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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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Return of Walk and Talk group for Dementia Action Week

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE Walk and Talk Group will make its return next week, coinciding with Dementia Action Week which runs from May 17-24.

Several events are being held across Pembrokeshire and the UK and PAVS has announced two Walk and Talk sessions.

One will be held in the South of the County in Begelly on Wednesday, May 19, and one in the North of the County in Newport on Thursday, May 20.

Walk and Talk is a dementia supportive group. The group provides the opportunity to socialise, improve your physical and mental wellbeing and at the same time enjoy the wonderful Pembrokeshire scenery. There will be walk and talk groups every week starting from next week.

Places are limited and will be on a first come first served basis,  to book a place on these walks please contact Cherry Evans on 07849 086009 or email cherry.evans@pavs.org.uk

Dementia Action Week aims to promote and make people aware that with the right support, people living with dementia can live a good quality of life doing what matters most to them for as long as possible.

One in fourteen people over the age of 65 are living with Dementia and approximately 42,000 people in Wales have Dementia. 65% of people living with dementia are women and 35% men

The covid-19 pandemic meant that many groups and clubs had to shut down and that has made things difficult for those people living with dementia.

People were left isolated and feeling lonely but thanks to modern technology they have been able to keep many in contact with those groups and their loved ones.

Throughout Dementia Action Week there will be daily interviews on the radio station Pure West Radio with lots of information about the activities and points of reference for support across Pembrokeshire.

These daily interviews will cover everything from diagnosing dementia, support, carers perspectives and even the power of music. You can listen to these each day at 11.15am Monday to Friday and at 2.15pm on Saturday and Sunday

If you fancy trying out a ‘tea and natter’ session on Zoom on Tuesday, May 18, at 2.30pm please contact Cherry Evans on 07849 086009 or email cherry.evans@pavs.org.uk

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Cllr Mike James is new Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has a new Chairman.

Cllr Mike James became Chairman at the virtual Annual Meeting of Council today (Friday, May 14) following an extended period as Vice Chairman due to the Covid-19 situation.

Cllr James, who represents St Dogmaels, moves into the Chairman’s seat vacated by Cllr Simon Hancock.

Cllr Pat Davies was appointed Vice-Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council.

At the same meeting Cllr Hancock was appointed Presiding Member for the coming year.

Cllr James joined Pembrokeshire County Council in 2010 and has previously served as Chairman of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Chairman of National Park Wales.

Cllr James said: “I feel very privileged to be appointed Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council.

“I always try to achieve the best in my life and this is right up there at the top.

“I hope I can achieve the high standard set by Councillors who have been Chairman before me. Councillor Simon Hancock most certainly accomplished that standard.”

Cllr James is married to Sian and they have two daughters, Fern James and Rhiannon Lloyd.

Born and bred in St Dogmaels, Cllr James attended Ysgol Llandudoch and Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi.

He worked for 32 years at Slimma/Dewhirst Cardigan and for four years as an LSA in Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn.

Cllr James has also served as Clerk to St Dogmaels Community Council, as the Carers Champion for Pembrokeshire County Council and as a representative on numerous other committees and sub-committees.

A member of Cardigan Rugby Club Male Voice Choir, Cllr James also sits on the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel.

Cllr James added: “The last 14 months have not been easy for many people. I hope there is a light at the end of a long tunnel where we can meet and speak to loved ones again.

“I am a people’s person and I hope, if I am allowed, to have the opportunity to meet and talk to as many residents in Pembrokeshire as possible.”

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New international travel rules for Wales confirmed by First Minister

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International travel will restart for people in Wales from Monday 17 May, the Welsh Government has confirmed today.

As part of changes to Wales’ coronavirus regulations, people living in Wales will be able to travel to some overseas destinations without the need to quarantine on their return.

But additional safeguards will be put in place to help prevent new cases of coronavirus being imported into Wales.

A traffic lights system, aligned with England and Scotland, will be introduced. Countries will be classified as green, amber and red, depending on their rates of coronavirus.

Mandatory quarantine is in place for all people returning to the UK from countries on the amber and red lists. All people returning from overseas travel must have a PCR test.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

 “Wales, like other parts of the UK, will be restarting international travel. But protecting people’s health continues to be our top priority and we want to do everything we can to prevent coronavirus from being re-imported into Wales.

 “This will not be like travel in the past. Everyone travelling abroad will have to have a test when they come home and for many people, they will need to quarantine when they get home. There are significant fines in place for those who do not follow the legal requirements.

“Some countries are not yet opening up travel to people from the UK. It’s my strong advice that this is the year to stay at home and enjoy all that Wales has to offer.”

Under the international travel rules:

• People arriving from green-list countries are not required to quarantine on their return to Wales, but they must book and pay for a mandatory PCR test on or before day two of their return. All travellers and members of their household will also be reminded about the availability of additional lateral flow tests to continue to monitor their health.

• People arriving from amber-list countries are required to quarantine for 10 days at home on their return. This is a legal requirement. They are also required to book and pay for mandatory PCR tests on day two and on day eight. Unlike in England, Wales does not operate a test-to-release scheme where an additional test can be taken on day five to reduce the period of quarantine. This is because some 30% of people who develop Covid-19 do so after day five.

• People arriving from countries on the red list are required to quarantine for a full 10 days on arrival in the UK at a designated UK port in a government-managed facility – a ‘covid hotel’ – at their own cost, starting from £1,750 per person. All UK entry points for arrivals from red-list countries are in England and Scotland, which means Welsh residents returning from those countries will need to quarantine outside Wales. Travellers are also required to book and pay for mandatory PCR tests on day two and day eight.

All those who do not follow the rules for red-list countries face fixed notice penalties of £10,000.

Welsh residents must also consult the requirements for visitors for any country they plan to travel to. Restrictions may be in place, including proof of vaccination, tests, quarantine and reasons for entry.

Vaccination status certificates will be available for people in Wales who have had two doses of their vaccination and need to urgently travel to a country that requires covid vaccination proof from Monday 24 May.

The First Minister added:

“We call on people to think about whether they need to travel overseas at this time. We should be cautious about going abroad in light of the ongoing risk of coronavirus and the presence of variants of concern in many countries.

“My clear message to everyone is make Wales your destination of choice this year.”

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