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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.

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Former Cardigan Castle director sentencing delayed

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THE SENTENCING of a former director of Cardigan Castle who has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft totalling over £40,000 has been delayed.

Former director, Jac Davies, pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft was due to be sentenced on Wednesday (May 4) at Swansea Crown Court – but has now been delayed.

Davies who held the £40,000 a year post fraudulently obtained £33,098.75 and stole a further £7,932.97 from the award winning restoration project..

Davies held his position at Cardigan Castle from September 2017 to November 2019.

The defendant has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining £4,143.20 from the castle on December 21, 2017.

Again Davies admitted to fraudulently obtaining £28,955.55 between February 4, 2019 and November 3, 2019.

Two further charges of theft were also admitted – one charge of  theft from the castle of £1,908.18 between May 2, 2018 and May 24, 2019 and a further charge of theft from Cardigan Castle Enterprises to the sum of £6,024.79.

Dyfed-Powys Police conducted a year long investigation after being contacted by the castle board of directors.

Financial discrepancies were identified during financial monitoring.

An internal investigation was launched and Davies left his position within the castle in October 2019 following a disciplinary process.

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Dyfed-Powys Police criticised for failing to record thousands of crimes

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A SHOCKING new report says that Dyfed-Powys Police failed to record thousands of crimes, despite being told to improve two-and-a-half years ago.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found the force had documented just 87.6% of reported crime – meaning upto 4,400 crimes are not recorded each year.

The report highlighted that of violent crimes, 85.4% were registered, which means about 2,400 went unrecorded, some involving domestic abuse or the vulnerable.

The force said it had “plans in place to improve its crime recording.”

HMIC reached their conclusion by comparing the number of reports to the police with recorded numbers. About 35,900 were reported.

In 2018, HMIC found that our local force was too often not recording crimes. And in 2014 it was reported the force was one of the worst in the UK at recording crimes. 

Dyfed-Powys Police T/Chief Constable, Claire Parmenter was quick to respond to the shocking finding. In a statement emailed to The Herald she said: “We accept the concerns and recommendations published by HMICFRS in respect of crime data integrity. As an organisation, we are firmly committed to supporting victims and putting them at the heart of everything we do. The force has plans in place to improve its crime recording and I am determined we will get this right.

“Since the previous HMICFRS inspection in 2018 we have made significant improvements in our response to Domestic Abuse victims, creating the vulnerability desk which provides real time intelligence to officers attending incidents of Domestic Abuse and ensuring that safeguarding arrangements are in place through a new partnership hub. Recent audits in April evidenced we were achieving a 98% compliance for the completion of risk assessments. This ensures that every Domestic Abuse victim is looked after and kept safe.

“We have a programme of change already in place which will deliver significant process and cultural change. The elements of this programme will improve the forces’ ability to manage demand, support victims, improve the timeliness and quality of investigations and supervision of crime. HMICFRS were unable to take this project into account as part of this inspection. Delivery plans commence next month (June 2021).

“Since the date of this inspection, we are already seeing improvements as a result of the swift additional action we have taken, achieving 100% crime recording compliance in respect of anti-social behaviour for February and March 2021 which is positive.”

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Firefighters extinguish blaze at St Catherine’s Fort, Tenby

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A CONTROLLED wood fire earlier in the day caused a fire to break out on Tenby’s St Catherine’s Island on Thursday (May 6).

Heat that was caused by a wood fire earlier in the day caused a ignition on the unburned wood nearby that was needed to be extinguished by Tenby fire crew.

Taking to their Facebook page, St Catherine’s island thanked Tenby Fire Brigade for their assistance.

No serious damage was caused by the incident.

The spokesperson said: “A massive shout out to Tenby Fire Brigade last night who were called to the Island last night after we left following a long day working on the Fort and burning off all the old flooring, having now replaced it all. 

“We had spent at least half an hour making sure that our controlled barrel fire was out. Unfortunately the ground was so hot it transferred to the rest of the unburned wood. 

“Thanks to our amazing local Fire Service, they were on hand to help us out and no damage occurred.”

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