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Press gagging order granted in James Oulton case by Crown Court judge

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THE CROWN COURT judge presiding over the James Oulton trial has issued a reporting restriction to the press, which local media says is a “draconian” measure which will hamper the reporting of the child abuse case.

In total, 11 ex-pupils, who were under 13, have accused Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

He denies 30 charges at Swansea Crown Court, relating to his time at a primary school in Haverfordwest, between 2012 and 2018.

Her Honour Judge C Richards sitting at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (Apr 19) granted an application for a media gagging order made by Oulton’s defence barrister Christopher Clee QC.

The BBC and The Pembrokeshire Herald opposed the order in court, with the Herald saying it will try to overturn the order at the Court of Appeal.

Judge C Richards said that whilst the Pembrokeshire Herald “rightfully and properly reported on the case”, public comments, which have now been restricted, had “been of concern”.

The application was to restrict the reporting of the names of eight adult defence witnesses, or any matter likely to lead members of the public to identify who the witnesses are.

However, the ‘likely to lead’ phrase means, because of possible jigsaw identification of witnesses, likely none of the defence evidence in the case could be reported by the press without publishers running the risk of breaching the order.

Judge C Richards first read legal submissions from the legal team at the BBC.

Barrister for Herald News (UK) Ltd, Matthew Graham Paul, made submissions orally on behalf of this newspaper.

He told the court: “The imposing of reporting restrictions under S.46 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 should be approached with caution.

“The order sought by my learned friend would not merely postpone the reporting of this case, it would, in effect, prohibit any significant reporting of the majority of the defence case altogether.

“The freedom of the press is an absolute fundamental part of court proceedings, and Article 10 rights, necessary in a democratic society.

“The court should exhaust every other remedy before making an order effectively harming the reporting of the case.”

Matthew Paul explained that whilst he understood that there were concerns over Facebook comments written by members of the public on news reports on the Pembrokeshire Herald’s Facebook page, this matter had been resolved by banning commenting all together – something which Facebook has started to allow on specific posts since April 1, 2021.

Matthew Paul explained to the court that Press restriction orders under Section (4)2 The Contempt of Court Act 1981 were rare, “and required a high level of evidence before they were granted”.

“This is not the case for orders made under S.46 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999” he said, but argued that applications under both pieces of legislation “should be treated in the same way.”

He said: “The court has an enormous arsenal of sanctions to deploy against anyone violating the Contempt of Court Act”

Calling the application by the defence “draconian”, he added “the court has got several ways of putting witnesses at ease, aside from reporting restrictions.

“Prohibiting a free press on a trial which is of significant interest in my submission is wrong. It is improper for the court to make this s.46 order.”

The judge noted that there had been, in her opinion, an increase in reluctance for witnesses to give evidence since the case had attracted so much publicity.

Judge C Richards said: “I have not read them myself, but I was made aware of public comments on the Herald Facebook page, and that they had caused a bit of a stir in Pembrokeshire.

“It was not anything that I needed to concern the jury about, and I noted that the comment section was promptly restricted.”

When making her order, the judge said: “Continued reporting could mean the quality of evidence given by witnesses could be diminished.

“I am satisfied that a reporting direction is necessary under section 46 and am satisfied that this is in the interests of justice.”

It was also stressed that the reporting restriction does not only cover the press, but also covers members of the public, who could now be breaking the law if they name defence witnesses on social media platforms.

Testimony from the 11 child witnesses for the prosecution can still be reported, but the alleged victims cannot be named.

Business

Boost for town: Local celebrity Matt Baker to take on the Castle Hotel

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A WELL known local musician and radio DJ is to take on a landmark business in Haverfordwest. The nine bedroom Castle Hotel is probably one of Pembrokeshire’s best known venues – but Matt Baker says it is now under new management.

Matt Baker is not doing things slowly, with a planned opening of the premises on May 28 promising live music, good food and a relaxing atmosphere for all ages. For what is sure to be a positive piece of news for Haverfordwest’s ailing town centre, he is currently advertising for staff, thus creating jobs.

Matt, who previously ran The Tiddly, made his announcement on his Facebook page this morning (May 16), with hundreds of people liking the post and many more wishing him well with his new venture.

Matt Baker is a DJ for Pure West Radio based in Haverfordwest (Pic: M Baker/Facebook)

He wrote: “Well folks I got some exciting news.

“As most of you know cruise ships have been a big part of my life, 16 years on and off.

“In between that I did open my own pub here in Pembrokeshire call The Tiddly and worked me bottom off to provide a great place for people to come and switch off with live music every night.

“That unfortunately had to come to an end and I have missed it very much.
Well, seeing as I can’t go back to ships at the moment I’ve decided to take on an adventure I
“I’ve always dreamed one day I would own and that is a Hotel.

“It’s not just any Hotel, but one full of amazing history right here in the heart of Pembrokeshire and right in the Center of Haverfordwest.

“Everyone said when I was at The Tiddly “we love it here but we wish you were in town” as The Tiddly was 3 miles outside of Haverfordwest.

The Castle Hotel is steeped in history, and is a Grade II listed building. The Boxing Day Hunt, with riders, horses and hounds late 19th century. (Pic DA Images)

“I’m super excited to start a new chapter in my life and with the support of the people of Pembrokeshire and beyond and I’m hoping it will be life long.

“The Hotel has nine beautiful rooms on suite and a lovely restaurant area and a lounge/bar which I’m planning to have all up and running very soon, all been refurbished by the way.
We still are In uncertain times but I’m hoping we are at the back end and can enjoy each other’s company like before and socialise.

“I’m bringing back live music, good food and drink, and a place to come and switch off for all age groups with a comfortable and enjoyable environment.

“I’m planning for the 28th of May to be open, that’s in just under 2 weeks, but if you know me, you know I like a challenge.

“Please come support and follow all guidelines for now as we move forward in these new times.

“I will look forward to welcoming you to The Castle Hotel with open arms and let’s make more great memories together.

“See you soon Pembrokeshire and beyond!”

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‘Reach out to friends and family’ says Council Leader

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THIS week’s update from Cllr David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council:

‘Hello everyone, I hope you are all keeping well and safe.

‘I’d like to highlight that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

‘I’m very aware that the last 15 months has had a huge impact on our lives and, in some cases, our wellbeing.

‘Mental Health can be a hidden issue and we all need to be aware that some people may need some extra support.

‘On a personal level the lockdown restrictions have reminded me of the importance to talk to people and to ensure people are supported.

‘Supporting your friends and family can be as simple as a phone call to say hello. A quick hello can ensure people are ok and managing and can give someone a huge uplift.

“Our communities have done a fantastic job of supporting each other so please, Team Pembrokeshire, continue these efforts.

‘I urge you all to pick up the phone and say hello to your friends and family, as we all need to play our role in everyone’s wellbeing – talking about issues does make a difference.

‘If you are suffering from Mental Health or general wellbeing issues please reach out, do not struggle on your own, your friends and family can help and make a difference.

‘Please also take the opportunity to also view the website at https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week which has much more information and support.

‘I now want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in last week’s elections.

‘Elections take a phenomenal amount of organisation at the best of times but even more so in a pandemic situation.

‘To all those who ensured the smooth running of the elections process, thank you.

‘Congratulations to all the successful candidates and I look forward to working with them to further improve the lives of Pembrokeshire people.

‘We have now had further updates from Welsh Government and the next phase of the unlocking road map has been unveiled.

‘From Monday, 17th May, indoor hospitality can re-open.

‘Up to six people from six different households will be able to meet indoors in pubs, cafes and restaurants.

‘We have so many fantastic hospitality venues in Pembrokeshire who we know will be giving their customers a big welcome after so long away.

‘The opening of indoor hospitality will be a major landmark in our emergence from the pandemic and towards recovery.

‘While out and about please remember social distancing rules are still in pace, consider your actions on others, remember your footprint has an impact on our communities, so please tread lightly.

‘When you go home, leave with a smile – enjoy your days out, enjoy seeing your families and most importantly enjoy our beautiful county and please support us in keeping Pembrokeshire special – play your part and please be responsible.

‘I want to wish you all a lovely weekend and I look forward to talking to you all again next week through my update.

‘Thank you everyone.’

You can keep up to date with all the Council’s press releases here: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom

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Plan to rescue rare butterfly from extinction in Pembrokeshire

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE Coast National Park Authority is stepping up efforts to save the marsh fritillary butterfly, which was once widespread in Wales but is now close to extinction in Pembrokeshire.

Funded by the Pembrokeshire Nature Partnership, the new landscape scale strategy aims to improve the fortunes of the rare species, which relies on networks of flower rich marshy grasslands across the landscape.

Much of this habitat, which is home to the favourite food of its larva – the devil’s bit scabious (succisa pratensis), has been lost due to drainage, inappropriate tree planting and the neglect of traditional management of grasslands through light grazing with heavy animals such as cattle.

National Park AuthorityBiodiversity Officer, Sarah Mellor said: “The marsh fritillary in Pembrokeshire is now in a very precarious position. We think it has already become extinct in a number of areas in its former range and it has not been seen on the St Davids Peninsula since 2013. The population around Keeston and Tiers Cross is also now thought to be extinct.

“We must find a way to make space for wildlife in our landscape to ensure that nature can thrive for future generations. It is quite sobering to think this species could disappear from Pembrokeshire in my lifetime. We have a responsibility not to let this happen on our watch.

“Even in those areas where it remains we have seen dramatic declines, for example around Mychanchlogddu it used to be recorded from 32 sites, but since 2015 it has only been seen at seven sites.”

The National Park Authority has already stepped up its action to rescue the rare butterfly by assisting landowners to bring sites into suitable management through grant aid and providing suitable grazing animals through the Pembrokeshire Grazing Network and the Conserving the Park Scheme.

The new strategy will include mobilising Park Authority staff and volunteers to undertake targeted surveys at sites across the county, as well as helping landowners to manage their land in a sensitive way to help ensure the future of this rare butterfly.

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