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Rapist councillor to appeal child sex conviction

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THE FORMER Mayor of Pembroke and convicted child rapist Dai Boswell is to appeal his conviction of historic child sex offences.

The Herald has been told by Pembrokeshire County Council that Boswell lodged an appeal against conviction and sentence last week.

The St Mary North representative’s conviction had led to calls on social media for him to be somehow ‘sacked’ as a councillor.

However, due to a 46-year-old piece of legislation, Boswell is still able to receive his allowance as a member of the County Council and there is nothing the Council can do to stop it.

The fact that the former Mayor of Pembroke, who has been convicted of a string of historical sex offences is able to continue to receive his allowance has caused understandable outrage. However, PCC are powerless to remove him as a councillor due to the terms of the Local Government Act 1972.

The power to amend the legislation and change the criteria for when a councillor may and may not remain in post is under the control of the Welsh Government, and amending the law would require specific legislation to the Welsh Assembly, which is now in recess.

The law currently means that steps to disqualify a councillor can only be taken if they fail to appeal to the conviction within 28 days of sentence being passed upon them – in Boswell’s case that no longer applies.

As he is appealing his conviction, Boswell cannot now be disqualified under the provisions of the relevant part of the Act covering disqualification until the conclusion of the appeal process and only then if his conviction is upheld.

To heap further misery upon the Council – which is copping an extraordinary amount o​f​ criticism – there is nothing it can do to either short-circuit that process or to take steps that would amount to going behind it by suspending the paedophile councillor until the end of his appeal.

When we asked the County Council to explain the position for our readers, a spokesperson told us: ​”​Pembrokeshire County Council is aware that there is some speculation around the position of Councillor David (Dai) Boswell following sentencing on 13 July for extremely serious sexual offences against two children.

“Unless the Councillor resigns from his position, the Council can only disqualify a Member if, since election, he has been convicted of an offence and has been sentenced to imprisonment for a period of not less than three months.

“Conviction is deemed to occur on expiry of the period allowed for making an appeal or application with respect to the conviction (the defence has 28 days in which to serve an appeal notice following conviction), or the date on which such appeal/application is finally disposed of. Councillor Boswell submitted a notice of appeal against all convictions and sentence on 16 July​.

​”​Councillor Boswell retains his seat and is currently entitled to receive a salary. The Council cannot declare a vacancy until the appeal process is completed or, if the date is sooner, the date six months from which he has failed to attend a meeting of the Council, that date being 23 October 2018​.”​

In short, due to the way the Local Government Act was drafted almost half a century ago, a ‘conviction’ does not become what might be deemed ‘a final conviction’ until after a failed appeal and Boswell remains a councillor until that point and entitled to his remuneration as such.

However, a possibility remains open for the Council to pursue in order to rid itself of Boswell in a few months’ time.Under the law, if a councillor fails to attend a meeting for a period of six months, they can be removed and a by-election called.

Child-rapist Boswell last attended a meeting of the Council on April 23.The period of six months for disqualification runs forward from that date and continues to run at the same time as any period following conviction, sentence, and/or appeal. It is highly unlikely that any Judge would even consider an application to set aside any decision by the Council to remove Boswell from his Pembroke St Mary’s seat after the six month period had elapsed, unless further assurances had been given to Boswell by Council officers in relation to the rule’s operation upon him before St George’s Day or afterwards.

We asked the NSPCC whether they were actively lobbying for a change in the law to prevent such a scandal occurring again.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Boswell was convicted of appalling sex offences against children and it is right that he now faces many years behind bars where he cannot harm others.

“It is wrong that someone convicted of sexual crimes against children can continue to serve as an elected official for any period of time and we support a change to the law to ensure situations like this are not repeated.”

The key point is that it is a change in the law which is required, not unilateral and unlawful action by the Council, however well-intentioned.Moreover, the WLGA developed the same point in its press statement on the Boswell case.

After pointing out the extreme rarity of cases such as Boswell’s, a WLGA spokesperson said: “The issue in question is a legal anomaly in the current framework that needs to be urgently addressed. A guilty verdict does mean an automatic disqualification, following a 28-day window for a possible appeal.

“This is where the problem is located and needs urgent review, especially as this deplorable offence is a fundamental breach of the statutory duty that councillors have to ensure that all children within local authority areas are safeguarded and protected.”

Meanwhile, councillors will be ruing the advice tendered to Boswell by Monitoring Officer Claire Jones last year – namely, that he did not have to attend council meetings as seminars would do – that issue now is more to do with the confidence they can have in the Monitoring Officer.The Herald has spoken to a number of councillors, all of whom are less than impressed by the position into which the Monitoring Officer’s advice to Boswell has placed them, with one suggesting it would be hard for Ms Jones to regain members’ trust in the validity of her judgements in light of the mess.

Those feelings are intensified by the fact that had Boswell applied for a leave of absence under the rules, as a person innocent until proven guilty it would have been bound to have been granted. It is possible that in seeking to avoid one unpopular decision, a ‘solution’ was reached which has now come back to bite those officers involved in the original decision. A decision upon which no councillors were consulted.

That confidence will have been further eroded by the extraordinary debacle that saw members of the Council’s staff scuttling around County Hall to find records and a dramatic reinterpretation of the status of a sandwich lunch attended by Boswell in November 2017 before James Goudie QC was able to support the Monitoring Officer’s peculiar interpretation of the rules and regulations.

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Two banned from county after ‘disturbance’ at Penally Asylum Centre

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TWO asylum seekers have been banned from entering Pembrokeshire while investigations take place into a disturbance at a military training camp where asylum seekers are being housed.

Dyfed-Powys Police said it was called to the Penally Asylum Accommodation centre at 13:45 HRS on Tuesday (Oct 20)

A 22-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of affray, and a 25-year-old man was held on suspicion of assault.

Both have been bailed on condition they avoid the area, the force said.

Home Office spokesman told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “The government takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers and the communities in which they live extremely seriously.

“We are aware of an incident at the Penally site but it would be inappropriate to comment further while investigations are ongoing.”

There was an ongoing police presence at the camp again on Wednesday night (Oct 20) – with a police van with blue lights flashing seen driving into the facility.

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Two arrests following disturbance inside Penally Asylum Accommodation Centre

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THERE was a large police presence at Penally Asylum Accommodation Centre on Tuesday afternoon, after what police are describing as a ‘disturbance involving a small group of people.’

The emergency call went out at lunch time, and thirteen police vehicles responded to the incident, a resident of Penally confirmed.

At first the police said that one person had been arrested, but later on Tuesday evening the police released a second statement saying that two people had been taken into custody.

It is understood that both the persons arrested are asylum seekers staying at the former army training camp.

A spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys Police told the Herald in it’s latest emailed statement: “We were called to a disturbance involving a small group of people within the Penally Asylum Accommodation Centre at around 1.45pm on Tuesday (Oct 20).

“Two people have been arrested, a 22 year old man and a 25 year old man. The 22 year old was arrested on suspicion of affray, and the 25 year old was arrested on suspicion of assault. No one was taken to hospital.

“The investigation is ongoing.”

Our reporter was at the scene just after 7pm on Tuesday and the area was quiet.

There was no visible police presence remaining outside the former army camp, and just a handful of protestors outside the main gate.

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Follow lockdown rules, public leaders in Pembrokeshire urge

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PULBIC leaders in Pembrokeshire are urging people to comply with the latest measures introduced by the Welsh Government under its ‘firebreak’ scheme.

Councillors David Simpson and Paul Harries – Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council and Chairman of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority respectively – have echoed the sentiments of First Minister Mark Drakeford’s “come together” call.

“It is imperative for the safety of all of us that we follow the regulations which come into effect on Friday” Councillor Simpson emphasised.

“Although the number of coronavirus cases in Pembrokeshire is relatively low compared with other areas across the nation, the figures here are on the rise. Undoubtedly measures would have to be taken sooner or later in our county to halt that increase.

“The thinking is that introducing a 17-day long ‘firebreak’ now and across the nation will slow the spread of the virus and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases.

“This could potentially prevent hundreds of deaths.

“So I appeal to everyone to comply with the restrictions being introduced and follow the safety advice of wearing face coverings in confined public spaces, observe social distancing and regularly wash your hands.

Councillor Paul Harries said : “We appreciate that people will want to access the National Park and the outdoors more than ever as we head into the firebreak lockdown, but we are asking people to follow the guidance and only exercise from home, whilst following the Countryside Code.

“We understand that the restrictions are challenging for people, but keeping Pembrokeshire safe is our utmost priority and we will do all we can to support Welsh Government in following the guidance.

“When the time is right we look forward to welcoming visitors back to Pembrokeshire and most importantly doing this at a time when we can keep everyone safe. For now, we urge everyone to follow the firebreak guidance and stay home to stay safe.”

For a list of Frequently Asked Questions go to: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-circuit-break-frequently-asked-questions

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