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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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Haverfordwest: Pupils collected by parents after feeling unwell in school following Italy ski trip

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THREE PUPILS from Haverfordwest High School have been collected by parents after feeling unwell today (Feb 25). It is understood that all the pupils involved were on a half term skiing trip to Italy.

This has been confirmed by a Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson.

No case of COVID-19 has been confirmed.

The Pembrokeshire pupils were in the resort of Fanano, the council said.

In a letter to all staff, head teacher Jane Harries said: “The ski trip which returned from Italy on the weekend did not travel to the two areas of lock-down in Italy affected by the corona-virus. Advice is for staff or pupils who have returned from Italy (not the quarantined areas of Lombardy and Veneto) should they develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, they should immediately please follow this advice: stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would the flu, and call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the country.
“They do not need to follow this advice if they have no symptoms.
“Staff who have any symptoms have been sent home and we are in the process of contacting all parents and pupils on the trip…”

A school statement released at 14:31 HRS on Tuesday reads: “We do have two pupils who were on family holidays in these areas and they have gone home.

“Three staff have been sent home as a precaution and we are in the process of contacting all parents of pupils on the trip. If they then feel that their son/daughter has any of the above symptoms they can come to collect them and follow the advice above.

“At the time of making this statement 15 parents have collected pupils although many of these are parents who are collecting pupils due to concern over messages on social media.  There are no confirmed cases of corona-virus at Haverfordwest High VC School.

“Over the border in England, one school has closed, and another has shut its sixth form today after students returned from half-term ski trips in Italy. The two schools, both in Cheshire, made the decision on Tuesday and comes as Italian authorities struggle to control an outbreak of COVID-19.

“A message to parents from Richard Pollock, the headteacher of Cransley School in Northwich, said the closure would remain in place for the rest of the week in order to “completely minimise” the risk of infection. Sky News reported that this comes after a number of students and staff at the school had visited Bormio – 350km from where the Pembrokeshire pupils were skiing – and had since been advised to self-isolate.

“Regardless of the current Public Health England advice (that the school should remain open to all other pupils) I have decided… to completely minimise possible spread of infection and close the school for the remainder of the week,” he wrote.

“During this time, the school will be able to conduct a deep clean and monitor the results of tests amongst those pupils who are currently showing flu-like symptoms.”

Meanwhile, Brine Leas Academy in Nantwich said on Twitter that is had decided to close its sixth form “due to staff shortages.”

 

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Folly Farm’s giving away 5,000 free places to primary school pupils

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IN CELEBRATION of the birth of a critically endangered Eastern black rhino in January, Folly Farm is offering primary school pupils in Wales the opportunity to visit for free to learn more about its conservation work.

The free school visits week will take place between Monday 01 June and Friday 05 June 2020 to coincide with World Environment Day on Friday 05 June. Folly Farm’s zoo keeping team will be running activities each day to highlight conservation work, breeding programmes and sustainable initiatives at the attraction to educate and inspire school children.

Tim Morphew, zoo curator at Folly Farm, said; “The birth of our critically endangered Eastern black rhino, the first rhino to be born in Wales, is such a significant event, not just for us here at Folly Farm but also for the breeding programme and the species. We wanted to use this amazing opportunity as a catalyst to highlight our conservation work and motivate the next generation to act.
“We’re delighted to be offering free school visits to primary schools across Wales for a week of organised activities designed to educate and provide school children with some key takeaways about how they can make better decisions for the environment.”

5,000 free places will be provided for the week, up to a maximum of 1,000 visits on each day. The successful schools will be chosen on a first come first served basis and notified by the 27 March 2020.

Primary schools in Wales need to apply for the free places by filling in an application form on Folly Farm’s website indicating their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of day and total number of pupils.

The application form can be found here: https://www.folly-farm.co.uk/news/free-school-visits/

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Stephen Crabb MP calls for an end to Cawdor closure plans  

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THE IMPORTANCE of Cawdor Barracks will be debated this week in Parliament thanks to Preseli MP Stephen Crabb.

In a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday (Feb 26), the local MP will discuss the importance to Pembrokeshire of the army base at Brawdy before urging the Minister for Defence to reconsider its closure.

The facility was first opened as RAF Brawdy in 1944 and, over the years, has provided a base for all three branches of the armed forces. During the Cold War, the US Navy also resided at Brawdy, to monitor underwater listening devices in the Atlantic Ocean. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, large-scale changes to NATO armed forces resulted in both the US Navy and the RAF leaving Brawdy.

The British Army’s 14 Signal Regiment, specialists in Electronic Warfare, took up residence in 1995. It is the only British Army Regiment capable of conducting sustainable electronic warfare in support of national operations worldwide.

Intended as a temporary base for the Regiment, Brawdy has proved a popular location for the soldiers and their families with many putting down deep roots in the County.  With the Regiment used heavily on operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other overseas locations, Pembrokeshire people have turned out in their hundreds for local Homecoming parades. The Regiment has been awarded the Freedom of both St Davids and Haverfordwest.

With nearly 600 troops at Brawdy and over 120 children from forces families in Pembrokeshire’s schools, the barracks play an important role in the County. Economic analysis of the closure of Cawdor Barracks estimated the effect at £26-£30 million.

However, for more than 10 years there has been uncertainty over the future of Cawdor Barracks with plans for full closure put forward and then changed. The year 2024 is the current date for closure of the base.

In the lead up to the debate, Stephen Crabb said: “For over 75 years, Brawdy has played a hugely important role in our national security, and those who have been based there have become an important part of the Pembrokeshire community.

“The uncertainty surrounding its future, with its closure date being pushed back time and time again is unsettling for those soldiers and their families who have made Pembrokeshire their home.

“In securing this debate, I hope to highlight the importance of Cawdor Barracks to Pembrokeshire and I’ll be calling on the Government to end the uncertainty over the base, putting an end to the on-off closure plans that have caused so much confusion for the soldiers and for the local community.

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