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Headteacher warns of dangers of legal highs



PEMBS.TV have released a film on the rising phenomenon of the use and abuse of so called, ‘legal highs’. As a pre-curser to what will be an enlightening and in-depth TV report, The Herald can reveal some alarming facts about these seemingly ‘legal’ drugs and has an exclusive interview with a secondary school head teacher who has sent out a stark warning about the dangers of these substances, following a recent and frightening incident at the school in which he leads. 

In the film Pembs TV speak to a number of people directly involved in the sale, use and monitoring of this new and alarming trend. Legal highs are substances specifically designed and manufactured to replicate the effects users can get from some of the established illegal drugs, such as LSD, Cannabis and Cocaine. One local retailer has been clearly linked with the sale of these substances, Allsorts. Daryl Millar, of the Haverfordwest shop, made it clear to us that their shop operated a very strict policy of only selling ‘legal highs’ to over 18s, insinuating that if the drugs involved in the recent school incident had come from their store, it could not have been as a direct result of them selling the product to a minor. He went on to show us which were the most popular of the legal highs that they were retailing; one of which was Pandora’s Box that proved a popular sell whilst we were in the shop filming. Whilst he acknowledged their popularity, he made it clear they were intended for use as either plant food or incense burning (in the case of ‘Pandora’s Box’). What people did with it once they took it home he said he couldn’t say. When asked why, if they were legal, they were being sold from under the counter, as we witnessed, he explained that when openly displayed minors could see how much they were and price up opportunities to get them purchased, also saying that it meant addicts, or anyone to whom they weren’t comfortable selling, could be told they had none of these products in stock. Pembs TV also spoke with Dyfed-Powys Crime Commissioner, Christopher Salmon, who made clear his concerns and frustrations over the use and sale of these legal highs. He said whilst he wasn’t setting up any special units to deal with the problem, his officers were aware of the problem of street dealers buying these in bulk and selling to minors. He believed that neighbourhoods and local people held the key to the success of policing this by contacting their local officers and station if they saw such activity. He also made clear that though there were claims that these drugs were legal he pointed out that many could be laced or contaminated with other, restricted, and in some cases, class A substances. He also warned of the potency of these ‘highs’, saying in many cases they were much stronger than the drugs that were controlled or banned. He did, however, draw the line at legalising controlled drugs expressing his concern of the dangers those addictive drugs posed. Frank Ciccotti, head teacher of Pembroke School, spoke exclusively with The Herald about an incident that occurred on May 14 of this year in which several young people were involved in a drug taking incident that resulted in some of them being hospitalised. Mr Ciccotti described the sequence of events that led to the school’s awareness of the situation: “On May 14 a group of year 10/11 students (15-16 year olds) shared out a legal substance at lunchtime, near a wooded area at the top of the rugby field. It was reported by other pupils. We believe the drug was rolled into cigarettes and smoked. We were alerted by pupils in the area who were not part of it, and they pointed out that one pupil was unwell. “We are fortunate they were responsible and reported it to us, otherwise it could have been a very different day. They escorted the pupil to the office where I attended and decided straight away to call for an ambulance. We set about finding the remaining pupils involved, which was about ten; and of these two were affected. “The worst affected was an alarming case as he was grey in colour and was slipping in and out of consciousness and he looked very ill. Two other pupils had lost colour but were more lucid, and the others were just a bit silly. Ambulance crew insisted they all went to hospital and they knew what they had taken as they had seen the sachet. “There had been a fatality fairly recently so it was a matter of great concern. They also summoned the air ambulance as protocol, but it was deemed the worst affected could be taken by road. Fortunately, all were checked out and released later that day”. On what the substance was, he said he couldn’t say, as the police asked him not to as it was an ongoing investigation, though The Herald has been informed by a student of the school that they believe the drug was known as ‘Exodus Damnation’. Mr Ciccotti went on to talk about how these young people had obtained the drug, which are illegal for minors to purchase. “We believe the drug was purchased the evening before by one of the students from a young adult from a car in the area. They weren’t sold on site, and obviously the child who brought it in had a more severe punishment than the others. The danger with these legal highs is they are portable and easy to carry.” He gave this message to parents who may be concerned that such an incident could occur in a school. “I would say it can happen anywhere, no one can be complacent, at any school and anywhere children could have access to this so parents must stress the dangers to their children.” He also had this to say on how the school could instigate future measures to help prevent a repeat incident. “We have strengthened the PSE programme, and we also have a specialist drugs advisor. The police also did an assembly to stress they (these substances) may be legal but they are not safe. These are drugs produced by profiteers and they are marketed by the greedy and purchased by the naive. “These are sold as plant food and incense and maybe they are safe in those contexts, but not in the context of smoking or taken as pills. They are harmful substances and the effects are acute and even the marketing of these (and on the packaging) suggests they are taken in the presence of someone who is sober. Feed them to your plants but don’t put them in your body.” He finished with a simple message: “We need to be smarter as a nation about ‘legal highs’. They are substances that are harmful to health. In school they would be in a poisons cabinet. We need to prevent their open sale.” To watch the full interview with Mr Ciccotti, as well as those with our Crime Commissioner and Daryl Millar of Allsorts, watch out for the release of the film next week, as Pembs. TV lifts the lid on legal highs and their effects.

Check out the video here:

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms



A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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Pembrokeshire residents urged to take a virtual GP consultation when offered



PEMBROKESHIRE residents are being urged to take up the offer of a virtual consultation, over the phone or video call with their GP, to help Keep Wales Safe during the current lockdown ‘stay at home’ restrictions.

The way we access local NHS services is changing, with more ways in which you can consult your doctor or nurse. Most surgeries now offer telephone as well as electronic advice consultations in the first instance. Following your advice call, a face to face appointment may be organised, but video consultations are also available. You can now speak to a doctor or healthcare professional using the video camera in your smartphone, tablet or computer and a connection to the internet. This is often more convenient and can save you time, as you will not need to travel for a face-to-face appointment. The system used is confidential and secure.

In a recent YouGov survey carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign only 27% of residents in Mid and West Wales had made use of the GP virtual service over the past 12 months with just 57% having heard of the service. However, 88% believed it was important to have access to a remote GP consultation once they had learnt of its existence.

Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long Term Care at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “If you are offered a video consultation appointment this is because your Health Care Professional has indicated that is it safe and appropriate to do so. Your video appointment will be confidential and will not be recorded. If you require support please contact your GP surgery using the number provided in the appointment confirmation.”

She continued: “By putting off small problems or regular appointments you could potentially be putting more strain on NHS emergency services so please, help us to help you, do not put anything off. Local GP surgeries are open and are there to offer medical advice and consult patients.”

After being offered a video consultation you will be sent a letter, email or text with details of your appointment. This communication will contain details of the service that has requested to see you by video and have provided a web address link. You can type or copy the web address link into a web browser via an internet enabled device and this will take you to the video clinic waiting area.

  • In order to access your virtual appointment, you will need:
  • Access to a device that will allow you to access the internet. You should use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge web browser on a desktop or laptop, or on an Android tablet or smartphone or Safari web browser on an Apple iMac, MacBook, iPad, or iPhone.
  • Your device will need a webcam (camera), speakers and microphone.
  • A good internet connection (if you can watch a YouTube video, this is good indication that you have a good connection).
  • An internet usage plan that is sufficient to cover the data consumption of a video call – ideally use a Wi-Fi connection if you have this available.

Sixty two percent of those surveyed by YouGov in Mid and West Wales said they will continue to access NHS services using the new ways that have been introduced as a result of the pandemic. The new methods include making more use of pharmacists; virtual GP consultations and using the NHS 111 online and telephone services.

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‘Cautious optimism’ for county’s tourism sector – but clarity still needed



‘GIVE us clarity’ is the overriding message from the County’s tourism and hospitality businesses as the sector looks forward with cautious optimism to another busy season.

In a meeting hosted by Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb, thirty key local businesses were able to share their views with Paul Davies MS, Pembrokeshire County Council, the National Park and Visit Pembrokeshire.

The meeting focussed on the need for business support measures so long as uncertainty remains over the timetable for re-opening the economy in Wales.

Stephen Crabb said: “There is a lot of belief around that this summer will see another ‘staycation’ boom so long as the vaccination programme continues to make good progress and infection rates fall. Pembrokeshire has had a lot of national media coverage in recent months and could experience a bumper season but it’s crucial we get the re-opening right. There is a clear need for some kind of timetable to help businesses prepare appropriately and for clear rules to avoid confusion and contradictory messages.”

Paul Davies said: “It was a pleasure to hear from tourism businesses across Pembrokeshire about some of the challenges that they’re currently facing. The message was pretty clear – they want clarity from the Welsh Government and some timescales by which they can start to plan for reopening. I’ll certainly be taking back the concerns highlighted during the meeting and raising them with Welsh Government Ministers at the Senedd.”

Emma Thornton from Visit Pembrokeshire added: “Great to attend the Hospitality and Tourism Round table event today and to have the opportunity to discuss the ongoing challenges our industry faces over the coming months but also to share a collective optimism for what we believe will be a really strong year for tourism in Pembrokeshire when we are able to reopen and welcome our visitors back.

“Visit Pembrokeshire as the new Destination Management (DMO) for Pembrokeshire will be working closely with local stakeholders and businesses to help realise this opportunity in a sustainable and responsible way mindful of protecting what makes our beautiful county so special”

Stephen Crabb: Wants clarity for tourism businesses

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