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Expert says Lola’s eye injuries suggest abusive head trauma

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LOLA’S eye injuries are indicative of abusive head trauma, the first medical expert to take to the witness stand told Swansea Crown Court on Friday (Mar 10).

Dr Ian Simmons, Consultant paediatric ophthalmologist gave his opinion on the findings in his report into the retina injuries sustained by the toddler.

Dr Simmons has been an expert in the field since 1999 and has contributed to major studies and literature looking into retinal findings in non-abusive head trauma and abusive head trauma.

Including reviewing and contributing to a review into differential retinal injuries in abusive vs non-abusive head traumas in September 2020.

Swansea Crown Court heard how Lola had multiple haemorrhages in both her right and left eye, which also was evident in all four quadrants; during medical examinations, eyes are split into quarters and referred to as quadrants to locate any significant anomaly.

The injuries were detected through a range of diagnostic methods, including visual, 2d scans, retcams (3d) and the findings during the course of a post-mortem.

These included two large macular haemorrhages to the right eye which were present in all four quadrants, along with multiple other haemorrhages, noted there were too numerous to count.

The court heard how Lola’s left eye had a massive dic haemorrages along with others in all four quardants and macular changes due to retinal splitting. There was also bleeding to the oribital and optical nerve in both eyes.

Dr Simmons went on to say how bi-lateral retinal heamoraghes; those affecting both eyes, are highly indicative of an abusive head trauma as opposed to accidental.

He went on to say that injuries of the retina, such as those sustained by Lola are usually present in children who have sustained a very significant crush injury or a fall from a height such as a house window.

The court heard how the presence of macular folds is more prevalent in an abusive head trauma injury by the tenfold.

Dr Simmons confirmed that before compile his expert opinion report he was privy to reports from all medical professionals who treated Lola, including reports and scans, the autopsy report, police statements and photographs of the family home namely the stairs the defence claim Lola fell down.

The court heard that Dr Simmons bore no knowledge of a child presenting with optical nerve sheath haemorrhages in both eyes ever being presented in an accidental head trauma.

The court heard how Dr Simmons had gone through an extensive exclusion procedure and ruled out any underlying diseases, or anything within the statements from the police that would suggest anything other than abusive head trauma would cause the injuries.

Bevan’s Barrister, John Hipkins KC brought to the court’s attention a case study from 2013, by Dr Adams, another paediatric ophthalmologist, in which a child had a fatal fall down 10 steps, with multiple impacts and noted that the injuries received by that child were similar to that of Lola’s.

He explained that this was a witnessed accidental fall and the injuries were received as a result of accidental head trauma.

Dr Simmons went on to clarify that although those injuries bore a ‘striking resemblance’ to this case, that child did not present with peri-macular folding and sheath haemorrhages that Lola did, and those indicate it is more likely in this case as a result of an abusive head trauma.

In his report Dr Simmons said: “With a combination of extensive bilateral retinal bleeding in all four quadrants affecting multiple layers in both eyes with possible retinal splitting along with evidence of left per-macular retinal fold and presence of bilateral optic nerve sheath haemorrhages, that combination pointed towards abusive head trauma rather than an accidental fall down the stairs.

“Highly unlikely the above combination would have been caused by falling down 10 carpeted stairs.”

Dr Simmons suggested that based on the other injuries Lola had and reading the medical reports it points towards abusive head injury from that such as violent shaking with a possible form of impact.

John Hipkin KC, went on to question Dr Simmon on the language used in his report stating it was all based on medical science which meant they were left to deal with “likelihoods instead of certainties”.

Dr Simmons explained that medical science is not definitive, but certain retinal injuries are highly suggestive towards abusive head trauma based on medical evidence from data collection.

Mr Hipkin KC went on to ask if Dr Simmon had been given Bevan’s statement of his account of the accident, which he confirmed was received and had used that evidence to make his conclusion.

Suggesting that shaking could have been part of Bevans attempts to wake the tot.

However Mr Hipkin went on to say that Bevan’s statement was not included on Dr Simmons summary of evidence documents used to support his claims.

Dr Simmons could not recall whether he had simply forgotten to include them or whether they were together with another set of reports in a bundle which is included on the summary of evidence on the report.

James’ Barrister Mr Elias did not cross examine the witness.

The next medical expert witness is due to take the stand on Monday.

The case was adjourned and will continue on Monday, March 13 at 10am.

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Haverfordwest mayor vote descends into chaos as fiery dispute breaks out among councillors

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SCENES of pandemonium, including three councillors resigning and the mayor being called a disgrace to the town, broke out during the election of Haverfordwest’s mayor for the forthcoming year.

For most councils the election of mayor is almost a formality, the deputy mayor traditionally taking on the role.

However, Haverfordwest took a somewhat different view to allowing Councillor Jill Owens, a decorated former police sergeant who was once forced to resign after falling in love with an armed robber, to slide seamlessly into the role.

Despite there being no argument about Cllr Owen’s fitness for the role, the March meeting of the town council contained an agenda item considering applications for the 2023-24 mayor, with both Cllr Owens and Cllr Rhys Evans listed.

Haverfordwest Deputy Mayor and former Dyfed-Powys police sergeant Jill Owens at her home in Havefordwest – Photo: Ben Birchall / PA Media

Intention

From the outset of the meeting, the “wisdom and integrity” of that decision was questioned, with current mayor Alan Buckfield and town clerk Juliet Raymond coming in for flak.

Former town councillor Peter Lewis was one of several former town mayors present as members of the public, along with county councillor Tim Evans.

Mr Lewis said: “This council is being asked for the first time in its history to break its own rules,” adding that he understood no other nominations could be received if the deputy mayor had offered to stand – a motion in the meeting itself being needed to overcome this.

Citing the code of conduct, members raised concerns of “pre-determination,” with claims some councillors had already made their intention to vote for Cllr Evans clear.

Cllr Evans, formally making a proposal he be considered for election, said: “I have been approached by several members of the community asking if I would stand as mayor,” adding: “I think it would be negligent of me not to stand.”

Cllr Owens said the decision to take additional nominations was against the advice of One Voice Wales – the national representative body for community and tow councils in Wales – and that four councillors had pre-determined their vote by saying they would vote for Cllr Evans.

“There is a procedure in place, for hundreds and hundreds of years in this town, this hasn’t happened before.”

“Ashamed”

She told the mayor: “You, as a council – mayor – are looking to ride roughshod over the Code of Conduct, you will be responsible to the Ombudsman.”

She later added: “I would just like to put on record you should be ashamed of yourself Mayor, you and the clerk have ignored advice. It’s disgusting the way you have conducted this,” adding:  “You [Clerk Juliet Raymond] are a clerk on this council and you are not impartial.”

Cllr Buckfield, attempting to steer the meeting along, said: “You should be talking about procedure, not personality.”

He later said: “A chair can only do what council wants me to.”

Cllr Owens replied: “You are duty bound to abide by standing orders and the code [of conduct]; these people [the four said to have made their voting intentions clear] should’ve left. You [Cllr Buckfield] are a disgrace to the town.”

Councillor Jonathan Twigg proposed members actually support Cllr Owens taking over as mayor, a call that was not accepted by the mayor.

Members then voted to consider Cllr Evans take on the role of mayor, which was defeated.

After that vote failed, several councillors were seen leaving the meeting, with Councillor Richard Blacklaw-Jones, Councillor Gareth Roberts, and Councillor Rhys Evans formally resigning the following day.

After the deputy mayor was formally adopted as mayor for the following year, Cllr Evans said: “I just want to say – in the most humble way – congratulations. This council should always remember we are here to serve the people of the town.”

Cllr Owens said: “I am happy for the history of the town that the right result has happened.

“There are clear fractures in this council, let’s now try and move together and work together for the good of this town, and do a good job, let’s all support each other and work to one goal.”

“Change”

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Owens said: “It’s never, ever happened in 900 years, the town council of Haverfordwest needs to change, it needs to be more open and transparent, at the end of the day justice did prevail.

“It wasn’t about me becoming mayor, it was about more being in the right place for the town, and that history continuing.”

Also speaking after the meeting, Mayor Alan Buckfield said: “I believe in democracy, I believe people have the right to express themselves in a proper and distinguished manner. The whole point of the debate was to test the standing order; to my mind the only way to test that was by voting.”

Relating to comments made about his fitness to drive he said: “In a debate on procedure and the interpretation of Standing Orders, there should be no place for personal remarks or references to illness and disability.”

He also expressed his concern about criticism of the clerk: “What really worried me about that meeting was the way the clerk was spoken to, the duty of care towards the clerk was sadly lacking.”

Clerk Juliet Raymond said: “Prior to the March full council meeting, I passed on the impartial advice given by One Voice Wales to every member.  This advice was requested by Councillor Jill Owens, Councillor Martin Lewis and Councillor Jonathan Twigg.”

Councillors Richard Blacklaw-Jones, Gareth Roberts and Rhys Evans have all been contacted for a comment.

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Residents challenge Carmarthenshire Council on abolition of Special Landscapes

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RESIDENTS publicly challenged Carmarthenshire County Council’s radical plan to scrap Carmarthenshire’s 18 ‘Special Landscape Areas’ at the Monday’s Cabinet Meeting at County Hall.

Planning Lead Cllr Ann Davies was grilled about the Council’s plan to axe Carmarthenshire’s 18 special landscapes and changes to its policy on putting cables underground.

Carmarthenshire is well known and widely appreciated for its beautiful unspoilt countryside. So much so that Carmarthenshire County Council had formally designated 18 such areas in its Local Development Plan, including the Towy and Cothi Valleys. Thereby affording protection within the planning system from detrimental development.

Significantly, these designations have been successfully used by residents to stop pylons and windfarms. These have included the Llanllwni Mountain Windfarm in 2014 and the Brechfa Windfarm cables where they now cross the Towy Valley underground.

But these Special Landscape Areas – and the protection the designation carries – are now being swept away by the new Local Development Plan currently under consultation.

Residents are concerned that the new Local Development Plan ‘double downgrades’ Carmarthenshire’s landscapes. Not only does it strip residents of an important tool to object to destructive development, it also slashes the amount of potential compensation or mitigation available. Great for developers – not so good for residents. And a major blow to the local tourism economy, which is based on the county’s greatest asset: our special, historic landscapes.

Residents’ campaigner Havard Hughes commented: “Carmarthenshire County Council has been quick to talk tough on pylons. However, their actions on the local plan speak louder than these words and jeopardise our landscapes. By taking this risky approach to our landscapes they are putting our tourism economy and heritage in jeopardy.

Natural Resources Wales has blown the whistle on the Council’s plans by questioning the loss of the Special Landscape Areas such as the Towy Valley. Yet Carmarthenshire County Council seems unwilling or unable to produce the evidence base for abolishing the Special Landscapes designation.

Councils across Wales are coming under huge pressure from developers to give them more freedom to put up pylons, windfarms and solar arrays. We fear that this plan as it stands will strip residents of tried and tested protections. These protections are good enough for our neighbouring counties such as Ceredigion and Swansea so why not Carmarthenshire?

The Plaid Cymru administration’s new Local Development Plan is the most radical rewriting of our planning rules since the creation of Carmarthenshire County Council. We will now be challenging them under the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the evidence for these changes.”

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Dramatic early hours rescue of 18-year-old in water by Angle RNLI

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THE RNLI Angle lifeboat launched on service shortly after 4am on Tuesday morning (Mar 28) to assist in the search for a missing 18-year-old in the Milford area.

The RNLI said on Facebook: “The lifeboat launched and proceeded to conduct a search from Conduit Beach, heading east.

“Once off Milford Docks entrance, the Y boat was deployed to conduct a more thorough inshore search, while the lifeboat continued east. Arriving at Wards Pier, the lifeboat intended to search back to the west to close up on the Y boat.

“Not long after, the crew spotted a person running down the coast path towards the beach below the Rath, followed by hearing cries for help.

“Using search lights, the crew then sighted a person in difficulty in the water waving their arms.

“The lifeboat was manoeuvred into the shallow water, close inshore with little sea room left and the casualty was brought alongside.

“With very little water below the lifeboat, and drifting ever closer to the shore the casualty was assisted into the lifting strops by the Y boat crew and then recovered from the water using the All-Weather Lifeboat man overboard recovery A frame and lifting tackle.

The rescue charity added: “With the casualty now onboard and receiving attention from our casualty care trained crew members, the lifeboat headed to the Port Authority jetty to warm up the casualty and await further assistance.

“Shortly after securing alongside, the crew were joined by members of Dale Coastguard Rescue Team and officers from Dyfed-Powys police.

“With the casualty now warmed slightly, they were walked off the lifeboat and handed over into the care of the police.

“Content that no further assistance was required from the lifeboat, the crew were stood down by the coastguard to return to station. After making the short journey home, the lifeboat was back on station and readied for service once again at 5:30am.”

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