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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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Santa dog parade raises money for Greenacres

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FRIARS VAULTS in Haverfordwest hosted a Santa dog parade to raise money for Greenacres Animal Rescue on the weekend.

The event, which took place on Sunday (Dec 9), included a catwalk for dogs, hunt for treats and a raffle.

The total amount raised on the night was £110 with a further £45.50 collected through the donation box.

The winner of the best-dressed Dog was Deb and Steve Bunston with Pip, in second place was Danielle Boswell with Badger and in third place was Caitlin Davies with Denzal.

Greenacres Animal Rescue said on their Facebook page: “A huge thank you to all at Friars vaults Haverfordwest & Jamie Sid Williams for holding the fabulous fancy dress pooch party yesterday.

“A very welcome £158.50 was raised for Greenacres. Thank you all”

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Legal advice about former councillor convicted of rape to be released

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THE COUNCIL’S legal advice relating to former councillor and convicted rapist Dai Boswell will be released into the public domain.

In a recorded vote at Thursday’s (Dec 13) Full Council meeting, 41 members voted in favour of the documents being released with just seven voting against.

Cllr Jacob Williams submitted a notice of motion calling for it to be made public and the matter was discussed by an Overview and Scrutiny Committee before coming back to council.

He stated that having seen the documents and providing sensitive information isn’t divulged, that the public has every right to see them.

Boswell was elected in 2017 but did not take up his seat for the first month and the council instructed legal advisor James Goudie QC to give his advice on the matter.

The Council spent over £2000 in doing so and had recommended that the information should not be released.

At Thursday’s meeting Cllr Brian Hall said: “On November 15, the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny committee discussed releasing instructions and evidence which was called for a month after the 2017 election.

“The leader made it clear at a meeting on July 26 that the instructions and advice would be made available to members. The council is now seeking general publication. The recommendation was that the instruction and advice should not be made available as Cllrs could view documents on a need to know basis in order to satisfy themselves in their councillor capacity.

“Two members spoke in support saying the documents contained matters of public interest and that it should be in the public domain.”

Cllr Jacob Williams added: “The legal advice seeking to be published relates to a period of time after Dai had been elected and before he was found guilty. The council were preventing him from taking his seat despite him not being charged.

“Well over £2000 was spent that the council hadn’t been made aware of. I did get it so that councillors were able to see that advice and what I read was a real eye-opener.

“The Monitoring Officers’ report objecting had a number of red herrings and straw men. She said it will create a precedent but I am not seeking to create that. This is just to release two specific documents.

“She also said that approving any request would open up a can of worms if the interest and advice was publicised and that anything that appears in the media would lead to the council conducting business with its hand behind its back.

“This is just this set of legal advice which reflects poorly on senior members of this authority. I am one of the most vocal councillors in opposing the whim of officers when they find themselves in a bind, they go to lawyers to get themselves out of a pickle. This has been a very expensive lesson.”

Cllr Michelle Bateman asked how many councillors had asked to see the legal advice and the Monitoring Officer Claire Jones said that just two had asked, one of which was Cllr Williams.

Cllr Mike Stoddart said: “The Monitoring Officer states that it is not advisable to proactively publish this but we are not proactively publishing. This has been dragged out by the notice of motion. This will be reactive.

He went on to say that there were occasions when the council should keep its advice close to its chest but said this was not one of those occasions.

The debate took a different turn when Cllr Mark Carter asked the leader if views expressed on social media bordered on ‘workplace bullying’ but Council Leader David Simpson said he was not a policeman and that he could not close down a Facebook page.

Cllr Mike Evans added: “I don’t want to see this advice but this is about the principle of whether the public should be allowed to see the advice. The officers are here to give us the whole picture and not the windows they wish us to look through.”

Monitoring Officer Claire Jones gave a lengthy speech about the possible publication of the documents stating that her recommendations to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee were to do with responsible publication and that it was not to be done lightly.

Claire Jones added that Cllr Boswell’s appeal remains live and that there were still victims at the heart of this.

She went on to say that safeguarding was a matter for everyone and that her door was always open to members to come in and discuss issues and that due to the amount of social media interest it was moving towards the documents being in the public interest.

Cllr David Simpson said he was concerned that only two members had seen the advice and that others were discussing without having seen it.

Cllr Williams summed up saying that the speech the Monitoring Officer gave was one of the most ‘memorable’.

In the recorded vote 41 members voted in favour of the advice being released with seven voting against and six abstaining.

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New police recruit works first Christmas Day shift

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CHRISTMAS DAY is not a day off for Dyfed-Powys police officers and staff who are rostered to work.

PC 117 Damian Arthur will be working his first Christmas Day as a response officer In Tenby, and plans to celebrate with a family dinner before heading in to work for an evening shift.

“My shift is working evenings on Christmas Day. You know when you become a police officer that you might have to work on Christmas day. It is the nature of a frontline public service role. We are there to help keep our communities safe every day of the year.

“I am lucky really to be working the evening shift as I will be able to open the presents and have Christmas lunch with my family first. I will probably have eaten enough at lunchtime to take me through my evening shift!

“It will be normal policing duties of preventing crime and helping the public for us, although there are Christmas decorations up in the office for a bit of a festive feel.

“Our job is to ensure that if the public need help we are there to provide it, even if it is Christmas. It is business as usual.”

If you need police assistance over Christmas, call handlers will be available 24/7. Call 999 if there is an immediate threat to a person or property, or 101 to make a non-urgent report.

You can also email contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk for slow-time, non-emergency queries or advice.

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