initial report was not acted upon until June 2014, when a second financial investigation revealed more fraud and he was later struck off.

In February 2015 Thomas was declared bankrupt.

Mr Davis said the SRA had reimbursed those who had lost because of Thomas’ fraudulent behaviour, but there remained the question of costs and whether he could be made to repay any of the money. An investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act is underway.

Thomas’ barrister, Ian Ibrahim, said his client was now broke and all the money had gone on keeping his business afloat.

“His fall from a high place has been dramatic. His remorse is complete and utterly without qualification.

“He has lost everything and knows that he will go to jail today.”

Judge Keith Thomas said those who worked in the legal profession had to demonstrate the highest level of integrity because the public put trust in them, sometimes at the most stressful times of their life.

“Your victims have described your behaviour as disgusting and despicable.

“You were struck off in 2016 and have had to wait a long time for the process to be complete, but that is partly because you were not willing to admit the extent of your offending,” he added.

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Claim a free McDonalds cheeseburger this week

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TO REMEDY ‘Blue Monday’, McDonalds is giving away a free cheeseburger to everyone this week.

Starting today (Jan 21), the fast food chain is asking customers to install the McDonalds app on their phone and then take it to their nearest restaurant for a free burger.

Blue Monday is said to be the ‘most miserable day’ in the year.

The app is available on both the Google Play store for Android devices, and the App Store for iOS devices.

Once downloaded, register a new account, or log in to your existing account, and go to ‘My Deals’ to claim your free burger.

The offer runs until Friday (Jan 25) and can be claimed any time after 10:30am, when the breakfast menu finishes.

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Road re-opened following successful bridge replacement

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PEMBROKE ROAD in Merlins Bridge, Haverfordwest, has re-opened and train services between Whitland and Milford Haven have resumed as normal, following the successful replacement of Pembroke Road railway bridge this weekend.

Over the weekend, Network Rail teams worked around the clock to demolish and remove the existing railway bridge deck – which carries the South Wales Main Line. Engineers then installed a new, steel structure which includes a concrete collision beam to provide extra resilience, as part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan to improve the reliability of the railway.

Rhys Howells, scheme project manager for Network Rail Wales and Borders, said: “We would like to thank residents and rail passengers for bearing with us whilst we replaced Pembroke Road railway bridge.

“The previous bridge deck was nearing the end of its serviceable life, and has now been replaced with a more resilient structure which will help to keep the railway in West Wales running reliably.”

Next month the second part of this £4.25m upgrade project will see engineers replace Milford Road railway bridge.

The A4076 at Milford Road railway bridge on Dredgeman Hill will be closed from 7pm on Friday 15 until 6am on Monday 18 February and a fully signposted diversion route will be in operation.

Residents and local businesses wishing to find out more about the work to Milford Road railway bridge are invited to attend a ‘drop-in’ event on Thursday 31 January from 3pm to 6pm at the Merlins Bridge Welfare Hall, Pembroke Road, SA61 1JW. No appointment is necessary and representatives from Network Rail’s project team will be on hand to provide information and answer any questions.

You can also find out more information about this essential upgrade project here: www.networkrail.co.uk/Merlins-Bridge.

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