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Council ‘kept in the dark’ over police response

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Council were ‘kept in the dark’ over the police’s response to a complaint that was sent to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
At its meeting on March 8, 2018, council resolved to submit a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission regarding delays by Dyfed Powys Police in concluding its investigation into alleged irregular grant payments in respect of Pembroke and Pembroke Dock Commercial Property Grant Scheme.
However, there was a five-week delay in that letter being sent and it has only now been brought to the attention of Council because of questions raised by Cllr Mike Stoddart.
The Leader Cllr David Simpson stated he was unaware of the delay and apologised but Cllr Stoddart said they had been ‘kept in the dark’ and denied the right to appeal.
Cllr Stoddart’s questions were submitted to Thursday’s (Oct 11) Full Council meeting. He asked: “Can the leader explain why it took almost five weeks for this resolution to be actioned?
“What response, if any, has the council received from the Independent office for Police Conduct?”
Cllr Simpson said: “I was not aware of this delay until I saw the question. I did not have any idea it took this long for a letter to be written.
“I have spoken with the Chief Executive and we agree that it should never ever have taken five weeks to write a letter from this council to anyone. It will never ever take five weeks again, it shouldn’t have happened and I apologise.
“A formal response was received on May 2, the contents of which have been sent to Cllr Stoddart. In a meeting on April 12, 2018, there was a meeting between the Police and the CPS and a charging decision was to follow.
“Following discussion, the force is still awaiting the charging decision from the CPS and when it is received Pembrokeshire County Council will be made aware.”
Cllr Stoddart responded saying: “This letter from the police was sent on May 2 but it was written on that day and emailed to the council on May 10. It didn’t arrive in time for it to be put to full council.
“Why wasn’t an announcement made the following day to the Annual Council meeting. We should have decided if we were satisfied with the police response and could have appealed but we have been kept in the dark.
“We have been denied the right to appeal, council officers have sat on the report in a deliberate attempt to hide the response and prevent us from making a decision on whether or not we should have appealed.”
Cllr Simpson said they should have had the letter sooner and that they should have had the opportunity to consider appealing.
He was asked what steps would be undertaken to ensure this doesn’t happen again and Cllr Simpson added he wanted openness and transparency and assured that it would never happen again.
Cllr Jacob Williams did attempt to refer the matter to the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee for a look into why there was a five-week delay but this was not allowed by the Chair.

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Jail for woman who stole £93,000 from trusting elderly widow

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A WOMAN who stole £93,000 from an elderly widow who had come to trust her as a friend has been jailed for 28 months.

Fiona Louise Harwood, of High Street in Neyland, abused her position as power of attorney while informally caring for a woman in her 80s, to access her bank account and spend thousands of pounds on clothes, a holiday and dating websites.

The victim had so much trust in Harwood, who she had initially paid as a cleaner, that she had amended her will to leave the 50-year-old her house. She later discovered her friend had flouted her position for her own gain.

Dyfed-Powys Police sergeant Stuart Wheeler, who investigated the claims of fraud, explained that the incidents were reported to the force in January 2019.

He said: “This was a saddening investigation to work on, as it transpired the suspect had blatantly abused the trust of a vulnerable elderly woman who believed she could depend on her.

“Before coming to police, the victim had become aware that she hadn’t received a bank statement for over a year, and asked a friend to help her look into it.

“It transpired that the victim’s friend had been alerted to suspicious financial activity around six months earlier, when a Debenhams statement was received showing purchases made at the firm’s Exeter branch. Not only did the victim not hold an account with Debenhams, but the friend was aware that Harwood had recently visited the city.

“After contacting the bank for up-to-date statements, the friend saw there was a huge shortfall from the victim’s accounts, with just £6,000 remaining across an ISA, savings and current account.”

Paperwork showed four pages of purchases from Amazon, which the victim would not know how to use, stores including Next and Joules, and online dating sites.

Officers visited the victim, and learned that she had known Harwood for many years and had employed her to clean her home. She went on to claim a carer’s allowance, and was given power of attorney when the victim’s husband died in 2016.

“The sum of money missing from the victim’s accounts far surpassed what would have been spent in caring for the victim,” PS Wheeler said.

“She had taken advantage of a friend in an appalling way.”

As well as using the victim’s card to go shopping, financial checks showed Harwood had withdrawn £18,676 from ATMs, and transferred £50,300 to her own account.

Harwood was arrested on suspicion of fraud in February 2019. She later claimed she had been giving money to another woman from the victim’s account.

She was charged with fraud by abuse of position, and two counts of fraud by false representation – opening a Next account and Debenhams account in the victim’s name.

Harwood appeared at Swansea Crown Court on Friday, September 25 where she pleaded guilty to the charges.

She was sentenced to 28 months in prison.

“In being granted power of attorney, the defendant was expected to safeguard the financial interests of the victim, not use the position for her own gain,” PS Wheeler said.

“I have no doubt that this criminal behaviour would have continued if the victim’s friend had not become suspicious that something wasn’t right.

“We hope this sentence goes to show that committing fraud of this nature will not be tolerated.”

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Police appeal for witnesses after 20-year-old pedestrian tragically killed on A40

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is appealing for witnesses to a fatal road traffic collision on the A40 west of Carmarthen on Saturday (Sept 26) in which a 20-year-old man, a pedestrian, lost his life.

The police have asked The Pembrokeshire Herald to publicise this appeal.

A spokesman for the police told this newspaper: “At around 9.40pm, a white VW Transporter was in collision with a pedestrian on the A40 westbound, near the junction of Llangynog, Carmarthen.

“The pedestrian, a 20-year-old male, died as a result of his injuries.

“It appears the pedestrian had left his vehicle, a black Seat, following a single-vehicle collision further along the westbound carriageway shortly before.

The police have asked that if anyone has any information on either or both collisions, or may have been travelling along the A40 at the relevant time, please contact the serious collision investigation unit, quoting reference DPP-20200926-339.

This can be done by email: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, by phone on 101 or by text: If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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No one wants a ‘concentration camp’ for asylum seekers in Penally

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A COUNTY COUNCILLOR is slamming the Home Office for creating a “concentration camp” in Pembrokeshire.

Cllr Paul Dowson says that putting people in huts behind barbed wire fences against their will, against the will of the people of Pembrokeshire, and against the will of community and religious leaders of all faiths “is nothing short of barbaric, is immoral and is probably unlawful.”

His words come as a letter sent by leaders at Pembrokeshire Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board, along with local faith leaders, to the Secretary of State for the Home Department is stating that proper consultation would have made it ‘immediately clear’ that Penally was not suitable for an asylum seeker camp.

‘It is unprecedented in Wales that people seeking asylum are ‘cohorted’ together in such a large number in unsuitable accommodation. We have real concerns that they are being moved out of rented accommodation within the Wales refugee support network.’, the letter states.

Demo to support asylum seekers in Penally (Photo Herald)

The letter shows community leaders are for supporting those in need of asylum, but not in unsuitable accommodation. The letter goes on to say: “We are keen to hold out the hand of friendship to those in need but we are also aware of the feelings of local residents and are keen to maintain a sense of ‘community cohesion.”

More protests took place in Penally on Saturday (Sept 26). At 11am those supporting the asylum seekers, around 70 in number, gathered holding colourful banners and placards.

The Liberal Democrats, Welsh Labour, and unions were all represented. There were several photographers from national, regional and local press as well as a BBC camera crew and documentary film makes from London present. During the demonstration which lasted for about an hour and a half speeches were made by Jim Scott (People’s Assembly Wales), Alistair Cameron (Lib Dem) and Marc Tierney (Labour). There were a similar number of anti-asylum seeker protestors on the other side of a line of police – holding banners, and signs. They moved to the main gate once the other protestors had left.

At 1pm they held one minute’s silence for Matiu Ratana, the New Zealand born police officer who was shot at a police station in London on Friday.

Cllr Paul Dowson was at the protest he said that he was there to support the voice of the real people of Pembrokeshire who were against the camp being used for asylum seekers. Cllr Dowson called for all sides to join together as one voice.

“We have to stop this concentration camp from being in operation. Everyone has got the same goal. Today we saw two groups of people from our community separated by a line of police officers. But why do we need to be separated. Every single person here, on both sides, does not think that this camp is suitable for asylum seekers. The council thinks the same, the police think the same, the health board thinks the same, the church leaders think the same.

“We have seen people in the camp shout that they are being kept against their will and want freedom.”

“People may think that calling this a concentration camp is harsh – but the legal definition is a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms. That is exactly what is happening here.”

“I will be doing what I can to get all sides together to form one voice for Pembrokeshire – one united people to turn up the pressure on Westminster to get these poor people moved out of our county to somewhere more suitable, so Penally can get back to normal, and so Pembrokeshire people can breathe easy again.”

Below is the full letter sent to the Home Secretary.

The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
Home Secretary
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

Dear Home Secretary

We are writing to you to express our concern about the decision to relocate asylum seekers in Penally, Pembrokeshire. We are particularly disappointed by the lack of communication and discussion with local stakeholders such as Pembrokeshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board and the local community.

Proper consultation would have immediately made it clear that Penally Camp is unsuitable accommodation, particularly for men who may have experienced trauma, great hardship and have been separated from their families. The buildings are in a poor condition, in a rural location with one village shop and no established support network. It is unprecedented in Wales that people seeking asylum are ‘cohorted’ together in such a large number in unsuitable accommodation. We have real concerns that they are being moved out of rented accommodation within the Wales refugee support network.

We have four dispersal centres in Wales: Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham. These areas have well- established infrastructures to welcome and care for asylum seekers. Accommodation, health, pastoral and cultural care and legal advice are readily available and funded in these areas No such infrastructure or funding exists in Pembrokeshire. It is our opinion that this decision is wrong both for our local community and for the welfare of these men who are seeking sanctuary in our Country.
Pembrokeshire is a warm, welcoming county and we can assure you that those who live here would be only too keen to show their compassion for those who have suffered greatly. Sadly, the way in which this sensitive issue has been handled can only have added to their trauma and given them the wrong impression of the area in which we live.
It has also created a sense of fear and uncertainty among those who live here.
We are keen to hold out the hand of friendship to those in need but we are also aware of the feelings of local residents and are keen to maintain a sense of ‘community cohesion.’ If there had been a more considered and caring approach, we would not have witnessed the ugly scenes that took place outside the camp last Monday (21st September 2020).

It is vital that all stakeholders be involved in any future decisions. We need no ‘winners’ and losers. We will all lose if we do not move together. We will do all we can to support both the local community and the asylum seekers you intend to place here, but we ask you to listen to our real concerns and reverse your decision.

Yours sincerely

Cllr David Simpson: Leader, Pembrokeshire County Council
Ian Westley: Chief Executive, Pembrokeshire County Council
Maria Battle: Chair, Hywel Dda University Health Board
Steve Moore: Chief Executive, Hywel Dda University Health Board
Angela Burns MS: Member of the Senedd for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire
Cllr Jonathan Preston: Pembrokeshire County Council (Penally)
Reverend Rob James: Church Moderator, Deer Park Baptist Church, Tenby
Reverend Stella Hayton: Minister St John’s Methodist and United Reformed Church in Tenby and United Reform Churches in Pembroke, Templeton and Reynalton
Reverend Michael Bave: Bethel Baptist Church, Pembroke Dock
Father Mansel Usher: Holyrood and St Teilo’s Catholic Church Tenby and St Brides Saundersfoot
Father Matt Roche-Saunders: St David & St Patrick Catholic Church, Haverfordwest
Father Liam Bradley: St David and St Patrick Catholic Church, Haverfordwest
Abdul Haseeb Hussain: Imam Hamad Bin Khalifa Islamic Centre, Milford Haven
Dr Baba M Gana: Chairman, West Wales Islamic Cultural Association
Euryl Howells: Senior Chaplin, Hywel Dda University Health Board

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