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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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Man from Pembrokeshire killed in M40 caravan crash

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Stuart Richards, 32: Killed by a car travelling in the wrong direction

A FORMER Pembrokeshire died in a collision on the M40 last week (Oct 15) when a car towing a caravan was travelling in the wrong direction and crashed into his vehicle.

32-year-old Stuart Richards, a former Sir Thomas Picton pupil, was travelling northbound in his Ford Mondeo when he was hit by the Subaru Forester.

He had served as an Army Officer in Iraq, Afghanistan and Jordan.

The driver and passenger of the Forester also died in the crash.

Terrifying dashcam footage of the car travelling down the M40 in the wrong direction has been posted to social media, showing the car failing to slow down just moments before the crash.

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson said: “Shortly before 4pm on Monday, the Force received reports that a Subaru Forester towing a caravan was travelling in the wrong direction on the northbound carriageway of the M40.

“A few minutes later, the vehicle was subsequently in a collision with two other cars, a Ford Mondeo and a Ford Focus, near junction 6.

“The driver and a passenger of the Subaru, both aged in their eighties, died. They are yet to be formally identified at this time.

“The driver of the Ford Mondeo also died. He was formally identified yesterday, October 17, as Stuart Richards, aged 32, from Stockport, Cheshire.”

The crash has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after it was revealed police officers had contact with the occupants of the Subaru days prior to the crash.

A report of a damage-only collision involving the Forester was made to the police force on October 10.

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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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