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Youth worker jailed for sexual offences against children (UPDATED)

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mike1 (2)A PEMBROKESHIRE man, who formerly worked as a child youth worker employed by Pembrokeshire County Council, appeared before Swansea Crown Court this morning (July 1), and admitted 14 sexual offences against children.

The offences include sexual touching, taking indecent photographs, and the possession of 1,129 indecent photographs of minors.

Michael John Smith, known as ‘Mik’, aged 49, of Prendergast, Haverfordwest, has been jailed for six years for offences which include touching the genitals and bottom of an eight-year-old boy, and encouraging a boy of eight to engage in sexual activity of a non-penetrative nature, including masturbation.

Michael John Smith, was a line manager with Pembrokeshire Youth Service who was sacked after “several warnings” about inappropriate behaviour towards young people.

He went on to abuse the young son of a couple who supported him following his dismissal, a judge at Swansea crown court heard today.

Smith admitted three offences of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 13, four of causing or inciting the child to engage in sexual activity, two of taking indecent photographs of the child, four of making indecent images and one of possessing 1,136 indecent images of children.

Brian Simpson, prosecuting, said all the offences, apart from the last, related to the same boy.

He said Smith had worked for Pembrokeshire Youth Service and later Pembrokeshire Youth Action Service until he was dismissed in 2012 after children complained about the ways he touched them.

But before he was sacked, said Judge Paul Thomas, he had been given “several warnings.”

Mr Simpson said some people continued to support Smith but his response was to “groom” the son of one of the couples for his own sexual gratification, sometimes videoing himself as he abused the naked boy.

The alarm was raised when the boy’s parents noticed that he was becoming more sexualised, sometimes touching his mother’s bottom and talking about “humpy.”

He also developed sleeping difficulties and one night his father went into his bedroom and asked him if there was anything wrong. The boy told him Smith had shown “new ways of humpy.”

Mr Simpson said his father felt physically sick and called in the police.

Smith was arrested but denied ever touching the boy indecently. But officers took away computers and cameras, and found the two videos and the indecent images, 19 of which were in the most serious category. Smith was arrested a second time and on being told about the evidence that had been discovered chose not say anything in reply to questions.

Mr Simpson said the boy now had bad dreams, felt sad and cried a lot. He did not play with friends in case he said something about what had happened and worried that Smith would hurt him because he had told the police about the abuse.

His father, said Mr Simpson, had felt suicidal. Both he and his wife had undergone counselling.

Jim Davis, the barrister representing Smith, said there was no doubt his sexual orientation was towards young boys and he might benefit from psychiatric treatment, although that would not be available in jail.

“The word betrayal is quite appropriate. He tells me he knows that an apology is not enough. He cannot find the words to express how sorry he is and how ashamed he is,” he said.

Mr Davis said Smith would be positively “extremely glad” if the judge made an order that would keep him away from children.

Judge Thomas said Smith had applied for jobs and positions as a senior youth worker and with the cubs, scouts and children’s homes so that he could have contact with young children.

He had used the boy, he added, as his own “sexual play thing without any regard to the consequences to a boy of that age.”

And he had even videoed the abuse.

Judge Thomas said he could pass consecutive sentences, but he had to have regard to the totality.

Smith was jailed for six years for causing the child to engage in sexual activity, four for sexual assault, two for videoing the abuse and 12 months for possessing indecent photographs, all to run concurrently.

Smith was also banned from working with children for life and ordered to register with the police as a sex offender, again for life.

Smith, who had arrived at court with a rucksack expecting a jail sentence, did not react as he was sent down.

Pembrokeshire County Council said in a hastily prepared statement that they welcomed today’s conviction. The council press release said that “justice has been achieved for a vulnerable young person and our thoughts are with that young person and their family”

An effective piece of joint working between the Police and Social Services in Pembrokeshire has contributed to this successful prosecution.

The council went on to say: “The offences for which he has been convicted do not relate to his period of employment with the Council. Michael ‘Mik’ Smith was employed as a youth worker for Pembrokeshire County Council but was dismissed in January, 2012. It is a matter of fact that there were significant failings in the disciplinary standards within the Council’s Education directorate in 2005 when Mr Smith was the subject of various allegations about inappropriate behaviour. A joint investigation by the Council and Dyfed-Powys Police at that time revealed no criminal activity or allegations of abuse. The significant failings in the Council’s disciplinary processes was brought to the Authority’s attention by the national inspectorates in 2011, leading to formal intervention – intervention the Authority has accepted and acted on.”

The council added: “Since that time the Council has completely changed its procedures and management of the Education department and is confident that the failings of nine years ago would not be repeated now.  No manager from the former Education directorate involved in the decision-making in 2005 is currently employed by the Authority. Despite a further joint investigation with police, we have not received any allegations that he abused children while employed as a youth worker.”

However, we urge anyone with any concerns to come forward and contact our duty team on 01437 776444 or the police on101. They can do so in complete confidence and in the full knowledge that these will be robustly investigated. The Tanyard Youth Project, where Mik Smith was a director, distancing itself from him. Speaking last month, Kenwyn Corris Jones, of the Tanyard Youth Project, told The Herald in a statement: “Mik Smith was not a founder member of the Project when it was set up in 1999 [as previously reported]. He became an employee in 2001 and resigned in 2003 to take up other employment. He later became a member of the Trustee Board from 2004 until 2008 when he resigned due to other commitments.

He added: “None of the current staff has ever worked with him, and no complaint relating to his employment or his time on the Trustee Board has ever been made. “Our child protection policies and practice and safeguarding training are robust and in accordance with the Pembrokeshire Safeguarding Children’s Board. “The Tanyard Youth Project is an independent organisation that works with many different partners and funders and is fully committed to providing a high quality service to young people in a safe and welcoming environment.” The Tanyard Youth Project added that they would make no further comment will be made by the Project whilst criminal proceedings are ongoing. Pembrokeshire County Council, who employed Smith until 2012, has written to concerned parents urging them to contact the police if they have concerns. It is understood that Smith had worked at, amongst other locations, the Pupil Referral Unit in Penally.

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Pupils from two Pembrokeshire school’s asked to self-isolate

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FURTHER cases of Covid-19 has been confirmed in Ysgol Harri Tudur/Henry Tudor School (Pembroke) and at Milford Haven School.

As a result, all pupils in Year 11 from Ysgol Harri Tudur and some students from year 7 in Milford Haven have been asked to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days.

Parents of the pupils in those classes have been informed.

Parents and carers do not need to contact the schools to find out if their child has been affected.

Pembrokeshire County Council, Public Health Wales and Hywel Dda University Health Board are working with the school to ensure that all possible precautionary measures are being taken to minimise risk of transmission of the virus.

Parents/guardians have been given the following advice by Hywel Dda University Health Board:

If a child/parent/household member develops symptoms of Covid-19, the entire household should immediately self-isolate, and book a test for the individual with the symptoms. It is unnecessary to test the entire household if they are not symptomatic.

The Covid-19 symptoms are:
● a new continuous cough
● a high temperature
● loss of or change to sense of smell or taste

Booking a Covid-19 test:
Hywel Dda University Health Board recommends testing only for those with a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or loss of or change in the sense of taste or smell.

If a child does not have symptoms of Covid-19 but has other cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, they do not need to be tested and they and you do not need to self-isolate. Your child can go to school if fit to do so.
If a Covid-19 test is required, this should be arranged via the UK Booking Portal, https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-test or by ringing 119. Testing is available within Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire or via a home testing kit delivered to and collected from your home. The Covid-19 test is undertaken via a throat swab or combined throat and nose swab.

 Self-isolation:
It is essential that people who have Covid-19 symptoms, or who share a household with someone who has symptoms, must self-
isolate, even if your symptoms are mild. To protect others, you must not attend school, nursery, other childcare settings, work, or go to or to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

Anyone with symptoms must self-isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started. They can return to school or work after 10 days if they are well enough to do so. A pupil must remain fever free for at least 48 hrs.

Anyone in the household who does not have symptoms must self- isolate for 14 days from when the first person in the home started having symptoms.

If a parent thinks their child has symptoms BUT chooses not to put them through a test all household members must remain in self-isolation for 14 days from the onset of symptoms.

If you receive a positive test result, you will be contacted by the Test, Trace, Protect Team who will advise you further.

Non-household members/contacts:
If a person has been in contact with an individual experiencing symptoms, they should carry on as normal until that individual
receives their test result. If this is positive, the Test, Trace, Protect Team will contact those people identified as contacts and advise accordingly.

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Jessica ready to help in access officer role

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Pembrokeshire County Council has a new Access Officer.

Jessica Hatchett took up the role earlier this month and has always
been passionate about disability equality in Pembrokeshire.

Jessica, from Neyland, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and uses a
wheelchair or a walking frame to get around.

She believes her experiences as a disabled person will give her a
different perspective on the role which aims to build on the Council’s
commitment to making Pembrokeshire an accessible county to all.
A founder member of the Young Voices for Choices youth forum,
Jessica has previously featured on the cover of two access guides, as
well as the cover of a Bus Buddies project leaflet.

And Jessica is hoping to continue the good work of her predecessors,
Trever Owens and Alan Hunt.

Jessica said: “This job is an absolutely fantastic opportunity to help
make Pembrokeshire even better.

“Inclusive, accessible designs don’t just benefit disabled people –
they make life easier for parents with buggies, people with broken
legs or anyone who might not be steady on their feet.

“Simple design changes make a world of difference to someone with
additional needs.”

The Access Officer role involves responding to requests, comments
and concerns on accessibility issues; liaising with community access
groups; ensuring the Authority’s duties and responsibilities with
regard to the Equalities Act (2010) are met; supporting the work of
Pembrokeshire Access Group and giving advice on all access design
issues such as ramps, disabled parking bays, welfare facilities and
much more.

Jessica, a former journalist with the Western Telegraph, added: “I’m
really looking forward to meeting new people and giving them the best
advice that I can – and if I don’t know the answer I will find someone
who does.

“Also, whilst I am going to investigate good practice collaboratively
with other Local Authorities, I am keen for Pembrokeshire to set the
standard for access issues and introduce new and innovative ideas to
improve people’s quality of life.

“I’m also looking forward to doing my first site visit. I know I have an
important job to do and will take it seriously, but I can’t wait to see
what I look like in a high-vis jacket and hard hat!”

To get in touch with Jessica, call 01437 775148 or email
jessica.hatchett@pembrokeshire.gov.uk.

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Pembrokeshire County Council Brexit update

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AS THE Brexit transition period draws to a close in the New Year, Pembrokeshire County Council is working closely with the Welsh Government, the Welsh Local Government Association and other organisations.

The Authority’s aim is to minimise any potential for Brexit to negatively affect Council services and the county’s businesses and residents.

The transition period ends at 11pm on December 31, after which many changes come into effect.

To this end, the Council is publicising a number of websites providing Brexit information. 

They include:

https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support/pembrokeshire-preparing-for-brexit

https://gov.wales/preparing-wales/

https://www.gov.uk/transition

EU and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens who need to apply for Settled Status can find support from Welsh Government and Home Office-funded organisations here: http://www.eusswales.com/en/index.html

Meanwhile, public-facing frontline staff working in support organisations and local authorities throughout Wales are being made aware of the issues involved.

This will enable them to direct EU/EEA nationals and their family members who have queries to the appropriate specialist staff.

For public information on the Settlement Scheme go to: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families

Pembrokeshire County Council also has a generic Brexit enquiry email address at: brexit@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

 

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