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School nativity – danger in the manger?

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IT’S the time of year when every parent enjoys watching their little darlings perform in the school nativity play. It used to be that the show was documented by hundreds of proud parents snapping away on their cameras, but more recently school politics and privacy issues have come into play, with some schools ruling that it is unacceptable to take pictures or videos of the show.

But what is the legal position when it comes to videos and photographs of school events? Are schools able to impose a blanket ban? If you ignore the school’s photography policy, what legal action can they take against you? And if another parent shares a group shot featuring your child, without permission, can you force them to take it down.

Anthony Di Palma, Solicitor at DAS Law, looks at the photographic minefield that is the school nativity play for The Herald.

My child’s school has a photography policy which states that there is a blanket ban on taking photos at the nativity play. Is this legal?

Any owner of private property may restrict the use of photography or video equipment on the premises. If ignored, you may be asked to leave and may be deemed to be trespassing if you refuse.

I signed my child’s schools consent form stating I won’t take any photos. What legal ramifications will I face should I choose to ignore the policy?

The consent form is unlikely to be legally enforceable as a contract if there is no financial loss to the school, and there are no laws generally against taking photographs of your own or other people’s children as long as the photographs are not deemed ‘indecent’, or are likely to have the effect of harming or harassing the children.

Are there any laws against sharing group shots of my child’s nativity play photos online? 

As a best practice, it is advisable that parents should avoid sharing photographs of children without obtaining prior consent of that child’s parent or guardian. However, as long as the photographs are not deemed ‘indecent’, or are likely to have the effect of harming or harassing them, then there is nothing legally stopping you from doing so.

What legal action can I take against people that share group photos of the school nativity play on social media that include my child without my permission?

You can ask the person to remove the photograph, however if they refuse there is no realistic legal action you can take. Privacy laws under the Human Rights Act cannot be enforced against other private individuals and unless you own the copyright in the photograph, or the image is offensive or indecent, then the social media site has no obligation to remove that photo if it is reported to them.

If I blur out other children’s faces can I share school play photos online?

You don’t have to blur out children’s faces in order to share them online, as the Data Protection Act doesn’t apply to photographs taken for private use and which do not identify the child (i.e. name them). However, if you would be concerned about images of your own child appearing without your permission, blurring out other children’s faces may be a sensible step to take.

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Milford Haven: Three residents win in Postcode Lottery

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THREE people in Milford Haven got a lovely surprise this morning (Jan 22) after waking up to the good news that their bank accounts will be boosted by £1,000 each, all thanks to their lucky postcode.

The Roebuck Close neighbours landed the lolly when SA73 1AS was announced as a Daily Prize winner with People’s Postcode Lottery.

People’s Postcode Lottery ambassador Judie McCourt sent her congratulations and said: “What a terrific Tuesday for our players in Milford Haven who have picked up a prize today! I hope they treat themselves to something special with the windfall.”

A minimum of 32% of ticket sales goes directly to charities and players of People’s Postcode Lottery have raised £382 million to date for 5,500 good causes across Great Britain and internationally.

Many good causes local to the winners have benefitted from the money raised, and the next opportunity to apply for funding will be on the 6th of February.

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Two men arrested following discovery of illegal slaughterhouse

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TWO men were arrested on Monday (Jan 21) after a multi-agency response to an illegal slaughterhouse in west Wales.

Police say that live animals were found living amongst carcasses.

As the investigation is ongoing, police have refused to comment where exactly the site of the illegal slaughterhouse was discovered.

Warning: Shocking image below.

A spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “Rural Crime team attended a call with multi-agencies to a report of an illegal slaughterhouse in West Wales.

“Live animals found amongst carcasses.

“Two males were arrested and enquiries are ongoing.

“At this early stage of the investigation we are not prepared to release further information.”

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Llangwm: Solicitor jailed for six years for £1m fraud

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A PEMBROKESHIRE solicitor who overcharged clients by almost £1m has been jailed this week for six years.

Edgar Stephen Thomas, aged 58, charged one client at the rate of £20,000 a week without doing any work at all.

Another was charged at £12,000 a week and went on to lose a total of £100,000.

Thomas, of Stephen’s Green, Deerland Road, Llangwm, admitted 23 offences of fraud and theft, which stopped only when his firm of Steve Thomas and Co was closed down by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

Jim Davis, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that Thomas got away with the frauds by deducting monies from the estates of deceased people without telling the beneficiaries.

“He grossly overcharged and then deducted the payments directly from the estates of deceased people,” he said.

“He helped himself without telling them what he was doing.”

The overcharging began in 2005 when he was asked to handle the estate of Richard James Rogers. He charged the estate £41,800 plus VAT but internal documents showed that as the work decreased his bills increased.

Thomas agreed overcharging that estate by £12,000.

Thomas went on to plunder many more accounts.

The most outrageous example, said Mr Davies, related to the estate of Audrey Williams, who died in 2013.

Thomas charged £127,250 plus VAT, sometimes raising–but not posting–two invoices a day. He agreed he had overcharged by £100,000.

Mr Davis said Thomas’ offending did not stop there. His firm was hired by Vaughan’s Radio, an electrical store in Haverfordwest, to handle the purchase of a business in Aberystwyth.

Thomas simply kept for himself £50,000 of the purchase price.

Mr Davis said Thomas had worked for Eaton Evans in Haverfordwest, rising to becoming a partner, before leaving to form his own firm in 2005.

His accounts had to be audited and as a result the SRA were alerted to fears that he was overcharging.

A detailed forensic examination of his accounts was carried out and the fears were confirmed, along with the discovery of a shortfall in his client’s accounts of £144,326.

There was then an administrative error at the SRA and the initial report was not acted upon until June 2014, when a second financial investigation revealed more fraud and he was later struck off.

In February 2015 Thomas was declared bankrupt.

Mr Davis said the SRA had reimbursed those who had lost because of Thomas’ fraudulent behaviour, but there remained the question of costs and whether he could be made to repay any of the money. An investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act is underway.

Thomas’ barrister, Ian Ibrahim, said his client was now broke and all the money had gone on keeping his business afloat.

“His fall from a high place has been dramatic. His remorse is complete and utterly without qualification.

“He has lost everything and knows that he will go to jail today.”

Judge Keith Thomas said those who worked in the legal profession had to demonstrate the highest level of integrity because the public put trust in them, sometimes at the most stressful times of their life.

“Your victims have described your behaviour as disgusting and despicable.

“You were struck off in 2016 and have had to wait a long time for the process to be complete, but that is partly because you were not willing to admit the extent of your offending,” he added.

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