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Herald lodges application to overturn reporting restriction at the Court of Appeal



THE PEMBROKESHIRE HERALD has applied to the Court of Appeal to overturn the press gagging order which prevented the defence evidence in the James Oulton case.

Former Haverfordwest primary school teacher James Oulton was cleared of 31 charges of sexual touching of pupils, in a case he described as ‘a witch-hunt’, on May 4.

But the Herald faced criticism that it reported on the prosecution side of the case, but was not able to report on the defence – because a gagging order was made half way through the trial.

Balanced reporting was therefore not legally possible.

The BBC made representations at the time of the press restrictions being imposed, objecting on the grounds of freedom of the press. The Herald sent a barrister to court to object in the strongest terms, but the order was made nevertheless.

More on the hearing at Swansea Crown Court here:

On Friday, May 21 The Pembrokeshire Herald sent counsel to Swansea Crown Court to ask the trial judge to overturn or amend her order, which was still in place after the trial. Her Honour Judge Catherine Richards refused.

This newspaper argues that the judge was wrong in law to make the order, as it represented an “excessive interference with the principle of open justice, and an unwarranted restriction on the newspaper’s right to free expression.”

Editor Tom Sinclair said: “We feel that it is important that all high-profile court cases are covered by the press, and that this reporting should be fair and impartial.

“This means that the newspaper wanted to report on both the prosecution and defence evidence at the James Oulton trial – but we were unable to do so as a press restriction was made halfway through the trial. This meant we could only present the prosecution evidence to our readers.”

“I believe that the order made by the Swansea Crown Court was wrong, and the court could have secured the participation of defence witnesses without a press gagging order.”

“Despite the request for the press restriction coming from Mr Oulton’s own counsel, we feel that this meant that in the eyes of the public the reporting of the case was unfair to him.”

“Although the case is over, with Mr Oulton being acquitted of all charges, it is important that courts and judges know the right way forward for future trials. There are 77 Crown Courts in England and Wales where trials of this type will crop up in the future – because of this we are asking the Royal Court of Appeal in London to decide the matter.”

Herald editor Tom Sinclair said he understands that there are many good reasons why some evidence and some details of some cases are subject to reporting restrictions. “The law makes those circumstances clear”, he said.

He added: “We do not, however, believe that the evidence given in this case met the criteria for such a sweeping restriction.

“That is why we are taking this matter to the Court of Appeal for a definitive ruling on the issues raised by the Judge’s order.

“Court reporting fulfils a vital function. Justice must be seen to be done and reporting what happens in court makes sure it’s seen by as many people as possible.

“Being able to report only one half of proceedings, the unintended effect of HHJ Richards’ ruling, meant we could not do our job of giving our readers the whole story of a difficult and emotionally charged case.
The timing of the Defence’s application meant we had already reported the Prosecution case but were stopped from doing the same for all the evidence given on Mr Oulton’s behalf.

“It’s one thing to ignore an important case, in fact that’s very easy. That’s cowardice. It raises important questions about what else those who fail to report controversy are keeping from the public because they’re afraid to report the whole story.

“When justice takes place behind closed doors, or if it is not reported by the press, it is never seen to be done.

“And that can never be right.”


Milford Haven: Arrest made following violent disorder in Charles Street



POLICE arrested at least one person, and are making further enquiries, following violent disorder in Milford Haven

The incident left one man in hospital with injuries to his head and face.

The incident took place in the early hours of Saturday morning (Sept 18).

Ten police officers attended, and it is understood the police conveyed the injured party, who had been knocked unconscious, to hospital.

We have asked the police for a comment.


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High level of COVID-19 cases is impacting health service provision locally



HYWEL DDA Health Board has said that the high number of COVID-19 cases locally is a concern and is impacting on our public services across the Hywel Dda area. This is despite While the link between coronavirus infections and serious illness is weakening.

Public bodies have been making efforts this week to reassure that multi-agency partners are continually working together across the region to protect our communities, local public services and the NHS.

There have been 300 new coronavirus cases recorded in the Hywel Dda health board area according to the latest figures. Public Health Wales (PHW) data shows there were 199 new cases in Carmarthenshire, 63 in Pembrokeshire and 38 in Ceredigion since the last report.

The total number of cases across the three counties now stands at 26,930 – 16,620 in Carmarthenshire, 6,742 in Pembrokeshire and 3,568 in Ceredigion. One new COVID-19 related death has been recorded in the Hywel Dda area since the last report, with the total reaching 503 throughout the pandemic.

In total 2,618 new cases of coronavirus have been reported across Wales on Friday (Sept 17), bringing the national total to 320,099 cases.

Steve Moore, health board Chief Executive reported that there are 66 people in our hospitals with confirmed COVID, ten of these are in Intensive Care. He stated that about half of those in ICU have been vaccinated and added that the clinical view is that patients respond more quickly and favourably if they are vaccinated. All COVID deaths in the past few weeks have been of unvaccinated people.

Infection rates are coming down slightly but are still very high, with 506 cases per 100,000 people in Carmarthenshire (the 2nd highest level in Wales) and 293 cases per 100,000 in Pembrokeshire. There is a test positivity rate of 16% across the HB area. It is thought that cases peaked on 6th September, though the full impact of schools going back may not yet have been seen.

Hywel Dda University Health Board, Public Health Wales and Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire local authorities together regularly monitor, review and agree actions needed to respond and manage the ongoing pandemic. This is co-ordinated through the Hywel Dda Regional Incident Management Team, established at the beginning of the pandemic, and continues to be further supported by county specific teams.

The Health Board put out a statement on Friday (Sept 17), saying: “Communicating regularly with our public across the region has been a key focus in our response to the pandemic. Currently, this has involved Community Development Outreach workers engaging with minority ethnic groups within the community”; and supporting youth services and groups in messaging to young people about how to keep safe and encourage vaccination.

“Local public sector leaders have come together to acknowledge the sacrifices people have made to keep our communities safe and to appeal to the public for support during the coming days and weeks.

Maria Battle, Chair of Hywel Dda UHB, continued: “The future does bring a degree of uncertainty, such as the roll out of the flu vaccine alongside COVID-19 booster jabs. What is certain however is the commitment of the health board and our partners to be as prepared as possible. The health board’s comprehensive recovery plan outlines, first and foremost, how we recover from the pandemic: how we support our staff to recover after what has been an exhausting year and a half, and how we lay the foundations to recover our services and support our communities.”

Temporary Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, Claire Parmenter, said: “With the uncertainties we face locally at the moment, we want everyone living, working and visiting this area to keep each other as safe as possible, so please remember the protective behaviours that will help ensure this for us all.

“We want it to be as easy as possible for people to get in touch when they need us. So save your time and report online – as you can now report non-emergency crimes and incidents online quickly and easily on our website

“This includes reports of domestic abuse, crimes, antisocial behaviour, road traffic incidents and collisions, and more. The online reporting isn’t replacing 101. But it’s important to promote the availability of our online services to those who would prefer to use this option, and it does mean we can answer calls from those who cannot contact us online quicker.

“We continue to work with our partners in a coordinated approach to serve in the best interests of our communities at this challenging time.”

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “Carmarthenshire currently has a very high number of COVID-19 cases and is one of the worst affected areas of Wales at the moment. This is putting huge pressure on our services and the NHS.

“This virus does not discriminate – it is affecting people young and old. I would appeal to anyone who has not yet had the vaccine to go and get it as soon as possible. We should also remain vigilant when socialising and follow the measures in place to protect us.”

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council, said “Although Wales is now in Alert Level 0, COVID-19 is still spreading in our communities. We must all continue to consider how we keep each other safe and reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. It remains good practice to maintain social distancing and to limit our contacts as much as possible.

“We urge all Ceredigion residents aged 16 and above to ensure that they take up the offer of both doses of the COVID-19 vaccination. It’s easy to go and get the vaccine with walk-in clinics available. Having both doses will not only protect you, but also your family, friends and colleagues. We also look forward to 12-15 year-olds becoming protected through vaccination.”

David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “It has been easy to think we are through the worst of this pandemic, but the recent weeks have been a reminder how we must all continue to tackle this issue collectively. These past 18 months have been very tough and lockdown restrictions have changed our lives.

“In the past few weeks we have experienced a high volume of visitors to the county which can at times add additional pressures on our services.

“I cannot emphasise enough that this pandemic has not ended. Covid-19 has not gone away and we must all continue to work together and redouble our efforts, particularly as we head into autumn and winter.

“Please continue to socially distance where possible, wear face coverings where required, continue regular handwashing and choose outdoor activities or meet people outdoors over indoors.

“If you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested. Don’t risk spreading this virus. These are simple actions that we can all take to help. They really do make a difference.

“Our front-line teams are working hard to support our communities and ensure we deliver key services. I would ask for your support to help us to keep Pembrokeshire open and welcoming to all.”

Over half a million doses of vaccine have been delivered in total with 91% of the eligible population having had at least a single dose.

A 3rd dose is soon to be offered to a well-defined group of immunocompromised people. The single dose vaccine for 12-15 year olds will be given out at Mass Vaccination Centres (MVCs) during evenings and weekends starting in early October.

From 27th September booster doses will be given with GPs delivering them to care homes, and the MVCs will be used for everyone else. GPs will be concentrating on administering flu vaccines.

Cases of RSV which can be serious in children under 5 are expected to peak in late October/early November and the HB has been asked to prepare for a 50% increase in cases.

What local Heath Board is doing?

Vaccination – Hywel Dda University Health Board, Public Health Wales and Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire local authorities together regularly monitor, review and agree actions needed to respond and manage the ongoing pandemic. This is co-ordinated through the Hywel Dda Regional Incident Management Team, established at the beginning of the pandemic, and continues to be further supported by county specific teams.

Health care – Board says it has taken steps to ensure it can care for those most critically ill in our hospitals by postponing some operations temporarily and realigning our workforce; has further limited visiting in areas affected by COVID-19.

Supporting communities – through the local county incident management teams (IMTs), local authorities are providing guidance and support to schools following the recent return of pupils.

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NHS Covid Pass to enter large scale events and nightclubs to be introduced



Next month, people in Wales will need to show an NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs and attend events.

The move has just been announced by the first minister today (Friday 17th September).

According to the government, the measure is being introduced to control the spread of Covid in Wales, where cases are now at an all-time high.

Despite the increase in cases, the alert level will remain at zero for the next three weeks, and no new restrictions beyond passes will be introduced.

The First Minister is urging everyone to work from home whenever possible and to get fully vaccinated.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Across Wales, coronavirus cases have risen to very high levels over the summer as more people have been gathering and meeting.

“Tragically, more people are dying from this terrible virus.

“The very strong advice we have from our scientific advisers is to take early action to prevent infections increasing further.

“The last thing we want is further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again. That’s why we must take small but meaningful action now to control the spread of the virus and reduce the need for tougher measures later.”

On October 11, the NHS Covid Pass requirement takes effect.

All people over the age of 18 will need to have a pass to enter:

  • Nightclubs
  • Indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions
  • Outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people
  • Any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance

It means concerts and large scale sports events will now require the passes.

People who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS Covid Pass to securely show and share their vaccine status.

It also allows people to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

Mr Drakeford continued: “My message to you today is a simple but serious one – the pandemic is not over and we all need to take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

“We have high levels of the virus in our communities and while our fantastic vaccination programme has helped stop thousands more people from becoming seriously ill or dying, the pressure on the NHS is increasing.

“We hope introducing the requirement to show a COVID pass will help keep venues and events – many of which have only recently started trading again – open.

“Showing a COVID Pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open with some major events, such as the successful Green Man Festival, using it.

“We will continue to work closely with all businesses affected to ensure a smooth introduction and operation of this system.”

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