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Police and Crime Commissioner wants Penally Asylum Centre closed immediately

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THE POLICE and Crime Commissioner, Mr Dafydd Llywelyn, is today calling for the immediate closure of the asylum accommodation in Penally, Pembrokeshire following a damning inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and the independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI).

As well as a lack of Covid protection, fire safety and living conditions concerns, the inspectors found that managers lacked the experience and skills to run large-scale communal accommodation and the Home Office did not exercise adequate oversight. The report also reveals that many residents at the centre said they had mental health problems.

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn told The Herald in a written statement: “Following this independent report, and its damning verdict, I am calling for the immediate closure of the asylum centre at Penally, Pembrokeshire.

“I have been in continuous condemnation of the Home Office’s decision to use the camp to house asylum seekers since September last year, and my concerns are vindicated following the Independent Inspector’s initial findings that have been published this week.

“I have seen first-hand the difficult circumstances encountered by individuals residing at the centre. In January, I met with David Bolt, the Chief Inspector of Asylum and Immigration, who reassured me at the time that this independent inspection of the Centre would take place.

“I am now pleased that the report findings highlight the concerns and fears that myself and other local stakeholder have raised with the Home Office on several occasions.

“The lack of strategic planning around the use of camp since September 2020, as well as the lack of community engagement has been extremely frustrating. This has led to unnecessary pressure being put on local resources at a time when we are trying to protect our communities from a global pandemic.

“I am now calling on the Home Office to make alternative arrangements and that we see the closure of the Penally Centre once and for all”.

In a statement released on Tuesday (Mar 9) Plaid Cymru also said Penally Camp should be shut down immediately and have asked local MP Simon Hart to resign.

In a statement, the party said Mr Hart, also Welsh Secretary, should ‘consider his position’ due to ‘his failure to resolve conditions in the camp and consult with local people’

The Plaid comments, made by prospective Plaid Cymru candidate in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Cefin Campbell follow a damning report on conditions in the camp by The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, describing it as run-down, impoverished, and filthy.

Cefin Campbell said: “These people should not have been located at Penally in the first place. It was a rush job by the Home Office, which resulted in local alarm and degrading conditions for the camp residents. It also caused conflict outside the camp which was a drain on police resources. By keeping everyone in the dark, the UK Government created a dire situation which caused grief all round.

“It’s quite incredible that local MP Simon Hart, a Minister in the UK Government, was not told of plans to house asylum seekers in his constituency by his own cabinet colleagues. It shows that Wales is treated with contempt by the Tory Government in London.

“Throughout this sorry saga, Mr Hart has failed dismally to cope with the situation in Penally, within and without the camp, both as a local MP and Secretary of State for Wales. Due to his failure to be up-front with his constituents and the obvious contempt towards his post as Secretary of State by the Tory Government, he should seriously consider his position. If he can’t influence events of this magnitude in his own constituency what hope is there of Wales benefitting on a wider scale?”

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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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