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Crime

The Bank Holiday plea as emergency worker assaults continue to rise

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EMERGENCY workers in Wales are reminding the public to treat them with respect in the face of a continued rise in assaults.

The monthly average of emergency worker assaults has increased from 203 in 2019, to 226 in 2020, to 237 in 2021, representing a year-on-year increase of 4.9 per cent.

More than 1,440 assaults were committed in the six-month period 01 July 2021 to 31 December 2021, new figures have revealed.

The top five most common types of assault were kicking, spitting, verbal abuse, punching and shoving.

Among the victims is Joanna Paskell, a paramedic in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, who was assaulted last May by a patient at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales.

Joanna, an ambulance worker of 25 years, was subsequently left with panic attacks.

The mother-of-four recalls: “It was while we were trying to move the patient from the trolley to a bed that she lashed out and punched me straight in the chest.

“I was stunned as it was completely out of the blue, and there had been no indication that she was going to get aggressive.

“Although shaken, I thought nothing of it at the time, just taking painkillers for the pain.

“It was only as I was getting ready for my next shift that realisation dawned, and I actually had a panic attack.

“I subsequently had to take time off work.

“It took a lot for me to come back, and even now, I’m very cautious around patients.”

Meanwhile, Andy Davies, a paramedic in Llangefni, Anglesey, was left with a dislocated shoulder when he was assaulted by a patient last June.

Andy recalls: “The patient was becoming verbally aggressive to the point where we actually called for police back-up.

“As I tried to assess him, he threw me to the floor, partially dislocating my left shoulder.

“I had to have six weeks of physiotherapy afterwards to help me recover from the injury.

“I’m ex-military police so I’m quite good at compartmentalising these things, but it doesn’t mean to say we should accept it.”

Ahead of the extended Bank Holiday weekend, when assaults will typically spike, emergency workers are appealing to the public to treat them with respect.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “The last couple of years have been a fraught time for all of us, but that’s no excuse to assault an emergency worker, who are people, just like you and I.

“With a Bank Holiday weekend comes lots of people enjoying the revelry, and with alcohol consumption usually comes an increase in assaults.

“There were 80 verbal attacks alone on our ambulance control room staff in the second half of last year.

“We know it’s distressing when you’re waiting for help, but abusing our call handlers is not the answer – if anything, it could potentially delay help.

“On the road meanwhile, crews might have no choice but to leave a scene if their safety is compromised, and that’s not helpful for anyone, especially the patient.

“The debt of gratitude we owe to our emergency workers has never been greater, so please treat them with respect.”

In the six-month reporting period, almost half of emergency worker assaults took place in South East Wales; Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend were the most prolific local authority areas.

For 2021 as a whole, Denbighshire in North Wales had the highest rate of emergency worker assaults at 1.24 per 1,000 population.

Offenders aged 26-35 account for the highest portion of offending (21.9 per cent), and alcohol intoxication continues to apply to a third of incidents.

Twenty three incidents involved the use or threat of use of a weapon, eight of which caused injury to the victim.

 Assaults on police account for more than two thirds of the total number; there were an average 165 victims each month in 2021, up from 152 in 2020.

Pam Kelly, Chief Constable at Gwent Police, said: “Every day, our officers are working to protect and serve local residents and businesses.   

“Being a victim of hate crime or being assaulted on duty is not acceptable for members of our own community as they go about their job.

“We already ask a lot of our officers and staff in the course of their working day as they often deal with situations most of us hope never to encounter. 

“Working where the threat of verbal or physical assault is an increasing possibility makes the role even more challenging. 

“We work hard to support any officer who has faced this situation and we will take firm action against those individuals who cause them harm.”

Carl Foulkes, Chief Constable at North Wales Police, added: “Every single day our officers, staff and volunteers are often dealing with very difficult and challenging situations, putting themselves in harm’s way to uphold the law and protect the public.

“They must be able to carry out their duties as safely as possible.

“Being assaulted is not and should never be regarded as ‘part of the job’.

“Assault is a traumatic offence that causes great distress to anyone, and it is no different when the victim is an emergency worker.

“It is wholly unacceptable for them to be threatened, attacked, verbally abused or spat at – and those responsible should face the full force of the law.

“Assaults stay with the victims for the rest of their careers, and none of my officers and staff should have to go to work serving the public and be afraid of being assaulted.

“With the busy summer season almost upon us, please respect and protect our emergency workers.”

May 2021 saw the highest volume of emergency worker assaults with 294, rising as Covid-19 restrictions were eased across Wales.

More than 100 instances are known to be Covid-19-related, for example, where an assault occurred during police attendance for a breach of regulations.

Under the Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, the definition of an emergency worker includes police, fire and ambulance staff, as well as prison staff and NHS workers.

Judith Paget, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, said: “Emergency workers provide life-saving and life-changing care every day in often difficult circumstances and deserve to be treated with respect.

“Any form of attack on emergency workers is completely unacceptable and can have a significant impact on someone’s mental health and wellbeing.

“During the pandemic emergency workers worked tirelessly on the frontline to keep Wales safe and now they deserve to feel safe and appreciated for the great work they do.

“We must all work together to reduce their risk of being exposed to violence.”

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the With Us, Not Against Us campaign, created by the Joint Emergency Service Group in Wales to try and reduce the number of assaults on emergency workers.

You can pledge your support on social media using the hashtag #WithUsNotAgainstUs or #GydaNiNidYnEinHerbyn.

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Crime

Solva couple fined nearly £5,000 for unlicensed hydroelectric power scheme

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A COUPLE from Pembrokeshire, Carl Platel and Helen Platel, have been ordered to pay a combined total of almost £5,000 after diverting water from rivers to operate their unlicensed hydroelectric turbine. The Platel couple set up the hydroelectric generation scheme on their land near Bridgend, extracting water from three sources at Gilfach Orfydd and the Cwm Dimbath.

Prosecutor Jon Tarrant revealed in court that one of the water sources was aided by a homemade weir constructed from stone and waterproof tarpaulin, which raised the water level to facilitate extraction. However, such activities require a license from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), costing £375, to protect the environment and ensure the safety and viability of the hydropower scheme.

The defendants’ scheme came to the attention of NRW in 2009, leading to a warning issued in August of that year. Despite this, in 2016, an application for a license was submitted. When NRW visited the site again and discovered the turbine operating, the defendants were reminded that it should not be in operation until the application was approved. Ultimately, the application was withdrawn in August 2016.

Subsequent visits by NRW in 2017 confirmed that the turbine was still operational. During the following three visits, spanning from 2017 to August 2018, the turbine remained unused. At that time, NRW informed the defendants that they would not face legal action for the historical breaches but warned that future operation without the relevant license would result in prosecution.

In 2020, NRW visited the farm once more. Although access to the building was not possible, the audible operation of the turbine indicated that it was still active. When NRW returned on October 22 of the same year, the turbine was found to be operational once again.

Prosecutor Jon Tarrant emphasized the importance of regulating such activities, stating, “There are reasons why this is a regulated activity. The parties were aware of the requirement for a license from the outset. It’s not accepted that this was in operation for purely altruistic reasons. There was a benefit.”

While it was agreed by both parties that no environmental damage had occurred, defense lawyer Christian Jowett argued that the defendants had not financially benefited from the hydropower scheme except for the £375 license fee. Jowett highlighted that the defendants had pleaded guilty to the offenses in September 2021 at Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court, but the proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) had caused significant costs and stress over the past 18 months, amounting to £61,000 in legal fees.

Jowett acknowledged the history of warnings and stated that the couple’s motivation was centered around sustainable generation. He read a statement from Mr. Platel expressing deep regret and acknowledging that their passion for the scheme had blinded them to the necessity of obtaining a license.

One of the hydroelectric power schemes is now fully licensed, while the other is awaiting approval of its license, Mr. Jowett informed the court.

During the POCA proceedings, NRW initially sought a benefit figure of £102,000 but later reduced it to £90,000, including the cost of the license fee.

For the offense of abstracting water without a license between September 10, 2019, and October 22, 2020, the defendants were each fined £200. No additional penalty was imposed for causing or permitting the obstruction or impediment of inland waters without the required license during the same period.

Recorder Richard Kember ordered each defendant to pay £2,250 in costs, in addition to a £32 surcharge.

The case serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to licensing requirements and regulations surrounding sustainable energy projects, ensuring the protection of the environment and the safety of such initiatives.

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Crime

Pembrokeshire radio presenter sent to prison for inciting racial hatred

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A PEMBROKESHIRE man found guilty of 10 counts of inciting racial hatred has today, May 15, been sent to prison.

James Barnaby Allchurch, 51, denied 15 counts of distributing a recording stirring up racial hatred.

Following a trial at Swansea Crown Court, a jury found him guilty of 10 counts and not guilty of five.

Allchurch uploaded podcasts his website called Radio Aryan, which has since been changed to Radio Albion.

The content contained racial and anti-semitic content.

During sentencing, His Honor Judge Huw Rees said: “You were responsible for the creation of a number of audio files containing racist and anti-semetic views which were open to the public.

“During the trial and the playing of the podcasts, it was apparent that they were insulting and abusive and that your sole purpose was to stir up racial hatred.

“The content was vile, listening to them was a disturbing experience.

“It beggars belief that someone would want to speak these words at all let alone distribute them.

“Your offending amounts to a stain on humanity and to our fellow human beings.”

Judge Rees warned Allchurch he was originally looking at a sentence of three years and six months per count, but took into consideration the mitigating circumstance of health conditions and lack of previous experience of custody.

For each of the counts, Allchurch was sentenced to two years, six months.

The sentences will run concurrently.

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Crime

Two youths arrested following incident at Morrisons in Haverfordwest

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POLICE in Haverfordwest are investigating an incident which occurred at Morrisons Store in Haverfordwest at about 7.30pm Wednesday (May 10)

One youth has been arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal damage and one youth has been arrested on suspicion of assault and going equipped for theft.

They currently remain in police custody.

One person sustained what are believed to be minor injuries which did not require hospital treatment.

The police have asked that anyone who witnessed the incident or anyone who may have information which could help the investigation is asked to contact police.

Police would also like to speak to anyone who may have filmed the incident at the store on their mobile phone.

PC Reece Wale said “We understand that a man in his 40s and driving a Volkswagen Passat may have filmed the incident on his mobile phone. We would be grateful if he could contact the police as soon as possible.”

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20230510-414. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111.

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