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Demonstrators expected at court for Sean Burns animal welfare case

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ANIMAL RIGHTS activists as well as concerned residents from the Pembroke Dock area are expected to attend Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (March 7).

Demonstrations have taken place over recent weeks after the local authority and animal charities worked together to remove a large number of animals from Bramble Hall Farm – the protests were over the animals which the protesters believed were still in situ at the farm – dubbed ‘Bramble Hell Farm’ by protestors.

Between 50 and 100 people attended two protests, it is not known how many will likely be in attendance at the court.

Sean Burns, of Rose Lodge, Ferry Lane is to attend court in order to answer to a request for by Pembrokeshire County Council that possession of 80 sheep, 58 dogs, 53 pigs, 21 horses and 3 goats be given up – and the animals sold or destroyed where necessary (If necessary to prevent suffering) under the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 section 20(1).

This is not a criminal charge, but a request for a civil order.

The case is listed for 2pm.

However, in light of legitimate public concerns about the welfare of animals at Bramble Hall Farm, Pembroke, Pembrokeshire County Council has released the following information which it is hoped will clarify the actions and legal processes taken so far, the current situation, and the roles of the various agencies involved.

Richard Brown, Head of Environmental Services and Public Protection, said: “Please be assured that we are continuing to monitor the welfare of animals that remain on site, and legitimate grounds for believing that the welfare of any animals is comprised will result in further action.

“An investigation into potential criminal charges is ongoing.”

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Animal Health and Welfare Team are generally responsible for monitoring the welfare of farmed livestock and taking action under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 where welfare standards are found to be deficient.

The Council is also responsible for licensing certain animal establishments, including dog breeding, and for animal welfare in these licensed establishments.

These welfare roles complement those of the RSPCA who generally take a lead in ensuring the welfare of companion animals (including dogs and horses) at other sites, with liaison taking place as appropriate.

Periodic, targeted visits are made by the Animal Health and Welfare Team to licensed operations and sites that present higher risk, and other sites are visited in response to intelligence received.

A warrant to enter Bramble Hall Farm was executed in 2017, which resulted in a prosecution and conviction in January 2018 for operating an illegal dog breeding establishment, animal welfare and animal by-product offences. Confirmation was subsequently obtained that dogs previously used for breeding had been rehomed pending a possible future application for a dog breeding licence, and no grounds remained for gaining access to the site.

On the 28th and 29th January 2019, the Council’s Animal Health and Welfare Team obtained and executed court warrants at Bramble Hall Farm with the support of other agencies and parties. The Council took possession of a large number of animals from the site on welfare grounds, as supported by veterinary opinion. All of the animals taken into possession were transported to pre-arranged, safe locations where they will be cared for appropriately, under the control of the Council, until a court determination has been made.

A small number of animals were not taken into possession during the operation as there was no veterinary evidence to suggest that their welfare had been compromised or that the animals would be subject to significant risk, at that time.

Steps have also been taken to ensure that any animal by-products remaining on site were removed. This has since been confirmed.

The Council is continuing to investigate a range of related offences in respect of a number of individuals. It is a large, complex investigation with multiple potential offences.

Meanwhile, the Council has applied to the Magistrates’ Court for the forfeiture (permanent confiscation) of animals seized. This procedure is independent of any potential criminal proceedings.

A court hearing is listed for the 7th March, for the court to consider this application. Depending on the outcome, a period of 28 days will be available for those with an interest, as owners, to lodge an appeal.

Council officers have been in contact with other people who have been identified as having a potential ownership interest in the animals taken into possession. Where evidence exists, these parties have been notified of the court hearing so that representations can be made.

Any persons who believe they have a right of ownership in respect of animals seized should notify the Council’s Animal Welfare team as a matter of urgency.

Despite legitimate public animal welfare concerns, Pembrokeshire County Council is unable to prevent any individual from acquiring or keeping animals. Only a court can do that.

If someone has been convicted for an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the court can make an order depriving/disqualifying them from owning, keeping, participating in keeping or controlling or influencing the way animals are kept, transporting or arranging the transportation of animals.

There is nothing stopping animals being brought to a site/kept on site until a disqualification is in place.

Council officers will take all reasonable steps to monitor the welfare of any animals that remain on site, along with other agencies as appropriate.

Legitimate grounds for believing that the welfare of any animals is comprised or that any illegal breeding activity is occurring will result in further action.

Should members of the public have any information to identify the ownership of any animals seized or about matters currently under investigation they should phone the Council’s contact centre on 01437 764551 and ask to speak to the Animal Welfare team.

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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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‘We don’t want it’: councillors object to HGV tanker park plans

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PEMBROKE DOCK town councillors have objected strongly to plans to build a HGV tanker park in the town.

The tanker park would be located on the south-western side of Criterion Way, behind the ASDA petrol station.

However, at a meeting of the town council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday, April 13, councillors were in agreement that it would create more problems for the town.

Councillor Jonathan George said: “I’ve noted the public input on this and they don’t seem very happy about where it’s going to be put.

“It is close to a small park area and I don’t think it’s suitable to put this here. I won’t be supporting this.”

Cllr George Manning added: “There are many aspects of this which are totally inappropriate for Pembroke Dock. There are many other sites available but they haven’t looked at any of them.

“This does not do anything for the Future Generations act and it will bring more disruption to the town.

“This does not bring about any improvements to the existing transport infrastructure. There are lots of things about this, we don’t want it. I don’t think they have looked into it in enough detail.”

Cllr Gordon Goff said that the impact it would have on the public and wildlife would be ‘astronomical’.

He went on to say he was not happy with one of the statements in the application and said they ‘don’t want to be blackmailed’.

One of the documents submitted with the application states that if the development was not approved it would mean that the applicants, Certas, ‘will either have to find a different site’ or ‘will have to cease operating in the area’.

Cllr Terry Judkins said that the Port Authority wanted to ‘use Pembroke Dock as a dumping ground’ and added that he could not support it.

Cllr Maureen Colgan added that she was ‘totally against’ the application and said that the area should be kept for leisure and be developed as an area where people can sit and enjoy themselves.

The application is due to be decided by Pembrokeshire County Council at a later date.

Cllr Paul Dowson has already called in the application for it to be debated by the County Council’s Planning Committee.

In his request he states that it is too near habitation, it is within the Pembroke Dock conservation area and that children have been using the area near the bandstand as play area for over 20 years.

The area had also previously been the subject of an application for a marina and other leisure facilities but that investment was written off in 2017.

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Trial of Haverfordwest primary school teacher starts at Swansea Crown Court

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher who is accused of sexually abusing eleven children thinks he is a victim of a witch hunt by the police, a jury has heard.

But at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (Apr 12), the Clare Wilks for the prosecution said that the defendant had “abused the trust of parents and staff” by sexually touching children in his care.

James Oulton, denies 30 charges of sexual assault against the eleven children who were aged eight or nine years old at the time.

The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

The jury heard how the pupils, now aged between 11 and 17, claimed he touched them sexually.

But the court was also told that Mr Oulton claimed he received cards at the end of term, and he believed letters sent by Pembrokeshire council to parents encouraged false complaints and collusion between pupils.

Oulton, 34, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, told the court he had behaved appropriately.

The jury heard how the alleged abuse occurred while Mr Oulton was working at a primary school in Haverfordwest.

Clare Wilks, prosecuting, said some of the children alleged that they had been assaulted on a daily basis, while others had had given statements to say it only happened the one time.

The trial continues.

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