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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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Approval recommended for dockyard plans

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A CONTROVERSIAL plan to develop part of Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard comes before the County Council’s Planning Committee next week.

Despite many objections from heritage organisations, Council planning officers recommend the development’s approval.

However, the Planning Committee will only indicate whether it is ‘minded to approve’ the proposal instead of giving it the go-ahead.

The Welsh Government has called in the application for decision by the next Welsh Government minister responsible for planning and infrastructure developments.

That means the Welsh Government will consider the Report presented to the Committee and weigh it against the objections received.

HERITAGE ASSETS VERSUSECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The application is to develop a brownfield site within the former Royal Dockyard.

It seeks outline planning permission for the demolition or part demolition and infill of various buildings and structures, modification of existing slipways, erection of buildings and ancillary development. 

The development is intended for port-related activities, including the manufacture of marine energy devices, boat manufacture, repair and erection of plant.

The application is for outline planning permission. All matters relating to access, appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale are reserved for consideration as part of reserved matters applications. In practice, as many councils – including Pembrokeshire – have discovered, once outline planning is granted, reserved applications tend to proceed despite potential negative impacts.

A similar situation arose with Milford Haven Port Authority’s hotel development at Milford Marina, where councillors’ concerns were largely overruled by the existence of outline planning permission for the development.

Part of the proposal would see the former graving dock and timber pond infilled, the part demolition of existing slipways, and some buildings on site.

Both the graving dock and timber pond are Grade II listed. Buildings near the development are also listed, including the iconic Sunderland flying boat hangars.

The existing caisson gate currently in situ at the dock’s southern end would be removed and conserved. It is unique in Wales and a rare example. The planning report states that the caisson gate would remain within the marine environment without development and deteriorate. 

The development would include a new ‘super slipway’ built over the land extending into the River Cleddau and the construction of massive new industrial sheds to accommodate new marine technology.

JOBS AND THE CITY DEAL

The planning report claims the facilities erected will support anywhere between 288 and 975 full-time equivalent jobs in Pembrokeshire and make a substantial contribution to the local economy. However, the report also notes that the numbers of jobs claimed cannot be corroborated.

This proposal is linked to the establishment of the Marine Energy Test Areas (META), the Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE) and the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone (PDZ). These collectively comprise the Pembroke Dock Marine (PDM) project. 

The project forms part of the Swansea Bay City Deal to facilitate the next generation of marine renewable energy technology.

Companies who could potentially gain from the development have signalled their support from the proposal.Although their enthusiasm is predictable, the economic potential for local businesses cannot be ignored.

DOCKYARD ESSENTIAL TO TOWN’S EXISTENCE

However, a raft of objections also exists.

The Council received representations from, among others: The Victorian Society; The Georgian Group; Hywel Dda University Health Board;  Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre; Pembrokeshire Historic Buildings Trust; Pembroke Civic Trust; Naval Dockyards Society; The Commodore Trust; Ridgway History Group.

Not all of those organisations objected to the principle of development. For example, Hywel Dda expressed concern about the potential effect on access to South Pembs Hospital and patient care. However, most criticised the impact on the historic environment of the Royal Dockyard. Individual objections also expressed the same concerns.

The Naval Dockyard Society points out that the Dockyard construction was the reason for Pembroke Dock’s creation as a town. Without it, the town would not exist.

The Society continues: ‘The proposed scheme would severely damage Pembroke Dock Conservation Area and crucial listed buildings. 

‘The Grade II* Graving Dock would be infilled and partially built over, the Grade II Timber Pond infilled and built over, and the Grade II Building Slips Nos 1 and 2 partially demolished and removed. It would also be detrimental to the adjacent Grade II Carr Jetty setting, which adds to the group value of these threatened structures at Pembroke Dockyard.

‘These structures are the last and most important features of the magnificent and unique assemblage of thirteen slips, graving dock and timber pond constructed and functioning 1809–1926. 

‘Pembroke Dock specialised in building warships during the transition from wood to iron and steel, sail to steam and turbines. 

‘While the eastern slips were sacrificed in 1979 for the Irish ferry terminal and the deep-water berth Quay 1, we now live in a more responsible era, when significant community assets merit planning protection.

‘The Royal Dockyard established at Pembroke Dock from 1809 was unique: the only one in Wales, the only one on the west coast of Britain, and the only one created solely as a shipbuilding facility. 

‘It built over 260 warships for the Royal Navy, including many of the most prestigious warships of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as five royal yachts. Many of these vessels were built on the two large slipways at the western end of the yard threatened by the current development proposal’.

THE COMMUNITY’S VIEW

William Gannon represents Pembroke Dock Town Council on the Milford Haven Port Authority. Mr Gannon recently hosted an online event that reviewed the application and gave local people the chance to express their views.

We asked him what the public had to say about the plans.

Listening to the community: David Gannon (photo credit: David Steel)

William Gannon told us: “The feeling of the Community following our Zoom Meeting was that we welcome the 1800 jobs and the £63 Million of investment that the Pembroke Dock Marine Project has promised. 

“However, the Community is concerned about the Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock’s loss, which will be buried beneath the new slipway. Both The Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock are Grade 2 Star listed heritage assets.

“The Community are also concerned about the size of the two ‘super sheds’ that may be built. It is felt that these sheds are both too large and ugly, and they will damage the appearance of the Dockyard and The Haven and could damage Pembroke Docks plans to develop Tourism in and around the Dockyard.

“Our Community is looking to strike a balance between the need to develop the Dockyard and to preserve our Heritage Assets. 

“We believe that we can do this by working with The Port to develop a solution that allows for both.”

The Port Authority plans to infill the dock and pond in such a way as to preserve the structures and excavate them in the future. Once they are built over, however, the circumstances that would be possible or even likely are unclear. 

The Port Authority also proposes to use digital media to provide an ‘augmented reality’ experience to show visitors what the Royal Dockyard looked like before its development.

The Port says that part of the land, the Carriage Drive, would be enhanced and restored under its plans for the site.
The balance between preserving heritage and creating future jobs in one of its pet project areas is one the Welsh Government will wrestle with on this application and others.

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Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

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New trees planted to help town

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SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

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